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July 2015


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Marconi Research and Demonstration Vessels

Elettra IIIElettra III was the  first purpose-built research and demonstration vessel  to be  commissioned by the Marconi Company.  It was however the third in a line of vessels operated by the company to carry the name ‘Elettra’. 

The original Elettra, the famous steam yacht purchased by Marconi in 1920, had originally been built at Leith as Rovenska for Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria before being requisitioned by the Admiralty in the Great War. 

The successor vessel Elettra II at 72 feet in length was an altogether more modest vessel.  Built by J. Samuel White Company of the Isle of White as Medina Maid, the vessel was purchased and converted by the Marconi Marine Compnay in 1950.  Deemed not large enough for research and demonstration purposes, an order was  placed with Fairmile for a successor vessel, Elettra III that entered service in 1962.

Elettra RadarBased on the successful ‘Fair Isle’ hull, the new vessel was 82 feet in length with a moulded breadth of 20 feet and a moulded depth of 11 feet.  In load condition the vessel had a draught of 9 feet 9 inches and a displacement of 134.3 tons.  Fuel capacity was 3,000 gallons giving the vessel a cruising range of 3,000 miles at 10 knots.  Power was provided by a pair of Gardiner 6L3B engines each capable of generating 150 bhp.  Auxilliary power was provided by a 20 bhp Gardiner 2LW engine. On trials the vessel managed a maximum speed of 10.45 knots.


At first commission the forward demonstration saloon housed what at the time was state of the art navigational aids including Marconi ‘Argus’ and Hermes’ radar installations that
could be shown to prospective customers. A specially built conole housed the 'Mimco' intercom system panel, a 'Seagraph III' echofinder, 'Metron' visual depth indicator, 'Lodestar' automatic detection finder, 'Argonaut' VHF control unit, and the Chernikeef log.

Other Vessels

Tarway
Tarway underway on the Tweed in 1958. Photo from 1960's Fairmile brochure
Tarway at Southampton
Tarway seen here working as a dredger on the Solent in 2005.
Photo © K. Atkinson

The number of ‘one offs’ designs built at Berwick was indicative of the versatility and adaptability of the yard in meeting new challenges in a competitive environment.  Among these was Tarway a 83’ liquid tar tanker completed in April 1958.  The vessel was designed to carry a crew of three and was originally equipped with an electrically driven Albany pump capable of discharging 6,000 gallons per hour from four oil-tight cargo tanks fitted with heating coils.  Powered by a Gardner 5L3 engine Tarway developed a speed of 7 knots.

In 2006 Tarway was operating under its original name as a dredger based on the Solent having previously been based at Teignmouth while in the ownership of Pike-Ward. In 2009 it had been sold and was seen at Maldon, Essex under the name Starway.

Similar in design to the luxury yachts for which Fairmile became famous Elettra III was a research and demonstration vessel built for the Marconi International Marine Communication Company Ltd.  Launched by Lady Radley, wife of Sir Gordon Radley the then chairman of Marconi on a snowy day in March 1962,  Elettra III was designed to showcase the company’s latest marine communication and navigation equipment. Remembered by many former Berwick yard workers as ‘Electra’, Elettra III replaced Elettra II to become the latest vessel to take its name after the famous steam yacht Elettra owned by the Marchese Marconi (see panel left).

A unique view from the River Tweed of Elettra III nearing completion.
A unique view from the River Tweed of Elettra III nearing completion. Photo: D. Redfearn Collection.

The Marconi research and demonstration vessel Elettra III on trials in 1962.
The Marconi research and demonstration vessel Elettra III on trials in 1962. Photo: © Ward-Philipson

Falo.  Built for the Government of Gambia.
Falo, a grab hopper dredger built for the Government of Gambia in 1967.
Photo: © Berwick Advertiser

The launch of the grab hopper dredger Falo in April 1967 underlined the importance of overseas markets for Fairmile. The vessel was ordered by the Board of Trade and the Crown Agents acting on behalf of the Government of Gambia. At 112' long Falo, by Berwick standards, was one of the bigger vessels to be constructed at the yard. Maximum carrying capacity was 3000 cubic feet of sand or gravel gathered via a long jib Priestman-Lyon crane. A Kelvin Type T.8 engine provided an operational speed of 8 knots.

The 2005 Lloyds Register confirmed that Falo (IMO 6710918) was still in service and operated by the Government of Gambia.

 

 

 

 

Lifting vessel.

This lifting vessel built in 1955 was one of a number of one-off builds.
Photo: © Berwick Photo Centre


Audela

Audela returning from trials.
"The most graceful of any vessel built at the yard".
Photo: D. Redfearn Collection

The final vessel to be built at Berwick was a 120’ three-masted 230 ton steel schooner Audela built for International  Air Holdings and launched in April 1979 while the yard was in receivership.  The size and lines of the vessel made a big impression with locals.  The Berwick Advertiser of the 5th April 1978 described how, ‘Huge crowds watched the launching of the schooner the biggest and certainly the most graceful of any vessel built at the yard’.

At the time of it's construction Audela was equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that allowed the helmsman to both steer and trim the sails using a pedal-operated pneumatic system located under the ship's wheel.

The building of Audela was not without incident however.  In December 1978 the vessel's giant alloy masts that had been manufactured in France became jammed in the Shore Gate just a few yards from their final destination while being transported by trailer.  Six months later, while being fitted out in the Tweed Dock, workmen had to jump clear when Audela tilted after grounding while berthed at low tide.

When trials had been completed the vessel headed to Poole, Dorset with some of the workforce onboard before heading to Cowes for sail adjustments. Thereafter the vessel operated between the United States, West Indies and the Mediterranean.

When Audela set sail in August 1979 it brought to an end shipbuilding on the River Tweed. Shortly afterwards the remaining assets of the the yard were disposed of.

 

 

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