2018 marked 100 years since the Mersey Ferries went to war. Many may be surprised to discover that the ferries were utilised for such a dangerous voyage.
Today, a leisurely day out by Mersey ferry is a right of passage for locals and a top attraction for visitors from across the globe. But two famous ferries once played an integral role in a top-secret attack across the English Channel.
So, how did it all happen? We’re rewinding back to April 23rd 1918. it was on this day that Mersey ferries Iris and Daffodil were needed for an attack on Zeebrugge Harbour in Belgium…
Mersey Ferries in World War I
The plan for the daring raid was to sink old ships at the mouth of the canal. The ships that sunk would block the canal, stopping German vessels from passing through. The plan would be completed by the old ‘blockships’ passing a protective pier. The pier was manned by the German army and projected out from the coast.
Alongside troops travelling on a ship called Vindictive, the two ferries were chosen due to their ability to sail over the top of minefields. This was thanks to their double hulls and low draught in the water. To assist the raid, the ferries were painted grey, with armour plating added to their hulls.
A Tragedy and Triumph
While approaching the pier, the raiding ships came under attack. Sadly, this resulted in a heavy loss of life for Iris. And when it came to disembarking troops onto the pier, Iris and Daffodil both came under heavy fire.
However, the attack saw two blockships reach the canal and consequently sink. Both Mersey ferries made it back home. And the journey was hailed as a triumph.
However, Liverpool Museums have emphasised that the effectiveness of the raid has since been disputed. 170 people lost their lives, of which 79 had travelled on Iris. Meanwhile, 400 were wounded and 45 missing.
Though both ferries were reconditioned and continued with every day duties, Iris and Daffodil were recognised for their efforts, becoming Royal Iris and Royal Daffodil. Since then, several Mersey ferries have been given the names, paying tribute to those that represented Britain in World War I.
Mersey Ferries Today
Only moments from Liverpool’s iconic Cunard Building, Mersey Ferries offer an array of scenic adventures. During the warmer months, Mersey Ferries have been playing host to summer evening cruises, offering guests the chance to take in spectacular views across the city skyline and enjoy live music from the best of local talent.
Themed cruises have also been known to include a Beatles themed cruise and a dazzling ABBA night. What better way to enjoy a night out with a difference? On a day to day basis, an outing with Mersey Ferries remains just as popular with locals and visitors staying in Liverpool.
Passengers can enjoy breathtaking views of Liverpool’s iconic Three Graces, including Cunard House. Situated along Liverpool’s picturesque Pier Head, we’re one of the top maritime landmarks in Liverpool.
As one of the most iconic buildings in the city, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for our latest events in Liverpool. We hope to see you soon!