Type: Thames Passenger Vessel
Draft: 3ft 9ins
Displacement: 38 tons
Engine: Leyland/Thornycroft 402
Builder: Letcher, Cowes, IoW
Any day you care to go to Westminster Pier, a hundred yards downstream from the Houses of Parliament along the river Thames, you can take a ride up to Kew on the Princess Freda, one of the prettiest passenger vessels that went to Dunkirk. In passing, you'll get a fine view of members of both Houses on the terrace overlooking the river.
Princess Freda was built in 1926 by T.C. Letcher on the Isle of Wight for Whatfords who had operated river boats on the Thames since before the turn of the century - but theirs were smaller than the rival steamers.
The Princess Freda was elegantly designed and substantially built. Her topsides were made of one continuous sheet of metal 150ft long, bent round the stern and joined at the bows. The whole structure was then fitted to her bottom. Her hull has hardly changed since then, but when you board her now, you will have an awning and lee-rail dodgers to protect you from the weather and the spray.
Apart from the low profile and the modest freeboard, Princess Freda was the ideal ship for lifting troops off the beaches. The seamanship of Sub-Lieut. E.S. Forman, who commanded her, must be admired when you consider that he manoeuvred this 65ft launch with a fast tide running close to shallow beaches on a lee shore under fire, filled her to capacity with troops and ferried them all day to an off-lying destroyer until flotsam fouled his propeller and he was towed home by the Dutch tug Betje.
Princess Freda went back to Whatfords until the business was sold in 1978 and the new owners had no need of her. She was then acquired by Thames Passenger Services, a co-operative of up-river operators who kept her for a while as a spare boat. Then, in 1982, Cliff Phillips bought her for a daily passenger service from Westminster to Kew. The Collier Family bought the vessel in early 2004. She was moored off afloat at Westminster, in a derelict condition, and in need of extensive repair.
The Colliers, who run three other passenger vessels on the Thames, were able to Dry dock Princess Freda in their own Dry dock. For six months she underwent massive refit, new forward and upper decks, new roof and new windows.
As the vessel is of steel construction great care was taken to keep the boat looking the same as she had been in 1926 when she was built.
The Colliers were keen to sail the Princess Freda back to Dunkirk in May 2005 for the remembrance celebrations.
Their dream was fulfilled. Arthur Collier and his three sons and granddaughter returned the little ship to Dunkirk where she had `done her bit` in World War Two. Other family members travelling by ferry joined them.
The Colliers intend returning to Dunkirk in 2010 for the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk rescue operation.
The Princess Freda.
Princess Freda proudly displays a plaque to show she is a Dunkirk Little Ship and continues to be for hire in London along with three other Colliers Launches vessel. Please see website for details
Updated May 2018
Mon, 16/08/2010 - 12:10
My father was the Sub Lieu who took the little ship to Dunkirk! His last name is Forman, not Foreman. I am very pleased to have found this web site!
He passed peacefully away in his 90s a few years ago in Bridlington.
Angie Rutherford nee Forman, Caister on Sea, Norfolk.