Papers relating to the evacuation of Guernsey school children on board the SS Viking

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The deposit contains an article from the Evening Press, Guernsey (19 June 1940) regarding the evacuation of children, copy of report by the Secretary of the Guernsey Education Council on the evacuation process (28 June 1940), 'Fear not... for I am with thee' framed caption in ornate font belonging to Captain Philip J. Bridson (Master in command of SS Viking), with his daughter's (Audrey Mansell) annotation on the reverse, 'From the Captain's Cabin - every ship Daddy commanded' and a photograph of Captain Bridson with evacuees on arrival at Weymouth (21 June 1940). Further material includes memoirs of the child evacuees (written 2003), memoirs of Captain Harry Kinley who served as second officer on the SS Viking in June 1940 and reunion correspondence of the Viking Evacuation Group formed in 2003 following a visit by Audrey Mansell to the Channel Islands. Photographs and papers relating to the 2003 reunion are also present together with documentation of the presentation of a painting of SS Viking to Sir de Vic Carey, Bailiff of Guernsey by Audrey Mansell in July 2003. Present also are Guernsey Press wartime commemoration issues 2005 and 2010.

Administrative / Biographical History

The SS Viking (1905-1954) was a 350 ft. long and 1,957 gross ton turbine passenger steamer operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (IOMSPCo.), ferrying passengers between Douglas, Isle of Man and Fleetwood, England. During the First World War she provided an important service as an early aircraft carrier and in the Second World War she was commissioned again to act as a personnel and transport vessel. She was commanded by Captain Philip James Bridson (1893-1964) known to some as ‘Ginger’, with Edward Gelling (1897-1982) known as ‘Ned’, and Harry Kinley (1908-2003) as Chief and Second Officers. Captain Bridson hailed from Castletown, a town situated south in the Isle of Man and had joined the IOMSPCo. as an Able Seaman in September 1913. He joined the Royal Navy in the First World War and was at the Battle of Jutland (31 May - 1 June 1916) on-board HMS Malaya (1915-1944), which suffered many losses and damages. He was a well-known character and figure in the Manx footballing scene (as a player and referee) with an outgoing personality, claiming he was the finest-looking matelot of the whole Royal Navy. Bridson re-joined the Steam Packet in 1919, was promoted to 2nd Mate a year later and became Chief Officer by 1927. His officer service lasted until 1934 where he became a ship’s Master in July of that year. Ned Gelling was from the village of Laxey, situated on the east coast of the Island and joined the Steam Packet in 1911 as a boy rating. He served in the Royal Navy during the First World War and later became a policeman at Barrow-in-Furness, England. Ned returned to the IOMSPCo. in the 1920s, became 2nd Mate in 1927 and was appointed to the SS Peveril (1929-1964) in 1929. Harry Kinley came from the village of Port St Mary, situated in the south west of the Island and went to sea in the 1920s with Wilson’s of Whitehaven and the Zillah Steamship Co. of Liverpool. He joined the Steam Packet in 1936 as 2nd Mate of the SS Rushen Castle (1898-1947) and in 1939 was the 2nd Mate of the SS Mona’s Isle (1905-1948). With the outbreak of war in September 1939 these three Manxmen were directed to serve aboard SS Viking. Captain Bridson was fondly remembered by Manx servicemen returning home who were warmly received on board Steam Packet vessels at Fleetwood in January 1943 and Ostend in February 1946 (MNH MS 12945).

May 1940 had witnessed the invasion of German troops in France which had heightened fears of an invasion of the Channel Islands. Guernsey was close to Cherbourg, making it vulnerable to attack by both air and sea. Bridson, Gelling and Kinley were instructed to complete an evacuation mission in the Channel Islands. The British War Cabinet had decided that ‘the Channel Islands are not of major strategic importance either to ourselves or the enemy… we recommend immediate consideration be given for the evacuation of all women and children on a voluntary and free basis’. SS Viking arrived at St Peter Port, Guernsey at 4am on 21 June 1940; at 9am the school children arrived at the port. Captain Bridson chose to leave in daylight as the Viking’s funnels tended to ‘fire up’ at night and he considered it his responsibility to put the children first (in 2003 this action was commemorated in Guernsey). Approximately 1,800 children aged from four to seventeen boarded the vessel alongside their teachers and helpers. Setting sail they arrived safely at Weymouth a few hours later. On 30 June Germany invaded the Channel Islands and occupied them, cutting evacuees off from their families for five years until the British liberated the Islands on 9 May 1945.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im

Archivist's Note

The biographical was information gathered from material within the deposit, the Manx newspaper Green Final (26 September 1964), Connery Chappell’s Island Lifeline (1980), Miles Cowsill & John Hendy's (eds) Steam Packet 175: 1830-2005 (2005) and websites http://porttowns.port.ac.uk/1940-evacuation-st-peter-port-guernsey-england/ and http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/IOM_Viking1.html. Isle of Man newspapers available online at http://www.newspapers.gov.im/Default/Skins/IOMDemo/Client.asp?skin=IOMDemo&enter=true&AppName=2.

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), November 2015.