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Fond memories of Isle of Wight's paddle steamer Ryde
Paddle Steamer Ryde
Ryde carried thousands of passengers across The Solent

by Neil Sackley
BBC Hampshire & IW

For over 30 years, Paddle Steamer Ryde was a familiar sight on the Solent.

She was built on the River Clyde by William Denny and Brothers at a cost of £46,000 for the Southern Railway Company.

Launched in April 1937, she replaced PS Duchess of Norfolk and worked alongside sister ship PS Sandown, ferrying passengers between Ryde and Portsmouth.

But in 1939 she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy, was renamed HMS Ryde, and saw action at Dunkirk and D-Day.

Paddle Steamer Ryde
Paddle Steamer Ryde
Length: 222.85 feet (67.97 metres)
Beam: 52.46 feet (16.00 metres)
Gross Tonnage: 566 Tonnes

Mark Young, from the Paddle Steamer Ryde Trust said: "She was part of the American fifth Corps and carried troops to the Normandy beaches at Ohama."

Her war years were initially spent in the Thames Estuary and Dover Straits with HMS Sandown. The two ships worked as a minesweepers, keeping the channel clear for merchant shipping.

Day trips

Despite German propaganda proclaiming that Ryde, and her sister ship, had been sunk, both survived the war and returned to the Solent in 1945, as Mark Young, from the Paddle Steamer Ryde Trust, explained:

"She worked the rest of her commercial life as a passenger ferry and was chartered as an excursion vessel."

She would regularly be seen carrying passengers, often on corporate trips on the River Thames.

In 1969, as diesel ferries were introduced, she was retired from service and was bought by an Isle of Wight businessman. By the end of 1970 she was at her new berth on the River Medina in Newport.

Ryde on Thames
Ryde was a regular sight on the River Thames

Renamed "Ryde Queen", she was moored alongside Medway Queen as a floating nightclub, as Binfield Marina became a mecca for island party goers.

Mark explained: "Initially Medway Queen was for the over 21s while the youngsters flocked to Ryde Queen."

Julie from Newport, who moved to the island in the 1980s also has fond memories of The Queens:

"On a Saturday night we all used to go on to the Ryde Queen and had a really good time."

Rocking night

When Medway Queen became too expensive to maintain she was taken away, leaving Ryde Queen as the only venue.

Mark said: "Because she was still in the water, on a busy night if everyone congregated on one side she would list."

Disaster struck Ryde Queen in August 1977 when fire broke out on board. No one was injured in the blaze and after renovation, she continued in her role as a nightclub.

As her popularity waned and she was closed for business the late 1980s.

By the mid 1990s, the continuous buffering by the tide was taking its toll on the hull and her owners were forced to sink her to prevent further damage.

She now lays at Island Harbour where she was holed.

Julie told the BBC: "It is really sad to see her in this state."

Mark Young
Mark Young of The Paddle Steamer Ryde Trust says she is a special ship

PS Ryde is one of very few paddle steamers left in the UK, and has a special place in maritime history, as Mark Young explained:

"She is on the National Historic Ships list - one of only 200 vessels considered important enough to keep."

Mark points out that paddle steamer excursions remain popular in the Solent to this day:

"Waverley visits the Isle of Wight every year and still proves to be incredibly popular."

Tell us more

Did you travel on PS Ryde or know anyone who served on her during World War II? Or were you one of the thousands who enjoyed nights on board in her days as Ryde Queen?

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SEE ALSO
Campaign to save WWII paddle boat
16 Feb 10 |  Hampshire
Dunkirk rescue boat gets revamp
17 Apr 09 |  Kent
Steamer grounded after pier crash
27 Jun 09 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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