PS Duchess of Montrose
PS Duchess of Montrose was a paddle steamer launched in 1902 and employed by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company as a River Clyde excursion steamer. She saw active service during the First World War after being requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into a minesweeper. She was lost near Dunkirk on 18 March 1917 after striking a mine.
In October 1901 the Caledonian Steam Packet Company invited tenders from six of the Clyde shipyards to build a replacement for the paddle steamer Meg Merrilies. On 29 October 1901 they accepted an offer made by John Brown & Company of Clydebank to build the ship for £19,572, and the keel was laid in Clydebank on 19 December 1901. The minutes of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company for 4 February 1902 record that:
|“||It was agreed, subject of the approval of Her Grace, the Duchess of Montrose, that the new steamer should be named Duchess of Montrose.||”|
Duchess of Montrose was fitted with a triple-expansion steam engine incorporating four cylinders (two high-, one intermediate-, and one low-pressure) arranged in tandem to drive two cranks. This arrangement was considered more efficient than the conventional two-cylinder compound steam engine and provided greater manoeuvrability at piers. The use of relatively small paddle wheels, intended to save wear and tear, meant that Duchess of Montrose had a diminutive paddlebox and, in conjunction with a very vertical funnel, she was easily recognisable amongst the Clyde fleet. She featured saloons fore and aft and an open bow under the promenade deck.
In February 1915, along with Duchess of Argyll and Duchess of Hamilton, she was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a troopship and spent the first few months of her service ferrying troops from Southampton to France. It is reported that she initially arrived in Southampton in her Caledonian Steam Packet livery but was soon repainted naval grey.
In May 1915 she was given the pennant number PP585 and converted into a minesweeper by Lieutenant Commander W G Rigg. This work involved having the end of her saloon cut away to main deck level and replaced with minesweeping equipment. From 14 July 1915 she was stationed at Dover under the command of Lieutenant Alexander Duff Thomson Royal Naval Reserve and from April 1916 she was stationed at Dunkirk.
On the morning of Sunday 18 March 1917, Duchess of Montrose left Dunkirk harbour and at 9am began sweeping close to the Gravelines Buoy. She recovered five mines (from Barrage 248 laid by the U-Boat UB-12 ) before stopping for low water. Around an hour after she resumed sweeping, Duchess of Montrose hit a mine amidships, broke in two and sank in less than a minute. Her wreck lies at 
|Name||Rank or Rate|
|William James Brown||2nd Engineer, Mercantile Marine Reserve|
|William Fair||3rd Engineer, Mercantile Marine Reserve|
|Thomas Edward Gibbon||Trimmer, Royal Naval Reserve|
|Robert Houston||Steward, Mercantile Marine Reserve|
|Gerald Lawrence Lesmond||Temporary Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve|
|Norman MacDonald||Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve|
|Archibald Macelwee||Temporary Engineer Sub-Lieutenant|
|Donald John MacLennan||Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve|
|Alexander MacPherson||Assistant Steward, Mercantile Marine Reserve|
|Cyril Hambly Panther||Ordinary Telegraphist, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve|
|Alfred Robert Tuffin||Petty Officer (Pensioner) (Lifeboatman, Coastguard)|
|Christopher Warden||Deck Hand, Royal Naval Reserve|
Nine of those lost have no known grave and their names are recorded on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
- Norman MacDonald is buried at Dunkirk Town Cemetery (Grave Ref: I.I.7) 
- Cyril Hambly Panther is buried at Lewisham (Hither Green) Cemetery 
- Donald John MacLennan is buried at Scarp Burial Ground
Lieutenant Alexander Duff Thomson RNR received the Distinguished Service Cross on 2 July 1917 for minesweeping operations carried out in Duchess of Montrose between 1 June 1916 and 31 March 1917. His citation read:
|“||His zeal and attention to duties are above the average, and I have had personal experience of his coolness and resource. He was blown up in P.M.S. Duchess of Montrose and 10 days afterwards, as soon as a ship could be found for him, he was again sweeping in the area in which he was blown up.||”|
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