Roy Thornton CollectionHSC The Princess Margaret, Past and Present

HSC The Princess Margaret (GH 2006)

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

“Mountbatten” (SRN ‘Super’ 4) Hovercraft built in 1968 by British Hovercraft Corporation, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, England (Yard No 001) for Seaspeed, Dover, England

Technical Data

  • Length: 130.2 ft (39.68m) overall (1966)56.40 m (1978)
  • Beam: 78 ft (23.77m) overall (1966)(27.89m)(1978)
  • Height on landing pads: 37.8 ft (11.48m) overall
  • Passenger/vehicle floor area: 5,800 sq. ft.(539 sq. m.)
  • Vehicle deck headroom: 11.6 ft (3.51m)
  • Bow door (height x width): 11.6 ft x 18 ft (3.51m x 5.48m)
  • Stern door (height x width): 11.6 ft x 31 ft (3.51m x 9.45m)
  • Skirt length: 8 ft (2.44m)
  • Main Engines: 4 Rolls Royce ‘Marine Proteus’ 15M 529 gas turbines (1968). Max. continuous rating at 15 degrees Cent – 3,400 shp (3447 c.v.) each (1968).3,800 s.h.p. (1978)
  • Auxiliary power units: 2 Rover 1S/90 gas turbines (55KVA each)
  • Propellers: 4 Hawker Siddeley Dynamics 4 blade variable-pitch propellers with a 19 ft diameter (5.79m)(1968). 21 ft (6.40m)(1978)
  • Lift Fans: 4 BHC, 12 blade, centrifugal, 11.6 ft diameter (3.5m)
  • Fuel capacity: 4,500 Imp Gall (20.456 litres)
  • Tonnage: 168 tons (170.7 tonnes) (1968), 300 (1977)
  • Max speed over calm water: 60-65 knots (111-120 km./hr.)
  • Average service speed: 40-50 knots (74-93 km./hr)
  • Stopping distance from 50 knots: 700 yards (640m)
  • Range: at 10 tons fuel, 40-50 knots – 100-125 n.m. (185-230km.)
  • Range: at 16 tons fuel, 40-50 knots – 160-200 n.m. (300-370 km.)
  • Capacity: 254 passengers, 30 cars (1968). 321 passengers, 52 cars (1978)
  • Sister Ship: The Princess Anne

History

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

October 1967: Wheeled out for press and dignitaries.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (all)

November 20th 1967: Made her first engine run.

February 4th 1968: First flight test/trials.

  

February 5th/6th 1968: Further trials.

1968 (early): Further trials at Cowes.

June 1968: Delivered to Seaspeed, Dover, England. Undertook 2 ½ hours of sea trials.

June 11th 1968: Made her maiden test flight from Dover – Boulogne followed by further trials and fitting out before returning to Cowes for completion.

  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

© Ted Ingham

© Ted Ingham

July 30th 1968: Press day including trip to Boulogne

July 31st 1968: Officially named PRINCESS MARGARET.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (both)

August 1st 1968: Commenced service between Dover – Boulogne.

August 4th 1968: Flights cancelled owing to major structural damage, including damaged skirt and oil leak .

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (both)

Nicolas Lévy Collection  Nicolas Lévy Collection

Nicolas Lévy Collection

Nicolas Lévy Collection (all)

August 8th 1968: Returns to service.

November 1968: Withdrawn for fitting of Mk II skirt.

March 1969: Visited the Pool of London.

October 17th 1971: Holed in rough seas and 30 ft of skirt is damaged. Taken out of service for repairs.

Nicolas Lévy Collection

Nicolas Lévy Collection

October 29th 1970: Returned to service.

September 18th 1978:Leaves Dover for stretching at Cowes but is forced to turn back because of rough seas.

September 19th 1978: Finally leaves Dover for Cowes where she was lengthened, modified and up rated to MK III.

April 23rd 1979: Newly stretched re-launched at Cowes.

May 1st 1979: Arrives back in Dover, then visited the Pool of London.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

October 11th 1980: Hit by a large wave and superstructure damaged. Refit brought forward.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

January 23rd 1981: In thick fog, collided with the Prince of Wales Pier at Dover. Taken out of service for repairs.

October 25th 1981: Registered to Hoverspeed Ltd., Dover. Commenced service between Dover – Calais/ Boulogne.

March 30th 1985: In rough seas, a force 7 south-westerly wind, very heavy drizzle and 8 to 10 foot swell whilst passing the western entrance, inbound from Calais, blown onto the Southern Breakwater at Dover. Four passengers lost their lives and a hole, 50 feet long, was torn in the crafts starboard side, reaching into the hull as far as the car – deck bulkhead. The craft was held from drifting onto the Prince of Wales Pier by the Dover lifeboat ROTARY SERVICE which later and with the aid of the Dover Harbour Board tug DEXTROUS helped berth the hovercraft.

June 1986: Hoverspeed was sold to Sea Containers.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (both)

© Ken Larwood  © Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood (both)

June 30th 1991: Final day in service between Dover – Boulogne.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

April 1992: Re-introduced.

1993: After further refurbishment enters service for the “Summer Season”.

© Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood (July 1993)

October 1st 2000: Together with her sister, PRINCESS ANNE, made their final flights from Calais and were retired from service.


 Final Weekend in Operation

Roy Thornton Collection  © Fotoflite, Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection


October 2000: Laid up at the Hovercraft Museum, Lee on Solent.

© Ray Goodfellow  © Ray Goodfellow

© Ray Goodfellow

© Ray Goodfellow (all)

“Rumours flew around that the two SRN4 hovercraft PRINCESS MARGARET and PRINCESS ANNE were reported sold. Though the new owners were not officially identified online gossip suggested the craft may have been sold possibly as a source of engine parts for the gas-turbine powered heritage vessel BRAVE CHALLENGER. This vessel was built as a private yacht for Stavros Niarchos based on the Vosper Thornycroft Brave Class MTB’s. It requires Proteus engines as fitted to the hovercraft and can operate at speeds up to 60 knots.”

November 7th 2005: All Hoverspeed operations ceased.

2006: The SRN4 craft remain in storage at the former HMS DAEDALUS – for sale, and their future is still uncertain.

January 29th 2016:

LEE-ON-SOLENT MUSEUM FIGHTS TO PREVENT THE LOSS OF THE CROSS-CHANNEL HOVERCRAFT.

As developers move in with bulldozers, the Hovercraft Museum Trust is this evening fighting desperately to save one of the two remaining cross channel SRN4 hovercraft from destruction.

Resident at the site since they were decommissioned in 2000, the Princess Margaret and Princess Anne are the last of the 250 ton monsters that used to cross the channel with 400 passengers and 55 cars on board, their Gas turbine engines making the crossing possible inside half an hour in good conditions. They were built on the Isle of Wight by the British Hovercraft Corporation in the 1970s and operated from both Dover and Pegwell Bay before being replaced in 2000 by catamaran service.

Due to essential building work on the hovercraft museum buildings at Lee-on-the-Solent, the hovercraft museum has not been open to visitors for nearly two years and only reopened three weeks ago – it’s been a difficult period. But since then, visitor numbers have been encouraging and the future was looking promising for this small volunteer run museum. Whilst being stored at the museum, the SRN4’s are not owned by the Hovercraft Museum Trust and there has been a protracted legal battle between the craft and site owners which these gentle giants have found themselves caught in the middle of. This came to a sudden resolution this week and the hovercraft now face destruction and removal unless a last-minute reprieve is granted by the site owner.

Hovercraft museum trustee Emma Pullen said “the SRN4’s are the centre point of the museum and our most important exhibits. Many people come simply to see these huge relics from a bygone age and their loss would be an enormous blow to the museum. But more important than that is the fact that they are piece of British history, the like of which we will never see again. The Hovercraft Museum trust is dedicated to preserving them and we hope that a deal can be reached to allow this to happen. The final decision is out of our hands and this has all happened at very short notice but we will do everything in our powers to protect at least one of these national treasures.”

The museum has acted quickly and submitted a proposal to the site owner to save the Princess Anne which is in the most favourable location and in better condition than the Princess Margaret, which they have reluctantly accepted is likely to be broken up and sold for scrap. The trustees have set up a petition page, the link to which can be found on their Facebook page ‘the Hovercraft Museum’ and they are encouraging those with an interest in British history to sign and share it.

Contact
Emma Pullen – Trustee, The Hovercraft Museum Trust. Charity Number : 1003689
01304 619820
07794 929522

For those wishing to sign this petition please click the image below ~ Ray

petition2


All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Stephane Poulain, Ken Larwood, Nicolas Lévy, Ted Ingham and the Hovercraft Museum Trust for their assistance in compiling this feature.

 Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)


1 Comment

  1. EXCELLENT WEB SITE.
    I have only recently become very interested in SR.N4s but, I have under taken much in depth reading. I have visited the Hovercraft Museum at Lee-On-Solent to examine Princess’s Anne and Margaret. The comment above made in 2006 that the two hovercraft are regularly maintained and can be made ready for use in a reasonable timescale is, I’m afraid quite incorrect.
    Princess Anne is propellorless and does not have any engines. The Rolls Royce Proteus gas turbines were removed by the owner Wensley Haydon-Baillie for his boat ‘Brave Challenger’. Princess Margaret is mechanically complete but, has some major problems with water ingress, notably in the aft starboard passenger cabin where the moisture is corroding the floor, carpet and seating upholstery. Also, very near by, is the aft starboard electrical room and as we know, moisture and electrics get on too well. In actual fact, if anything the moisture will damage wiring and components. Both craft have not had their respective electrical systems energised for some considerable time. Internal lighting comes from an external power source illuminating work lights via long cables strung up on the internal ceilings. I have examined the craft and found many internal access doors, that were used for maintenance, seized shut. The fact that the aforementioned doors do not open prevents any components in the restricted areas behind from being examined or indeed, to receive preventative maintenance. In Margaret, I did find one door open which revealed the port drive shaft to the port foreward pylon and the floor below the shaft was swimming in oil which can only mean trouble.
    I have a certain amount of knowledge in railway preservation and I know that if mechanical and electrical components are not looked after at regular intervals, they will not work if an attempt is made to power them up. If the above is taken into consideration, I very much doubt that the two Super 4s at Lee-On-Solent will ever work again. The staff at the museum have their hands tied as the Museum’s Trust does not own the two Super 4s therefore, the staff are unable to conduct any extensive preservation work. All the time Haydon-Baillie remains the owner (I gather that he has little or no interest in them) of the two Super 4s, their condition will continue to deteriorate and the longer this unacceptable scenario continues, the deterioration will continue and gradually accelerate. I truly fear for the future of both machines.

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