Stranded in Eyemouth harbour for Coronation

HMS Dipper, Queens Coronation June 1953.
HMS Dipper, Queens Coronation June 1953.

As Berwickshire prepares for the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, an ex-Navy man recalls how the original party was less than plain sailing.

Lionel Kennett, now of Chobham, Surrey, was detailed to Eyemouth as part of the celebrations in 1953, but ended up stranded in the harbour.

Lionel, now 83, was on the crew of HMS Dipper, part of a mine countermeasures flotilla based in South Queensferry.

“Dipper was an unusual ship,” he recalled, “in that she was state of the art, captured from the Germans, at the end of the war. It did not have a steering wheel but three buttons, designed by Siemens, 40 years ahead of its time.

“So come the Queens Coronation, 60 years ago, all these ships were detailed to visit various ports,” he went on.

“It was Eyemouth for us, and what a trip it was. We came round St. Abbs Head to be met by local fishing boats. We were directed right in and tied up.”

But that was when the difficulties started.

“Lo and behold the tide went out,” said Lionel, “and there we were, Her Majesty’s ship, high and dry.”

Lionel laughingly recalls how worried his skipper was, given that it was technically against regulations for a captain to allow his ship to go ‘up on the putty’, as they called it.

The crew, though, were treated to a five day stay in port until there was enough water to get out, and they loved it.

“The Home Arms became our second home,” said Lionel, who was among the sailors treated to a whipround by returning group of whalers.

“Skipper took the salute on Coronation Day, and the town turned out to see us leave.

“In fact it was a real event getting us turned around and away. Ropes were passed across the harbour to pull our bows round to face the sea.

“Then by what seemed like the whole town, men women and children, we were hauled down harbour until we had sufficient water under us to get away.

“Then we were followed out for a mile or so by a flotilla of fishing boats, loaded with people waving farewells.

“I never got back to Eyemouth, sadly, in my 12 years in the Navy, but I always kept an eye out for the place, and there is no way I could forget it.”