Picturesque Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour, provided a refuge in 1940 for Dutch and Belgian refugees, who camped there after German armies began to invade their home-land. The Davis family owned a boat yard in Poole and used their 60--passenger ferry Felicity to take them food and blankets and to provide a link with the mainland.
Like many of her kind, the Felicity was an open fishing boat, used for catching sprats in winter, and in summer she took holiday makers for trips round the bay. Mr. Davis, the head of the well-known local family, recalled the day at the end of May 1940, when they received the call for all available boats to report to the Admiralty. He and his brother Jimmy took Felicity and another boat, the Island Queen, to Dover where they were told that naval crews would take over. They were not sorry, because they had enough to do at Brownsea Island. It was some time before they had any news of their boats, although they knew what was happening when banner headlines in the press told the story of Dunkirk.
In due course, Felicity came back to them, in need of a good clean-up but other-wise none the worse for her ex-perience. Island Queen was never heard of again. The story was that she had been bombed. They were sorry to lose her, but proud that she had done her bit. After the war they sold Felicity and for a time lost touch until she was renamed Wight Rose and used by Sean Crane to run a passenger service in the Solent.
In 1991, after a serious fire, her insurers declared Felicity a total loss. Sean Crane asked Julian Aldridge to use his JCB digger to break up the remains and burn them at his Keyhaven farm. By coincidence Julian is a time-served boatbuilder with a keen interest in traditional boats. It was agreed that in lieu of payment, the remains would be removed from Keyhaven in exchange for title to ownership.
Over the next few years the vessel was rebuilt using traditional materials and techniques throughout. Two pitch-pine beams 28 feet long and weighing over 1? tons each were located from a demolished cotton mill in Lancashire and these were re-sawn to become planking. Locally grown oak became new steamed timbers and she was finally re-launched in June 1998 in her 70th year.
Now her days as a commercial vessel are over, a cabin has been constructed to provide shelter from the elements with large open cockpits fore and aft. This was designed to be true to period and is essentially open plan so as to be able to carry many people on day trips, although it is possible to sleep aboard in comfort.
Sources: 3, 4, 5, 11 & 19