Press release - Tuesday 30 April 2024

National Historic Ships UK (NHS-UK) has appointed four historic vessels from around the UK to act as its Flagships of the Year for 2024 and ‘fly the flag’ for maritime heritage.  All four vessels are listed on the prestigious National Historic Fleet, and two are 100 years old or more. 

The 2024 Flagships of the Year are:

  •  Waverley - the last Clyde paddle steamer built and the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world, with a busy cruise schedule planned for 2024
  • Challenge - the last surviving example of a large purpose-built, Thames ship-handling steam tug, with an impressive war history
  • Provident - Brixham trawler now offering classic sailing holidays in Scotland, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2024
  • Lady Daphne - 101-year old Spritsail barge, now moored at Charlestown Harbour and offering a varied events programme

The 2024 Flagships will receive a special broad pennant to fly at the masthead, a copy of the NHS-UK guidance manual Conserving Historic Vessels, and a brass plaque for their vessel, courtesy of Engraving Studios.  Each Flagship will hold a flag-hoisting ceremony during May and June 2024 to celebrate its new status.  Local press are welcome to attend – please email for details.

NHS-UK’s annual Flagship Awards have been running since 2009.  The Awards provide an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate the value of historic vessels to the wider public.  This can be through a variety of online activities, special events, open days, workshops and tours.  Competition was particularly strong for the coveted accolade this year.  Applications were received from a range of operational and static vessels on the National Registers based on their seasonal programmes and planned level of outreach.  NHS-UK has awarded four very different craft the status of Flagship of the Year 2024; one National Flagship, one Static and two Operational vessels.

Flagships promote the role of National Historic Ships UK by publicising its annual Photo Competition, Excellence in Maritime Conservation, and Marsh Volunteer Awards.  They will also be flying the flag as ambassadors for the UK’s maritime heritage sector.  NHS-UK will work closely with each of the Flagships to promote their vessel and offer support and advice.

National Flagship of the Year 2024

Waverley, Paddle Steamer, built 1946 (Glasgow)

Awarded in recognition of her ambitious cruising programme around the UK during which she is scheduled to visit 70 ports / piers (including several at which she has never stopped before), her dedicated marketing plan and high level of outreach across all major social media platforms.  2024 marks the 50th Anniversary since Waverley was gifted for £1, and the ship will also boast new display boards, activity leaflets and a range of special offers.  

Waverley is not only the last Clyde paddle steamer built, but also the last sea-going paddle steamer operational in the world.  Built for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) to replace war losses, she was launched in October 1946.  Her main excursion routes for the first few decades of her life was along the Clyde to the West Coast coastal resorts, as well as into Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute, and as far afield as the Isle of Arran.  Since 1974, Waverley has been owned by Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. and is operated by Waverley Excursions.  In 2000-2003 she underwent a major rebuild with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.  

Now fully restored and painted in her original LNER colours, Waverley continues to cruise around the UK coast each summer with a busy schedule of cruises planned for 2024, starting on 17th May in Glasgow and the Clyde Coast.  The timetable includes Oban and the Inner Hebrides, the Bristol Channel, North Wales and the Mersey, the South West, South Coast and Isle of Wight, London and the Thames Estuary, before returning to the Clyde for the final sailings of the season in October. 

Operational Flagship of the Year 2024

Challenge, Steam Tug, built 1931 (Chatham, Kent)

Awarded in recognition of her planned attendance at two major international events - Dordrecht in Steam and D-Day 80 in Normandy, incorporating live public displays and real-time social media updates, as well as her participation in local festivals around the Thames Estuary for the remainder of the summer.  

Built by Alexander Hall & Co. Ltd of Aberdeen, Challenge is the last surviving example of a large purpose-built, Thames ship-handling steam tug, where she was based for her entire working life.  She has an impressive war history, being one of the 'Dunkirk Little Ships' engaged in the evacuation of Allied troops from France, and, after returning to the Thames, towing Maunsell anti-aircraft towers out into the Thames estuary and, in 1944, towing parts of the Mulberry harbours used in the D-Day landings.  In July 1944, she was damaged by a V1 flying bomb in the Royal Albert Dock - she still bears the marks of this attack today.  After the war, she continued in service and was the last steam tug to serve on the Thames.  She was acquired by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust in 1993 for restoration to steam, and in 2005 she returned to Dunkirk for the first time since the 1950s.  

Challenge has been under current private ownership since 2020.  Hard work and determination by a dedicated team of enthusiastic and skilled volunteers has meant that she has regularly been in steam and has carried out many excursions in the Solent.  In 2021, Challenge relocated to the Medway where she has proved to be a popular attraction at the annual Queenborough Boat Festival with hundreds of visitors coming onboard for guided tours.  She will be back at Queenborough in 2024.  Since 2022, Challenge has featured as a key feature of the Festival of Steam in collaboration with the paddle steamer Waverley

Operational Flagship of the Year 2024

Provident, Brixham Trawler, built 1924 (Oban, Argyll & Bute)

Awarded in recognition of plans to celebrate her centenary with a return cruise from Scotland to Brixham, bringing together ex-crew and other surviving Brixham trawlers in a celebration Regatta event, as well as ongoing public engagement and social media activity throughout the season.

Provident was built by Saunders & Co at Galmpton on the River Dart, one of the last trawlers to be built for working under sail. She is of the medium size Mule class with a gaff-ketch rig.  She fished for six years, with a crew of three men and a boy, and was then sold to an American, Captain R H Lagarde, who had her converted to a yacht design by Morgan Giles.  Provident had three more owners in the West Country, during which time she had an engine fitted.  She spent the war years on the Helford River in Cornwall.  In 1951 she was purchased by John Bayley who, with Provident, founded the Island Cruising Club (ICC).  She continued under Club ownership until 1971 when the newly formed Maritime Trust bought her and chartered her back to the ICC so that she could continue her sailing career.  After a major refit, she was recommissioned in May 1991.  She was subsequently used for sail training in the West Country and in 2012, participated in the Avenue of Sail at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. 

Since May 2022, Provident has been owned and operated by Angels Share Sailing Holidays. She is now based in Oban and the Argyll region, and operates classic sailing holidays around the Scottish islands.  In May 2024, she will return to Brixham, where she was built, to celebrate her centenary at the Brixham Heritage Regatta. 

Static Flagship of the Year 2024

Lady Daphne, Spritsail Barge, built 1923 (Charlestown, Cornwall)

Awarded in recognition of the extensive planned programme of events which include open days, floating fayres, music and quiz nights, artists studios and even the launch of the vessel's own ale and spirit range.  The creativity and variety demonstrated in the application was inspiring and reflects the growth of interest in the vessel locally through news and social media.

Lady Daphne was built by Short Brothers, Rochester, for Thomas Watson Shipping Ltd, and named after her owner's eldest daughter at her launch in 1923.  Amongst the very few wooden barges built after the First World War, she operated as a coasting barge for half a century, carrying cargoes such as China clay, Portland Stone, cement and grain between East and South coast ports.  Lady Daphne has had several lucky escapes in her life, including being shipwrecked on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly in 1927, being struck by a tramp steamer on the Thames and nearly capsizing in Ipswich Docks during the Great East Coast tidal surge of January 1953. 

 In 1975, she was re-rigged and converted to a promotional and charter barge at Maldon by her new owners, Taylor Woodrow Ltd, and returned to St Katherine Docks in London where she operated from for a further 50 yrs.  She mainly cruised on the Thames but also ventured further afield for events such as Barge Matches and Cowes Week, being entered in races each year with some success.  Since 1996, she has been in private ownership with the latest transfer of ownership in 2016. 

In April 2022, Lady Daphne undertook the journey South West to her new home at Charlestown Harbour in Cornwall, where she is undergoing continual maintenance and restoration.  She celebrated her 100th birthday in 2023, when the Friends of Lady Daphne won the Marsh Volunteer of the Year - Group award at the 2023 National Historic Ships UK Awards.  

About National Historic Ships UK

NHS-UK is a government funded, independent organisation which gives objective advice to UK governments and local authorities, funding bodies, and the historic ships sector on all matters relating to historic vessels in the UK.  It maintains the National Register of Historic Vessels, which lists over 1,500 historic craft.  It also manages the Shipshape Network, which was set up to promote the regeneration of traditional maritime skills around the UK.

2024 Flagships