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Author Topic: Lest We Forget  (Read 2404 times)

Paulrjordan

  • Guest
Lest We Forget
« on: June 22, 2005, 05:22:11 AM »
Today is November 11, traditionally an international day of honour to
remember the men and women who paid the ultimate price in the service
of their countries during War...mankind's most tragic folly and,
still apparently, greatest pastime! It's not just today when the
sacrifice of these valiant heroes should be remembered, but each and
every day we enjoy the privilege of freedom.

You'll almost never hear me sounding off in Paddleducks or any other
Internet forum, and the following are entirely my own opinions and do
not in any way express those of the other moderators nor any member
of this group.

I have remained silent far too long over an issue which is really
beginning to trouble me. Thanks to Len Knight, we have received
periodic briefs and updates about "Medway Queen" who after 20 years
still lies fighting for her life at Damhead Creek in the UK. I keep
these and all other news items I find about the ship and anything
else which relates to the Medway Queen Preservation Society who has
fought hard to keep her "afloat." The news we get from Len is seldom
good. No matter how much optimistic "spin" you hear or what pictures
you see of Society members rubbing shoulders with the "rich and
powerful", after almost 20 years of effort THIS SHIP IS STILL IN
SERIOUS TROUBLE!

When I think of the glorious tribute to our paddle steamer heritage
embodied in the beautiful and successful preservations of "Waverley"
and "Kingswear Castle", I simply shudder when I look at pictures
of "Medway Queen" and realize she lies on the very brink of
survival..the VERY LAST British Estuary paddle steamer in existence.
Once she's gone there is NO OTHER and you simply cannot recreate THIS
kind of history. I look at the excellent preservation effort of the
Swiss, the Americans and the Australians in saving their civilian
paddler fleets and I shake my head at the unbelievably bad track
record of the UK. TWO SHIPS so far saved from an era of literally
thousands!

It would be a pretty shameful plight (and probably a National
outrage) if the UK had managed to preserve only TWO operating steam
locomotives, or only TWO operating Sailing ships....or ONLY TWO
HABITABLE HERITAGE BUILDINGS!

So again I ask the question...what has gone wrong with the
preservation of "Medway Queen" and WHY are those charged with her
survival STILL struggling after 20 years? Something is VERY badly
wrong here. I don't want to bring "John H. Amos" into this
discussion, although there are some parallels in her failure too.
It's high time we got some answers and some accountability from the
Medway Queen Preservation Society for, if this ship "dies", then her
demise will be entirely on their hands. Her future is of profound
national (and international) importance and this small private group
has charged themselves with the responsibility of preserving her for
future generations, a feat which I fear may be beyond them!

You see, "Medway Queen" is not just another rusty old relic of
British maritime lore to be allowed to rot away into the mud. She
has an indelible place in history, not just as a pleasure steamer,
but also as H.M.S. "Medway Queen", a proud and valiant Royal Navy
ship who, during one of the world's most pivotal times in history,
etched her decks with the names of 7,000 valiant soldiers whom she
plucked from the beaches of Dunkirk. Under intense air attack, her
Captain and crew not only survived the bombs and strafing, but even
managed to shoot down some of their attackers. Can you even begin to
imagine the scene of horror, fear, bravery and of HOPE as the little
paddler glided through the smoke and fearlessly approached those
beaches? If you have any doubts about how terrifying it must have
been, just go and see Spielberg's film "Private Ryan". Dunkirk and
the outcome of World War II was not just a matter of British history
but an event which saved and shaped the future of an entire world.
Therefore "Medway Queen" is not just a ship of profound British
significance but an International Historical Treasure which the
entire Western world should be involved in saving. To deny "Medway
Queen" her rightful place in history is not only a national DISGRACE
but an international LOSS.

Yes, I agree the Medway Preservation Society has done a fair job in
keeping her "alive" for almost 20 years, but it has obviously not
done enough as the evidence clearly shows she is STILL in great
danger of being lost. I have spent dozens of hours combing through
MQ related websites and reading as much as I can about her
preservation effort and the more I read, the more questions I have,
rather than answers. The Medway Queen Preservation Society has
entirely failed to have the ship placed on the "Core List" of
Historic Ships which would assure her preservation. The Royal
Yacht "Britannia" was admitted after it appears the "rules were
changed".

As I wrote privately to Len Knight "I shake my head in bewilderment"
at what has happened and, believe me, this was a restrained comment!

A voice inside me is saying there should now be demands of
accountability from the Medway Queen Preservation Society. If you
take the time to go through the historical data of the MQPS you may
have some questions too. At this stage, I am NOT going to get into a
detailed list of the issues I believe need addressing nor am I going
to publicly criticize those who have valiantly fought to preserve the
ship. I simply want to voice my concern at what I HAVE read and
register a request for accountability and to see some CLEAR vision
for the future. I cannot seem to find this anywhere.

I'd be pleased to send my 10 pounds to the MQPS if I thought it would
make any difference but this same old "send in your 10 quid" bit is
wearing a bit thin when you read of 40,000 pounds being spent on
Waverley Excursions Ltd. for a 'Business Plan' and 'Conservation
Plan' which nobody seems able to obtain nor does it seem to have been
effective in the most recent failed bid for Lottery funding. I for
one would like to read this document!

It's obvious large sums of money are needed but also PEOPLE..a whole
world of people. I salute Len and the small army of volunteers who
have so far tried to save "Medway Queen", but if after 20 years, the
MQPS has not been able to save this ship, then it's time to find out
WHO CAN. If she succumbs to the wreckers torch, her fate will be
entirely on their hands and I don't ever want the world to read the
epitaph on her tombstone... "TOO LITTLE TOO LATE".

You may criticize me all you like, but it's time to start asking
questions and getting vocal to raise a far greater awareness of what
is going on with the plight of this highly important ship...a vessel
which has far greater historical significance than the
R.Y. "Britannia", who never so much as saved ONE soul during her
privileged and pampered existence and which, incidentally, seems to
have totally eclipsed "Medway Queen" for recognition and funding.
THIS is where the questions START!

In fact, I invite comment from ANY Paddleducks as I believe this is
an issue we SHOULD be talking about. Please..if you disagree with me
or think I am unfair or misdirected in my remarks, don't hesitate to
voice them in THIS forum...this is what it's for! I have broad
shoulders and am stepping out of my "moderator shoes" on this one. I
firmly believe that starting TODAY we MUST become more passionate
about the plight of "Medway Queen" because this venerable and
cherished old Lady of Dunkirk deserves nothing LESS!

On this day, when it comes to the sad vision of a forlorn paddle ship
lying in the mud fighting for her life with each tide, shrouded in
November fog in a desolate English backwater, there should be a very
special meaning to the phrase "LEST WE FORGET'!

Paul Jordan
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

dragoncity

  • Guest
Lest We Forget
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2005, 05:24:27 AM »
Paul,
I can agree with your overall thoughts!

The main problem with 'restoration groups' its that they often degenerate into
those that try to restore 'the item of interest' -- and do a lot of very
hard work for the cause, while others are simple involved so that they can
'glad hand' the VIP visitors -- and only appear on special days !!

Hence the thousands of railway 'resoration groups' sprinkled around the world,
all asking for a Gov't handout -- most will fail simply because the project
is not really interesting enough to get continuing public support - ie paying
visitors.

However I can see the merit on the Medway Queen project , considering its VERY
historic performance in the war , which I for one knew nothing about, , not
to mention its worth as a paddler of note.

To not have obtained ongoing REAL funding for the restoration after 20 years
is certainly a major failure of the committee -- many appear to be in the
second rank of restorers.

To have Betty Windsor's 'play boat' favored above a ship of real importance
is quite a worry -- plenty of forelock tugging going on there !!!

(considering Betty did not even like the boat -- it was a real dog of a ship,
they used to send it off before hand and Betty would fly in and use the boat
as a hotel.)
--
terrific posting , Paul !

 

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