The ferro-concrete dumb barge Cretabode can still be seen on the shore at St. Johns Lake, on the Cornish side of the Tamar estuary, south of HMS Raleigh.
WW1 Concrete seagoing barge
By the middle of WW1 there was a huge demand for replacement ships sunk by enemy submarines. The shipping losses also reduced the amount of iron ore that was imported so steel became scarce, this forced shipbuilders to look at other materials including reinforced concrete. In 1917 the UK Ministry of Munitions requested the Admiralty to build barges to bring iron ore back from Spain and suggested concrete barges could be used. The British government started a £4M construction programme for building 154 concrete barges, tugs and other vessels totalling 203,200 tonnes — a saving of around 71,000 tonnes of steel. Skilled shipbuilding labour was in short supply and it was thought that the concrete vessels could be built using unskilled workers, but this did not happen in practice and the barges turned out 40% more expensive to build. By the end of the war in 1918 just one of the barges had been launched, the Cretacre, but as 74 were still under construction many of the contracts were cancelled. Cretabode was one of the 54 barges and 12 tugs actually built in this programme.
Cretabode (PD26) was built in 1918 by Hill, Richards & Co. Ltd. at Hamworthy near Poole for Concrete Seacraft Ltd., who were based at Fiddler’s Ferry on the Mersey. The 58m long, 662 grt barge had the official number 142701. The standard barge design had three holds for cargo, store room and chain locker in the bow, a concrete guard rail at bow and stern, a hatchcombing amidships and a wheelhouse, funnel and boat in a davit at the stern. A small boiler provided steam for winches and other machinery.
In 1921 owbership was transferred to the Board of Trade in London then to Crete Shipping Co. Ltd. in 1922. In 1923 she was in service with Albert Batchelor then George Batchelor, finally to George J. Mills in 1936. In 1942 she was sold to the UK Government.
After the war, Cretabode was laid up with two other concrete barges at Wivelscombe Creek, near Plymouth. Viscount Lennox-Boyd acquired Ince Castle on the River Lynher around 1955, he objected to these hulks being placed in front of his house so around 1955 the Queen’s harbourmaster had them moved to the Torpoint shore. Locals again objected and one of the hulks was towed out to sea and scuttled.
Cretabode had been damaged when she was beached, but later she was re-floated with great difficutly and towed to her present position off Deadman’s Point, protecting the shore of HMS Raleigh. It was thought that the two other barges were Cretefield and Creteshore, but one is more likely to have been Cretehill as she was taken out of Newlyn Harbour and scuttled in 1949. Cretefield is in Carlingford marina along with Cretegaff.
One unusual tale associated with this ship told to us by a local resident was that Cretabode was beached on the shore at Deadman's Point to help stop erosion washing out bones from bodies that had been buried on the shore.
This was one of the vessels recorded in the book Lost Ships of the Westcountry by Langley & Small.
Carbeile Creek, St Johns Lake Torpoint.
Unfortunately now nothing remains of this vessel.
Position OS: SX 42422 54247
Position GPS: 50.366973, -4.217045
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Ferroconcrete seagoing barge
Hill, Richards & Co. Ltd., Hamworthy, Dorset, UK
Steel reinforced concrete
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