Build your own boat

De­spite a life­time’s in­ter­est in boats and ships, Chris Leigh has never built one him­self... un­til now.

Model Rail (UK) - - News -

de­spite a life­time’s in­ter­est in boats and ships, chris Leigh has never scratch built one… un­til now.

The mo­tor ves­sel (MV) Wall Brook (some­times re­ferred to as Wal­brook) was built in 1944 as a mo­tor barge trad­ing be­tween the east coast ports of Ip­swich and Colch­ester down to Rams­gate and then across the English Chan­nel to Bel­gium and France. My ac­quain­tance with the ves­sel dates from the 1990s and a visit to Wells-next-the-sea in Nor­folk. Wells has a broad, sandy beach, from which a long chan­nel leads into the har­bour. A dredger is em­ployed to take ag­gre­gates from the seabed and keep the chan­nel deep enough for nav­i­ga­tion. The dredger at that time was the MV Wall Brook. It was static in mid-chan­nel and some­thing prompted me to take sev­eral square-on, side views which could be joined to­gether to make a full broad­side el­e­va­tion. It was a process I had used many times with build­ings as a vi­tal aid to scale mod­el­ling. I must have thought that I would model Wall Brook one day, although I had no plans then for a scale model dredger. The photographs were filed away in an al­bum for some 20 years, and then, in 2016 I de­cided to build Wall Brook. It was ini­ti­ated in some small way by my work on ‘Pol­wyd­de­lan’ (p76), with its Cor­nish har­bour, but Wall Brook was way too big and not re­ally suit­able, although I be­lieve Pad­stow has its own dredger. This lit­tle ves­sel had sev­eral sis­ters, all named af­ter brooks in the East Lon­don and Es­sex area. Wall Brook’s story is, per­haps, a lit­tle more in­ter­est­ing than most, and glimpses of its or­di­nar­i­ness can be gleaned from the In­ter­net. In one place it’s recorded as “the worst ship I ever served on”, and in an­other a pi­lot re­calls bring­ing the coaster in to Rams­gate, its deck awash, hatches breached and at risk of sink­ing. When its cross-chan­nel trad­ing ended, Wall Brook was adapted for suc­tion dredg­ing and that’s the form in which I first saw it at Wells. When I next saw it there, I didn’t re­alise at first but it had been stripped of its dredg­ing gear. This was in the late 1990s and I sub­se­quently learned that it had been re­duced to a hulk, painted or­ange and towed to RAF Hol­beach, a gun­nery range on The Wash, where it was beached as a tar­get and bombed by both Amer­i­can and Bri­tish air­craft.

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