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The first steel built vessel for the London and South Western Railway was Laura a screw steamer, built by Aitken and Mansel of Glasgow, of 641 tons, single funnel, two masts. Laura was built at a cost of £23,500 to replace the Caesarea on the Southampton-Channel Islands—France run and commenced her service in 1885

On board the St Malo ferry

This picture is one of those which conjures up images of a time when life was lived at a different pace, and in a different style. This photograph was taken on the deck of the steamship Laura between Jersey and St Malo in 1905. Unfortunately we have no information about the people in what is a lovely photograph. But how much better could it have been if the portly gentleman had been facing the camera rather than looking the other way? One can only surmise that he did not want his picture taken and was deliberately looking the other way, because otherwise surely the photographer would have waited until he turned round.

Is this the Laura?

These two photographs, supposedly of the same vessel, came to us captioned 'Southampton'. However, the only ss Southampton which operated to St Helier, where the picture below was undoubtedly taken, was a paddle steamer which was in service from 1860 until 1897, and was broken up the following year. The lower picture, which purports to show the Master of the vessel, appears to have been taken some 14 years after that. The clothing in the upper photograph would also seem to suggest the Edwardian era rather than Victorian. We asked Kevin Le Scelleur, an authority on steamships, if he had any suggestions, and he expressed the view that the Master is standing at the top right of the upper picture. He cannot explain why the lifeboat has the name 'Southampton' on it. As far as the lower picture is concerned, he said: "The other picture is very interesting. I think it is the 2nd Mate standing up, and the vessel is Laura at right angles to the Victoria Pier, swinging to berth at the west cross berth. The interesting bit is the vessels in the background. The three boats in the middle of the harbour are I think GWR Roebuck with a tug on the left side and a salvage vessel on the right. This is after her grounding on the Kaines under La Moye, and if this is correct the picture was taken on either 14 August 1911 when she was towed into the Harbour, or on 19 August when she left for Milford Haven. This also ties in with the rock breaking platform in the upper part of the Harbour."

As larger ships were drafted on to the main routes, Laura was transferred to the Cherbourg service and operated between Jersey and France during the summer for 23 years. She was still operating during World War One and even served on the mail run when regular vessels were damaged.

She operated purely as a cargo vessel from 1920 but after about 30 years service she was sold to the Bahamas Shipping Company in 1927 and eventually, depending on which account is believed, was either lost in a hurricane off Nassau in the Bahamas or simply retired and broken up.

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