SS Mona's Queen (1934)
|Owner:||1934-1940: Isle of Man Steam Packet Company|
|Operator:||1934-1940: Isle of Man Steam Packet Company|
|Port of registry:||Douglas, Isle of Man|
|Builder:||Cammell Laird, Birkenhead|
|Laid down:||27 October 1933|
|Launched:||12 April 1934|
|Completed:||25 June 1934|
|Out of service:||May 1940|
|Fate:||Sunk at Dunkirk, 29 May 1940|
|Tonnage:||2,756 gross register tons (GRT)|
|Length:||337 feet (103 m)|
|Beam:||48 feet (15 m)|
|Depth:||17 feet (5.2 m)|
|Installed power:||8,500 shp (6,300 kW)|
|Propulsion:||Two sets of single-reduction Parson's-geared turbines; developing 8,500 shp (6,300 kW)|
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)|
TSS (RMS) Mona's Queen (III) No. 145308, was a ship built for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in 1934. The steamer, which was the third vessel in the company's history to bear the name, was one of five ships to be specially commissioned by the Steam Packet company between 1927 and 1937. They were replacements for the various second-hand steamers that had been purchased to replace the company's losses during the First World War. However the life of the Mona's Queen proved to be short as well, six years after being launched she was sunk by a sea mine during the Dunkirk evacuation on 29 May 1940.
Mona's Queen was built by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead in 1934, at a cost of £30,000 (approx. £12.3 million in 2014). The vessel had a registered tonnage of 2,756; a depth of 17 feet (5.2 m); a length of 337 feet (103 m); beam of 48 feet (15 m) and a speed of 22 knots. She was certified for 2,486 passengers and a crew of 83.
Mona's Queen had two rudders, one forward as well as an Oertz streamline type astern. She was driven by two single-reduction geared turbines and produced 8,500 shp (6,300 kW); the first of the Company's ships to have water tube boilers, taking up less room than the scotch boilers previously used.
Following her fitting-out, Mona's Queen underwent her sea trials on Wednesday 13 June. Sailing from Cammell Laird's, she made passage to the Clyde for her speed test over the 'measured mile'. On her return she crossed Douglas Bay (but did not berth at her home port) as she continued back to Birkenhead, where she entered the 'wet basin' in order to have her turbines examined.
Mona's Queen was the lead ship of the last three vessels - all twin-screw and geared turbines - to be built for the Steam Packet Company before the Second World War. She was painted with a white hull over green like the Lady of Mann and Ben-my-Chree. This was a summer colour scheme adopted by the company in the 1930s.
She was considered to be an elegant ship because of her straight lines and elliptical stern. With five decks, the Promenade deck on the Mona's Queen extended forward towards the bow giving the impression it was larger than even the Lady of Mann. On board passenger accommodation was considered advanced for its day. It had 20 cabins, consisting of eight private cabins and 12 convertible cabins, including one that was specially decorated.
During the busy summer season, the Mona's Queen was employed on the main route between Douglas and Liverpool. It also inaugurated evening cruises from Douglas to the Calf of Man. Aside from passengers, the ship would also carry freight in its forward holds as well as letters and parcels for the Royal Mail.
Troop ship and sinking
Mona's Queen was requisitioned as a troop ship by the British government on 3 September 1939, the day war was declared. Although she served a military purpose, the ship remained a merchantman with a Steam Packet captain and crew. Most of May 1940 was spent evacuating refugees from Dutch and French ports as the massive German advance swept forward to the Channel. On 22 May she carried 2,000 British troops from Boulogne to Dover.
Mona's Queen was one of the first vessels to make a successful round trip during the Dunkirk evacuation. Under the command of Captain Radcliffe Duggan, she arrived back in Dover during the night of 27 May with 1,200 troops. The next day the ship returned to sea and was shelled off the French coast by shore guns but escaped damage.
Captain Duggan was temporarily replaced by Capt. Holkmanfollowing which in the early hours of 29 May, the Mona's Queen set sail for Dunkirk from Dover loaded with water canisters because troops on the Dunkirk beaches were short of drinking water. However the ship struck a sea mine outside Dunkirk harbour at 5.30am. The Mona's Queen sank in two minutes.
Captain Archibald Holkham, who had taken over as Master, and 31 members of the crew were picked up by destroyers. Twenty-four of the crew were lost. Of the crew who died, 14 worked in the engine room. They included the Chief and Second Engineer. Seventeen of the dead were from the Isle of Man. The wreck is designated as a war grave.
While Operation Dynamo is widely regarded as the Manx Steam Packet's 'finest hour', it was also one of its darkest times. Along with the Mona's Queen, Fenella was sunk by air attack while embarking troops in Dunkirk harbour on 29 May and King Orry sank off the beaches in the early hours of 30 May after sustaining heavy damage following several air attacks the day before.
To mark the seventieth anniversary of her sinking, Mona's Queen's starboard anchor was raised on 29 May 2010 and subsequently returned to the Isle of Man to form the centrepiece of a permanent memorial. The anchor had become detached during the sinking, and therefore did not form part of the War Grave. Her anchor was raised by a French salvage vessel, and was shown live on BBC television. There was a 12-gun salute from HMS Monmouth as a crane lifted the anchor of Mona's Queen from the seabed.
On 29 May 2012, a memorial featuring the restored anchor from Mona's Queen, to commemorate the losses 72 years earlier on Mona's Queen, King Orry and Fenella was opened in a ceremony at Kallow Point in Port St Mary attended by representatives of local and national government, the Lieutenant Governor, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and the French Navy.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mona's Queen.|
- Connery Chappell - Island Lifeline (1980) p54.
- Ships of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (Fred Henry) p.64
- Mona's Herald. Tuesday June 12th, 1934.
- Mona's Herald. Tuesday June 12th, 1934.
- Isle of Man Weekly Times, 8 June 1940 (the newspaper report contains details of Mona's Queen's history, sinking and names and addresses of crew lost and saved; also details of the King Orry Dunkirk sinking)
- "About Us". Steam Packet Co. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
- Chappell, Connery (1980). Island Lifeline T.Stephenson & Sons Ltd ISBN 0-901314-20-X