April 2008:
Paddle Tug John H Amos Takes to the Air

April 2008:
Paddle Tug John H Amos Takes to the Air

The paddle tug John H Amos sitting on the number 7 slip at Chatham on the morning of Thursday 27th March 2008 awaiting her big lift onto a barge.

Paddle tugs generally had quite a deep draft for their size compared with excursion paddle steamers.

The crane barge and its expert lifting crew arrive.

The crane barge and its expert lifting crew arrive.

Aloft at last!

The barge quietly slides beneath her whilst a local TV company does an interview against a suitable background.

Kingswear Castle’s crew look on.

From left to right: Roddy McKee, Fred and Wendy Montague, Jill Harvey, Gerry Abrahams and Sue Waldmeyer.

Sailing away down the river. The plan is for her to be transferred to her own barge which will lie permanently outside the Chatham Dockyard locks. There she will be cleaned up and checked over whilst the fund raising campaign swings into action to raise the necessary cash to put her back into steam and her original condition.

The John H Amos was built in 1931 by Bow McLachlan & Co for for the Tees Conservancy Commissioners. Unfortunately the yard went bust during her construction but building was allowed to continue by the receivers using that which already existed on the site. As a result, she ended up with boilers slightly too small for her so she could make only 11 knots rather than her design speed of 13 knots and with various deck and other fittings which were a little bit on the large side for a tug. She had a passenger certificate for about 150 which was used not only for outings by her owners but also for putting people on and off other ships on the Tees.

As you can see from the cabin arrangements on the plan she had a crew of eight, a captain and engineer, who shared the aft cabin, and six hands who made their home in the bow.

Withdrawn in the mid 1960s, the John H Amos came south, originally to Sittingbourne and subsequently to Chatham on the Medway where she has languished for very many years. She is the last paddle tug remaining in the UK and one of very few left anywhere in the world. She is the last paddle tug to have been built for civilian use in the UK. She still has her two original compound reciprocating steam engines in her. Like Kingswear Castle, she is on the Core Collection List of the National Historic Ships Committee as a vessel of Outstanding National Importance. She very much deserves to be saved. All of us at Kingswear Castle are delighted to see her going up in the world and send her every good wish for a bright and successful future.

Capt Mike Ledger has sent in two pictures of the Admiralty Director class paddle tugs:

The first is the Dexterous swinging the RFA Tidepool at Gibraltar on 7th March 1964.

The second is either the Director or the Faithful swinging the tanker Ellenga at Malta in 1960.

There were seven of these almost identical tugs built for use in naval dockyards in 1957/58. The Dexterous was based at Gibraltar, the Director at Malta and the Faithful initially at Malta but from 1961 at Plymouth where she joined the Favourite. The Forceful and Grinder served Portsmouth and the Griper Rosyth. In those halcyon days before an avalanche of red tape engulfed the citizenry, the Wessex Branch of the PSPS had a couple of trips around Portsmouth Harbour on the Grinder in the early 1960s reports of which appeared in early editions of Paddle Wheels.

One time master of the Faithful Capt Bill Hannan recounts in his book “Fifty Years of Naval Tugs”; “The electric drive on these tugs provided a very quick response to the direct bridge controls and made them a joy to handle.”