MY articles about the activities of the Upper Thames Patrol during the 1940s seem to have stirred a few of memories with readers. One gentleman from Walton very kindly sent me an old cutting which described something known as the Walton petrol run – which was a way of transporting fuel from a depot beside the Thames in Walton to the centre of London using motorised barges during the Second World War.
Apparently, crude oil was unloaded at Avonmouth in the Bristol Channel and refined there before being pumped via a pipeline to Walton. It saved tankers having to brave attacks by the Luftwaffe and the German navy as they sailed up the channel and into the Thames.
It must have been a hugely risky business taking highly inflammable loads of petrol and diesel along the river and I’m sure there must be people living in the area who still recall the operation – maybe some who even worked on it. If so, I’d love to hear from you with your recollections.
AND talking of memories of the war, I’d also like to hear from readers who worked at the Walton Yacht Company on the Middlesex bank of the river beside Walton Bridge either during or just after the war. The yard built dozens of motor torpedo boats (MTBs) for the Admiralty during the hostilities but after the war, the Odell family who owned the operation, turned their hands to making pleasure boats which were used to shuttle passengers between Hampton Court, Richmond and Westminster. They operated a fleet of these craft themselves with a whole series of boats whose names mainly began with an ‘O’ – Oganic, Oat, Ohmid, Ojonto, etc and they were a common sight on the Thames during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Now, the site is occupied by an expensive housing development but the Walton Yacht Works must have been something to behold when it was churning out one 72-foot long MTB every two weeks and employing around 400 men. Do let me know if you have memories of this boat-builder’s business.
FOR those who were wondering whether I’d resisted buying anything from the Boat Show at the Excel centre, the answer is yes. Mind you, it says a lot about the way the economic downturn has hit the marine industry that I was sorely tempted by an offer to purchase a brand new diesel engine for my old Seamaster cabin cruiser at a discount of nearly 30% – a saving of a couple of thousand pounds on the list price. As ever, the marine manufacturers are putting a brave face on their prospects but I can’t believe they can sustain business with that level of price-cutting for too long. So if you’re thinking about buying – a boat, an engine, anything major – now might be a very good time to investigate the market.