The Little Ship, Big History exhibition sails into Gloucester Docks

Delve into the past at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester to discover stories of bravery, entrepreneurship and historic moments for its little trip boat with the big history.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
Queen Boadicea II, pictured in 1953, during the Royal River Pageant to celebrate the Queen's Coronation.

This summer, the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester is celebrating its museum trip boat and Dunkirk Little Ship, Queen Boadicea II.

The little ship's amazing past includes a royal connection, war-time bravery and a trailblazing 1930s businesswoman.

At this fascinating outdoor exhibition, Little Ship. Big History, visitors can explore the stories of two fascinating people who played a big part in the boat's history, find out about an interesting royal connection and have a go at re-creating a big moment in boating history with family craft activities.

Queen Boadicea II was built in 1936 as a passenger pleasure cruiser for Charlotte Smith.

Known as the ‘Queen of the Thames’, Smith was, at that time, reported to be the only female owner of a passenger-carrying vessel on the Thames.

The outdoor exhibition tells the story of Smith and how she empowered women to be increasingly enterprising.

In 1940, Queen Boadicea II became one of the Second World War’s Dunkirk Little Ships, evacuating troops from northern France.

Visitors will be able to see display items, including medals and letters, donated by the family of Alan Spong, one of the boat's crew on her rescue mission.

The exhibition also features an unusual photo of Queen Boadicea II taken in 1953 at the Royal River Pageant to celebrate the Queen's Coronation.

During the pageant, the boat was adorned with the heraldic shields of 12 great Livery companies of the City of London.

Reflecting this royal connection, this summer Queen Boadicea II is once again decorated with shields from the places she has spent her working life.

The exhibition continues throughout the summer on the museum quayside and is included in the museum entry fee.

The National Waterways Museum, Gloucester is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Tickets give unlimited return visits for 12 months and cost £8.50 for adults and £5 for children from six to 15. Children aged five and under go free. Family tickets cost £22. Concessions are £7.50.

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