1940 HMS WATCHFUL
Type: Passenger Yacht
Displacement: 72 tons
Engine: was Steam
Builder: Fellowes, Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth where Watchful was built and Scarborough where she has served most of her life are very much alike. They are both fishing ports, sharing the same raw easterly winds, which can sweep straight from the Continent whipping up the North Sea into being one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the world. Both towns take their pleasure as seriously as their work, which inevitably have close links with the sea.
Thus, it was that at the turn of the 1900’s, cruising in small boats to large steamers began.
By the early 1930's, everyone had at least one week's holiday mostly spending time by the sea. To cope with the ever increasing holiday trade E. W. Longfield of Great Yarmouth commissioned the building of a 90ft pleasure steamer. She was launched by Fellows South Down Shipyard in March 1935 and named Britt. Sailing from the town quay at Great Yarmouth on the East coast of England, she was the largest and fastest of all the local pleasure steamers.
Summer 1939 was the last time for six years that she was to sail as a pleasure steamer. On the 16th September 1939 she taken over by the Admiralty for war duties and renamed H.M.S. Watchful.
H.M.S. Watchful is reported to have sailed to Dunkirk and returned three times, where she saved 900 lives. After her heroic dash to Dunkirk she returned to the East Coast ports to serve out the rest of the war.
On 12th December 1945, war duties over, she was returned to her owners, repainted and ready again for the 1946 holiday season. After years of restrictions the public flocked to the coast just to see the sea again and many enjoyed a sea trip.
Britt was sold in 1951 to Scarborough Cruisers. Renamed Yorkshire Lady, she was modernised and repainted white with a yellow funnel, making her first cruise from the port in late May beginning a tradition which was to last for many years to come.
In 1968 Yorkshire Lady was renamed Coronia taking on the mantle after the previous Coronia which had operated from Scarborough since 1935, had left the port.
With her new name she continued to work out of Scarborough until 1985 when she left the port to work in warmer waters, sailing from Gibraltar for the following five years. By the summer of 1990 passenger capacities were declining and it was time for Coronia to make the journey home again to Scarborough.
She sailed from Gibraltar in May 1991 and, never faltering, arrived back in Scarborough on the 5th June 1991. After a rest and a refit, she was again ready to start cruising from her home port.
Together with Regal Lady, Coronia carries on a century-long tradition of cruising across Scarborough Bays.
Sat, 14/08/2010 - 21:53
I could have a smoke in the bar! Beer was reasonably priced and so was the trip... However, what you couldn't put a price on was the history... This little ship served her country in WW2 and saved the lives of 900 servicemen whom it evacuated from the beach of Dunkirk. A fun trip coupled with an immense feeling of pride of what this nation achieved against huge odds! Totally humbling.
Still working and some of the most amazing views of the beautiful north Yorkshire coastline.
Wed, 14/07/2010 - 14:58
I had the privilege of captaining the vessel for a day when the then Captain was away. I was, at the time, the Captain of the Gibraltar to Tangier high speed ferry so it was quite a change - what a great little lady, I wish her, and Captain Tom all the very best, Nick Pearson.
Thu, 03/06/2010 - 22:36
I used to be in the Gibraltar Police I remember the Coronia well, having had the privilege of walking on her decks and seeing the plaque dedicated to her Dunkirk exploits. My grandmother lost her twin brother at Dunkirk. Long may she continue to sail.
All the best
Wed, 17/03/2010 - 14:05
Coronia (ex Yorkshire Lady)
Can anyone tell me if the Coronia is still sailing? (March2010) Capt. Tom Machin was trying to keep her sailing out of Scarborough, but extensive costly repairs put the little ship's future in doubt.
Capt. Eric Kinchin.
Mon, 06/09/2010 - 13:33
Yesterday, Sunday 5th Sept. 2010, my wife and I attended the Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival, at which we found the Coronia taking part.
Coronia was running 1 1/2 hour trips down river and out just off the coast, and we decided to go aboard for a trip. It was a sunny, if breezy day, and the trip was most enjoyable.
This was particularly significant for my wife, as her late father had trained with the Royal Navy on the then renamed HMS Watchful at the outbreak of WWII and would probably have been stationed with the ship while it served tender duties out of Yarmouth in 1939/40. We don't know whether he would have been involved in the Dunkirk action, as we do not have any of his service history. Hopefully one day we will find out more.
My understanding is that Coronia will resume pleasure boat duties back in Scarborough after the festival.
Mon, 05/04/2010 - 00:14
Yes, Coronia is still sailing. My wife and I went for an evening trip to Scarborough tonight(4th April 2010) and she was there tied up in the harbour...Lee Dodson.
Thu, 27/05/2010 - 19:51
I worked on this boat when I was 14 years old....Harbour Master Mr Flynn talked to the skipper and I earned 1 shilling a day......at 67 years of age I have fantastic memories of being associated with this Boat.....Good luck to Tom.....Keep her going my friend....