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Captain’s desk serves as a reminder of Severn tragedy

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A furniture recycler has produced a poignant reminder of a maritime tragedy.

Megan Yardley, who runs a painted furniture business called Mole & Velvet, recently acquired a desk that had belonged to George Horace Thompson, captain of the Arkendale H tanker barge that was involved in the Severn Railway Bridge disaster of 1960, and has painted the railway bridge and the barge on it.

arkendale desk1 sml | Captain’s desk serves as a reminder of Severn tragedy

In thick fog the Arkendale H collided with another tanker barge, the Wastdale H, and in a tragic series of events the vessels collided with a support of the former railway bridge, which ran from Sharpness to Lydney. Two spans of the bridge collapsed into the river and in doing so struck the barges, causing a massive explosion. Five sailors died in the events of that fateful October night, though Captain Thompson survived the disaster.

rail bridge | Captain’s desk serves as a reminder of Severn tragedy
The Severn Rail Bridge, showing the missing span, brought down by the collision in 1960. Demolition of the bridge began in 1967. Picture: Brian Candy Photographic Archive.

“I was personally gifted the writing desk by the late George Thompson’s daughter who thought it would be a shame to just throw the desk away, (as it was a bit tired and well loved), and she knew I’d be able to put it to good use and give it a lease of new life,” explained Megan.

wrecks2 | Captain’s desk serves as a reminder of Severn tragedy
The remains of the Arkendale H (left) and the Wastdale H in the River Severn near Purton. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

“It is all hand painted by me and I really enjoy the idea that with each piece of vintage furniture I transform, that there is often a story behind it… and this tragic story just seemed so poignant I felt I had to add the connection to George’s past career onto his old desk as a tribute to him.”

megan yardley sml | Captain’s desk serves as a reminder of Severn tragedy

The remains of the Arkendale H and Wastdale H are still visible at low tide in the River Severn off Purton.

The desk is for sale at Megan’s Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/1268634442/crown-supply-vintage-office-desk

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