Shivering Sands

 A not inappropriate name for one of the many constantly shifting sandbanks of the Thames estuary but no obvious shivering when viewed by a GMI group on October 7th.

An autumn cruise on the Waverley , the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer, has become a regular feature of the GMI year and from Tower Pier there have been visits to the Medway, Whitstable and this year to the Thames estuary forts.

 In 1942/3 a number of fortified towers were positioned to provide anti-aircraft protection for London and its sea approaches, some towers being controlled by the Navy (Rough Sand, Sunk Head, Tongue Sands and Knock John – each with two towers) and others by the Army (Red Sands, Shivering Sands and Nore – each a cluster of seven towers). Favourable tide conditions allowed Waverley to approach closely the Red Sands, Shivering Sands and Knock John towers giving us close-up views of these fascinating remains.

 Effectively abandoned by government in the late 1950s the towers reflect the ravages of age and damage by ship collision with Nore dismantled as a hazard to shipping and Shivering Sands losing a tower. Several of the towers became homes for pirate radio stations – remember Screaming Lord Sutch? – and one for a time became the Independent Principality of Sealand!

Old Father Thames is far from dead and Waverley provides an unsurpassed picture of the estuary environment, navigation problems, the history and down-river migration of port activity, progress on the new Thames Gateway port project, the variety of shipping and trade and this year a security problem of great historical interest. On the return up river in the warmth of the restaurant an erudite discussion on the origin and distinction between terms such as quay,  wharf, pier, berth and mooring – these GMI students! Altogether an enjoyable social and interesting academic day – why not join us next year?

Text and Image: Dr David Hilling

The Massey Shaw

The Massey Shaw is a fire tender, built in 1935, which served on the River Thames and also took part in theDunkirk evacuation, after which she played a vital role during the Blitz. Today she is run by a Trust, manned by volunteers and is undergoing restoration with the aid of a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The vessel will be ready by May 2012. If you google ‘Massey Shaw’ you will find all her details and her history. But I can tell you that the great water jet which she shoots out is pretty impressive.

I have been contacted by Barbara Reid, an ex-Maritime Museum colleague, who has been helping the Trust plan the project. She has contacted me she thought that there could be people in the GMI who might take an interest in the Massey Shaw. At the end of the year the Trust will be looking for volunteers, and also for 12 passengers to take part in the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012, accompanying HMQ up theThames – one of a thousand vessels in the Pageant.

If you would like to enquire further, please let me know, and I can pass you on to the right people.

Roger Knight