FOREMOST 22

A Newhaven stalwart and a war hero.

By Andy Gilbert

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Newhaven Museum

If the Newhaven tug for my generation was Meeching, then for a generation or two before, it would have been Foremost  22. There are a few pages about her on Our Newhaven already, but it's been suggested that I put a few details together in one place.

Foremost  22 came to Newhaven in 1924. Her unusual name springs from the fact that she was originally built for James Contracting, the company that operated the dredgers here at Newhaven and other ports. Many of their vessels had the name Foremost, plus a number or second name. Our larger bucket dredger was Foremost Prince, for example. She was transferred to the ownership of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway on her arrival and was to serve the port for 36 years until Meeching replaced her in 1960.

Foremost  22 was built in 1924 by J Meyers Shipbuilding Co., Zaltbommel, Holland. She was a single screw tug, length 100.4', breadth 27.2', draft of 12.2' and tonnage of 195 gross. She had a powerful 900hp steam engine made by H Beardmore and Co. Ltd of Coatbridge. Her Official Number was 147740 and her radio call sign was GFJM.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert collection / Newhaven Museum

Here we see here moored at the Railway Quay, south of the Gridiron, near 'A Shed'.

Her day to day duties involved towing out the mud barges from the smaller dredger Testside, and handling the Newhaven-Dieppe steamers when required, and here are a couple of unusual views, taken from Foremost 22 herself.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert collection / Newhaven Museum

The 'day job' for all of Newhaven's tugs at some point, mud barge towing!

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert collection / Newhaven Museum

At close quarters with Brighton (V) in the harbour.

Looking through the records at Newhaven Museum reveals that she also carried out numerous rescue and salvage operations. This included wartime activities, as shown below.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Local Press / Newhaven Museum

In 1935, the steamer Rouen ran aground in the bight of the breakwater (as indeed had the steamer Dieppe in November 1924). Foremost  22, assisted by the smaller tug Richmere, successfully refloated her and brought her safely into harbour.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Local Press / Newhaven Museum

Here, Foremost 22 is standing by the Russian vessel Ussuri, which had run aground on Seaford Beach. She and the Dover tug Lady Brassey offered assistance but, anxious to avoid paying a salvage or towage award, Ussuri’s owners waited until her sister ship arrived to tow her off – free of charge, of course!.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Eastbourne Gazette / Newhaven Museum

Here she’s fighting the fire on the Barnhill, which had been attacked off Beachy Head. Wartime censorship rules insisted that the location of the attack was kept secret in the text of the newspaper coverage but somehow they neglected to spot that, clearly visible in the accompanying photos ,was the name Eastbourne  Lifeboat!

If every ship has a 'finest hour', then Foremost 22's was undoubtedly during the Dunkirk evacuations in 1940. She was tasked with towing the damaged destroyer HMS Sharpshooter back to Dover. Once she had safely delivered her tow, Foremost 22 turned around and headed straight back to the Dunkirk beaches to attempt to rescue the stranded Newhaven-Dieppe steamer Rouen, just as she had a few years previously at Newhaven. Alas, this time she was beaten back, not by enemy fire, but a falling tide.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert

The plaque honouring her service at Dunkirk, on display at Newhaven Museum for many years.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert

And the letter, now held at Newhaven Museum, from the Minister of Shipping, thanking the Master and Crew for their efforts at Dunkirk.

For many years, her Master was the well-known Newhaven character, Captain Fred Holden, who would go on to command Meeching on her arrival. And one of her best known First Mates was Jock Still.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Still family collection

 Fred Holden and Jock Still in the wheelhouse of Foremost  22.

All things come to an end and, for Foremost 22, the arrival of Meeching in June 1960 brought her illustrious career at Newhaven to a close. A month of so after Meeching had taken up her duties, Foremost 22 was towed to Italy by the tug Airman. She was taken all the way to La Spezia where, with the new name of Terranova, she would serve until 1978.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'FOREMOST 22' page

Andy Gilbert collection

The changing of the guard. Foremost 22 blows off steam at the Marine Shops, awaiting her sale, while a brand new Meeching is readied for service.

My grateful thanks go to the late Peter Bailey, MBE, who kindly gave me and Our Newhaven permission to use the images from their collection.

 

 

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 11/06/2018.
Comments about this page

Many thanks Andy for this summary of her career and the excellent photos.  I always enjoyed seeing her in the harbour and at work so this brings back many memories.  Derek

By Derek Longly
On 13/06/2018

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