MARJORIE was built in 1913 by David Monroe & Sons on the Clyde, as a ketch-rigged motor yacht, but was converted to a brig in 1938. Her hull is carvel built of pitch pine on oak frames, fastened with copper nails. She has a pointed bow with a plum straight stem and a cruiser stern. The current engine is an inboard four-stroke diesel with four cylinders. MARJORIE served in the First World War as a River Thames Pilot Boat, with her original Gardner paraffin engine and ketch steadying rig. Although MARJORIE’s own movements during the First World War appear to have been limited to the Thames, one of her subsequent owners had a very distinguished war, being awarded the Victoria Cross.
In 1938 MARJORIE was purchased by Vice-Admiral Richard Bell-Davies VC, CB, DSO, AFC, Croix de Guerre avec Palm and Legion d’Honneur, RN. He had served in The Royal Naval Air Service during the war. In 1915 Richard Bell-Davies was a 29-year old Squadron Commander in 3 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service.
On the 19th November 1915 he, along with Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gilbert Formby Smylie in a second plane, carried out an air attack on Ferrijik Railway Junction in Bulgaria. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie's machine was received by very heavy fire and was brought down. The pilot planed down over the station, releasing all his bombs except one, which failed to drop, simultaneously at the station from a very low altitude.
He then continued his descent into the marsh. On alighting he saw the one unexploded bomb and set fire to his machine, knowing that the bomb would ensure its destruction. He then proceeded towards Turkish territory. At this moment he perceived Squadron-Commander Davies descending, and fearing that he would come down near the burning machine and thus risk destruction from the bomb, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie ran back, and from a short distance exploded the bomb by means of a pistol bullet.
Squadron Commander Bell-Davies descended at a safe distance from the burning machine, landing his Sopwith Pup as near as possible to the stranded pilot. He held off a party of approaching Bulgarian troops with his revolver. Once Sub-Lieutenant Smylie had climbed into the cockpit with him, Bell-Davies took off and returned to the aerodrome.
It was a feat of airmanship that has seldom been equaled for skill and gallantry. On returning to base, the ground crew counted over 100 bullet holes in the plane. Bell-Davies was awarded the Victoria Cross and Smylie the Distinguished Service Cross in January 1916.
After buying MARJORIE in 1938 Bell-Davies re-rigged her and sailed her until 1939. She was laid up in Weymouth during the Second World War after being rammed and sunk. She was refitted in 1946, but a fire onboard three years later made a second re-fit and a new engine necessary. In 1966, she was inherited by his son, Vice Admiral Sir Lancelot Bell-Davies KBE and, between 1975 and 1981, she was taken to Belgium and Italy. In 2007 due to damage and general wear, MARJORIE was transported to Sharpness Shipyard and Dry Dock in Gloucestershire where she had an extensive refit lasting two years. She now sails the Bristol Channel and around the West Country. Ownership remains within the family, with Lady Bell-Davies, her son and two daughters.
Where is she now?
MARJORIE is currently based in Sharpness.
Revival of the Fittest (1999) Classic Boat.