Meets: Riverside Centre, The Quay, Newport. PO30 2QR on the fourth Thursday of the month, except for June & August, at 7.15p.m.
On 27 October at the Branch’s first mid-afternoon meeting, Secretary Richard de Kerbrech and David Williams, gave their joint presentation ‘Made in Belfast-Shipbuilding & Engineering Images from the past’. This focussed mainly on Edwardian images taken at the yard of Harland & Wolff with most of the photographs captured by Robert Welch. The boilers, reciprocating engines and exhaust turbines of H&W’s trio Olympic, Titanic and Britannic were featured. Images of ships’ launches, shipwrights and riveters at work were also shown. A rare slice of Edwardian shipbuilding was revealed to the Branch.
During the Pandemic the presentation was expanded and extrapolated into a manuscript ‘Harland & Wolff and Workman, Clark- A Golden Era of Shipbuilding in Old Images’ and published by The History Press in 2021.
A milestone was reached in September when John Cheverton produced the 700th Edition of the IoW Branch Newsletter. It was originally established back in the mid-1950s [or before] when the late Ray Sprake produced it. John took over the reigns many, many years ago and has regularly published it ever since. Thank you, John.
The 22 September meeting’s speaker was the past-Chairman and former Secretary , David Williams. His thoroughly-researched and highly original presentation ‘Ship Camouflage: Science, Art & Psychology’ was a first for the Branch with a wide selection of images of the topic, Dave explaining the Science behind it. The Branch was treated to an original selection of passenger and warships in different forms of camouflage, which included former Island resident Norman Wilkinson’s ‘Dazzle’ paint style.
Dave’s book ‘ DAZZLE, DISRUPTION & CONCEALMENT: THE SCIENCE, PSYCHOLOGY & ART OF SHIP CAMOUFLAGE’ published in early October by The History Press is available to those members wishing to seek a further in-depth study of this topic.
On 21 July some members of the Branch and guests visited the Sky Museum at Southampton. This may seem a strange outing for those interested in ships but the emphasis was on the water-borne aircraft. The Branch was guided around and shown the Sea Vixen and Sea Vampire of the Fleet Air Arm. The Supermarine S6A float plane was of interest as it was the competitor in the Solent-based Schneider Trophy sea plane race and the genesis of the development of the Spitfire. One of only three sea-borne jet fighters was preserved there, the Cowes-built Saunders-Roe A1 whose contract for the Air Ministry was terminated in 1947. The major attraction was the Sandringham Flying boat ‘Southern Cross’ that had been owned by the actress Maureen O’ Hara’s husband. Members were allowed to climb aboard for the full experience. One of the Branch members had actually flown as a passenger in this plane 40 years previously and he went to occupy the very seat he had flown in. Following the visit the members repaired to the local Wetherspoons adjacent to the former White Star Line offices, for refreshment.
Our guest speaker for our 23 June meeting was Simon Atwell who prefers to cruise on much smaller passenger vessels.
His talk was in two parts. He presented an illustrated guide to his journey through the Panama Canal he undertook in 2017, which was during daytime. He showed the trip from the Atlantic side [Cristobal & Colin] to Balboa on the Pacific side, through the major locks assisted by the ‘mules’. He also showed the direction of cut of the newly excavated Canal and how of great importance this waterway is. His second part was about the small cruise ships of Noble Caledonian on whose vessels he had had numerous thematic voyages on. He highlighted some oddities and risks involved in tendering in Gemini craft and landing at remote places in Polynesia and Pacific ports but added that other more larger cruise ships could not navigate to. A new look for the Branch at what the smaller passenger ship had to offer, both benefits and drawbacks.
The May 26 meeting started on a sombre note as the branch observed a minute’s silence for Colin Wilkinson, the past Treasurer and formerly a regular attendee, who had died the day before.
Southampton Branch member and Master Mariner, Barry Peck, crossed The Solent to deliver a most interesting presentation on The Strick Line. Barry did not want to deliver a catalogue of ships with their data but the ‘Big Picture’ of the history of the company. This dealt with the Company’s humble origins, ports of destination in the [Persian] Gulf, cargoes carried and different design of their ships and propulsion systems through the ages. He also covered the standard operational procedure of negotiating the Manchester Ship Canal.
The mention of various characters and crews that made the company function up until its sell out to P&O in 1972. It was nice to have a personal aspect on this well-known company from a professional who joined the company as a cadet in 1959 and finished with then as Chief Officer in 1972.
On 12 May, twelve members and their guests visited the Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Haven Street. They were given an authoritative and comprehensive history of the Railway from its early beginnings as the Wight Locomotive Society back in 1971 by their host Roger Silsbury, himself a former Southampton port Pilot. The group were shown the locomotive and carriage restoration workshops where some early rolling stock were rebuilt. An atmospheric walk though the Train Story where restored stock were preserved was followed by a train ride along the full extent of the line in a Third-Class carriage pulled by a 1952 locomotive built at Crewe. Thanks to Nick for organising a most enjoyable visit.
April’s meeting was well attended to hear Past Chairman, Chris Bancroft’s ‘Photographic Tribute to Colin Drayson’. Colin had been due to give the talk but sadly died last December. Chris showed some 200 of Colin’s photos taken during 2010, 2015 and 2020 which transcended the complete spectrum of ships. At the conclusion, there were some images of Colin during another of his favourite pastimes, enjoying a good ale with friends. It reminded us of what a great stalwart and shipping expert the WSS had lost. Extra time allowed Dave Williame to show a short slide show of the Japanese Yamato-class battleships and their fate. Also a short, rare PR film of the JS White’s shipyard, thought to have been filmed in the late 1950s.