Branch Meeting Reports for 2012


 December 2012 

At our December meeting we held our AGM. The chairman thanked the officers and committee for their help and suport during the year and also the faithful membership for attending meetings throughout the year. The treasurer reported that our finances were found to be sufficiently sound that no increase in the monthly meeting contribution was thought to be necessary.

The Officers and committee were unanimously re-elected for a further year.


Current Committee:

Chairman: Robin Butcher

Secretary: David Brown

Treasurer: John Hampson

Vice Chairmen Jerzy Swieszkowski and Ian Wells

Honorary Auditors: Ray Smith and Michael Vincent

Committee: Andrew Smith, John Raven, John Harrison, and Ray Smith


The remaining part of the evening was taken up with a presentation by Ray Smith of pictures taken during a visit to Messina in Sicily with the Thames Ship Society. The main movements of the port were ferries plying their three mile journey between the island and mainland Italy. Also shown were many tugs and a fleet of the Guarda Costiera. It is also a cruise ship destination with visits by DISCOVERY, THOMPSON DESTINY & NAVIGATOR of the SEAS seen during the visit. There is a small ship yard specialising in high speed ferries and a dry dock and repair facility. With good visibility and a long lens good photographs of ships passing through the strait can be taken. Ray showed us a good selection of bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships. Our thanks to Ray for his excellent photography and well researched commentary.



November 2012

At our November meeting our branch member John Harrrison gave us a very entertaining evening with his presentation “Ship Canal Memories”. Up to the age of 18 John lived in Warrington alongside the Manchester Ship Canal at a time when Manchester was still a major port. At that time there were 10 – 12 vessel movements a day. John explained that he developed a sixth sense for an approaching ship in the canal not by looking out of the window or hearing a ships siren, but by sensing the approaching ships vibration! John’s talk was illustrated mostly by digitised postcards and old photographs projected through our digital projector.

These included a large array of ships with evocative and long gone company names such as United States Lines, Lykes Line, Buries & Marks, Bowater, Guinness, Harrison Lines, Monks, Royal Mail, Stag Line, Watts & Watts, Clan Line, Esso, Everard, Fisher, Furness Withy, Guinea Gulf, and of course Manchester lines. The two 1952 built ships, Manchester Pioneer and Explorer caused some comment when these small 1805 gross ton ships were destined for the trans-Atlantic Great Lakes trade.

Also shown were pictures of the canal, its locks and bridges along with a good selection of tugs dredgers and in particular the raising of the Mary P Cooper was featured. The tug MSC Victory of 1974 gave us our local connection being built at Cook’s yard at Wivenhoe on the River Colne.

Our thanks go to John for his show, which although taking a lot of time and patience, showed us that you don’t have to be a photographer to produce an excellent presentation.


October 2012

At our meeting on 1st October we welcomed Steve Spouse from Plumstead who showed us pictures and related histories of tugs and details of tug owners on the Thames and Medway. This was not exclusive and other ship types were also shown including ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA, a night shot of BLACK WATCH and a recent shot of HMS OCEAN on anti-terrorism duties at Greenwich. Also displayed were some builders photographs discovered in a disposal skip and some from a late acquaintance. These were mainly tugs from the Thames & General Lighterage Co Ltd and taken in the late 1930s and included pictures of GENERAL VII and GENERAL VIII. Steve also included an early photo of “KNOCKER WHITE” taken in the Medway but now in the West India Dock as an exhibit in the London Docklands Museum. Also featured were some familiar PLA tugs working in the London dock systems. We also visited Southampton to see COMPAS undergoing a refit at Husband's yard and CHALE and GURNARD of the Red Funnel fleet. We thank Steve for coming and showing us these remarkable and unique pictures of towage in the Thames in times gone by.


September 2012

It was once again a pleasure to have Peter and Christine Ives at our meeting on 3rd September. They showed us video of their cruise aboard MSC LIRICA in December 2011 with visits to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Khasab, Al Fujairah and Muscat.

Most interesting was the small port of Khasab in Oman which is only 20 or so miles from Iran. A “trading” link with Iran involving the use of hundreds of very high speed craft has developed between the two countries with Iranian sheep and goats being shipped to Khasab. On the return trip the sailors load their boats up with electronic goods and American cigarettes. They must arrive in Khasab after sunrise and leave before sunset to conform to Omani immigration laws. Since the trading is illegal under Iranian law, they must avoid the Islamic Republic's coastguard as well as all the other shipping in the busy waters of the Strait of Hormuz!

Surprisingly few large tankers were seen during the voyage but visibility was hampered by heat haze for much of the time. The busiest port seemed to be Muscat displaying a wide range of ships. A container terminal, bulk cargoes handling cement, bitumen, vegetable oil and grain, car carriers, a wide variety of tugs and the occasional American warship. One surprising shipment seen was a cargo of timber from Chile.

Other cruise ships seen on the trip were AIDABLUE, COSTA FANTASIA and at Dubai the laid up QE2, still waiting it’s conversion to a hotel. Also seen was the luxury yacht AL SAID owned by the Sultan Qaboos of Oman. Built in Germany she is the world’s third largest super-yacht and rumoured to have cost some €300M.

Our “journey” ended with a commercial trip up the creeks in Dubai which showed a variety of coasters and dhows, some displaying some very ornate superstructures.

Our thanks to Peter and Christine for travelling the world once again on our behalf to show us some outstanding videos and photography.


August 2012

At our meeting on 6th August we welcomed Ken Larwood from North Kent who showed us slides of Cruise ships, some dating from the late 1970s. Very few of these early cruise ships were specifically built for cruising, mostly being dual purpose liners that were becoming used more and more for cruising as the liner trades dropped away in favour of air travel. Ken has a vast collection of Cruise Ship slides of which we only viewed a small part. The title could have been amended to Cruise ships converted from liners ferries and commercial cargo ships but that title would be just too long. However, examples of these ships cropped up regularly through the evening starting with P&Os Canberra, Queen Elizabeth 2, and Oriana. Others were dual purpose ferries such as those in the Fred Olsen fleet such as BALMORAL, BOLERO and BRAEMAR. The growing cruise trade inspired some ingenuity such as the conversion of the 1968 built container ship Axel Johnson to a cruise ship, still sailing as COSTA MARINA. Other liner conversions depicted were the Port Line sisters PORT SYDNEY (as SWITZERLAND) and PORT MELBOURNE (as DANAE).  The US Maritime Commission’s 1952 built FREE STATE MARINER was shown as the MONTERAY. SANTA ROSA built for Grace Lines in 1957 was shown as Louis Cruise’s EMERALD. Canadian Pacific’s 1955 built EMPRESS of BRITAIN was to be converted and sail on as CARNIVALE amongst other names, and survived until 2008.

Other ships of note to pass Ken’s lens was the the motor assisted schooner WIND SPIRIT, THE WORLD, WAVERLEY and RADISSON DIAMOND, the only SWATH cruise ship.

Ken is a retired marine electrical engineer and invariably carried his camera with him which gave him opportunities to take many of the pictures featured in the presentation. Those were particularly of cruise ships in Dover which initially called at the Eastern arm and later at the International Cruise Terminal. The Thames, easy reach from his home, gave many shots of cruise ships at Tilbury landing stage which included VAN GOUGH, R6, R7, EUGENEO C, and of those visiting further up river. Also featured were cruise ships that “appeared” whilst on his holidays in the Greek Islands, Dubrovnik, Genoa and Palma. Pictures of Seabourn Legend was seen at Tilbury landing stage and a more exotic Sorrento!

Our thanks to Ken for once more crossing the Thames and giving us an interesting evening of nostalgia and great slides accompanied with a comprehensive commentary.


July 2012

At our July meeting we welcomed John Random from Kent who had meticulously researched the history of SEEADLER, the last sailing ship to go to war, . She was originally the British built PASS of BALMAHA and served under the American flag. Launched in 1878 she was a steel hulled sailing ship of 1571 gross tons and was owned by the Harris-Irby Cotton Company of Boston, USA. She fell into German hands on a voyage to Russia and was ordered to Cuxhaven and taken over by the German navy.

During her conversion to a commerce raider she was given an auxiliary motor, two concealed 105 mm cannons and two heavy machine guns along with accommodation for the crews of captured ships. The Germans believed that a sailing ship would be a good disguise as a raider. After a lengthy conversion she set sail in December 1916 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Felix von Luckner.

At this time there was not an organised convoy system with ships sailing independently offering Luckner easy pickings. His first capture in January 1917 was Gladys Royle carrying a cargo of coal to Buenos Aires. On her journey south in the Atlantic and then into the Pacific she captured a further 14 ships totaling over 30,000 grt. The only steam ship captured was the HORNGARTH and with her crew, SEEADLER had 270 prisoners on board. The next ship to be captured in the South Atlantic was CAMBRONNE. All the prisoners were moved to this vessel and allowed to proceed to Rio de Janeiro, but not before being partially dismasted to slow her progress and allow SEEADLER to proceed to the Pacific.

In the Pacific she captured three American schooners before grounding on the island of Mopelia where she was burned to avoid discovery. The crew including von Luckner, escaped but were captured and interned.

The crews of the captured ships said that they were all treated very well whilst imprisoned by von Luckner and only one sailor died during the commandeering of the 15 ships.

We thank John for coming to Ingatestone and giving us a highly interesting evening which had obviously taken a vast amount of time to research the subject.




June 2012 

Being a Bank Holiday, our June meeting was a members evening. This featured the film “The RNLI a Review of the year 2010”. This featured RNLI rescues, fundraisers, celebrity supporters and improvements in technology during 2010. This was followed by a film on the construction of P&O’s Canberra at Harland & Wolff, Belfast between 1957 and 1961. Our Chairman Robin Butcher was “on the water” in a Thames barge moored alongside President at the previous days Jubilee Thames River Pageant.  He showed us the photographs he had taken of this wonderful spectacle which was so enthusiastically received, but oh dear, the weather could have been kinder!


May 2012

The Manchester Branch production “Five Steps to Manchester” was shown at our May meeting for at least the second time since it was compiled in 1976. The slide quality had surprisingly not seemed to have deteriorated over the years. The show took us on the journey from the Mersey estuary through the five locks to the docks at Salford and Manchester describing each lock and bridge. The area was highly industrialised in the 70’s and supported many ship types with many a nostalgic sight of coasters, Manchester line ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers, James Fisher’s heavy lift ships and good old cargo liners!


April 2012

On April 2nd we welcomed Society Secretary Jimmy Poole who showed us his extensive collection of images that were taken on his trip on LEGEND of the SEAS in 2010. His cruise started at Tianjin international cruise port having flown into Beijing from the UK. The cruise was to have taken in Korea but due to the imminent threat of a typhoon it was cancelled in favour of a three day stay in Shanghai. His show covered the whole realm of shipping seen during the three hours from the estuary to the centre of Shanghai. One can only contemplate the cost of film and processing that such a concerted effort of photography would have taken just 15 years ago! Even then Jimmy had to resort to a second camera as the battery of his main camera faded. How times have changed, and how digital photography has improved over the past few years.

The show started with pictures of sand suction dredgers out in the estuary and progressed on to the whole realm of shipping to be seen in the area. These ranged from feeder container ships to the giants of Hanjin, China Shipping and COSCO visiting the many container berths along the river. The banks were also lined with ship repair berths, dry docks, fitting out basins and building yards. For the naval enthusiasts there were gun boats, frigates, minesweepers, and destroyers and naval bunker tankers. It was thought that most were Chinese but some were new builds for other navies. Also in the river were many bulk carriers and tankers feeding this highly industrialised area. Each large ship, movement seemed to be accompanied by one or more escorting tugs. Jimmy commented that there were too many ships to photograph in one sitting with the area teeming with small ferries, barges and tugs.

Also In the port at the time was the Costa cruise liners COSTA CLASSICA and COSTA ATLANTICA. One surprise was a picture HUAYING 398, a RNLI Arun class life boat! She had been the MARGARET FRANCES LOVE which had served at Valencia and Barry Dock between 1983 and 2003.  Jimmy also captured the city skyline, so like many a modern city these days with high rise offices and tower blocks. Our thanks to Jimmy for visitin us with a series of excellent images complete with his entertaining and witty commentary. We look forward to another evening sometime in the future.


March 2012

Our February meeting was postponed due to bad weather and our scheduled digital photo competition was staged at our March meeting. David Berg, David Brown, John Raven and Ray Smith submitted their best six images from 2011 for judging by the members. It was noted that image quality seems to improves each year. The selection included images from Terneuzen, to as far away as Mexico. During the break scores were totalled, followed by the entrants giving information on their pictures. Our 2012 trophy winner was Ray Smith making it a hat trick of wins, but there was only one point between Ray and runner-up David Berg. Ray also took best picture with a fine image of MULTRATUG 16 taken at Terneuzen.


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February 2012

Meeting cancelled due to bad weather. 

Photo Competition carried forward to March


January 2012

Our January meeting being held on a bank holiday was a "Members Night" and devoted to members's dvds and videos.

 We learned from our chairman, Robin Butcher, that during 2011 the branch had raised over £1000 for the RNLI (our branch charity). This was raised mainly from the sale of donated books and slides along with the contents of the branch "lifeboat gift box" and various donations and the proceeds from the sale of Lifeboat Tea and Christmas Cards

 The first film in our programme was of a visit to Singapore made by WSS members in 1987, most notably our own member Roy Kittle, a mere youngster then, featured. This showed their adventures out into the anchorages around Singapore to view the ships. It also demonstrated how times have changed when one anchored ship, who's identity was in doubt, was boarded by one of the WSS party via the pilots ladder to ascertain its history! After the break a video of the Olympic/Titanic/Britannic sisters was show to mark the Titanic's 100th anniversary year. This proved a very interesting "documentary" quite unlike some of the bland film content that we will undoubtedly be subjected to during this year!