HMS Leigh
Guardian of the Thames

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In the spirit of our forefathers (and mothers) the HMS Leigh Project has worked hard to make the most what we can do rather than what we can’t.

So instead of holding an extravaganza on Southend Pier in May 2020, we are going to bring you education, films, music, images, stories, activities, recipes and the very history that makes the 1.3 mile long Southend Pier a world-class piece of Heritage right here on our doorsteps!

If you would like to sign up for to be a part of the HMS Leigh – Make Do And Mend Online event then please go to and we will let you know what is happening when, where and how!


HMS Leigh - Guardian of the Thames is a project to focuses on the heritage of Southend-on-Sea Pier during the 2nd World War. At that time the British Navy took the pier over and designated it as a Shore Establishment with the name HMS Leigh.

With the area surrounding the bottom of the pier being called HMS Westcliff, this was the gathering point for hundreds of convoys and a major part of the D-Day navy force - the importance of this part of Southend to the effort to win the war has long been forgotten.

HMS Leigh - Guardian of the Thames aims to return to the community the knowledge of the pivotal role of HMS Leigh to the feeding of the population of Great Britain and the freedom of mainland Europe.

Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery Players our team, in May 2020, in partnership with the great people of Southend-on-Sea on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day will reveal the amazing untold story of the miracle of Victorian engineering that stood firm and steady in the darkest nights and most frightening of days to save London and the country in WW2. 

On the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in May 2020 local schools lead by Kingsdown School will bring back to life the extreme joy and relief that the war was over. Come with us and join in with a community working together to keep everyone safe, from Lieutenant Commander Idris Morris Burt to the extraordinary Mona who ran the Pier NAAFI which acted as canteen and the supply point for 3,367 convoys of ships comprising 84,297 vessels that departed to fight the war. 

Southend Pier is our borough’s icon, a true survivor with an incredible history that makes it the perfect backdrop to bring all ages together to revel in the crucial part it played in World War II where it became the Guardian of the Thames, London and the UK. The pier has always been a wonderful community space and in September 1939 it became the Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary and was renamed HMS Leigh with surrounding areas becoming HMS Westcliff. 

It is also the perfect setting to celebrate all those veterans and civilians and to learn as much as possible about WW2 in order to discover what it was like to live through these experiences. HMS Leigh Guardian of the Thames project team would be delighted to hear from anyone who wants to share their experiences or those that they heard from those they loved. Either visit our website or email or send a letter to 43, Blenheim Crescent, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex SS9 3DT.

HMS Leigh - Web Portal