20 May 2013

The Dukw that didnt take to water

As its Plymouth History Festival this month I thought I would mention a little bit of transport history that didnt happen:

November 2005

A somerset-based company is launching a new way of sightseeing in Plymouth . Porcellio is to offer visitors tours with a difference aboard its fleet of restored and updated Second World War amphibious vehicles, which can operate on both land and water. The company has secured essential funding through the South West Angel and Investor Network (SWAIN), a pioneering initiative sponsored  by the South West Regional Development Agency.
Private investors have sunk a total of GBP140,000 into Porcellio to pay for the restoration of up to five DUKW amphibious vehicles for use in Plymouth and the construction of further machines for use elsewhere in the world. The DUKWs played a vital part in the Allied invasion of Normandy during the Second World War, and many of the original vehicles were transported to the French coast from Plymouth . The bright yellow vehicles will become a familiar sight in Plymouth when the one-hour tours of the Sound and River Tamar start from next spring.

Western Morning News: Amphibious tours to start in Plymouth

March 2006

Plymouth City Council has granted permission for a company to use World War Two-style vehicles called 'Ducks' from the Guildhall and Teats Hill slipway.Asellus Ltd want initially to run one bright yellow 30-seat Duck taking three tours a day around the city centre, the Barbican and part of the Hoe as well as a half-hour tour from Sutton Harbour.
The Plymouth tours, dubbed Ducks and Drake, will feature a costumed driver and a guide.They should run for eight months and will cost £12 for an adult and £8 for children.Mr Slater said that the company wanted to take advantage of Plymouth's rich naval history. The vehicles will be new but are modelled on the original amphibious DUKWs, which played a vital part in the Allied invasion of Normandy during the Second World War.

June 2006

It seems like ages ago I reported on this blog that a new City Tour operation using DUKWs was due to start in Plymouth. This tour is to use the Teats Hill slipway. Well the BBC reports that the vehicle has been tested in Exmouth and is almost ready for service.
An armoured vehicle originally built during World War II is to become a permanent tourism feature in Devon. The amphibious carrier, known as a Dukw (or Duck), has been converted to take tourists around Plymouth Sound. A modern top has been put on the vehicle's original 1942 chassis after it was to taken to east Devon where it was stripped and rebuilt.
Although American designed, many of the vehicles were assembled in Plymouth, and the homecoming has not been lost on those operating it. Howard Slater of Ducks 'n' Drake said: "They were brought over by the Americans, they were assembled here, and, in fact, the slip road we are going to use is the same slipway the Americans used to launch them in the first place." Click here for the full story on BBC web site which has a few useful links to follow.

August 2006

Thanks to Dave for allowing me to post his photo of the new DUKW that is due to begin a service in Plymouth although it does seem to have slipped behind schedule somewhat as it was originally planned to start after "Easter 2006"! It is noted that the vehicle still does not carry a registration number which may explain the delay?



© Dave Godley

I am sure it will be popular once it starts - but its looking more likely for next year now. Shame as we have had one of the best summers for years weather-wise - I am sure business would have been booming!

Well that was the last mention of the DUKWs in Plymouth!

There is no further trace of anything in the local news for the DUKW tours planned for Plymouth. It does seem a real shame that nothing happened.


  1. I've seen similar vehicles operating tours in both Liverpool (the Yellow Duckmarine) and London so I wonder if that is where these ended up?

  2. Anon, the ones that are operated by Duck Tours in Central London are converted WWII vessels. Portcellio actually operates a service from Greenwich. Or did. It hasn't been seen for a good few months.

  3. One of the Liverpool DUKWs sank on March 30th this year in Albert Dock. Luckily the passengers had been evacuated first. The Liverpool DUKWs (Wacker Quacker 1, 2 & 3) are converted WWII vehicles too so I wonder where the Plymouth ones went? Incidentally there are several films on Youtube of the Liverpool DUKWs including one (in 4 parts) covering the whole Liverpool Duckmarine tour if anyone is interested.

  4. Steve, the story actually states that only one DUKW (an ex WW2 example shown in the photo) was prepared for use in Plymouth and though it was planned to produce new examples does not confirm that any new ones were actually built. Thus the 'Plymouth DUKW' could now be in use in London or Liverpool (or anywhere else that still uses these old vehicles).

  5. I don't know where this Dukw is now but it looks very very similar to the ones that burnt in London and sink in Liverpool. Maybe it's a good thing that it did not happen at all in Plymooth!


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