Concrete Barge, Torpedo Boat, & Dunkirk Boat

The Concrete Barge

Ferro-Concrete barges were used to keep artificial ‘Mulberry Harbours’ afloat used by the allies in D-Day as checkpoints in the English Channel. One was thought to have drifted off of the broken Mulberry harbour that lies out in the Thames opposite Shoebury/Southend. Using Google Earth I went back to 1999 and found the Concrete Barge. I have also included the same spot now:


Ever since this Canvey icon was believed to have been destroyed in 2003, by the sailing club at the Point, not wanting a piece of history within view (instead referring to it as an eyesore), we’ve all accepted – albiet difficult – that our Concrete Barge was gone, blown up overnight. Her 1940’s hull still infact remains at Canvey Point – it’s position can be seen in my previous post . Although only the very base of this hulk remains, it still shows considerable concrete work, with metal rods protruding, giving an idea of her size. I took a small rod, hoping it will one day be a relic! The remnants are worth seeing, so go and take a look. Below are our finds:

The M.V. Bendigo

Another vessel involved in the Second World War marooned on Canvey is the M.V. Bendigo. Historian Robin Howie explains:

The M.V. Bendigo was being towed round the island to a new berth on the western side of the bridge,ironically only about a couple of hundred yards away from its existing one.This was necessary due to the new bridge being impassible.
At Hole Haven she started leaking and it was decided to tie her up to the Occidental construction jetty.
There is a photo of her on Dave Bullock’s walk around west Canvey minus superstructure,but I didn’t make the connection until my last trip to Canvey last weekend.
After much poking around and asking questions over some weeks I was at last put in touch with one
of the rare people who live on the marsh still.Following some sketchy directions over the saltings I began to think that I was on some kind of wind up having spent some minutes balancing along rickety planks and jumping ditches.
At last there was his little cabin cruiser hiding between two big wrecks.
I convinced him that I respected his privacy and that I was not from the “social”.
He told me the whole story and it was confirmrd that his word was good by some local characters.
He also told me that Bendigo was her civvy name and she would only have a number in service.
He knew this as he had owned a identical one many years before.
I’m sorry the ending is not a happy one but one plus point is that it gave me an excuse to be a mudlark again for a few minutes.

An image of an MTB firing off its deadly torpedoes. From

An image of an MTB firing off its deadly torpedoes. From

The M.V. Bendigo saw life as a Motor Torpedo Boat in the Second World War. Motor torpedo boats were fast petrol engine ship-hunting boats used for stealthy low-profile attacks on larger ships with their torpedoes during the Second World War, such as in the ‘Battle for the Atlantic’. It can be seen nearest the bridge to Benfleet on the left side in the 1956 photograph below in an impressive state. Next is it in 2004 moored at the Occidental ‘construction jetty’. The final image shows it rotting in 2011, taken by us. Quite a shame, but at least we can document the ship today.

CK69 – Used in the Dunkirk Evacuations

In 1940, The British Expeditionary Force, Britain’s main army, was sent into France to help the French troops drive back the Germans during the first British assault of World War Two. However they were rapidly struck back, and were left in pieces on the French coast from which they arrived. With the Germans closing in fast, and nowhere to go but the English Channel, these troops were evacuated via Operation Dynamo, commonly known as the ‘Battle of Dunkirk; which lasted from the 26th of May to the 4th of June. ‘The Little Ships’ were some 700 privately owned boats (mainly fishing boats) owned by British citizens, which were volunteers who responded to the call for private small boats to come to Dunkirk and rescue the cornered remains of the British fighting force. One such boat, built in 1937, came from Burnham-on-Crouch, and remains burnt after arson in Smallgain’s Boat Yard on Canvey to-date. It was a 6-man boat designed to catch oysters via ‘dredging’ – a method which involved lifting up sediments from the seabed and capturing fish (or in this case mollusks) in a net. Its remains can be seen publicly to this day, and was in fine shape until its recent attack.


The Vanguard in dredging use in its prime

The boat pre-damage not long ago

The boat pre-damage not long ago

The boat was heavily damaged a few years ago due to a fire.

The boat was heavily damaged a few years ago due to a fire.



Internal Gubbings - Image by Dave Bullock

Internal Gubbings – Image by Dave Bullock







This ‘Association of Dunkirk Little Ships’ website details her:

Boat Specification

Boat Name: Vanguard
Boat Type: Oyster Smack
Boat Length: 45ft
Boat Beam: 14ft 6ins
Boat Draft: 4ft 6ins
Boat Displacement: 11.5 tons
Boat Engine: Kelvin 44
Boat Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: R & J Prior, Burnham
Boat Year: 1937

Working boats are designed to suit their trade and the waters in which they earn their living. Our East coast rivers are muddy, tidal and tricky to navigate. But the oyster fishermen of the region know their waters like the back of their hands and their boats are designed to suit them, with a shallow draft, a low freeboard and wide decks to provide ideal working platforms. The Burnham Oyster Company had Vanguard purpose-built for dredging and she was designed to turn in her own length. Her deck allowed six men to work in comfort hauling in the nets. The deckhouse provided the minimum of shelter. Vanguard certainly was not intended for the open sea and would roll like a pig in anything above force 5.

Skipper Grimwade took her across to Dunkirk in 1940 with Joe Clough as his engineer. They went with another oyster dredger, the Seasalter which also survived and a ketch called Ma Joie which was abandoned and lost. They could not get into Dunkirk harbour, so they picked up the men from the beaches and 24 hours later, arrived back at Ramsgate loaded with troops.

At the end of the war, Keeble & Sons of Paglesham, Essex bought the Vanguard and put her back to oyster dredging which their family had done on the rivers Roach and Crouch for fifty years on thirty-four acres of rented oyster beds. But the bad winter of 1962 decimated the oyster population.

Those which survived the ice and the cold and succeeded in breeding since then, are now faced with the increasing hazards of pollution. So W. Keeble sold Vanguard to Ron Pipe, a fisherman at Burnham-on-Crouch, who used her for in-shore fishing for a while and sold her again. Ten years later, Doug Whiting bought her back from another owner in a sorry state. Now he has enlarged her wheel-house, given up oyster fishing and has taken up shrimping on the Roach and Crouch.

Since then she has changed hands again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s