|With this year, 2014, being the one hundreth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, our museum is putting on an exhibition as part
of our summer show.
One of the features is to record those who took
part and were fortunate enough to return - some showing the signs of battle which would remain with them for the rest of their lives.
One of the lists consulted for the purpose was the Absent Voters List for 1918 which was published while the war was still raging.
As well as those away in the armed forces there were others doing a very important job including the merchant seamen and in particular those on the sailing barges risking enemy attack taking supplies across the channel to France.
One such was Capt William Green of West Mersea, master of the ketch rigged coasting barge ZENOBIA in 1918.
He was very nearly interned in Germany for the duration of the war and escaped by the skin of his teeth.
In the spring of 1914 he was master of the Harwich sailing barge UNA trading way up the River Rhine to Remagen to collect cargoes of Appolinaris mineral water.
From shipping lists found in the Dutch newspapers at the time we find :-
9th March 1914 UNA, Green, Zierikzee departed Pruissen for England
23rd April 1914 UNA, Green, Zierikzee arrived London for Dusseldorf
20th May 1914 UNA, Green, Rijnvaart, London Dusseldorf
29th July 1914 UNA, Green, Zierikzee, Pruissen for England
William recorded a rough log of that voyage in a notebook in his retirement. He records - Left Remagen July 28th 1914, arrived Dordrecht July 30th. Left Dordrecht for London, becalmed 24 hours 5 miles from North Light Ship.
August 1st came a nice breeze which carried us to Grays. Arrived London August 4th - lucky.
The next barge in turn to load at Remagen was manned by members of the Brightlingsea Norton family, They were interned for the duration of the war although the old man of the crew was sent home.
William left UNA and took the ketch rigged barge ZENOBIA. After a few lightering jobs in the Thames he appears to have spent the rest of the war taking supplies across the English Channel to France.
Very few of the Thames sailing barges working at that time had engines.
Certainly UNA and ZENOBIA relied entirely upon sails and, even at times, oars.
Powerful paddle wheeled tugs towed the barges up the fast flowing River Rhine to Remagen which was a long way up into Germany.
Zierikzee is the small Dutch port where vessels going up the Rhine cleared customs. Pruissen is Dutch for Prussia and here refers to the modern-day Germany.
The picture above shows the Dover registered sailing barge GLADYS at Remagen about to load Appolinaris water. She was a very similar barge to UNA and slightly larger but would have looked much the same.
William Green carried on as skipper of ZENOBIA after the war and in 1922 was on a regular contract delivering barley from Hull to various ports around The Wash and the North Norfolk coast. He left ZENOBIA that year and took command of the barge yacht DAISIE with an all Mersea crew of Joe Farthing and 'Knotty' Layton.
Article published in Mersea Life May 2014, page 61,
and in SSBR Mainsheet Magazine Autumn 2014.
The picture of GLADYS at Remagen is from Rob Hoogenbos.