Bluebird of Chelsea

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Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Name: Bluebird
Builder: Thornycroft, Southampton
Launched: 1931
Status: in service
General characteristics
Class & type: motor yacht
Displacement: 23 tons
Length: 52 ft (16 m)
Beam: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Draught: 4 ft 3 in (1.30 m)
  • twin screws & petrol engines,
  • later Perkins diesels

Bluebird of Chelsea, formerly Bluebird, is a motor yacht originally built for Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Ownership by Sir Malcolm Campbell

She was built in 1931 by Thornycrofts of Southampton, as a twin petrol-engined wooden carvel-built motor yacht.[1]

Campbell sold her after three years, as his motor-racing experience made him wary of the fire risks of petrol engines aboard. He was also highly superstitious and believed a gypsy warning that, "his death would come from the water". In hindsight, this may have applied more to his son Donald.

Dunkirk and World War II

She had three further owners before being requisitioned by the Admiralty at the outbreak of World War II. Soon she was on her way with the flotilla of "little ships" to Dunkirk. Not without two false starts though, first due to engine trouble and then over-crowding. Her return from Dunkirk was even more fraught: after first refilling the fuel tanks with water, then fouling her screws on debris, she returned under tow.

Her later wartime service was spent in Scotland performing transport work for the RASC, then later on the South coast around Weymouth and Gosport.

Her history after this is sketchy, although she was renamed Blue Finch and found herself on the Atlantic coast of the South of France.

Survival today

In 1984 the Chelsea art dealer Martin Summers discovered her in France and decided to restore her. Some initial work in France made her apparently fit for a single-engined Channel crossing, but once again another engine failure meant that she returned from France under tow.

H & T Marine (Hiscock and Titterington) of Poole performed an extensive restoration, to the very highest quality. After re-launch in 1986 she now lies alongside Cadogan Pier in Chelsea. Her condition today continues in this fine tradition.[2][3] [4]


Two 1/12 scale models of Bluebird of Chelsea were featured in a magazine cover article.[5]

A double-sided 1/24 scale plan feature by David Metcalf was included in a Model Boats magazine series in 1989.

See also


  1. "National Historic Ships: Bluebird of Chelsea". National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Dunkirk Little Ship: Blue Bird, now Bluebird of Chelsea". 1999.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Thames Traditional Boat Rally". 2002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> photograph
  4. "Bluebird – A Dream of a Boat in Six Acts (after Maeterlinck)"; author Martin Summers, Collectors Books 1990
  5. "Bluebird of Chelsea". Marine Modelling International. January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>