Branch Meeting Reports for 2010


December 2010

Cancelled due to snow and ice


November 2010

At our November meeting we were pleased to welcome Mike Jackson once more. He had bought along a compilation of John Norton’s Ciné film, which had been converted to DVD for display via our digital projector. The first DVD contained cine of John’s visits to South Coast ports in the 1960s, with some particularly memorable scenes of Southampton. The Eastern docks with several liners alongside scenes of the departure of what would have been an almost new CANBERRA leaving port. P&O featured prominently with CHUSAN, CHITRAL and a WSS visit to ORIANA. Other ships included QUEEN ELIZABETH, MAURITANIA in her green cruising livery along with FRANCONIA (ex IVERNIA, later the Russian cruise ship FEDOR SHALYAPIN), MAASDAM, ENGLAND (Currie Line), Siosa Lines CARIBA and Royal Mail’s ANDES. It was amazing to see such a variety of tugs servicing these vessels in port.

Focus then moved to other south coast ports with a visit to Devonport and the floating bridges and some coverage of a Navy Day at Plymouth, featuring TIGER, OLNA, EASTBOURNE, and RETAINER. The second half of the evening featured ports on the Bristol channel starting with Bridgewater where this little port was seeing the end of it’s days. BERTHA the scraper dredger believed to have been designed by Isombard Kingdom Brunell was still afloat in the dock. (initially transferred to Exeter Maritime museum, and now at Bristol). Cardiff docks were featured where PORT VINDEX (built in 1943 and taken over as HMS VINDEX and converted to an escort carrier). She had an auspicious wartime career before returning to Port line in 1949, being renamed Port Vindex), Federal Steam ship Co’s SURREY (transferred in 1969 to British India and renamed JUWARA) and the laid up P&A Cambell paddle steamer BRISTOL QUEEN in 1967. In Barry was the 1964 built GEESTBAY and in Swansea we watched the departure of Blue Funnel's MEMNON.

To round off the evening Mike showed us some slides he had taken in Aliaga on a recent TSS trip to Turkey.These showed vessels in various stages of breaking on the beaches .This would seem to be more organised compared to those we have seen in the Far East.

Our thanks to Mike for making the round trip from his home in Dover and showing us some remarkable archive films taken by John Norton.


October 2010

We were very pleased to welcome Derek Sands from our neighbouring branch Haven Ports to our October 2010 meeting. We have seen many of Derek’s slide shows on previous occasions and on checking his records he found he had already shown us the advertised “Port of Ipswich” some years ago.

Instead he showed us a great selection of cargo ships loosely entitled “Masts & Derricks” taken from 1974 onwards.

Whilst showing ships in Birkenhead he told us that they were taken on his first camera with a fixed 50mm lens which had cost him £5! The nostalgia was high with the view of centre island tankers, an SD14 carrying a deck cargo of 20 foot containers which set the scene for the evening. Vittoria dock at Birkenhead that included CLAN MATHESON and ADMINISTRATOR hardly had space for a further ship alongside. We continued in the northwest at Runcorn, where Derek said you could just drive into the docks, take some photographs, and drive out again! Also MANCHESTER QUEST was shown in the Manchester dock system.

Returning to our area we were shown the Felixstowe dock in full operation complete with a once ubiquitous Everard coaster and many of the Harwich ferries of the time; PRINS OBERON, ST EDMUND and SOMERSET. Felixstowe old dock is now filled in and is to be used for a further container handling area. Then it was over to the continent and photos at the Hook. On seeing railway ferry ESSEX FERRY, Derek explained that when demand dictated she was used to take caravans to the Hook. Bank Line’s MEADOWBANK and the vegetable oil tanker MATADI PALM were memories of former times. A shot of ORBITA reminded us of our branch chairman in the 1980s, Edwin Gregson, who was once her captain. Further ships on the continent were photographed at Rotterdam Hamburg and Amsterdam. Another interesting photo was the only SD15 to be built, Trinder Anderson’s MV ARMADALE. Moving back nearer home featured ships in the Orwell and a shot of the CEGB’s CLIFF QUAY which served it’s namesake the now demolished power station. Mistley quay on the river Stour was also a busy little port at that time. Sadly time overtook our trip down “memory lane”, but we would love to see Derek back soon with another show, the consensus being to see the “Port of Ipswich” show even though some of may have seen it before.

We thank Derek for visiting us and showing us a grand selection of slides.


September 2010

At our September meeting Peter & Christine Ives paid us their annual visit to show us DVDs of ships they had seen on their travels during the year.

Over Christmas 2009 they visited Gibraltar. Sadly the weather was not kind to them, but it did eventually improve on the last couple of days, sufficiently to show us some remarkable views of ships in the anchorage. This involved a lot of walking as the cable car was still suspended due to the high wind. Saga Rose spent the whole period in and out of Gibratar, but Peter was unsure of the reason. Peter also bought along DVDs he had taken on the Bosphorous in 2007. At that time the Bosphorous tunnel was being built and shipping was being diverted to the European side giving a much better view of the ships! Our thanks to Peter & Christine for visiting us once again with an enthralling selection of DVDs.


August 2010

The eagerly awaited visit by Alan Chapman did not disappoint the less than usual number of us present on a warm August evening. ‘Lighterage on the Thames’ was the title of his slide show but as Alan said ‘A Load of Rubbish’ was much more descriptive.

A fascinating talk ensued about the way in which London’s rubbish is carried along the Thames in specially constructed barges carrying large containers capable of carrying 11 tons of domestic rubbish each. 70 boxes to each barge and generally towed in threes. Four London Boroughs as well as the Corporation of the City of London make use of the efficient services provided by Cory Environmental and have their rubbish transported by river to appropriately named Mucking.

The talk was accompanied by superb slides of the whole operation together with full technical and historic details of the Tugs involved. A truly fascinating evening enjoyed by all and for which we thank Alan most warmly.


July 2010

At our meeting on 5th July we welcomed Steve Spouse from just over the water in Plumstead. He gave us his presentation “A Thames & Medway Miscellany” and for tug lovers it’s an absolute must. We started with archive Thames and Medway waterfront views, mainly converted from photographs featured in early last century books and magazines. These were of notable occasions such as the building of Tower Bridge and the maiden entrance of prominent liners of the day into new locks and docks. There were also many very atmospheric pictures of dock scenes of ships, lighters and tugs with smoking stacks. Then followed slides from Steve’s own collection showing Thames and Medway tugs and shipping. Steve, obviously having a good head for heights found high-rise flats near to the river an ideal vantage point for photography. At Sheernes he even cimbed a crane for a better shot of the ship in the dry dock! Due to increased security docks, flats and offices, once a haven for the “aerial” picture are now denied. Many remarkable pictures were featured from these high vantage points. Steve has a job involving shift work and is often out early in the morning and late in the evening when he can make a detour to the river on his way or return from work resulting in some unusual lighting and night shots. He was often in the right place at the right time taking pictures of a trot of tugs which although owned by the same company, each were painted in different company colours following a take over. We then moved to “Foreign parts” which included tugs and shipping in such "faraway" places as Felixstowe, Southampton and Newhaven and even to our local Blackwater which featured the laid up “ZAC” in 1982. She was built in 1962 as Hain’s TREBARTHA then renamed STRATHTAY. We thank Steve for coming and presenting such a unique and interesting show.


June 2010

On June 7th were pleased to welcome Ken Larwood from Whitstable who showed us “Barges to Boxboats” a presentation from his large collection of slide shows. These were mainly taken during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Ken, now retired, worked as a Marine Electrical Engineer. He was mainly shore based but had experiences of underway repairs, one of which he told was on a tanker at Angle Bay, Milford Haven where he arrived after a long train journey on a Sunday night. After a brief check on the job to be done he turned in. On waking the next morning he found that the ship had sailed with him on board! His wife was unaware of his departure and he asked for a message to be sent. The soonest the radio officer could book a telephone call via Land’s End was to be Tuesday evening. How communications have changed over the last 40 years!! This “trip” lasted six weeks.

Ken’s interest in ships came via his interest in steam railways, and he showed us the first ship he took, back in the 60’s of Virginian (1948) laid up in the river Dart. Many photos were from the Kent area. From his hometown of Whitstable were an array of coasters mainly engaged in road stone and sand imports, but two had a notable Mid-Essex interest; Johno, which was used to convey the Thames barge Dawn to Maldon for restoration, and Insistance which was built at Wivenhoe on the Colne. Further west we saw ships leaving Sheerness port and Thamesport. At Greenwich were cruise ships and liners photographed at Tilbury landing stage. These included Mikhail Lermentov, Estonia and Stefan Batory. Further towards London was the cable ship Jules Verne at Erith.

Kent’s south coast yielded the preserved tug Cervia, at Ramsgate then in quite good shape but now apparently in rather poor condition. At Dover we saw reefers at the cold storage quay and inevitably some fine ferries. Also at Dover, which was then, just beginning to promote it’s cruise ship trade we saw The World, Astor and Argonaught. Other ports in the UK from where Ken had taken ship photos was Newhaven, Southampton, Portsmouth, Ipswich, Barry, Great Yarmouth, Liverpool and Falmouth. Further a field were ships in Sorrento, the Greek islands, where we saw some old Dover “friends”, Mahon and the Canary Islands.

Ken’s presentation probably covered the most diverse selection of ships that we have seen for a long time. Our thanks to Ken for a most interesting show and we look forward to another next year.


May 2010

At our May 3rd meeting we were saddened to hear of the death of branch member Roy Leach aged 86.

Roy was an active and faithful member of the branch for many years. He gave us many a slide show of his trips and would generously share his copies of Lloyds list with members. Roy also compiled the “New Ships” list at the back of Marine News His expertise in this field will be hard to replace. We at the Mid Essex Branch will miss his friendliness, his sharp wit and his extensive knowledge and send our deep sympathies to his wife Joyce and all the family.


Our meeting featured a PowerPoint presentation compiled by branch member David Berg of ships seen on the river Scheldt and the Ghent Canal during 2009. David’s pictures were taken mainly in and around Terneuzen.

David’s usual route is Dover to Dunkirk on Norfolk Line then a visit to Ostende and Zeebrugge, en route to Terneuzen.

The Scheldt serves the port of Antwerp, second largest in Europe and fourth largest in the world and able to handle ships up to100,000 grt.

The ocean going ships displayed were a variety of types from car carriers to tankers and box boats to bulk carriers. The container ships reflected the world trade with many not carrying a full load. We also were shown a host of tugs from the area including one or two with a long history. David also likes to keep an eye on funnel colours to which we were treated to some of the most interesting. A trip down the Ghent Canal found RFA RAMBLELEAF just prior to breaking. Unfortunately time over took us but the remainder are scheduled for our December meeting. Our thanks to David for compiling the show and painstakingly researching the data and vessel histories.


April 2010

It being a Bank Holiday, a members "bring and show" Video / DVD evening had been organised.

We showed a very interesting video on UK tugs fleets. This gave a history of river and harbour towing over the past 50 or so years, and detailed how much had changed not only in tug design, accomodation and crew size, but in the type of ships being handled. There were many views of harbours round the UK coast and the work that is undertaken. There were also interviews with tug crews past and present. It was good to hear first hand why tugmen are such loyal seamen. We also saw some clips taken from the internet of ships in heavy weather and in difficulties. All this was possible due to our purchase of a digital projector a couple of years ago. It has proved a great asset. Thanks to those who bought videos and DVDs and turned out on a Bank Holiday evening. Its an evening we are sure to repeat.


March 2010

At our March meeting we ran the digital slide presentation "Vancouver Harbour During 1990s". This is a slide show compiled by Cecil Woods of Vancouver Branch in 2003 and recently transferred to digital. This gave us a good cross section of ships in and around Vancouver with many taken from the great vantage point, on and around the Lions Gate Bridge. Ships ranged from cruise ships to tankers and box boats to tugs, plus the occasional car carrier. The picture quality had somewhat suffered through its conversion to digital and perhaps a few horizons could have been corrected at the time, but nonetheless it gave us a very interesting evening. Our thanks to Cecil for his photography and detailed script.


February 2010

At our February meeting, after a few minor technical difficulties, we staged our second digital photographic competition. Attendance and entrants were lower than normal, not helped by the poor weather. David Berg, Ray Smith and David Brown each entered their six images taken during 2009.

The results are as tabled below. The over-all winner was Ray Smith, who, with his picture of the tug Warrior at Gibraltar, also won “best photograph”. It was interesting to note that the second highest score was also a tug, the Zelzate, taken at Terneuzen by David Berg.


Photograph Points Ship Name           
Image 1-1 29 RFA Brambleleaf
Image 1-2 26 Celebrity Equinox
Image 1-3 27 HMS Illustrious
Image 1-4 34 Hayden Miller
Image 1-5 27 Queen Victoria
Image 1-6 29 Aurora


Total Set 1     172     David Brown


Photograph Points Ship Name           
Image 2-1 37 Aegean XI
Image 2-2 32 Barnes Bridge
Image 2-3 35 Cap Delgado
Image 2-4 37 CCNI Caribe
Image 2-5 32 Radnor
Image 2-6 40 Warrior


Total Set 2      213      Ray Smith

Photograph Points Ship Name           
Image 3-1 32 Aasvic
Image 3-2 31 Deutchland
Image 3-3 32 Ivy Galaxy
Image 3-4 32 MSC Cameroun
Image 3-5 35 KaPacific Venus
Image 3-6 39 Zelzate


Total Set 3       201       David Berg


A computer program helped adding the scores allowing time after the break for a presentation of photographs taken during branch member Ray Smith’s visit to Gdansk, Gdyinia and Szczecin with the Thames Ship Society in April of 2009.

In Gdansk they stayed close to the maritime museum and the preserved cargo ship SOLDEK featured in several shots along with photos of the town to give us a flavour of the locality. They took both public and a private sightseeing boat trips down the river viewing the shipping in the river and at the numerous shipbuilding and repair yards.

Their visit to Gdynia included a visit to the naval base where two ex American Perry class frigates were observed. Also seen was the museum ship ORP BLYSKAWICA, built in 1937 for the Polish Navy by J. Samuel White in Cowes. In the commercial port was the ro-ro INWROCLAW, a once regular visitor to Felixstowe. Their visit to Szczecin also included a private port cruise where it was interesting to see the former Trinity House pilot vessel BEMBRIDGE which had been the club house of the Leigh-on-Sea yacht club for many years and had been towed to Szezecin for restoration.

Thanks to Ray for an interesting and informative presentation.


January 2010

Our January meeting was held under the threat of snow but we were encouraged that a good number attended. The meeting featured two films. The first was of Union Castle Line, with an emphasis on the WINDSOR CASTLE. The second was about the life and times of Southampton’s preserved steamship SHIELDHALL. Our thanks go to David Brown for the equipment and the films.