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Havre in Guernsey

The paddle steamer Havre was a regular operator in Channel Island waters in the latter part of the 19th century

1870 saw the appearance in the Channel Islands of another London and South Western Railway mailship, the iron paddle steamer Havre, which was built in 1856 by Ditchburn and Mare of Blackwell. Of 200 tons, 184feet long, 24 foot beam and engines developing 220 hp.

She had been built for the Le Havre route and only began to operate to the Channel Islands when a daily mail service was introduced.

Havre was reputed to be the smallest and most uncomfortable steamer on the station. On a voyage from Southampton to the Channel Islands in February 1875, she went aground off the Platte Boue rock off Guernsey, but the mails were rescued and taken to Guernsey by the Honfleur. Havre was lost.

Collision at sea

4 May 1858 report: [1]

At 4 o'clock in broad daylight and perfect conditions Paddle steamers Havre and Wonder collided. Both passenger vessels belong to the London and South Western Railway Company.

Havre struck the Wonder on her starboard side with such violence that the stern of the Wonder was completely torn away. One man had a grazed face. The Havre stopped her engines and quickly took the passengers off the stricken Wonder.

Havre then took the Wonder in tow. The location of the accident (which took place on 29 April) is uncertain.

Captain Smith was in charge of the Havre, Captain Clement had gone to bed at 3.30pm. Smith had altered course a quarter mile from the Wonder. Clement immediately ran up on deck when he heard the crash and looked after his passengers and crew.

Second mate Robert Woodcock was in charge of Wonder, which did not alter her course until he reacted to the danger of the Havre. Woodcock had not called his captain as it was daylight and he was continuing on a straight course.

Havre hit between two timber heads on the starboard side. If Wonder had been hit midships she would have been cut in half.

One of Wonder's lifeboats was cut in half and her saloon was ripped open across the width of the ship. The only damage to Havre was a broken bowspirit.

A contemporary drawing of the rescue of the crew


Tuesday 16 February 1875[2]

"The Havre became the third London and South Western Railway steamer to be wrecked in recent years when she hit the Platte Boue Rock at the entrance to the Little Russell off Guernsey this morning.
"She hit the same rock as did the Waverley lost two years earlier. Normandy also sank in the channel following a collision in 1870.
"The stern of the Havre now rests on the sunken Waverley, and in a similar fashion to that accident, the passengers of Havre were transported in the ship's boats to the Amfroque Rock, before being returned to St Peter Port without loss of life.
"Captain Robert Long, with 82 passengers on board, hit the sunken rocks at 0910 at full speed; the vessel stopped and remained grounded.
"There were three boats aboard; these firstly took the ladies to the safety of the Grand Amfroque, then went back for the gentlemen.
"The accident happened when Captain Robert Long - approaching Guernsey from the North - had the Amfroques on his starboard side. Conditions were calm, visibility three miles with a slight haze on the sea.
"Passengers had noticed Havre was well off course and had pointed this out several times to Capt Long.
"Once realising his mistake, Capt Long turned the ship around, but failed to use correct navigational procedures maintaining a gap between the two towers on the Amfroque. He continued at high speed until he hit the rocks.
"He tried to give the order to move the vessel off the Platte Boue, but the first mate, realising she had settled enough to rescue the passengers, over-ruled the Captain.
"Captain Long was sacked from his post and banned for 12 Months."

Notes and references

  1. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
  2. From Facebook group Maritime Jersey, by Mark Pulley
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