January 2009

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Image of the Month Feature - January 2009

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WMN/1/1/5/1 Aerial View of Millbay Docks, Plymouth, Circa 1962

This months image has been chosen by John Tozer, SWiB volunteer.

"Soon after joining SWiB as a volunteer this image of Millbay docks came up on a screen. I studied it for ages and even put it on my Christmas wish list (no-one bought it - shame on them!)

For me it evokes many memories.

Historically, it reminds me of the time when Plymouth was the first port trans-Atlantic ships would call at to drop off mail for London and to allow passengers one days' head start to London, instead of waiting to dock at Southampton. The peak years were the 1930s but I have photos of the RMS Mauretania in an earlier decade in Plymouth Sound which has a particular memory.

My maternal grandfather served on the Mauretania for over seven years as a waiter and was aboard when she made her famous maiden run in November 1907 to obtain the coveted Blue Riband, which she retained for over twenty years!

I am also reminded that it was here at this very dock, Trinity Pier, that the crew and some passengers alighted after their return from that dreadful night of April 14/15th 1912 when over 1,500 people lost their lives on the Titanic.

It was also here that HMS Plymouth, aboard which the surrender of Argentinian forces was signed in June 1982, was moored for a time whilst seeking a permanent home. Sadly, in spite of much effort, it will never be and the ship itself may be destined for the scrapyard.

My personal memory is of watching the steam trains pull out of the dock and of standing by the level crossing (just below Sippers pub) watching them steam past Millbay station, across the bridge spanning Union street and toward North Road station and beyond. You can see the rolling stock and railway tracks in the image.

Thank goodness for those people with foresight, and cameras, who took these images for our history and thank goodness for SWiB who work patiently to catalogue, store and offer the same for the benefit of us all, lest we forget!"


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