Memories from the 1940s

The Trust's Facebook page produces some interesting reactions from followers.

One, Julian Wilson, sent us the picture above of Valerie, a 48ft bawley alongside No 1 jetty opposite the Hope Hotel in Southend just after World War 11. His family owned four bawleys moored east
of the pier and also had two pleasure boats on the Marine Parade pitches. These were New Prince of Wales 1 and New Princess Maud and Mr Wilson recalls Endeavour in Leigh Creek. I remember her just after the war when Dad had reason to come up to our boats on winter lay-ups in the mud berths beyond Johnson and Jago's yard.” He also remembered weekends afloat with 3rd Chalkwell Bay Sea Scouts.

After the war Valerie was fitted out for spratting. Mr Wilson remembers secondhand gear coming from Maldon to re-rig her sails and take part in the first post war Fishermen's Regatta. LO 180 was the company apprentice’s boat. The Ministry and Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Transport gave grants to owners who took on apprentices to train as seamen. Mr Wilson was aboard and trained by Sidney Cotgrove who was lured from semi-retirement for the job and the boss's son duly became skipper. At one time Valerie held the record for the highest tonnage of sprats caught in a weekend trip.

Mr Wilson's father and his partner Albert Brand had bought a LCT - a Landing Craft (Tank) vessel - which they used as a mothership for the firm's four bawleys and smacks. Mr Wilson said: “We’d shoot our nets, recover them when the cod-end came to the surface, call up the LCT on the e-army sets Dad had fitted on the boats.

The LCT would come alongside and we'd swing the cod-end across into her tank deck, release the haul there before going back to shoot the trawl again.” When fishing stopped the LCT went up river to Billingsgate Fish Market where Mr Wilson senior had pre-sold the fish. Later the boats went white weeding which was big earner for boats when fish were scarce.

Sadly Valerie became 'nail sick' and needed complete re-caulking. Repairs carried out during the war had been hastily carried out using available material. Local competition was tough and contracts
from canneries were running out and sprats had stopped shoaling off the Estuary. Valerie was sold to Norfolk for conversion to a yacht. It is not known if she survives.

Mr Wilson has also written a downloadable document about the experiences of the Southend fishing boats that went to Dunkirk, including Endeavour.

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