Newsletter Number One - Spring 2010

On October 1st 2009 the Medway Maritime Trust signed a short-term lease on a grade 2 listed building in the former Royal Dockyard at Sheerness. Building 86 was the Coppersmiths' Shop and will become the training area and workshop for restoration of the Trust's steam machinery and fabrication of ships' plates.

TID Tugs History - TID 97 Disaster

Robbie Neale (World Ship Society, Chatham Historic Dockyard) recently found this personal testament by the lead diver involved in the rescue operation when TID 97 capsized in Number 3 Basin, 1962.

End of an Era

by Mike Toms


These are some of the photographs I took at Hessle of the old Henry Scarr/Richard Dunston Shipyard where the TIDs and other ships were built.

While driving for work I passed by the shipbuilding yards at Hessle, saw that the area was being cleared for redevelopment, and realised that a piece of maritime history was disappearing, so a couple of days later I had an opportunity to revisit, camera in hand. However some of the sheds had already been demolished.

The Henry Scarr Shipbuilding Yard at Hessle was bought by Dunstons in 1932 so that larger ships could be built and launched direct into the Humber, as only smaller vessels could be built at Thorne on the canal.

The TID tugs were completed there after being towed by other completed TIDs from Thorne some miles away.

Richard Dunstons went into liquidation in 1987 and was bought by Damen Shipyards Group in the same year. Dunstons was closed down in 1994.

The yard had been used as a recycling yard for several years since its closure in 1994 with most of the site now rebuilt as offices and car sales buildings.

Richard Dunston ship repairs still exists further east along the Humber Estuary

Jack Denham 1931 - 2009

Sadly, long-serving volunteer crewmember Jack passed away last year, after a short illness. He must have painted and repaired almost every surface and piece of equipment on the TID. Good friend Keith Hatt says 'Jack was the nicest bloke I knew. Wicked sense of humour and always enjoyed getting his hands into a tub of grease and smarming something with it'. Having worked in a power station on the boilers he was a dab hand at packing valves.

Please click on the photo above for a tribute to Jack

TID 164

Keeping a vintage steam tug in running order takes a great deal of effort by the volunteer crew, who turn out in all weathers throughout the year. In 2008 TID 164 steamed round to the Swale to spectate at the annual barge racing contest. The two day excursion took many hundreds of combined crew hours to prepare for, but the tug performed well, with no major problems - apart from being stranded on a sand bar for a short while.

We try not to dwell on the problem of TID not floating for half a tide earlier last year. On the rising tide, having pumped her dry, she floated again. A cement box was duly fabricated and the exact cause will be investigated when she is next in drydock. Otherwise it was a routine of cleaning, chipping and painting, welding, grinding, repairing, greasing and oiling, not forgetting making countless mugs of tea!

The engine room was a hive of activity to keep the machinery in optimum working condition.

Short video of working engine here

Finally, and perhaps the dirtiest job of all, the boiler tubes and combustion chambers had to be cleaned out.

There was time for fun too ... on the last Saturday before Christmas, Nicola prepared a delicious warming soup onboard, which was enjoyed by all, including guest and friend Nigel Griffiths, who operates the dockyard steam crane. Martin did his party trick of trying to regurgitate a National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant, but only managed to produce six cans of assorted paint and an old London bus.

Visitors to the Chatham Historic Dockyard, should they peer over the river wall, will see TID 164 in optimum condition, thanks to the efforts of the volunteer crew.

John H Amos

This year saw a determined recruitment drive for volunteers to work on the John H Amos, with articles in the local paper. However due to delays in obtaining third party insurance cover for volunteers, many of the volunteers found themselves shanghaied for work on the much smaller TID 164. Without their help the TID would never be in the condition she is now.

VIC 96 Returns to Chatham

After years of exile in Maryport, Cumbria, VIC 96 steamed through the Caledonian Canal and down the East Coast back to Chatham, arriving on 8th August. The journey of about 1,000 miles took 5 weeks. Escorted by welcoming vessels (one of them carrying Martin with his camera),VIC 96 tied up in Number One Basin, watched by an admiring crowd. For the full story see

For the story of how the Medway Maritime Trust rescued VIC 96 see

Vessel at Risk - City of Adelaide

The developing scandal of the proposed demolition of the Clipper "City of Adelaide" is unfolding as we write. She is of similar construction to the "Cutty Sark" and five years older. A team from the Medway Maritime Trust was given a grant from National Historic Ships to fly to the Scottish Maritime Museum to witness the laser scanning of the vessel prior to deconstruction.

Martin Stevens, Martin Staniforth and Ben Tindale were duly impressed with this recording technique but not with the reason why it was being done. The Medway Maritime Trust has since been in close contact with the team from Sunderland (where she was built) and representatives from Adelaide, who are all trying to save this important vessel. The Trust has offered to house the "City of Adelaide" on their land at Sheerness while others get organised.

If you want to know more, go to where you can see a recent article in the Times.

Mulberry Harbour "Beetles"

(Article courtesy 'Old Glory' Magazine)

TID tugs towed the floating roadways which connected the Mulberry Harbour to the Normandy beaches for the 1944 D Day landings. The barges which were made to carry the roadways were made at Cairnryan in the west of Scotland.
A few of these "beetles" never made it to Normandy and are still on the beach where they were made; but not for much longer.

A ferry terminal is being constructed and the "beetles" are in the way.The Medway Maritime Trust has offered a home for one or more of them - the perfect companion for a TID tug. We await the outcome of an initial survey.

Two other vessels have come to the Trust's attention in the last few months. One is TID 159, Brent. This was the last steam tug to be employed in London's enclosed docks system. Brent is currently moored at Malden in Essex. When the previous owner Ron Hall, died recently the Trust was approached by members of his family asking what to do with her. Medway Maritime Trust is to set up a separate trust and will take the tug under its control for full restoration back to steam again. It is believed that she has a boiler problem. Brent will be brought to Sheerness where repair work can be carried out.

The other Vessel is a larger ship, The Freshspring, currently moored on the River Severn near Gloucester. The Freshspring was built for the Royal Navy in 1947 as a water carrier servicing the fleet. Length: 121', Beam: 24' 6" she is half the length again of a VIC. The Freshspring is the last of her kind; it is hoped that she can be restored to steam again. A thorough investigation of her state of repair is needed, before deciding if she can be moved prior to restoration.

Memory Corner

PS Medway Queen returned to Chatham from the Isle of Wight 30 years ago, to go into preservation. Moored in the background is the John H Amos, which waited a further 28 years to be lifted onto a pontoon.

You Think That's Funny?

by 'Scuttlebut'

Two tugboat skippers who had been friends for years, would always cry, "Aye!" and blow their whistles whenever they passed each other on the river.
A new crewman asked , "What do they do that for?"
The other crewman looked surprised and replied, "You mean that you've never heard of an aye for an aye and a toot for a toot?"

How many TID crew does it take to change a lightbulb? None, because the right size bulb isn't on board, the local store doesn't carry that brand, and the mail-order has them on back-order.

A volunteer was overheard saying he was going downstairs. “Listen," he was told, "Downstairs is below, that side is starboard, that's aft and that's portside. If I ever hear you say one more civilian word like "downstairs" again I'll throw you through that little round window over there!"

The engineer fell down the steps to the engine room . The skipper saw him fall and rushed to his aid. "Are you ok? did you miss a step?"
"No" said the engineer, "I'm pretty sure I hit every one!"

Last word on the Amos. "I don't think Duct Tape will fix that!"

Want to stay in touch?

If you wish to receive future issues of the Newsletter, please send an email to Mike Toms with the word 'newsletter' in the subject box.

Friends of the Medway Maritime Trust
Friends of the John H Amos
Friends of the Vigilant
Friends of TID 164

We are setting up all of the above to help raise funds.
If you would like to help by creating a monthly direct debit or standing order for whatever sum you think you can afford then please contact Mike Toms who will explain how easy it is! The government will also add 25% on top of your donation through the Gift Aid scheme.

Mike can be contacted at:

Shop online and help raise funds for the Trust
Please click on the link below for details