[From How the Manx Fleet helped in the Great War, 1923]
THE story of the work done by the steamers owned by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, Limited, during the War is worth telling. It may be interesting moreover, not only to the many thousands who yearly travel aboard these steamers seeking health and recreation, but, also, to that larger public who like to be informed as to the very important part taken by our coasting steamers during the War.
The work these did, in maintaining our food supplies, and in the carrying of our soldiers backwards and forwards by sea, was invaluable.
Having, as Superintendent Engineer, received from~those actively engaged in these operations, reports of the work of some of our ships, it seemed to me a good thing that, during my retirement, I should devote some of my spare time to giving an account of the work of these ships, as far as I have been able to ascertain it.
When war was declared, the IOM. Steam Packet Company had a fleet of fifteen steamers. Eleven of these were either chartered or purchased by the Government for war purposes, and were as speedily as possible, fitted out and armed in order to adapt them for their special work.
Being a fleet of vessels specially suited for passenger carrying, and unsurpassed by any other coasting steamers in the world, as far as speed and accommodation were concerned, it seemed, to the uninitiated, natural to expect that their services would be required for the conveyance of troops across the Channel, a work for which they were so particularly well adapted. Strange to say, this was not the work they were called upon to perform, excepting in the case of two of them, viz. , the Empress Queen and Monas Queen. The others were destined to be Seaplane-carriers, Net-laying ships armed Boarding-vessels, and one, the King Orry, became attached to the Grand Fleet.
It did seem the irony of fate that these vessels, usually employed in carrying thousands of light-hearted holiday-makers, should suddenly be transformed for the grim purposes of war. Each one of them rendered valuable service, but only four returned at the end the War to resume their peaceful avocations. These four were the Peel Castle, Viking, King Orry, and Monas Queen. Of the remainder, four were lost, and three were retained by the Government.
I desire to express my indebtedness to the following, who have furnished me with written accounts of their experiences, from which I have freely quoted.
H. T. KELLY, O.B.E. Chief Engineer, R.M.S. Tynwald,
Engineer-Lieutenant R. B. MOORE, R.N.R., H.M.S.Snaefell
,, ,, S. CANNAN, R.N.R , H.M.S. Peel Castle
,, ,, T. FAYLE, R.N.R. H.M.S. Ramsey
Eng. Lieut.-Comm. R. McWHANNELL, R.D.,R.N.R., H.M.S. Monas Isle
Engineer-Lieut. A.V. GARRETT, R. N. R. , H. M. S. King Orry
C. HUGHES, General Messman, H.M.S. Ramsey.
I have also received valuable information from Captain W. CAIN, Commander of the Monas Queen, Eng.-Lieut. G. ROBINSON,R.N.R. H.M.S. Ben my Chree, and Eng.-Lieut.J.KEIG, H.M.S.King Orry.
I am indebted to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co., for the loan of photos of the Steamers and permission to reproduce the same.
C. j. BLACKBURN,
Late Superintendent Engineer, I. O. M . S. P. Co.
Brantwood, Douglas, I.O.M.