Gypsy, the Hornby weekend cruiser with an amazing story

These photos are all (or believed to be) of Gypsy, an impressive 1936 Hornby weekend motor cruiser with an event-filled history.

Michelle Bird has written in to appeal for more information about the boat which is owned by her partner,  David Pannell.

‘We’ve seen a picture of her in front of one of the historic HMS ships at the Portsmouth Heritage dockyard museum, shown to us by the curator there, and would really love to find out whether she was used in Dunkirk, as seems to be suggested.

We know she was originally commissioned by an Admiral and had a steel bulkhead instead of a wooden one, and had two Vosper Thorneycroft engines installed in the 50’s to replace the original Morris engines. We know too that she was owned by the Spragg family of Sparks Marina on Hayling Island but have been told that she was stolen in 1968 as part of the getaway for the Great Train Robbery.

She was rammed by a Customs vessel at some point when used for drug running.

Michael Stiff of Blemheim Road, Ipswich, found her abandoned on the River Ide and took posession after making a deal with the Spraggs and doubtless their insurers.

We have an article from the Daily Express from July 1971 that Mr Stiff sent us. At the time, he was about to embark on a trip to Scandinavia in her, and the article quotes him as saying that an Interpol investigation looking at the question of where she’d been for three years was still open…

Mr Stiff had lots more information and items he’d stored from her that he was going to give us, but he sadly passed away not long after we bought he boat.

Dave has painstakingly cleared inches of oil and gunk from inside her and she’s starting to look great, but she’s still a long way off completion. We’d like to find replacements for a couple of brass portholes that were stolen, and to restore the Vosper engines if possible.

If anyone has any further info about Gypsy, please message me at,  and I will pass the message on.

Does anyone know the story of Interlude?



Eighty-year-old Interlude built by Hornby in 1938 to a design by A H Comben is now the property of Steve Whittle, who saved her from destruction two years ago and now plans to get her back as close to her original condition as possible, and to take her up to Lake Windermere.

Once she’s there he intends to take groups on trips round the lake and its beauty s pots, stopping at hotels for lunch – and all in a 1930s style.

It sounds like a good wheeze to me! Steve hopes that this work will fund Interlude’s upkeep and make sure she’s around for at least another 80 years.

From a comment by a G Newstead on this post, it seems Interlude was the subject of a write up in the boating magazines when she was built, due to her design and speed. There also this tantalising entry on the National Archives website.

In the meantime she’s at Taylor’s Boatyard in Chester (the final photo above shows her being craned into the Shropshire Union Canal), and Steve would very much like to gather some more information, as up to now he has had little success in learning about Interlude’s story.

If you have anything to add, please send it to me at, and I’ll forward it to Steve.