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Needed - Funds For Medway Queen Restoration

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Urgent Public Appeal For Funds To Complete Restoration Of Medway Queen To Take Part 75th Anniversary Of Dunkirk In 2015

Medway Queen is an important ship to save for the nation as she and her crew crossed the channel 7 times and was bombed and strafed but managed to save 7,000 British and French troops says Medway Queen Preservation Society.

Medway Queen Preservation Society has issued an urgent appeal for funds to complete the restoration of the historic paddle steamer Medway Queen which was part of Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 in time to be part of the 75th Anniversary in 2015.

The rebuilt hull arrived in Medway last November after being towed from a dry dock in Bristol after rebuilding organized by GMB supported Medway Queen Preservation Society. See notes to editors for copy of the press release on the homecoming. Visit www.medwayqueen.co.uk/ to see progress since 1985.

Medway Queen is an important ship to save for the nation not only because she is magnificent in herself but because of her illustrious and glorious history. She was labelled "The Heroine of Dunkirk". She and her crew crossed the channel 7 times and was bombed and strafed, but managed to save 7,000 British and French troops. She was singled out by Admiral Ramsey, who was in charge of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force for the congratulatory message "Well Done Medway Queen". She was requisitioned by the RN in 1939, served throughout WW2 and is the only remaining Naval Ship to have taken part in the Dunkirk Evacuation.

GMB is to ask all branches in UK and Ireland to support the appeal. Any donations large or small will be gratefully accepted, anyone able to help please go to www.medwayqueen.co.uk/, or call the MQ Project Office on 01634575717 or send donations direct to Medway Queen Project Office, Pier Approach Road, Gillingham Pier, Gillingham, Kent ME7 1RX. Please make cheques payable to Medway Queen Preservation Society or New Medway Steam Packet Co.

Brian Burton, Chair of Medway Queen Preservation Society, said “The 75th anniversary will see many Dunkirk Little Ships taking part so it would be mean a great deal for the Medway Queen to take her place in that proud fleet. As the 75th anniversary of Dunkirk looms let us not forget that if it were not for ships like Medway Queen Britain could have fallen. There are around 2 million people living in Britain, the descendants of the Dunkirk Evacuees, who directly owe their lives to the ships that took part in Operation Dynamo.

The principal streams of funding came to an end at the end of 2013 resulting in us narrowly averted a financial crisis at that time. Thanks to Medway Council and GMB we were able to soldier on which meant that all of the apprentices were able to complete their training. All of them have subsequently been able to obtain employment in their designated occupations.

Despite great efforts fund raising has not reached the levels that we had hoped for and the position now is worse than the crisis we faced at the end of 2013. We are teetering on the edge and if we are forced into insolvency we will have to stop trading and go into administration. This would be a disaster not only for the project that we have all worked so hard to progress but also for any possibility that we could again enter the area of training of young people in the future.

We are reasonably confident that in the long term we can achieve new funding, but it is the short term that we have a problem with. Basically we need around £10,000 per month to keep operating and we need to buy some time to move things forward, the general view is that a 6 month period would provide us with some breathing space and we therefore need to raise £60,000 in a very short period of time. This would save the employees currently on notice and would give us the time to progress the plans for future funding.”

Bob Stokes, Medway Queen Preservation Society, added “ We have had emergency talks with Heritage Lottery Fund and are currently in the process of applying for their transitional funding which could help us through to be able to apply for another Heritage Lottery Fund project grant.

However whilst we want to make a desperate appeal for funds, we want to stress that we need the money to continue with a project that has been an outstanding success.

The Medway Queen Preservation Society battled against all the odds for almost 25 years to preserve the Medway Queen until they were eventually able to secure funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Interreg IV European Regional Development Fund to begin the restoration of this famous old ship and return her to her former glory.

The success of the project thus far can only be viewed as a magnificent achievement with what is really very limited resources in terms of a restoration project of this kind, for not only have the society rebuilt the hull of a ship that is the first all riveted hull to be built for almost 60 years and restored much of the original machinery, but they have embraced the opportunity to engage with young people who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to train and learn skills. The Project provided 11 young people with apprenticeships and all of these young people have completed their training and all are now engaged in gainful employment in their designated crafts.

In addition the European dimension has enabled cross border cooperation with partners in France and Belgium who were in turn working on ship restoration projects.

To achieve the above it was necessary to turn a near derelict warehouse into a magnificent workshop and to turn a tumbled down port-a-cabin into a splendid Visitor Centre.

Funding is desperately needed to keep the project going and if we are to see Medway Queen fully restored to her former glory and able to steam up and down the river Medway under her own power and if the Society are to be able to train more young people a further £3.5 m is needed, but in the short term funds are desperately needed to keep the Medway Queen Project alive."

End

Contact: Brian Burton Medway Queen Preservation Society Committee Chairman on 07714 689933 or Bob Stokes on 07985 595770 or the Medway Queen Preservation Society on 01634 575717.

Notes to editors

1GMB press release November 2013

REBUILT MEDWAY QUEEN TO ARRIVE AT PIER IN ROCHESTER HOME ON TUESDAY 19TH NOVEMBER AFTER COMPLETION OF WORK ON HULL IN BRISTOL

The arrival takes place in three stages: arrival on the Medway towed by tug “Christine”, berthing at Gillingham Pier and a celebration event for members and guests says Medway Queen Society

The rebuilt historic Medway Queen paddle steamer will arrive home on Tuesday 19th November at approx. 1.30pm to Gillingham Pier in Rochester, Kent after being towed from Bristol over the past week.

This follows completion of the rebuilding of the hull of the Dunkirk veteran ship at a dry dock in Bristol organized by GMB supported Medway Queen Preservation Society.

It is being towed by the tug “Christine”, operated by A. J. & A. Pratt of Rainham. It reached Beachy Head yesterday afternoon and turned the point at Margate last night. Progress of the tow can be followed at www.marinetraffic.com/ais/

The Medway Queen was originally built by Ailsa Shipbuilding Company for the New Medway Steam Packet Company, for the service between the Medway Towns and Southend-on-Sea. She spent the whole of her working life in this area except for occasional excursions and, of course, for her wartime service.

It saw active wartime service between 1939 and 1945 with her finest moment in 1940 when the ship and her crew made seven crossings to the beaches of Dunkirk rescuing 7000 British and French troops. Her bravery and that of her gallant crew lead to the title “Heroine of Dunkirk" being bestowed.

The Medway Queen Preservation Society Committee has been the driving force in the restoration of the Medway Queen. The Society was instrumental on getting the Lottery money and European funding that enabled them to set up workshops to train young people through apprenticeships. Many of these have learned many engineering and other skills and go on to find jobs.

The Medway Queen Preservation Society is based in the Medway area of Kent, but draws support from all around the world. It is a volunteer led society, but employs professionals for the rebuild of the ship. The society's aim is to restore the ship, bring her back to working condition. The rebuild of the ship's hull has been done in David Abel’s dry dock, right next to the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Brian Burton, GMB activist and chair of GMB supported Medway Queen Preservation Society Committee, said, “We have planning the arrival in three stages: arrival on the Medway in charge of the tug “Christine”, berthing at Gillingham Pier and, finally, a celebration event for members and guests later.”

Paul Maloney, GMB Regional Secretary, said, “GMB and many others have backed the restoration of the Medway Queen from the very beginning.

It is wonderful to consider that it is will be home in Rochester on 19th November for the next stage of its total restoration to begin.

The work and enjoyment that the whole project has brought to the area is a tribute to the many volunteers who have driven the project.”

Ends

2 To see all the work already done by the volunteers, since they set up the preservation society in 1985, in restoring the hull and super structure of the Medway Queen go to www.medwayqueen.co.uk/.

 

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