Shortly after departing from the pier at Armadale on the Isle of Skye on Saturday 29th of May 2010, heading for Oban, paddle steamer Waverley stopped in the Sound of Sleat to commemorate the part played by her predecessor HMS Waverley during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Allied Forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, exactly 70 years earlier.
The North British Railway company had ordered a large and fast paddle steamer from the Clyde shipbuilders A & J Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow in 1898 and the new vessel had been launched into the River Kelvin on 29th May 1899. PS Waverley of 1899 played a significant role in the business of the Craigendoran based steamers over most on the next four decades. During WW1, in common with many other Clyde paddlers, she had been requisitioned into the Royal Navy to serve as a minesweeper and again, as she approached the end of her commercial career, she entered another period of naval service soon after war was declared in Sept 1939. Her role in the Dunkirk evacuation has been well documented although the number of lives lost when the ship was bombed and sunk as she headed back to England has been overestimated in some publications. Her master at the time of her loss was Capt John Cameron. Although a non-swimmer Capt Cameron survived the sinking and became the first master of the replacement Waverley when she entered service on the Clyde in June 1947. At the 40th anniversary of Dunkirk Capt Cameron, a native of southern Skye, returned to the waters off Dunkirk on the present Waverley and cast a wreath onto the sea. Capt Cameron continued his career on the Clyde steamers operated by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company until the early 1970s. He commanded many of them, prominently the Glasgow-based turbine steamer Queen Mary II for a prolonged period. Captain Cameron and his wife Jean lived in the Jordanhill district of Glasgow. For some time he was President of the West of Scotland Branch of the Dunkirk Veterans Association. After Capt Cameron's passing a diver discovered the wreck of HMS Waverley, which is officially recognized as a war grave. Therefore, diving onto the wreck and removal of parts is not normally permitted but permission was given to bring one of the brass framed circular ports from HMS Waverley to the surface. It was presented to Mrs Jean Cameron who passed onto Glasgow Museums for preservation in perpetuity. The port was displayed on the wall of the Clyde Room at the Museum of Transport in the Kelvin Hall until its recent closure. Hopefully the port will be displayed again in the new Riverside Museum from 2011 This would be most appropriate as the Museum is being built on the site of A & J Inglis Pointhouse Shipyard where the North British Railway's third PS Waverley (of 1899) and fourth Waverley (the present ship) were both built.
The fitting commemortion of the 70th anniversary of the loss of HMS Waverley was organised by the current Senior Master of the Waverley Steam Navigation Company, Captain Andy O'Brian, in conjunction with Commodore Angus Ross RN and both gentlemen are to be congratulated for a simple yet very dignified event.
Waverley's master, Captain Andy O'Brian (left) and Commodore Angus Ross (Centre), representing the Royal Navy, during the commemoration of the loss of HMS Waverley, 70 years earlier.
HMS Waverley sank below the surface of the English Channel at 5.46pm (17:46) on 29th May 1940, the 41st anniversary of her launch. After Commodore Ross gave a brief summary of the events leading up to the loss of HMS Waverley; at 5.46pm on 29th May, 2010, a wreath was laid onto the surface of the calm waters of the Sound of Sleat. A single long blast from Waverley's steam whistle saluted the brave soldiers and sailors that were lost The paddler returned to Oban with her ensign dipped.
Waverley's ensign dipped, in memory off those lost during the sinking of her predecessor, as she returns to Oban.