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THAMES TUGS

THE THAMES SHIPHANDLING TUGS

1833 - 2014

 
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE YEARS OF TOWING HISTORY IN PEACE AND WAR ON LONDON RIVER
 
IF YOU WISH TO CONTACT OUR SPONSOR PLEASE CONTACT THIS SITE USING THE CONTACT OR ENQUIRY BUTTON IN THE TOP MENU AND YOUR MESSAGE WILL BE PASSED ON
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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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TO CONTACT THIS SITE

PLEASE USE 'CONTACT OR ENQUIRY' BUTTON IN TOP MENU.
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SOME NOTES ABOUT USING THIS SITE

IF THE TUG YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR WAS A SMALLER VESSEL CONNECTED WITH THE THAMES LIGHTERAGE INDUSTRY IT MAY WELL APPEAR ON OUR SISTER SITE, LONDON LIGHTERAGE TUGS.
CLICK ON THE BUTTON BELOW TO VISIT THIS SITE. ON BOTH SITES YOU ARE STRONLY ADVISED TO USE THE "SEARCH THIS SITE" BUTTON ON THE HOME PAGES TO TRACE VESSELS.
 
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SEARCH THIS SITE

VIEW THAMES TUGS PHOTO GALLERIES

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The site contents, accessed by the green buttons above, are arranged in roughly chronological order 1833 to present day. . Below are explanations about the contents of these pages that may assist you.
  • HOME PAGE: Fairly self-explanatory with an explanatiion below of the origin of the site, acknowledgements and disclaimer. Use blue-backed buttons above to contact or search this site or go to the separate picture gallery site.
  • LATEST NEWS: The page where the latest photographs received are displayed and any major updates or new pages announced.
  • MESS ROOM 2009: The page where messages to the site are displayed. The drop down list gives access to message from previous years.
  • EARLY OWNERS: Brief histories of some of the earliest Thames tug owners who do not have separate sections. The drop down list accesses details of some of the earlier tugs, roughly 1833-1900, which do not appear on separate owners pages.
  • WILLIAM WATKINS LTD. Fleet list 1833-1950 of one of the largest and earliest of the Thames tug companies. At the bottom of the page are some notes on the early River Thames tug builders.Use drop down list to locate vessels in alphabetical order. A separate sub-section on this page lists tugs managed by Watkins in WW1 and WW2.
  • ELLIOTT S.T. Co. LTD: Fleet list 1860-1950 of tugs owned by Elliott Steam Tug Company Ltd. At the bottom of the page is a report on the loss of the S.T. Security.
  • GAMECOCK STEAM TOWING CO LTD: Fleet list 1880-1950 of the Gamecock Steam Towing Co Ltd.
  • UNITED S. T.CO. LTD: Fleet list 1890-1937 and company history of the Gravesend United Steam Towing Co Ltd.
  • SUN TUGS [1], SUN TUGS [2]: Fleet lists 1883-1969 of the tugs of W H J Alexander and Co Ltd.
  • TUGS OF WAR: A brief explanation of the duties the tugs undertook in war time with a photo feature.
  • THE DOWNS PATROL: The duties of the tugs employed in the examination service in WW2 and featuring photos from the collection of Capt Alf Gardner.
  • DUNKIRK: A list of tugs known to have been present at the Dunkirk evacuation.
  • DUNKIRK LOGS [1]; DUNKIRK LOGS [2]: Excerpts from the logbooks of tugs at Dunkirk evacuation.
  • THAMES AT WAR: Tasks undertaken during WW2 including positioning of the Thames AA forts.
  • MULBERRY HBR. A brief explanation about the Normandy harbours of WW2.
  • MULBERRY TUGS [1] [2] and [3]: List of tugs, British, Dutch and French, known to have been involved in the cross channel tows of the mulberry harbour components.
  • MULBERRY TUGS [US]: List of US Navy and US Army tugs involved in the Mulberry harbours operations.
  • MULBERRY TUG LOGS. Extracts from the logbooks of tugs involved in the Mulberry Harbour project and later operations under COTUG control.
  • SHIP TOWAGE LTD [1] & [2]: Fleet list of Ship Towage [London] Ltd vessels from 1950-1969.
  • LONDON TUGS [1] & [2]: Fleet lists 1969-1975.
  • ATCL [1] & [2]: Fleet list of Alexandra Towing Co [London] Ltd 1975-1992.
  • HOWARD SMITH LTD: Fleet list of Thames tugs owned 1993-2001.
  • ADSTEAM UK LTD: Thames Tugs operated 2001-2007.
  • SVITZER UK LTD: Thames based Fleet list 2007 to present day.
  • P.L.A [1], [2] & [3]: Tugs operated by the Port of London Authority 1909-1992.
  • TC&D LTd: Tugs operated by the Tilbury Contracting and Dredging Co Ltd.
  • BP TUGS: Tugs currently operating under contract at Thameshaven Oil Refinery.
  • KOTUG; Details of tugs operating at Thameshaven and the Thames Gateway container port.
  • MEMORABILIA [1] & [2]. Photo feature of old letters, adverts etc.
  • ROLLCALL: Listings of over 700 Thames Tugmens details, mostly 19th century, in alphabetical order and also a history of the Watkins family. There is also an Obituary section here. If you wish to add to it please send email in normal way.
  • THAT DARN NEEDLE: The story of the bringing home of Cleopatra's Needle.
  • Lt. L J WILLIAMS. Biography of the Captain of S T Warrior during WW1.
  • CAPTAIN SMALES. The adventures of a tramp steamer captain taken from his own journals with sub pages detailing ships he served on.
ABBREVIATIONS USED
TE= Triple Expansion.
S= Simple steam
CYL = Cylinder
SL = Side Lever
B = Beam
D = Diagonal
SA = Single Acting
DA = Double acting
YN - Yard number
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THE 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 brightred 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 tighttowrope, 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 ladmakes 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 shipskilfully 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 learnabout 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 bookswere 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 normallybe 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 pagescontain 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 sacrificeduring 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, Tilbury Dredgingand the Port of London Authority. My sincere thanks go to all who have provided support, encouragement, information and photographs.Whilst it is perhaps not entirelyfair 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 youfind your visit to the Thames Tugs site informativeand 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 address on the Mess Room page, if you have any information, stories or photographs to share, I am constantly amazed at the interesting messages and photographspeople 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 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.
The page header photo comes from the STL collection and was captioned "Ship Towage's finest towing on the Talamba at West Blythe Buoy, 7-5-1966".
The main picture shows Crested Cock about to connect up to an Esso tanker. It comes from Michael Robinson and was possibly taken from Contest.
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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. All photographs are accepted in good faith, but if there has been an accidental infringement of Copyright please contact this site and the photograph will be removedimmediately or re-credited, whichever you choose. 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.

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

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