History of the Medway Queen
Three books are available through our online shop covering these topics in more detail.
One (shown right) covers the history of the ship from 1923 through to the beginning of the hull rebuild.
The next covers that rebuild in detail with many behind the scenes pictures from the Albion Dockyard.
A third book was published in 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Medway Queen Club.
All books are available at the Visitor Centre, through the online shop and from society stands at events etc.
Medway Queen was ordered in 1923 and entered service on the Strood-Chatham-Southend-Herne Bay route the following year. With occasional excursions elsewhere she served on the same route until the beginning of the Second World War. Chatham Navy week was an annual highlight and in 1937 the ship ran an excursion at the Coronation Naval Review at Spithead.
The ship was requisitioned in 1939 and converted for mine-sweeping. In 1940 HMS Medway Queen joined the 10th Mine-sweeping Flotilla based in Dover. The 10th Flotilla played a key part in 'Operation Dynamo' in May-June 1940. The ship's crew estimated that they evacuated 7,000 men while shooting down three Axis aircraft.
In 1946/7 she was refitted and returned to civilian use. The famous Invicta motif was placed on the ship's funnel and in 1954 there was the addition of a bracket on the funnel for navigation lights. In the early 1960s paddle steamers were struggling to compete with newer-type vessels and the Medway Queen made her last voyage to Southend on 9th September 1963.
After several attempts at preservation had failed, the ship was purchased by three businessmen, Alan Ridett, Colin Ridett and Robert Trapp in August 1965. She was towed by the tug Dhulia to the Isle of Wight and became a restaurant & nightclub. The Medway Queen Club was popular for wedding receptions and the on-board restaurant was a favourite with locals and holidaymakers alike. In the evenings the it became a night club with disco and live music.
Following the closure of the Medway Queen Club, the ship suffered hull damage and became semi-submerged in the river Medina. In 1984 she was moved back to the River Medway on a pontoon. The current Medway Queen Preservation Society was formed in 1985 to support this endeavour and later became owners of this historic vessel.
After many years of frustration and hard work the society secured the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund and, later, the European Regional Development Fund to rebuild the ships hull and establish a base and workshop at Gillingham Pier. The hull rebuild was undertaken in Bristol and completed in late 2013. Medway Queen was towed back home and is now moored at Gillingham Pier where she can be visited.