Trinity House and D-Day – On This Day in Trinity House History – 6 June

1944

Trinity House plays its part in the D-Day landings

The Corporation of Trinity House’s staff, lighthouses, lightvessels, tenders and pilots played a vital role in the success of Operation Neptune, the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) during the Second World War.

Soon after the declaration of war in September 1939 the Admiralty sought out the services of Trinity House, requiring the exhibition of navigational lights and the establishment of buoys to mark swept channels.

Trinity House established 73 lighted buoys in various depths at given positions between England and France; the buoys were laid according to schedule and in spite of the weather. After the venue for the landings had been agreed a decision had to be taken as to the number of swept lanes and buoys required.

Trinity House’s Chief Superintendent Captain A G Carrick (d.1953) summed up the detailed work encountered on Operation Overlord in 1951:

“Firstly, after the venue of the invasion had been chosen, the number of swept lanes required across the Channel and the number of buoys in each lane sufficient to meet ordinary conditions of visibility had to be decided upon. This would determine the number of buoys required, which would also give the depth of water of each buoyed position. With the foregoing information, the length of chain cable and the sinker necessary to hold these buoys in position could be determined.

“Secondly, the shape and colour of the superstructure that each buoy had to carry in order that these buoy positions could be identified was considered. In order that this identification could be carried out in hours of darkness, different characters of flashing lights were allocated. These were chosen so as to avoid confusion between neighbouring buoys.

“The work of preparing these moorings into their various lengths, preparing the buoys according to their appropriate colours, charging them with gas cylinders and assembling the lamps with their pre-selected characteristics was taken in hand.

“On completion of the above, the task of transporting them to the port of assembly was next to be considered, when it was found that the fighting services were all requiring transport to this same port, and all naturally demanding a high degree of priority for their requirements. However, the Admiralty released several LCTs [Tank Landing Craft] which were, about this period, making a passage within a few days of each other from east coast ports to the southward, and which they detailed to call at Harwich for the purpose of loading these buoys and transporting them to Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

“The next point to be considered on the arrival of these buoys and moorings at the port of assembly was the question of their storage, as they had to be kept immediately available and ready for service. With the heavy demand on every foot of quay space, deep water berths and shore lifting cranes, the answer to this problem was difficult, and as the LCTs had to be released as soon as possible for their other duties, it was decided that the Thames lighter [barge] should be used for this purpose of storage. Here again the question of priority was paramount, but 20 of these craft were allocated, together with three small tugs.

“These lighters were moored to buoys in the River Medina. The ocean buoys and moorings, according to their groups, were stored therein and then towed from there to the operating vessels as required.

“Six Trinity House Vessels—Patricia (Captain R Goodman), Warden (Captain J Le Good), Georges De Joly (Captain J R Meyrick), Alert (Captain T J White), Andre Blondel (Captain G Sherman) and Discovery II (Captain J J Woolnough)—were detailed to assemble in the Solent three weeks prior to D-Day, in order to be stored, victualled and loaded with their first consignment of buoys in readiness to mark the lanes for the assault forces and the subsequent passage of innumerable craft of every possible description necessary for an operation of this magnitude.

“After dealing with their load of buoys, these vessels would immediately return to the port of assembly and reload in readiness to sail on their second assignments. This operation was repeated until all the necessary buoys had been laid.

“These channels having been established and marked, it can well be understood that with the amount of traffic plying continually between the two coasts, collisions with, and mishaps to these light buoys would occur. Few would appreciate that the number of casualties amounted to 350 within the period of some four months, and at one time reached the alarming figure of 7.5 per day. This of course kept the Trinity House Vessels fully occupied in supplying and fitting spare parts or lamps, according to the nature of the casualty, and continually servicing the buoys in one way or another in order to maintain the lighted channels.

“The fact that the above laying and servicing was carried out without hindrance, and that later two fully-manned lightvessels were established off the coast of France, shows the complete mastery which our fighting services had obtained over the enemy, and more so when it is realised that swept channels were marked by light buoys close along the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland, up to the opening of the River Scheldt by the Allied Forces, and later along the coast and into the ports of Germany itself.”

During the three years prior to Overlord much shipping was diverted to the east coast ports; as the traffic to London was greatly reduced, over fifty London District Pilots undertook pilotage duties in the Clyde. Traffic in the Port of London increased again with preparations for the invasion and the responsibility fell on Trinity House for piloting all the commercial vessels and many of the service vessels engaged in those operations. All the Mulberry [portable temporary] Harbour Units which were constructed on the Thames were towed to their parking places under the supervision of Trinity House pilots.

In the month following D-Day nearly 3,000 ships were handled by 88 River Pilots and nearly 2,000 by 115 Sea Pilots. During that period many pilots worked day and night unceasingly without relief and pilots had to be recalled from the Clyde and the Royal Naval Reserve.

Juno (No. 72) Lightvessel was established on 18 June 1944 remaining on station until 27 January 1945 when she was towed to Le Havre for damage repairs following various collisions and heavy seas. One month later she was relaid in a new position at a station named Seine. On 3 March 1946 she was replaced by a French Light Vessel named Le Havre and towed to Harwich.

No. 68 marked the Kansas station and was laid on 16 July 1944 remaining until 11 November the same year when she was towed to Ryde then to Cowes.

On 3 September 1944 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief sent the following message to Trinity House:

“I wish to place on record my High appreciation of the invaluable work performed by the vessels of Trinity House and their crews, as well as by those who have been responsible for the organisation and preparations ashore, during recent operations involving the landing on the Continent of Europe of the greatest seaborne expedition in History. The great success achieved was due in no small part to the contribution of Trinity House.

“2. The smooth way in which the buoy-laying has progressed has been in particular due to the work and splendid co-operation of your Superintendent at Cowes, Captain Barber. Without his willing help and advice at all times both before and during the operations the many problems which arose could not have been so easily overcome.

“3. Success is seldom achieved without loss, and it was with great regret that I learned of the loss of THV ALERT on 16th June. She had done fine work close off the enemy coast and it was most gratifying to know that none of her crew was lost.

“4. I shall be grateful if you will convey my appreciation to all of Trinity House.”

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 1 June

1725

An early buoy yard for Harwich

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Baker [the Buoy Keeper at Harwich] attended with his proposals and it was agreed that he be allowed seventy pound per annum for laying buoys in place of such which may from time to time break away. To clean, Pitch and paint and shift them every six months at his own charge. To pay the freight on the buoys stones and chains from London to harwich and in case any of the beacons do break way to place buoys in their room, as also all manner of contingencies except smiths and coopers work, which is said to be allowed him on producing sufficient vouchers for the same, all of which he agreed to perform under ye penalty of forfeiture of one years salary, to commence at midsummer.”

 


1943

A tragedy at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse

A bombing raid destroyed the engine house at St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, killing the three keepers on duty who had taken shelter in the building.

R T Grenfell, C Tomkins and W E Jones were buried in the local cemetery at Niton village and a plaque in remembrance of them is displayed on the ground floor of the main tower.


1988

HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh pay a royal visit to Trinity House staff at Gravesend and Harwich

The following is the official report of the visit by the then Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh to the Trinity House Gravesend Pilot Station and the Trinity House Harwich Depot by Captain David T Smith, Elder Brother, which appeared in Flash magazine:

“H.M. The Queen, accompanied by H.R.H. The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., The Master of Trinity House, arrived at Tilbury during the early forenoon of 1st June, 1976, in the Royal Yacht Britannia following her state visit to Finland. Her Majesty had been escorted up River from the vicinity of the Sunk Light Vessel by the Elder Brethren embarked in Trinity House Vessel Patricia.

The Master disembarked from the Royal Yacht in Gravesend Reach at 6930; he was escorted to the Royal Terrace Pier by the Deputy Master, Captain M.B. Wingate, who had transferred from THV Patricia to the fast launch THPV St. Clement for the passage inshore.

After meeting civic dignitaries at the Pier, The Master proceeded to Alexandra House, the new combined Pilot Station and Tug Company Office building close to the root of the Royal Terrace Pier. A large number of Pilots and their families together with employees and their families from the Thames Navigation Service and the Alexandra Towing Company Ltd., were there to greet His Royal Highness.

The Master met senior officers of the Pilotage Service and a representative of the President GCBS outside the main entrance to the building before proceeding inside to the Main entrance of the Pilot Station, on the second floor, where he unveiled a plaque to signify the opening of the station; at this time the Master’s flag and Trinity House ensign were broken at the masthead and gaff respectively and the new Pilot Station was formally commissioned.

After a short tour to inspect the layout and facilities being provided for Pilots in the new building The Master joined a large representative body of Pilots drawn from the River Thames, Channel and Medway Districts in their lounge for informal discussions.

At 1030 The Master was received at the Tug Offices and later at the Thames Navigation Service following which he departed from the Royal Terrace Pier for Tilbury escorted by craft of the P.L.A., Kent and Essex Constabularies and the Trinity House.

After a tour of the Tilbury Container complex The Master entertained a representative party of guests to luncheon in the Royal Yacht.

After luncheon H.R.H. accompanied by the Deputy Master and other representatives departed in a helicopter of the Queen’s Flight for Harwich. The party landed at Harwich Green at 1440 his flag being broken at the Trinity House Depot. The Master was welcomed on the green by Civic dignitaries before leading his party on foot along the esplaoade to the Port Navigation Service Building, passing several hundred townsfolk, many of them children who had turned out to greet him on this enjoyable occasion.

He was received at the Port Navigation Service by the Vice Chairman of the Harwich Conservancy Board and, after meeting officers of the Board, he inspected the operations centre and was briefed on the arrangements exercised jointly by the Port Authority and Trinity House Pilotage Service for control of shipping using the port.

The Master and his party then proceeded by car to the newly completed Trinity House Pilot Station at Town Quay which had then been functioning for some 14 days. At 1523 he unveiled a commemorative plaque in the lobby and formally commissioned the Station. He then proceeded on a walk round inspection of the various facilities and to meet Pilotage Service Personnel in their duty locations. Following this he visited the Pilots’ lounge on the observation deck of the Station where a large body of Pilots representing the Inward (North Channel), Ipswich and Essex River Pilots were assembled to be presented to him. After a period of informal discussion The Master departed at 1635 and subsequently took off from Harwich Green, piloting the helicopter himself for the flight back to Buckingham Palace.

The 1st June 1976 was unique for the Pilotage Service since The Master had in the course of one day been able to observe the Pilot Cutter performing its role at the Sunk Station, the Trinity House Pilot in his operational environment on the bridge at sea, the new Gravesend Pilot Station nearing completion and the new Harwich Pilot Station recently operational. In addition he had the opportunity to meet and talk to about 70 personnel of the Trinity House Pilotage Service.”

.


1982

The current Patricia is named

In a ceremony attended by the Master HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh and Deputy Master Captain Sir Miles Wingate, The Countess Mountbatten of Burma named the new flagship THV Patricia.

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House

THV Patricia at Skokholm Lighthouse 2012 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 May

1899

London District pilots to wear a uniform

A regulation prescribing a standard uniform for Pilots In the London District came into force.

Trinity House Pilot c1900

Trinity House Pilot c1900


1977

The Falls Lightvessel Incident

The following description of a lightvessel crew offering a helping hand to passing leisure craft users in distress appeared in a 1977 edition of Flash magazine:

“What shouId have been a quiet Sunday evening for the crew of the Falls Light Vessel turned into a scene from a disaster film on the 29th May. At about 1800 hours a small armada of rubber dinghies were spotted approaching the Light Vessel and they appeared to be making heavy going in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Permission was requested by the leader of the party of 60 Belgian men, women and children, to board the Light Vessel and Mr. W. Semple, the Master of the Falls had no hesitation in allowing the rubber dinghies to tie up astern. The cold, wet and seasick shoppers were taken on board the Light Vessel and assistance was requested from the Ramsgate Lifeboat. The Life-boat arrived at 2100 hours and took nearly 20 people off but the majority wanted to remain aboard for the night mostly because their dinghies were still tied up astern. In the morning only four dinghies were still serviceable and with the arrival of the Ready the remainder of the party was embarked for the passage to Dover. Much of the credit for the smooth running of this rescue is due to Mr. Semple and his crew and especially in view of the language problem. Well done all concerned.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 May

1621

The Admiralty Court rules on behalf of Trinity House and compulsory pilotage on the Thames

Trinity House Court Minute:

“None take on himself to be Master or Pilot of any ship or vessel to go forth or return to the Thames without certificate by the Trinity House. From my Chamber in the Doctors Commons– Sir Henry Marten to the Master, etc.”

Sir Henry Marten was a judge of the Admiralty Court and a member of the Court of High Commission.

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London

Greenwich Hospital from the north bank of the Thames, Canaletto, 1750-52; National Maritime Museum, London

 



1662

Samuel Pepys records the election of the new Master

Samuel Pepys’ diary:

“To the Trinity House; where the Brethren have been at Deptford choosing a new Master; which is Sir J Minnes*; notwithstanding Sir W Batten did contend highly for it; at which I am not a little pleased, because of his proud lady.”

*Admiral Sir John Mennes Kt was elected Master; I hope Pepys was not too dismayed that a year later Admiral Sir William Batten Kt was elected Master!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 16 May

1741

The First Trinity House Buoy Tender

The Board minutes record the origins of the Corporation’s first vessel:

“The Master was pleased to observe that he thought it might be of service to the Corporation & for the Safety of His Majesty’s Ships to have a vessel of our own, to be sent down amongst the Sands, to observe their bearings, the setting of the Tides & the Depths of Water, Especially from the Naze to the North Foreland & to have some of our Pilots go therein for their Improvement, under the Direction of some of the Brethren, as also for the better care & placing of our Buoys.”

One month later, the minutes would name the vessel and issue its first assignment:

“Our Buoy boat called the Trinity Sloop, being now ready… and she to be sent out immediately on an inspection of the Buoys and Beacons in the North and South Channels.”

The ensuing ‘Yacht Establishment,’ a precursor to the Steam (later ‘Support’) Vessel Service was also used to survey the shifting sands of the Thames, a function performed today by the Admiralty Hydrographer and the Port of London Authority.

For a full history of the Trinity House Support Vessel Service, readers may want to pick up a copy of Richard Woodman’s Keepers of the Sea, the story of the Trinity House Yachts and Tenders.

Thomas Whitcombe's Seascape with a Trinity House Yacht and a man-o-war of the Blue Squadron off the Casquets, 1795, Copyright Trinity House

Thomas Whitcombe’s Seascape with a Trinity House Yacht and a man-o-war of the Blue Squadron off the Casquets, 1795, Copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 4 March

1972

Trinity House Pilots Rescue Hovercraft Disaster Victims 

The first ever accident in passenger hovercraft history occurred off Southsea on 4 March, 1972, when the Southsea-Ryde craft capsized in rough seas and a wind reported at 45 m.p.h. (38 knots). This was the first fatal hovercraft casualty in the United Kingdom, and regrettably four people were killed. However, on the credit side, the rescue operations were got under way very quickly and 22 people were rescued.

First on the scene was THPV Vigia which arrived one minute before the first helicopter, and despite difficulties in manoeuvring in the heavy seas, 16 people were rescued from the upturned hovercraft and taken to Portsmouth. Vigia returned to the scene of the accident and remained there until the search was called off that evening.
The hovercraft sank, but was eventually salvaged and towed into Portsmouth harbour. The crew of the Vigia; Officer of the Watch Nicholas Paul Rose, Seaman Edward Viney and Pilotage Assistant Robert Yalden, displayed great courage and outstanding seamanship in a very difficult situation.

On 2 November 1972, the Ryde-Southsea hovercraft was again involved in an accident, this time colliding with the British Rail ferry Southsea in thick fog, half a mile off Ryde, and sustained fairly substantial damage. The skirt was ripped, the propellor twisted and 12 ft. of hull was split open. Trinity House Pilot Launches again played a major part in the rescue operations. THPV Valonia rescued 8 passengers, while THPV Valid towed the damaged hovercraft back to Ryde. The whole rescue operation was completed within three quarters of an hour of notification of the collision.

THPV Valonia

THPV Valonia

Trinity House Pilotage Service in the 1890s

The following description of life as a pilot in the 1890s is taken from an archived edition of Trinity House’s in-house Flash journal (Vol. 5.1, 1962). Until the 1987 Pilotage Act, the superintendence of local pilotage was a major function of Trinity House, and indeed its oldest official function, the cornerstone of the original guild’s 1513 petition to Henry VIII being its concern over the unregulated state of pilotage on the River Thames. Today, Trinity House retains in along-standing involvement with pilotage in its capacity as a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters.


PILOT AND PILOT BOATS 1890 STYLE

“Hoist the gaff topsail!”

It is a sunny day, with a bright, choppy sea, and the sparkling waves break in a white foam on either side of the pilot cutter’s prow as she ploughs rapidly through the water. Her broad canvas is of almost dazzling whiteness in the sunshine, as the breeze stiffens it heels over at so acute and angle that the end of the main boom almost touches the water. The pilot cutter Nautilus is a comfortable enough vessel of some forty tons. She has just started on her cruise.

In the main cabin are six pilots on the lookout for employment. Very different men they are in appearance. The oldest, with his white hair and weather-beaten countenance, must be close on sixty, while the youngest, a man with keen eyes, rich brown beard, and stalwart frame, can be no more than thirty-five. The others are men of middle age. One short and plump; another tall and wiry; one loquacious; and another silent. But not withstanding their apparent dissimilarity, it is easy to discern that they have their own characteristics. Boldness and decision are depicted on every face, and the same qualities are traceable in their voices and manner of speech.


These characteristics indeed are essential to the pilot’s calling. In guiding a ship through narrow and difficult channels, like those which lead into the Thames, the slightest hesitation would probably lead to disaster. The pilot’s head must be clear, his judgement must be firm, and he must be unruffled even by such disquieting influences as storm or fog.

The most difficult duties of the pilot are performed by a kind of intuition. Continual practice has taught him almost instinctively to tell the exact bearings of his ship, the state of the tide, and the depth of water beneath him; so that even in darkness, fog, or storm, the pilot is able to steer through complicated channels in a manner that to a landsman seems miraculous.

It is of course to the pilot’s interest to bring his ship into port as rapidly as possible, for his payment depends upon the size of the vessel and draft of water under his charge, and not upon the time he takes to guide her into safety. He must, therefore, do his best to catch the tides, and to avoid delay, so as to complete his task as soon as he can, and be ready for another engagement.

The pilot is himself liable for any damage that may be sustained in collision consequent upon his own negligence, but only to the extent of £100; and if the ship should be stranded or otherwise accidentally delayed, he must remain on board till she can resume her voyage into port. Once on board a ship, in fact, the pilot must not quit her until he has completed the task that he has undertaken—namely, to guide her safely to her destination. Seeing the risk he has to run of adverse atmospheric influences, as well as other causes of delay, the pilot’s life is one of great anxiety, and it is therefore but just that he should be liberally remunerated. Eight hundred pounds a year is by no means an unusual income for a pilot to make, and sometimes his earnings amount to more. In some ports, however, where the demand for pilots is limited and the supply is excessive, they have to put up with very much smaller earnings, and in order to remedy the evil of over competition among pilots the Trinity House authorities are careful not to grant pilotage certificates for ports to which a sufficient number of pilots are already attached.


The pilots seated in the cabin of the cutter Nautilus have all been masters or chief mates, and have had a long experience of the sea. They have just finished their midday meal, and are seated round their table with pies and glasses, while they listen, with more or less credence and attention, to each other’s anecdotes of seafaring life. The atmosphere of the cabin soon becomes thick with smoke, and as the air grows more hazy, the stories become more marvellous.

“I was exhausted by swimming and the vessel was still a mile off, when, to my horror, I perceived through the darkness that she was steaming away. I looked round, but there was no help. Something was glistening in the moonlight to my right. It came nearer. It was a shark—”

“A big steamer on the port bow!”

This announcement interrupts the story at the exciting moment. The pilots all rise to their feet and go on deck. Yes, there is the steamer, and by her course she is probably bound for the Thames. Of course she will want a pilot, and the regulation is that she must employ the first that offers. The cutter scampers over the sea, and is soon within hailing distance.

“Do you want a pilot?” sings out a stentorian voice.

The answer comes back no less distinctly. “No we’ve got our own pilot on board.” There is a look of disappointment on the pilots’ faces as they return to the cabin.

“It’s a scandalous shame, and the law ought to interfere,” says the talkative pilot when they have resumed their seats and refilled their glasses.

“The ‘choice’ system isn’t fair on us,” says another.

“It is hard on us; but you can’t blame them. They must look after their own interests; and it’s no use grumbling,” remarks the elder pilot, philosophically.


It may be well to explain that this excites the disapprobation of the pilots. Several of the great shipping companies employ special pilots to go down and meet their vessels at the first port they touch in this country, and to bring them on from there to their destination. This is undoubtedly a great convenience, and very often mean an important saving of time. A vessel, for instance, on her way to London, calls at Portland, takes on board the pilot who is awaiting her, and completes her voyage without any further delay. Every hour is of importance. If the vessel had to wait for a chance pilot to offer his services, or to signal for a pilot, perhaps during the night when it is dark and blowing hard, and to wait for the signal to be answered, she might very easily miss a tide, and her arrival in dock London be thereby delayed for twelve or twenty-four hours.

The value of a ship per day varies from £30 to £100, according to her size; and the wages of the crew, which are paid on arrival, perhaps amount to £50 a day. It is obvious therefore that any delay means serious loss.

The system also has other advantages, for these special pilots, being regularly employed, have the interest of the company at heart, and can be relied on not to undergo needless risk for the purposes of getting rapidly into port. They are, moreover, men in whom the utmost confidence can be placed, both in regard to their steadiness and ability. When a vessel is bringing in a valuable cargo, it is necessary to minimise risk and at the same time, to ensure the utmost speed compatible with safety.

The danger of engaging a pilot to habits of insobriety is perhaps small, yet it is sufficiently important to be carefully avoided. Pilots, as a rule, are perfectly trustworthy and hard-working men; but intemperate members of the profession are sometimes to be met with. There have been instances of pilots while under the influence of drink bringing a ship safely through difficult channels into port. The shipping companies, however, very properly prefer the subject the life and property under their charge to no risk, however small, if it can possibly be avoided; and they therefore employ men who, being acquainted with the captains of their ships, will work harmoniously with them, and can be relied on to do their duty. The law makes it compulsory on vessels coming into port (with certain exceptions) to be navigated by a pilot. When the pilot comes on board, the captain ceases to be responsible for the navigation. He however, retains control of the ship, and if the pilot’s behaviour be unsatisfactory, he may refuse to give effect to his orders.

To qualify as a pilot, a man must first have had a very considerable experience as a master or mate. He must be thoroughly acquainted with the channels at the port where he intends to practise, and must pass an examination before he can obtain a certificate at Trinity House.

Many of the captains and officers of ocean-going ships hold pilots’ certificates, but the channels leading to some of our principal ports are so difficult that unless a man is constantly navigating them he cannot be assured of doing so in safety. It generally happens, therefore, that even those captains who hold pilots’ certificates prefer to employ one familiar with the locality on arriving into port. Not the least anxious portion of a voyage is the getting into port, and this is generally the case where the channels are complicated and the shipping is numerous. The master of a vessel who has perhaps encountered the difficulties of a stormy passage across the ocean is therefore glad to be relieved of anxiety and responsibility on approaching his destination.

There has been a considerable amount of agitation among pilots against the granting of certificates to foreigners. It is contended that by thus allowing aliens to become familiar with our channels, the danger of invasion is greatly increased. The principal of free trade in this country, however, extends to pilotage as well as other matters, and the authorities prefer to grant pilots’ certificates to foreigners rather than create friction with other countries by refusing them. The foreigners who act as pilots in English waters are, however, comparatively few. Most of them are Germans or Swedes, who ply their calling with conscientious industry, and must be admitted that their presence does not give any serious cause for alarm. A pilot bringing a ship into the Thames takes charge of her only as far as Gravesend, but he has to remain on board until relieved by the arrival of a river pilot.

The river pilots do a thriving business amid the multitudinous traffic of the Thames to take a river pilot on board. The law compels large ships entering the Thames to take a river pilot on board. It requires great skill in steering, as well as ability in handling a ship, to bring a great vessel through all the narrow channels, past all the twists and bends of the river, and through all the shipping safely into the dock. A seaman could not undertake such a duty. The average earnings of the pilots between Gravesend and the docks are as great as those of the pilots who practise at sea.

In most parts of the English coast, the pilots are under the control of local boards affiliated with Trinity House. The pilots of the south and south-east ports are, however, directly responsible to Trinity House.

The great importance of the services rendered by the pilots to this country is probably but rarely considered. Our national wealth is doubtless in a very great degree due to our enormous shipping trade. Our manufactured goods are conveyed to all quarters of the globe, and raw material, as well as produce of every kind, is brought here from distant countries in return, It is unnecessary to dwell on the magnitude of our merchant service, but it is important to remember that it is carried on in spite of great difficulty in entering the channels leading to our ports. The port of London is one of the most hazardous in the world, and could not possibly be navigated by a man unacquainted with the channels.

But for the pilots, whom long practice has made familiar with the dangers that beset our coast our imports and export trade would be impossible. Our rivers and ports would be blocked by wreckage, and our great industries would come to a standstill. The trade of the pilot is therefore one from which every one derives some advantage, and the pilots are men who perform a service of the utmost importance to the community.

Trinity House Pilot Vessel Prudence

Trinity House Pilot Vessel Prudence