Paddle Steamer Medway Queen
The paddle steamer Medway Queen is famous both as a well-remembered seaside excursion steamer and as the ship that saved 7000 soldiers during the Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940. In the Isle of Wight and Solent area the ship has a further claim to fame as a favourite restaurant and nightclub from 1966 to 1974.
Medway Queen entered service on the Strood – Chatham-Southend-Herne Bay route in 1924. She served every summer season on broadly that same schedule with occasional charters and excursions including the Spithead Naval Review of 1937 when she toured the assembled fleet r who had travelled down by special train from London.
In September 1939 the ship evacuated civilians from London and was then requisitioned and as a Royal Navy minesweeper. She served throughout the war on the south and east coasts moving in 1943 to a training establishment based in Granton, Edinburgh. Her claim to wartime fame centres on Operation Dynamo when, as one of the ships of the 10th minesweeping flotilla, she made seven trips across the channel to rescue 7000 British and French troops. In the course of this she claimed 3 enemy aircraft shot down with her 12pdr gun, paddle box mounted machine guns and a number of supplementary Bren guns “acquired” during the action.
After the war, Medway Queen returned to her old route until 1963 when she was withdrawn. A last minute purchase saved her from the breakers and she became a nightclub on the river Medina, near Newport. The club opened on 14th May 1966 and we are celebrating that 50th anniversary this year. When the club eventually closed the ship was once again sold to a group who moved her back to Kent in 1984. She passed to the current owners, a charitable trust, in 1987 and with the help of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund the hull has been completely rebuilt in the Albion Dockyard, Bristol.
You can visit Medway Queen at Gillingham Pier on Saturdays during the summer season. Come on board and relive the excitement of a seaside excursion trip or scan the skies for enemy aircraft as you head towards Dunkirk on yet another rescue mission. Go below and ponder how many wet, bedraggled survivors were crowded into the saloons or how, on the Isle of Wight, people managed to dance the night away in these confined spaces.