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The paddle steamers of the Bristol Channel were amongst those which were quickly requesitioned by the Admiralty for war service in World War I. In all 12 of the White Funnel Fleet were coverted to minesweepers and one was used as a troop ship.

Six -


Brighton Queen

Cambria (War name Cambridge)

Westward Ho (War names Western Queen & Westhope)

Glen Avon

Lady Ismay

formed part of the Grimsby unit from 1914 onward, sweeping the area between the mouth of the Humber and the Belgian coast. On 6 October 1915 Brighton Queen hit a mine and sank with the loss of seven lives, and shortly afterward, on 21 December 1915 the Lady Ismay also sank after hitting a mine. In 1917 the remaining four steamers were transferred to the Tyne where they remained until the end of the war.

A further two steamers


Glen Usk

were initially stationed on the Clyde, sweeping off Northern Ireland up to the Hebrides. In August 1915 they transferred to the East Coast based on the Moray Firth and were later movedto Granton.

Two further steamers


Albion (War name Albyn)

were based at Dover sweeping the English Channel.

Another two steamers

Waverley (War name Way)

Glen Rosa

initially remained in the Bristol Channel, sweeping the area from Swansea to Ilfracombe, but were subsequently moved to the Thames.

The remaining steamer, Barry (War name Barryfield), was employed in ferrying troops in the Daedanelles invasion in 1915 subsequently returning to evacuate the troops when the campaign failed early in 1916. In December 1916 she was involved in the Salonika landings and remained in the Eastern Med for the remainder of the war.

By the end of 1919 all, with the exception of the Brighton Queen & Lady Ismay which had been lost, had returned to P & A Campbell.


The Second World War saw the Campbell's fleet again requesitioned by the Admiralty.

The 7th Flotilla based at Granton, on the Forth, consisted of

Brighton Queen

Britannia (War name Skiddaw)

Cambria (War name Plinlimmon)


Westward Ho

The 8th Flotilla based at North Shields, consisted of

Brighton Belle

Glen Avon

Glen Gower (War name Glenmore)

Glen Usk

Waverley (War name Snaefell)

The Ravenswood (War name Ringtail) went to Belfast as an anti-aircraft ship and then to Devonport as a coastal troop ship.

The Empress Queen (War name Queen Eagle) was requisitioned in 1940, immediately on completion, initially as an anti-aircraft ship on the Thames and then from 1943 as a troop ship.

Eight of the steamers served in the Dunkirk evacuations in May 1940, rescuing over 7000 allied servicemen from the beaches. Only the Britannia, Enpress Queen, Glen Usk and Ravenswood were not involved.

During the Dunkirk operation the Devonia was run aground, the Brighton Queen was sunk by enemy air attack, Brighton Belle sunk after hitting a wreck. Later in the war both the Glen Avon and the Waverley were also lost.

Return to A History of Cardiff Shipping Companies