16th June 1953 Bristol Queen

Bristol Queen at the 1953 Spithead Review & fitted with radar.


Bristol Queen arrived back in Southampton at 1.10am on Tuesday 16th June 1953 after spending the previous day on charter for the Spithead Naval Review to Thomas Cook which included a group from English Electric.

In view of the prestigious nature of the event and the relative scarcity of suitable paddle steamers the charter fee was £3,900 which scales up in today's money to be a staggering £110K. "That's the way to do it" as Mr Punch used to say.

Clearly money was no object with English Electric also providing and fitting Bristol Queen  with radar for the event to entertain their guests and demonstrate the wonders of what was then still a relatively knew navigational tool for ships. An awning was also fitted over the top of the aft deck house to ensure that the premium guests from English Electric on this raised and exclusive viewing platform had some cover in the event of rain as they tucked into their canapes and knocked back the champagne.

Bristol Queen arrived from the Bristol Channel for trials alongside Bournemouth Pier at 11.40am on Thursday 11th June before going on to Southampton where she arrived at 4.15pm. She had the Friday off and then on Saturday 13th ran from Southampton to Bournemouth from where she departed shortly after 1.30pm on a cruise round the assembled ships at Spithead which had been marketed in Bristol with a combined railway and steamer trip fare.

She had the Sunday off and then on Monday 15th June picked up her big charter party shortly before 10am at Southampton. They stayed aboard all day for the Review and the associated evening fireworks with Bristol Queen arriving back in Southampton at 1.10am for everyone to disembark. With this £110K trip lasting fifteen hours doubtless a huge amount of pre-ordered and pre-prepared quality grub was consumed as well as a tremendous quantity of alcohol so there may have been a few sore heads following that.

Bristol Queen left Southampton at 10.30am the following day to return to the Bristol Channel and the new fangled radar set was removed. She would have to wait until her last season of operation in 1967 to acquire another one.

John Megoran
John Megoran