Early Sunday morning saw us waiting at a bus stop near the London Eye on the Thames’ south bank. We weren’t waiting for a familiar London bus though.
No what we were waiting for was a DUKW. So what’s a DUKW? Well it’s an amphibious truck built by General Motors in the 1940s and it would have originally have come with a much more demure khaki paint job. During World War Two thousands of DUKWs ferried supplies and ammunition from ships to soldiers on the beaches in Sicily, the Pacific and Normandy.
So what does DUKW mean?
D stands for the first year of production, 1942.
U for Utility.
K for Front Wheel Drive.
W for two rear driving wheels.
It just so happens to be a happy coincidence for a vehicle that is equally at home on the water that DUKW sounds like duck.
Our London Duck Tours adventure began with a pretty conventional bus tour around central London, taking in the Palace of Westminster, Trafalgar Square, the new Bomber Command Memorial and Buckingham Palace. It was only as we crossed Vauxhall Bridge and turned left after the MI6 building that it got a bit more unusual.
As we waited on the slipway the driver swapped places with a ship’s master,
and we were off on our way to splash down in the Thames.
You certainly get a different perspective on the river from a DUKW.
You are much closer to the water than you are in a conventional boat or a Thames Clipper. However it was a light drizzle that was getting us wet rather than Old Father Thames as we cruised downstream towards the Palace of Westminster. When you consider that these vehicles only had a life expectancy of a few months during World War Two, it’s marvelous that there are still eleven of them plying up and down the Thames 70 years later.
Our guide kept up a stream of interesting facts and terrible jokes as we turned back upstream to Vauxhall. I was intrigued to discover the rather grim-looking tower block next to the MI6 building, was the very same one that disgraced Tory Party Chairman Jeffrey Archer used to host his infamous Krug and Shepherd’s Pie parties from.
Amongst his neighbours were fellow disgraced Tory MP Neil Hamilton and lap dance club owner Peter Stringfellow – classy neighbourhood!
Our voyage ended at MI6 HQ and it was a brief trip by road back to the bus stop in Chicheley Street to disembark. Our Duck Tour cost £21 per adult, plus a one-off £3 booking fee (yes Ryanair that’s one single £3 fee for all of us). When we booked earlier in the week, I did find that there were very few spaces left at the weekend, so book early at http://www.londonducktours.co.uk.
Thanks to Mab for the onshore photography.