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