Published: 18:34, 18 July 2021
| Updated: 15:36, 19 July 2021
A historic ship has docked in Ramsgate next to the country's largest Wetherspoon's pub ahead of crucial restoration work.
The Medway Queen, which saved 7,000 men from Dunkirk in the Second World War, is to undergo a £30,000 refurbishment at the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate.
She is the largest vessel the harbour has welcomed for years and people enjoying a day on the town's Main Sands were in prime position to see the steamer arrive.
Diners and drinkers sitting on the terrace at the Royal Victoria Pavilion Wetherspoon's will have the best view of the boat's four-week restoration on the slipway.
Pam Bathurst, director trustee of the Medway Queen Preservation Society, said the restoration work was vital before the ship sets sail.
"She really will tower over the Wetherspoon as she's such a size. The funnel is very tall," she said.
"It will be the biggest ship that slipway, and Ramsgate, has seen in years.
"The work is essential to help restore her to former glory and the repairs are really needed. She is such an important bit of history and we have to look after her otherwise she will deteriorate.
"She will look so grand with a full repaint as she currently looks tired.
"We'll be opening it up for the public to view on Saturdays, and potentially Sundays as well."
After the four-week project in Ramsgate, the vessel will return to her traditional base in Medway.
The Medway Queen was hailed as the "Heroine of Dunkirk" for her vital role in saving 7,000 Allied troops from the beaches of northern France in the Second World War.
After the war, she was refitted for civilian use and became a floating nightclub off the Isle of Wight, and also carried out pleasure trips to Southend and along the Kent coast.
After suffering damage to her hull, she was towed back to the River Medway on a pontoon, where she fell into disrepair.
The preservation society was formed in 1985 with an ambitious long-term mission to get repairs done, and through tireless fundraising efforts vital work has been carried out on the ship.
A £1.8 million grant was, eventually, secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards rebuilding the ship's hull and she spent years in Bristol while the repairs were carried out.
The voyage to Ramsgate for extensive work has been in the planning for two years, with numerous areas of the paddle steamer set to benefit from a refurb - including the paddle wheels, hull and the installation of new handrails.