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24 September 2014

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You are in: Bristol > History > Local history > SS Great Britain: 1970

SS Great Britain under Clifton Suspension Bridge

SS Great Britain comes home

SS Great Britain: 1970

There were some tricky moments as salvage experts brought the ss Great Britain back from the Falkland Islands in July 1970. With only inches to spare, the ship was returned to the Jefferies Dock from where she was launched back in 1843.

The world’s first propeller-driven, ocean going iron ship was salvaged from the icy waters around Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands in an operation made possible by the property tycoon Sir Jack Hayward.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ship almost ended her days as a rusting hulk but was rescued from decay by a dedicated team of salvage experts who oversaw the process of preparing the ship and sailing her back across the Atlantic to her homeport of Bristol.

SS Great Britain on the River Avon

SS Great Britain and the River Avon

The most difficult part of the voyage was the journey along the River Avon into the heart of the city’s docks, where the infamous Horseshoe Bend was successfully negotiated, although had the tugs made the slightest error of judgement, we could now be visiting the ss Great Britain as an out-of-town attraction!

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, had followed the ss Great Britain’s return to the UK with much interest and was there to see the ship come home.

The ss Great Britain had been in The Falklands since 1886 after a fire on board had put her beyond repair.

In the 1930s the ship was scuttled having been sold to the Falkland Islands Company as a storage hulk.

In her ocean-going career, as a steamer, the ss Great Britain was used chiefly between England and Australia, but in later years she was converted to a sailing vessel and used to carry coal.

The ship came back to Bristol exactly 127 years after her launch and was returned to the same dock where she started her ocean-going life.

SS Great Britain edges into her original dock

SS Great Britain eases into dock

In June 1970, BBC2 broadcast “The Great Iron Ship” as part of the history series “Chronicle”, and our first film clip shows footage from the programme, which was written by Richard Wade and narrated by Dudley Foster.

The second film features highlights from an outside broadcast introduced by Magnus Magnusson and which followed the steady process of piloting the Great Britain into the Jefferies Dock.

    last updated: 03/04/2008 at 08:52
    created: 25/11/2005

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