The Nation to Recognise Southend Pier and its Wartime Role
The extraordinary history of Southend Pier and the part it played in the Second World War is to be commemorated thanks to a substantial grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which has been arranged through Southend’s Blade Education community project.
Known from 1939 as HMS Leigh, having become Naval Control Centre for the Thames
Estuary, the Victorian pier will play the pivotal role in “HMS Leigh – Guardian of the Thames Project” which will be launched on 75th Anniversary of VE Day in May 2020.
Local experts from Southend Museums, the Essex Society, the Leigh Society and the Royal Artillery Association (Shoeburyness) Branch, will be working together with Blade and Southend Council to create an event to commemorate the War, but also to celebrate the veterans that returned, and those civilians who survived.
A spokesperson for the project said, “Southend Pier is our borough’s icon, a true survivor with an incredible history that makes it the perfect backdrop to bring all ages together to revel in the crucial part it played in World War II where it became the Guardian of the Thames, London and the UK”.
From 1939 the Pier’s “Roll of Honour” is a follows: -
The first two conveys of WW2 departed from Southend Pier.
Over three thousand convoys had sailed from it by the end.
During the six years of the Second World War, the pier trains ran night and day. They
carried over 1.5million servicemen, some of whom were injured or dying.
It was attacked on 22nd November 1939. (If you have never seen Neville Sotheby
Pitcher’s evocative painting “Attack by Moonlight, Southend” at the Beecroft then I
urge you to do so.)
On one occasion 50 ships were moored there for five continuous days.
Returning ships signalled to OUR pier the number of German prisoners they had on
Honorary Southender (Sir) A.P. Herbert who was stationed at the Pier during WW2 wrote, at war’s end, “Walk this pier with respect. Look upon these sands with gratitude. For this has been much, so much more than a pleasure pier. Citizens of Southend, you have your Pier again…. Never think that your gift to the Navy was wasted…. Tell your children about it in years to come, as you sit in the sun and listen to the band, and watch the ships go by”.
The HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames project team would like to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences or those that they heard from loved ones.
Either visit their website www.hmsleigh.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to 43, Blenheim Crescent, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
New pier trains are on track to be installed in 2021 following the announcement that Severn Lamb have won the contract to design, construct and install them.
The current diesel trains were also developed by Severn Lamb, and have been transporting thousands of visitors into the estuary since 1986. At the time they had a projected 20-year lifespan but outstanding servicing has kept them going way beyond their expected life.
It is now time to replace them, and the council set aside £3.25m in the 2019/20 budget to complete the work. The new trains follow the opening of a new visitor entrance in summer 2019 and many damaged deck boards, sun shelters, hand rails and benches being replaced as part of regular maintenance.
Construction of the new pier trains is set to begin mid-2020, with plans in place to replace the existing trains anticipated to take place in 2021.
Ahead of the start of the work, four ‘nose designs’ for the train have been designed, along with three potential colour schemes, and the council would like to hear the views of local residents, businesses and visitors.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, deputy cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, said: “Southend pier is iconic. It brings thousands of visitors to our town every year, and we know that part of that draw is to travel the length of the world’s longest pleasure pier on the traditional diesel trains.
“As we continue our drive to create a carbon neutral Southend, we are pleased that the new trains will be fully electric and produce zero emissions, which we know is something that is very important to local residents. This is in line with the council’s ambitions to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“I am excited to see the proposed designs, and would like to hear the views of local people and residents to help inform the decision we make on what to go ahead with.”
Matthew French, sales and marketing executive for Severn Lamb, said: “Severn Lamb are no strangers to the pier having commissioned the current train back in 1986, which was opened by Princess Anne on the 2nd May and has stood the test of time ever since. This project was a roaring success and our two diesel locomotives have proven to be extremely reliable for both the council and visitors alike for 33 years.
“We are honoured to be working on this project again after many years and these completely custom designs are shaping up to be something truly special.”
Wheels in motion for new eco-friendly pier trains
Following the announcement that Severn Lamb have won the contract to design, build and install the new pier trains, four different designs for the ‘cab’ have been proposed, as well as three different colour options. The council is now keen to hear the people’s views on which design and colour schemes they like.
Residents have until Tuesday 28 January to leave their comments by either commenting on the Facebook photo album, responding to our pinned tweet on Twitter, or by visiting the pier entrance where a board will be installed.
Key features of the new trains will include:
· Increased capacity (from 180 to 244)
· Increased wheelchair capacity (minimum of six spaces per train with every carriage being wheelchair accessible)
· Battery electric
· Potential panoramic roof on one or more passenger cars
· Speakers and display monitors
· On board Wi-Fi
· USB charging points
· GPS triggered audio announcements
· On board CCTV
· Hearing loop system and braille driver alert
SS RICHARD MONTGOMERY FROM SOUTHEND PIER
25 APRIL 2020
Come and join Island Cruises for a trip out to the sunken 2nd world war American liberty ship the “Richard Montgomery” in the Thames estuary. Her remains sit on a sandbank just outside the busy shipping lane the Medway channel, her masts are still visible, she is located around 1.5 miles from Sheppey and around 5 miles from Southend. For timing information trip last around 1.5 hours , the “Spirit of Sheppey” is fully equipped with 2 large outside decks and a main saloon which houses seating with tables, a fully stocked bar and toilets.
Adults £20, Children £15, price includes a return pier train ticket.
Tickets can be booked here or for more information please call 01702 596062
MAUNSELL FORTS (RED SAND TOWERS) TOUR
MAY 09 /10 /15/16/17/22/23/24
11:45 - 13:45
Take a three hour cruise from Southend Pier to the eerie World War 2 Maunsel forts, call the the Red Sand Towers.
These historic monuments stand in the estuary some 9 miles from Southend and 5 miles from Whitstable. It will take approximately an hour to reach the towers and will pass by the Mulbury Harbour (Pheonix unit) and Shoebury Boom before crossing the shipping channel towards the Isle of Sheppey.
You will get the chance to take plenty of photos in and around the towers as our vessel is small enough to pass between and under the structures.
Upon our return we will pass via the SS. Montgomery before crossing back towards Southend Pier.
During the Second World War Southend Pier was taken over by the Royal Navy and was renamed HMS Leigh with surrounding areas being renamed HMS Westcliff. It was closed to the public on 9 September 1939.
Its purpose in the war was twofold. Firstly it served as a mustering point for convoys. Over the course of the war 3,367 convoys, comprising 84,297 vessels departed from HMS Westcliff. Secondly, it was Naval Control for the Thames Estuary. Notable in its career was the accidental sinking of the Liberty ship SS Richard Montgomery which, still containing several thousand tons of explosives, is visible from the North Kent coast and Southend beach at low tide, and continues to pose a threat to navigation and the surrounding area to this day.
Training has begun for volunteers willing to spend their summer holiday weekends making Southend-on-Sea beach a safer place for visitors.
It is a pilot project to have volunteer Beach Welfare Officers on hand to offer reassurance to residents, day trippers and holiday-makers by dealing with missing children, lost property, water based incidents and basic first aid.
The volunteers, who are also members of Chalkwell Redcaps surf life saving club, met on Saturday 15 February to discuss protocol and procedures regarding emergency situations, public engagement, radio communications and CCTV.
Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for community safety and customer care, said: “The warmer weather attracts visitors to the seaside, but having large numbers of people arriving in one area can increase demand on our services. This scheme will hopefully help us manage those more minor issues and ease pressure on other services, such as the Community Safety Patrol Team, the Coastguard, the ambulance service and Essex Police.”
The pilot is due to begin on the Easter bank holiday weekend and will also take place over the two May bank holidays. If successful, the scheme will be extended across the summer holiday months and on weekends when hot weather is predicted.
Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, added: “As a seaside town Southend-on-Sea has a booming tourist industry and I’m thankful to the volunteers for taking the time to carry out this pilot. It shows we are doing all we can to help residents and visitors feel safe and well whilst they are in Southend-on-Sea.”
Please note: The last entry onto the Pier is one hour before closing. Opening times are seasonal and may change annually.
Open daily from 10:15 until 9pm (last entrance at 8pm) this is from Monday 29th July till the end of September.
Open daily from 10:15 until 6pm, this is from Monday 30th September till Sunday 3rd November.
Open 10:15 until 6pm Wednesday - Sunday (open everyday during school holidays) from 4th November till 26th March 2020.
Regardless of the season the Pier will be open on all school and public holidays. With the exception of Christmas Day, when the Pier is closed.
The Pier is suitable for all ages and both the walkway and Pier trains have disabled access.
If you need a wheelchair, you can hire one from the Visitor Information Centre by calling them in advance on 01702 215620.
Toilet facilities including disable toilets and baby chaging facilities are located at either end of the pier, on the shore end in the Visitor Information Centre and on the far end inside the Royal Pavilion.
Catering is currently available from the Salt Café, to see what is served please take a look at their menu. The Salt Café is open every daily from 11am.
Children under the age of 3 can go for free.
Adult (17 to 59)Child (3 to 16),
OAP (60+), Concessions disabled person / carer / student (with ID)Family (2 adults + 3 children)
Return Train Journey£5.35£2.65£13.50
Walk & Ride (walk one way and ride the train the other)£4.85£2.40£12.00
Walk Both Ways
£2.00 (1st April to 4th November)
£1.00 (5th November to 31st March )
Fishing (including train)£7.40£3.70N/A
You can get group discounts and Pier prices vary for visiting ships. For more information please call the Visitor Information Centre on 01702 215620.
Pier Train Information
The trains run on the hour and half past from the shore end and quarter past and quarter to from the Pier head.
Please note: No dogs or pets are allowed on Southend Pier except for assistance dogs
Cultural and leisure venues to close along with libraries in response to Coronavirus
The council’s culture and leisure venues, along with libraries will be closed with immediate effect in response to the national effort to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.