Type: Passenger Boat
Beam: 15ft 6ins
Draft: 3ft 6ins
Displacement: 22 tons
Engine: Perkins Diesel
Construction: Carvel, pitch pine on oak
Builder: Frank Maynard, Chiswick
New Britannic, a 56' passenger launch, originally built to carry up to 117 passengers operating trips from Ramsgate, was ideal for the job of rescuing men from the beaches. Coxswain W. Mathews of the Royal Navy took her over from her owner, Charlie Priddle of Ramsgate to go to Dunkirk. Built to carry a full load of passengers in safety, with easy access to her 54ft. open deck, a shallow 3ft. 6in. draft and a powerful 65hp Lister engine to pull her clear of the sands, she was the ideal boat for the job. She is credited with lifting 3,000 men off the beaches and remained in service with the Navy for the rest of the war on patrol duties.
After the war she was sold, going first to Weymouth and later to the Scilly Isles where she was renamed Commodore and remained in service carrying many thousands of holiday makers until 1991, when, with the advent of new regulations, she was withdrawn and, but for the intervention of the Trust, would have been broken up.
As she had been out of commission for some time, it was not practical for her to come to the mainland under her own power, so a tow was arranged with a fishing boat returning to Falmouth. The tow went alright but on arrival at Falmouth she sank at the moorings, had to be salvaged and the remainder of the trip to Southampton was by road.
On arrival she presented a very sorry sight and we began to realise the full amount of work needed to get her afloat and to move her to the slip where the repairs were to be carried out. With the help of friends with a powerful launch and an even more powerful pump, some plywood and nails and a large lump of putty she was moved to the Boathouse, and work commenced in November 1993.
It was decided that New Britannic would be ideal to take a number of wheelchair and other disabled persons on fishing and other trips in the Solent, and to this end a major rebuilding job was carried out largely with volunteer labour. The hull was stripped inside and out, 120 new ribs steamed and fitted, the hull caulked, and the engine rebuilt. The wheel-house has been extended to include a toilet compartment large enough for wheelchairs, a sink, water tank and pump were installed, and new decks fitted. The next stages were tanks, wiring, glazing, equipment and painting. Most of the necessary materials and equipment have been supplied, either free or at a discount by many firms to whom our thanks are due, but this is almost insignificant in comparison with the efforts of two particular people. Chris Brown put in some two thousand five hundred hours of labour and Jim Newman organised or scrounged all the materials in addition to doing all the wiring and much of the engineering and without whom it is doubtful if the task would have been completed.
New Britannic was re-launched in August 1996 and after more work afloat was at last ready to take her first passengers and a number of successful trips were made before the end of the season. At the beginning of the next season the rent for the berth was raised from ?500 to ?5000 and a new home had to be found. Fortunately, we were able to arrange for her to go back to Ramsgate where the East Kent Maritime Trust have taken her under their wing and do an excellent job of maintaining her, completing a number of jobs which had been unfinished and running trips for the disabled.
In mid 2008 East Kent Maritime Trust relinquished title of New Britannic and she is now undergoing further renovation under private ownership.
In 2015 New Britannic joined the 75th Anniversary Return to Dunkirk and was inspected by HRH Prince Michael of Kent.
Currently lying at Conyer in Kent, New Britannic has recently featured in the (2017) films Dunkirk and The Darkest Hour.
Updated: April 2018.
Tue, 23/06/2015 - 17:23
I found a photo of the New Britannic in my Mum`s things after she passed away. I have since discovered that my Dad was a Dunkirk veteran, a fact that I never knew during his lifetime. I can only think that because my Mum kept this photo for all the years since the Dunkirk evacuation, it must have been the ship on which my Dad was evacuated. My Dad was in the RAOC and was evacuated to Dunkirk from Armentieres, via Ploegsteert and Ypres in Belgium. Does anyone know of any other RAOC soldiers who came home on the New Britannic? Thank you.
Sun, 01/11/2015 - 12:32
With reference to your post re the photo of the New Britannic, my Grandfather, Bill Matthews, was the skipper of the New Britannic when it went to Dunkirk. It is quite possible it was him that rescued your father from the beaches.
They were credited with saving over 3000 lives over the three or four days of the evacuation. The ship they transferred the evacuees to was HMS Pangbourne.
Sun, 10/06/2012 - 20:13
My great grandfather was a boat hand on this little ship. To read how brave his crew and he were makes us as a family so proud. I was told by my father that he returned after saving those soldiers lives and never mentioned anything to his wife, she learnt of his actions in the paper. For him, it was something he had to do and never thought of the actions of him and the crew being anything but help but to us they are heros. As a family, we so proud of him and it's great to see the boat being restored to its glory.
Mon, 04/06/2012 - 18:51
I spent many happy years travelling between the islands when the ship was ferrying holidaymakers from Bryher on the Isles of Scilly. Good to see her restored and proudly amongst the flotilla yesterday.
Sun, 03/06/2012 - 21:13
I married into the Goldfinch family and my spouse Jim has found a photograph he rescued from a skip of the Britannic alongside The Royal yacht Britannia around the time Princess Margaret married about 52 years ago.
Sun, 06/06/2010 - 21:18
I am originally from Ramsgate and have recently found a black and white postcard of the New Britannic, Ramsgate "The little boat that went to Dunkirk" leaving Ramsgate Harbour. Skipper: W. Read. I am not sure how old this postcard is but the people on board look as though they are holidaymakers.
Wed, 21/07/2010 - 07:44
Just read you comment on the New Britannic post card.
You will find that the skipper was Wally Read who sailed to Dunkirk with his son Joe (15 years old).
The people in the photo would have been holiday makers.
It could take up to 150 passengers at 3 shillings (15p) a go. Route normally to the Goodwin sands. Sailing twice a day in the 1930's
To find out more it is worth reading the book Hero at Dunkirk by Vine Cross (isbn 978-1-407117-83-6)
(This is not an advert for selling the book)
I hope you find this interesting.
Regards Richard Read.
Sun, 03/03/2013 - 11:53
Wally & Joe Reid
In the fifties used to holiday in Ramsgate stayed in B&B run by Mr & Mrs Reid also many day trips on the New Britannic. Joe, I think worked on the dredger in the harbour and Wally was cox of the lifeboat at one stage happy memories
Wed, 09/05/2012 - 12:01
Thank you for posting the ref to the book on Dunkirk, I look forward to finding it. Wally Reid is my great grandfather and I am trying to gather as much history on my family, so hearing about the book was great news.
Sat, 08/09/2012 - 08:39
The New Britannic was successfully relaunched & taken to Sandwich for further Restoration. Under the care of Greg McLeish with help from the Daily Mail she made the diamond jubilee day on the Thames in the Summer. She is now based at Conyer creek near Faversham.
My Sister Sheila Johnson helped research the book I mentioned. You can contact her at email@example.com. She has been researching family History & you are on the list of people she has tried to contact.
Hope This helps Richard.
Fri, 07/09/2012 - 11:01
I am replying on behalf of my brother Richard Read, as I have been doing the Read Family History for many years.
I have been in touch with Sandra King daughter of Nora and would love to contact you.
I have many photos of Wally and Joe and can you let have the information i have, I helped the author of the book about Joe. We have been helping Greg with information for the restoration of the New Britannic, which took part in the Jubilee procession.
Sheila Johnson (nee Read).
Thu, 14/06/2012 - 00:31
Wally Read was MY Great Grandad too! Wow! We must be related! Norah (my Nan) was his daughter.
I have some papers and some clippings on the story from my aunt when she did some genealogical study into the story about 15 years back including a story and picture from the Daily Mail in 1941 when Joe was awarded a reward from the sister of one of the men he saved.
Fri, 07/09/2012 - 11:05
Just spotted your comments on this site, I am the sister to Richard Read, and have been working on the Read Tree for many years, I too have many clippings and photos and would be interested in swopping notes, I note you have put your e mail on your message so will be contacting you shortly to exchange information. We are cousins to Wally Read, my dad was Len Read son of William Read, who was one of Wallys Uncles.
Sat, 23/10/2010 - 03:28
I lived in the Admiral Harvey P H, Ramsgate, in the early 50s and remember Wally (just) and his son Ernie. Both were fishermen/ lifeboatmen/ pleasure boatmen according to need and season. I also know the postcard mentioned. I have a photo of me (aged 3 or 4) with Wally's wife (known to all as "Mum") outside the Reid house on (?)Napier Terrace, taken ca. 1952.
Mon, 09/05/2011 - 11:11
My sister and I are the granddaughters of Frank Maynard, builder of the New Britannic. We were interested to read in the magazine "This England" of the restoration and new ownership of her. We would be interested to get in touch with her owner, Mr McLeish and hear more of her restoration and hopefully see her, especially if there is going to be a relaunching in the near future. We have followed her progress in recent years but have only just become aware of what is going on in Ramsgate. Best wishes Jane and Amanda (nee Maynard).
Thu, 28/07/2011 - 10:37
Frank Maynard, Chiswick
Jane and Amanda - I am the owner of a Frank Maynard motor yacht and am currently researching her history. It would be great to make contact, email below.
Sat, 28/05/2011 - 08:57
Congratulations Greg on your successful launch yesterday (27th May 20110.
I know that you were very nervous especially on the first lifting when she creaked a bit & when she started to leak a bit on the first lowering. But after a bit of nifty sealing she responded well when lowered again. We all felt admiration for you when she was towed to her mooring.
Thanks again for all your hard work & dedication in rescuing a boat that has as a lot of pride in the hearts & minds of our Family.
Thanks again Richard Read.
Fri, 22/06/2012 - 13:11
Richard are you Joe's relative? I am a cousin to Joe and
Ernie Read we always spent our holidays with aunt Flo
and uncle Wall.
Fri, 07/09/2012 - 10:55
I am replying on behalf of my brother Richard Read, I am his sister Sheila Johnson (nee Read).
We are also both cousins to Walter Read and Joe, i have been working on the Read Family History for quite a few years and have many photos of all of them. I have helped the author of the Book Richard mentioned. Our father Len Read, used to work alongside Uncle Wall when he was very young and later on the Prudential Lifeboat with Ernie, Joe and Walter.
I note you have put an e mail address so will e mail you to let you know about the information i have.
Sheila Johnson (nee Read).