I find myself strangely amazed by a sinking vessal, i’m not really a fan of maritime machinery but here i am truely amazed at how this one has come to rest here.
PS Ryde is a paddle steamer that was commissioned and run by Southern Railway as a passenger ferry between mainland England and the Isle of Wight from 1937 to 1969, with an interlude during the Second World War where she served as a minesweeper and then an anti-aircraft ship, seeing action at both Dunkirk and D-Day. After many years abandoned on moorings at Island Harbour Marina on the River Medina, she was purchased by the PS Ryde Trust in late 2018, with the intention of raising money for her restoration. That project was abandoned in January 2019.
PS Ryde 1937 – 1939
PS Ryde was commissioned by Southern Railway in 1936 as a sister ship for Sandown. Costing £46,800 (equivalent to £2,970,000 in 2018) she was built by William Denny and Brothers in Dumbarton on Clydeside and was licensed to carry 1,011 passengers. After her launch on Saint George’s Day 1937, by Lady Walker, wife of Sir Herbert Walker, General Manager of the Southern Railway she replaced the PS Duchess of Norfolk on the Portsmouth to Ryde Pier passenger ferry service.
HMS Ryde 1939 – 1945
In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, PS Ryde and PS Sandown were both requisitioned by the Royal Navy. She was renamed HMS Ryde, and initially both were used as Minesweepers in the Thames Estuary and Dover Straits, as well as seeing action at Dunkirk, alongside PS Whippingham. In May 1944 she traveled to Portsmouth, from where she sailed to the Normandy coast to take part in Operation Neptune on D-Day, where she protected the Mulberry Harbours at Omaha beach. At one stage during the landings, she was hit in her engine room by a shell, but it did not explode. In spite of being instructed to beach the ship, if she ran out of coal, Ryde’s commander, Lt. Commander Beamer, was able to return her safely to Portsmouth. After D-Day, HMS Ryde was anchored off Bembridge to help to protect Portsmouth Harbour from V-1 flying bombs.
The Ship in 1969
PS Ryde 1945 – 1970
Reverting to her pre-war name upon her return to Southern Railway on 7 July 1945, PS Ryde worked on her former route and undertook a variety of chartered trips as well, such as being chartered by Gilbey’s Gin to serve as a ‘Floating Gin Palace’ in London in 1968. However, the nationalised British Railways started to commission more modern motor vessels after the war at the expense of the paddle steamers, starting with two diesel vessels in 1945 to replace PS Southsea and PS Portsdown. In July 1966, PS Sandown was retired and scrapped, and, in September 1969, it was decided to retire PS Ryde as well. At the time of her retirement, she had ferried passengers across the Solent for thirty-two years and was the last sea-going coal-fired paddle steamer in the world.
The Floating Gin Palace 1968
Hotel and nightclub
Avoiding the scrapyard, and after briefly offering cruises from Tower Bridge in London, PS Ryde was bought by two Isle of Wight entrepreneurs, cousins Alan and Colin Ridett, for £12,000 in September 1970. After a two-year refit costing £60,000 and involving the removal of her boiler, she was fitted with eighteen luxury cabins, a restaurant, bar and dance-floor, and was renamed the Ryde Queen Boatel by Miss Carolyn Moore, Miss Great Britain 1971, in the opening ceremony on 14 June 1972. She served alongside the smaller PS Medway Queen in moorings at Binfield Marina on the River Medina near Newport, until Medway Queen was retired and purchased for preservation in 1978. In 1977, the Ryde Queen Boatel caught fire with the damage estimated at £100,000, but she was repaired and became a nightclub, known simply as the Ryde Queen. However, by the late 1980s her popularity had waned and the nightclub was closed in 1989. She remained derelict and abandoned on her mooring, gradually deteriorating, with her funnel collapsing in August 2006.
The fire of 1977
PS Ryde 2018
In June 2018, it was reported that Ryde had been sold and that there were plans to restore the vessel. A charitable trust was to be set up with this aim. An assessment of the vessel was to be undertaken with the assistance of the National Ships Register. It may be necessary to cut the ship into sections to move her, with restoration estimated at £7-10 million. In November 2018 the P.S. Ryde Trust announced that funds had been raised to purchase Ryde and funding applications for the restoration would be made. After securing for the winter period and pumping out, it was intended that restoration work would start in April 2019 and last for two years, should the necessary funds be available, after which PS Ryde would be fully restored.
An inspection in December 2018 revealed that the remains of the bridge and much of the decking had collapsed. Attempts to remove the vessel would be environmentally hazardous and it was decided to dismantle the vessel later in 2019. Money raised from an on-line appeal will, instead, be used to fund work on the PS Medway Queen
A sad end to what was the last coal driven paddle streamer in the UK.
Images taken February 2019