mercredi 8 février 2012

Lady of Mann I quittant Ramsey

Lady of Mann I (1930) quittant Ramsey, dessiné par J. Nicholson  
(coll agence Adhémar)
Nous avons déjà beaucoup parlé de la plus ancienne des compagnies maritimes, celle de l'Isle de Mann (IOMSPCo). (voir notre blog). Voici un autre des fleurons de sa flotte de ferries, dans la série des timbres dessinés par J. Nicholson et publiée par la poste de l'Isle de Man le 15 septembre 1993.

Lady of Mann I a été, à son lancement en 1930 pour le centenaire de la compagnie, le plus grand bateau construit pour le service postal. Le ferry porte le nom de sa marraine, la duchesse d'Atholl, Lady of Mann. Connu pour avoir été «construit par des contre-mâitres», ce qui expliquerait sa longévité (!), il l'a été pendant la grande dépression quand les ouvriers étaient au chômage et que le chantier survivait en faisant travailler ses cadres. 
Sa célébrité commence au début de la Seconde Guerre mondiale quand, réquisitionné, il participe à l'évacuation de Dunkerque pendant laquelle, resté six heures sous les bombardements le 31 mai 1940, il s'en tire sans trop de dommages et ayant un avion et le rapatriement de 4262 soldats à son actif. Il y retournera deux fois, ramenant 1500 blessés la première fois, le 1er juin et personne le lendemain (l'évacuation étant suspendue), récupérant au passage 18 soldats français en péril sur une petite embarcation. Le 4 juin, il fait sa dernière rotation embarquant 1244 soldats en une heure à la jetée Est, quelques heures avant la fin de l'opération Dynamo. 
Douze jours plus tard, il participe à l'opération Aerial d'évacuation de troupes du Havre, Dunkerque et Brest. Il est l'un des trois derniers bateaux à quitter Le Havre, emmenant 5000 soldats (il était conçu pour 2873 passagers) sous l'attaque aérienne. 
D'août 1940 à avril 1944, il servit de transport de troupes entre Invergodon, Aberdeen, Lerwick et les îles Feroes et comme navette (tender), parmi d'autres pour le grand cunarder Queen Mary devenu transport de troupes. 
En prévision du D-Day, Lady of Mann I est transformé en LSI (Landing Ship Infantry), bateau de débarquement pouvant transporter six barges, 55 officiers et 435 soldats. Il participe au Jour le plus long à Juno Beach en tant que navire amiral de la 512th Assault Flotilla. Il passe le reste de la guerre, après réparations, au transport de personnel à travers la Manche. Lady of Mann I est reconditionné et reprend du service à l'île de Man en mai 1946 après avoir transporté environ 2 millions de soldats. Il continuera à servir jusqu'à 1971.

Lady of Mann I was the largest ship ever built for the Steam Packet. She was launched in the 1930, company's Centenary year by the Duchess of Atholl, The Lady of Mann, after whom she was named. Lady of Mann exceeded 22 knots on trials and her speed was often over 23 knots in service. Described as " foreman built ", she was constructed during the depression which started in 1929. Most of the builder's yard staff had been laid off and it was only the key men who had been retained that built her. They obviously did a good job for her to last in service for so long.
She was requistioned as a personnel ship at the outbreak of the Second World War and because of her turn of speed, she was able to get in and out of the Dunkirk bombardments to lift 4,262 men back to England. She spent 6 hours in Dunkirk on May 31st 1940 and despite being shelled by shore batteries and dive-bombed she emerged with little damage and a claim of one aircraft shot down. She returned to Dunkirk on the 1st June to take off 1,500 casualties and was back again on the following day, but was ordered out for lack of troops although she did rescue 18 French soldiers from a small boat on the way back to England. She made her last trip to Dunkirk in the early hours of the 4th June embarking 1,244 troops in an hour from the East Pier. Operation Dynamo ended that afternoon. Twelve days later she became part of Operation Aerial to evacuate troops from Le Havre, Cherbourg and Brest, and as one of the last three ships to leave Le Havre, she steamed out under air attack carrying an estimated 5,000 on board ( she was only designed to carry 2,873 passengers ). From August 1940 until April 1944 she was on trooping duties between Invergordon, Aberdeen and Lerwick to the Faroes as well as acting as tender to the RMS Queen Mary ferrying allied troops from the Queen Mary in Belfast Lough to Greenock. She was one of several ships which serviced the big Cunarder. In the build up prior to the D-Day landings she was converted to a LSI (H), Landing Ship Infantry (Hand Hoisting), carrying six landing craft, 55 officers and 435 assault troops and took part in the landings at Juno beach as the headquarters ship 512th Assault Flotilla. She retired for repairs later in the month and then returned to duties as a personnel vessel for the remainder of the war moving troops and displaced persons across the Channel. Lady of Mann was finally reconditioned and returned to Steam Packet service in May '46 after carrying an estimated 2,000,000 troops. She returned to service after the war and continued to serve the company until 1971.