Julia Jones, Yachting Monthly's literary reviewer discusses Life on Board Medway Queen, a treat for social history enthusiasts
This slim 28-page booklet is the latest from the worthwhile Medway Queen Preservation Society.
It’s a treat for social history enthusiasts as it offers first-hand accounts from two men who joined Paddle Steamer Medway Queen in the immediate post-war period when she was back to work as an excursion steamer.
Richard Lingham recalls family outings in 1953 departing from Strood Pier, Rochester, at 0800 then calling at the main passenger collection point Sun Pier, Chatham before passing the Royal Dockyards and the rows of laid-up warships.
They avoided Sheerness Pier, which had been damaged in the storms of that year, and headed across the estuary for Southend.
Medway Queen then crossed and recrossed between Southend Pier and Herne Bay before returning to Sun Pier and Strood Pier in the evening.
Occasionally however the weather grew so bad that the passengers had to be given 3rd class tickets and returned by train.
Aged 15 Lingham got a summer job as a boy steward on Medway Queen, being promoted the following summer to junior steward in charge of the ice-cream kiosk.
He observed drunks, cheap-jacks, seaside landladies and ‘ladies of the town’ from a world gone by – as well as the dignity of Captain Horsham, the ship’s Master and the professionalism of the engineers and boilermen who kept the steam engines running.
Brian Goodhew first boarded Medway Queen, aged nine in 1947 for a day out at Sheerness: ‘a beach is a beach’ said his mother.
In 1953 he had his first job as a galley boy for the Spithead Review.
He describes his pride of being part of such a famous Dunkirk veteran – as well as noticing the frustration of the passengers who were being charged 12gns for a sandwich lunch with an apple and biscuits.
His schoolboy experience was the prelude to six years going ‘deep sea’ from age 16.
The booklet is well-illustrated with evocative period photographs taken by the late David Ingham.
HMS Medway Queen: Memories of Dunkirk
Last year the Medway Queen Preservation Society offered some compensation for the cancelled 80th anniversary commemoration by publishing HMS Medway Queen: Memories of Dunkirk by Richard Halton (Medway Queen Preservation Society £8).
The paddle-steamer was withdrawn from her regular mine-sweeping duties to assist with the evacuation.
She made seven trips between May 27th – June 4th, a feat of endurance equalled only by some pf the fast destroyers.
Yachtsmen will be proud to read the Commanding Officer’s tribute to Lt Leonard Jolly RNVR, a yachtsman volunteer who acted as navigator and ship-handler until he dropped from exhaustion on the seventh crossing.
It’s also moving to read testimonies collected from some of the soldiers evacuated.
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