USN P22: A SYMBOL OF PEACE IN POST WAR GERMANY
At the end of WW2, Germany was occupied by the allied powers and the US section included nearly 150 km of the Southern section of the Rhine which, due to damage to the river infrastructure, was effectively closed to navigation. It was therefore decided to create a new branch of the US Navy which was called the US Naval Force Europe to set up patrols and re-open the river. With no suitable vessels available, the US designed and paid for 17 high speed patrol vessels under the “Marshall Plan”. These vessels were constructed in Germany with German engines in 1952 and were thus amongst the very first vessels to be constructed in Germany after the war but since Germany at that time had no government or army each boat was manned by 6 US navy personnel. Although armed with 3 heavy machine guns these were never fired in anger since the main purpose of the service was to survey the river, identify and clear any obstructions and to escort the cargo vessels bringing in reconstruction materials.
By 1957 a German government had been installed and Germany was permitted to establish a peace keeping army and in 1958 all 17 boats were handed over to the German army. For the next 10 years the Germans continued the work of surveying the river and re-establishing the navigation marks etc. At the end of the 1960’s the Rhine was fully open for navigation and thus the 17 patrol vessels were surplus to requirements and were sold off.
So far as we’re aware, P22 is the only one of these vessels to still be afloat and fully operational in original condition and that’s thanks to a series of owners who’ve restored and maintained her over the last 50 years. The last of the dedicated owners was Barry Field who purchased her 4 years ago, Having a vast experience with boats of all classes, he was fully aware that the only way to ensure that P22 remained in service was to establish a charitable trust. In 2017 Barry brought her to Sandwich Quay and opened her to the public at weekends and for other events. Thanks to the valued support from Sandwich Town Council, USN P22 became a charitable Trust in January this year and also obtained a passenger certificate for 12 passengers. An enthusiastic group of volunteers are now working together with the Trustees to ensure that this important vessel survives.