TS King George V was a pioneering Clyde passenger turbine steamer, built in 1926 by William Denny & Brothers, specialists in cross-channel steamships, for the Turbine Steamers Ltd. She was a popular boat, with services to Inveraray and Oban, where she was based from 1935, cruising round Mull to Iona and Fort William. It was in 1963, when we lived in Scotland, that my father took a photo of her off the small island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides.
She was built with spacious accommodation, an enclosed promenade deck (the first Clyde steamer to have part of the promenade deck enclosed) and a saloon that extended to half the length of the vessel. Above all this was an observation deck.
In 1935 she passed to the ownership of David MacBrayne Ltd. And it was during this year that one of her seven turbines was removed and two new broader funnels were fitted. Further modifications were made to King George V in the 1950s and early 60s, including a main mast, radar and inflatable life rafts.
During the Second World War King George V saw action as a troop carrier and took part in the 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk, making six trips and landing 4300 men at Dover, before returning to the Clyde in 1941 for tendering duties. After the war, she spent the entire 1946 season on the famous Ardrishaig mail run from Gourock, which at the time was a vital link for Highland postal services. In 1947 she returned to Oban until her withdrawal in 1974, making her last excursion on 15th September to Loch Sunart and Tobermory. In her final years she also undertook charters, including one to Ireland.
King George V was sold on 3rd April 1975 to Nationwide Transport Ltd of Cardiff and moved to the Bute Dry Dock. After rotting away for 5 years she was sold to Bass Charington Ltd for conversion to a floating restaurant, to replace the former Clyde paddle steamer ‘Old Caledonia’ in London, which was gutted by a fire in 1980. However, on the 26 August 1981 during the refit, King George V herself was totally destroyed by a fire, big news in my local Cardiff newspaper at the time.
I didn’t get a chance to see her in the dry dock, but when the rusting hulk of the once magnificent steamer was moved to the Roath Basin, next to Roath Dock in 1982, I managed to photograph her sad remains.
She was moored in the Roath Basin for two years, until eventually being towed to the mud flats outside Queen Alexander Dock in 1984 and scrapped. Back then you could get easy access to that part of Cardiff bay, so I made the trip down to see the final resting place of one of the Clyde’s greatest steamers… a sad end for a fine ship.