I have previously written a blog about my father’s love affair with cars and in particular the Jowett Javelin which I remember well. One reader helpfully pointed out that it seemed to be left-hand drive and another added that buying it in Germany around 1952 had probably avoided the punitive purchase tax on new cars bought in Britain at that time. It all adds up. I recently rediscovered a picture of it which, going by the notice on the gantry, was taken in a Dutch or Belgian port. We would have been travelling to or from Germany.
Was it still the practice to empty fuel tanks and disconnect batteries while the car was in the ship’s hold? In any case getting cars on and off vessels in this way was expensive, time-consuming and risky. I imagine my father standing around nervously as he took this picture. And the operation was labour intensive from the number of men on the quayside. The roof-rack is well loaded. The number plate is a curiosity and different from the one on photos of the car taken in Germany. However I have now learnt that the prefix Q indicated a foreign car imported temporarily and the Q series was apparently issued by the RAC. Despite trying hard I cannot read the ship’s name from the life-buoy on its railings.
The Second World War had greatly accelerated the transport of cars, trains and other vehicles by driving on and off ships but the first commercial car ro-ro (roll on-roll-off) service across the English Channel only began from Dover in 1953. Vehicle transport across the Channel quickly increased tenfold after that.