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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Six NATO Ships in West India Dock


After the excitement of the arrival of the HMS Grimsby (M108) ,BNS Godetia ( A960 ),  Latvian Navy ship Tālivaldis (M-60), the Estonian Navy ship EML Admiral Cowan (M313) , the Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860) last week. It is worth looking in a little more detail into what these ships of Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group ONE (SNMCMG1) are used for.


The Standing NATO Maritime Groups, are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform a variety of tasks ranging from participating in exercises to intervening in operational missions.


These particular ships  have recently taken part in the NATO exercise, Trident Juncture which was considered one the biggest and most ambitious NATO exercise in more than a decade. It was estimated that 68 surface ships, 9 submarines, 8 maritime patrol aircraft and over 3000 Marines participated in the exercise.


As well as the exercises, the SNMCMG1 ships and crew have been engaged in a port visits and mine clearance operations in order to contribute to NATO collective defense and regional security.


Although the port visits are relatively low key, they do provide evidence of the way that NATO bring together ships of different countries for maritime security and show NATO’s readiness in the region. Over the last year, the SNMCMG1 ships have visited 33 ports of 13 different nations.


NATO Ships – Tālivaldis, EML Admiral Cowan, Hinnøy and Schiedam in West India Dock


After a fairly quiet spell in West India Dock, a small flotilla of six NATO ships berthed. HMS Grimsby (M108) and BNS Godetia ( A960 ) arrived this morning to be joined by the Latvian Navy ship Tālivaldis (M-60), the Estonian Navy ship EML Admiral Cowan (M313) , the Norwegian Navy ship Hinnøy (M343) and the Dutch Navy Ship Schiedam (M860).


Most of the ships are minesweepers and have recently taken part in Nato Exercises in the North Sea


The Tālivaldis built in the Netherlands in the 1980s like the Schiedam. They are known as Tripartite Minehunter because they were a joint venture of the navies of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, the Tripartite class of minehunters were conceived in the 1970s and built in the 1980s.


The EML Admiral Cowan (M313) is a Sandown-class minehunter like the HMS Grimsby and was known formerly as the HMS Sandown before she was sold to the Estonian Navy in 2007.


The Norwegian ship Hinnøy (M343) is one of the Oksøy-class mine hunters which are a class of vessels of the Royal Norwegian Navy active since the mid-1990s.

These small flotilla’s have turned up in West India Dock over the last few years, quite often it is when they have just finished an exercise. They do not tend to be open to the public and with all the development on the area, most of the quayside is blocked off. However a good view of the ships can be had on the Canary Wharf side of the dock.

As usual, regular contributor  Eric Pemberton was quick off the mark, getting a few photographs of the ships entering the docks.


Photo Eric Pemberton


Photo Eric Pemberton

BNS Godetia and HMS Grimsby in West India Dock


Two surprise visitors in West India Dock are the Belgian Navy ship Godetia and HMS Grimsby of the Royal Navy. Both ships have been involved recently in NATO exercises in Northern Europe and are part of the SNMCMG 1 (Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 1).


The BNS Godetia last visited the West India Dock in 2012 as part of a small Nato fleet. The ship is a command and logistical support ship and often features in NATO exercises. The ship has a length of 91.30 m (299.5 ft), 14.00 m (45.93 ft) beam and carries a crew of around 90.


The Godetia is one of the oldest warships on active service being launched in 1965 at the Boelwerf in Temse. During her long career, the ship has undertaken several missions including fishery protection, humanitarian aid, support and supply ship for minesweepers, and acting as a command ship for NATO mine countermeasure operations.


Slightly dwarfed by the Godetia is HMS Grimsby which is a  Sandown-class minehunter which was launched in 1998. The Royal Navy minehunter regularly exercises with her NATO counterparts in a number of activities such as mine clearance exercises and maritime security patrols.


The ship has a length of 52.5 m (172 ft 3 in), beam of 10.9 m (35 ft 9 in) and a crew of around 35.


Due to the surprise nature of the visit, little is known at this time of how long the ships will be in dock.



The Search for Sporting Heroes – The Canary Wharf Sports Personality of the Year


East London has a remarkable record of producing sporting greats in the past, however the Canary Wharf Group has recently launched its annual Sports Personality of the Year Awards to search for the current top sporting talent in our East London community.

The prize winners win cash prizes and trophies within the following categories:

The Canary Wharf Sports Personality of the Year

Senior Sports Team of the Year

Junior Sports Team of the Year

Sports Group of the Year

The Voluntary Sports Commitment Award


Mercy Brown

Previous winners of the Canary Wharf Sports Personality of the Year Award

2014 Mercy Brown – Weightlifting

2013 Tyesha Mattis – Gymnastics

2012 Scarlett Mew Jensen – Diving

2011 Ashley Facey Thompson – Table Tennis

2010 Lucas Taylor – Tennis

2009 Nathan Hanson – Athletics

2008 Ricky Lee Turner – Judo

2007 Soyfur Rahman – Taekwondo

2006 Sally Hoang – Table Tennis


Perri Shakes-Drayton

2005 Perri Shakes Drayton – Athletics

2004 Aaron Edwards – Cheerleading

2003 Halil Zorba – Weightlifting

2002 Dervis Konuralph – Swimming

2001 Symone Belle – Athletics

The awards are asking for nominations from members of the public for deserving local athletes, sports clubs and administrators for their achievements in the previous 12 months. Applications will be considered from Tower Hamlets and each of the boroughs surrounding it, including Hackney, Newham, Greenwich and Barking & Dagenham.

Entries close on the 18th December 2015.

The 2012 Olympics provided a major boost for East London sport but away from all the glamour, it is often unsung hard work of the athletes, sports clubs and administrators that keeps the various sports going. It is this hard work that these awards celebrate, so if you wish to nominate someone, you can find the nomination form here.

The Rise and Fall of the Brunswick Power Station at Blackwall


The above picture from regular contributor Eric Pemberton was a reminder to tell the story of the Brunswick Wharf Power Station, it was for a short time between the 1950s and 1980s  one of the most prominent landmarks in this part of London.

The Brunswick Wharf Power Station was first conceived just before the war in 1939, it was part of a scheme to build five new generating stations in the South East region. Poplar Borough Council was keen to see a local power station in this area and informed the Central Electricity Board that the PLA was willing to sell a 16½ acres site at Blackwall.


East India Docks before development 1947

The plans were for the new station  to be built on the site of the East India Export Dock, with Brunswick Wharf providing a frontage to the River Thames. Its was considered the site had a number of advantages, there was an abundant supply of water for condensing purposes, deep-water berthing facilities, plenty of space for coal storage, facilities for the disposal of ashes and good rail links.


East India Export Dock filled in 1948

For all the advantages, there were objections, the London County Council was concerned about pollution and the Civil Defence Department of the Home Office and the Air Ministry both made strong objections on strategic grounds feeling that the construction of a new generating station in the docks area would be vulnerable to attacks. Despite the objections, the decision was made in 1945 to purchase the land and build the power station. The difficulties of the post war years led to delays and it was not until 1952 that the station began to supply electricity, and was not fully completed until 1956.

EAW0 1950 (2)

Photographs from the Britain from Above website show the construction including the filling in of the East India Export Dock.

EAW0 1950 (1)

Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1950

The design for the power station was very similar to Giles Gilbert Scott’s at Battersea Power Station which seemed a rather attractive but dated design for a modern power station. The boilers were designed to be fired by coal, .It was estimated that each boiler consumed 36,700lbs of coal per hour.


Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1953

The dangerous levels of pollution in London in the late 40s and 50s led for a call for power stations to be built away from the city and probably explained why the boilers were converted to burn oil in 1970. However, the rising cost of oil made the station increasingly expensive to run.   The 1970s saw the electricity supply industry with considerable spare capacity and the CEGB began to consider how to phase out the less economic stations. Brunswick Wharf was one of those targeted and closed in 1984. The site was sold in 1987 for redevelopment and the power station was demolished during 1988–9


Brunswick Wharf Power Station 1962

The Brunswick Wharf Power Station had a relatively short working life but became a landmark for the area. It is interesting to remember that the site of the Power station was not only on top of one of East India Docks but also covered the site of the Blackwall Yard which had been famous from the Tudor times.


Keeping the Island History Alive – The Friends of the Island History Trust


Walking through the Canary Wharf shopping area, I was delighted to come across an attractive and interesting  display about the ‘Islands’ history. The Community window gives a snapshot of some of the work of  The Friends of the Island History Trust.

The Friends of the Island History Trust succeeded the Island History Trust project which was responsible for collecting photographs, ephemera and relevant historical information about the Island under the stewardship of Eve Hostettler.
The Friends of the Island History Trust has already had  series of Open Days and are in the process of creating a website that will provide photographs and information to local people but also interested people in the UK and from all over world.
The Community window in Canary Wharf which will be displayed until January 6th 2016 is part of the aim for people living, working and or visiting Canary Wharf to understand some of the remarkable history of the area. An important focus for the new group is getting people who live and work in the area, new and old Islanders and especially young people involved to celebrating their own part in the story of the Isle of Dogs.
The group has developed links with volunteer Students of George Greens and The Volunteers of the Massey Shaw Educational Trust in a project with them taking part in joint visits to the Educational Fire Boat by a mix of volunteers from both the School and Friends of Island History Trust next year. The Friends of the Island History Trust are also looking into developing the use of Heritage Display Boards which are based around the Dock area and around the Island in an exhibition/walk early next Spring. They have also reproduced 200 copies of Mick Lemmerman’s excellent book ‘The Isle of Dogs During World War II’ which is on sale through FoIHT for £11.00 plus postage.
The Friends of Island History Trust  play an important part in providing a central hub in which people who want information about the Island  have access to a  number of knowledgeable local people. Following the tradition of the old Island History Trust, the Friends of Island History Trust has  produced a calendar full of old photographs of the Island which is now available at foiht2014@gmail.com
Like many other local groups,the Friends of Island History Trust relies upon the hard work of volunteers and sponsorship. If you would like to help the group to continue its good work you can join a membership scheme where you can become a member of the Friends of Island History Trust and receive regular newsletters. To enable the group to expand its work it would appreciate any offers of help, be it practical and or financial. If you would like further information, contact the group at  their email address,  foiht2014@gmail.com

Submarines in Shadwell Basin – 1939 and 1951


Whilst researching the Pamir in Shadwell Basin article, my attention was taken with a Pathe News report of a couple of Royal Navy submarines to the Basin in 1939. For all the ships that come up the Thames to London, it is very rare a submarine makes the journey.  That is why, when a Dutch submarine come into West India Dock a couple of years ago it created quite a bit of attention.

Local writer Alfred Gardner also remembers a couple of submarines after the war arriving in Shadwell Basin and quite a number of local children were allowed to look inside and tour the boat.


The visit in 1939 involved the Royal Navy submarines,  HMS Otway and HMS Osiris. The short film shows the submarines on the Thames near Wapping and shows one of the submarines entering the Basin and moving to its berth. Both the submarines seem very different to the more streamlined modern models.


The HMS Otway was a Odin-class submarine built by Vickers Limited of Barrow-in-Furness and launched in 1926, she was actually built for the Australian Navy and made the trip to Australia setting the record  for the longest unescorted voyage undertaken by a British submarine. However the cost of maintaining the submarine led to the Australians giving them back to the Royal Navy . Although expensive to operate the HMS Otway did see service during World War II , after the war the submarine left RN service in 1945 and was broken up in Scotland.


The HMS Osiris was also a Odin-class submarine of the Royal Navy and built by Vickers-Armstrongs in Barrow-in-Furness and  launched in  1928, in 1939 she was sent to the East Indies Station in Colombo. By 1940 she was transferred to the British Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria where she saw quite a bit of action. Once again, at the end of the war, the submarine was considered surplus to requirements and  she was scrapped in South Africa.


The visit of the two submarines in 1951 was to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Submarine Service. Both HMS submarines Auriga and Acheron were open for public inspection in Shadwell Basin.

HMS Acheron was an Amphion-class submarine of the Royal Navy,built-in HM Dockyard, Chatham and  launched 25 March 1947 , HMS Auriga (P419), was also an Amphion-class submarine of the Royal Navy, built by Vickers Armstrong and launched 29 March 1945. Unlike their pre war cousins, these two had a longer shelf life lasting  until the mid 1970s.

Seeing Shadwell Basin today, it would seem inconceivable that it was the berth for submarines, but the evidence is there is you look for it. If you would like to watch the short Pathe News Film, you can find it here.

The Changing Face of Guy Fawkes Night


Regular contributor, L Katiyo  over the weekend enjoyed the many delights of the Blackheath firework display that can be often seen from the Island. The Island does not have a major bonfire display and the Blackheath display is one of the largest in London attracting crowds of over 100,000 people.


Most of the firework displays in London are well organised and  family friendly which can be enjoyed by everyone. However, when you consider the Guy Fawkes celebrations over the last century or so, you get a rather different picture.


Looking at various newspaper reports since 1885, it quickly becomes clear that Guy Fawkes Night was often an excuse to indulge in some less than acceptable behaviour. The first report from 1885 is interesting considering it seems very well organised and  features Lewisham and Blackheath.


On Wednesday, the Lewisham Bonfire Boys held their annual carnival in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. At 6 o’clock a procession has formed outside the Lewisham-road station of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway and with bands and banners flying, the bonfire boys started on their perambulation of the principal thoroughfares of Lewisham, Lee, Blackheath, Greenwich, and Catford. The cavalcade, which was about ha!f-a-mile in length, included many vehicles illuminate with coloured fires and a large number of mounted men attired in fancy costumes. The characters were, of a most varied description. The houses and shops along the line of route were all brightly illuminated with coloured fires and Chinese lanterns. The streets were thronged with people, and the motley procession must have been witnessed by some 40,000 or 50,000 persons.


By 1911, Guy Fawkes night attracted enormous crowds to big displays, one of the largest was on Hampstead Heath which attracted up to half a million people, our reporter is not very impressed by some of the antics of the crowd.

1911 Farrago of Fireworks, Folly, Farcical Frisky Foolery, and Female Underwear.
The Heath was turned into an absolute hell upon earth,  About half a million Cockneys of both sexes gathered to gorge periwinkles, guzzle bad beer, dance, and pull each other about with shameless abandon to the illumination of numerous  bonfires, and the accompaniment of a fizzle of Chinese fireworks, that stunk worst than a whole sewerage farm struck by lightning. It was a characteristic  Cockney carnal carnival, at which thousands of London louts and lassies lay around blazing bonfires in close company, with arms and limbs entwined,watching thousands of their fellow Yahoos deliriously dancing round the flames like dirty, debased, dancing dervishes, shrieking, screeching, and squalling…..a small army of lunatics had blown bladders attached to sticks (a very popular form of London “fun”this), and banged everybody, they met across, the head, and as no London holiday can take place without a mob of importuning bawling beggars—a number of young men and boys with blackened faces carried about effigies of  Guy Fawkes whining and begging for pennies. Frantic fools flung fireworks up girls’ clothes.  There were hordes of police on the spot to keep order, but the Loudon police are slow  to  interfere with a London mob on holiday bent  provided they stop short of outrage or murder.
In many ways, the two world wars had a quieting effect on some of the celebrations, however the 1950s saw the night often being used for an excuse for student high jinks and other anti social behaviour.
Guy Fawkes Night in London – Work For Police and Fireman
Firemen were called-to 160 bonfires which got out of control, and R.S.P.C.A officers to deal with 250 hysterical dogs, when Londoners celebrated the anniversary of Guy Fawkes with fireworks to-night 24 hours early. East End children unsuccessfully tried to cut the hoses when firemen doused several of their bonfires, while in the centre of the city, the police arrested a number of youths after rockets, jumping jacks and bangers were fired off amongst the traffic.
Wild Guy Night in London
London had its rowdiest since before the war when thousands of men and women, many  of  them university students went rampaging through the fashionable West End celebrating Guy Fawkes Night.
A fireworks battle in Parliament Square, next to the House of Commons, between rival gangs of students had to be broken up by mounted and foot police. At the end of the night, 100 revellers had been charged with various offences, ranging from assaulting and obstructing the police to using insulting language.
Thousand’s  thronged the West End hurling squibs and bangers into buses and taxis. One student tried to place a small box of explosives quietly under the helmet of a policeman. Around Eros God of Love, whose statue is in the centre of Piccadilly Circus, policemen linked arms as hundreds ran shrieking round the statue throwing fireworks as they went. The Daily Express says students threw fireworks  at the windows of No. 10 Downing Street.
In many ways, Guy Fawkes has lost its rebellious character when children and adults built their own bonfires and let off their fireworks. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing ! injuries to children and animals were commonplace and fires often got out of control putting a strain on the emergency services.
Many thanks to L Katiyo for the photographs.

Memento : A Guide to Trinity Buoy Wharf


Regular readers will know that one of my favourite spots off the beaten track is Trinity Buoy Wharf which I have featured in many articles. To help you explore some of its delights, at the end of November, Trinity Buoy Wharf and ScreenDeep are launching a new listening experience called “Memento: Trinity Buoy Wharf”.

Memento: Trinity Buoy Wharf will be an hour-long audio guide which is part tour, part social commentary with interview soundbites from artists, heritage experts and locals. To launch the guide Trinity Buoy Wharf is inviting the public to a free event which will feature walks and the chance to meet some of the people who work and live on the site.

Highlights of the event:

Walks will take place at 7pm/ 8pm/ 9pm on November 25th.


You can speak to artist Jem Finer, Longplayer creator at the Lighthouse between 7pm and 8pm.

You can talk to artists on site in their studios and see moving image artwork at the Electrician’s Shop by Mash Cinema and henrietrtawilliams.com between 6.30pm and 10.30pm.


Food and drink options are available at the Bow Creek Café and Fat Boy’s Diner between 7pm and 10pm

If you do not want to do the walk, you can just turn up and just have a look around.

If you are not able to attend the launch night, after 25th of November 2015 you will be able to download the Sound Walk which will be available free  at the Trinity Buoy Wharf website here


The Sound Walk either live or downloaded will illustrate some of the stories of this historic and unusual area and introduce you to some of the people who are developing the area into an industrial docklands arts quarter.

Slumming it ? Recreating the Victorian East End


If you could time travel, I suspect not many of us would want to be transported back the Victorian East End tenements. However, you do have an opportunity to live in a recreation of that environment for a television series. I was recently contacted by Wall to Wall Media which is the company who made Who Do You Think You Are? series and have pioneered living history formats such as Turn Back Time: The High Street and the recent BBC Two series Back In Time For Dinner.

They are  currently producing a new series for the BBC recreating an authentic late Victorian tenement environment and inhabiting it with modern people who will live, work, and survive, in a unique Victorian East End community.

Although its only the initial stages of casting the programme, they are looking for people who have a genuine connection to the East End of London. They would like  to cast a wide range of families (10+ – 65+ yrs.), couples and individuals who have some kind of ancestral link to the area, or are vaguely aware of having ancestors who survived the East End slums of London. It may be that the connection is through their modern trade or skill, or the fact that they currently live in the area and would be intrigued to explore it’s Victorian roots.

The comforts of the modern age would lead us to believe that many of us would struggle even for a short time to live in what were often considered Victorian slums, well here is your chance to find out if you could cope without much of the modern equipment we see as essential.

Although the series is hoping to reveal what it was really like for the Victorian poor, I do not think they about to reintroduce rickets and cholera ! However these shows do provide some insights into the period and make people question some of the accepted myths from the era.

If you are interested in the programme, you can find out more at the Wall to Wall website here