The tugs at Titanic's Departure

Titanica!

The tugs at Titanic's Departure

Albert Edward, Hercules, Vulcan, Ajax, Hector Neptune

Tug guiding Titanic

Registered 10 September 1861, the Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Limited Company was known during its early years as “The Isle of Wight Company”. The new company was formed from two existing firms: The Isle of Wight Steam Packet Company, with offices at Southampton, and the Isle of Wight Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, based at Cowes, Isle of Wight.

The combined resources of the new company consisted of seven paddle steamers of between 64 and 104 gross tons that plied the passenger and freight-carrying route between Southampton and the Isle of Wight. Perhaps because of its somewhat unwieldy name, the company became eventually known as the Red Funnel Line, a name it still holds today.

Four of the company’s vessels were named: Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Pearl. Their names were incorporated in the colours of the company’s house flag formed by four triangles coloured blue, red, green and white, respectively.

Eventually, the line’s services expanded to include excursion routes between Southampton and ports along the English Channel from Brighton to Dartmouth. There was at one time, a twice-weekly round trip across the channel to Cherbourg, France. There was a tug and towage operation. The company provided tender services for passengers and luggage to and from vessels anchored off Cowes or Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

Around 1886 the company acquired the Southampton Steam Towing Company and with it, three vessels which worked routes and provided tug and towage services. To these were soon added (up to 1910), Albert Edward (1886), Hercules (1889), Vulcan (1893), Ajax (1894), Hector (1903) and Neptune (1910). To this day the Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Limited Company operates out of its Southampton office the services begun more than 140 years ago.

But it is the six vessels from its fleet we now consider; the six tugs which assisted the Titanic when she departed Southampton on her maiden voyage 10 April 1912, two of which helped the departing liner avert an emergency that might have well have caused a cancellation of the sailing date and delayed the start of her maiden voyage.

Tug recovers the New York

Wednesday, 10 April 1912, 12:15 p.m.

Albert Edward

  • Port of Registry: Southampton
  • Flag of Registry: British
  • Funnel: Red with black top
  • Company flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal triangles: Blue at hoist, white top, green at fly, red at bottom
  • Signal letters: H J C M Iron hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck, sloop rigEngines: Compound, 4 cyc. 17” 32 x 24” stroke, 1100 h.p.
  • Tonnages: Gross 160 Underdeck 149 Net 100
  • Dimensions: Length 120 ft. Width 20.1 ft. Depth 9.6 ft.
1886 Built and engined by Day, Summers & Co., Ltd. Northam, Devon Yard No. 77
1886 5 June launched
1898 New boilers
1899 Worked war cargo at the French ports of St. Nazaire, later LeHavre
1900 Returned to company service
1901 Chartered to Sark Motor Ships, Ltd. Used for Channel Island transport and excursions
1934 Renamed Joy Bell III
1938 Sold to Sark Island Motor Ships, Ltd.
1940 Escaped when Germans occupied the Channel Islands. Returned to Southampton, taken over by Admiralty and used as barrage balloon tender.
1944 Converted to a mooring and salvage vessel for the Ministry of Transport
1947 Renamed Rafmoor, re-registered and transferred to Air Ministry
1952 June, Transferred to Weymouth for permanent basing
1961 Jan Broken up at Grimsby

Hercules

Port of Registry: Southampton
Flag of Registry: British
Funnel: Red, black top
Company Flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal trianges, blue at hoist, white at top, green at fly , red at bottom.
Signal Letters: L W N Y 
Steel hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck, smack rig.
Engines:
 Triple expansion, 6 cyl. 2 each: 15’x 24”, 39” x 28” stroke, 1,200 h.p.
Tonnages: Gross-234 Underdeck 232 Net 41
Dimensions: Length 135.5 ft. Width 24.1 ft. Depth 11.0 ft.

1889 Built and engined by Barclay, Curle & Co., Ltd. Glasgow, yard no. 366
1889 Sept 11 Launched
1889 Nov. 12 Trials
1903 New boilers
1914-18 Worked war cargo at the French ports of St. Nazaire then later LeHavre
1926 Broken up by Pollack, Brown, Southampton.


Vulcan

One of two tugs that threw lines aboard New York, keeping her from striking Titanic as the latter, while leaving the dock at Southampton, pulled the New York toward her.

Port of registry: Southampton
Flag of registry: British
Funnel: Red with black top
Company flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal triangles Blue at hoist, white at top, green at fly, red at bottom
Signal letters: S P H C 
Steel hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck
Engines: triple expansion, 6 cyl. 2 each: 15”, 24” 39” x 28” stroke, 1,200 h.p.
Tonnages: Gross 288 Underdeck 239 
Dimensions: Length 120.0 ft. Width 25.1 ft. Depth 11.8 ft.

1893: Built and engineered by Barclay, Curle, & Co., Ltd. Glasgow, yard no. 383
1893: Mar. 4 Launched
1911: Sept. 20 Southampton: Assisted Olympic after a collision with cruiser Hawke in the Solent
1916-18: Worked war cargo at French ports, returned to service after the war
1927: Scrapped at Milford Haven


Ajax

Call letters: S P G B 
Port of Registry: Southampton
Flag of Registry: British
Funnel: Red, black top
Company flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal triangles, blue at hoist, white at top, green at fly, red at bottom
Steel hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck, smack rig
Engines: compound, 4 cyl. 2 each 18”. 36 “ x 27” stroke; 1,200 h.p.
Tonnage: Gross 273 Underdeck 231 Net 4
Dimensions: Length 120 ft. Width 25 ft. Depth 11.5

1894 Built and engineered by Barclay, Curle & Co., Lts. Glasgow, Yard No. 393
1894 Oct. 18 Launched
1914-18 Requisitioned for war service, returned to company service after the war
1936 Dec. Towed to Holland for breaking up


Hector

Port of Registry: Southampton
Flag of Registry: British
Funnel: Red, black top
Company flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal triangles
Blue at hoist, white at top, green at fly, red at bottom
Signal letters: V D J M
Steel hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck, cutter rig,
Engines: compound, 4 cyl. 2 each 19”, 38” x 30” stroke, 1,200 h.p 
Tonnage: Gross 316 Underdeck 278 
Dimensions: Length 129.5 ft. Width 25.1 ft. Depth 11.9 ft.

1903: Built and engined by Day, Summers & Co. Ltd. Northam, Devon yard no. 131
1903 Launched
1958 Towed to Holland for breaking up.


Neptune

Port of Registry: Southampton
Flag of Registry: British
Funnel: Red, black top
Company flag: Divided by crossed lines into four equal triangles. Blue at hoist, white at top, green at fly, red at bottom
Signal letters: J B K C
Steel hull, one funnel, two screws, one deck
Engines: compound, 4 cyl. 2 each: 19”, 38” x 30” stroke, 1,400 h.p.
Tonnage: Gross 314 Underdeck 278 Net 3
Dimensions: Length 130 ft. Width 25 ft. Depth 11.9 ft.

1910 Built and engined by Day, Summers, and Co. Ltd. Northam, Devon Yard No. 145
1910 Launched
1961 April, sold.


This item first appeared in Voyage, Journal of the Titanic International Society.

Relates to Place:

Southampton, Hampshire, England

Acknowledgements

Shelley Dzeidzic

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