(Words by Gavin Stewart, Photos from Author's Collection)
In the last week or so news has emerged that Paddle Steamer Medway Queen is to have a new hull built by David Abels (Boatbuilders) of Bristol.
Partnership funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Medway Queen Preservation Society has provided the finance required to carry out this 1st and major step in the restoration of this famous little paddler.
The new hull will be of all rivetted construction - the first time a hull such as this has been built in England for fifty years. More details are available if you follow the link at the end of this article.
A bit of history behind the vessel:
ps Medway Queen was built in 1924 by Ailsa Shipbuilding Ltd at Troon on the Firth of Clyde for service on the River Medway. During peace time she gave pleasure cruise in the river and surrounding waters. When WWII broke out the vessel evacuated children from Kent to East Anglia before joining the Admiralty as a minesweeper - paddlesteamers are ideal for this roled due to their shallow draft (depth below the waterline).
She was also part of the huge fleet of little ships who assisted at the Dunkirk Evacuations in 1940 - Medway Queen evacuating 7000 men over seven return trips - shooting down enemy aircraft in the process!!! In recognition of this huge achievement she honoured with four gallantry awards.
After the war she was reconditioned and returned to service. In 1953 she attended the Coronation Fleet Review (see picture above). How many flags can you possibly get on one little ship!!
Medway Queen continued to give sterling service to her owners until she was withdrawn in 1963. The photo below is believed to show the ship on her last cruise to Southend-on-Sea.
Various static roles followed with varying success until being taken over by the Medway Queen Preservation Society who have saved her from certain demolition and through hard work and determination have gained the support (financial and otherwise) to get the project to this current stage.
So hats off to the Medway Queen Preservation Society and on behalf of the Scottish Branch of the PSPS - CONGRATULATIONS!!!
For detailed information on ps Medway Queen - including how to join them - please go to their website here.