6 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 14

Sails but no sales

The gleaming white objects which brightened the murky Thames during last week's Festival of Sail included tall ships, short ships, oyster smacks and Mr Edward Heath. Further glamorising the occasion I paddled my own home-made canoe down to Greenwich and back. It is not surprising therefore that an exhibition organised by the Port of London Authority at the Guildhall to illustrate the history of the river received little attention. It was opened by Admiral Sir Charles Madden, himself a painter. But he sat down very smartly afterwards when the PLA chaps started auctioning a picture of the barque `Tovarisch', now visiting London, in aid of the Mission to Seamen. He indicated to me that a number of his naval colleagues were nipping down the back stairs. The bidding proceeded sluggishly with the help of one or two officials in tails.

Why this mass exodus of war veterans so anxious not to acquire an apparently harmless watercolour? Could it be that the `Tovarisch', before it was adapted for use as a training vessel for the betterment of our Russian enemy, was Hitler's private yacht?