Victoria Drummond

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VICTORIA Drummond (1894-1978), marine engineer, was born on 14 October 1894 at Megginch Castle, Errol, Perthshire, the daughter of Captain Malcolm Drummond of Megginch, groom-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, and his wife, Geraldine Cherry, the daughter of Baron Amherst of Hackney.

From 1916 to 1918 she served as apprentice at the Northern Garage in Perth, and from 1918 to 1922 as apprentice at the Caledon Ship Works in Dundee. On 29 August 1922 she sailed overnight on the SS Anchises, Blue Funnel Line, from Liverpool to Glasgow, and on 2 September on a round trip to Australia as tenth engineer. It was the first of four voyages to Australia on SS Anchises; on the fifth she sailed to China. After her father died Drummond left the Blue Funnel Line but, during the depression, there was little demand for marine engineers and none at all for a woman. Victoria Drummond took the chief engineer's examination 37 times. Each time she failed. Finally she was convinced this was because she was a woman.

At the beginning of the war Drummond became an air raid warden in Lambeth, but in August 1940 she joined SS Bonita at Southampton and sailed to Fowey to load china clay before sailing across the Atlantic. "The ship was attacked for 25 minutes by a bomber, when 400 miles from land," says the citation for her MBE in the Times.

When the alarm was sounded Drummond at once went below and took charge. The first salvo flung her against the levers and nearly stunned her. When everything had been done to increase the ship's speed she ordered the engine room and stokehold staff out. After one attack the main injection pipe just above her head started a joint and scalding steam rushed out. She nursed this vital pipe through the explosion of each salvo, easing down when the noise of the aircraft told her that bombs were about to fall, and afterwards increasing steam. Her conduct was an inspiration to the ship's company.

When they landed at Norfolk, Virginia, she received a heroine's welcome. Money was subscribed for a Victoria Drummond canteen which stood in Lambeth North throughout the war providing sustenance to those who were bombed out.

In 1941 sailing back from Lisbon on SS Czikos Drummond was again under attack by enemy aircraft. She then did a coastal voyage and in April 1942 joined SS Manchester Port as fifth engineer, sailing in convoy to Quebec and back, in which many ships were lost. She sailed round the world in 1943 and a year later joined MV Karabagh, in which she sailed intermittently until after the end of the war - first in a convoy to Russia, and then standing by off the Isle of Wight for the invasion of France, in which she took part.

After 1945 Victoria Drummond superintended some shipbuilding in Dundee, relieved on various Cunard ships, and did short coastal trips round the Mediterranean, or on tankers, and passed her second engineer's motor examination. In 1952 she supervised building SS Master Nikos at Burntisland, and from 1952 sailed round the world on SS Markab as second engineer. Photographs of her in uniform show a tall woman with a commanding presence and an air of quiet competence. From 1959 until she retired in March 1962 she sailed as chief engineer on various Hong Kong-owned boats, which she delivered from Europe, then voyaged mostly around China. After the death of her sisters in 1974 she moved to St George's Retreat in Sussex, where she died on Christmas Day 1978 and was buried at Megginch Castle.