PS Medway Queen

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Medway Queen, Damhead Creek - geograph.org.uk - 1006725.jpg
1994
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: PS Medway Queen (1938-39~)
HMS Medway Queen (1939-47)
PS Medway Queen (from 1947)
Owner: New Medway Steam Packet Company (1924-39)
Royal Navy (1939-47)
New Medway Steam Packet Company (1947-64)
(Nightclub, Ryde) (1964-85)
Medway Queen Preservation Society (from 1985)
Port of registry: United Kingdom Rochester (1928-39)
United Kingdom Royal Navy (1939-47)
United Kingdom Rochester (from 1947)
Builder: Ailsa Shipbuilding Company, Troon, Scotland
Yard number: PS 388
Launched: Wednesday 23 April 1924
In service: 1924
Out of service: 1964
Identification: UK Official Number 148361
Code letters GGNG (1944- )
ICS Golf.svgICS Golf.svgICS November.svgICS Golf.svg
Pennant Number N 48 (1939-42)
Pennant Number J48 (1942-47)
Status: Under restoration
 Decommissioned 11 December 1997
Notes: Sea trials 1924
General characteristics
Tonnage: 316 GRT
Displacement: 134 tonnes
Length: 179 ft 9 in (54.79 m)
Beam: 24 ft 2 in (7.37 m) hull
50 ft (15.24 m) over paddle frames
Draught: 7 ft 8 in (2.34 m)
Installed power: Scotch type boiler 11 feet long, fitted with triple furnaces feeding Ailsa built compound diagonal steam engine. Coal fired when built, converted to oil fired by Wallsend Engineering in 1938, built by Ailsa
Propulsion: Paddles
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h) at 45rpm cruising
15 knots (28 km/h) at 55rpm maximum speed
Armament: 1 x 12 pounder gun, 2 x machine guns (HMS Medway Queen)

The PS Medway Queen is a paddle driven steamship, the only mobile estuary paddle steamer left in the United Kingdom. She was one of the "little ships of Dunkirk",[1] making a record 7 trips and rescuing 7000 men in the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Presently deconstructed, she is the subject of a £1.8 million National Lottery Heritage Memorial Fund grant to restore her hull. Funds are being raised to restore the rest of her to operational condition.

History[edit]

PS Medway Queen was built at the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company in Troon, Scotland, in 1924 for service on the River Medway and the Thames Estuary. Trialled on the River Clyde, she was delivered to be part of the "Queen Line" fleet of the New Medway Steam Packet Company based at Rochester, Kent.[2] She steamed the Thames on the routes from Chatham and Strood, to Sheerness, Herne Bay and Margate in Kent; and Clacton and Southend in Essex.

After attending the coronation Fleet Review for George VI at Spithead in 1937, she was converted to oil-fired steaming by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company in 1938.

World War II[edit]

Requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a minesweeper, she was renumbered No J 48 (N 48), serving for the duration of World War II in the 10th minesweeping flotilla, protecting the English Channel.

After evacuating Kent children to East Anglia in 1939,[3] she became part of the flotilla of ships evacuating British Army soldiers from Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. Medway Queen was fitted with a 12-pounder gun and two machine guns. On her first trip, she shot down a German aircraft on her return to Dover, her arrival coinciding with an air raid. HMS Brighton Belle ran over a wreck and began to sink. All of her passengers and crew were rescued by Medway Queen without loss of life.[4]

After making seven trips (the record number of crossings by a civilian ship involved in the evacuation),[citation needed] Medway Queen sustained considerable damage on her final trip when a destroyer astern of her was driven forwards by an explosion and damaged her starboard paddle box. Medway Queen limped back to Dover with 400 French soldiers on board. By then, she had rescued 7,000 men,[4] gaining four awards for gallantry and having shot down three enemy aircraft.[citation needed] In view of this remarkable achievement in rescuing so many Allied troops from France, she earned the title given to her of "The Heroine of Dunkirk".[4] In 1942 she was converted to a mine sweeping training ship, and served out the war in this capacity.[5]

Return to service[edit]

Rebuilt by Thorneycrofts of Southampton in 1946, she returned to civilian service with New Medway Steam Packet Company for the 1947 season. When Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, PS Medway Queen again attended the Coronation Review at Spithead.

She made her last sailing on 8 September 1963,[6] and was scheduled to be scrapped in Belgium.[3] The Belgian ship-breaker, upon discovering that the vessel he was expecting to break up was none other than "The Heroine of Dunkirk", declined to continue (it is reported that he felt that no one should dare to destroy such a gallant and important little ship).

Having been saved she was eventually sold for use as a nightclub at Island Harbour Marina on the Isle of Wight. Proving an attraction, she was replaced by the PS Ryde and moved to the River Medina, where she was sunk by accident.

Preservation[edit]

The PS Medway Queen in the Albion Dry Dock, Bristol on the occasion of her rededication on 27 July 2013, during the Bristol Harbour Festival

In 1984 she was bought by private owners with the aim of preserving her, and returned on a pontoon to the Chatham. However, the plans soon fell apart, and after she sank again in 1985 the Medway Queen Preservation Society formed, with the intention of preserving the historical ship.

Moved to Damhead Creek, Kingsnorth on the Hoo Peninsula in 1987, the trust lacked funds to bring back to service, and struggled to preserve the structure. After a series of near disasters, in 2006 the National Lottery Heritage Memorial Fund agreed a £1.8 million funding package to restore structure, subject to society raising £225,000. Having completed the fund raising, the trust was disappointed that neither the insurance company or marine engineers were confident that her hull was seaworthy and unable of sustaining lifting on to a pontoon. In October 2006, the Trust agreed that the deconstruction of the hull and salvageable pieces moved to Gillingham Pier (and a National Lottery funded warehouse) in Chatham Dockyard, in preparation of the hull being professionally restored to seaworthy condition.

In October 2008, the society signed a contract with David Abels Shipbuilders to restore the hull at the Albion Dry Dock in Bristol. This will be done using plate rivetting by a team of 10, and was envisaged to take two years.[7] Work began in April 2009 and was due to be completed in the summer of 2010.[8] On 27 July 2013 the ship was rededicated and plans are to float her out of the Albion Dock during the summer 2013.[9]

The tow home to Gillingham using the tug Christine started from Bristol on 24 October 2013, but due to weather conditions they were held at Avonmouth until 15 November when the wind abated sufficiently and the tow around Lands End and through the English Channel could continue in safety.

At around 3pm on Friday 15th November 2013 the Medway Queen departed Avonmouth for her final leg home under tow by the tug Christine. Benefiting from the good weather the tow continued throughout the weekend with her arriving back on her home territory on the River Medway. Despite earlier delays in commencing the tow the weather remained kind to the 'Heroine of Dunkirk' as she made the entire journey around Lands End and along the South Coats of England in one go without the need to seek shelter along the way. The tug and tow finally arrived on the River Medway on Monday 18th November 2013. Due mainly to tidal restriction the Medway Queen was buoyed in Saltpan Reach until high tide the following day.

The crowds were gathered, the TV crews were in position and around 1.30pm the Medway Queen was finally in sight as she made her final leg of her journey to her new home at Gillingham Pier. Under the guidance of tug master Alan Pratt the historic vessel was brought gently into the pier at high tide.

Official number and code letters[edit]

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

Medway Queen had the UK Official Number 148361. She used the Code Letters GGNG from 1944.[10]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1924 - built Troon, Scotland, by the Ailsa Yard for service on the River Medway and the Thames Estuary. Trialled on the River Clyde
  • 1925 - working on River Medway and the Thames Estuary, part of the "Queen Line" fleet of the New Medway Steam Packet Company based at Rochester, Kent
  • 1937 - attended the Coronation Review for George VI at Spithead
  • 1938 - converted by Wallsend Engineering from coal to oil burning, by Wallsend Engineering
  • 1939 - carried children evacuated from Kent to East Anglia. Joined Royal Navy as minesweeper No J 48 (N 48) serving for the duration of the war in the 10th minesweeping flotilla in the English Channel
  • 1940 - became part of the flotilla of ships evacuating British Army soldiers from Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. After making seven trips (the record number of crossings by any merchant navy ship involved in the evacuation), she rescued over 7,000 men gaining for the ship's crew four awards for gallantry and shot down three enemy aircraft. At one time during the evacuation she was overdue and was thought to lost with all hands and troops - but she eventually arrived back at Dover, ready to return to France for more troops. The sterling efforts of the ship and her crew earned the paddle steamer the title of "Heroine of Dunkirk"
  • 1946 - rebuilt by Thorneycrofts of Southampton
  • 1947 - returned to civilian service with New Medway Steam Packet Company
  • 1953 - attended the Coronation Review for Elizabeth II at Spithead
  • 1963 - taken out of service, with the possibility of being broken up (but the Belgian shipbreaker declined to break up the "Heroine of Dunkirk", so she was thus saved an ignoble end)
  • 1964 - sold, and latterly opened as a nightclub on the Isle of Wight
  • 1970s - replaced by larger ship PS Ryde, moved to the River Medina and then was sunk by accident
  • 1984 - raised and towed back to the River Medway on a pontoon by new owners
  • ???? - abandon and sinks again, while moored against the wall of Chatham Dockyard
  • 1985 - the Medway Queen Preservation Society formed, with the intention of preserving the historical ship
  • 1987 - raised and moved Damhead Creek, Kingsnorth on the Hoo Peninsula
  • 2006 - the National Lottery Heritage Memorial Fund agree £1.8 million funding package to restore structure, subject to society raising £225,000
  • 2006 - deconstructed, as hull considered unseaworthy or of sustaining lifting on to a pontoon. Hull and salvageable pieces moved to Chatham Dockyard
  • 2009 - Restoration begins in April. New hull to be constructed at Albion Shipyard, Bristol.
  • 2011 - Visitors' Centre opens at Gillingham Pier funded by the European Heroes2c project with sister projects Association Tourville and de Steenschuit
  • 2013 - Rebuilt hull entered the River Medway under tow from Bristol at Sheerness 18 November 2013

References[edit]

  1. ^ Association of Dunkirk Little Ships: List of Dunkirk Little Ships Retrieved 6 March 2014
  2. ^ "New Medway SP Co". Tramscape. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Medway Queen". Tramscape. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c War & Peace Show 2010 Official Programme. Edon Publishing. 2010. p. p14. 
  5. ^ "PS Medway Queen - History". medwayqueen.com. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  6. ^ "Medway Queen". National Historic Ships UK. Retrieved 4 Nov 2013. 
  7. ^ Robinson, Hayley (10 October 2008). "Crowning moment for Historic Queen". Medway Extra, Larkfield, Kent. 
  8. ^ "Dunkirk rescue boat gets revamp". BBC News Online. 17 April 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2009. 
  9. ^ "Rededication of the Medway Queen". The Medway Queen Preservation Society. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS". Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 17 April 2009. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°24′N 0°34′E / 51.400°N 0.567°E / 51.400; 0.567