The Dunkirk veteran paddle steamer, Medway Queen, was towed out of the Albion dry dock on 24th of October and moored up in Bristol’s Floating Harbour.
A week later she was moved down to Avonmouth where she then waited with her tug for a 48 hour calm weather window to start her long journey home. Conditions were right at last on Friday 15th November and Alan Pratt’s tug, Christine, with PS Medway Queen in tow left Avonmouth in the afternoon for Gillingham Pier.
The first available safe harbour was Falmouth, which was the reason for a 48 hour calm weather requirement, but in the event the journey was completed non-stop; arriving off Sheerness on Monday 18th November.
Here they waited again for the tide and the completion of safety preparations on the quayside at Gillingham Pier. On Tuesday 19th the Christine completed the last stage of the journey to Gillingham. A flotilla of small boats joined in as she came up river including one of the Dunkirk “Little Ships”. The tug, Svitzer Harty also took part, saluting Medway Queen with water jets as she reached Gillingham Pier.
There, with the assistance of a smaller vessel, Nipashore, Medway Queen was eased into her berth at the Pier. She arrived right on schedule at 13.30. Hundreds of people lined those areas of the pier where they could safely watch and more crowded onto the nearby Strand and other vantage points to observe the proceedings despite the cold weather. The event was reported not only locally but also by both BBC and ITV television news.
Bob Stokes, Project Manager, said “The hull reconstruction phase is well and truly over and after a short time to celebrate and reflect on what is already a magnificent achievement, we have to very quickly turn our attention to the future, which in my opinion cannot happen without professional assistance and a major influx of funding.” The work carried out so far has only been possible with significant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.
This phase is now completed and the Medway Queen Preservation Society has to raise considerable amounts of money to complete the restoration. This is your chance to get involved in this fantastic maritime heritage project; any offers of help should be made to the society at their Gillingham Pier base or on 01634 575717 (daytime, Monday to Thursday).