SHE WAS built to replace a minesweeper that was sunk while helping to evacuate Allied troops from Dunkirk during the Second World War.

Now the 72-year-old Waverley - the world’s last seagoing paddle steamer - is returning to Hampshire to stage an annual series of cruises.

Waverley, which carries 130,000 passengers every year, will be operating in the Solent area between September 8 and 16. She will sail to a variety of destinations, including Swanage, Portsmouth and Yarmouth, as well as travelling along the Jurassic Coast to Weymouth.

Named after Sir Walter Scott’s first novel, Waverley was built for the London & North Eastern Railway to replace another paddle steamer, HMS Waverley, which was sunk off Dunkirk.

The original Waverley carried passengers on the River Clyde between 1899 and 1939. Following the outbreak of the Second World War she was used to evacuate children from Glasgow before being requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into a minesweeper.

On May 28 1940 she was returning from France when she was targeted by 12 German aircraft and sank with the loss of about 400 lives. The current vessel was launched on the Clyde in 1946 and made her maiden voyage the following summer.

In 1974 Waverley was sold to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for a nominal £1 and began a second career as a tourist attraction. She has since carried more than five million passengers from 60 ports around the UK. The historic ship is operated on a charitable basis by Waverley Steam Navigation Co.

A spokesman said: “Both the Waverley and the south coast are steeped in maritime history so it is quite fitting that Waverley returns annually.”

Originally built to sail between Craigendoran and Arrochar in Scotland, she now journeys around Britain offering regular trips on the Clyde and the Thames as well as along the south coast and the Bristol Channel.

Call 0141 243 2224 for more information.