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P22 gunboat moored in Sandwich to bid for trust status

By Eleanor Perkins

USN P22 is a United States Navy gunboat, built by a German shipbuilder shortly after the Second World War for the American military to patrol the river Rhine during the Cold War era.

It is the only one still afloat out of a fleet of 23, and is hoped a trust will be formed by the end of the year.

P22 arrived in Sandwich in June 2017

P22 arrived in Sandwich in June 2017

The craft would be open to war veterans, visitors and schools, and organisers have the long-term aim of serving dinners and overnight experiences on board.

Trustees will include the Mayor of Sandwich Cllr Paul Graeme, town councillor Dan Friend, and interested resident Stephen Whitehouse.

They are in the process of applying to the Charity Commission for trust status.

Cllr Paul Graeme said: “We’re forming the trust so we can make applications for grants and other funding.

“The trust will be committed to the town with events taking place at weekends throughout the winter and summer.”

The action is in response to the amount of intrigue the gunboat had attracted since it arrived in the town in June.

It has since welcomed re-enactors and musicians on deck to provide entertainment as well as attended the Southampton International Boat Show where 2,500 visitors went on board.

Cllr Graeme said: “The future is going to be brilliant.

“When we receive trust status we’ll take the whole thing forward and hopefully make it a successful attraction and a complement to what Sandwich already has to offer. Watch this space.”

Cllr Dan Friend added: “I am delighted to be working on this project to ensure that this vital visitor attraction to Sandwich reaches its full potential, and cements its place as an integral part of the community here.”

Councillors Dan Friend and Paul Graeme will co-chair the trust

Councillors Dan Friend and Paul Graeme will co-chair the trust

Owner of the vessel, Barry Field, who lives in Northbourne, is pleased to welcome more hands on deck.

He said: “I’m delighted that Paul and Dan are on board and willing to help the P22 achieve its full potential.”

He bought the vessel in Chatham in 2015 when it was painted white.

He said: “They thought the military look wasn’t a good look but I saw how unique it was and thought it was an easy step to reverse it.

“I was just there at the right time. I feel like I saved it from becoming a permanent house boat and losing its identity.

“Turning it into a trust means when I’m no longer here it will be handed over to the trustees for the people of Sandwich, as an asset because it’s so special.

“My aim now is for it to help educate people and to give people an experience.”

“It’s going to be something special.”

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