13th June 1951 Empress Queen

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

13th June 1951 Empress Queen

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On Wednesday 13th June 1951 the finishing touches were being applied to P & A Campbell’s Empress Queen in readiness for her departure from the Bristol Channel to try her luck running the season for the first time from Torquay.

Returned to her owners in 1947 after war work Empress Queen arrived in Bristol on 18th June 1947 and after a short period running on the Bristol Channel made off for the Sussex Coast in early July. Designed for the cross Channel trade to France, for which she was ideally suited in terms of her covered accommodation and passenger amenities, this service was denied to her at that time by Government regulations in relation to taking money out of the country and visas.

Instead, and in 1948, 1949 and 1950, she offered coastal trips from Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings including as far east as the Dover Straits and westwards to the Isle of Wight, Southampton and very occasionally Bournemouth.

Empress Queen turned out to be a bit of a handful on the piers. She had a greater draft than the paddle steamers. Nobody had ever built a pier longer than necessary to float in the sorts of vessels likely to be using them so at low water some piers were not able to take her and even at higher states of the tide on other piers there was not that much water under her. And therein lies the problem for a screw driven ship.

Paddle steamers can speed into piers with a tide running across them so as to get the lines ashore pronto as they have a wonderful ability to stop even in very shallow water. That is not the case with screw driven craft where the propellers tend to loose their grip in shallow water. This is not ideal for a captain coming in fast to a pier with a beach only yards ahead of him. So a slow approach is favoured. And with a slow approach a strong tide running across a pier soon either sets a ship on and landing heavily or sets her off fast maybe before she has had a chance to get the ropes ashore.

With no passport trips to the continent still not allowed. and her coastal cruises not coming up to financial expectations, P & A Campbell decided to base Empress Queen at Torquay in 1951 and try her out on cross Channel trips to Guernsey and occasionally Alderney.

It was whilst setting off from Avonmouth under the command of Captain Kidd on Thursday 14th June 1951 with 112 passengers aboard bound for Torquay that Empress Queen’s stern caught the quayside heavily twice causing considerable damage. The passengers were put ashore and so on Friday 15th June 1951 Empress Queen left Avonmouth at 1pm for Bristol to go into the Charles Hill drydock for hull repairs.