Friday, 4 November 2011

A tale of two halves

Its been a while since I up-dated this blog, which I’ve used to document my original research and the production of the film; The Many Romances with Rosemarie and the progress of the web-platform; HouseboatTV, which I designed and built to encourage content and participation, while also promoting the project. This is largely due to the success of the HouseboatTV face-book page and Twitter, which have encouraged me to report my progress in shorter and more numerous up-dates, but for deeper reflection the value of a more considered blog remains.

Nearly three years on and the film is now finished. It exists as two feature length documentaries, which are each available to buy on DVD, for only £10 plus p&p at These are Special edition copies which have been produced entirely by myself, while I continue seeking to find outlets for my products.

The film ‘The Many Romances with Rosemarie’ tells of 40yrs of Houseboat history onboard the Rosemarie, from 1970 when she was found neglected at Sailors Creek to 2009 when she was broken up for scrap on ‘Muddy Beach’ Penryn and finally in 2010, when her keel was re-cycled and used to restore the wooden fishing boat Rosa.
This is a chronological arrangement of the HouseboatTV episodes re-cut into a narrative and captures many social and environmental changes whilst maintaining focus on the vessel and the succession of her owners, which have now been defined. The HouseboatTV series continues in its own right and is currently re-screening as episodes at .

The sister film; ‘Remembering Rosemarie’ documenting for the first time ever, the fascinating history of the Rosemarie, built in 1930 at R.S.Burts of Falmouth, more famous for the construction of the Falmouth Quay Punts. The Rosemarie began life as a luxury motor yacht; she went on to be a Wartime River Patrol boat, and then worked as a pleasure ferry on the river Fal. Taking passengers from Falmouth and St Mawes to Malpas and the Helford river, finally ending her working life as a holiday rental houseboat at Gillan Creek on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.

As my research into the previously un-documented history of the Rosemarie tuned out to be so fascinating, it became evident to me that the working history of the boat deserved to be a film in its own right. The 79yr life-span of the boat, divided neatly into two halves, her working life and her Houseboat history, both with a very different feel which I was able to accentuate more clearly in the two separate ‘sister’ films.

These two films both work as complete documentaries in their own right, but I can still see the potential for a re-cut of them both back into one which documents the whole life of the Rosemarie as I originally proposed to BBC3 and CH4, for broadcast in 2009. I do intend to make a taster and continue to take the project up to pitch-point.

I have been advised that I would only succeed in this venture as a new Director & Producer, if I partnered up with an established production company, but my experience of this to date is not good. In 2007 I signed a joint contract on another documentary idea, with a production company which shall remain nameless. My idea then sat on a shelf for two years, before they decided not to proceed into development, when I could have been perusing other possibilities for it. This time I have taken things into my own hands, and now that I have a good product, I find myself looking for appropriate outlets, and if I don’t achieve commission I shall be screening both films locally for many years to come and I can rest in the knowledge that it was I who added the story of the Rosemarie to my local history.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Dunkirk Dilemma

Oh dear me, on reflection I just don’t have enough evidence to make the claim that the lovely Rosemarie was a Dunkirk Little ship as I deeply suspect she was. I have been working hard to try and prove that Rosemarie deserves recognition and the prestigious Little Ship status, but I just can’t risk putting my unsubstantiated beliefs into an otherwise charming and creative documentary without jeopardising the other content! So this is a last desperate call to anyone with information which may verify my suspicions, while I’ve still got time to include it in the film.

I must add that the ‘Association of Dunkirk Little ships’, haven’t helped me at all during this research and in fact have not replied to a single one of my e-mails which I started sending over a year ago now! It seems they like to concentrate on the few boats they know, which is a disgrace in my opinion as there are potentially hundreds more boats to be found, and the living memory of these is fading fast.

Russell Plummer, in his book; ‘The Ships that saved an Army’ identifies around 800 small boats but states that there may be up to 1,300. That’s another 500 to yet to be found! There are non specific entries in the list which could be applied to Rosemarie (or similar craft), such as; Rose Mary particulars unknown, and Motor Boat 42 particulars unknown. Unfortunately I don’t have The Rosemaries service number, but descriptions like this do not invite my trust in the original recording of details.

My distrust is heightened further, when I hear that some boats which have been awarded the Dunkirk status didn’t actually go, as Raymond Peake informed me. “Some boats from Newlyn went to Falmouth for the Dunkirk evacuation but they were sent back because they displaced too much water, and I know that ‘ Maid Marion’ has a brass plaque saying she went to Dunkirk, but I know she never went! What they were looking for was boats like the Rosemarie with a shallow draft, they only wanted boats with a 6ft draft, which could go right in close [to the beaches]”.

In May 1940, Falmouth was one of the Departure points of the small ships leaving for Dunkirk. Rosemarie was requisitioned in 1940 and worked as a patrol boat around the Lizard peninsula for her first year of service. I know that one of the Rosemaries wartime jobs, with Frankie Peters as skipper and Fred Hamling as Engineer, was to record all the troops returning from Dunkirk and check the ships, so the Rosemaries job was in effect to list these ships, such an irony she’s not listed! I can’t believe she didn’t go to Dunkirk herself, particularly for the final evacuations where the call was sent out for any able ships, in desperation to get all the troops off the beaches. On Friday the 31st of May, A boat called Rose Marie, was towed over, by the dutch Skoot ‘Hilda’, captained by Lieutenant A.Gray of the Royal Navy along with five other motorboats ref; ‘The Evacuation from Dunkirk’ W.J.R Gardner ISBN 071465120-6 Page 72. Which Rose Marie this is, is still unclear to me as details such as the length of the boat and numbers are unfortunately not listed.

From ‘The Ships that saved an Army’, I can see two ‘Little ships’ called Rose Marie. One owned by J. Boyer, Sheerness, (no other details) and another; a twin-screw schooner built by J. Crossfield, Conway 1926. Now this boat from my own research at the National Maritime museum in Falmouth, was not acquired by the Government until 1946, and so it is possible that she is a case for mistaken identity. Her Lloyds reference number is 148325, she measured 53ft by 13.2 with a 7.7 draft. I think she could easily have travelled to Dunkirk (if she did go) under her own power, and would be a large boat to tow as part of a flotilla of 8. Her draft was also, well over the admiralty requirements so I think she could be stealing our Rosemaries glory, but as I can’t prove this. I have to go with what I’ve got in the film, and let people make their own conclusions; otherwise I’ll be using the film to argue this case, poor Rosemarie, she deserves so much better.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Rosemarie Target-towing in Mounts Bay

I spoke yesterday with Billy Stevenson of Newlyn, who remembers the Rosemarie target-towing for the Navy during WWII, at Mounts Bay. There is some dispute as to weather the Rosemarie was Army or Navy run. Billy would have been about 12yrs old at that time and remembers seeing the Motor Yacht towing a target for the 4 x ex-Destroyer guns, which were mounted in concrete at sites around the Lido pool at Penzance. Local Historian John McWilliams believes these guns were manned by the home-guard, but I could find no reference to this at the Cornwall records office.

Billy also informed me that the Army was stationed during the first part of the war at the old 'Sailors Home' (behind the pool). Later the Americans took over the nearby Taylors Garage.
He is looking out a photograph of the Sailors home, for me from this time but unfortunately He didn't want to give me an interview for the film.

I also asked him if there were any pictures in existence of the guns at Jubilee Pool. He didn't think that there was, and He should know, as He has been searching for the same image himself over many years. I suggested that we might mark down the location at least of these guns on a picture just for reference and I hope to do this with him at some time in the near future.

I'm still looking for someone who will testify to Rosemaries role as Target-tower, on film. If I find someone I'll arrange for a location shoot also, but I have so much material now that this would just be an added bonus.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

George Ellis Photograph collection

Still searching for memories of Rosemarie - I have found some fantastic images of the Truro wartime 'River Patrol', none in the collection of the Rosemarie unfortunately, but these fine images may help me to illustrate the nature of her service work.

The 'Ellis' collection is housed at the Cornwall Centre Redruth, and is a window into the life and work of George Ellis, photographer to the Cornish Guardian Newspaper. It comprises of thousands of negatives, which have been copied onto microfilm for ease of viewing. There are lots of Weddings, christenings, prize ceremonies, Horse shows, agricultural events, but there are also pictures of wartime damage to properties and US Troops in Cornwall.

I particularly like George Ellis's character studies, He really does seem to capture people in a natural and unguarded fashion. Each Image is meticulously recorded in Mr Ellis's hand written ledgers, which were a delight to handle, but I do recommend going there with a specific subject in mind, or the choice will be overwhelming. The Cornwall centre hold the copyright to the entire collection and so It is a direct clearance which is a relief.

I can't help thinking that all this talk of Newspapers 'having had their day' in favour of websites and other faster digital mediums, is just that; talk! In my search for the facts and photographs, during the making of this film; 'The Many Romances with Rosemarie', I have drawn upon the resources of Newspapers time and time again. Not only for the convenience of factual historical documentation, but also for the promotion of my film project; having put out a call the public on a couple of occasions now through the West Briton Newspaper, which has brought back several useful contacts for me whom I otherwise would never have known. I think the local newspaper will always have a place, even if its domain is erroded or encroached upon.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Through the gaps! - Newlyn Fishing News: De Gaulle's Free French Army- a wartime anniversar...

Found this fascinating article by Laurence Hartwell, shame I missed the actual event! Through the gaps! - Newlyn Fishing News: De Gaulle's Free French Army- a wartime anniversar...: "This summer will see the 70th Anniversary of the Free French - so named after General deGaulle's June 15th speech in 1940. Through the Gaps ..."

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Rosemaries secret wartime history.

John Drinkwater remembers the Schleswig-Holstein, a German warship moored up at St Mawes on a 'friendly' visit in the years 1938 and 1939. This picture is from the German Federal Archive.

Having nearly completed the 40yrs of Houseboat history for the Falmouth built Rosemarie; 10 short extracts of which are available to view online at, I am now researching the boats early story to make up the entire film which will be titled; ‘The many Romances with Rosemarie’, it will be the whole life story of the boat, as told by those who remember her fondly.

During this fascinating research it has come to light that the Rosemarie worked for the admiralty during and after the war up until 1948. Her duties were described by John Andrews and Douglas Sawle of St Mawes, who remembered the Rosemarie as an ‘Examination ship’ with a gun mounted on the deck, working around the Lizard peninsula while the boat herself was stationed at Penzance during the war. They also described how, on the troops return from Dunkirk; Rosemarie was the boat which checked over each vessel and took the names of all retuning soldiers for the official listings, as the troops disembarked at Falmouth harbour.

I have also found a record of the Rosemarie going over to Dunkirk on Friday the 31st of May; this would have been at the climax of the beach evacuations. It seems that Rosemarie, ‘Rose Marie’ as she is officially listed, was towed over, by the Dutch skoot ‘Hilda’ along with five other motorboats; Moss Rose, Lady Haig, Britannic, Gispy King , Golden Spray II, and two life-boats. The skoot Hilda from London, was captained by Lieutenant A. Gray of the Royal Navy, and her operations would have taken place on the Bray Beach at Dunkirk. I am still awaiting verification of my research from the Association of Dunkirk Little ships as I would ideally like to have the Rosemaries status as a Dunkirk Little Ship officially recognized.

Rosemarie is also remembered by John Drinkwater of St Mawes in the film ‘The many Romances with Rosemarie’, John verifies her duties as described by John Andrews and Douglas Sawle, but also describes her as working for ‘River Patrol’. In 1938, John Drinkwater was serving his apprenticeship working at Freshwater Boat-yard under the locally renowned boat-builder Frankie Peters. John recalls that Frankie ‘Skippered’ the Rosemarie on her River Patrol duties with the additional support of crew members; Fred Hamblin and Walter Hitchins. I would like to put out an appeal to any family members who may have photographs of; Frankie Peters, Walter Hitchins and Fred Hamblin, which they would be glad for me to include in the film. Please contact;

Monday, 17 January 2011

Peter Newman re-united with his fathers ferry the Freelance

This morning I received an e-mail from the current owner of the Freelance; Jeremy Mitchell, another boat-owner passionately tracing the history of his vessel. He had read about the Freelance in the Ferry-boat article on the Rosemarie published in last weeks West-Briton.

In my interview with Peter Newman last year, he remembered the Rosemarie working as a passenger launch around 1948, in competition to his father Rodney Newmans business running the Freelance, which had started a little earlier in 1946. The Freelance was built in the West Indies in the 1930's and was brought to Falmouth on the deck of a ship, sold off and converted into a passenger vessel.

Jeremy has now managed to fill in some of the gaps in the Freelances history, and Peter has been re-connected to his fathers boat, which I'm sure He is relieved to find in such capable hands.

Jeremy said "It is only due to your article in the West Briton that I have found out the missing history of the Freelance from the 1930's until the late 1960's. I Googled "Ferry Falmouth" and found details and pictures of all of Newmans Cruises ferry boats including the Freelance, back to the 1940's on It was mentioned that the Freelance was sold by the Newmans in the late 1950's to Falmouth owners for use as a dive and salvage ship to a salvage company in Falmouth. My father bought the boat approximately 10years later from the salvage company."

Jeremy inherited the boat from his father who bought it around 1968 from a salvage company in Falmouth. The Freelance was then moored at Port Navas on the Helford river until approximately 1972 when it was moved to Camborne.

"The Freelance is 30ft. long by 9ft. wide and is build from teak which is why it has stood up so well to being stored for so long. It was a project that was never finished due to having parts that were missing from the engine and were no longer available from the manufacturer. I have spent 6 years looking for the missing parts on the Internet. All the parts that were missing have turned up on eBay."

A happy end indeed, and personally I am so grateful that Jeremy has contacted me and that I could pass on Peters contact to him! Peter gave me so much priceless information about the Rosemarie, and his time for the interview and the film where also given free, and from the goodness of his heart. So I am delighted that in a roundabout way he has had a universal return, in the form of something more valuable than cash, a link back to the past, his own father and re-awakened memories of that time when the Rosemarie and the Freelance graced the river Fal.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Interview with John Drinkwater 14/01/11

Had a fantastic interview today with another St Mawes old boy. John served his shipwrights apprenticeship at Freshwater yard in 1938 under Frankie Peters, before joining the Royal air force and going to war. He remembers the Rosemarie as a black boat which was painted grey during the war period, and with a gun mounted on her front deck.

Frankie Peters was a renound boat builder and made many of the St Mawes One-Design boats, which still race today. John remembers being left with dull jobs like bailing out the boats in the yard while Frankie took the Rosemarie out on River Patrol as her skipper, round the Lizard peninsula and often down as far as Penzance. Joining Frank as crew on the Rosemarie was Walter Hitchins and Mr Hamblin as Engineer, who lived in an interesting Houseboat; a 1st world war Motor-Launch moored in the river off Polvarth Yard.

As it had finally stopped rainning, I went down to Freshwater Yard after this inspirational interview, to see if I could film it as the working yard it is today. Unfortunately I was not greeted with a possitive response! Admitily it was a last minute thought to fire off an e-mail this morning before I left, explainning that I was going to be in the area and out-linning what it was I wanted to do, but I don't think that that could justify this curt reply e-mail awaiting me when I got home;

As the boatyard has been completely modernised in the past 10 years there is nothing or no one here who could help you with your project. I am sorry but we cannot give you permission to film here at any time.


Seems some people have a generousity of spirit, which others can barely perceive, let alone value. I am proud to say that my film is brimming with fine people and their wonderful stories which they are only to glad to share, and that they have a genuine passion for the history of their village, which is not based soley on the value of bricks and mortar, but on the community (whats left of it). Who needs anything less than that? Some you win and some you lose!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Interview with the two oldest men in St Mawes

Interview with John Andrews and Douglas Sawle 9/01/11

These two old friends often enjoy reminiscing, and comparing their memories so it was a privilege for me to share their company. They compete with each other for the position of; Oldest resident, in the small costal village of St Mawes, Cornwall, with Douglas Sawle coming in for the cup at 91yrs young. Winning the race is something Douglas is used to, from his sailing days in the St Mawes ‘One-Design’ class.

Not much remains of the 1930s Cornwall, which existed when the Rosemarie was built, but both John and Douglas can remember the Henderson family living at Greystones, Tredenham Road, St Mawes. For me this second-hand account is a true treasure, for it is as near as I can possibly get to the man who first perceived and then facilitated the building of Rosemarie at R.S Burts & Sons, Little Falmouth; Mr Arthur Henry Henderson. I heard for the first time; a description of the boat in her original condition, apparently she was ‘Spotless’ in a Black finish with white trim. She was described as a luxury passenger boat, designed for private picnics and costal excursions, visiting the Helford and pleasure cruising up the coast as far as Looe and Fowey. She also had her own permanently employed deck-hand, who would have been dressed in the strict attire of that time, sporting a white-topped flat cap during the summer months and a black cap for the winter. During the winter months the Rosemarie was laid up on Polvarth beach where she would have been scrubbed annually and re-painted ready for the next season.

I happen to have a very fortunate photograph of Tredenham Road, from my Great Auntie Dees collection; I estimate it was taken in the late 1930s. The house in the centre of the picture with the flag-pole in the garden is ‘Greystones’ (the house where Henderson lived) and I guess my great-grandmothers house would have been one of the neighbouring buildings, as I know they also lived in Tredenham Road at this time, and why else would Dee have kept this post-card? Perhaps they knew one another; it’s quite a thought, and certainly a happy co-incidence.

I also learned some more about the Rosemaries wartime history from John and Douglas as they recall the Rosemarie at the return from Dunkirk, and the troops coming ashore in their masses. It seems she worked as an inspection ship, in Falmouth harbour before going down to Penzance for the duration, which was all news to me.

Rosemaries official registry was closed in 1948, and her last registered owner was Francis Bertram Sawle, first cousin to Douglas Sawle and married to a Clode. This makes further sense of the ferryboat or ‘Passenger’ boat history (as I stand corrected by the lads) which I already possess. It seems that Francis B. Sawle and Tommy Clode were in a business partnership, and ran ferries and then hire boats up to the late 1970s. The Rosemarie ran from St Mawes to the Prince of Wales Pier and was hired out for excursions until the mid 50s.