QE 2, Cherbourg & The Maid of Kent

Chelsea News & LNG — CN/WPN XX-XX-XXXX

This page is mostly included as some sort of tribute to a cross-Channel ferry – a ferry that I grew fond of in the 1960s and 1970s. The Maid of Kent was a nice, old-fashioned ferry: she looked boat-shaped. She had a proper funnel, teak decks and mahogany and brass fittings throughout. In 1960, when I first knew her, she was brand-new.

From the age of six in 1954, I frequently travelled to Paris, Provence, Charente and the Meuse, and from the age of 11 in 1960 took the boat-train, unaccompanied, from Victoria Station in London to Dover or Folkstone and then across the English Channel to Calais or Boulogne. The Maid of Kent and other 'steamers' like the Normannia had a certain glamour in those days before mass-tourism. Passengers were valued and spoiled, and a small boy, travelling alone, was always invited by the captain to spend the voyage on the bridge – and even to study the charts and take the wheel and try to steer a straight course. Notable among these was a kind red-bearded man who I think was called Captain Dunkley.

In those days much of France was still impoverished and devastated by the Second World War which had ended only 15 years earlier. The captains and crew of cross-Channel ferries had often taken part in the evacuation at Dunkirk (1940 – Dunkerque), the Normandy Landings of 1944, or in other wartime marine operations on the French coast.

So, as we approached France, these men could point to German fortifications, which then existed in profusion around still-ruined Calais and Boulogne, and describe in detail their wartime experiences. To port and starboard they could identify the wrecks of war-ships that still lay in the shallows, remaining a hazard to shipping. Not long after, France set about clearing most of this evidence of a past it preferred to forget.

In 1980 I sailed with a party of fellow journalists on the huge and exotic QE 2 from Southampton to Cherbourg. But it was the return trip, aboard the Maid of Kent, that I remember most. It was her last sailing before she headed for the scrap-yard... a sad day...

By Christopher Long

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Un beau soleil pour l'escale de la "Queen"

Des journalistes anglais à la découverte de notre région

Le somptueux paquebot britannique "Queen Elizabeth 2" a fait une brève escale jeudi soir au quai de France. Arrivé vers 18 h 30 de Southampton, il est reparti quelques heures plus tard à destination de New York après avoir embarqué 350 passagers transatlantiques, 17 véicules, et les 10 tonnes de vivres nécessaires pour la traversée.

Parmi les deux cents passagers qui ont débarqué à Cherbourg, figurait une délégation de journalistes anglais. Nos confrères ont été invités dans notre région dans le cadre des actions de promotion touristique en Angleterre menées par l'Office Départementale du Tourism de la Manche en liaison avec la Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Cherbourg.

Cet accueil organisé avec la collaboration de la "Sealink" a pour but principal de mettre en lumière l'initiative mise en place par cette compagnie, en faveur d'excursions et de séjours vers Cherbourg et le Nord Cotentin.

A la descente du bateau, la délégation, qui était conduite par M. Watts, conseiller général de Poole, répresentant la Chambre de Commerce de Cherbourg et le conseil général chez nos voisins d'Outre Manche, a été accueillie par MM. Leprieur, directeur adjoint de l'Office Départementale du Tourism, at Tellier, directeur local de la Sealink.

Aujourd'hui la délégation composée de représentants de la presse anglaise écrite, parlée, et télévisée visitera le Val de Saire avant de regagner ce soir Wemouth à bord du navire de la Sealink, le "Maid of Kent".

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Christopher Long

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