Chatham Historical Dockyard - 25 May 2017

Text and photographs from Richard Alexander


On what turned out to be the hottest day so far this year (tempered by a pleasant breeze), 23 Members and Guests arrived in the morning to enjoy a day at this famous dockyard. It was pleasing to see that the line-up of cars included at least one from each era of the marque, apart from MkVIs.


There was so much to see from a range of RNLI vessels from early days through to today; the recently discovered preserved remains of a very early wooden hull vessel; paintings, again depicting vessels up to the present; a Cold War submarine where many a scalp was indented going through very compact access ways; to a 1950s warship and many many other exhibits. The main model (12’ long) is of the vessel Jervis Bay which operated as an AMC (Armed Merchant Cruiser) during the early part of the war having been a passenger liner requisitioned by the Royal Navy. She defended a convoy of some 35 merchant vessels (with a single 6” ex-WWI gun) from the mighty Admiral Scheer, saving over 30 of them by suicidly heading straight toward the German battleship, being sunk in the process and her captain, Fogerty Fegen, being awarded a posthumous VC. There is also a large painting of this heroic action by the well-known marine artist, Montague Dawson.


The highlight was the tour of the Ropery where we learnt how rope was, and still is, made. The longest brick built (1785-91) building in Europe makes rope of almost any size (diameter), a quarter of a mile long. The “Cockney” Lady (Claire) who told us about this was superb, being informative and amusing thus keeping us all fully attentive such that at the end, you failed to notice that 45 minutes had passed. Mind you, she did have some of us doing some very strenuous exercise operating the demonstration rope-making equipment, but rewarded each of the four with a section of the rope they made.


Whilst the weather undoubtedly helped, everyone enjoyed the day from our introductory talk from Alex at 1030 hours, right through to 1630 hours when the last car left, and were very pleased to have come and we all learnt a lot about our maritime history. Our sincere thanks are extended to Olivia, Sandie, Alex and “Cockney” Claire who ensured the day went without a hitch. One party even managed to have a picnic behind their car!


Those who came were – David Humfrey, 4½, YV 9486; James Nicholson and Guest, Corniche, 1181 KP (ex Alan Clark MP); Steve and Gay Frieze, Cont GTC, S20 GAY; John and Margaret Chapman, 4¼, DYK 338; Brian Tatton and Guests, S2 Cont, 787 AXA; Chris and Liz Card, 4½, YV 9608; Bruce Reed and Guest, 3½, AYN 350; Colin Mitchell and Guests, Brooklands, P300 WOB; Richard Alexander, Turbo RT (SWB), UXI 9002 and three others, Peter Bertorelli (car in hospital) and Ric Masten and Guest from America, had to come in “other” cars.