The paddle steamer Medway Queen celebrated her centenary this April with a week of events to mark the special occasion. 

Medway Queen was launched in 1924 and entered service on Thames estuary routes in July of that year.  She was an important part of the tourist scene until war was declared, when she was used as a minesweeper, as HMS Medway Queen, and worked to keep the seaways clear.  She is also famous for her seven trips to Dunkirk in 1940.

Medway Queen's Centenary events kicked off on Sunday April 21st with a Memorial Service in Rochester Cathedral, for an invited crowd of people with family connections to the ship at all stages in her career, to remember all those involved who are no longer with us. This was well attended, and members of the cathedral’s regular congregation were joined by some 200 invitees representing past crew, passengers and MQPS. In attendance was the Dunkirk veteran, Ron Nabarro, who was rescued by HMS Medway Queen in June 1940, and descendants of other evacuated personnel and the men who saved them. 

Monday 22nd April saw a steady stream of visitors taking the guided tour of the ship. Many had been at the previous day’s service and having travelled some considerable distance they were keen to see the vessel itself.  The guides and the onboard shop were kept busy all day. 

Tuesday 23rd (the actual launch anniversary) saw a reception for invited guests on board Medway Queen. Proceedings began with a march past of cadets and veterans on the quayside followed by a blessing of the Centenary Ensign  by the Very Reverend Philip Hesketh. The Ensign was attached to the ensign staff at the stern of the ship and hoisted by two of the sea cadets under the watchful eye of Admiral Lord West. The cadets and veterans then joined the assembled guests on board for refreshments.  There were the usual speeches, and a Centenary Plaque was presented to Medway Queen by Howard Brooks (Vice Commodore) and Heather Dennett of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships.

The week ended with the usual Saturday open day on 27th April, enhanced by a visit from a flotilla of boats from the Rochester Cruising Club, led by the Dunkirk Little Ship Maimonde. This day was much busier than we would usually expect with a good crowd of visitors and the crews from the boats. 

The fund-raising possibilities have not been forgotten and a range of Medway Queen Centenary merchandise has been commissioned. The merchandise is now available and can be viewed and purchased from the Medway Queen Visitor Centre ME7 1RX when open to the public (Saturdays from 11am to 4pm (last admissions 3pm)) and from the “shop” on the Medway Queen website: . 

Source: Press release

Photo: Medway Queen on her centenary day, by Elyse Ratcliffe

Read more about The Medway Queen Preservation Society, one of our Shipshape Network South East projects.

Medway Queen Zone South East