Liverpool and Southport, 25th June 2014


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Royal Iris of the Mersey

Iris II was a River Mersey ferry which was commandeered by the Royal Navy to take part in the Zeebrugge Raid of St George's Day 24 April 1918. Iris II along with another Mersey ferry, Daffodil, was towed across the English Channel to Zeebrugge by Vindictive.

When the ship neared the Zeebrugge Mole she cast the two ferries aside. Iris II endeavoured to pull up to the Mole under heavy fire in order to off-load the Royal Marines which were on board. the first attempt failed as the grapple-hooks were not large enough. Two naval officers, George Nicholson Bradford and Lieutenant Hawkins bravely climbed ashore and under heavy fire attempted to secure the ship. Both were killed and Bradford received a posthumous Victoria Cross. A Marine officer, Lieutenant William. E. Sillitoe was in all probability killed in the same action, and is buried with another casualty, Private J. Bostock, in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent.

Iris II continued to sustain heavy fire and at one point a shell burst through the deck into an area where 56 marines were preparing to land. 49 were killed and the rest seriously injured
 
The "Iris" and "Daffodil" returned to Liverpool after the Zeebrugge Raid where they were returned to their owners.

The two boats were reconditioned and were allowed to use the prefix "Royal" in front of their names in recognition of their gallant action. Both vessels re-entered service as ferryboats, after being repaired at Chatham.

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