Delivering the goods

Built as a speculation by W.B. McLearon at the Navy Yard slip, Harwich, and completed in 1906, ENA was rigged as a mulie, i.e. with a sprit mainsail and a gaff mizzen. This arrangement was intended to combine the handling ability of a sprittie (spritsail barge) with the load capacity of a boomie (ketch). After completion she was purchased for £875 in 1907 by R & W Paul Ltd, grain and agricultural merchants, who had also bought the yard’s THALATTA (q.v) in the previous year. ENA's mulie rig was erected at Paul’s Dock End Shipyard. For her entire working life ENA was owned by that company or its successors (now part of Harrisons and Crosfield plc). She was built of wood (pitch pine on oak frames) and had a cargo capacity of about 150 tons of grain.

In World War I ENA and the other barges in the Paul’s fleet carried supplies to the armies on the continent of Europe. Their shallow draught gave them access to shallow waters and they were less likely to be sunk by mines or U-boats: U-boats were often reluctant to disclose their presence, or even waste a precious torpedo, attacking a mere sailing barge. ENA was well maintained at Paul’s own yard between the two world wars and continued to take the company’s own cargoes, and she was thus largely immune to the effects of the depression.

In World War II she continued to trade in grain between London and the Ipswich, or lightering on the River Orwell, and also carried sugar beet. In May 1940, together with five others of Paul’s barges, carrying a load of petrol in cans, she was amongst the sixteen sailing barges which sailed to Dunkirk to evacuate troops from the beaches as part of Operation Dynamo. During the crossing they endured constant air attacks. Finally Harold ‘Titch’ Page, her skipper, was ordered to beach her close to the barge H.A.C, and the crews of both barges were told to abandon her and escape on a minesweeper to England.

However both barges were spotted by troops and sailed back to England under constant enemy bombardment and machine-gun fire. Aboard ENA were Lt Colonel W G Mc Kay and men of the 19th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, but there were no sailors to assist them. They made it to the Kent coast where they were spotted near the South Goodwin light vessel at 8pm on 2 June by the Watkins tug KENIA and taken in tow to Margate. ENA's skipper, Alfred Page, who had assumed the barge lost, was surprised to be sent from Ipswich to recover her.

ENA worked under sail alone until 1948 when she was converted to a motor barge with a Ruston diesel engine, and continued to trade until 1974. She was then restored to sail and retained by the company (which by then was known as Pauls & Sandars) for corporate hospitality. New sails were made by Gerry Whitmore, and a Gardner diesel (which had done 300,000 miles in one of the company’s lorries) replaced the Ruston unit.

ENA was re-rigged by Charlie Webb, her last master in trade, and Harold Smy, whilst the work on the hull was entrusted to the company’s Dock End shipyard. Much of the gear needed to get Ena sailing again was found ‘lying about’ in the shipyard since being discarded in the 1940s.

Harold Smy became her new master, and was succeeded by Len Polley and then his brother Tom Polley; over a period of more than 25 years ENA took parties of brewers to many barge matches.  Skippered by Brian Pinner she also sailed to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Brussels, and many times to Dunkirk for reunions. When the owners (then known as Pauls Malt) were taken over by an Irish company ENA was deemed surplus to requirements.

Where is she now?


ENA is currently located at Pin Mill in Suffolk and is undergoing restoration. 



 Ipswich Records Office GC697/16803/5 ENA.

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Brann, Christian (1989) The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 1940-1990.

Wood, D G (1995) Barges Sailing Today: Sailing Barge Information Pamphlet No: 1

Anon (1998) Classic Boat Thames barging