11th September 1932 Southsea or Whippingham

On Sundays, Mondays, Tuesday's, (most but not all) Thursdays and Fridays from 17th July until 23rd September 1932 either Southsea or Whippingham made two round trips from Portsmouth and Southsea to the Isle of Wight piers at Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. On Saturdays their vast capacities made them particularly useful to augment the Portsmouth to Ryde ferry service given the tremendous numbers of passengers travelling on "change over day" starting or ending their Isle of Wight holidays. On Wednesdays and some Thursdays as we will see in a later post, these two paddle steamers usually ventured further afield.

So on Sunday 11th September 1932 one or other of them was rostered to leave Portsmouth at 11am, Clarence Pier Southsea at 11.15am and South Parade Pier at 11.30 for Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor returning to Portsmouth via the Southsea Piers for 2.10pm. Then one or the other would have set off again at 2.45pm for another circuit returning from Ventnor at 4.50pm, Shanklin at 5.15pm and Sandown at 5.30pm for a return to Portsmouth at 6.50pm.

This daily roster offered a variety of trip options catering for different market segments. There were those passengers just using the steamer as a ferry connection from Portsmouth to their holiday destination at Sandown, Shanklin or Ventnor thereby making a pleasanter  route rather than traveling to Ryde and then taking the train on from there. Then there were those just wanting a morning or afternoon round trip of a little under 4 hours duration. Then there were those wanting to make a day of it with about five hours ashore at Ventnor, at Shanklin or Sandown. And then there were those boarding at Ventnor, Shanklin or Sandown for a round trip to Southsea or Portsmouth.  It was a simple but very commercial formula which worked well to pack in the revenue and provide a variety of trip options within a simple basic package.

Another advantage of this route was that as Sandown and Shanklin are on the east coast of the Isle of Wight they are comparatively sheltered from the prevailing SW winds and this would have increased the window for sailing to minimise cancellations due to the weather.

At 244ft in length Southsea and Whippingham were big paddle steamers built only two years earlier in 1930 and were fitted out to a high standard for passenger comfort. The SR steamer notices describe them as "the largest and most luxurious Steamers on the South Coast" and that wasn't hyperbole.

Southsea was mined off the Tyne on 16th February 1941 whilst serving as an Admiralty minesweeper so that was the end of her.

Whippingham was refitted after war service and returned to the Portsmouth/Southsea to Ryde railway service but by then she had lost her Class III sea-going Passenger Certificates and sailed only on Class IV certificates for categorised "Partially Smooth Waters" within the Solent in an area bounded by Bembridge in the east, the Needles in the west and Southampton in the north.

Whippingham was withdrawn after the 1962 season and scrapped in Antwerp the following year.

John Megoran

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