A Great British Coastal Liner Empire
Part Two – 1939-1971
The big Coast Lines fleet of 86 vessels suffered heavy losses and many crippled and badly damaged casualties during the six years of war. Twenty two ships were sunk, over a quarter of the fleet, with many more damaged by mines, bombs and torpedoes that took many months or even years to repair in some cases. The enormous contribution of the eight modern, twin screw Irish Sea passenger motorships to the tide of war in operations across the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean will be given in Part III of this series of articles. The cargo ships employed on British coastal convoys were requisitioned for action not just around Britain, but also on the Norwegian expedition of 1940, withdrawal at Dunkirk shortly afterwards, in Greece and other Mediterranean campaigns, and the successful landings in North Africa, Italy and Normandy. Ayrshire Coast was requisitioned as early as February 1939, and by the outbreak or shortly afterwards Western Coast, Cambrian Coast, Clyde Coast, Devon Coast, Dorset Coast, Pembroke Coast, Pacific Coast, Anglian Coast, British Coast and Atlantic Coast had been requisitioned.
Suffolk Coast was requisitioned on 22nd November 1939, the day she had been purchased from the Marali British Shipping Co. Ltd. as the motor coaster Marali. Ocean Coast was then requisitioned shortly afterwards, followed by Killarney in April 1940 for the evacuation of British Expeditionary Force troops from Dunkirk. The entire Coast Lines fleet had been requisitioned by the end of 1940, by which time coastal convoys through the Dover Straits, the so called ‘coal scuttle brigade’, had been abandoned due to heavy losses from aerial attack and by long range bombardment.
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