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Thursday 28 July 2011

11 U.S. Marines died at Deptford Dockyard

An interview by David Venditta
Of The Morning Call
May 26, 2003

Edward W. McElduff's ship hit two mines on its way to the Normandy coast early on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The explosions hurled the 22-year-old Navy ensign from the charthouse to the deck below, smashing his back and neck into a rack of rifles and submachine guns.

He was seriously injured, and would be injured again.

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His experiences led him to become a Catholic priest after the war.

Now 81, retired and living in Palmerton, he will mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination on Friday.

Today, Memorial Day, McElduff remembers his role in World War II and his most traumatic moments. They came several weeks after D- Day, while his damaged LST, or landing ship tank, was moored at a small naval base in England.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * * * *

They had tied us up at a place called Deptford on the Thames River. It could only accommodate two ships. There was another LST alongside of us, so close you could step across to it.

The Germans were using buzz bombs, V-1 rockets, or "Doodlebugs." They were a frightening thing. You'd hear the engine roar, then it would suddenly stop, and you'd wait a couple of seconds, because that was when it was falling with its ton of explosives.

We were in what was called Doodlebug Alley, one of the bombs' major routes. They were dropping all around us, day and night, coming out of nowhere.

So this one night in July or early August, I was the only officer aboard, because I was the officer of the deck. The crew was in their quarters below.

The officer of the deck on the other ship had been in my Officer Candidate School class at Northwestern University. His name was John something, I can't remember.

It was about 11 and we were talking, and I said, "I'm gonna get a cup of coffee," and he said, "Well, I'm gonna check something," and he went to check it.

I had just left the galley, where I went for the coffee, when a buzz bomb dropped right on the aft part of John's ship. The blast blew me down a passageway about 30 feet, and I was reaching out to try to stop myself from going over the side. My back hit the railing, making my injury from D-Day worse. I grabbed onto the railing.

A fire started over the ammunition. I was badly hurt -- my spinal column is wrecked from that -- but I had to get the fire out. The crew was trapped down below, so I worked while they were freeing themselves. I got the hose unfurled and the water going, and by then the guys had cleared themselves out.

So they took over fighting the fire, and I went over to the other ship to see what I could do about casualties.

The captain was aboard that ship, but his quarters were pretty well blown open. I heard groaning and had to get some debris off him. I tried to pull him back, because I was afraid more debris was going to fall on him.

But I couldn't find any substance to him. The concussion was so much, his bones were shattered into small pieces. When I held him, it was like holding a soft mass.

He looked like a rubber man.

I didn't want him to die without someone there with him.

Within three minutes, he died in my arms.

The next thing I remember, I looked at the life raft on my ship and saw parts of my friend's body on it. I assumed it was John, because he had been standing with me and I hadn't seen anybody else.

I took my utility knife out and scraped his remains off of the life raft into a paper bag. Anything I could find of him, I put in the bag.

I didn't want to leave him on the raft.

Someone came up to help me, and I said, "No I'll do it, I want to do it myself."

What I intended to do with the remains, I don't know, probably drop them over the side. I might have done that. It would have been a logical thing. The rise and fall of the Thames River is rather remarkable, so the remains would have ultimately gone out to sea. That would have been appropriate.

But I had a great deal of pain, and I think it was overwhelming me.

After I got done scraping, I put the knife back in my belt.

And then I blacked out.

World of the man

I was scrappy when I was a kid. I had to be.

My dad was a career Navy man, so we moved around a lot. My mother and younger sister and I followed him all over the world -- Hawaii, the Philippines, Panama, the usual places where Navy families would go.

I went to about 12 or 13 grammar schools. Every year I was the new man on the block, so I was challenged, and I got in a lot of fights. When we lived in Norfolk, Va., at the naval base, one day I beat up the admiral's grandson, and my sister beat up the captain of the yard's daughter.

My dad was an Annapolis grad with a sideline: He wrote music. He sold material to Irving Berlin. Some of his music was recorded by Nelson Eddy. At Naval Academy football games, they still sing one of his numbers, a stirring little fight song.

Dad was loaded with talent. He played piano, he was a pilot, he was a deep-sea diver, he was a New York state gymnastic champion before he followed his brother into the academy, where he couldn't participate in sports because he was already a pro: He had played basketball with the original Celtics.

After he graduated, he met my mother in Philadelphia, where she was in supply work at the Navy Yard. She was in the first group of women ever to be enlisted in the Navy, back during World War I.

I was born in Manhattan. In school I was a fast sprinter -- held records on both coasts. After we moved to Brooklyn, I boxed for the Knights of Columbus.

When I was 15, a sophomore in high school, I wanted to get into the world of the man, so I said I was 17 and joined the New York National Guard. It was a horse outfit, the 101st Cavalry on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. I had to learn to ride, and well.

The horses were big and came from the West half-trained. We had to break them in to cavalry maneuvers, which wasn't easy. And because I was small and light, I jockeyed for I Troop when the various troops had horse races.

My dad used to kid me: "Who was in charge today, you or the horse?"

I've hated horses ever since. I don't want anything to do with them.

Trouble with an eye

After I graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., in 1940, I went to Long Beach Junior College.

My dad foresaw war with Japan. I don't know why the admirals or the politicians didn't. He told my mom in February of 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor: "We'll be at war with Japan. So if you want to stay here in California, fine, or you want to go back to your hometown of Philadelphia. But maybe you ought to do it reasonably soon."

Shortly after that, we did move to Upper Darby, outside Philadelphia.

I went to St. Joseph's University for a brief period, studying physics, and then the Naval Academy in the summer of '41. But I had trouble with my left eye. It wasn't 20-20, it was 18-20. That was a big no-no back then. I lasted only about five months because of my eye.

Then I enlisted in the Navy as a white hat, a sailor, and they sent me to Officer Candidate School. I got commissioned in '43 as an ensign. They gave us a preference sheet. I wanted to be in the Atlantic Fleet on a small ship, which means the amphibious force. That's where I wound up.

I was sent to a landing ship tank. LSTs were bigger than a destroyer. You could put a monster amount of material on their tank deck and on the upper deck. They were the kind of ship that won the war, because they provided all the supplies and all the men.

I picked up the ship in Boston, and we went to Little Creek in Virginia for shakedown. The total complement was nine officers and about 110 men.

We went over to Europe early in '43. I was navigator and small boat officer. We got ready for the big event, the invasion of France.

Wandering in Normandy

In the early morning darkness of June 6, 1944, LST 981 was carrying British Royal engineers and some American engineers to the beach. I was in the charthouse, one level up from the upper deck. There was a ladder going down.

The ship hit two mines under the surface, one right after the other. It was literally lifted right out of the water.

I was blown from the charthouse to the bottom of the ladder and into a gun rack with Thompson submachine guns and rifles. I was in excruciating pain.

When you're young, you think nothing is ever going to happen to you. It was always going to happen to the other guy.

I was thinking, "I couldn't believe this happened to me.'

We got towed back to England, and I went into a British naval hospital. The doctor pointed to the floor and said, "That's a spot for you, right there."

I'm seeing these guys without arms or legs or insides, and I said, I can't take this. So I left there.

I had a friend in town, and I stayed there and was nursed.

When I got back on my feet again, I decided I wanted to go over and see what the war looked like.

I had Army clothes and a helmet with "USN" on it. I would have looked exactly as if I was in the Army except for that. I hopped a ride across the channel, then I got on the so-called Red Ball Express, trucks that would run up to the front with supplies.

Nobody said a damn thing to me.

I wandered around Normandy on my own, slept by a hedgerow for three nights.

And I did meet up with some American troops, who viewed me with great suspicion, which I guess they had reason to do: What's a Navy man doing here?

I ran out of food. Some of the infantry guys I met supplied me with rations.

There was a sniper somewhere near where I was, and he fired at me about three times. Maybe it was a French civilian who didn't want to see us there. I fired a burst from a submachine gun, and he took off, or I hit him.

Then I figured, the hell with this, I'm going back. I've seen as much as I want to see.

I got a ride back to the beach in a truck, and I went back to the ship.

Miniature ships at Pearl

After the buzz bomb hit and I was hurt the second time, I went up to London and stopped at an American Army hospital. They gave me a shot and some painkillers.

Our LST was wrecked, it had no power. We were towed back to the States, across the Atlantic in tandem with another LST by a seagoing tug called the Choctaw. It took 37 days.

There were dead rats in our water, so it was contaminated, so we had no water. We got the desalinization machinery working enough to keep body and soul together.

We lived in filth. If you wanted to bathe, you had to throw a bucket over the side and just clean yourself off with sea water.

The British had given us some rations, which were horrible. A lot of it we had to throw over the side because it wasn't edible.

In New York, the ship was repaired. Then we went out to the Pacific, and that was kind of uneventful because the war had wound down.

My dad was in the Pacific, too, as captain of the attack transport USS Pickens. During the invasion of Okinawa, the assault commander's vessel was hit by a kamikaze, so my dad said, "This is no time to worry about who's got date of rank. My God, we've got to get these guys on the beach quick."

He took charge, and the landing was successful, for which he got the combat Legion of Merit, which is quite an award.

I left my ship in Guam because I was reassigned, and went to Pearl Harbor, where I worked in the plotting office at CinCPac -- Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet. It was difficult for me, because of my back injuries. I had to climb up on a plot and crawl across it to move the miniature ships.

But I didn't want to be a wimp. I never wanted to be a wimp.

Giving the Lord a try

When I got back to the States, the war was over, and I didn't know what I was going to do. I volunteered for a cruise up to the Arctic on the Midway, which was a large carrier just built, for test- flight operations.

Up in the Arctic, I had a lot of time to think. It was boring, cold, and the days were long and dark, and I started to reflect.

When that buzz bomb hit, I was the only topside survivor. How come other guys died, and I didn't?

The Lord had saved me for something. He saved me, and he took care of me in so many other ways.

So I decided, I'm going to give the Lord a try. I decided to enter the seminary.

In the spring of '46, I came back and was discharged. My folks were in Upper Darby. My mother was pleased when I told her about my plans. My father thought I was crazy. He knew I wanted a family, a wife and children, and he said, "How are you going to live without them?" I said I'll try.

I went in the seminary, St. Charles Borromeo, within months. On May 30, 1953, I was ordained at the Cathedral of Ss. Peter & Paul in Philadelphia.

As a priest, I haven't moved around a lot. I've only been in about a half-dozen parishes in 50 years. I spent 20 years at St. Nicholas near Walnutport, and before that, 15 years at St. Richard's in Schuylkill County, halfway between Hometown and Mahanoy City.

I don't mind admitting I kind of hid from reality all these years, until I realized there are certain things that happen to you that you have to acknowledge -- good, bad or indifferent -- whether they're war experiences or anything else.

People would talk to me about World War II, and I didn't want to hear about it. That was history.

But I was only fooling myself partially, because I still suffer from a lot of flashbacks, a lot of bad memories. I couldn't escape everything. You can't when you live in a real world.

You can only run so far, so fast.

I've had a full life, I've missed absolutely nothing, and I'm grateful for that. I'm glad I am what I am, because I love this work.

I want the Lord to give me time so I can serve him and his people, as long as he wants. And I will do that. I want to walk with him. I don't want to be selfish. I don't want to hurt anybody.

I just want to walk with him.


McElduff received a long-overdue Purple Heart in 2000.

A shelf in his apartment holds a model of his LST, a model of a V- 1 rocket embedded with a chunk of metal from the buzz bomb that damaged his ship, and the knife he used to scrape his friend's remains off the life raft.

He has tried but had no luck finding John's last name.

His sister is Pat Garrahan.

Though retired and still pained by his war injuries, McElduff continues to "help out where I can" in the Allentown diocese, and helps the needy in Central America.

He is overseeing the work of charitable clinics in Guatemala and construction of an addition to a maternity hospital in Nicaragua. He raises money for these projects.

McElduff will say all of the Masses on Saturday and Sunday at St. Nicholas Church in Lehigh Township. He'll say the Mass marking his 50 years in the priesthood at 1 p.m. June 8, also at St. Nicholas. An informal reception at the church will follow.
Copyright © 2011, The Morning Call

Tuesday 26 July 2011

shipwright's palace: they hear, all day long, and never ending, save on Sunday, the sound of hammer and of saw, the whistling of the bo's'ns and foremen, the rolling of casks, the ringing of bells, and all the noise which accompanies the build- ing and the fitting of ships ; and smell perpetually the tar and the pitch (which some love better than the smell of roses and of violets)


they hear, all day long, and never ending, save on Sunday, the sound of hammer and of saw, the whistling of the bo's'ns and foremen, the rolling of casks, the ringing of bells, and all the noise which accompanies the build- ing and the fitting of ships ; and smell perpetually the tar and the pitch (which some love better than the smell of roses and of violets)


I suppose that the best place in the world for a boy who is
about to become a sailor, as well as for one who loves to paint
ships, must be Deptford, which seems to many so mean and
despicable a town. Mean and despicable to Jack and to my-
self it would never be, because here our boyhood was spent,
and here we played with Castilla ; here we first learned to sit by
the river-side and watch the craft go up and down, with those
at anchor and those in dock. At Deptford, where the water is
never rough enough to capsize a tilt-boat, we are at the very
gates of London ; we can actually see the pool.: we are, in a
word, on the Thames.

The Thames is not, I believe, the largest river in the world;
the great Oronoco is broader, and, I dare say, longer ; the Nile
is certainly a greater stream. Yet, there is no other river
which is so majestic by reason of its shipping and its trade.
For thither come ships, laden with palm-oil and ivory, from the
Guinea Coast ; from Norway and Riga, with wood and tallow ;
from Holland, with stuffs and spices and provisions of all kinds ;
from the West Indies, with rum and sugar ; from the East
Indies, with rice ; from China, with tea and silk ; from Arabia,
with coffee ; from Newcastle, with coal. There is no kind of
merchandise produced in the world which is not carried up the
Thames to the port of London. And there is no kind of ship
or boat built to swim in the sea, except, I suppose, the Chinese
junk, the Morisco galley, or the piratical craft of the Eastern
Seas, which does not lie at anchor in the Thames, somewhere
between Greenwich Reach and London Bridge. East-Indiamen,
brigs, brigantines, schooners, yachts, sloops, galliots, tenders,
colliers, hoys, barges, smacks, herring-busses, or hog-boats all
are here. And not only these, which are peaceful ships, only
armed with carronades and muskets for defence against pirates,
but also his majesty's men-of-war, frigates, sloops of war, cut-
ters, fire-ships, and every kind of vessel employed to beat off
the enemies of the country, who would prey upon our com-
merce and destroy our merchantmen.

On that very day when
Jack came was there not, lying off Deptford Creek, the Re-
doubtable, having received her stores, provisions, and ammuni-
tion, and now waiting her captain and her crew ? and I warrant
the press-gang were busy at Wapping and at Ratcliffe. Beside
her lay the sloop-of-war Venus, the Pink, and Lively, and off
the dock mouth was the Hector, lying in ordinary, a broad can-
vas tilt or awning rigged up from stem to stern. So that those
who look up and down the river from Deptford Stairs see not
only the outward and visible proofs of England's trade, but also
those of England's greatness.

Or, again which may be useful
to the painter one may see not only at Deptford and at Red-
riff, but above the river, at Wapping, Shadwell, and Blackwall,
every kind of sailor ; they are mostly alike in manners and in
morals and one hopes that to sailors much is pardoned, and
that from them little is expected but they differ in their
speech and in their dress. There is the phlegmatic Hollander,
never without his pipe ; the mild Norwegian ; the fiery Spaniard,
ready with his dagger ; the fierce Italian, equally ready with
his knife ; the treacherous Greek ; and the Frenchman. But
the last we generally see since it is our lot to be often at war
with his nation as a prisoner, when he comes to us half starved,
ragged, and in very evil plight. Yet give these poor French
prisoners only warmth, light, and food, and they will turn out
to be most light-hearted and merry blades, always cheerful and
ready to talk, sing, and dance, and always making ingenious
things with a knife and a piece of wood. Perhaps if we knew
this people better, and they knew us better, we should be less
ready to go to war with each other.

Those who live in such a town as Deptford, and continually
witness this procession of ships, cannot choose but be sensible
of the greatness of the country, and must perforce talk con-
tinually with each other of foreign ports and places beyond the
ocean. Also because they witness the corning and going of the
king's ships (some of them pretty well battered on their return,
I promise you) ; and because they hear, all day long, and never
ending, save on Sunday, the sound of hammer and of saw, the
whistling of the bo's'ns and foremen, the rolling of casks, the
ringing of bells, and all the noise which accompanies the build-
ing and the fitting of ships ; and smell perpetually the tar and
the pitch (which some love better than the smell of roses and
of violets) they cannot refrain from talking continually of
actions at sea, feats of bravery, and the like. All the towns-
people talk of these things, and of little else. And, besides,
in these years there was the more reason for this kind of con-
versation because we were always at war with France and Spain,
fighting, among other things, to drive the French out of America,
and so to enable the ungrateful colonies to make us, shortly
afterwards, follow the lead of the French. Every day there
came fresh news of actions, skirmishes, captures, wrecks, burn-
ings. The Channel and the Bay of Biscay swarmed with French
privateers as thick as wasps in an orchard. There was not a
lugger on the coast of Normandy but stole out of a night to
pick up some English craft ; every fleet of merchantmen sailed
under convoy, and every sailor looked for death or a French
prison unless he would fight it out unto the end.

The people of London are strangely incurious many there
are who know nothing about the very monuments standing in
their midst and so that they can read every day the news
from France and Spain, they care little about their own country.
Therefore Deptford, which lies at their very gates, is as little
known to them as if it were in Wales. Some, it is true, come
every year on St. Luke's Day to join the rabble at Horn Fair,
landing at Rotherhithe, and walking to Charlton with the pro-
cession of mad wags who carry horns on their heads to that
scene of debauchery and riot ; and once a year, on Trinity Mon-
day, the elders of the Trinity House assemble at the Great Hall
behind St. Nicolas's, and after business go to church, and after
church, dinner at the Gun Tavern on the Green. And the ships
of the royal navy come and go at the royal yard almost daily.
Otherwise Deptford hath no visitors.

I do not say that it is
a beautiful city, though, as for streets, we have the Green and
Church Street ; and as for monuments, until late years there were
the great House and gardens of Saye's Court, now lying deso-
late and miserable, partly enclosed in the King's Yard and
partly given over to rank weeds and puddles. Here it was that
the great Peter, Czar of Muscovy, once lived. There are also the
two churches of St. Nicolas and St. Paul, both stately buildings,
and temples fit for worship, the latter especially, which is like
its sister churches, built about the same time, of Limehouse,
St. George's, Ratcliffe, Hoxton, Bethnal Green, Hackney, St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields, Camden Town, and others majestic with
its vast round portico of stone and its commanding terrace.

Then there are the two hospitals or almshouses, both named after
the Holy Trinity, for decayed mariners and their widows. To
my own mind these monuments of benevolence, which stand so
thickly all round London, are fairer than the most magnificent
king's palace of which we can read. Let the great bashaw have
as many gilded palaces as he pleases for himself and his se-
raglio ; let our palaces be those which are worthy of a free
people, namely, homes and places of refuge for the aged and de-
serving poor, and those who are quite spent and now past work.

I suppose there are few places richer and more fortunate
than Deptford and its neighbor, Greenwich, in these founda-
tions. At the latter place there is the great and noble Naval
Hospital, now inhabited by nearly two thousand honest veter-
ans ; they will never, be sure, be turned out of this, their stately
home, until England hath lost her pride in her sailors. There
is Morden College, for decayed merchants ; there is Norfolk, also
called Trinity, College, for the poor of Greenwich, and of Der-
singham, in Norfolk ; and there is Queen Elizabeth's Hospital,
for poor women. So, at Deptford, we have those two noble
foundations, both named after the Holy Trinity, one behind
St. Nicolas's and the other behind St. Paul's, the latter espe-
cially being a goodly structure, with a fair quadrangular court,
a commodious hall, and gardens fitted for quiet meditation and
for rest in the sunshine during the latest trembling years of life.

I do not think that even Morden College itself, with its canal
in front and its stately alleys of trees, or Norfolk College, with
its convenient stone terrace overlooking the river and its spa-
cious garden, is more beautiful than the Hospital of the Holy
Trinity beside St. Paul's Church, Deptford, especially if one
considers the stormy, anxious, and harassed lives to which it
offers rest and repose. They have been lives spent on the sea ;
not in the pursuit of honor won at the cannon's mouth and by
boarding-pike in fighting the king's enemies, but in the gather-
ing of wealth for others to enjoy, none of their gains coming to
themselves. The merchant captain brings home his cargo safe
after perils many and hardships great ; but the cargo is not for
him. His owners, or those who have chartered the ship, re-
ceive the freight ; it is bought with their money and sold for
their profit. For the captain and the crew there is their bare
wage ; and when they can work no longer, perhaps, if they are
fortunate, a room in a hospital or almshouse, with the weekly
dole of loaves and shillings.

The tract of land (it is not great) lying at the back of Trinity
Almshouses and the Stowage, contained by the last bend of the
creek before it runs into the river, is rented by two or three
market-gardeners, and laid out by them for the production of
fruit and vegetables.

As these gardens lay retired and behind the houses, no one
ever came to them except the gardeners themselves, who are
quiet, peaceful folk. About the orchards here, and the beds
of asparagus, pease, endive, skirrett, and the rest of the vegeta-
bles grown for the London market, lies ever an abiding sense
of peace ; and this although one cannot but hear the continual
hammering of the dock-yard, the firing of salutes, and the yo-
hoing and roaring of voices which all day long come up from
the ships upon the river. I know not how we came to know
these gardens, or to find them out. I used to wander in them
with Castilla, when we were little children, with Philadelphy
for nurse ; we took Jack Easterbrook to show him the place as
soon as he came to us ; we thought, I believe as children love
to think of anything that the gardens were our own, though,
of course, we were only there on sufferance, and because the
gardeners knew we should neither destroy nor steal.

Perhaps the chief reason why we sought the place (because
we had gardens of our own at home) was that, just beyond the
last bend of the creek, there stood, on the very edge of the
steep bank here twenty feet above low-water mark an old
summer-house, built of wood. It was octagonal in shape, hav-
ing a pointed roof of shingle, with a gilded weathercock upon
it. Three sides contained windows, all looking upon the river ;
another side consisted of a door ; and a bench ran round the
room, except on the side of the door. It had once been paint-
ed green, but the paint was now for the most part fallen off ;
the shingle roof was leaky, and let in the rain ; the weathercock
was rusty, and stuck at due east ; the planks of the wall had
started ; the door hardly hung upon its hinges ; the glass of the
windows was broken ; and the whole structure was so crazy
that I wonder it kept together, and did not either tumble to
pieces or slip down the steep bank into the ooze of the creek.
In this summer-house the great czar Peter, when he was learn-
ing how to build ships in Deptford Yard, would, it was said,
sometimes come to sit with his princes or heyducs, on a sum-
mer evening, to drink brandy, to look at the ships, and to med
itate how best to convert his enslaved Muscovites into the like-
ness of free and honest English sailors. We had small respect
for the memory of the czar, but as for the old summer-house,
it was all our own, because no one used it except ourselves.
For us it was a fortress or castle where we could play at being
besieged, the ships in the river representing the enemy's fleet.
Jack would sally forth and perform prodigies of valor in bring-
ing in provisions for the garrison. Or it was our ship, in which
we sustained imaginary broadsides, and encountered shipwreck,
and were cast away, Jack being captain and Castilla the pas-
senger, while I was alternately bo's'n, first lieutenant, or cook,
according to the exigencies of the situation. But very soon
Jack grew too big for these games, and left us to ourselves.
Then we fell to more quiet sport.

It was pleasant to watch
the ships go up and down the river, and fine to see how the
tide rushed up the creek below us, making whirlpools and ed-
dies, and setting upright the boats lying on their sides in the
mud, and trying to tear down the bank on which stood our
rickety palace. We seemed to know every craft, from the
great East - Indiaman to the Margate hoys or the Gravesend
tilt-boats, by face, so to speak, just as we knew the faces of the
naval officers who walked about the town. And, thanks to
Jack, we knew the history of every ship of the king's navy
which came to Deptford, and all the engagements and actions
in which she had ever taken part.

Saturday 23 July 2011

like a medieval walled city........

The dockyard, like a medieval walled city, with its houses, workshops, docks, slips and basin was laid out in the Tudor Period. This Tudor layout is till extant. The streets, roads and ways through the yard will still be present in some form, such as the perpendicular access alongside the docks and slipways and the routes around the basin. Many of the routes of access through the yard have been in existence and use for five hundred years. As many of the buildings and the positions of the major industrial installations such as docks survived from the Tudor period of the yard until the mid 1950's, the early Tudor layout of the routes, roads and railways continued to remain in use.

These routes are as much a characteristic feature of the yard as the dockyard structures themselves. Indeed, they are structures. In 1860 Monsieur Chevallier remarked on and recorded in drawings the granite longitudinal paved roads within Portsmouth yard. He also remarked on and recorded in drawings the early railtracks. The ways through the site at Deptford were fashioned in an identical manner to those in Portsmouth and are shown here in photographs from the 1950's. The tracks that are still present in Portsmouth and railways at Chatham have recently been restored, contributing to the overall historic landscape.

Some of the roads at Deptford have evolved from their Tudor origins and were re-made at the end of the nineteenth century during the tenure of the Foreign Cattle Market. These roads express the evolution of the site. The granite cobbled streets at Deptford yard are currently being unearthed during archaeological excavations.

Current policy highlights the need to preserve and maximise such early characteristics of heritage sites such as these routes, especially where they constitute "spaces between" and contribute to more recognisable assets.

These routes are significant components of the historic environment and the opportunity is there to ensure that their contribution is fully expressed in the new development. It is the responsibilty of English Heritage and of Lewisham Planning to ensure that Deptford is not excluded from the benefits of publicly funded heritage policy.

2020 Vision: An Imaginary Voyage through Deptford

An Imaginary Voyage Through Deptford 2020

Since we had passed the statue, Jack was convinced he was as tall as Peter the Great, until we got to Twinkle Park and he could no longer see us above the bulrushes. Besides, now Jack was dwarfed by the giant Red Lion. The lion had recently been repainted. I quite liked the graffiti and hoped it would stay but since the lion commemorates the pub that stood on the site of the park it apparently has to be red. It’s been here a long time. The Red Lion was one of the first in a series of sculptures that commemorate the pub names that surrounded the dockyard. There used to be dozens of such pubs. There was also the Red Cow. Along Prince Street near the Dog and Bell there was the Lord Nelson, the Navy Arms that used to be the Rose and Crown, then the Griffin directly opposite, The Peter the Great Tavern was in the dockyard itself, well that’s re-opened so it doesn’t have a sculpture, the Globe that features in Pepys diary is still there on Evelyn Street ….. On Watergate Street, the Bull and Butcher, there was a lot of fuss at first because everyone thought the sculpture of the butcher shouldn’t be a woman, until they learned about the Gut Girls in the Foreign Cattle Market. Anyway the sculptures have added a lot of colour to the area and there were all made by artists that had worked at the Faircharm state when it was largely studios. Then there was the Mansion House and the Three Jolly Sailors right by the Upper Watergate. I can’t remember them all.

The children started to sing “Twinkle twinkle….” They were singing and laughing as they skipped ahead through the old dockyard gate, I discreetly turned one last time to catch a glimpse of the serene Chinese woman we’d been watching, deeply absorbed in her Tai Chi. Her presence seemed to draw together all the elements of the little park, the trees, the rocks and water. The blackness of the moorhens scattering across the pond seemed suddenly more intense amongst the bright yellow iris. I felt hypnotized as the woman moved her arms and hands in meticulous slow motion…….

“Twinkle twinkle little star…..” they shouted at the tops of their voices as they ran into the Clerk of the Cheque’s garden chasing each other around the neat squares of box hedging and around the ‘witches hat’ bay trees and the ‘ice-cream’ twirled yew trees. They were immediately stopped in their tracks and went completely silent as they laid eyes on the brightly coloured Nicki de Saint Phalle moving sculptures in the Head Dock. I knew the children would love them but didn’t say anything to them as I wanted to see their reaction. The brightly coloured sculptures were on loan from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and did look wonderful swirling and dipping close to the water. We stood watching for a while on the bridge that crosses the gates of the head dock. As I looked down at the monumental stone blocks that make up the dock my mind drifted to the now absent noise of the hammering, sawing, calling of the shipwright’s over maybe more than five centuries of labour in this dock. I had almost forgotten that Jane was joining us today because she wanted to see the newly opened dockyard Officer’s gardens that had been restored according to details shown on some early plans. Apparently, Jane said, there was a direct correspondence with the plans and the traces of fountains and pathways that were found during archaeology. In the case of the dockyard gardens Deptford was following the hugely successful restoration of the Officers’ Gardens in the dockyard at Chatham. We had been to see those so Jane was especially interested to see how Deptford’s would compare.

I knew that Jane would be meticulous about her visit, she had been looking forward to the opening of the gardens and every time she had come to view the progress of the restoration and the contemporary re-interpretation of John Evelyn’s Sayes Court Garden, she would try to get a peek through the fence to check the progress of the gardens of the Officer’s Terrace, and of course to check that the designs were accurate. Jane had managed to get a copy of an original print of the dockyard from 1753 that showed the officers’ gardens in detail. It was Jane who had told me about Deptford dockyard’s links to Kew Gardens. Every time she visits she always brings Strelizia, bird of paradise flowers and as she puts them in the vase, it’s as if she’s never uttered the words before, she begins to tell the story of Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz being fetched from the Elbe in the Royal Charlotte Yacht to marry George III. She had managed to find a copy of the Scots magazine on Ebay that contained a contemporary account of the events, how the Royal Charlotte yacht was prepared for the voyage in the basin at Deptford. I said it must be copy but she’s convinced it’s an original from 1761. As she arranges the flowers she describes how the crew “were dressed at his majesties private expense in a red uniform with gold laced hats, light grey stockings with buckles and pumps,” Jane can go on forever about the number of nationally significant voyages started in the dockyard at Deptford, Raleigh, Drake, Frobisher, Cook……..Somehow it doesn’t matter what we’re discussing, eventually it all comes back to Deptford, one way or another, the origin of the Bank of England with the East India Company, the origin of the National Trust with Sayes Court, the discovery of Australia, the founding of the first British colonies in America. Just about everything, the first salaried and pensioned workers, I’ve usually stopped paying attention at this stage, and also something to do with dockyard labourers from Deptford erecting the palm house at Kew, and something to do with an entire garden being sent from Kew to the dockyard to be shipped to Catherine the Great and Potemkin who were crazy for English gardens. Everything either started in Deptford or comes back to Deptford, oh including the Golden Hinde that of course did both! I’m not sure where she gets this stuff from but she must be talking some sense.
Jane has now been asked to be a trustee for the Sayes Court Young Peoples’ Program but that’s based on her years of youth work all over London rather than her encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Deptford. It’s an incredible opportunity for her to be able to bring together her two areas of expertise but she doesn’t see it that way at all, she absolutely believes in the power of planting and gardening, to transform these kids lives. Well at least it gives them a good qualification with real experience and practice behind it and the opportunity of getting a good job. She’s already been involved in the project as a volunteer and even got her sister’s boy a place on the apprenticeship scheme. He’d never done well at school, was always in trouble with the police and on one occasion it was quite serious. Anyway she got him a place on the youth training scheme and he loved it. He’s now working full time in the garden at Great Dixter. They’re one of the partners in the Sayes Court Garden Restoration along with Kew. Of course Jane reminds me she’s only following in the tradition of the McMillan sisters who caused an absolute uproar when they encouraged kids to plant vegetables in St. Nicholas churchyard. Apparently, Jane’s managed to persuade the guys who are constructing the Lenox replica ship that when it eventually launches she is going to strew the slipways with flowers from the Sayes Court gardens.
I know that Jane will want some peace for her visit to the garden, she can sit and walk for hours in Sayes Court, she never tires of it, so I take the children to see the foreshore finds at the Landing Place and Lookout. It’s great, part of the restored Look out building is a little café and you can look through the windows at the other section of the pavilion at a collection of fore-shore finds. It wasn’t difficult to replicate the little pavilion. They had been painted from various angles in several different John Cleveley paintings in the eighteenth century. Funny, he couldn’t possibly have known then what a resource he was leaving behind. But he was clearly a man who loved the dockyard. He must have painted it more than half a dozen times, each time finding some new detail, or new perspective. Jane did tell me either he was born in Deptford or was a shipwright in Deptford or maybe both. I once went to see one of his Deptford paintings up for sale in a gallery on Bond Street, you could get right up close and see the breath in the brushstroke. Someone once told me that an oil painting never fully dries out. Imagine, that moment of applying the paint, still present in the liquid surface. Now all the Cleveley paintings are back here in Deptford. I suppose since he lived here they must have all been painted here. Not all are the originals, the Maritime Museum have permanently loaned theirs and the Science Museum still had one which they gave to the Deptford Lenox Trust which gave them some capital enabling them to raise further funds. The Paul Mellon Foundation loaned theirs from Yale for the exhibition that they sponsored called ‘Mapping Deptford: drawings, paintings and plans from five hundred years 1513-2013’ and after the exhibition they allowed their Cleveley to remain permanently in Deptford. Oh, and one is a copy of one painting still in private hands. So that’s all the John Cleveley Seniors and there are a few John Cleveley Junior’s on display with the 1774 scale model and a number of ships models actually displayed in the model making rooms where they were made. No, actually, that can’t be right because I remember last time we went to the Master Shipwright’s Offices, Jane had told me that the Master Shipwright’s Repository, the Model Making and Drawing Rooms were only added in 1805 and some of the models are much earlier than that. I think I fell asleep when she was telling me about how Brigadier General Sir Samuel Bentham, who had added the top floor range to the Office, had been obscured by his more renowned brother Jeremy Betham, but was in fact the great-unsung hero of the Industrial Revolution. That’s why she sent me several links to websites and articles about him, again, something to do with building a navy for Potemkin and Catherine the Great. Anyway thanks to John Cleveley the Landing Place and Look pavilions could be accurately reconstructed with measurements taken from other plans of the yard. It was a cool idea to use the pavilion for a café and for the permanent finds exhibition. Most of the finds came from the foreshore in front of the dockyard, Lots of the finds have been donated by people who had been collecting pieces for years and wanted them to be where they would be understood and appreciated the most. There is even one piece from the Viking times found in the area of the early mast pond, which even though its tiny, the kids love it and its an easy name for them to remember. It’s called Viking snap and it was a kind of currency worn as jewelry. This is my favourite part of the dockyard because there is a story attached to each find on display and every now and then new finds are displayed so it’s a constantly evolving exhibition that everyone can participate in. One of my favourite pieces is the buckle from a rifle belt that came from a soldier on a ship that was on its way to fight on the royalist side in the American War of Independence, its quite faint but you can make out the writing on it that says, Loyal County Wicklow Rangers. Jack thinks its from a football team, but what actually happened was that the ship had left Ireland with loyalists to fight on behalf of the Crown and as the ship was crossing the Atlantic its mast broke and it had to return to Deptford to be repaired. It must have been dropped by a soldier here and remained on the foreshore all that time. Jane managed to find that out, don’t ask me how. My other favourite piece is a little brass Estee Lauder lipstick from the World War II. It had never been used. I wonder whether it was a marine or a Deptford lass that threw the lipstick in the river? Still it lasted for over fifty years in the Thames! I’m not sure what that says about the lipstick. Attached to this item is the story that 11 U.S. Marines were killed at the quayside of the dockyard when a V2 rocket hit their LSTs moored up here after the Sicily landings. I hadn’t realized, till Jane pointed it out, that the two great steel girders rising up above the tide from the foreshore depict the number eleven at the exact spot where they died. The names of the marines that were killed that day are soldered onto the steel girders above the tide-line. The people behind the memorial had tried to get the then president Barack Obama to open the memorial but his wife came instead.
Its incredible really that there is all this stuff, going back to the Vikings and even WWII and yet most of it is really small stuff but they also hold the keys to such huge stories that are significant moments in history. Georgia is always sure she’s going to find something from the Viking period. She never gives up, even though she mostly only finds clay pipes. She’s got quite a collection already and is so proud that one of her pipes is on display in the Landing Place Pavilion. Apparently it’s a very early pipe from about 1620. So she knows all about Sir Walter Raleigh and tobacco and why Virginia is called Virginia, not the tobacco but the state. She chose to write about it for a school project. It’s a good thing that the finds are displayed because it also helps people to know what to look for and its right by the landing steps that lead right down onto the foreshore so people can check things with the attendant when they come back after their mud-larking. What amazes me is the quality of the causeway leading from the Landing steps onto the foreshore. It was built in 1720 in front of the new storehouse and its still there, not a stone out of place. Keith was making us laugh the other day about the paving on the High Street that hasn’t lasted even ten years and this has been there for nearly three hundred years and how many tides? Two tides a day for 300 years. That’s something like well over 100,000 tides. Anyway, were not going down onto the foreshore today because today is a particularly special day as we’ve managed to get tickets to see the inside of the Lenox. Its so exciting and Jack can’t wait to get inside. We’ve been many times before, we got the residents reduced rate pass for multiple visits. So we’ve been plenty of times and it changes every time. The last time we came we spent time watching the canvas sewing. I thought it might be a bit boring but you got the chance to have a go and when Jack and Georgina realized that they could write their name on the sail, and this would then be sewn over they got really excited. In the end, Jack wrote his grandpa’s name. He used to love to come with us too, even though he knew he wouldn’t live long enough to see the ship afloat. He’d worked in naval dockyards himself where asbestos was rife, nobody thought a thing of it. Mesothelioma. The kids used to have a competition to see who could spell it correctly.
On board the Lenox the officers’ cabins are looking fantastic. Who would have believed that when the keel was laid and the timbers were up, even when the planking was finished, there were still some people who said it would never be finished? At least not even get this far? It’s remarkable how the officers’ cabins resemble the lovely paneled rooms in the Lenox Project house in Albury Street. It was such a stroke of luck for the Lenox project to get that house to use as offices for the duration of the project. It all adds to the overall connection of maritime Deptford, with St. Nicholas Church, The Victualling yard buildings and their ‘Deptford In WWI &WWII’ exhibition of the Supply Reserve Depot and then there’s the musical The Female Shipwright still playing at the Albany after its successful West-End run. Its been amazing to see the transformation of the dockyard after the return of Henry VIII’s foundation stone from 1513 and then the 1720 Clocktower and bell coming back, the opening up of the bright expanse of water in front of the Olympia sheds made complete sense and the number of people who stay to watch the caisson gate go up or down is incredible. It took me a while to see that the giant steel globe in the centre of the basin reflects the image of the Golden Hind, but in miniature. It’s really clever, because as the globe turns, you see this tiny reflection of the Golden Hind, circumventing the globe. As the visitor numbers grew to see the Lenox, the owners of the Golden Hind thought that it would be a good idea to bring the replica from St. Mary Ovary to Deptford where she really belongs. This encouraged the people who run the Endeavour to choose the basin at Deptford for her home in the western hemisphere. When the Lenox is finished she’ll also ride in the basin. It’s all happened quite naturally, it just snowballed. Now Deptford is the home to three replica ships and the Lenox Project are talking to the Maritime Museum about the return of the royal barges apparently the Guild of Shipwrights and some other City guilds that had links to Trinity House of Deptford Stronde are keen on funding this part of the project. Jane was telling me about Trinity Monday when all the great and the good took to their barges in the City of London to come to Deptford to come to elect a new master of the Bretheren of Trinity House of Deptford Stronde and to hear a sermon at St. Nicholas then there was a big knees-up in the Trinity Alms Houses. Of course the City of London has strong links to the dockyard, through Bridge House Estates and also the Corporation of London owned the site for the Foreign Cattle Market until it was requisitioned by the War Office to supply the troops in the field for WWI and WWII. The famous Cadbury’s chocolate bar tins were shipped from Deptford to battlefronts all over the world in 1912. Imagine a single site in London of this size still in one piece even after five hundred years, with so much history,
and yet it could have so easily been completely overlooked and become just another bland property speculation along the river.

Last time we were here, we got talking to a group from the Netherlands who had come straight here on the new ferry from Rotterdam and docked in Deptford just to see the Seven Bridges that cross the openings of the dock, slipways, basin and mast ponds along the waterfront. They had read about the Seven Bridges Project in an article in the Architectural Journal celebrating Deptford’s second Stirling Prize (the first was Laban) but were just as impressed with the environmental and ecological re-use of the mast ponds as a place for bird life on the Thames to nest and feed. I think Jane gave them a link to the eco-project website. Incredible really, one day is not long enough to visit all the sites, the temporary sculpture exhibition in the dry dock, the reconstruction of the Lenox, the gardens of the Officers’ Terrace and the Sayes Court Youth Project, the foreshore finds and the all the maps, plans, paintings and models of the yard no wonder people are ready for a sit down when they get to the Albany for ‘Female Shipwright’, the musical. Its quite incredible how the English language is so full of naval phrases, there’s lots of them in the musical, of course Jack’s favourite is “freezing the balls off a brass monkey” even though he now knows what it really means. The show has been such a success, a few weeks ago we couldn’t even get a table at our favourite Vietnamese restaurant in the High Street, Georgia loves their summer rolls.

Having a royal dockyard so close to London, that attracts so many hundreds of thousands of visitors has, apparently, what with all the publicity around the Lenox, what did the press call it? “a major national heritage enterprise”, ended up increasing the visits to Portsmouth, Chatham, Sheerness, Plymouth and even Pembroke. So now you can get a pass that allows access to all the yards, and it’s partly funded by Network Rail. It has something to do with Deptford being the first urban railway station in London, so Jane said.

The success of the Lenox project has really captured the imagination of the funders and there have been lots of spin off social projects. Now that Deptford has been twinned with all the former dockyard towns of the colonies there’s now an incredible School’s Exchange Program coming up where the youngsters can choose whether they go to Bermuda, Chennai, Malta, Simon’s Town or one of the many former overseas dockyard towns .You see, Deptford was the dockyard responsible for supplying all the overseas yards, so there have been links for centuries, according to Jane, everything from paper and ink to whatever was needed to build or repair a ship. There was even an entire flat-pack building sent to Bermuda in the 1800’s. But unlike the infamous furniture, this building lasted for years and still exists. It’s now pride of place in their dockyard. Anyway, for this school’s exchange, Georgia wants to go to Malta, where apparently the door-cases on the houses in Valetta are even more impressive than the ones in Albury Street. Georgia’s a keen artist and spent days drawing the door-cases on Albury Street. Her favorites were the little naked babies. Jack has plumbed for Simon’s Town in South Africa, he thinks he’ll see tigers and elephants there, not just penguins. Jane and I are off to Bermuda…Just kidding, but I have promised to go with her to see her sister in Yorkshire. I secretly want to go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Ever since the Henry Moore Foundation decided to be the principal funder for Summer Sculpture on the Jetty it’s got me really interested in sculpture again. That project has recently expanded and now it now includes installations in the gardens at Laban and Jane said there’s talk of a exhibition coming from the Antoine Bourdelle Museum in Paris. I much prefer his work to Rodin. I hope the centaur gets to come along and the archer, they are both remarkable.

Who would have thought that all this potential, what does Jane call it, ‘historic cultural capital’, not the place, the stuff, the stories, was lying buried beneath just a few inches of concrete for a hundred years. Jack says it’s just like Sleeping Beauty, put to sleep by the wicked witch. I remember when someone asked me why do you still live in Deptford, and I remember saying it was the Cape Canaveral of its day that I didn’t know anywhere else in London that had so much history, so much latent potential and yet so little to show for it. It’s compelling. Now there’s all this. The replica of the Lenox is almost complete. Sayes Court garden receives more visitors each year as people come back again and again. Training on the Lenox Youth Project and Sayes Court Garden Project has given young people opportunities they would never had had. The international links that Deptford has re-made with other dockyard towns has broadened the horizons and raised the aspirations of many school pupils. Deptford is now a place where people come to stay in hotels, eat in the restaurants, see major international standard exhibitions of sculpture.
Who would have believed it a few years ago?

As we left the dockyard we passed through Twinkle Park, the Tai Chi woman was sitting by the rock under the birch tree and the Red Lion was now once again emblazoned with a striking black graffiti tag. It looked much better than before.

The Last Launch at Deptford?

Loyalty and Lovingly Dedicated by Mr. Punch to H.RH. Princess Louise.
If there's a spirit of the tree, as fair Greek fable tells.

And the green blood of the Dryad is the sap of acorn-bells,

Not death, but higher life, befalls the Nymphs of the oak-trees 
That are squared and shaped, and set to frame the ships that rule the seas.
And they were not doleful Dryads, but exulting ones that spread 
Their unseen wings for shelter of Louise's gracious head,

As she faced the nipping March wind, like a daughter of the sea, 
To christen the last war-ship that from Deptford launched will be.
Lift high the wine, sweet Princess, and with blood-red baptism crown, 
The bows, slow creeping streamwards, as the dog-shores are struck
down: And, fit name for last heart of oak that from Deptford-slips shall glide, Bid God speed " to The Druid, as she curtesies to the tide.
Tis the last launch from Deptford: the old yard has had its day;

Times change and war-ships with them: oak yields to iron's sway: 
There are wider slips and statelier sheds, and broader quays elsewhere, 
And Wisdom says "concentrate," and Thrift says "save and spare."
Deptford is now a frowsy place, ill-smelling, dank and low, 
Where muddy banks are eat away by a foul stream's festering flow: 
Where low Vice haunts and flaunts, and flares, fed full on sailors' gains, 
And threatening them with surer wreck than all lee-shores or mains.

But the Deptford that we look on, to whose yard we bid good bye, 
Was once the Deptford, where, in pride. The Great Harry wont to lie; 
Where, lusty King to lordly ship, from his Greenwich palace near, 
Bluff King Hal among his shipwrights showed broad breast and face of cheer.
With delicate Anne Boleyn upon his brawny arm— 
Lamb and Lion,—monarch's majesty, enhancing woman's charm— 
To mark, well-pleased, how in his yard the work sped swift along, 
from fair keel to tall top-side of swift pink and carrack strong.
And rapid ran the Ravensboume, a cleanly country stream, 
Glassing in its bright bosom, brave attire, and banners' gleam, 
When, fene'd in tower of jewelled ruff and tun of pearled robe. 
Came good Queen Bess to welcome Cattain Drake from round the globe
'Twas in this very Deptford creek was drawn The Golden Hind, 
Fragrant with spices of New Spain, rich with heap'd spoils of Ind, 
As to bold Queen bold Buccaneer knelt on his own deck-board 
Plain Captain Drake, and rose again Sib Francis from her sword.
Twas in Deptford yard, from reign to reign, the Petts* their credit
won, Handing their craft of ship-builder from famous sire to son; To Deptford smug Sam Pepys took boat, in Charles's thriftless day, To note "how still our debts do grow, and our fleet do decay."
And hither, from the fair-trimmed yews and hollies of Sayes Court, 
Came a burly, bull-necked Muscovite, for labour and disport; 
Sturdy swinker, lusty drinker; king with king, and tar with tar, 
The Northern Demiurgus, Russ Prometheus, Peter Tzar.
Richer in slips and stores and sheds, there be other yards, I trow, 
But none more rich in memories. Old Deptford yard, than thou. 
It was well done and worthily of a Princess fair and sweet, 
To christen the last war-babe, born

of thee into our fleet.
And may The Druid ne'er disgrace the parentage she owns, 
Or mar the glorious memories that spring from Deptford stones: 
May she bear her worthy England, and the white baud that but now 
Has dashed the wine of baptism upon her shapely bow!

• The Petts were the hereditary ship- builder* of the English navy from the days of James The First to those of James The Second.
A Third Co