Bluebird of Chelsea

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Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Name: Bluebird
Builder: Thornycroft, Southampton
Launched: 1931
Status: in service
General characteristics
Class and type: motor yacht
Displacement: 23 tons
Length: 52 ft (16 m)
Beam: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Draught: 4 ft 3 in (1.30 m)
  • twin screws & petrol engines,
  • later Perkins diesels

Bluebird of Chelsea, formerly Blue Bird, is a motor yacht originally built for Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Ownership by Sir Malcolm Campbell[edit]

She was built in 1931 by Thornycrofts of Southampton, as a twin petrol-engined wooden carvel-built motor yacht.[1]

Campbell sold her after three years, as his motor-racing experience made him wary of the fire risks of petrol engines aboard. He was also highly superstitious and believed a gypsy warning that, "his death would come from the water". In hindsight, this may have applied more to his son Donald.

Dunkirk and World War II[edit]

She had three further owners before being requisitioned by the Admiralty at the outbreak of World War II. She joined the flotilla of "little ships" of the Dunkirk evacuation, though not without two false starts, first due to engine trouble and then over-crowding. Her return from Dunkirk was even more fraught: after first refilling the fuel tanks with water, then fouling her screws on debris, she returned under tow.

Her later wartime service was spent in Scotland performing transport work for the RASC, then later on the South coast around Weymouth and Gosport.

Her history after this is sketchy, although she was renamed Blue Finch and found herself on the Atlantic coast of the South of France.

Survival today[edit]

In 1984 the Chelsea art dealer Martin Summers discovered her in France and decided to restore her. Some initial work in France made her apparently fit for a single-engined Channel crossing, but once again another engine failure meant that she returned from France under tow.

H & T Marine (Hiscock and Titterington) of Poole performed an extensive restoration. After re-launch in 1986 she now lies alongside Cadogan Pier in Chelsea.[2][3] [4]


Two 1/12 scale models of Bluebird of Chelsea were featured in a magazine cover article.[5]

A double-sided 1/24 scale plan feature by David Metcalf was included in a Model Boats magazine series in 1989.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Historic Ships: Bluebird of Chelsea". National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008.
  2. ^ "Dunkirk Little Ship: Blue Bird, now Bluebird of Chelsea". 1999. Archived from the original on 20 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Thames Traditional Boat Rally". 2002. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008. photograph
  4. ^ "Bluebird – A Dream of a Boat in Six Acts (after Maeterlinck)"; author Martin Summers, Collectors Books 1990
  5. ^ "Bluebird of Chelsea". Marine Modelling International. January 2008.