Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

WWII landings ship to be restored

Medway Queen: pic courtesy of Medway Queen Preservation Society
Many of the ship's WWII crew members were decorated for bravery

Work is under way in Bristol on part of the 1.8m restoration of the 1924 paddle steamer, Medway Queen.

The ship became famous for making seven crossings to the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 rescuing 7,000 men.

In September 2008 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a contract to David Abels of Albion Drydock to build the hull.

Under the command of Lt A.T. Cook the ship's heroic exploits in saving allied troops earned it the title "Heroine of Dunkirk".

Talking about the Dunkirk rescue trips, Bruce Sutton, a member of the Medway Queen crew said: "A long time before we got there we saw the flames and smelled burning oil. No person who was there will forget it.

'New beginning'

"We went six more times mostly to La Panne but sometimes to Dunkirk Harbour going around many wrecks. We had a motor boat which towed another to and from the beach.

"The army lined up on the shore. I did not see anyone panic or jump the queue. When the ship returned to Ramsgate our passengers were whisked away, we fuelled, stored, tidied up and it was time to go again."

Many of the crew members received decorations of bravery with special note made of Thomas Russell who was the chief cook on board and gave each rescued man food and drink.

During its final crossing the Medway Queen was badly damaged and limped home on a single paddle.

Due to the long delay in its arrival it was reported missing but when it did eventually arrive back in Dover Harbour it was saluted by all present craft and received a signal from Admiral Ramsay saying "Well done Medway Queen".

The ship was refitted at Chatham Dockyard and served out the war as a training vessel.

Brian Goodhew, spokesman for the Medway Queen Preservation Society said: "This is the first chapter in a new beginning."

The completion date for the fully riveted hull is June 2010.

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