6th March 1930
Isle of Guernsey delivered to its new owners
Of all the ships linking Guernsey and the mainland, few have been as well named as this. The Isle of Guernsey was built by William Denny and Brothers in Dumbarton. Launched on 17 December 1929, it had two propellers driven by a steam turbine. After undergoing sea trials, it was handed to it owner, the Southern Railway Company, on 6 March 1930.
They’d commissioned it for the Southampton to Guernsey route, presumably anticipating a long service life. Unfortunately, the war soon got in the way.
Once Guernsey had been occupied, the chances of sending ships between the island and the mainland were nil. Worse, with no leisure traffic to speak of, the Isle of Guernsey was commandeered by the military. It was refitted as a hospital ship nine years after Southern Railway had acquired it, and in 1940 sailed to Dunkirk.
It returned in France for D-Day, and didn’t re-enter civilian service until after the war. Over its active life, it put in just under 25 years service ferrying passengers backwards and forwards between the mainland and Channel Islands, if you discount its war duty, and was retired – and scrapped – in 1961.
Paddle steamer specs
She wasn’t enormous by today’s standards, at just 93 by 13 metres with a draught of 4.2 metres. She could carry 1,400 passengers, of whom 800 were in first class, mainly in private cabins, and 600 in a largely open-plan second class. The Birmingham Daily Gazette reported, on 19 May 1930, on “a novel feature… found in the portable cabins on the promenade deck during the winter and their replacement in the summer by tea lounges on the port and starboard sides”.
The ships were fitted out to a higher standard than passengers on the route had experience until that point. The Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser wrote on 19 March 1930 that both the Isle of Guernsey and the Isle of Jersey “are equipped with every possible means science has devised for ensuring safety at sea, especially in times of fog. The wireless room is the last word in efficiency”.
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