Crowds greet a replica of the paddle steamer Medway Queen as it arrives from its builders

Crowds of people gathered to greet a replica of one of Britain’s most famous paddle steamers as it arrived in the River Medway at the end of its delivery voyage from its builders in Bristol. Medway Queen berthed at Gillingham Pier where further work will be carried out to make her as close a match as possible to her illustrious forbear.

The original Medway Queen, built in 1924, operated popular passenger services on the Medway and around the Thames Estuary, but became most famous for her exploits during the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940. During seven trips to the beaches she rescued around 7,000 troops, earning herself as a result the unofficial title ‘The Heroine of Dunkirk’.

She was retired from service in 1963 but, by the time the Medway Queen Preservation Society was formed in 1985 with the intention of preserving her, years of neglect had left her in a very poor state. Despite years of hard work it was a hopeless task and Medway Queen was eventually broken up in 2006.

However the Society was not to give up that easily and in 2009, with the help of Heritage Lottery funding, construction of a replica began at the Albion Dry Dock in Bristol. It includes a few parts salved from the original vessel but, although it is hoped that the replica will eventually go to sea under its own power, it is unlikely to be granted a full passenger certificate.