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October 2018

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During the 1950's Fairmile was successful in winning orders for different types of steel motor launches for overseas markets.

Fairmile ran it’s own marine consulting department and employed a design group of naval architects based at the firm’s headquarters in Cobham, Surrey.  The Fairmile name was already well established in government circles on account of the reputation that the firm had established during the war and its expertise in small craft design.  This was undoubtedly an important factors in the company’s success in winning orders for the Berwick yard. 

St Peter
St Peter creates a bow wave while undergoing trials on the Tweed in 1954. Photo:© Ward- Philipson

During the 1950’s Fairmile secured orders through the Crown Agents for Overseas Administrations to build different types of steel motor launches.  All of the launches built at Berwick during this period were destined for Africa. The first of these were St Peter and St Clare, two 42’ fast game and fisheries launches built for Uganda in 1954 and 1955.   Powered by two 75hp diesel engines both vessels had a mahogany superstructure and deck. Of hard chine construction they had 1/8 in. steel sides and a 3/16 in. bottom which made them resistant to the teredo worm which affected wooden hulled vessels in tropical climes.   

Dastour, Yard No,312 pictured here on the Tweed in 1953 was built for service on the River Nile.
Photos: © Ward- Philipson

This 45 foot passenger lauch was built for Lake Victoria.  It was powered by two 30h.p. diesel engines.
This 45 foot passenger launch was built for Lake Victoria. It was powered by two 30h.p. diesel engines.
Photo: 1960's Fairmile brochure.

The next launch to be built at Berwick was Dastour, a striking white 52” administration launch, built for the government of Sudan.  With a steel hull, aluminium superstructure and six-cylinder Gardner engine, Dastour attained a top speed of seven knots during trials on the Tweed in March 1955. Transported to Glasgow by road Dastour was then taken by sea to the Mediterranean before entering service on the River Nile.
Fairmile's reputation and expertise in small craft design brought more work to the yard. By the end of the decade the yard had produced a further two motor launches for Sudan to different designs. Two cargo inspection launches were also built for for the Nigerian Produce Company along with passenger launches for Tanzania and Lake Victoria.

High Street
This launch was built for Nyassaland (Malawi) in 1956. On the left the vessel is seen underway in the Tweed Dock. The picture on the left shows the vessel being towed up Berwick High Street. The Waterloo Hotel seen in the picture was demolished in the 1960's. Photos: © Berwick Advertiser

Edmund Rhoades at Nkhata Bay, 2014
Edmund Rhoades pictured at Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi in 2014.
Photo:© Kate and Rufus Brand

An interesting vessel built at Berwick was Yard Number 367, the Edmund Rhoades, a 44’ hydrographic survey launch ordered by the Rhodesia and Nyassaland High Commissioners. The launch took its name from Commander Edmund Rhoades R.N.who undertook the first survey of Lake Nyasa (now Lake Malawi) at the turn of the twentieth century. Rhoades, however is more better known for his role in the first naval battle of World War 1. In August 1914, commanding the steamship H.M.S. Gwendolen, Rhoades surprised and disabled the German vessel Hermann Von Wissmann that before the war (like the Gwendolen), had been employed on anti-slavery duties .

In 2006 Edmund Rhoades was used to carry tourists and was later gifted to the local municipality with the intention of being converted to a floating clinic. In 2014 Edmund Rhoades was pictured at Nkhata Bay in a dilapidated state suggesting that this project has not been taken forward.

A pair of cargo examination launches built for Nigeria.
Meaning 'River' in arabic, Shat was a 36 foot steel launch built in 1956 for Sudan.
(Left) A pair of Cargo examination launches built for Nigeria being put through their paces on the Tweed in 1956.
(meaning 'beach, river or sea bank, or shore' in Arabic) was a small 36 foot steel launch built in the same year . Photos: © Ward Philipson

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