On 5th August 1937 Red Funnel’s Bournemouth Queen (pictured above) rescued two teenage girls from Walthamstow who got lost in fog in a rowing boat off the east coast of the Isle of Wight during their summer holiday at Ventnor.
The local Daily Echo takes up the story:
Hundreds of holiday makers aboard the pleasure steamer Bournemouth Queen bound from Bournemouth to the Isle of Wight this afternoon saw the rescue of two bathing girls from a rowing boat in which they had drifted out to sea and become lost in thick fog which descended suddenly. The girls were sisters, Winifred and Lillian Tichner, aged about 18 and 16 respectively. They live in Buxton Road Walthamstow, and were staying on holiday at Ventnor.
They had set out for a short row but the current took them out to sea and they tried vainly to get back. Then a sea mist enveloped them. In desperation they shouted but soon became too hoarse for their voices to carry far. They heard with joy the foghorn of the Bournemouth Queen as she was cautiously approaching the island and they renewed their shouts. Their small boat was in the track of the steamer whose captain saw them and promptly gave orders for them to be brought aboard.
The girls were very exhausted but soon recovered and were smoking cigarettes unconcernedly when put ashore at Cowes” said Mrs Freeman, a Bournemouth holiday maker of 126 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge in a Daily Echo interview this afternoon. “They told me they had begun to give up hope of being rescued.”
The girls doubtless had a lucky escape with the arrival of the Bournemouth Queen which must have been in a little difficulty herself that day navigating in fog without the benefit of modern radar and GPS and therefore feeling her way with the traditional techniques of estimating the position from the distance run on the course steered making due allowance for wind and tide complimented by a look out in the bow, a lead line to take the depth and feel of the bottom where necessary and good sets of ears to listen out for what was going on around her. For example, in those days there was not a pier or harbour anywhere without a bell or other sound signal and there were plenty of buoys with bells on them as well to mark channels which captains could listen out for and thereby be guided.
All these years later, I wonder if Winifred and Lillian are still with us today? Being 18 and 16 respectively in 1937 would put them in their nineties now so it is possible. And if they are still around, do they recount to their children’s children’s children, who might never have been born at all if things had turned out differently, the tale of when Great Grandmama and her sister started out going for a quiet and fun-filled row round the bay at Ventnor and ended up getting lost at sea?
Iain Maclead writes:
I really enjoyed the Bournemouth Queen story. I thought ringing the pier bell in fog was something that belonged firmly in the days of memory so imagine my surprise (and delight) when on 29 December last year a post on Ships of Calmac Forum directed me to a short video taken that morning at Rothesay
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.