On Saturday 21st August 1965 Princess Elizabeth was chartered at Weymouth on her usual day off service to play the role of a Dover Cross Channel packet for filming for the big screen movie Gordon of Khartoum starring Charlton Heston.
The day opened overcast with the film director and his team aboard at 8am for a discussion with the Lizzie’s master Capt Stanley Woods about what was wanted. They hoped to get shots of her steaming close to the Stone Pier on the south side of the harbour but that was easier said than done because of the Mixen Rocks to the south west of the harbour entrance. In the end it was agreed that the Lizzie would steam by but sufficiently far off to be clear of the danger. So off we went and spent the next couple of hours sailing backwards and forwards across Weymouth Harbour entrance. I don’t believe that any of these shots ever made it into the final edit of the film.
Then they wanted the Lizzie port side to and head out alongside the Pleasure Pier steps slightly to the west of her usual berth at the end of the pier. By then the sun had come out and there were various takes of gangway scenes.
By this time, and with no further steaming required, Captain Woods had left to go home on the train to Southampton to take advantage of the rest of his day off so it was Chief Officer Arthur Drage who warped the Lizzie back to her usual berth at the end of the Pleasure Pier when the filming was over around 1pm. The gangway scene does feature in the final cut of the film but it is very fleeting and is over almost before you notice it has started.
Captain Woods didn’t much like wearing a uniform. With a master’s ticket in both sail and steam he had started his career on square riggers where such finery was not the order of the day. Most often he wore a serge navy blue bomber jacket with navy blue trousers but the Lizzie’s owner Cdr Rhodes pressed him to wear some gold braid and eventually sourced this jacket for him. Hats though were a different story. He didn’t like hats. However a hat was provided for him for this day of filming. After that the hat sat on a hook in the wheelhouse unworn except for this picture which was taken by PSPS member number 1 Mrs Eileen Pritchard. The two knew each other of old and were forever joshing and I recall her cajoling him in a good natured sort of way into putting the hat on for the camera and he, with some reluctance, agreeing.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 21st August 2020.