May 2019

Business Meeting 4th April 2019

Reg Baker (membership secretary) reported 26 members in attendance. He further reminded us that it is clearly necessary to increase our numbers if we are to continue to thrive and enjoy the fellowship and activities we tend to take for granted. The Charity collection amounted to £51.80 and the Amenity Fund Raffle £29.00.

Once again an appeal was put out to relieve Andrew Kellard of his duties as Luncheon secretary. We were further reminded that an auditor was needed. 

Under the heading of “any other business” our new chairman (Roger Gourd) allowed a proposal from the floor that members be allowed to adopt a comfortable dress code suited to those who by reason of illness or infirmity could not manage our current style. This exemption includes to the club tie which in point of fact is the only requirement stated in our code. 

The matter was put to the vote and passed with a very substantial majority. It is to be hoped that this will encourage members with relevant problems to continue to attend rather than feel they should no longer do so. 

On the subject of membership generally the committee has agreed to prepare a report for consideration by the membership regarding the admission of women as members to our branch. This will be completed by June and followed by a debate and vote at the September meeting.

Outings and Events

Sanderstead & R: Medway Trip: 16th May: £39.50 p.p. inc. lunch. Please ask for details
Garden of England: 20th June: £30 p.p. excludes lunch. 9.15 at the Tudor Rose to Walmer Castle via RAF Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel Le Ferne and Lunch in Martin Village near Dover. Please ask Andrew Banfield for a form.
Ladies Lunch: Thursday 17th October, Coulsdon Manor. Please diorise.


Today – Katie Rose: The Air Ambulance – Kent/Surrey/Sussex
June 6th – Neil Saddler:A Policeman’s Lot – The beat goes on
 July 4thColin Jones:  This may kill you
August 1stRoger Gould: Dash to Marrakesh
September 5thJim Mulvey: Fake History
October 3rdVic Quale: Fun on Four Wheels
November 7thAndrew Warde: The London Wall
December 5thRevd. Malcolm Newman “Christmas Theme”

Mark & Pam Bathurst: History & Restorations of The Medway Queen

On 4th April our guest speakers treated us to a first class presentation on the P.S. Medway Queen. For those who could not be present the following summery may help to give a picture of what they missed. Fortunately it will always be possible to see The Medway Queen in the steel and eventually take a trip on her which must be at least as good as hearing about her at the Probus meeting. It is difficult to do justice to this historic vessel in the space available, so I must be selective.

It was built in 1924 by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company at Troon in Scotland as an estuary paddle steamer and operated on the Strood-Chatham-Southend-Herne Bay route and also as far as Margate. She had a service speed of 13 knots and could apparently deal with quite heavy weather. Her civilian operations came to an end in 1939 when she was pressed into naval service to become H.M.S. Medway Queen. The transformation having been effected in Deptford Creek where she was painted Grey and fitted with a 12 pounder gun and machine guns on the sponsons. Initially she was used as a minesweeper.

When the Dunkirk crisis arose she was pressed into service as a leader of boats of a similar type to take part in the evacuation. She is credited with bringing down 3 enemy aircraft and saving 7,000 troops. Due to her distinctive wash she was readily spotted by enemy aircraft and to counter this, oil was poured onto the wash which may have been well worth while considering the level of attacks that the rescue fleet encountered.

Inevitably there were some sad parts to her rescue operations such as the decision not to stop for a soldier calling for help in the sea as the risk to the ship from air attack would be too great.  Similarly an attempt had been made to bring on board a girl dressed as a soldier but sadly she had to be left behind on the beaches. Nothing is known about the fate of these two. 

In home waters she was able to save the entire crew and all the passengers of the Brighton Belle which was sinking as a result of hitting an underwater wreck. She had made seven crossings before being damaged by a British destroyer which had been blown backwards by bombs. Subsequently she was repaired and resumed minesweeping duties in 1942 having earned 4 awards for gallantry. She had been stretched to her limits during the war, being over-loaded well beyond her marks and relying only on the judgement of her master to chance the return trips. Vice Admiral Ramsey in recognising these trips sent her a signal “Well done Medway Queen”. This may seem a trifle understated to us today but the Navy is noted for not getting carried away and it was the same wording as was sent to Captain Walker RN in recognition of some of his outstanding anti-submarine achievements in the North Atlantic!

After such a splendid war record, her later life seemed destined for at least an honourable retirement and she was indeed sent back to Thornycroft for a refit and subsequently went back into commercial service until 1963 when she was scheduled for the breakers yard. This fate was narrowly avoided by conversion into a night club. As might be expected she deteriorated and was derelict and partially submerged by 1984.

Enter the “Medway Queen Preservation Society”, who are the current owners and after amazing efforts have now restored her and made her accessible to the public. This was achieved after funds were obtained from the National lottery (3rd time of asking) on condition that a new hull was built. From a cost point of view modern construction would dictate a welded hull but funds were only granted on condition that a traditional riveted hull was built. This was agreed and whilst some semi-automated riveting technology did help, inevitably the time was greater and costs were higher but there was no alternative. Apart from the hull as much as possible of the original equipment has been renovated and re-introduced, perhaps the most significant being the original steam propulsion unit. The main generator and pump sets were also restored. As an additional community benefit some of the finance was conditional upon apprentice labour being an integral part of the restoration project and this is currently the case in the fields of traditional skills such as upholstery and even IT, presumably on the  admin side as the marine technology is “digital free”. 

The project is ongoing but pictures shown to us demonstrate the fine looking ship being very close to its original glory. She is currently moored on Gillingham Pier and open to the public.

Our thanks are due to Mark and Pam Bathurst.

Editorial – Vincent Fosdike

First: May I thank Norman for his contribution to this month’s edition. Please can I ask for all members to follow suit? If not a full item, comments on current affairs or just a few thoughts on life in general.

Second: “Lunch which we all enjoy so much”. (Long may this pleasure continue.) However, as you know, Andrew gave his notice of retirement a long time ago and the following scenario is not at all unreal!

WOT NO DINNER!!!?? Should have gone to ‘Sandwiches are us’!!!
Grumpy is justified in “checking out”.

Surely one of our “good men and true” will give about 5 hours a month. Mentoring is available.  S.O.L (Save our lunch).

The Coach Trip by Norman Williams

 Some years past I was made a Friend of the Belmont Branch of The Burma Star Association who like Probus arranged very popular day trips to places of interest.

 On this occasion a trip had been arranged to the Royal Marines Barracks at Deal in Kent which was eagerly looked forward to and a full coach load departed on a sunny Sunday afternoon from Belmont.

We got as far as Burgh Heath area before the coach broke down outside a row of houses and you can imagine the groans of disbelief when the driver announced that he had no idea what was wrong and further that he had no mechanical knowledge and would have to contact his office. Immediately one of the day trippers called Jeff swung into action by taking off his blazer and tie and said that he would take a look at the engine and then having inspected same said that he could fix the problem if he had some tools. He then took it upon himself to knock on one of the doors and politely explained our situation and asked if they had any tools that he could use which luckily they did and Jeff got to work. Some ladies then asked if they could use their toilet having a desperate need already and the occupants readily allowed them to do so but they drew the line when someone suggested (tongue in cheek) that tea for 50 plus would be nice. A really nice couple who took all this in their stride as if a coach with full complement broke down needing tools and use of their toilet outside their home on a regular basis. In a short time Jeff fixed the problem and off we went again with everyone in good spirits and having a laugh about the breakdown which did not last that long since we managed to actually get into Kent before stopping once again.

This time the coach, which must have had a funny sense of humour, decided to break down across a roundabout blocking the traffic. Some people were getting upset and thinking that we would never make it to Deal but once again Jeff took it upon himself to check the engine but suggested that we should attempt to move the coach to a better position first. Since most of the group were nearing pension age this did not go down too well but with a bit of encouragement (from the women) we set to and amazingly did manage to move it to the evident amusement of passing motorists who managed to give us a hoot and comments such as “get your backs into it” but did not offer to help. Jeff now knew what the problem was and once again got the engine going and we finally made it to our destination (with a well-deserved round of applause for Jeff ).

I cannot remember what the occasion was at the barracks but I recall that there were many tents and displays such as the Marines Band with a lovely lunch laid on and a beer tent and that we had a great time.

As the day came to an end and replenished with food and drink we set off confident that we would make it home without any further problems (most probably due to the alcohol blurring our senses) but that proved not to be the case.

 This time we made it to the outskirts of Deal before grinding to a halt and no amount of trying, cursing or coaxing could get the engine to start – so there we were stuck early Sunday evening by the roadside miles from home.

to be continued next month

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