Hydrogen lifebuoys
Lifebuoys on board the s.b. Hydrogen, another one of the fleet of preserved Thames barges on the River Blackwater at Maldon, Essex.

More information on her here and at the National Historic Ships website, which latter site states that Hydrogen was:

“Built of pitch pine on oak in 1906 by John Gill & Sons of Rochester, HYDROGEN was a large boomie (gaff ketch) rigged coasting barge capable of carrying 200 tons of cargo. Her owners were Burt, Boulton and Heywood, chemical manufacturers of Silvertown, and she was one of three similar barges built for them by Gills: Carbon, Oxygen and the last of the trio, HYDROGEN, all named after the elements that make up oil.”

To wear a white poppy

White poppy wreathThis year I shall be wearing a white poppy. I was prompted by being challenged by an old man from our village about not wearing a poppy when it was only mid-October – and I never wear a poppy until November. His presumption reminded me that there were – and are – many other people than combatants who fell in war or whose lives were irreversibly affected by war service. And it reminded me that I have a choice about whether I wear one or not, and that my choice is mine own, unlike all those who appear on the screens of the BBC and who appear to have no such choice.

The red poppy, although not originally a martial symbol, has increasingly become one. It is seen as an affirmation of alleigance to the British State as much as of remembrance of those who have fallen, and its merit and purity of purpose have been diminished.

Let me be clear – I fully support the work of the Royal British Legion in supporting veterans and the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen. I have lost family in the Afghan conflict and have attended a cousin’s military funeral. And I know the pride that British people place in the Royal British Legion and our armed forces is not misplaced nor naive. I shall also wear a red poppy, but it might be the last year that I do.

But we should also remember the COs – the conscientious objectors – who were sent to serve in ambulance units on the front line and who also lost their lives, but whose names are not recorded on our war memorials. They, too, are deserving of our respect and remembrance.

Old White Poppy

In the UK, the Peace Pledge Union have been working for a world without war since 1934. I shall now support their work in addition to supporting the work of the Royal British Legion. The PPU sell a range of white poppies, posters and postcards, and any surplus money from their sale goes to support their educational work to promote a world without war. You can buy yours here.

I mentioned to my wife and to friends that I intended to wear a white poppy and why, and I will not be the only person in the village wearing one this year. There’s your answer, old man.


Steam Tug Brent

Steam Tug Brent at moorings
This is the Steam Tug Brent:

“the last surviving steam vessel of the Port of London Authority’s fleet and one of only three surviving steam vessels left, of the many which were once in use on the River Thames and in the London docks’ system.

“She is one of only three steam TID class tugs left in Britain, of the 182 built for the Admiralty, as part of the War Effort. Brent is a good example of a smaller ‘Lighterage’ or ‘Craft’ sized steam tug, of which there were once hundreds working in the dockyards, rivers and tributaries around Britain. She is now one of only four left.”

Information from the Steam Tug Brent Trust.

In the clear, crisp autumn light on the day of my visit to Maldon in Essex, where she is moored on the River Blackwater, she was an irresistible camera subject. Continue reading

Buttresses at St Mary’s, Mundon

ashlar and flint buttresses

These buttresses to the nave of St Mary’s church at Mundon, Maldon are finished in fine ashlar blocks and infilled with uncoursed flints. What caught my eye was the way the flints defined the undesigned spaces between the ashlar blocks, creating random patterns. Here, I’ve created a collage of four of the buttresses which are better seen in this photograph: Continue reading

Thames sailing barges at Maldon

Thames sailing barges at Maldon
Maldon lies on the River Blackwater in Essex. There are still a number of Thames sailing barges berthed here. The two in this shot are the s.b. Pudge and the s.b. Reminder. Pudge is one of the Dunkirk Little Ships, having been involved in the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.

More details from these barges below the fold: Continue reading