Confederation Marine Modellers
This is an abridged version of an article by Ed White which first appeared in the "Binnacle", the newsletter of the Victoria Model Shipbuilding Society, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.
Pictures here can be found at http://www.epoxycraft.com, sailingbarges.files.wordpress.com, http://www.phillipsdesignpublishing.co.uk, onthethames.net, simplywhitstable.com, www.myclassicboat.com and spitalfieldslife.com.
Will Everard's skipper throughout World War 2 was Captain J.A. Uglow, and he was awarded the M.B.E. for his wartime service, the only bargeman ever to be so honoured. He supplied the stories that are reproduced here.
In May 1940, Will was two miles off Southwold, bound for Yarmouth. when a British destroyer dropped a pattern of depth charges only three hundred yards away, presumably to attack a German submarine. Whether the submarine was hurt, or even there, isn‘t known, but Will and all aboard her got a bad shaking. Later that same month, anchored near the North Goodwin light vessel, riding out an easterly storm, Captain Uglow saw two larger ships sunk by mines. A naval lieutenant came out in a launch to tell him he could proceed because he was in a dangerous spot!
The following month, June 1940, was the month of the evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk, by an assembly of small craft gathered from all over eastern and southern England. Will wasn’t able to get unloaded in time to join the Dunkirk fleet, but her sister ship, Ethel Everard, had to be abandoned on the beach after taking heavy damage from aircraft. At the end of the month, still working, Will arrived with a cargo in Southampton, and for the next year was confined to local trading between the Isle of Wight, Southampton, and Poole. It didn't stop the danger. In August Will was machine-gunned by enemy fighters two days in succession, while lying at Medina Cement Mills in the Medina river. A few weeks later, at Phoenix wharf, Southampton, she was in the middle of a major daylight raid on the Supermarine Aircraft factory. 153 bombs were dropped around her, on both sides of a 600 yard stretch of the river. The Will was lifted partly out of the water, and her hull was hogged as she slammed back down. The fore hold was filled with debris from surrounding buildings, the hatches blown over the side, and the skylight blown out. A very narrow escape.
At the end of July, 1941, Will was towed through the Pas de Calais as part of a convoy because of the danger from the German guns on the French coast. The convoy came through unscathed and Will resumed her role in the east coast trade from London north. The next action she was involved in was in November, when she was sailing in company with the barge Britisher. also of Everard's. The Britisher was totally destroyed by a magnetic mine about five hundred yards away from Will, both Skipper and mate were lost.
During a voyage in the winter of 1942, bound for Norwich, Captain Uglow tried to sneak a few miles in fog and darkness, despite the fact that barges were forbidden to be under way after dark. They were about one and a half miles off Harwich when they heard the sound of torpedo boat engines. They anchored to avoid detection and heard one torpedo boat circling around them for about ten minutes, then gunfire from light guns at Harwich, continued later at sea. They assumed it had been some sort of exercise, but the following day found out that what they heard was an enemy e-boat raid on Harwich, with another the same night farther north, on Lowestoft.
The following spring, March 1942, Will was attacked by a Focke Wulf 190, that peppered her mainsail with machine gun fire, fortunately none of the crew was hurt. From then to the war's end, in Captain Uglow's words, "there was nothing particularly exciting apart from the raids, "doodle-bugs" and V2 rockets generally experienced by everyone living in Britain's south east.
After the war, Will continued in service, being one of the very last sailing barges to trade under sail alone. She was finally retrofitted with an engine in 1952, and passed from the Trade into the hands of the P & 0 shipping line. They converted her hold into a Directors' dining room, keeping her moored right by their Head Office in London, and sailing occasionally for the pleasure of the company and its guests. That era passed, as all eras do, and Will today still lives in the Port of London, being chartered for parties and events, and still sailing on special occasions. Google "Sailing barge Will", you‘ll find her.
For me, Will Everard and her war record are a potent symbol of all the courage of ordinary people, who simply "carry on' their relatively mundane, routine jobs, through difficult times and circumstances. We take for granted the result, which is civilization continued.
Nautical lore – Thames spritsail barges - Part 2.