THE BONFIRE OF THE MEMORIES
This was the scene today, as fire swept through the premises of Hythe Marine Services in St. John`s Street, Hythe. The building on the right, which along with the house on the left escaped the blaze, is the Maples Hotel, where I have stayed overnight in the past following an evening game at St. Mary`s Stadium.
However, there are a couple of reasons why the tragedy has a particular resonance for me. First, of course, it is a tragic loss to the owners of the boatyard and although no lives have been lost, the premises will obviously be unusable for months to come - it is to be hoped that things will eventually get back to normal for the owners and employees working in the boatyard.
Next, the yard was undertaking an extensive refit of the "Medusa" - thanks to a £1million lottery grant. The Medusa is one of only 58 vessels in the Core Collection of UK Historic Ships and has only been seen in public at maritime events with her movements limited mainly to the Solent. The restoration will extend her life by 60 years and allow her to travel further, visiting new audiences at the London Boat Show, around the Isle of Wight, Weymouth, Poole, Chatham, Portsmouth and even docking at foreign ports.
A joint navigational leader for Omaha beach on D-Day, the Medusa marked the route through minefields for the invasion force. Notably, she accepted the surrender of German forces in 1945 at ljmuiden (Holland) and was the first allied ship to navigate the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam. Post war she became a survey vessel and was the last of this class in naval service. In 1968 she was saved from the naval scrap yard by private owners and since passed to the Medusa Trust.
"Medusa" - click to enlarge
The good news is that the Medusa has been saved from today`s inferno and although her engines and other mechanical gear have perished in the workshop which was engulfed by the flames it seems that the restoration of this noble vessel will be able to continue.
Oh...and by the way, the site of the cottage where I spent most of my boyhood is about 100 yards to the right of the Maples Hotel. I could stand at the bottom of our garden and look along to see the activity in the boatyard. The cottage is long gone and now another landmark of my youth is consigned to memory.