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Monthly Archives: November 2019

Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior III in West India Dock

On a cold grey day, we welcome the arrival of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior III into West India Dock. Rainbow Warrior III is a purpose-built motor-assisted sailing yacht owned and operated by Greenpeace and is used for environmental protests and scientific excursions.

The vessel is the first Rainbow Warrior that is not converted from another vessel. Her hull was constructed in Poland and she was built in Germany and launched in 2011, to provide state-of-the-art facilities including advanced telecommunication equipment, specialised scientific equipment and a helicopter landing pad. The ship was designed to be one of the “greenest” ships afloat using primarily wind power, with a 55 m mast system which carries 1255 sq meters of sail and incorporates green marine technology.

Rainbow Warrior III was custom built for Greenpeace International at a cost of $32m (€23m) with funds raised from about three million sponsors. The ship has the capacity to carry and launch inflatable boats in tough weather conditions.

Rainbow Warrior III is the third Rainbow Warrior Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior I was a converted trawler which was sunk by the French intelligence service while in harbour in New Zealand in the 1985, Rainbow Warrior II completed two decades of campaigning across the world before it was found unfeasible to upgrade to modern specifications.

Rainbow Warrior III was designed by naval architects Gerard Dijkstra & Partners in Amsterdam with superstructure made of aluminium while the hull is made from steel. The ship’s mast has A-frame masts for semi-automatic sails.

Rainbow Warrior III is not the only Greenpeace ship to visit West India Dock in recent years, MV Arctic Sunrise visited in 2013 and MV Esperanza in 2019

Book Review : Christmas Child by Carol Rivers


Regular readers will know that I often feature books by best-selling author Carol Rivers who has written a series of books about the Isle of Dogs. Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.

Recently, I was delighted to receive her latest book entitled Christmas Child which is based in Victorian London and follows the exploits of Ettie O’Reilly, who grows up in an orphanage in Poplar.

The book begins on Christmas Day 1880 in Poplar when a sick unmarried mother leaves her new born baby at the Sisters of Clemency Convent, next we move forward thirteen years and that baby is now thirteen year old Ettie O’Reilly whose protected life in the orphanage is coming to an abrupt end with the closing of the institution. The nuns had been her only family and she had enjoyed helping the nuns and helping the younger orphans helping them with their reading and writing.

When Michael, an East End street urchin arrived, Ettie tries to help him with his reading and writing, but he is difficult and has spent his whole life looking out for himself. Eventually, Michael and Ettie become good friends, and when Michael declares Ettie to be his girl, she is not unhappy.

When the Roman Catholic church decides to close the orphanage, Ettie is found a place as a maid to Lucas and Clara Benjamin, who own a smoking lounge in Soho. Michael decides to go back to life on the streets and Ettie starts her new life as a maid to the Benjamin’s.

Ettie finds that that life outside the orphanage is a challenge in more ways than one and good fortune is often followed by bad fortune. The twists and turns of Ettie’s life during next few years are fraught with danger, poverty and near death, but she is blessed in finding some true friends who seek to protect her from her mother’s fate. After being exposed to the dark side of the city, will she ever find Michael and have true happiness?

What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who represent some of the best and worst of human qualities. Carol’s books pays tribute to strong characters, often women like Ettie who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships. Carol also manages to realistically portray a complex Victorian London full of great wealth and terrible poverty.

Although this fascinating and enjoyable book represents a move away from the East End family dramas, it still has a strong sense of humanity which Carol suggests can be found even in the worst environments.

I am sure that Christmas Child will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and If you would like to read buy a copy of the book, it is available here.

Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here

Remembering the Port of London Authority Police Force

Copyright: Museum of London- PLA collection

Looking at the now famous photograph of policeman jumping into West India Dock was a reminder to write a piece about the little known Port of London Police who mostly disappeared when the London docks closed down.

Security was always an important aspect of the docks since the West India Docks opened in the early 19th century, however in the early days they did not have one police force for all the docks but rather the docks security had previously been run by five separate private companies London and St Katharines, Surrey Commercial, India and Millwall, the Royals (the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock) and Tilbury, each with its own private police force.

All that changed in 1908, when the newly formed Port of London Authority (PLA) created the Port of London Authority Police Force. This police force were very specialised as a newspaper report of 1949 explains.

Port of London Police Are Specialists 1949

The sea routes from the world’s chief markets converge upon the Port of London, that gieat centre of commerce which stretches 26 miles from Tilbury to Tower Bridge and beyond. The ships of all nations, loaded with the produce of every land, nose their way through the swirling grey waters of the Thames and find their berths in one of the five groups of docks to the accompaniment of a melancholy symphony of sirens.

If you had business with one of these ships, wherever you entered the docks you would find at the gate at least” one policeman silhouetted against a background of rumbling derricks, mammoth warehouses, speeding lorries, hissing railway engines and moored vessels of every type and size.

As you approached you might well consider him to be just another London policeman going about his duty, scrutinising the passes of every vehicle leaving the docks, checking the load with an expert glance, and at the same time keeping a vigilant eye on the heterogeneous throng of stevedores, labourers, drivers, seamen,officials,lightermen, engineers, members of the forces and others who pass in an endless stream,in and out of the Port of London docks. But this constable, whose primary concern while on duty at the gate is the protection of property, is not a member of London’s Metropolitan Police Force, although his uniform is similar. He wears the badge of the Port of London Authority’s own police force.

It is one of the most efficient police forces in the world. During 1947 goods of all descriptions valued at hundreds of millions pounds passed through the port, yet there were only 1,011 cases of larceny reported to the police involving’ goods to the value of £18,129 of which £10,084 or 55.6 percent was recovered.The Port of London police made 820 arrests, charged 681 persons and 626 of these were convicted.Yet nowhere else in the world can one see so much valuable property in so small an area, apparently so easily accessible, and an easy prey for the thief.

It was in 1908 that the Port of London Authority, was created by an Act of Parliament to administer the Docks of the Port of London. It is a public trust, whichtook over the powers and undertakings of the old dock companies and whose business it is to administer the port for the good of the public. The P.L.A. took over, along with the rest of the dock companies’ personnel, the three separate police forces in being, and set about welding them into one force, reorganised on the lines of the metropolitan police.

To-day the P.L.A. Police Force has a, strength of 593, under the control of the Chief Police Officer W. H. Simmons, M.B.E. Their power extends over the 3,521 acres of land, 720 acres of water and 44 miles of quays of the Port of London. The port of London (Consolidation) Act of 1920 gave the police power to stop, search and detain persons reasonably suspected of being in possession of property stolen or unlawfully obtained, and this power is extended to include premises, vehicles or boats within a radius of one mile of the Port of London. It operates five divisions within the Port: London and St. Katharine Docks; East and West India, and Millwall Docks; Royal Victoria and Albert and King George V Docks; Surrey Commercial Docks; and Tilbury Docks. Each division is in charge of a divisional inspector.There is a police station and motor ambulance service at each control. Each group of docks is surrounded by a wall or fence and there are no fewer than 89 entrance gates, 17 water entrances and 38 beats. All gates are manned by police and the interior is covered day and night the beat patrols; the total length of the beats being 166 miles.

All goods leaving the docks must be covered by a pass, signed by an authorised person, showing the number and description of the articles. An important duty ofthe constables at the gates is to collect the passes and ensure that the quantities taken out tally and that the signature is correct. This is specialised work for the pass system is an intricate one, and many different types of passes are used, varying from P.L.A.,Baggage Clearance, Demand and Grain Sample, to Ship’s Officers and Private Companies which have manufacturing plant inside the dock area.

The work of the constables at the gates is augmented by those on the beat, and although one may spend hours in the docks and seldom see a policeman, their regular patrols of the quays and warehouses where cargoes are being handled act as a great deterrent to pilferage.The greatest deterrent, however is the P.L.A. Police Mobile Squad: Once a policeman has passed any given point on his beat it is unlikely that he will reappear for some time; but no-one knows when and where the Mobile Squad will appear next. They will swoop on one dock, make a thorough search of vehicles, craft and personnel, and’ perhaps thirty minutes later be at another dock miles away.

The Port of London Police regard their primary function as the protection of property, the property of the world which passes through the London Docks. Only when they fail in this, and then failures are microscopic as statistics show, it is their duty to detained and bring the criminal to justice.

Although the PLA police were restricted to the docks, the work did present some unique dangers and there were fatalities due to accidents and assault. A list of which is shown below:

Port of London Authority Police Fatalities

PC Alfred William V. Daws
Died 10 November 1913, aged 21
Found drowned in the docks where he was on patrol on a foggy night.

PC John Thomas Severn
Died 24 December 1914, aged 27
Drowned when they fell into the dock while on patrol in a dense fog.

PC William Ware
Died 24 December 1914, aged 28
Drowned when they fell into the dock while on patrol in a dense fog.

Insp John Joseph Jeffers
Died 22 August 1915, aged 60
Found drowned in the Millwall Dock while on patrol in the early hours.

SC Truman Ellis
Died 15 May 1917, aged 52
Accidentally killed on patrol when part of a ship’s cargo fell on him.

PC John Reilly
Died 15 April 1918, aged 59
Whilst on patrol in the early hours he fell into the dock and drowned.

PC Frederick Cheese
Died 9 October 1921, aged 31
Drowned when he accidentally fell in the dock while on patrol at night.

PC Frederick Edward P. Miller
Died 21 April 1923, aged 23
Fatally injured in a fall guarding the scene of a warehouse fire.

Insp George Henry Ponsford
Died 21 February 1924, aged 50
Fatally injured on patrol at Tilbury Docks by a fall into a dry dock.

Insp James Frederick Berry
Died 4 September 1929, aged 53
Found drowned on duty in a dock with no evidence as to the cause.

Sgt Henry Frederick Wren
Died 15 January 1930, aged 49
Whilst on patrol he was knocked down and run over by a train.

PC Robert Charles Winney
Died 18 September 1940, aged 45
Sgt Charles Edward Showell
Died 19 September 1940, aged 40
Fatally injured by an unexploded bomb while investigating bomb damage.
Posthumous King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct in Civil Defence to both.

PC Reginald Ernest Smith
Died 1 December 1949, aged 53
Fatally wounded when accidentally shot by an armed security officer.

PC Frederick Stanley Giddings
Died 16 October 1951, aged
Drowned while on bicycle patrol when he rode into the dock in a fog.

When the docks closed the PLA Police were downsized and limited to the Port of Tilbury and renamed the Port of Tilbury Police.