GUERNSEY to ALDERNEY and SARK   post 1945

                                                             The Services

At the Liberation, Alderney and Sark had completely different shipping requirements.

The population of Sark had remained on the Island during the War, while the population of Alderney had evacuated mainly to England.

Thus all Sark required was a passenger / cargo service to re-establish their tourism industry and cater for their farming and fishing needs.

Alderney on the other hand had been ransacked, many houses had been demolished and most others stripped of their wood. Thus most houses requiring re-building, before the Islanders could return, and the initial work was undertaken by the British Government with the required supplies and manpower coming from the English Mainland.

Initially the military provided most of the vessels and controlled the services from Guernsey to both islands. Many of the Alderney people returned to the Island on three sailings by AUTOCARRIER on 15, 22 and 28 December 1945, but some seeing the state of the Island quickly returned to England, and the other main factor was the lack of employment, as the Islands stone quarries were not reopened.

Before the War, most of the inter-island services had been acquired by Capt. Leighton, thus his death in October 1945 resulted in there being no initiative for the recommencing of commercial services, and this allowed a number of operators to commence services.

To help re-build the Island and it’s economy, the British Government provided a free life line shipping service which by early 1946  was under the control of the R.A.S.C., but this passed to the Guernsey Harbour authorities in July that year.

The Government also helped introduced communal farming, including pig farming, flower growing, and light industry in the form of an engineering works, a meat processing factory, and some foreign labour  brought in, and in addition much work was required on the Alderney Breakwater.

It was against this background that private enterprise took over services from Guernsey to Alderney and Sark in March 1947, but all was far from plain sailing.

These enterprises exported their produce to the English markets, and a number of small vessels were employed over the years in this trade, and it is hoped to post a brief history of these vessels in the next update.

Some of the small vessels used pre war, had remained in Guernsey during the Occupation and one WHITE HEATHER was quickly made ready and took up service on July 21 1945. She was replaced by CELIA owned by the Zabiela family on  October 4 1945, and except for overhauls she continued March 19 1948.

The small cargo vessel PARKSTONE commenced operating between Guernsey and Alderney from the beginning of April 1946 for about five months, and the first passenger service commenced in June 1946 when Inter-Insular Shipping Co., introduced an ex Canadian minesweeper THE LADY PATRICA, which ran to both Islands, but she was not granted a proper passenger certificate and returned to England.

There was a need for additional capacity in late 1946, and from October 1 the Military introduced a service using the R.A.S.C. vessel M.F.V. 1502 and she remained until she broke down on March 1 1947.  

Life was starting to get back to normal in 1947, especially in Sark,  and new companies were formed to operate in the Islands. Island Shipping Co. Ltd was one of these, and another was Sark Projects Ltd.

The Island Shipping Co. Ltd was formed in early 1947 as a result of two yachtsmen visiting Guernsey the previous year,  and learning of the lack of shipping services in the area, decided to start form a company. On their return to England they purchased a small landing craft, and put in hand its conversion into a passenger cargo vessel, and they also purchased an Admiralty M.F.V. The cost of the conversion soared and they were forced to seek the backing of the British Channel Islands Sg. Co. Ltd.

The company commenced operations in March 1947, but due to the larger vessel not being ready in time, two small launches provided the passenger service and the MFV the cargo role.

Sark Projects Ltd., started in July 1947 using the old COURIER, and in addition chartered a Fairmile launch from Commodore Cruises Ltd., but they withdrew from the trade at the end of the season.

This left Island Shipping Co as the sole operator and they provided the year round service to both Islands which in the winter lost money.

In addition a number of smaller vessels were continuing to provide inter-island services, one of these being Motor House Ltd. which operated former R.A.F. craft under the fleet name of MERRY WIDOW’s.

Commodore Cruises Ltd having seen the potential of the route , returned themselves in 1948, commencing in March using SILVER COMMODORE.

At the same time Island Shipping Ltd. made a determined effort to capture the market, and brought in an extra vessel ROBINA, but disaster struck on  June 5 when she was in collision with their HERM COAST, and sank.   This coupled with other operators creaming off the summer trade led to the company withdrawing from the routes on November 26 that year.

Not only had competition come of the Sark route, but also to Alderney which saw Radcliffe Channel Islands Sg operating between Guernsey and Alderney with DUNAVON which arrived in Alderney from Dover on June 6 1948, being replaced in August by RADFORD which also operated cross channel from Weymouth, and  this further diluted the available traffic.


The withdrawal of Island Shipping in November 1948 left Sark without a winter service, as the company carried nearly all the cargo to the Island, Alderney was in a slightly better position, as they had the Radcliffe Shipping service.

Various small craft were used to supply the Islands including B.C.I.Sg’s CORAL QUEEN and the MERRY WIDOW’s of Motor House,

Sark's Chief Pleas (The Government of the Island) decided that order had to be brought to the situation, and early in 1949 passed a Law which introduced a Monopoly service for travel between Sark and Guernsey, and the States of Alderney passed similar legislation on May 20.

Four operators applied to run the Sark service,

1. Motor House Ltd.

2. British Railways and B.C.I.S.

3. Radcliffe Channel Islands S.S. Co

whilst the fourth, Commodore Cruises Ltd were not considered as they sought a subsidy to operate.

On February 8  a delegation left Sark to view the vessels in England, and on March 23 Chief Pleas awarded the contract to Radcliffe, the company already operating the Weymouth - Alderney - Guernsey route, even though the company

Stated that they would not be able to commence services until July.

However the company tried WOODBRIDGE on the route in early April, but she was not a success, and  Radcliffe quickly chartered KYANG which commenced to Sark on April 19.

Chief Pleas gave notice that the New Law would come into force on July 7, but this monopoly operation did not please those who had provided services previously and in particular the craft for the emergency winter life line service. One  of them, Motor House Company had in fact purchased TORBAY BELLE for their summer service, and they with Commodore Cruises Ltd commenced their 1949 summer services to Sark, not withstanding the decision of Chief Pleas who informed both parties that once the Radcliffe company commenced, no other vessels would be allowed to land passengers in Sark.

The matter came to a head on June 6 when Motor House and Commodore withdrew their vessels, leaving Sark again without a service, and Radcliffe had to quickly charter another vessel to cover until RADCLIFFE was ready in July.

The shipping problems were still not over however, as later in the year (December 1949) the Radcliffe Channel Islands Sg company found themselves insolvent and ceased trading, leaving both Sark and Alderney without any shipping service, but at least the latter had by then had it’s air service restored.

Again it was B.C.I.Sg who came to the rescue , using both BRITTANY COAST and CHANNEL COAST in January 1950 to supply Alderney, until local Guernsey companies stepped in and chartered the KYANG to provide a service to both Islands.

Sark's Chief Pleas again acted swiftly and sought new tenders, with one company Arrow, Channel Islands & Coast Lines withdrawing before their meeting on January 19.

The others were -

1. Bougourd , Renouf & Newton

2. Fred Cohu

3. Commodore Cruises Ltd

4. Seaway Coasters

5. F. E. Hanning-Lee

6. G. Humby, Seawork Co.

7. Towage & Overseas

On January 31 1950 Chief Pleas awarded a five year contract to  Commodore Cruises Ltd, for the Sark service even though a number of Guernsey companies had tendered.

The Weymouth - Alderney - Guernsey cargo service was taken over by Arrow Channel Islands & Coast Lines Ltd using ARROWHEAD, but unlike Sark, this time the States of Alderney were unwilling to grant a monopoly, and thus the company withdrew on June 19 1950, leaving that Island without a cargo service. The British Channel Islands Sg. Co. as already mentioned, stepped in and made their smaller cargo vessels available to carry essential supplies as required.

Commodore Cruises Ltd. commenced their service to Sark in March 1950 using Fairmile B launches, being joined early in June by the passenger cargo vessel ISLAND COMMODORE, a vessel which was to remain in the islands for many years. Following her arrival British Channel Islands Sg. Co (Guernsey) Ltd had talks with the States of Alderney, resulting in Commodore Cruises Ltd. commencing a Guernsey - Alderney service on June 25 1950

Although Sark’s Chief Pleas had passed and implemented their Monopoly Law of 1949, The Home Office were not prepared to recommend the Order in Council sought by Sark. With Commodore now serving both Islands there was a need to regularize the situation and a Bailiwick Shipping Committee was set up consisting of three members each from Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. The Committee under the leadership of Guernsey's Lieut-Governor Gen Sir Philip Neame,  VC, KBE, CB,  DSO, drafted a new Law entitled the Alderney and Shark (Licensing of vessels) Law 1950, which was agreed by both the Sark Chief Pleas, and the States of Alderney at meetings held in February 6 1951.

To further strengthen the whole operation a new local company Commodore Shipping Co. Ltd was formed, being registered in Guernsey on March 22 1952, with Mr. Charles Barnett being the Managing Director, and British Channel Islands Shipping Company (Guernsey) Ltd being appointed managers.


The services to Alderney and Sark then settled down with ISLAND COMMODORE providing the year round passenger cargo service to both Islands, while initially WHITE COMMODORE and RED COMMODORE carried the day trippers in the summer mainly to Sark, later being replaced by FLEET COMMODORE and SILVER COMMODORE.

To facilitate the new operation further, British Channel Islands Shipping Company sold is subsidiary Island Shipping Company Ltd. to Mr. Barnett for a nominal sum, and this company provided the tramp shipping needs of the islands. ARROWHEAD was chartered by the company and proved very useful when ISLAND COMMODORE was off service from December 1950 to the end of July 1951.

As already mentioned Alderney had suffered greatly during the War, and to help the Island back on it’s feet the British Government introduced for the first two years communal farming, including pig farming, flower growing, and an engineering works, and some foreign labour  was brought in. The engineering works manufactured of silencers for the motor trade in England, and was operated by Cheswick & Wright (Alderney) Ltd.

To cater for these enterprises a number of small vessels were used to transport goods to and from England.

The industries built up to a peak in the 1960’s, but with reducing subsidises, increased competition, and rising costs, meant that they became un-profitable, resulting in the meat factory closing at the end of 1961 and the silencer factory early in 1963.

Details of the companies and vessels will be in the next update.

It is interesting that the agreement between the Islands and Commodore required the company to keep separate accounts for the service to each Island.

The contract to Sark called for one boat a day for 200 passengers, and that if the company made more than £3,500 profit on the route, the fares had to reduce, while if the level fell below £2,500 the fares could rise.

In 1953 the Sark route showed a profit of £1,076.13s.2d while Alderney only had a £260.19s.4d profit. For 1954 Sark showed a £242.2s.0d loss, while Alderney had a £1,420.16s.2d profit.

In 1956 25,263 people paid poll tax to land in Sark, and the route lost £1,769.11s.0d., which resulted in a fare increase from 10s.6d. to 12s.6d and

In the next few years, tourism to the Channel Islands grew, and the services to both Islands continued along their usual path until 1960, when on July 1 that year Commodore Shipping Company Ltd was acquired by Mr. Mansfield Markham, a wealthy Englishman who had taken up residence in Guernsey.

His intention was update the fleet by replacing  the open decked Fairmile launches with a larger passenger vessel and complement it by using a fast craft.

To this end he purchased COMMODORE QUEEN, and also set in hand the conversion of a former Naval pinnace into a fast passenger launch, but Sark’s Chief Pleas would not agree to one large passenger vessel, so COMMODORE QUEEN spent her first few summers operating excursions around the Islands and to France.

If both Alderney and Sark had found difficulty in communicating with the previous owner then it was even worse with the new one, and on a number of occasions Sark’s Chief Pleas gave notice that they would terminate the contract, but this never happened. The position was not helped by the fact that the Islands now more that ever had very differing requirements and they would not agree to any of the suggestions for progress.

Even if the Islands did not want the introduction of the larger vessel, it came a step closer with the sale of the Fairmile SILVER COMMODORE early in 1961.

The problems with the Island’s administrations did not stop the development of the company, which in March 1962 took over the cross channel cargo service of Alderney Tramp Sg Co., and early in 1964 the company gained a contract to ship half of Guernsey's tomato exports, (this having been the monopoly of the Railways)

1964 was also the last full season for FLEET COMMODORE, leaving ISLAND COMMODORE and COMMODORE QUEEN to maintain the Inter-Island services, and the latter still fitted in a once a week excursion to Jersey, but following the introduction of Condor’s hydrofoils this ceased after 1965, and she remained mainly on the Sark route.

The Inter-Island services suffered a major set back on June 3 1967 when the ISLAND COMMODORE when starting its engine for a trip to Sark suffered a major breakdown which required a new engine, and she was off service until March 7 1968, and the cargo vessel NIKE was used when required for freight.

In an effort to find a possible long term replacement, the company viewed the Scilly Isles vessel QUEEN OF THE ISLES, which visited the islands between 13-15 August 1967, and proved that she could halve the time to Alderney of the ISLAND COMMODORE, but both Sark and Alderney authorities found reasons for not wanting her.

Mr. Jack Norman had gained control of Commodore Shipping in 1996, and this rejection coupled with the continued bickering with the Island authorities, led to the Board deciding not to seek a renewal of their license when it became due on October 1 1969, and this was communicated to the Island Authorities.

As mentioned a number of times already, Alderney and Sark had very differing shipping requirements, resulting in each Island deciding to go their own way.

Alderney had a limited tourist trade, and the same applied to the day trip market from Guernsey, with most travelers now choosing to use the bus-stop air service operated by Aurigny Air Services which had commenced in March 1968. Thus all the Island required was a cargo service, and the license for a twice a weekly service from Guernsey was awarded to Alderney Shipping Company Ltd which had been formed on January 24 1969 to provide a cargo service from Poole to Alderney and the other Channel Islands. The company have held the license ever since, although ownership has changed.


Sark on the other hand required both a passenger and cargo service, and to provide this, Sark’s Chief Pleas came to an agreement with Mr. Peter Drake for the formation of a jointly owned company Isle of Sark Shipping Co. Ltd., Peter Drake having  run the Inter-Island services for Commodore Shipping for a number of years.

The Isle of Sark Shipping Company was set up to operate the services, while Sark Shipowners Ltd was formed to initially own the vessels.  

The company purchased ISLAND COMMODORE from Commodore Shipping, renaming her ILE DE SERK, and took over the route to Sark on October 1 1969, while to cater for the summer passenger demands a vessel was acquired and renamed LA DAME DE SERK but she only lasted until 1974, being replaced by fast launches.

The company not only operated the Sark service but acted as agents in Guernsey for Alderney Shipping Co, and were also agents for some of the ever increasing number of cruise ships visiting Guernsey, and they acted for the Dutch salvage firm of Wijsmuller when they successfully re-floated the bulk carrier ELWOOD MEAD in 1974 and the oil rig ORION in 1978.

By the early 1980’s ILE DE SERK was needing to be replaced, being a  single screwed and forty years old, but the cost of a dual purpose passenger - cargo replacement was prohibitive, so it was decided to replace her with two vessels, a

passenger vessel capable of all weather operation, and a cargo vessel able to transport the type of containers which were being introduced more and more on the service, and these changes took place in 1983.

As the use of containers grew  and their size increased the company introduced a more suitable vessel in November 1989.

In 1992 some Alderney residents joined together and formed Island Ferries (CI) Ltd. which was registered February 14 1992. The intention was to provide a service linking the Alderney to Cherbourg and Guernsey. Their vessel TRONDENES entered service in July 1992, but the company was not granted a license and went into liquidation.

With a reduction in the number of visitors to the Island and the sharp increase in fuel costs the company re-organized its fleet in 1993, with the sale of its two launches, and to provide the required capacity added a passenger module to SARK VENTURE, and chartered HERM TRIDENT VI during the summer months.

In 1998 a review took place into the shipping services to Sark, which was undertaken by the accountants Alex Picot & Co. One of their recommendations was to license up to six vessels able to carry a maximum of 12 passengers, to operate alongside Isle of Sark Shipping, and this was introduced.   

In 2003 it was agreed to replace BON MARIN with a new vessel, but the project became bogged down in politics, with the result that Peter Drake and his family felt that they had lost control of the Company and offered to sell their 50% share in the Company to Chief Pleas, but they would continue as Managers.

This was agreed on October 7 2004, and so Isle of Sark Shipping became wholly owned by Sark’s Chief Pleas, and at the same meeting it was decided not to proceed with the new ship, but to refurbish the two current vessels. Then three months later it was agreed to build a “no frills” cargo boat costing £50,000 with delivery in nine months. There were many delays in it’s construction, and it was not until February 2008 that it entered service.

A further change to the Sark service occurred on August 2 2005, when it was announced that Alderney Shipping Co. Ltd. were to be appointed as Managers to run the Isle of Sark Shipping Co. On learning of this, Peter Drake immediately resigned, being followed the next day by his son Glen. So ended 35 years with the company he had helped form in 1969, and had been involved in serving Sark during his time with Commodore Shipping.   

Isle of Sark Shipping were challenged in December 2006 when Trident Charted applied for a license to operate on the route, but this was not granted.

The passenger vessel SARK BELLE was added to the fleet in 2011, and the company have been looking at introducing new routes to make full use of their fleet.

Further changes took place in 2007 when Alderney Shipping Co. were replaced as managers by Ship & Fly, but Isle of Sark Shipping Co. Ltd. continue to provide the passenger and cargo services to the Island.

Excursion services to Alderney.

Even before Commodore Shipping gave up their Sark and Alderney services in September 1969, excursions were operated from Guernsey to Alderney by Condor hydrofoils during the summer months, being followed by Emeraude Lines when the new deep water quay was opened at Dielette in 1986, and later by Manche Iles Express.  

Several small charter vessels also operate to from Alderney.