Type: Paddle excursion steamer 1924-39 & 1947-63
Paddle Minesweeper 1939-45 (as HMS Medway Queen)
Nightclub 1966-74 (as Medway Queen Club, Newport Isle of Wight)
Launched: 23 April 1924
At: Ailsa Ship Building Company of Troon on the river Clyde, Scotland
Inaugural excursion: Friday 18th July 1924
Commissioned in Royal Navy: November 1939
Beam: 24ft (50ft over paddle frames)
Draft: 5ft 6in
Displacement: 361 GRT
Cruising Speed: 13knots at 45rpm
Engine: Compound diagonal
Boiler: Scotch type 11ft long
Armament (1939-45): One 12pdr (pedestal mounted), Two twin anti-aircraft Lewis guns
Medway Queen’s inaugural civilian voyage was for invited guests from Strood and Chatham to Southend and then on to Herne Bay. This became her normal route until the outbreak of World War II. In 1936 a bow rudder was fitted and in 1938 Medway Queen was converted to oil-firing. This had the advantage that during the Dunkirk evacuation she could refuel far more quickly and easily than her coal fired sisters.
After assisting with the evacuation of children from the London area in September 1939, Medway Queen was converted for minesweeping. HMS Medway Queen was first based in Harwich and later joined the 10th minesweeping flotilla in Dover. In the spring of 1940 Lieutenant A.T. Cook RNR took command. His First Lieutenant was Sub-Lieutenant John Graves, the navigating officer was Lieutenant Jolly RNVR and the junior officer was Lieutenant Keilly RNR.
The official order for “Operation Dynamo”, the evacuation from Dunkirk, was issued on 26th May 1940. On the first trip Medway Queen anchored offshore and used boats to collect men from the beaches – a slow process. Once on board the soldiers were given food and “Navy Cocoa”. As “Dynamo” proceeded each night was filled with the noise and danger of battle and the following day was spent clearing up and replenishing fuel and stores. As well as the danger it was physically exhausting! The last trip was on the night of 3rd/4th June. HMS Medway Queen and her crew had made seven return trips during the evacuation and estimated they had saved 7000 men and shot down 3 enemy aircraft. Medway Queen served as a minesweeper for the remainder of the war, moving to a training establishment in Edinburgh in 1943.
After the war she was refitted and resumed her old route. The summer seasons followed a similar pattern to those before the war with excursions and charters mixed in. In 1953 she attended the Coronation Review at Spithead as part of the official fleet. Medway Queen continued in service until the end of the 1963 season when she was withdrawn.
The ship was towed to the Isle of Wight in 1965 and the ceremonial opening of the “Medway Queen Club” was performed on Saturday May 14th 1966 by John Graves, who had been her First Lieutenant at Dunkirk. The club was successful but in 1974 it closed and after years of disuse Medway Queen was moved back to Kent in 1984. She was purchased by the Medway Queen Preservation Society in 1987 and with support from the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund the ship’s hull was completely rebuilt in 2009-13. She is now moored at Gillingham Pier on the river Medway for fitting out.
The Medway Queen Preservation Society is a registered UK charity under the formal name New Medway Steam Packet Co. and relies entirely on volunteer labour and donations from its members and elsewhere. More details on our website.