Solent shingle bank claims RMS Queen Elizabeth: Retro

On Tuesday, April 15, 1947 the Portsmouth Evening News reported on the liner RMS Queen Elizabeth, at that time the worlds largest ship.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 11:36 am
Updated Friday, 2nd August 2019, 5:16 pm
Portsmouth Dockyard tugs try to release the mighty liner, Queen Elizabeth, as the Brambles shingle bank in the Solent holds the liner prisoner. Photo: The News archive.

It had run aground at 6.35pm the previous evening on a falling tide on the Brambles shingle bank in the Solent at the entrance to Southampton Water.

A statement from Cunard said they were regretful to say efforts to re-float the ship were unsuccessful.

Portsmouth Dockyard tug crews were recalled from their homes by a message broadcast by the BBC. The crews made a swift return to their tugs.

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The tug Swarthy arrived alongside the liner at 9.30pm and the Resolve, St Mellons and Volatile got up steam to depart in the early morning.

The tugs Bustler and Metinda, at Portsmouth to tow the battleship Warspite from the Solent to the Clyde for breaking, were also despatched to assist the liner, with the tow being delayed for 24 hours.

In all, there were a dozen tugs to assist in moving the giant ship. 

There were 2,200 passengers – some of whom were taken off by tender – and 1,200 crew.

The captain of one of the tugs reported that oil was being pumped out and luggage discharged, although it seemed a pointless exercise due to the huge size of the vessel. 

After 36 hours the shingle bank released its capture and the liner made her way into Southampton Docks.

The Queen Elizabeth ended her days in Hong Kong Harbour where, in 1972, she caught fire and sank.

After being dismantled it was thought there was still 50 per cent of the wreck still on the seabed.

In 1990 land reclamation for Container Terminal 9 covered over the remains of the liner.

I have had a request from Ruth Millar, nee Holford, for help finding a former school friend.

Ruth says: ‘My parents came to Portsmouth when I was around a year old in 1960, and set up my father’s veterinary practice at 204, London Road.

‘In due course I briefly attended Lyndhurst Road School, then a Catholic Convent School, not far from our home. At the age of nine I was sent to a boarding school in Dorset. 

‘At some point during those 12 years in Portsmouth, I had a friend called Steven. 

'I don’t remember his surname or even if he spelt his Christian name with a V or a PH.

‘I am writing to you on the very slim chance that Steven might still be living in the Portsmouth area and might recognise himself.

‘I don’t remember ever going to his house or meeting his parents. He just seemed to materialise every so often and we’d go off together, often up to Hilsea Lines. Steven seemed to be a bit of a maverick. Even at that young age I could recognise that in him.

‘Those were the days when kids went off to play for hours and parents rarely had to worry. We seemed to have a lot of personal freedom, and filled it effortlessly doing I can’t remember what.

‘One day Steven presented me with a pretty little ladies watch. At the time I wondered how he had come by it, and for a long time I wore it, even childishly scratching my initials on the back.

‘Very recently my watchmaker uncle overhauled the watch and put it back into useable working order.

‘I was astonished to be told that the watch was in fact gold, which only served to deepen my curiosity about Steven. 

‘He has probably long ago forgotten me, but I have never forgotten him, even though I only have a shadowy memory of a fair-headed boy who might not even have existed anywhere other than my imagination if it weren't for the solid evidence of that watch.’

If you know of him please email Ruth on [email protected] or me.  

On July 24, I asked if anyone knew  about the workings of the flower clock along Clarence Esplanade.

Dennis Knowlden told me his brother used to work on the gardens over 50 years ago. He told Dennis the clock was run by electricity via a small box under the display.

On Friday week I published a photograph of a raft being recovered from Hilsea Creek. 

Doug Barlow tells me: ‘These were Copper Punts supplied to ships, cruisers and above with a crane requirement.

‘They were used by the Side Party under the direction of The Captain of the Side, a petty officer, for touching up (painting) the side and cutting in the boot topping. It was my task in the cruiser HMS Newfoundland.’

n Pam’s Cafe on the corner of Copnor Road and Mayfield Road closed about 15 years ago and changed hands.

Builders are currently working on it and the original name has been uncovered, Lennard’s Cafe. Does anyone remember this?