June 2018:
Paddle Steamer Princess Elizabeth Peaks July 1947

June 2018:
Paddle Steamer Princess Elizabeth Peaks July 1947

In 1947 Red Funnel were short of their best excursion steamers with both Balmoral and Lorna Doone (pictured above) having been returned from war service in such poor condition that they had to be scrapped.

They had topped themselves up with the ex Mersey ferry Upton but she was not ideal and was never built for work at sea anyway. Vecta and Medina were used primarily on the Southampton to Cowes ferry and Solent Queen (pictured above), Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Helena had all lost their sea-going certificates, being then able to operate only on categorised waters. In any case they were small, antiquated and towards the end of their operational careers.

That left Bournemouth Queen and Princess Elizabeth (pictured alongside at Bournemouth Pier in 1946 with Bournemouth’s Mayor Alderman R H Old joining Capt Larkin on her bridge) as Red Funnel’s principal longer distance excursion steamers for the time being.

As a result, for July 1947 and as shown in the steamer notice above, the Princess Elizabeth was rostered to operate from Bournemouth Pier in consort with Cosens’s Embassy and Monarch.

In this week commencing Saturday 12 July, it was the Monarch (pictured above) which was, as usual, the principal steamer running every day on the Swanage service with the second timings being shared between the Embassy and the Princess Elizabeth on different days. It was quite a comprehensive service with two steamers providing departures from Bournemouth at 10.15, 10.45, 12.15, 2.15, 2.45, 4.00, 5.00 and 6.00 with an extra one at 3.15 being offered by Cosens’s Victoria up on a day trip to Bournemouth from Weymouth.

Embassy (pictured above) joined the Monarch on the Swanage service on Tuesday 15th, Thursday 17th, Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th whilst Princess Elizabeth took the longer day trips to Portsmouth to view the USA battleships and aircraft carrier on Tuesday 15th, round the isle of Wight on Thursday 17th, to Yarmouth and Cowes Roads on Saturday 19th and round the Isle of Wight on the afternoon of Sunday 20th. In those days no sailings were ever rostered from Bournemouth on Sunday mornings so that people could go to church if they wanted.

Princess Elizabeth (pictured above) joined Monarch on the Swanage service on the Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday whilst Embassy ran to Yarmouth and Cowes Roads on Saturday 12th, to Portsmouth on Sunday 13th, to Southampton Docks to view the Queen Mary on Monday 14th and Wednesday 16th and to Yarmouth and cruise in the Solent on Friday 18th.

Monarch’s two funnels on the eastern side of Bournemouth Pier.

One thing which stands out in all this is the sheer quantity of sailings carrying passengers between Bournemouth and Swanage. With eight trips run by two boats every day on weekdays each way this gives a ratio between short trip and day trip passengers of 8 to 1 in favour of the short forty five minute runs between Bournemouth and Swanage. On that basis eight times as many people preferred a short trip to a long all day paddle steamer cruise.

In 1948 Red Funnel added another stop gap boat to their fleet, Robina, but she was not a great success and lasted only two seasons. For 1949 they bought two large former Ascot Class paddle steamers from the Medway, renaming them Lorna Doone (pictured above under the command of Capt Larkin alongside Bournemouth Pier 1949) and Solent Queen with the first running from Bournemouth and the second from Southampton in 1949. Also in 1949 the new Diesel Balmoral arrived and ultimately became Red Funnel’s number one excursion vessel.

All this knocked back Princess Elizabeth in the hierarchy making her lose her place as a main excursion steamer and leading to her spending much of the remainder of her Red Funnel career in the 1950s lying alongside at the Royal Pier at Southampton as relief boat for the Southampton to Cowes ferry although she was back in the forefront of excursions within the Solent for her last summer 1958 replacing Bournemouth Queen which had been scrapped running primarily on the triangle between Southampton, Ryde and Southsea.

1946, 1947 and 1948 were therefore golden summers for the Princess Elizabeth and the pinnacle of her excursion career up there with the greats doing Red Funnel’s longer trips from both Southampton and Bournemouth round the Isle of Wight and to the Isle of Wight’s east coast piers. She would return to Bournemouth in private ownership on the Swanage service in 1962 and lives on today as a static conference venue in Dunkirk.

Geoff Hamer has emailed to say:

According to Ron Adams’ book on Red Funnel, the ROBINA was in service for less than one year. Her first Red Funnel sailing, on the Cowes service, was on 9 November 1948. In the following summer, she ran sporadically to Ryde or Cowes until her last sailing on 13 September 1949. Of the various second-hand ships bought by Red Funnel, the ROBINA was the least successful and a waste of money and effort. Geoff

Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.

John Megoran

John Megoran