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Western Lady Ferry Service
 
 
This page is devoted to postcards and photographs of the Western Lady Ferry Service which operates between Torquay and Brixham. It was associated with the use of the famous ex-Naval Fairmile 'B' launches over many years. The last of these was withdrawn in 2006. Operations are combined with Dartmouth Riverboats.
 
 
By 2007 there were only four surviving Fairmile 'B' launches in the UK:-
Western Lady (RML535)- Private ownership (ex-Torbay)
The Fairmile (ex-Western Lady III (RML497)) - Torbay/Dart excursions with Greenway Ferry
Western Lady IV (RML526) - Private ownership (ex-Torbay)
Jamaican Moon (ML357) - House boat in St Osyth
 
 
A fifth Fairmile 'B', the Golden Galleon, was broken up in 2006. She had run excursions on the Norfolk Broads. The Fairmile 'B' Header Page lists other Fairmiles illustrated on this website.
 
 
 
Sections on this Page:-
Pride of the Dart
Regency Belle
River Lady (RML511)
Western Lady (RML535)
Western Lady II (RML542)
Western Lady III (RML497)
Western Lady IV (RML526)
Western Lady V
Western Lady VI
Western Lady VII
Torbay Prince - Devon Star Shipping
Torbay Princess - renamed Western Lady VI
Torbay Princess II - renamed Western Lady VII
 
Western Lady Publicity - handbills etc
 
Western Lady Pages:-
Western Lady Ferry Service - This Page
Fairmile Classic Cruises - Page 1 - ran Western Lady III 2007-2008
Fairmile Classic cruises - Page 2 - ran Western Lady III 2007-2008
Fairmile 'B' Header Page - list of Fairmile 'B' launches used in the UK
www.savethewesternladies.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk - Steve Powell's Western Lady website
 
Associated Pages:-
Devon Excursion Boats
Brixham Belle Cruises (Carol & Peter Scott)
UK Excursion Ships
Ferry Postcards
Cruise Ship Postcards
Ocean Liner Postcards
Simplon Postcards - Recent Updates
Simplon Postcards - Home Page
 
References:-
The Fair Few Miles - History of the Western lady Ferry Service - S.A.Armstrong - unknown publisher
Estuary & River Ferries of South West England - Martin Langley & Edwina Small - Waine Research (1984)
South Devon Ferries - Alan Kittridge - Tempus (2003)
Trip Out Guides - Written and published by G.P.Hamer - various editions from 1977 to 2007 consulted
Thanks to Steve Powell and Graham Thorne for assistance with this page
 
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Table of Ship Histories
Name
Other names
 Built
 Western Lady III  RML497, The Fairmile 
 1941
 
 
 




Western Lady
(RML535)
 
Western Lady (often referred to as Western Lady I but did not carry the suffix) was built in 1941 by William Weatherhead & Son of Cockezie, East Lothian. She entered service in August 1942 as RML535 with the 63rd ML Flotilla, Plymouth Command, where she remained until 1944, later working from Appledore before returning to Plymouth. She was disposed off at Dartmouth in 1946, minus engines, which were Lend/Lease from the USA and had been removed for return. As passenger numbers decreased, Western Lady was laid up. She still exists in 2007, but is in poor condition.
 
 
Advertising card of Western Lady
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Advertising card of Western Lady
Coloured version of the card above
 
 
Multi-view card of Western Lady
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Tuck card of Western Lady
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Valentine's postcard of two Western Ladies at Brixham
Posted September 1957
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Western Lady in 2007
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady in 2007
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady II
(RML542)
 
Western Lady II was built by Austin's, East Ham and entered service as RML542 in July 1942 with the 63rd ML Flotilla, working out of Falmouth, Newlyn, Padstow and Appledore. She joined the Western Lady Ferry service in 1947, but was never upgraded to the level of the other boats. She retained her original sick bay on deck (other boats received new larger saloons). Western Lady II was sold in 1955, and converted into a private yacht.
 
 
Photo of Western Lady II
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Western Lady III
(RML497)
 
Western Lady III was built by Southampton Steam Joinery Ltd in 1941 and commissioned as RML497 in July 1942. This Fairmile B Motor launch was stationed with 62nd ML Flotillas at Portland between 1942 and 1944. She was then transferred to Kirkwall in January 1944 on anti-submarine target towing duties until August when she sent to Appledore. She join the 69th Flotilla based at Felixstowe until eventually being sold off at Itchenor in 1947 and entering service with the Western Lady Ferry between Brixham and Torquay Service in that same year. Western Lady III was recently withdrawn at Torbay, but returned to service from Swanage for Fairmile Classic Cruises in August 2007, running five cruises along the Dorset coast daily, apart from Tuesdays when a she took a day trip to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight). Services ran again in 2008, but the company ran into financial problems in September 2008 and she also had certificate issues with the MCA. Western Lady III  was bought by the Greenway Ferry and entered service during the summer of 2009 as The Fairmile between Torbay, Dartmouth and Greenway after a very substantial refit.
 
 
Western Lady III at Torquay
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV and Western Lady III (right)
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady III at Swanage Pier
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 12:30 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 12:30 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 12:30 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 12:30 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 14:00 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 14:00 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 14:00 sailing
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
Western Lady III leaving Swanage Pier on her 14:00 sailing
Isle of Wight in the background
Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
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Western Lady III - Fairmile 'B' - Swanage Excursions -  www.simplonpc.co.uk - Photo: © Ian Boyle, 5th August 2007
 
 
 
 
 
Western Lady IV
(RML526)
 
Western Lady IV was built by Solent Shipyard Ltd, Lower Swanick, and commissioned as RML526 in August 1942. This Fairmile B Motor launch was stationed with 63rd ML Flotillas at Falmouth and then the 61st ML Flotilla based at Newhaven and Plymouth. After the was she was sold to an Evesham owner for conversion to private yacht. Some work was carried out in the Isle of Wight before she was named Anbrijo and taken to the Mediterranean to run between Gibraltar and Tangiers. She was auctioned at Fowey in 1949, becoming Western Lady IV. She ran until the end of Fairmile services and was sold to a private owners Tony & Kim Medri in 2007. They are restoring Western Lady IV and images are attached of her sailing in 2008.
 
 
Western Lady IV in wartime colours in 1994
Photo: © Graham Thorne
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Western Lady IV alongside at Brixham
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV passing Goodrington
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV alongside at Brixham
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV alongside at Brixham
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV and Western Lady III (right)
Photo: © Steve Powell - savethewesternladies
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Western Lady IV in 2008
Photo: © Tony & Kim Medri
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Western Lady IV in 2008
Photo: © Tony & Kim Medri
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Western Lady IV in 2008
Photo: © Tony & Kim Medri
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Western Lady IV in 2008
Photo: © Tony & Kim Medri
 
 
Western Lady IV in 2008
Photo: © Tony & Kim Medri
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Western Lady V
 
Western Lady V was originally the Southend Britannia, built for use on excursions at Southend in Essex. The arrival of the New Prince of Wales at Southend led to the completion of the competing Southend Britannia for Charles & Arthur Myall in 1924. Southend Britannia was 106 feet long and 147 gross tons - very slightly larger than New Prince of Wales (perhaps deliberately). She had similar paraffin engines by John L.Thornycroft, who also built the hull, with a distinctive slanting stern. Southend Britannia had two funnels, of which the forward was a dummy. Two masts and a prominent bridge gave her an imposing, if slightly ludicrous appearance. Southend Britannia attended the Dunkirk evacuation during the war.
 
After the war she served as Brightlingsea Belle on the Colne, and Western Lady V in Torbay. She was purchased to replace Western Lady II and renamed Western Lady V. She could carry 250 passengers, slightly more than the Fairmiles, but was not ideal for Torbay operations, with very low freeboard and a tendency to roll.
From 1960 to 1987 she was owned by Thames Television and moored at Teddington. She was later seen as the Beverley, moored in Docklands and Chelsea, but has probably since been scrapped.
 
 
Postcard of Southend Britannia.
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Postcard of Southend Britannia.
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Postcard of Southend Britannia with enclosed bridge.
 
 
Postcard of Southend Britannia with enclosed bridge.
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Postcard of Southend Britannia at the jetty.
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Busy scene of Southend sea-front with Southend Britannia and New Prince of Wales plus 'life boats'.
Publisher: Lansdown Productions
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Postcard of Southend Britannia (centre) and New Prince of Wales (left) at the pier head, plus smaller boats (right).
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Postcard of Western Lady V, ex-Southend Britannia
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ex-Southend Britannia in later years, moored on the Thames.
 
 
 
 
 
River Lady
(RML511)
 
River Lady was built by J.W.& A.Upham of Brixham in 1941. She was part of the 61st Flotilla from 1942 to 1945, and was sent for disposal at Harwich in 1946. She was bought by The Devon Star Shipping Company, but was initially used locally on the River Orwell for excursions in 1946. She had a sistership River Lady II, which was converted at Brixham and ran the Orwell excursions from 1946 until 1963. River Lady was bought by the Western Lady Ferry Service and retained her name. She was used as a cruise and charter boat until 1973. She was then used as a diving support vessel at Plymouth as Western Diver until 1985. Although sold for scrap, she passed to a Dutch company. She subsequent fate is unknown.
 
 
Coastal Cards Ltd postcard of River Lady on Torbay service
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Regency Belle
 
Regency Belle was built as a RYMS (British Yacht Mine Sweeper) in the USA during the war, and served with the Royal Navy as HMS Radcliffe. As Regency Belle, she ran at Brighton in 1951, but moved to Scarborough in 1952. In 1954 the Regal Lady had joined the Round's fleet at Scarborough, which then had four excursion ships for this season only. Regency Belle moved to Torquay for the 1955 season, leaving three ships Coronia (1), Yorkshire Lady and Regal Lady at Scarborough. At Torquay she initially ran for the Torbay Cruising Company along with Pride of the Dart. Both vessels were acquired by the Western Lady Ferry service, although Regency Belle was sold on without being placed in service. She was bought by a Lowestoft company in 1963 for offshore support, and was renamed Regency.

In 1967 she was in the Isles of Scilly as a support vessel to one of the several diving teams then working on the celebrated 1707 wreck of HMS Association. On the night of 18th September she left Scilly to return to Lowestoft when she caught fire near the Wolf Rock. The fire started in her engine room and soon spread. The crew of five took to an inflatable dinghy. Sennen lifeboat and helicopters from RNAS Culdrose attended and the blaze could reportedly be seen for 13 miles. First boat on the scene was the French trawler Roi Mage which took the crew aboard. One man had injured a knee. Although an ambulance was waiting at Newlyn, the French skipper insisted on going to St. Laurent to unload his full cargo of fish. [Source: Roland Morris, "Island Treasure", 1969]
 
 
Postcard of Regency Belle
 
 
Regency Belle
Photo: © D Moxley
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Pride of the Dart
 
Pride of the Dart was built as the HDML (Harbour Defence Motor Launch) ML1396 in 1944. She was decommissioned in in February 1946. She ran as Pride of the Dart for Torbay Cruising, which was acquired by the Western Lady Ferry Service along with the Regency Belle. Unlike Regency Belle, Pride of the Dart was put into service by the Western Lady Ferry Service on cruises to Dartmouth, since she was too slow for the ferry service. She was sold in 1986. Another HDML which later served in Devon was the Devon Princess, which ran cruises from Exmouth and Torquay.
 
Graham Thorne writes:- The Pride of the Dart suffered a steering failure on 28th June 2002 and was wrecked on rocks at Kingswear. Passengers were rescued by local boats including Dart Pleasure Craft's Dart Explorer. At this time Pride of the Dart was owned by Mr Bolus of Torquay. Following her stranding she was first beached at Kingswear and then taken to a yard at Galmpton.

She never returned to service and the following summer Mr Bolus replaced her with the Guardwell from Ullapool. In 2006 he sold Guardwell to the Greenway Ferry Co for whom she now runs as their Riviera Belle

The Bolus family also owned the 40' motor launch Lady Cable, built by Morgan Giles at Teignmouth in 1924. A Dunkirk Little Ship - the only one from Torquay apparently - she is said to have taken 550 men from the beaches out to larger ships in seven trips and brought a full load back to Dover. She came to Bolus in 1987 and in 2005, after several years laid-up, they donated her to the Turning Point Trust for preservation.

To be added





Torbay Princess - Western Lady VI

Western Lady VI and Western Lady VII were built as Devon Princess II (50 grt, 63 ft, 185 pass) and Devon Princess III (46 grt, 65 ft, 194 pass) were built in 1981 and 1984 for M.D.Barrow of Exmouth, joining Devon Princess in the fleet. They ran cruises from Exmouth and Torquay. Devon Princess II passed to M.J.& R.J.Ould of Torquay who renamed her Torbay Princess. They later also acquired Devon Princess III, but by 1995 she was running for previous owner M.D.Barrow again. In 1999, Devon Princess III was running for Peter Scott's Brixham Belle Cruises as Brixham Belle II. In 2003, Peter Scott's Brixham Belle Cruises acquired the fleet of M.J.& R.J.Ould, reuniting Torbay Princess (ex-Devon Princess II) and Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III). Peter Scott began jointly operating the Torquay-Brixham ferry with the Western Lady Ferry Service. This arrangement was short-lived, and Torbay Princess (ex-Devon Princess II) and Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III) were sold to Western Lady Ferry Service, where Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III) was renamed Torbay Princess II, joining their two remaining Fairmile 'B' launches Western Lady III and Western Lady IV. When the Fairmiles were withdrawn, Torbay Princess and Torbay Princess II were renamed Western Lady VI and Western Lady VII, to run the ferry service from 2007.


Western Lady VI of Western Lady Ferry Service
Photo: Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008
Western Lady VI - Photo:  Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008


Western Lady VI of Western Lady Ferry Service
Photo: Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008
Western Lady VI - Photo:  Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008






Torbay Princess II - Western Lady VII

Western Lady VI and Western Lady VII were built as Devon Princess II (50 grt, 63 ft, 185 pass) and Devon Princess III (46 grt, 65 ft, 194 pass) were built in 1981 and 1984 for M.D.Barrow of Exmouth, joining Devon Princess in the fleet. They ran cruises from Exmouth and Torquay. Devon Princess II passed to M.J.& R.J.Ould of Torquay who renamed her Torbay Princess. They later also acquired Devon Princess III, but by 1995 she was running for previous owner M.D.Barrow again. In 1999, Devon Princess III was running for Peter Scott's Brixham Belle Cruises as Brixham Belle II. In 2003, Peter Scott's Brixham Belle Cruises acquired the fleet of M.J.& R.J.Ould, reuniting Torbay Princess (ex-Devon Princess II) and Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III). Peter Scott began jointly operating the Torquay-Brixham ferry with the Western Lady Ferry Service. This arrangement was short-lived, and Torbay Princess (ex-Devon Princess II) and Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III) were sold to Western Lady Ferry Service, where Brixham Belle II (ex-Devon Princess III) was renamed Torbay Princess II, joining their two remaining Fairmile 'B' launches Western Lady III and Western Lady IV. When the Fairmiles were withdrawn, Torbay Princess and Torbay Princess II were renamed Western Lady VI and Western Lady VII, to run the ferry service from 2007.


 
Postcard of Devon Princess III


Western Lady VII (ex-Devon Princess III)


Western Lady VII of Western Lady Ferry Service
Photo: Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008
Western Lady VII - Photo:  Andrew Cooke, 26th September 2008






Torbay Prince
(Devon Star Shipping)
 
Although never owned by the Western Lady Ferry Service, the Torbay Prince of Devon Star Shipping worked with them jointly on cruises to the River Dart, and so she is shown here. Devon Star publicity mentioned the Western Ladies
 
The Torbay Prince was the only purpose-built Torbay excursion boat, being completed by M.W.Blackmore for Devon Star Shipping Co (J.Kerr). There are reports that she briefly ran from Ipswich first, where the company ran River Lady and then River Lady II (River Lady moving to Torbay for the Western Lady Ferry Service where she retained her name). Torbay Prince ran in conjunction with the Western Ladies at Torbay.
 
The Harwich & Orwell Navigation Company had been formed in 1962 to run the Harwich/Felixstowe ferry service following its closure by British Railways. It was owned by George Goodhew and A.R.Grey. They used the ex-LNER/BR Brightlingsea on the ferry, and they also acquired River Lady II to run excursions. River Lady II was sold in 1963, and was replaced with Torbay Prince for a few years.
 
Torbay Prince returned to the West Country, and was later renamed Tudor Prince. She ended on the River Fal looking very smart in a red and cream colour scheme. Latest reports indicate that in 2006 she is at Ponsharden on the Fal in a very derelict state. A rebuild to return her to service in 2007 has stopped, she has been stripped of all upperworks and her long term prospects do not look good.
 
Devon Star Shipping advertising postcard of Torbay Prince
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Torbay Prince on the Orwell or Stour.
Photo: © Philip Cone, 1968
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A.Duncan photo of Torbay Prince at Harwich
 
 
Torbay Prince at Harwich, towering over Brightlingsea.
Publisher: Photo Precision PT8120
 
 
Postcard of Tudor Prince
 
 
Postcard of Tudor Prince at Falmouth
 
 
Postcard of Tudor Prince at Falmouth
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Western Lady Publicity
 
 
Handbill for Western Lady ferry and cruises
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Handbill for Torbay Prince and Western Lady cruises
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