Colin Grainger

Mauretania… the biggest ship ever seen in King George V Dock

A magical moment from Newham’s history…the famous Mauretania becomes the biggest ship in history to enter the Royal Docks in North Woolwich in 1939.

My dad Bill Grainger reckons he is 246th person on the left!… and said: “You could almost reach out and touch her.”

This image has been on the wall of our various homes for many years. It also formed the centrepiece of many of the features on the docks we carried in the Newham Recorder over the years.

The smells and sounds you live with over the years in Silvertown and North Woolwich never leave you.

Tate & Lyle’s giant sugar refinery and syrup plant at Plaistow Wharf.

And not so pleasant, John Knight’s soap factory. But you could never tell what aroma would be coming from the docks next. The smells from the slaughterhouse in Custom House were probably the worse.

The daily walks to and from Drew Road school alongside the dock fence is embedded in the memory banks, along with the hours we used to spend playing on the bomb sites created by the German raids on London in World War Two.

We made our old houses and dens from the remains,  that were left, aided by the milk crates we acquired and played in them long into the nights, particularly in the summer.

Yes, we all had outside toilets, and wore clothes handed done from our brothers or sisters, but we never thought we were deprived.

But it was the amazing ships that dominated our landscape and our lives.



Picture: Newham Archives and Local Studies Library


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This article was written on 08 Apr 2013, and is filed under Colin Grainger, Communities, Drew Road school, East London, Employment, History, Legacy, London, Newham, Reflections of the past, Schools, Silvertown.

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