Posts Tagged ‘Canvey Point’

‘Canvey 2000’ was an attempt to rejuvenate Canvey Island’s seafront in 1997, hoping to restore it to reflect some of the glory as a tourist resort, centered around Thorney bay holiday camp and beach, which it had seen from the 1900s up until the 1980s. It saw some success and definitley revitalised the seafront into the more developed place it is today, although it did encoutner difficulties prior to the folding of the charity in 2010 meaning some of the developments have been left to ruin. However, the spirit of Canvey 2000 has picked up again with the excellent Friends of Concord Beach who have focused on making the sea-side of the wall, and the beach, something to be proud of once again.

Vincent Heatherson was a driving force behind the project, amongst many other individuals, and became chairman during the lifespan of the charity, and being a local gardener he was responsible for the manual labour required in installing the gardens in the field behind the Labworth Cafe, and the brick-paving along the seawall. He passed away at a young age in 2012 and his nephew BTP Liam arranged the installation of a plaque in the gardens to commemorate his efforts, with the help of the Town Council. The photographs of the Canvey 2000 project seen below were found in Vince’s collection. Many of the photographs were actually taken by Alison Love but Vince may have taken some himself as well. James Heatherson designed the Canvey 2000 logo used on the t-shirts at the time, still seen on many plaques in the garden.

The Crash

The Canvey Archive has a large collection of memoirs, photographs, and information on the crash please see here: and a booklet detailing the events from ‘See History’ they shared is here:

On the 19th of June 1944 a formation of B17 Flying Fortress American bomber planes were heading back to their base in Kimbolton, and it was pilot Lt. Lloyd Burn’s 29th mission. The Heavenly Body II was the new plane he was meant to be flying that day, although co-pilot Lt. Fred Kauffman asked to have a go at flying and Burns let him do so for practice. Another of the B17s began to lose control as one of its engines failed after being shot at on the mission they were returning from over Zudausques where they had to take out a V1 Doodlebug launch site. It began to fall and crashed ontop of the Heavenly Body II, killing Lt. Kauffman in the pilot’s seat instantly. When Burns tried to take over the found the controls had no bearing on the behaviour of the plane, and they had to bale. Many of the crew ejected, but Edward Sadler was killed and Louis Schulte drowned upon hitting the water. There were many more casualties in the other craft that crashed in the Thames near All Hallows, because the escape exit had become damaged and wouldn’t open.

Uncovering the Wreckage

It is worth noting that respect for archaeology and history hasn’t always been widely-viewed as commonplace in the way it is today, and it is only in more recent times that conservation has been a universal concern hence why very little attention was given to the wreckage immediately after wartime. Until the 1970s and 80s much of the wreckage had remaining sticking out of the mud at Canvey Point simply because much of it was left without any action; with parts claimed as scrap rather than for its importance. At this time Canvey Islander Gary Foulger was one of the first to resurface and raise awareness of this dreadful tragedy that had previously been put to the back of the minds of the locals alive to witness the crash first hand.

Photographs from Ian Hawks, Shirley Gartshore, and Gary Foulger can be seen below of the recovery of the remains:

Remembering the Sacrifice

The crash was commemorated in a plaque at the Paddocks on Canvey down Long Road as a result of Gary’s investigations. It was upgraded recently.

Canvey War Memorial featuring a plaque to remember the crew

Canvey War Memorial featuring a plaque to remember the crew

On June the 19th 2015, exactly 71 years after the crash, an information board was erected on the seawall near Canvey Point educating passers by on the price the crew paid to liberate the future. Personally I believe this is an excellent display which I would like to see more of for more lesser-publicised sites of historic and cultural significance, as now the heroes of the Heavenly Body II and their peers have been immortalized in a physical reminder for the public to see. The local sea scouts stood at the plaque alongside Ray Howard and the Reverend David Tudor who both gave a speech. Messages from the families of the crew were read out by Geoff Burke. See them here: The MP Rebecca Harris alongside the Mayor, and Alan Foreman and David Thorndike of the Bay Museum were also were present at the unveiling. Afterwards we went to the Yatch Club adjacent and had tea alongside displays from the Bay Museum showcasing some of the remains and the story of the crash.

June the 6th 1944, shortly after midnight, 24,000 British, US, and Canadian, airborne troops landed in the region of France that the amphibious assault would capture around 6:30 in the morning that day. Allied troops began landed on the 50-mile stretch of perilous beaches of Nazi-occupied Normandy in order to push back the short-lived Nazi German empire Hitler was rapidly loosing. This happened today exactly 70 years ago. Whilst times and technology have since far surpassed that of wartime Britain, the Second World War is still well within living memory of the members of our community and immediate environment today. It is far too easy to dismiss it as history.

What local connections do we have to D-Day then?

There are two remains locally which hark back to the Allied assault on Normandy. Off the Southend/Shoebury shores lies a wrecked Mulberry Harbour – a floating concrete platform used in great numbers by the allies as supply points in the English channel. One of the floats off of the Mulberry Harbours, ‘ferro-concrete barges’, was moored up near Canvey point for many decades, and became a legendary playground for kids, until it was sneakily demolished in the 2003.

The D-Day Beaches Today

Many of the D-Day beaches are littered with remnants from Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ (his coastal defense line against invasion via France) which defended German territory from the Allies in D-Day. Only part of this came to use, as Hitler did not know what part of his European coastline would be invaded.

In August 2012 I visited Le Touquet, on holiday in Northern France, a coastal town, which happened to still hold bunkers remaining from the Atlantic Wall on the beach, much to my delight. Below ares some images of such bunkers whose designs would probably have been common across the sections of coastline invaded in D-Day. It’s good to cover some historic remains abroad for a change!

I also visited, in 2011, Sword Beach, a more heavily defended British beach (with the American Omaha beach being far heavier). This was an actual D-day beach, although many remains of the Atlantic Wall here had been since removed. It was on the town of Ouistreham, the name ‘Sword’ merely being a code-name given by the Allies. There was however a very large bunker – ‘The Grand Bunker’, open as a restored museum, which was in fact very good. I will try and find some of the other structural photographs I got of the building at a later date, but for now here is a few:

Hello BTP readers and welcome again to another blog post! We are approaching 30,00 website views a massive amount for our website which is approaching 2 years old later this year! Over the next few months (until the start of July) we won’t be posting as many posts as we did last year due to myself and BTP Liam having exams and a lot of work to do however we will be doing at least 2 month for you. Things will be back to normal at July and we have some exciting plans for the east half term and also the 6 weeks that we have off before starting college/6th form.

Most adults will know who Dr Feelgood are and those that listen to the Castle View Radio (CVFM) would have heard me talking about them on Tuesday. Dr. Feelgood are a British pub rock band formed in 1971 originating from Canvey. Hailing from the island they are best known for early singles like “Back in the Night” and “Roxette”. Although their most commercially productive years were the early to mid 1970s. They continue to tour and record to this day with them coming to the Oysterfleet this weekend! The group’s original distinctively British R&B sound was centred on Wilko Johnson’s choppy guitar style.

Wilko Johnson

Like many pub rock acts, Dr. Feelgood were known primarily for their high energy live performances, although studio albums like Down by the Jetty (1974) and Malpractice (1975) were also popular. Their breakthrough 1976 album, Stupidity, reached number one in the UK Albums Chart which was their only chart topper. But after the follow-up Sneakin’ Suspicion, Johnson left the group. He was replaced by John ‘Gypie’ Mayo. With Mayo, the band was never as popular as with Johnson. Down by the Jetty is a very iconic song by the group and a very interesting one for us! The album cover can be seen below with a Canvey Jetty in the background.

The original album

Later Years

The band then suffered an almost career-finishing blow, when Brilleaux died of cancer on 7 April 1994 however their memory never died. Every year since Brilleaux’s death in a special concert, known as the Lee Brilleaux Birthday Memorial, is held on Canvey Island, where ex and current Feelgoods celebrate the music of Dr. Feelgood, and raise money for The Fair Havens Hospice in Westcliff-on-Sea. Fans attend from all over the globe, and the 17th event was held on 7 May 2010. Although still based in the UK, Dr. Feelgood continue to play across the world, with concerts in 2010 including, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Switzerland

A film by Julien Temple about the very early days of the band, Oil City Confidential, premiered at the London Film Festival on 22 October 2009, and received a standing ovation. Guest of honour was Lee Brilleaux’s mother Joan Collinson, along with his widow Shirley and children Kelly and Nick. All the surviving members of the original band were present along with manager Chris Fenwick. Reviewing the film for The Independent, Nick Hasted concluded: “Feelgood are remembered in rock history, if at all, as John the Baptists to punk’s messiahs”. On general release from 1 February 2010, the film has been critically well received, with Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian describing it as “ ..a vivid study of period, music and place”. The film was broadcast on BBC Four in April 2010, September 2010 and on 15 March 2013.

Wilko Johnson – An Inspiration

Wilko lives in Southend and has an interest in astronomy, painting and poetry. He married his childhood sweetheart Irene Knight when they were teenagers, and had a son, Simon. Johnson was widowed in 2004 when Irene died. Johnson was forced to cancel a show in November 2012 when he was rushed to hospital with an undisclosed illness. He was diagnosed in January 2013 as having untreatable pancreatic cancer, and has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy. On 25 January 2013, he gave an interview on BBC Radio 4 discussing his terminal cancer, and said that doctors have told him he has nine or ten months to live. He talked about his “farewell tour” of the UK set for March, and how his diagnosis has made him feel “vividly alive”.

Thursday 31st January 2013 marks 60 long years since Canvey Island was hit by an abnormal storm causing mass flooding and damage to many many people’s property and lives. The horrific event terrorised Canvey however the whole of the Essex coast was affected as well as other places.


Saturday 31st January 1953 began in Essex like any other mid-winter Saturday, however the outcome was a surprising revelation for everyone… On Canvey the new memorial hall, gaily bedecked with bunting, was publicly dedicated in the afternoon to the memory of local men who lost their lives in the Second World War. On the mainland opposite Canvey, caretakers and cleaners gave the new Benfleet secondary school in Shipwrights Drive, sometimes referred to locally as ‘The Palace’, the final polish for its official opening. At 11pm at Tewkes Creek the wind was fresh, cold and fierce. Shortly before midnight, one or two nightfarers, who was a Roman Catholic Priest who was old visiting a sick parishioner. In the bright moonlight he saw the tide lapping the top of the wall. In the Sunken Marsh a river board employee who lived nearby realised that the tide was rising rapidly. At might night, the chilling water was closing in on the whole of the Essex coast. Flooding in varying degrees had begun, and was spreading as the tide continued its inexorable rise and overwhelmed the defences on an ever-lengthening front which the weight, height and duration of its attack.  At this time, just before 1am, dykes were starting to overflow and the electricity board has received a report of a fault on Canvey due to flooding. At 12:50am, the water was at the top of the wall at Smallgains, this section in fact has recently been raised and thickened and was about a foot and a half higher that the wall at Tewkes Creek. One of the river board’s men was blowing his whistle, which echoed in the howling wind. This was just gone 1am. A few minutes after this, the chairman had rung the police station to tell the sergeant that the flood boards at Canvey Bridge had been overtopped. The Police sergeant met a constable out on a bicycle patrol who was about to telephone the police station because although the tide the water was still a foot below the top of the wall, it was extremely high for the stage of the tide.

1am February 1st – Meanwhile, at the Newlands, the 2 river board men and a group of gathered dedicated citizens tried to rouse the elderly and the young. Stumbling in the moonlight across the muddy rutty unmade roads, up and down garden paths then went knocking, shouting and even one screeching at his whistle as a last attempt to save fellow Islanders. With the howling noise of the wind, corrugated roofs, wrought iron gates and loose shed doors it was a difficult task to stir residents.  However many people had no warning and were awakened by the sudden roar as the wall burst, by the swish of the water as it rushed past, by the clatter and crash of the debris striking the house, by the noise of splitting timber and smashing glass. Half-awake, dazed and bewildered, as they struggled to escape from this violent, engulfing nightmare, to reach the outdoor staircases to their lofts, or to fight their way through the tumult outside, to go to the aid of elderly relatives or neighbours living nearby, successive waves charging through the walls swept them off the feet, breathless and numb from the icy impact. The margin between life and death was a matter of seconds as the water gushed through shattered windows and doors, and, impounded as it was in the Sunken Marsh by the inland counter wall, with no means of dispersal; it rose rapidly to a lethal depth.

Many who clambered on chairs, tables, cookers, mangled-tables and step-ladders, to keep their heads above the water or to make holes in the flimsy ceilings in order to escape into the roof space or out onto the roof, found their supports swept away from under their feet, leaving them fighting in the dark with floating furniture, clutching desperately at fanlights and the tops of doors and wardrobes, and trying to hold children up above the suffocating water. The Sunken Marsh was well described as a ‘basin of death’… By 1:25am the water was above windowsill level at the Newlands end of the Sunken Marsh, and, over topping the counter wall, was already pouring over it into the low ground between the counter wall and the High Street.

Have lessons been learnt though?


This is just a little bit of what happened on that awful night. Liam and I are in the process of filming a documentary DVD to commemorate those that died and also the people that were affected by the floods. We are attending several events to pay our respects and also to film. If you have a story on the floods or know someone that does, we would be greatful if you would share it with us.

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:


Boat Type:

Oyster Smack

Boat Length:


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:


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.