The World Ship Society Gloucester Branch 2015/2016 season began at 1930 on Monday 14 September at the Pop In, Hucclecote Road, Gloucester, GL3 3RX opposite the Wagon and Horses. The first meeting featured a World Ship Society Film Library slide presentation by John Gunning entitled “Great Lakes Voyage”.
Projected by our Treasurer John Mayer and narrated by Roland Whaite – and thank you gentlemen! – The journey from Chicago to Toronto aboard the Nassau registered Sea Columbus crossed 20% of the World’s fresh water, which although less buoyant than brine is less corrosive on the barge and pusher tug combinations and stern-engined 250′ boom fitted belt-fed self unloading bulk carriers with foc’sle pilot houses ( pictured above) that typify Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario.
Bulk carriers – used to move coal, iron ore and grain – measuring over 1 200′ long are built on and then restricted to use on Lake Superior due to the dimensions of Poe Lock – one of four Soo Locks at Sault Ste Marie leading to the lower Lakes – all of which stretch over the horizon from one shore to another. However, smaller vessels owned by companies such as Hapag Lloyd and Polsteam can move all over the Great Lakes alongside “Salties” – vessels which arrive from the high seas via the St Lawrence Seaway. However, due to the less buoyant nature of fresh water, they are often unable to carry their full design loads.
As well as the cities of Duluth, Sault Ste Marie, Detroit, Windsor and Toronto, the presentation included Mackinac Island – famous for its fudge – and the Welland Ship Canal bypassing Niagara Falls.
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At 1930 on Monday 12 October 2015 in a change to the advertised topic and speaker, Alan Drewett gave his illustrated talk “Dreadnought to Dreadnought” to the World Ship Society Gloucester Branch at the Pop In, Hucclecote Road, Gloucester, GL3 3RX opposite the Wagon and Horses. Steve Clutterbuck’s “Life’s a ship and then you fly” will hopefully be presented at a later date.
For our November meeting, as Ted Tedaldi and his talk “Solent Shipping” became unavailable at short notice, Branch Secretary Alan Drewett stepped into the breach with a Powerpoint presentation entitled “Float, Fuel, Fight” taking the story of warship design from dugout canoe via Viking longboat and steam ironclad to aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine. This was followed by a bonus presentation by Branch member Keith Reed featuring historic cargos from Gloucester Docks – including automotive components bound for Ireland and granite setts – as well as current projects for shipwright Tommi Neilson. Thanks go to Branch Treasurer John Mayer for his help with the laptop and projector
Our December meeting took the now-traditional form of a raffle and buffet following the photographic print competition for The Les Tibbetts Memorial Shield. In 2015 this was won by Branch member Ted Tedaldi with a beautifully lit composition of a Southsea to Ryde hovercraft with a France bound ferry in the background. 2015 also marks 50 years of commercial hovercraft on the Solent. Thanks go to Branch member Keith Reed for organising the competition, Treasurer John Mayer for organising the raffle and to everyone who brought food and prizes.
Our meeting on Monday 11 January 2016 began with a brief discussion about the possibility of future meeting presentations broadening in content away from “ships and more ships” to embrace more travelogue based formats or even other transport engineering topics such as trains or aircraft – although ideally with some maritime reference points.
With Branch Treasurer John Mayer once again looking after the laptop and projector, we then enjoyed Branch member Tony Beaman’s illustrated memories of “1960s Tramps and Banana Boats”. This began with a shot of Oldham born Tony’s father’s wartime troop ship the Royal Mail Motor Vessel “Reina Del Pacifico” travelling under the Newport Transporter Bridge up the River Usk prior to being scrapped by J. Cashmore’s in 1958.
Launched on 23 September 1930 from the Belfast yard of Harland and Wolff as their job number 852 and completed on 24 March 1931 for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, the 2 844 bhp diesel powered RMMV Reina Del Pacifico was, at 17 702 GRT the largest and fastest motor liner of her time, sailing from Liverpool to the West Indies and South America. Two years after leaving office, former British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald died aboard the 551′ vessel in 1937 and during World War II RMMV Reina Del Pacifico took part in landings in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy before returning to civilian service in 1948.
Tony’s own Merchant Navy career included a short time with the Sharpness based training ship Vindicatrix in 1960 before finding his first job aboard the 11 760 ton dwt bulk carrier Athel Princess – completed earlier that year – which he joined at Liverpool as a Catering Rating. The Athel Princess would later be lengthened and renamed Sugar Exporter in 1965 but with Tony on board its first voyage was to Texas with a cargo of sulphur before transiting the Panama Canal and drifting part way across the Pacific when the engines failed. The crew amused themselves by fishing for sharks but with power restored the Athel Princess took on oats at Portland, Victoria being the first ship to enter the new Australian harbour.
Returning to Liverpool via Naples, Tony then used his wages to train as a Radio Officer, after which his first ship was the 400 ‘ long Fyffes banana and passenger ship Chicanoa sailing from Garston, Liverpool, to Cameroon – calling at Dakar, Senegal, to pick up mail. At the upriver port in Cameroon, bananas were delivered from the plantations by a diesel powered light railway and Tony recalled a brief stop off the coast of Sierra Leone for a crewman suffering from appendicitis to be sent ashore on the Chicanoa’s lifeboat.
As was to be the case when the SS Chicanoa sailed to Port Antonio, Jamaica, the vessel’s 22 knot speed on the return journey was crucial to getting the green bananas to the home consumers before they over ripened. To assist this, the SS Chicanoa had wooden decks to keep the fruit cool although the crew – dressed in boiler suits and wearing wellington boots for protection against stray tarantulas – had to regularly inspect the cargo and remove any ripening bananas before they could start a chain reaction.
Tony later told us about sailing aboard the Evan Thomas, Radcliffe and Company vessel Llanwern (launched 19 July 1962 from Bartram’s Yard in Sunderland) from Liverpool to Newcastle via the north of Scotland after which he joined the Red R Steamship Company’s 1963 vintage Radley (IMO 5422174 ) via Dunkirk to pick up a cargo of grain for Shanghai. During this voyage the Radley managed to temporarily block the Suez Canal before meeting the liner Oriana. Tony was eventually to use his electronic skills beyond the Merchant Navy and we thank him for a most interesting talk.
At 1930 on Monday 8 February 2016 Branch Chairman Ken Guest shared a Powerpoint presentation entitled “Shipping Miscellany” featuring visits to Madeira, Krakow, the 2012 Royal Diamond Jubilee Thames River Pageant and some evocative views of local air, rail and road transport. After landing on the stilted runway of Funchal airport, Ken was able to take in the sights of the leading Portuguese cruise liner port, including such vessels as the Aida Sol, Anthem of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Boudicea and Disney Magic. Further inland were very clean mosaic pavements, the cedar wood roofed Our Lady of Assumption cathedral and St John the Baptist fort. Madeira also boasts the second highest cliffs in the World, a cable car service to Funchal’s tropical forest reserve and passenger sledges on the inclined streets.
Krakow, in contrast, although itself relatively well preserved, witnessed Poland’s turbulent past with a trumpeter at St Mary’s Basilica recalling the Mongol invasion of 1241. Also noted were Krakow’s city walls, Cloth Hall and UNESCO-rated Jewish Quarter. Nearby Auschwitz Birkenau was also visited as well as the 1073′ deep Wielicza table salt mine, operational from the 13th Century up to 2007.
The 2012 Diamond Jubilee River Thames Pageant yielded views of HMS Belfast, the Thames barge Edith May, one of the barges from the Royal Yacht Britannia, Royal Princes aboard The Spirit of Chartwell and the ex Gloucester tug Kennet.
Thanks go to Branch Treasurer John Mayer for his help with the laptop and projector and to Ken for a most informative compilation.
For our meeting on Monday 14 March 2016 we were indebited to Torbay Branch Secretary, Marine News contributor and Pilot Boat Second Hand Dr David Walker for a fascinating Powerpoint presentation entitled “South Devon Views” tracing the development of Teignmouth Harbour and its kaleidoscope of coastal shipping. Many of these vessels left the shelter of Lyme Bay loaded with ball clay for ceramic making all over Europe while other cargoes included sawn timber, cider and shipping containers for conversion into portable cabins. Also featured was the first visit by a cruise ship, the Hebridean Princess, which has a Royal Navy destroyer escort when members of the Royal Family are aboard. David’s presentation featured his own images as well as those captured by his father and grandfather and well known maritime photographer Chris Cheetham. Thanks go to Branch Treasurer John Mayer for his help with the laptop and projector.
For our Monday 11 April meeting branch member Keith Reed presented “Balmoral 30 years on” along with some Powerpoint images of the Lundy Island supply ship MV Oldenburg, old Gloucester and its Docks and some memorable aircraft that have visited Gloucestershire Airport at Staverton. April 1986 saw a number of WSS members travel on the former Isle of Wight car ferry Balmoral on its only journey from Gloucester back along the canal to the sea at Sharpness where it collided with Lower Purton bridge due to adverse wind. While the Balmoral was the largest passenger vessel ever to visit Gloucester, the slimmer German built MV Oldenburg made a number of canal cruises between 1992 and 2009.
The Balmoral was built in 1949 as John Thorneycraft yard number 4120 with a displacement of 688 tons, length 203′, beam 32′ and 12′ draught. While its beam just about fitted the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal bridges in still air it had to stay in the middle of the canal which, due to the accumulation of silt despite dredging, has a V rather than U shaped section. As a Red Funnel ferry it took 55 minutes to sail between Cowes and Southampton with 10 cars, as opposed to its modern replacement which carries 200 cars but travels no faster, enabling the passengers to buy large amounts of food and drink in the onboard restaurants. In 1968 Balmoral joined PA Campbell’s White Funnel Line before reconfiguring as a heritage cruise vessel in the 1980s. Its visit to Gloucester coincided with one of only two seasons in which Balmoral was painted in a white and green livery.
The Branch AGM was held on 9 May 2016 with all Committee members re elected en bloc. This was followed by Branch Secretary Alan Drewett’s Powerpoint presentation “Enjoying a Tug over Nicola” about building a 1/144 scale model of the Antwerp based tug Fairplay I from the Revell kit and integrating it into a new N gauge model railway layout “Runport St Nicola”. Alan’s flow of consciousness included a brief history of tugs and the Hamburg based Fairplay company and ended with a fictional Manchester Ship Canal aqueduct by way of Antigua and Barbuda, the Humber Conservancy, International Maritime Organisation numbering, Joseph Conrad, the Apollo lunar module, Mirrlees Blackstone diesel engines and Girls Aloud.