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Dorset Belles
J.Bolson & Sons - Croson Ltd - Dorset Cruises
Page 1: 1900-1964


This page is one of a series devoted to photographs and postcards of Bournemouth-based Dorset Cruises, previously Dorset Belles, Bolson's then Crosons. They operated services from Bournemouth to Swanage, Poole, Yarmouth etc. This page covers the period from 1900-1964. Dorset Belles Page 2 covers the period from 1965-2008. Dorset Belles Page 3 covers publicity material issued by the company (under construction).
 
To sail on these boats contact:- www.dorsetcruises.co.uk
 
The 2005 fleet consisted of Dorset Belle, Poole Belle (2) and Bournemouth Belle, but Poole Belle (2) was sold to Forth Boat Tours before the 2006 season, for cruises from Queensferry. The two remaining boats Dorset Belle and Bournemouth Belle were offered for sale at the end of the 2008 season. They continued in service however and in 2011 Bournemouth Belle ran a summer charter at Sark due to problems with one of the local vessels. He name was repainted as Sark Belle, although I presume this is just a cosmetic change.
 
 
Brief History of the Dorset Belles
Bournemouth became a fashionable resort in the mid-1800s, and became more popular with the arrival of the railway in 1870. The town had its first jetty in 1856, and the first pleasure steamers called in 1861. Paddle steamers dominated long distance excursions until the 1950s, but there were also smaller local boats running from portable beach jetties, and the provision of these was dominated by the Bolson family and their successors from around the turn of the century.
 
John Henry Bolson first acquired a license to offer rowing boats for hire from the beach in 1900, and was soon joined in the business by his two sons Jake and Charlie. Jake later decided to set up on his own, and soon had a larger fleet than his father.
 
The first recorded motor boat at Bournemouth was in 1907, and Jake Bolson received permission to operate one from the in 1913. This was the Skylark, and commenced trips around the bay carrying 12 passengers in 1914. Skylark resumed service after the war in 1919, and from 1920 she could be operated from beach using a portable landing stage. She was joined by Skylark 2 that year and Skylark was renamed as Skylark 1. Skylark 2 was larger, being 30 feet long and carrying 38 passengers. Two further launches Skylark 3 and Skylark 4 followed in 1921, Skylark 4 being larger again at 40 feet and 68 passengers. Skylark 3 was renamed Skylark 1 in 1922, when a new Skylark 3 and Skylark 5 were delivered. Further vessels were acquired over the years, culminating with Skylark 10 in 1936. From 1928, a series of 12 speedboats were also operated named Speedlark to Speedlark 9 (these had short lives and some numbers were repeated), the last being delivered in 1938.
 
Jake Bolson and Son became a limited company in 1930, as was the associated Skylark Shipyard. Skylark 8, Skylark 9 and Skylark 10 were built by his company, the last of these being their first diesel (which was soon replaced with petrol due to noise problems). The small open Skylarks were unsuited to some of the longer cruises being operated by this time, and so two of the launches were replaced by larger motor vessels with covered accommodation. These arrived in 1936 and 1937 and were named Titlark 1 and Titlark 2. These were 70 feet long and carried 150 passengers. They eventually passed to Thames Launches as Okra and Oleander after the war.
 
During the 1939-45 war, the Bolson shipyard was extremely busy building vessels for the war effort. Trips resumed after war in August 1945. Because of delays in getting the larger competing paddle steamers of Cosens and Red Funnel back into service after war service, and problems with Bournemouth Pier, Bolson converted three landing craft into makeshift excursion boats carrying 271 passengers. These were named Bournemouth Skylark 4, 5 & 6, and were used on longer services to Swanage, Poole etc. They were offered for sale in August 1946 once paddle steamers could again call at the pier.
 
A new jetty was completed in 1948, and two new excursion boats, Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1), joined the fleet. Built at Bolson's yard, they were 72 feet long, carried 150 passengers, and were powered by Gray Marine diesels driving twin screws. They were updated versions of the pre-war Titlarks. In the same year, an ex-Admiralty 112 foot Fairmile 'B' launch was converted to carry 250 passengers as the Channel Belle. She had twin dummy funnels and two masts, but was sold after 2 seasons. By this time, Jake Bolson was being assisted by his son-in-law Richard Crosby. Also in 1948, competition arrived in the form of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company , who ran three Fairmile 'B' motor launches named Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan from Poole to Swanage and the Isle of Wight. These vessels, Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan, were acquired by Bolson's  in 1952, although Anzio was resold immediately and not used by Bolson's . All the small Skylark launches were withdrawn, leaving Bournemouth Belle (1), Poole Belle (1), Dunkirk and Matapan in the fleet. Dunkirk and Matapan retained their blue hulls, whilst the Bolson boats had white hulls. Their funnels were buff, with the letters 'JB' on a black-bordered white diamond, superimposed on red, white and blue bands.
 
A new company was formed in 1958 to take over the four motor vessels of J.Bolson and Sons. The new company was named Croson Limited, The name being a combination of the names Crosby and Bolson. The initial 'C' replaced the previous 'JB' on funnels, but colours were otherwise unchanged. Dunkirk was sold the same year.
 
The decline in the Cosens fleet of paddle steamers (owned by Red Funnel since 1946) meant that only Embassy survived in 1961, and she concentrated on Bournemouth-Isle of Wight services, rather than the Swanage ferry. Crosons began a joint service with Cosens between Bournemouth and Swanage, with Matapan generally taking trips from Monday to Saturday, and Cosens' Embassy working on Sundays. For the 1962 season, another Fairmile 'B', the Silver Commodore, was acquired from Commodore Shipping of Guernsey. She was renamed Swanage Belle and had a black hull. Competition was faced from the paddle steamers Swanage Queen (ex-Freshwater) in 1961, and Princess Elizabeth in 1962. Poole Belle (1) was sold after the 1963 season, and Bournemouth Belle (1) followed in 1967. In 1964, Round-the-Isel of Wight cruises were operated on 5t July, 19th July and in August.
 
Cosens paddle steamer Embassy was withdrawn before the 1967 season, and Crosons acquired the 1948 Bridlington motor vessel Thornwick to replace her. She could carry 305-335 passengers on Class III/Class IV certificates, and operated trips to Totland Bay and Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. Croson now had a monopoly of Bournemouth pleasure services. Thornwick was extensively refitted before the 1968 season. However, she proved too slow for the Isle of Wight runs, at only 10/11 knots, and Croson acquired the Coronia from Scarborough. She could carry 452 passengers and had a speed of 12 knots. The fleet was renamed with Coronia and Thornwick becoming the Bournemouth Queen and Swanage Queen, and Matapan and Swanage Belle were renamed Poole Belle (2) and Wessex Belle. Also in 1968, the hovercraft HM2 003 competed between Bournemouth and Swanage for two months. Croson ran trials with the Denny sidewall D2 002 but decided she was not suitable for local conditions.
 
The Swanage Queen was laid up for the 1970 season, and was sold in December. Isle of Wight services were concentrated on Yarmouth only. The Fairmile launches covered Swanage Queen's Bournemouth-Swanage trips. Hovercraft again appeared as competition between 1970-1973, with International Hoverservices Ltd running the HM2 craft numbers 012 and 005.
 
In the mid-1970s the fleet was getting old, and three new vessels were built by J.Bolson & Sons: Dorset Belle (1974 - 81 feet - 178 passengers), Bournemouth Belle (1975 - 86 feet - 228 passengers) and Poole Belle (3) (1977 - 93 feet - 250 passengers). Swanage pier was closed in 1983, and Dorset Belle was sold. She was re-acquired in 1997. These three vessels have maintained services since, until Poole Belle (3) was sold in 2006 for services on the Forth. There were reports in 2007 that the company was again available for sale. Services ran in 2008
 
For details of cruises contact the company directly at: www.dorsetcruises.co.uk


Dorset Belles Pages:-
Dorset Belles Page 1 - Fleet history 1900-1964
Dorset Belles Page 2 - Fleet history 1964-2008
Dorset Belles Page 3 - Publicity Material
 
Boats on this Page:-
Anzio (1952) - not used in service
Bournemouth Belle (1) (1948-1967)
Bournemouth Skylark 4 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 5 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 6 (1946)
Channel Belle (1948-1949)
HMS Decibel - intended to be Bournemouth Belle - 1951)
Dunkirk (1952-1958)
Matapan (1952-1968) - renamed Poole Belle (2)
Poole Belle (1) (1948-1964)
Poole Belle (2) (1968-1977) - ex-Matapan
Silver Commodore (1962) - renamed Swanage Belle
Skylark 1-9 launches
Skylark 1 (1946-1947)
Skylark 10 (1936)
Speedlark 1-9 speedboats
Swanage Belle (1962-1968) - renamed Wessex Belle
Titlark 1 (1936-1939)
Titlark 2 (1937-1939, 1947-1948)
Wessex Belle (1968-1973) ex-Swanage Belle
 
Boats on Dorset Belles Page 2:-
Bournemouth Belle (2) (1975-2008)
Bournemouth Queen (1968-1973)
Dorset Belle (1974-1983, 1997-2008)
Poole Belle (3) (1977-2008)
Swanage Queen (1968-1970) - ex-Thornwick
Thornwick (1967-1968) - renamed Swanage Queen
 
Dorset Area Pages:-
Poole Header Page
Blue Line Cruises
Brownsea Island Ferries
R.C.Greenslade
Sandbanks Ferry
Solent Steam Packet Ltd - SS Shieldhall
 
Associated Pages:-
www.dorsetcruises.co.uk - Details of cruises
Fairmile 'B' Header Page - List of Fairmile 'B' launches used in the UK
UK Excursion Ships
Ferry Postcards
Cruise Ship Postcards
Ocean Liner Postcards
Simplon Postcards - Recent Updates
Simplon Postcards - Home Page
 
Search This Website:-

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References:-
Any more for the Skylark? - Written and published by David L.Chalk - 1980 (The Story of Bournemouth's Pleasure Boats)
Trip Out Guides - Written and published by G.P.Hamer - various editions from 1977 to 2008 consulted
Trip Out Guides are available from Geoffrey Hamer, PO Box 485, Southall, UB1 9BH



Table of Ship Histories
Name
Other names
 Built
 Bournemouth Belle  
 1975
 Bournemouth Queen  Coronia (1), Queen of Scots, Rochester Queen (4)
 1935
 Dorset Belle  Island Adventure, Ryde Scene
 1974









Dorset Belles
J.Bolson & Sons - Croson Ltd - Dorset Cruises
Page 1: 1900-1964


Skylark 1-9 (launches)
 
The first recorded motor boat at Bournemouth was in 1907, and Jake Bolson received permission to operate one from the in 1913. This was the Skylark, and commenced trips around the bay carrying 12 passengers in 1914. Skylark resumed service after the war in 1919, and from 1920 she could be operated from beach using a portable landing stage. She was joined by Skylark 2 that year and Skylark was renamed as Skylark 1. Skylark 2 was larger, being 30 feet long and carrying 38 passengers. Two further launches Skylark 3 and Skylark 4 followed in 1921, Skylark 4 being larger again at 40 feet and 68 passengers. Skylark 3 was renamed Skylark 1 in 1922, when a new Skylark 3 and Skylark 5 were delivered. Further vessels were acquired over the years, culminating with Skylark 10 in 1936.


Photograph of two Skylark launches plus a Speedlark motor boat
Scan: Chris Wood



Skylarks at the Bournemouth jetty
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Skylarks at Bournemouth



Skylarks at the Bournemouth jetty - enlarged view from the card above
Skylarks at Bournemouth



Skylarks at Poole- enlarged view from the card above
Skylarks at Poole







Speedlark 1-9 (speedboats)
 
From 1928, a series of 12 speedboats were also operated named Speedlark to Speedlark 9 (these had short lives and some numbers were repeated), the last being delivered in 1938.


Photograph of Skylark launches plus a Speedlark motor boat
Scan: Chris Wood







Skylark 10 (1936)
 
Skylark 10 was built in 1936, but sold for Thames service at the end of that season. She was 48 feet long and carried 99 passengers. She was first diesel in the Bolson fleet, although the engine was soon replaced with a petrol engine due to noise problems. She was the last of the eleven pre-war Skylarks (some numbers were re-used) which had run trips around the bay since 1914.
 
On the Thames she was named Skylark X, and initially operated for P.J.& R.F.Jackson until 1957. Subsequent owners were Thompson's Launches (1957-65), Alfred Crouch (1966-70), Tideway pass \boats (1971-76) and F & B Boats of Kingston from 1976.


Photo of Skylark X on the Thames.







Titlark 1 (1936)
 
Titlark 1 and Titlark 2 were built for the longer cruises from Bournemouth to the 'Dorset Lakes'. They were fitted with Parson's petrol/paraffin engines driving twin screws and were equipped with radio. Accommodation for 150 passengers was provided for including saloons, bar/buffet and toilets, was a considerable advance on the earlier open launches previously operated.
 
The Titlarks were impressive 70ft passenger yachts, but had difficulty in operating from the existing beach landing stage. Permission was obtained to build a permanent timber jetty on the East Beach, but this was not completed before the start of World War 2.
 
After war service, Titlark 1 was sold to Holiday Camp Cruises Ltd, then to Dawson, Newman & Westall, and by 1952 to County Cruises of London. She passed to Thames Launches on the 8th June 1957 and was renamed Okra. Registry closed on 19th July 1965.


Photograph of Titlark 1 taken just after being launched
Scan: Chris Wood
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Titlark 2 (1937)
 
Titlark 1 and Titlark 2 were built for the longer cruises from Bournemouth to the 'Dorset Lakes'. They were fitted with Parson's petrol/paraffin engines driving twin screws and were equipped with radio. Accommodation for 150 passengers was provided for including saloons, bar/buffet and toilets, was a considerable advance on the earlier open launches previously operated.
 
The Titlarks were impressive 70ft passenger yachts, but had difficulty in operating from the existing beach landing stage. Permission was obtained to build a permanent timber jetty on the East Beach, but this was not completed before the start of World War 2.
 
After war service, Titlark 2 returned to service for the 1947/48 seasons before being sold to County Cruises to join Titlark 1. Ownership passed to Thames Launches on the 8th June 1957, along with Titlark 1, and she was renamed Oleander. Withdrawn in 1968, she was converted to a houseboat.


Photograph of Titlark 2
Scan: Chris Wood
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Bournemouth Skylark 4 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 5 (1946)
Bournemouth Skylark 6 (1946)
 
During the 1939-45 war, the Bolson shipyard was extremely busy building vessels for the war effort. Trips resumed after war in August 1945. Because of delays in getting the larger competing paddle steamers of Cosens and Red Funnel back into service after war service, and problems with Bournemouth Pier, Bolson converted three landing craft into makeshift excursion boats carrying 271 passengers. These were named Bournemouth Skylark 4, 5 and 6, and were used on longer services to Swanage, Poole etc. They were offered for sale in August 1946 once paddle steamers could again call at the pier.
 
The vessels were all of LCG(M)(1) Class (Landing Craft gun, Medium Mark 1). The conversions did little to alter the character of the vessels. The aft deck house incorporated the bar/buffet and toilets, whilst there was a saloon below decks. They were powered by Davey Paxman diesels driving twin screws, giving a speed af 12 knots. They differed in appearance, as shown in the image below, with Bournemouth Skylark 4 & 5 having funnels but different foremasts. Bournemouth Skylark 6 had no funnel and single mast with a short cross above the bridge. The lifeboats on Bournemouth Skylark 5 had Welin davits whilst Bournemouth Skylark 4 & 6 had radial davits. A fourth LCG(M)(1) was also converted by Bolson, becoming the Rochester Queen (2) of the General Steam Navigation.
 
Bournemouth Skylark 4 was sold to France in 1947 and ran as Gallus for the Nice-based operator of the same name. She moved to Naples in 1965 as Pompei.
Bournemouth Skylark 5 went to Jersey as Dames des Iles, but left for the Far East in 1948.
Bournemouth Skylark 6 was used as a mother ship for fishing boats in Norway, as Barge and Svan.


Bournemouth Skylark 5, 4 and 6 at Bournemouth
Scan: Chris Wood
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Skylark 1 (1946-1947)
 
Skylark 1 was an ex-Admiralty launch of 48 feet. She carried 74 passengers and ran in the 1946 and 1947 seasons. She was then sold to Falmouth owners and was renamed Marina II. She moved to the Dart in 1978.


Skylark 1 in Falmouth service as Marina II.
She retains Croson colours without the letter 'C' in the diamond.
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Marina II (ex-Skylark 1) at Helford
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Marina II, ex-Skylark 1 - www.simplonpc.co.uk







Bournemouth Belle (1) (1948-1967)
 
Two new excursion boats, Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1), joined the fleet in 1948. Built at Bolson's yard, they were 72 feet long, carried 150 passengers, and were powered by Gray Marine diesels diving twin screws. They were updated versions of the pre-war Titlarks. Bournemouth Belle (1) was sold in 1967 to R.H.Wills of Weymouth who renamed her Weymouth Belle. She later served in Scotland as Souter's Lass at Cromarty, John O' Groats and Fort William.


Sun Ray postcard by Thunder & Clayden (Bournemouth) of Bournemouth Belle (1)
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Harvey Barton postcard of Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1)
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Photograph of Bournemouth Belle (1)
Scan: Chris Wood
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Photograph of Bournemouth Belle (1)
Scan: Chris Wood
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Postcard of Bournemouth jetty with Bournemouth Belle (or Poole Belle).
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J.Arthur Dixon postcard PSC26654 of Souter's Lass (ex-Bournemouth Belle) at John O' Groats
Photo: Ronald Woods
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Crannog postcard of Souter's Lass (ex-Bournemouth Belle) at Fort William
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Seal Island Cruises timetable card for Souter's Lass out of Fort William
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Souters Lass
Photo: Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009
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Souters Lass - Photo:  Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009



Souters Lass
Photo: Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009
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Souters Lass - Photo:  Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009



Souters Lass
Photo: Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009
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Souters Lass - Photo:  Peter Lamb, 30th June 2009







Poole Belle (1) (1948-1964)
 
Two new excursion boats, Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1), joined the fleet in 1948. Built at Bolson's yard, they were 72 feet long, carried 150 passengers, and were powered by Gray Marine diesels diving twin screws. They were updated versions of the pre-war Titlarks. Poole Belle (1) was sold to the Grosvenor Hotel in Swanage in 1964 and renamed Grosvenor Hostess. In 1965 she became the Tara in Dublin before returning to Paignton as the Coral Star III. In 1989 Coral Star III was purchased by Invicta Line for use on the River Medway. She was not used and was sold again the following year to S.Wide of Bristol, serving with them as Avon Venturer II (replacing an Avon Venturer of 1935). She operated charters from Bristol and some public sailings from Penarth until around 1996.


Postcard of Poole Belle (1)
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Harvey Barton postcard of Bournemouth Belle (1) and Poole Belle (1)
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J.Hinde postcard of Poole Belle (1) as Grosvenor Hostess
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J.Hinde postcard of Poole Belle (1) as Grosvenor Hostess - enlarged view from card above


Poole Belle (1) as Coral Star III
In 1989 Coral Star III was purchased by Invicta Line for use on the River Medway. She was not used and was sold again the following year.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, River Medway, 1989
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Poole Belle (1) as Coral Star III (plus Clyde)
In 1989 Coral Star III was purchased by Invicta Line for use on the River Medway. She was not used and was sold again the following year.
Photo: © Ian Boyle, River Medway, 1989
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Poole Belle (1) as Avon Venturer II
Scan: Chris Wood
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Channel Belle (1948-1949)
 
A third addition to the fleet in 1948 was the Channel Belle, an ex-Admiralty Fairmile 'B'. She was converted to carry 250 passengers, and her original petrol engines being replaced with Gay Marine diesels. She was sold to Wallasey Corporation in November 1949 and renamed Wallasey Belle. She went to Australia in in 1953, reverting to Channel Belle.


Photograph of Channel Belle
Scan: Chris Wood
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Photograph of Wallasey Belle (ex-Channel Belle)
Scan: Chris Wood
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HMS Decibel
(intended to be Bournemouth Belle - 1951)
 
HMS Decibel was built by J.Bolson & Sons (yard no.469) in 1951, intended for services from Bournemouth to the Isle of Wight. She was due to be named Bournemouth Belle, but the return of paddle steamers after war service caused her sale to the Admiralty before entering service. She was named HMS Decibel and was used as an acoustic trials ship.


The launch of Bournemouth Belle
Scan: Chris Wood
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HMS Decibel in naval service
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Anzio
(1952 - not used in service)
 
In 1948, competition arrived in the form of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company, who ran three Fairmile 'B' motor launches named Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan from Poole to Swanage and the Isle of Wight. These vessels Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan, were acquired by Bolson's in 1952, although Anzio was sold immediately for use in Southend. Dunkirk was sold in 1958.


Anzio of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company
Photo is captioned Poole, Dorset - She was not used by Bolson's and later served in Southend
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Anzio of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company
She was not used by Bolson's and later served in Southend
Scan: Chris Wood







Dunkirk (1952-1958)
 
In 1948, competition arrived in the form of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company, who ran three Fairmile 'B' motor launches named Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan from Poole to Swanage and the Isle of Wight. These vessels were acquired by Bolson's in 1952, although Anzio was sold immediately for use in Southend. Dunkirk was sold in 1958.


Fairmile 'B' launch Dunkirk with funnel and two masts
Scan: Chris Wood
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Matapan (1952-1968)
Poole Belle (2) (1968-1977)
 
In 1948, competition arrived in the form of the Poole and Solent Navigation Company, who ran three Fairmile 'B' motor launches named Anzio, Dunkirk and Matapan from Poole to Swanage and the Isle of Wight. These vessels were acquired by Bolson's in 1952, although Anzio was sold immediately for use in Southend. Matapan was renamed Poole Belle (2) in 1968.


Fairmile 'B' launch Matapan with no funnel and two masts
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Matapan with funnel and single mast
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Matapan with funnel and single mast
Scan: Derek Marshall
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MATAPAN - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Fairmile 'B' launch Matapan with funnel and single mast
Scan: Derek Marshall
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MATAPAN - www.simplonpc.co.uk



Fairmile 'B' launch Matapan with funnel and single mast
Scan: Chris Wood
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Silver Commodore (1962)
Swanage Belle (1962-1968)
Wessex Belle (1968-1973)


Fairmile 'B' launch Silver Commodore
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Swanage Belle
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Swanage Belle
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Swanage Belle
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Salmon postcard of Swanage Belle at Swanage
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Fairmile 'B' launch Wessex Belle
Scan: Chris Wood
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Fairmile 'B' launch Wessex Belle after sale for private use
Scan: Chris Wood
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