Wales

Salvaged artefacts from war-torn steamer return to Barry

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Image caption Divers have managed to salvage artefacts from the sunken PS Barry

The paddle steamer PS Barry saw action during both World War One and World War Two and now, over a century since she left the port after which she was named, some of her artefacts have finally come home.

Originally designed in 1907 for a sleepy life carrying tourists along the Bristol Channel, she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy in 1914 and went on to save thousands of lives not once, but twice.

Surviving both the Gallipoli landings and Dunkirk, she was sunk in a bombing raid off Sunderland on 5 July 1941, and lay undiscovered until 2010.

Now a group of enthusiasts have purchased her salvaged helm, wheel and brass windows, and hope to display them in time for the centenary of PS Barry's finest hour.

Keith Greenway of the Merchant Navy Association in Barry said: "She started the Great War quite quietly, housing German prisoners and carrying supplies.

"It was only with the Gallipoli Campaign that HMS Barry Field, as she'd been renamed, came into her own.

Image caption The PS Barry started her life as a paddle steamer carrying tourists

"Slow and lightly armoured, she was completely unsuited to a combat role, but the fighting on the beaches was going so badly that every ship possible was required to get the troops back to Egypt.

"Twice her paddles struck mines and she was almost lost, but against all the odds she was the last British ship to leave Suvla Bay, rescuing untold thousands of troops."

In 1920 she got a well-deserved refit, was renamed PS Waverley, and spent the interwar years plying her trade along the south coast for the Campbell's steamer line.

Life saver

But when World War Two broke out she was given her fourth name - HMS Snaefell - and was once again pressed into military service.

It is unclear how many souls she saved at Gallipoli, but an exact figure can be put on the number of soldiers she rescued from Dunkirk in June 1940.

Although Mr Greenway said even this fails to tell the whole story.

Image caption The PS Barry was renamed as the PS Waverley after a refit in 1920

"We know from the records that HMS Snaefell, as she was called then, picked up 981 people off the beaches, but she also assisted in freeing her sister ship, Glen Gower, which had run aground," he said.

"If you think that Glen Gower was probably carrying a similar amount of troops, then the real number of lives this anonymous pleasure craft from Barry actually saved is well into the thousands."

But PS Barry's luck finally ran out a year later, when she was attacked by a Luftwaffe bomber and sunk in the North Sea with the loss of three lives.

Lost and found

Yet even then she managed to stay afloat long enough to allow the rescue of the other nine crew.

Her exact whereabouts remained a mystery until she was tracked down by divers in 2010.

The site has now been designated an official war grave, prohibiting any further dives, so the salvaged brass fittings are all there to remember her by.

Image caption After being tracked down in 2010, divers have recovered a number of artefacts from the vessel

"We're absolutely delighted to have been able to bring even just these few little reminders back home to Barry," added Mr Greenway.

"This year marks a century since Gallipoli and 75 years since Dunkirk, so we couldn't really have acquired them at a better time.

"As well as celebrating Barry's connection with the wars and naval history, we hope that they'll help people to remember the heroics of seamen across the world, who made feats like that of PS Barry's possible."

The artefacts are due to go on display at the mayor's offices in time for a series of events in the town to mark the anniversary of the start of the Gallipoli campaign.

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