March 2023:
Princess Elizabeth Around the IOW

March 2023:
Princess Elizabeth Around the IOW
Princess Elizabeth Southampton 1951. // Tom Lee

The late Stafford Ellerman’s Uncle Lewis and Auntie Celia were inveterate travellers on liners and coastal excursion steamers. Lewis kept meticulous diaries of their voyages complete with pictures he took along the way but occasionally there are pictures in his journals with no accompanying detail. And so it is for a series of images taken aboard Princess Elizabeth sailing around the Isle of Wight after the war. From their position in the journals amongst other stuff which is meticulously detailed it looks like the trip was in 1948 but whether it started in Southampton or Bournemouth is not recorded.

We know that after the war Princess Elizabeth was refitted and returned to service in time for the 1946 season during which she ran excursions from Southampton although on at least one occasion later that season she came to Bournemouth to reopen the pier there which had been breached during the war. For the peak weeks of the 1947 and 1948 seasons she was rostered to be based at Bournemouth along with Cosens’s Embassy and Monarch and after she returned to service Bournemouth Queen.

At that time two paddle steamers were generally rostered for the Bournemouth/Swanage service which was the core of the Bournemouth business with its high passenger volumes. The third generally ran a double run morning and afternoon to the Isle of Wight or to the Isle of Wight and then onwards. And at times when there were four, that paddle steamer took the longer day trips to Southampton, Ryde and Southsea, to Weymouth or round the Isle of Wight.

Princess Elizabeth arriving at Shanklin Pier 1947/48.

I don’t have here with me all the steamer notices from those two years but I do have some for the 1947 season. To take one week as an example in July 1947 Embassy 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. So we know that there were days when Princess Elizabeth ran round the Isle of Wight from Bournemouth. And ditto from Southampton as for 1947 and 1948 Red Funnel’s only vessels capable of that trip were Vecta, Bournemouth Queen and Princess Elizabeth.

Aboard Princess Elizabeth sailing round the Isle of Wight.

Although we don’t know the date, the record of Uncle Lewis’s trip round the Isle of Wight remains in the pictures he took. In this one the lady with the hat sitting abaft the funnel and Foamite tank is Auntie Celia.

Aboard Princess Elizabeth approaching Shanklin Pier.

Here Princess Elizabeth is approaching Shanklin Pier. Note on the foredeck the chimney for the galley flue which we discussed last month.

Aboard Princess Elizabeth passing St Catherine’s Point.

The southern most tip of the Isle of Wight at St Catherine’s Point is passed.

Princess Elizabeth approaching the Needles IOW.

The Needles comes into view on the starboard hand

Aboard Princess Elizabeth passing the Needles IOW.
Lorna Doone on her way to the breakers in Dover 1952. // Red Funnel

For the 1949 season Red Funnel bought the paddle steamer Queen of Kent and Queen of Thanet from the Medway, renamed them Lorna Doone and Solent Queen and rostered them as principal excursion steamers at Bournemouth and Southampton respectively. This put Princess Elizabeth down the pecking order for the excursion part of the business and she returned to operate from Southampton..


And for the 1950 season the newly built Balmoral became Red Funnel’s principal excursion vessel after which Princess Elizabeth spent most of the rest of her Red Funnel career as relief ship on the Southampton/Cowes ferry service.

From 1952 she lost her sea-going Class III Passenger certificates subsequently sailing on a Class IV for what were described in those days as “Partially Smooth Waters”. And there are advantages and cost savings with that. For example full sea-going certification for all the crew is not mandatory on Categorised Waters. And as an example of this Wightlink even today is currently advertising for deck ratings for their Lymington/Yarmouth ferries on the basis that ” Previous experience is not essential and you can expect to receive full training and familiarisation, including all applicable safety and emergency procedures”. They will be trained in house to the company’s, rather than the full sea-going, standards. That makes hiring more flexible and possibly cheaper.

Bournemouth Queen funnel with diamond shapes cut in it. // Don Jones

In 1958 for her last season with Red Funnel Princess Elizabeth returned to excursions taking over the roster in previous years taken by Bournemouth Queen, which had been withdrawn at the end of the 1957 season. It was a golden Indian summer for the ship running trips mostly between Southampton and Ryde and all within the Solent under the command of Captain Jones who had also been Bournemouth Queen’s last master.

Carisbrooke Castle.

After that Red Funnel withdrew from the excursion trade. Capt Jones became master of the Princess Elizabeth’s replacement, the first purpose built Southampton/Cowes ferry Carisbrooke Castle and unexpectedly and against the zeitgeist of the time, Princess Elizabeth was bought by Cdr Edmund Rhodes’s Torbay Seamers to start a new career which would take her to run from Torquay in 1960/61, Bournemouth in 1962 and Weymouth from 1963 to 1965.

But back to Uncle Lewis and Auntie Celia. We don’t know whether their trip on Princess Elizabeth started at Bournemouth or Southampton and the fact that they called at Shanklin along the way, which might be thought to provide a clue, actually doesn’t really help us here well not that much anyway. The round the Island day trips from Bournemouth at 10am were sometimes scheduled to give an hour and a half ashore at Shanklin 2pm – 3.30pm along the way. And the round the Island day trips from Southampton at 9am were also generally scheduled to call at Shanklin outward bound around 12.15pm and then again at 5.55pm on the return. So whether they sailed from Bournemouth or Southampton a call at Shanklin was possible.

Aboard Princess Elizabeth approaching Shanklin Pier.

Does the light in this picture help us here? Shanklin faces east so the morning has the sun. The town looks a bit in the shadow to me so maybe it was taken in the middle of the afternoon which would indicate that the trip started in Bournemouth. Hard to be sure though. What we do know is that Princess Elizabeth was rostered in the post war era to sail around the Isle of Wight fairly often in 1947 and 1948 so their trip is likely to have been in one of those two years and more probably, given the position of the pictures in Lewis’s journal, it was 1948. Happy days long ago and in a far off world.

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