Via the History of Wales

A near disaster on 19th August 1956 marked the beginning of the end of the paddle steamer era.
The period after World War Two, was a boom time for the holiday trade of South Wales. During this time one of the main attractions was a trip in one of the paddle steamers, Cardiff Queen and Bristol Queen, which regularly ploughed up and down the Bristol Channel, calling at places such as Cardiff Pier, Penarth Pier, Mumbles Pier, Barry and Tenby. They carried holiday makers eager for the chance of a trip on one of the new ships.
Then on 19 August 1956 a bizarre accident occured that had a catastrophic effect on an industry already under pressure from cheaper foreign travel. The Bristol Queen had just left Ilfracombe Pier when, suddenly, there was a big bang. It was the noise of one of the paddle wheels sheering and the stricken steamer was being driven by a strong wind and tide towards the cliffs of Illfracombe and with no other form of propulsion, it was drifting helplessly.
Captain George of the Bristol Queen sent an emergency radio message to the Cardiff Queen, who happened to be approaching Illfracombe. She arrived just in time to pass a 2,000 feet ropef line to the now heavily wallowing Bristol Queen and an attempt at a tow began.A paddle steamer being towed by another paddle steamer was an incredibly difficult task, but with slow and steady progress, both paddle steamers had moored in the Mumbles just over four hours later, with thankfully no fatalities. However, the consequences were great, as everyone realised that if the Cardiff Queen had not been so close at hand the damaged paddler would have been driven onto the rocks and there would have been considerable loss of life. Business slumped and eventually both boats were taken out of service and broken up. It was the end of an era, the end of paddle steamer cruising on the Bristol Channel.