Little ship left a big impression

I’ve often mentioned the activities of the waterways charity Thames21 in this column but I thought it might be helpful to take a closer look at the organisation’s background.

I’VE OFTEN mentioned the activities of the waterways charity Thames21 in this column but I thought it might be helpful to take a closer look at the organisation’s background.

Thames21 has just celebrated its tenth anniversary and it is remarkable how it has grown to be a real force for good in the environment of the rivers that criss-cross London – including our own stretch of the River Thames and its tributaries.

It developed from a partnership programme supported by Keep Britain Tidy, (remember there old television advertising campaings?), the Port of London Authority, the Environment Agency, Thames Water, British Waterways, The Corporation of London and 19 local authorities.

From that initial beginning, the charity is now independent, and is funded by a wide variety of charitable trusts, companies and public funding.

Although a large part of what Thames21 does is based around cleaning up our rivers and canals, their activities now include all kinds of projects designed to improve our waterways in different ways, including:

  • Engaging people of all ages, abilities and from all parts of society in London’s waterways
  • Removing litter
  • Creating new habitats for wildlife, flora and fauna
  • Removing non-native invasive species
  • Promoting safe and equitable access to waterways
  • Removing graffiti
  • Undertaking monitoring and research
  • Delivering educational projects
  • Campaigning for the reduction of waterway pollution and promoting sustainable behaviour
  • Accrediting and training community groups to deliver safe and sustainable waterway improvement events.

Thames21 can now mobilise upwards of 12,000 volunteers around the capital to help with these objectives and they do a quite remarkable job. I’ll continue to keep you informed about the charity’s activities in our area (like regular clean-ups at places like Desborough Island and Sunbury Lock Cut island, but if you’d like to know more about what Thames21 offers, visit the website at

A couple of weeks ago, I included a plea for help from regular reader Geoff Voller who remembered, as a young lad in 1940, visiting a Dunkirk little ship by the quay at Isleworth and asked whether anyone could remember its name.

Although unable to help with an answer to that question, Mike Minihane emailed me to say that he, too, had recollections of that craft.

Mike wrote: “I was very interested to read about the Dunkirk veteran moored at Isleworth in last week’s Surrey Herald.  I’m afraid I cannot help Geoff Voller with the name of the vessel, but I do remember the occasion.

“I lived in Isleworth from 1933 to 1964 and as schoolboy my father took me down to The London Apprentice to see the little ship and, as Geoff said, ‘complete with bullet holes.’

“I did know the name, but with the passing of the years it has slipped my memory, but I suspect that if i saw it again I would recognise it.  I have scanned some of the past lists of the gatherings of the veterans, but none of them have rung a bell!  I’m sorry that I have not been more helpful, but I felt I must write to you about this.”

Thanks, Mike – I know what you mean about the passing of the years doing terrible things to the memory!

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