Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.

Published 30 November 2000

ON THE bridge of the turbine steamer Onward, the master, Captain King who is also in the centre of the group picture below, left, with other members of the remarkable steamer's crew.
Amazing ship!
THIS fading photograph, below, of the crew of a South Eastern & Chatham Railway steamer - a forerunner of our modern car ferries - recalls a remarkable incident in Folkestone harbour, involving fire, a capsized steamer and an amazing come-back.

The photograph was shown to me by a reader of my Memories page in our sister paper, the Dover Express, who is well versed in shipping lore. The father and grandfather of Mrs Jeanette Bianchi (nee Turmaine), both served on the Channel ferries. Mrs Bianchi lives in Elvington, near Dover.

Her grandfather, Ernest Turmaine, served on the Onward and died in the Second World War while serving on the ferry Maid of Kent.

The ferry was dive-bombed and destroyed while In dock at Dieppe, in May 1940, during service as a hospital ship. The day before, the railway-owned
ferry Brighton, serving In a similar role, had been lost, again in similar circumstances.

It was in 1918 that the Onward was set on fire at her Folkestone berth by an incendiary device planted on the ship by an enemy spy, probably during the confusion while the vessel was bringing home troops on leave, after she had ferried thousands of soldiers to the battlefields of Flanders.

The authorities acted swiftly, ordering that the sea-cocks be opened so that the inrush of water would douse the fire and the ship would sink to the bottom at her berth. But the weight of water turned her slowly on to her port side.

A serious obstacle in the port, she was righted and re-floated with considerable ingenuity in an operation performed with some degree of secrecy. The breach In her hull was patched, funnels and deckhouses removed and compressed air was pumped in for buoyancy. Huge timber tripods were constructed on the promenade, pulleys and chains were placed in position and attached to five railway locomotives which proceeded to pull the ship upright.

The deputy borough surveyor of Folkestone took photographs but they were not published at the time because of wartime security.

The damaged ship played no further part in the war but In 1920 she was bought and refitted by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and renamed Mona’s Isle.

The seamen in the picture (left) are standing in front of the Onward’s lifeboat with a lifebelt bearing the initials SE&CR and they surround the master who, says Folkestone historian Alan Taylor, is Capt King.
Some of the men, but not the bearded skipper in the centre and an officer next to him, wear a “Royal Mail” SE&CR sweater, each with a different number under the words “Royal Mail.” These may have been so that they could be identified if necessary.

A similar picture appears in Charles Whitney's book Folkestone, A Pictorial History published 1986. The steamer Onward sailed from both Dover and Folkestone.

Completed for the Folkestone -Boulogne and Dover - Calais services in March 1905, by William Denny & Bros, of Dumbarton, the Onward was blessed with five lives.

Prior to the fire she had been involved in a serious accident during a normal cross-Channel service run to France in 1908, colliding almost head-on, in fog, with her sister turbine steamer the Queen, which was travelling in the opposite direction.

Sadly the bow look-out, Able Seaman Holdstock, was fatally
LOCAL historian Alan Taylor showed me this fine picture of the handsome turbine steamer Onward in the

injured as he dashed for safety.

Both vessels were damaged and put into Folkestone. The Onward was holed but watertight bulkheads prevented her sinking and she was soon repaired, as was her sister ship.

First cars

The Onward was then involved in the first passage of motor cars across the Channel under protection of a ‘triptyque’ which avoided the need for a costly deposit with the Customs. She carried across the Channel a 40hp Crossley car owned by Charles Jarrott, a well known racing motorist who later became chairman of the AA which supervised the operation, involving at least two other cars,
which were also craned aboard.

Onward commenced her third ‘life’ in service as the Mona’s Isle, having been bought and refitted by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. in 1920, to carry thousands of holidaymakers between the UK and Isle of Man.

Her fourth role was as an armed boarding vessel during the Second World War when she had the distinction of being the first such vessel to take part in the epic evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk. Refitted, she became a Guardship at Methil, Firth of Forth until the war’s end.

Finally she returned to the Isle of Man until the end of the 1947 season and was broken up at Milford Haven, ending an amazing career.

• Mrs Bianchi’s late father Fred Turmaine, of Manor Road, Dover, a chief cook, served on the Biarritz, the Autocarrier, which he likened to a tin bath in the middle of the Channel, Invicta, Dinard and other ships including traiii ferries.
THE SHIP WITH FIVE LIVES - A reader's photograph of the crew of the turbine steamer Onward which operated from both Folkestone and Dover and saw service in two World Wars.





Herald supports larger local tramways scheme.

<4 Q/"k/"V WEEK after week a century ago the X7l/Wtalk in the local newspapers was of plans for public tramway services in the district and one of the most recent headlines over a public notice read: “Cheriton Urban District Tramways” which detailed the plans by Cheriton Council for a series of tramway routes which was being submitted to the Board of Trade for Parliamentary approval in December, Occupying two columns the notice indicated the Council’s Intention to use animals or mechanical power to haul its passengers and a variety of goods on four tramways. Single track lines were: planned from the boundary of Hythe, along Horn Street to Cheriton High Street; from this point along Cheriton High Street to a junction with a third tramway, running to Sandgate along Risborough Lane, while a fourth line would run to the Folkestone boundary. On another page of the Herald the Sandgate & Hythe Electric Co Ltd had a public notice detailing their scheme for six tram routes in Folkestone, Sandgate and Cheriton. The Herald backed this pointing out it would cost the town nothing. The longest line, of two miles, was to be from Cheriton to Tontine St/Harbour St.



'Buy British Weeks’ plan by councils of district.

x| QOC WITH the backing of Folkestone’s Mayor the Chamber of Commerce was planning a “Buy British Goods Shopping Week" leading up to Christmas, an event that was commended by the Herald, along with a similar event, known as Empire Shopping Week, being held in Hythe. The Council was inviting tenders for the building of a cricket pavilion on the sports ground at Cheriton Road, with a state preference being given to firms employing ex-soldiers. The same week the Herald printed a large picture of 30 members of staff of local firm Olbys, all of whom were ex-servicemen - complete with all their names, which may be of interest to those compiling “family trees" or have mislaid old family portraits. Their names were Adams, Ansley, Barrett, Bones, Brenchley, Brigden, Calcy, Clarke. Davcy, Day, Edwards. Ellender, Jenner. Johnson, Kiay, Miller, Morecroft, Murphy, Newport, J. Olby, Oldfield, Pettit, Richards, Smith, Capt Spencer, Stock, Taylor, Thompson, Webb, Woodbridge. Flags were at half-mast on public buildings as a tribute to the much loved Queen^Alexandra who died on Friday November 21. The :‘Mini’ of the motoring world 75 years ago was without doubt the much loved Austin 7 which was advertised in the Herald at the “At works" price of 149.



‘Flying Saucer’ spotted by a highways official.

1 Q FRONT page story told of a reported sighting of a Flying Saucer over the Channel by Mr WHB Edwards, of Bradstone Avenue, Highways Superintendent to Folkestone Corporation, while driving along Lower Sandgate Road, Folkestone, near the entrance to the cliff lift. Ain overcast sky provided a perfect backdrop as it flashed by, 4 to 5 miles out at 4,000 to 5,000ft, he said. It was too fast; he said, to have been a jet aircraft. Curiously, the lead story on the Herald's front page 50 years ago was the arrival in Dover for a State visit of the popular Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, accompanied by Prince Bernhard, aboard the Dutch Navy cruiser Jacob van Heermskerk. After a civic welcome they boarded a special train for London. The Revd Dan Aylett Taylor was inducted as the new Vicar of Aikham with Capel, the congregation including two coachloads of friends from All Souls, Cheriton, where he was vicar from 1933-43. Hythe Cricket Club groundsman Mr R Munds, who once scored two double centuries in a match for the MCC, was honoured with a presentation on retiring. Barbara Le Maye, of Ashley Avenue, Cheriton was one of the Tiller Girls who danced in a Royal Variety Performance at the Palladium alongside legendary “Cheeky Chappy" comedian Max Milter.



Minister urged to improve route to port from the M20.

>| Q7 {■ TWENTY-five years ago there were concerns J.91 w over traffic and in particular the heavy vehicles making their way to then busy port And the Minister of Transport, who was being urged to take action, went on a fact-finding coach tour of the trouble spots and then had a meeting at the town’s Civic Centre with MPs Albert Costain of Folkestone and Peter Rees of Dover together with district and county officials and local councillors. In particular he was urged to get on with extending the M20 to Dover, but avoiding homes near Holywell, Hill Road and Dover Hill, and to provide a better route to the port from the M20. A novel model-making project taught Hythe schoolchildren a lot about their town and won considerable praise for St Leonard's Primary School. Guided by architect John Cresswell, they built an impressive model of Hythe High Street as a contribution to European Architectural Heritage Year. Afterwards he invited those pupils interested in carrying on this kind of project to contact him with a view to recording measured drawings of local historic buildings. He said the results of the work of 10 and 11-year-olds were amazing. They showed promise as future draughtsmen, engineers or architects. Their model went on show at a Hythe Charter Week exhibition at Oaklands, then a County Schools’ exhibition in Maidstone and afterwards in local building society offices.

If anyone should have any a better picture than any on this page, or think I should add one they have, please email me at the following address:-