The venerable paddle steamer, PS Medway Queen, is perhaps best remembered for the part she played during the evacuation of British troops during Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk in 1940. Now, however, she is need of her own small army of volunteers to help sustain her.
The Medway Queen was launched in 1924 and entered service on Thames Estuary routes in May of that year. However, when war came she was impressed by the Admiralty for Royal Navy service and became HMS Medway Queen. She was used as a minesweeper during the war but is most famous for her seven trips to Dunkirk in 1940.
Contrary to common belief, she was already a commissioned Royal Navy vessel during the Dunkirk operation rather than one of the flotilla of ‘Little Ships’ which famously came to the aid of the stranded BEF – her narrow draft meaning that she was one of the few craft which could come close inshore.
After the war, Medway Queen returned to her old route up until 1963. Then, from 1966 until 1974 she became a floating nightclub on the Isle of Wight but returned to the River Medway in 1984.
The hull has now been rebuilt with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund and she is currently maintained at her Gillingham Pier mooring (appropriately on the River Medway) in Kent by the Medway Queen Preservation Society.
The society are now appealing for more trustees and volunteers to help in technical, administrative and sales/marketing roles. The organisation has teams of volunteers for woodwork, electrical and mechanical fitting, but more ‘hands on deck’ (or below!) will enable more rapid progression with the fitting out phase of Medway Queen. The society also needs to build up the Visitor Centre team to show people round the ship and to operate souvenir and coffee shops. The existing teams are stretched to the limit and extra pairs of hands would be welcomed.
If you think you can help us restore this famous old ship, and an historic and important Dunkirk survivor, please get in touch with the society through their website, calling 44 (0) 1634 575717, or by writing to:
Medway Queen Preservation Society
Pier Approach Road