Rye Legend – Harry Phillips


by The Editor

I recently read an account of one of Harry Phillips’ exploits when he was a pilot in the RAP. Cliff Bloomfield, a young lad at the time, witnessed a twin winged RAF fighter, a Hawker Hart, ‘dive bombing’ the shipyard. This would have been in the early thirties.. He later learned, in conversation with Harry, that Harry was the pilot. Apparently it lead to a Court Marshal as there were complaints about the incident. Harry was exonerated however and survived to tell the tale.


Harry's Boat Building Shed
Harry’s Boat Building Shed

Harry’s grandfather, Herbert Phillips, started the famous Rye Boat Building business in 1859. Harry was born in 1904 and started work in the business at the age of fourteen under his father who had taken over the business.

He earned one shilling and six pence a week during his apprenticeship.

Harry’s brother Herbert became a partner in the business until his untimely death at a young age. During the War years when there was a shortage of labour his sister Winifred helped out in the Yard.

Harry became an acknowledged master of traditional clinker built vessels, an expertise he passed on to his son Derek who became the fourth generation Phillips to run the boat-building firm.

A Fairy Swordfish of the type that attacked the Bismarck
A Fairy Swordfish of the type that attacked the Bismarck. Harry flew in one of these during the war

There are many stories about Harry, a true Rye Character. He once had an Ayrdale called ‘Rex’. He was a very big dog and perfectly calm until someone raised a hand to greet him. Harry warned all callers “Take no notice of the dog, do not offer your hand to him”. The same advice was given to the Mercantile Credit man when he called, unfortu­nately he did not heed it and when Harry turned round to see what the ruckus was about the poor chap stood frozen against the wall. He was not bitten but minus his trousers which Rex was tearing to pieces.

The late Connie Lindqvist described Harry as ‘The King of the Waterfront’ he was truly that. Rye is much the poorer without him.

Rye’s Own  May 2003

All articles, photographs and drawings on this web site are World Copyright Protected. No reproduction for publication without prior arrangement. © World Copyright 2015 Cinque Ports Magazines Rye Ltd., Guinea Hall Lodge Sellindge TN25 6EG