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Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids: The Mersey ferries

Early in the planning of the operation, it was recognised that there was a need for ships to carry part of the Royal Navy and Royal Marine assault force. Various vessels were looked at, but the criteria of a shallow draught combined with a large passenger-carrying capacity soon showed that a ferry or ferries would be the best type to meet these requirements.

Of the Mersey ferries that were available, the Iris and the Daffodil (later the Royal iris and the Royal Daffodil) were selected. They had been built in 1906, and were twin-screw vessels powered by reciprocating engines that gave them a top speed of 12 knots. They were equipped with flying bridges that were fitted with docking cabs to with port and starboard, and they were steered from the bridge.

Iris



Daffodil


Once taken into naval service they were modified so that they could each carry up to 1,500 military personnel. The modifications included:
  • The removal of all furniture;
  • The fitting of armour plate to vulnerable areas of the vessel;
  • Being painted grey.

HMS Iris


HMS Daffodil


During the raid on Zeebrugge, the Daffodil helped to keep HMS Vindictive alongside the mole by pushing the cruiser with her bows. This also enable the Royal Marines she was carrying to cross over to the Vindictive so that they could land. The Iris attempted to land its contingent of Royal Marines directly onto the mole just ahead of the Vindictive. This proved to be very difficult, and eventually she was ordered to withdraw. At this point she was hit by two large shells, which destroyed one of the docking cabs and part of the bridge.



After the raid the two ships were returned to their owners, and 17th May, 1918, they sailed back into the Mersey, where they were rapturously received by large crowds of local people.

After the war had ended, both vessels were given permission by King George V to add the prefix 'Royal' to their names. The Royal Iris became a river cruise boat on the Mersey in 1923, and in 1931 she was sold to Cork Harbour Commissioners, who renamed her Blarney in 1937. She served her new owners well and was not withdrawn from service until 1961. In 1932 the Royal Daffodil also became a Mersey-based river cruise boat, but when she was sold to the New Medway Steam Packet Company in 1934, she moved south to the River Medway. Her service there lasted until 1938, when she was sold and broken up.

6 comments:

  1. Bob,
    Very interesting history about the two Ferries involvement in the Naval operation. The song: 'Ferry Cross The Mersey' comes to mind. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Roberston,

      As part of the celebrations for the First World War, one of the current ferries (MV Snowdrop was painted in dazzle camouflage. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Snowdrop#/media/File:MV_Snowdrop,_River_Mersey_(geograph_4493019).jpg)

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. It reminds me of in the 'next war' of the stories of the various little "Dunkirk boats" taken from their peacetime roles .. as I kid I remember my Dad in Scarborough saying "That's the Coronia" to me, "she went to Dunkirk". Lost on me at the time but I now know why he said it with a strange touch of incredulity and awe in his voice.

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    Replies
    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      The two Mersey ferries were the newest of the ferryboats used on the river, and the owners were reluctant to hand them over. They wanted the Royal Navy to take two of the older vessels ... until there were asked if they had relatives who were fighting. The officer sent to requisition the ferries asked if the members of the ferry company's Board of Directors would want their relatives to go into action in less than the best.

      The two newer ferries were handed over immediately.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. That brings it home! Put the pounds and pence to one side will you and see the bigger picture!

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    3. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      Sometimes an appeal to personal interest has a great effect than an appeal to patriotism.

      All the best,

      Bob

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