Round the Southern Fleet, by Cuthbert Grasemann, McCorquodale & Co. Ltd. 1946 [ebook]


Round the Southern Fleet, by Cuthbert Grasemann, McCorquodale & Co. Ltd. 1946.Booklet card covers 7.25”x 4.25” pp.56, 26 B&W halftone photographs. PLEASE NOTE this is a landscape format publication, with the descriptive text in the left hand page referring to the illustration opposite.. This is an awkward arrangement to view on a screen so we have altered it with each page now describing the one below.


Describes and illustrates all the Southern Railway ships in service in 1946……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Although Cuthbert Grasemann was a successor to John Elliott as Public Relations Officer of the Southern Railway, this was not an official publication and Grasemann would have required the permission of his General Manager (Sir) Eustace Missenden  to embark on the venture. However because of his position he had access to sources of information denied to ordinary mortals so we can be confident that any information relating to the steamers of the Southern Railway will be as accurate as the official records allow.

Grasemann had previously (1939) published a book dealing with the steamers owned by the constituent companies which amalgamated to form the Southern Railway.

Cuthbert Grasemann came from a railway background. His father or possibly grandfather was at one time Chief Goods Manager of the LNWR but this did not prevent one of the Grasemanns from giving Charles Grinling son of the GNR Chief Accountant and brother of the GNR Traffic Manager W.J. Grinling considerable help with “The Ways of our Railways” 1905 which we will be offering on this site in a few weeks. There is some evidence that Cuthbert Grasemann was a railway enthusiast – not always  an easy stance for a Senior Railway Officer to take as I personally found  to my cost.

When one of his junior clerks came up with the idea of a booklet listing details of Southern locomotives to save time in dealing with public enquiries, Grasemann felt that it was not something which the company should do but based on his own experience with “English Channel Packet Boats” encouraged the young man to “go it alone” and may even have put him in touch with people who could help him. The resulting little booklet “ABC of Southern Locomotives”  was well received, except by Chief Mechanical Engineer  O.V.S Bullied who was furious and wanted the clerk sacked.  Grasemann intervened with GM Szlumper and the clerk – yes you have guessed it was Ian Allan – was not fired but was banned from entering the CME’s drawing office. However the acorn from which a mighty oak would grow had been planted.


Cuthbert Grasemann himself authored at least one more book  under his own name “An ABC of Yachts” for his protege Ian Allan.  By the nature of his job he probably wrote more which were required to be anonymous or were ghosted on behalf of more senior officials.

Now we come to a bit of a mystery. In 1957 Rixon Bucknall published “Boat Trains and Channel Packets” covering much the same ground as Grasemann’s work of 1939 but with more emphasis on train services. Bucknall wrote that he had spent years researching his book, but in his acknowledgements and bibliography does not mention Grasemann (as Southern PRO surely one of the first calls for information) or his book. Like Grasemann,  Bucknall is weak on the pre-railway steamers despite having claimed to have consulted the records of the General Post Office. In the copy of Bucknall which I own there are two loose letters from a Henry Maxwell whom have been unable to trace but who was obviously a person of consequence, as one of the letters is dated from the Carlton Club in February 1958. He thanks Grasemann for an evening  in “…an Aladdin’s Cave of Treasures each one of which one could examine for an hour and it is wonderful that you should have been able to rescue so much of rare interest and value which would otherwise have been lost”.   One wonders what these treasures were? Maxwell encloses a copy of “Boat Trains and Channel Packets” as a token of thanks – the implication being that he has not seen a book published the previous year on a subject which greatly interested him. My copy is presumably the one gifted by Maxwell, but apart from the two loose letters there is no indication of Grasemann having owned it. Odd.





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