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THAMES TUGS

THE THAMES SHIPHANDLING TUGS

AND

LONDON LIGHTERAGE TUGS

1833 - 2015

 
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO YEARS OF TOWING HISTORY IN PEACE AND WAR ON LONDON RIVER
 

TO VISIT AWARDS SITE PLEASE GO TO LINKS PAGE WHERE A DIRECT LINK WILL BE FOUND
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The tug has got the tow-line and will take us to the downs,
her paddles churn the sea-wrack and all the filth of towns:
John Masefield 1902
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THIS SITE
 
   So, "Why Tugs?", I hear you ask, " Have you been a Tugman"?   The aswer to the latter question is no, I have never been a Thames tugman and never will be now. The answer to the first question is more complicated and deserving of explanation.
     Please imagine a summer afternoon in East London, about 1947. A four year old boy and his father are standing on the bascule bridge spanning the entrance to the King George the Fifth Dock, gazing at the might of the British Merchant Navy, moored at the quays, in places two deep. The bridgeman requests them to move, closes the barriers and the bridge lifts. The boy stands at the side of the bridge, fingers hooked in the filthy, soot encrusted metal trellis of the fence, wide eyed,  as into his view comes a much smaller vessel. A varnished upper bridge, a tall black funnel with a bright red band, a shimmer of heat and wisp of steam at its top, slowly appear. Then a long low after deck, and leading up from it a bar tight towrope, spurting water under the strain. His eyes follow the rope to the bows of a huge freighter. "That's the Highland Brigade, son" says dad, "She'll be bound for South America". The young lad makes no reply, his attention taken by a man in a white topped cap on that varnished bridge. A man who smiles and waves to him, before casually pulling the lever of  a gleaming brass telegraph. The pair watch while the tug, aided by another astern with a black topped blue  funnel guide the ship  skilfully into the lock. The bridge closes, traffic flows again, and the pair, the boy with black smudged nose, walk to the bus stop and catch the 101 bus for home.
 
     Yes, you've guessed, the boy was me and I was hooked. This fixation was reinforced just five years later when I, and probably most of the nation, clustered around the radio and scanned the newspapers, eager to learn about the latest heroics of Captain Dan Parker and Mate Ken Dancy of the tug Turmoil, and the lone Captain Kurt Carlsen aboard his ill-fated American freighter Flying Enterprise. The interest survived the teen years, despite discovering girls, and many notes were scribbled in grubby notebooks during the following years, details being gleaned from ABC's of British Tugs, Sea Breezes magazines, and anywhere and everywhere else the magic word 'tug' appeared. Then came computers, and the contents of the note books were transferred to floppy discs and then CD's. Retirement loomed and to keep the brain active I decided to try publishing a website. A steep learning curve followed but the frustrations and late nights have proved worthwhile, because of the tremendous support of you people out there.  The site is now edited and published from my home in the Medway Towns, Kent, and is entirely non-profit making and funded from my pension. Many friends have been made via e-mails and the input from Tugmen, past and present, and fellow enthusiasts have ensured the site did not become just a collection of boring statistics. Many different facets of what could normally be a dangerous life emerged and I am in awe of the tugmen's exploits during two wars and at Dunkirk in particular. A spin off has been enquiries from folk doing family history research and has led to interest in the riverside communities, especially Gravesend, where many of the tugs listed on site were based. The Roll Call pages contain the names of nearly 600 earlier Thames Tugmen, many from Gravesend and are dedicated to those lost at sea and on the rivers and also to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during wartime service. 
 
    The site contains details of many of the River Thames ship handling tugs operating between 1833 and 2008, and details the fleets of William Watkins Ltd (still my first love), Gamecock, Elliott, Sun Tugs, Ship Towage Ltd., London Tugs Ltd., Alexandra Towing Co. (London) Ltd. Howard Smith [UK] Ltd, Adsteam [UK] Ltd, Svitzer [UK] Ltd, KOTUG, Tilbury Dredging  and the Port of London Authority.
 
In later years the site has been extended to include details of tugs of the London lighterage industry [see Lighterage Section] and also has been extended to include some coverage of the wartime activities of tugmen in general, especially with regard to the towage of the Mulberry Harbour sections in 1944.
 
My sincere thanks go to all who have provided support, encouragement, information and photographs. Whilst it is perhaps not entirely fair to single out for particular mention  a few from the many, an acknowledgement section appears below. If your name does not appear rest assured your contribution has been much valued and appreciated.
I hope you find your visit to the Thames Tugs site informative and that you return again soon, as it is being constantly updated. If you have any questions about Tugs or related subjects I am always willing to try and answer them, but a one hundred percent success rate cannot be guaranteed. Please contact the site, via the SITE CONTACT button in the top menu,  if you have any information, stories or photographs to share, I am constantly amazed at the interesting messages and photographs people send me, and always eager to see more. All photographs are accepted in good faith, but if there is any accidental copyright infringement please contact me so that the mistake can be rectified.  This site is committed to placing on record details of our Maritime and Social history, too much of which has already been lost.  Free exchange of information is the life blood of sites like this and you are welcome to download any of the textual information on it for personal non profit making use only, but please take note of the DISCLAIMER below. I regret, however,  that I am unable to assist in providing copies of photos for use in any other publication or website.
Enjoy your visit,
Tug.
 
 
 
 
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
My sincere thanks go particularly to the following.
All those whose names appear on the Mess Room and Guestbook pages and under the photographs. David Asprey, David Waller, Barney Hunt, Alan Hughes, Piet van Damme and all the other Tugtalkers who have tolerated my picking of their collective and individual brains and have provided or confirmed manyof the vessel details. David Brown of Svitzer UK ltd., for his tremendous contribution regarding the Dunkirk logs. Colin Gardner for allowing the use of his fathers diary regarding the Downs Patrol. Nolly Harvey and Harold Russell for the amount of material they have contributed. Len Williams for supplying all the text and pics in the section concerning his Grandfather, Lt. J. L. Williams, RNVR. Kevin Haydon for his history of Gravesend United Towing Co and other items. For details scoured from their individual books, Frank Bowen, John Reynolds, Tim Nicholson, Bill Harvey, Phil Thomas, John Proud and other authors who did and still do take on the huge task of putting their research into book form. On line resources including Census returns, Times newspaper archives, London Gazette, and the webmasters of a host of other maritime based sites. And finally to all those who may have sent me perhaps one short email which may not have appeared on site but which maybe was the final piece of a jigsaw or started off a new avenue of research. I humbly thank you all.
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DISCLAIMER

This is NOT an'OFFICIAL' site in any way. It is a collection of information gathered by like minded enthusiasts over many years. The information comes from many sources and whilst all reasonable care is taken to try and verify details complete accuracy is not guaranteed.  This is a totally non profit making site created for the enjoyment of enthusiasts and for furthering knowledge about a little recognized part of our maritime past and the men involved in it.

 

COPYRIGHT


THIS IS A TOTALLY FREE TO ACCESS WEBSITE. NOTHING IS SOLD FROM OR VIA THIS SITE. IT IS FUNDED ENTIRELY FROM MY OWN PENSION.

Please note that all photographs contributed are accepted in good faith. i.e. that you are the owner of the photo or you have the owners permission to forward it to this site for publication. Much of the information contained on this web site has come from a variety of sources, much of which is in the public domain and  I claim no personal copyright on content in this site.  I have acknowledged  sources that I have used where known or made known to me and where possible attributed copyright where I am aware of it or have been asked to do so.  However if you feel that I have accidentally infringed on any specific copyright, please let me know and the photo will be removed immediately or re-attributed, whichever you wish. Please do not lift photos from this site manually or by crawler and publish elsewhere unless they are yours!   I am unable AND WILL NOT give permission for the use of any photos on this site elsewhere unless they happen to be my own. Many thanks for your cooperation and apologies in advance for any need to contact me regarding infringement.

NO RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE ACCEPTED FOR ANY PROBLEMS ARISING FROM USE OF ANY MATERIAL FROM THIS SITE AND I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE CONTENT OF ANY SITES TO WHICH THERE ARE LINKS.

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© Thames Tugs 2007
All rights reserved.