Albert Edward, Hercules, Vulcan, Ajax, Hector Neptune
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 exiting 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 companys vessels were named: Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald and Pearl. Their names were incorporated in the colors of the companys house flag formed by four triangles colored blue, red, green and white, respectively.
Eventually the lines 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. Historically and currently its fleet list is both enviable and impressive.
But it is the six vessels from its fleet we now consider-six tugs which assisted 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 caused cancellation of the sailing date and the start of her maiden voyage.
- 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
© 2005 John P. Eaton all rights reserved.
This item first appeared in Voyage, Journal of the Titanic International Society.