The first presentation – entitled “Vancouver Shipping” – was by committee member Keith Reed, recalling his 2005 visit to a city located further west from Montreal than Paris is to the east. Although Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King once said that his nation had “too much geography and not enough history”, Keith encountered a steam powered clock, trolleybuses, float planes (in which he took a flight) controlled from the top of a skyscraper and long trains of bogie cars arriving over the Rocky Mountains with Prairie wheat for export from Vancouver docks. His travelogue style presentation also included the Lions Gate suspension bridge, chair lifts and some rope style suspension bridges in the wet mountain forests although Keith declined the “breakfast with the bears” experience as it was not clear what or who was on the menu! Out on the water meanwhile, shipping ranged from cruise liners and tall ships to paddle wheel ferries. Thank you Keith for an interesting, informative and well researched presentation.
This was followed by “Port to Port”, a Power Point presentation by Paul Barnett on Monday 13 October 2014, taking the audience from Sharpness to Gloucester along the ship canal with historic monochrome pictures taken in 1955 and modern equivalents from the same viewpoints dating from around 2013.
Mr Barnett gave us enough information to fill a book, but some of the most interesting items included the tug Primrose, Severn Collier, Castle Meads Power Station – which opened on 2 September 1943 – John Harker’s vessels in what is now Tommy Neilson’s dry dock in Gloucester Docks, the motor grain barges Deerhurst, Chaceley and Tirley which used to supply Healing’s Mill at Tewkesbury (all of which are now house boats), the old Severn Railway Bridge, Sharpness gas works and a Silvey’s half cab single decker bus.
Paul also revealed that one of the vessels now forming part of the barrier between the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and the River Severn at Purton is Lighter 32, one of four similar 200 ton steel lighters built in 1935 by Charles Hills & Sons of Bristol for use at the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company. These carried the Yard numbers 227 – 230 and the GRCW numbers 32, 33, 34, 35. Apparently each one could carry two typical four wheeled railway wagons of the time but were never used for this purpose.
Thank you Paul for a fascinating talk with every image triggering a memory.
“Solent Ferries” was the title of the Powerpoint presentation given by Chairman Ken Guest on Monday 10 November 2014. Ken’s photographs went back to the 1960s and covered the Portsmouth-Ryde, Lymington-Yarmouth, Cowes-Southampton and Portsmouth to Fisbourne and Gosport ferries as well as hovercraft on the Southsea-Ryde service. Ferries included paddle steamers, jet foils and fast catamarans against a background of larger vessels including the Cunard liners Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary II as well as the Royal Yacht Britannia and varied warships from a number of nation’s navies.
Vantage points for Ken’s high standard of photography embraced the Hythe pier with its narrow gauge electric railway and the church tower in Rye from which the 1977 Silver Jubilee Naval Review was captured. Thank you Ken for a most interesting and enjoyable evening.
Our meeting on 8 December 2014 was the annual buffet, raffle and photographic print competition with sixteen entries. Each entry comprised four prints and in the first round of voting the best print of each group of four was chosen. The second round of voting was then to decide which of the remaining sixteen prints was best. The winner was Penny Meenagh with a photograph of the Paddle Steamer Waverley taken from Penarth Pier. Congratulations to Penny who is on our Branch Committee and compiles the scrapbook of Branch activities. The entries included several groups of the tall ships at Gloucester Docks for the filming of “Alice Through The Looking Glass” and the Solent area was also well represented with liners and naval ships. Thanks to everyone who made the evening a success.
Our meeting on Monday 12 January 2015 was not in fact “Life’a ship and then you fly” due to the scheduled speaker Steve Clutterbuck being in hospital. Get well soon Steve! However, we were fortunate enough to be able to borrow at short notice from the World Ship Society Film Library Bert Novelli’s slide set “Emigrant Ships”. Although people have been travelling by sea to make new lives in new lands since the Bronze Age – and especially to escape famine, poverty and persecution – Bert’s enjoyable, informative and very well researched presentation focused on the years after World War Two when thousands of those displaced by the European conflict sailed to South Africa and North and South America.
Similarly, when Australia was crying out for skilled workers in the 1960s, many Britons sailed Down Under on assisted passages – becoming known as “Ten Pound Poms”. Many of these emigrant ships had previously been wartime troopships including the Royal Mail Ships Arundel Castle and Samaria, both of which had also transported Secretary Malcolm Bell’s father John.
RMS Arundel Castle entered service with Union Castle Line in 1921 and together with her sister ship SS Windsor Castle were the only four funneled British ocean liners not built specifically to cross the Atlantic. However, during a 1937 refit these funnels were reduced to two while the hull was lengthened and a new angular bow replaced the original blunt chisel shape. After serving as a transport ship in the Mediterranean during World War II RMS Arundel Castle was withdrawn from service in 1958 and sailed to Hong Kong for breaking by Chiap Hua. However, before gas axes were brought to bear in the Crown Colony, Chiap Hua staged a cocktail party on board during which the guests – including government officials and bank executives – were allowed to take the Captain’s chair, steering wheel, cutlery and other ship’s fittings home as souvenirs.
RMS Samaria meanwhile was built by Cammell Laird for Cunard and was launched from Birkenhead in November 1920. However, due to the post First World War demands on the shipbuilding industry, fitting out was delayed and the single funnel liner only entered service in 1922. With a top speed of only 16 knots, RMS Samaria was designed for fuel economy and reasonable ticket prices rather than winning Blue Ribands and plied between Liverpool, Boston and New York with occasional calls at Cobh in Ireland. However, with an end to unrestricted immigration the the USA in the mid 1920s, the 19 848 GRT liner was reconfigured for cruising before being taken on Royal Navy charge as a troopship from 1941 to 1948. Once returned to Cunard ownership, RMS Samaria and her sister ship Scythia were used almost exclusively on voyages from Liverpool to Montreal, Quebec and Halifax Nova Scotia up to 1955 when she was withdrawn and scrapped the next year at Inverkeithing, Scotland.
Thanks go to John Mayer for operating his slide projector in synch with the spoken commentary coming from his laptop and also to Roy Cressey of the WSS Film Library for his help.
On Monday 9 February the Gloucester Branch enjoyed the World Ship Society Film Library Powerpoint presentation “Ships of the 1970s and 80s” based on the work for the late Bedford Branch chairman Sid Belham. Opening with a shot of London’s Regent’s Canal, this presentation had something for everyone and the audience enjoyed trying to identify a number of port locations – including Dover, which hosted a range of hovercraft, cross Channel ferries as well as other vessels.
Probably the oldest ship featured was the Chatham built wooden frigate HMS Unicorn of 1824 – now preserved in Dundee and pictured above – and our lady committee member was interested to see her namesake HMS Penelope. A very different frigate and the ninth Royal Navy ship to bear the name, F127 was launched in 1962 by Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne and sold to Ecuador in 1991 which operated her as Presidente Eloy Alfaro
Also featured was the helicopter carrier USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7) which recovered the Gemini X and Apollo 9 astronauts after splashdown, 1939 vintage submarine depot ship HMS Forth (A187) and the Bristol registered tug Sea Alarm, as preserved at the then Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum, Cardiff, before scrapping.
Thanks go to Roland Whaite for reading the commentary, to Ted Tedaldi for letting us use his projector and to Roy Cressey of the WSS Film Library.
For our meeting on Monday 9 March 2015 Committee Member Ted Tedaldi entertained us with his Power Point presentation entitled “Tall Ships” which was mainly photographed at Falmouth. Ted also covered other shipping subjects in the Falmouth area – including the shipyard – and Roland Whaite helpfully gave some additional information, prompting a number of those present to consider a future visit to Cornwall.
The second half of Ted’s presentation was a trip around Southampton Docks with the Thames Ship Society with many varied and interesting vessels being recorded. Thanks Ted for a splendid evening with something for everyone’s special shipping interest.
Looping back to Private Eye of 25 November 2011, this article headlined “Booty Trawl” might be of interest to World Ship Society members:
Dutch salvage contractors are cutting up the wrecks of three British warships in the North Sea which mark the graves of 1 459 Royal Navy sailors. The cruisers HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were torpedoed one after another by the German submarine U-9, 22 nautical miles off the Dutch coast on 22 September 1914.
The Royal Naval Association, archaeologists and diving organisations have protested about the looting and desecration of the wrecks, but neither the British nor Dutch government has taken any action to halt the salvage teams, who are believed to be trying to retrieve copper, bronze and other valuable metals.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Defence stonewalled a freedon of information request from Andy Brockman of the archaeological campaign group “Mortimer”, which want to know how many Royal Navy ships that might be considered war graves under international law had had salvage contracts granted or sold. The MoD said it would cost more than the upper limit of £600 to research his request.
Brockman had more luck after contacting his MP, Clive Efford, Labour member for Eltham. Efford wrote to junior defence minister Gerald Howarth, who revealed that, astonishingly, the Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy had been sold to a German salvage company in 1954 – during Winston Churchill’s last year as Prime Minister.
Howarth’s letter said “We can hardly object to the salvage as such, as it appears we knowingly sold them for the purpose back in 1954: we must assume the decision to dispose of the wrecks was taken by our predecessors in full knowledge of the facts and that they acted in the public interest as perceived at the time… Notwithstanding the unfortunate circumstances… we will request the Dutch authorities do whatever they can to ensure the salvors treat the wrecks with appropriate respect and sensitivity.”
The minister must be aware, however, that the bit of the MoD that brings fallen soldiers home from Afghanistan, the Joint Compassionate Casuality Centre, is responsible not only for current casualties but also historic ones. For instance, it oversaw archaeological work on HMS London [pictured below] sunk in the Thames Estuary in 1665, to make sure any human remains encountered were treated with respect. With the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it would be responsible for proper treatment and burial of remains of a British serviceman found abroad whether or not it was on someone else’s commercial “property”. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention it would also be the responsibility of the Dutch government “to protect and maintain such gravesites permanently.”
When there is a whiff of treasure aboard, the government is less insouciant about its rights. In recent years it has negotiated with Florida based salvage operator Odyssey Marine Exploration for a share of any loot from HMS Sussex (lost off Gibraltar in 1694) and HMS Victory (not Nelson’s, but another Victory, lost off the Channel Islands in 1744)
In 2006 an appeal court ruling obliged the MoD to protect the SS Storaa, a merchant ship torpedoed off Hastings in 1943 with the loss of 36 crew, as a designated place protected under the protection of military remains (POMR) act.
Some believe the government does not want automatically to protect the wrecks of all British vessels which carried service personnel on active duty under the act because it might complicate commercial relationships with Odyssey and similar companies.
Andy Brockman told Private Eye: “Clearly this issue is of major significance to anyone with an interest in maritime archaeology, heritage and conflict – and of course, morally, anyone who cares about the treatment of victims of war and victims of the sea – which should be all of us.”
For our meeting on Monday 13 April 2015 we first watched and then discussed – with additional still images courtesy of Ted Tedaldi – the 50 minute DVD presentation “Restoration of Massey Shaw” by John Greene of Gloucester Film Makers.
The fireboat Massey Shaw was built in 1935 by the J. Samuel White company at Cowes, Isle of Wight to a London County Council design, at a cost around £18,000.
The 78′ long steel hulled vessel – low enough to fit under the bridges over the Thames and its tributaries in London at any state of the tide – was named after Eyre Massey Shaw KCB (1828-1908), a former chief of the London Fire Brigade. It had a top speed of 12 knots thanks to its pair of 165 bhp 8 cylinder Gleniffer DC8 diesel engines while power for the 76mm fire monitor came from a Russell Newbery 2 cylinder Type D2 diesel power plant turning a pair of Merryweather & Sons 4 stage 8″ centrifugal fire pumps, each rated at 1 500 gallons a minute.
The Massey Shaw was heralded as a great addition to the fire fighting capabilities of the London Fire Brigade’s River Service. Within a few months, she had demonstrated her full capabilities whilst fighting a large warehouse fire at Colonial Wharf, Wapping. The fire had gained hold of an eight storey warehouse complex and fire fighting operations were hampered by difficult access. The new fireboat however was able to supply a vast jet of water that made a ‘firebreak’ and allowed the land-based crews to regroup and stop the fire spreading. Newspapers at the time credited the Massey Shaw with saving over a million pounds worth of stock, by preventing the fire moving along to other adjoining warehouses.
In June 1940, the 3′ 9″ draught Massey Shaw, along with a volunteer crew of 13 firemen and a hastily installed compass, formed part of the flotilla of small vessels which were sent to Dunkirk to fight fires and, ultimately, help evacuate British troops from the beaches. In all, the Massey Shaw made three trips to the beaches, rescued over 500 troops and brought back a further 110 to Ramsgate. In addition to this work, on her return to London the Massey Shaw rescued thirty French merchant seamen when their vessel, the Emile Deschamps, hit a mine.
The 50.54 gross ton displacement fireboat with a 13′ 9″ beam served throughout the remainder of the War based at Deptford on the Thames, pumping vast quantities of water from the river to fight fires resulting from the London Blitz. The Massey Shaw also became the first British fire appliance to be fitted with radio communication and in 1947 hosted a secret meeting in the Thames Estuary between Herbert Morrison (Member of Parliament and Chairman of the London County Council) and Aneurin Bevin, MP eventually resulted in the formation of the National Health Service.
The Massey Shaw can also be seen in the 1958 film ‘Dunkirk’ starring John Mills and Richard Attenborough and the fireboat remained in service until 1971.
In 1982 – after many moves around the Thames – the historic vessel was saved from dereliction by a group of enthusiasts who continue to care for it.
As a preserved vessel, the Massey Shaw was present at the opening of the Thames Flood Barrier and then had the honour to escort H.M. The Queen in a Thames River pageant to celebrate V-J Day and to escort HMY Britannia on her last visit to the Pool of London.
Thanks to a successful Heritage Lottery Grant in 2008 the fireboat was completely restored in Gloucester Docks by Tommi Neilson’s professional team of boat builders. Although the Massey Shaw arrived in Gloucester on a lorry on 31 March 2011, it sailed back to London via Lands End and the Isle of Wight in November 2013 and is currently being prepared to cross the English Channel to Dunkirk and take part in the 75th Anniversary commemorations of Operation Dynamo.
John’s finished film was made using footage shot during 30 visits to Tommi Neilson’s yard over 22 months and is the longest presentation completed during his 32 years of film making.
It included scenes of welding, carpentry, engines being lifted into the engine room and the whole vessel being lifted on to a low loader for the journey to Sharpness for launching. This was necessary because it was feared that the quayside in Gloucester Docks might collapse under the weight of a crane large enough for the job. However, the Massey Shaw returned north along the Sharpness Canal under her own power for final fitting out at Tommi Neilson’s Gloucester dry dock.
Thank you to John and Ted for contributing to a most interesting evening and to John Meyer for working the projector.
The Annual General Meeting of the Gloucester Branch of the World Ship Society was held at 1930 on Monday 11 May 2015, at which Malcolm Bell stood down as Secretary after 12 years to be replaced by Alan Drewett. Other officers and committee members were re-elected en bloc. Malcolm also personally thanked the officers and members of the committee for their help and support during his time as secretary.
After the tea break John Mayer kindly projected for us a selection videos about BAe System’s current operations – and the work of its predecessor Vickers Armstrong – at Barrow in Furness.
These included an animated recreation of Holland 1 – the first submarine of the Royal Navy in 1901 – and its modern successors from the Paxman Valenta diesel electric Upholder and nuclear powered Astute, Swiftsure and Trident armed Vanguard classes. Also on screen were views of the computer aided design and Devonshire Dock Hall used in building the Barrow boats as well as a representative of the American Electric Boat Company.
Surface warships were represented by Her Majesty’s vessels Indomitable, Bulwark and Sheffield (the latter being launched just ahead of a similar destroyer for the navy of Argentina) while remarkable merchantmen included the passenger liner Oriana (1960) and British Petroleum’s British Admiral, the first British built Very Large Crude Carrier to exceed 100 000 tonnes deadweight which was named by H.M Queen Elizabeth II in 1965.