First World War boat given new home at dockyard

Armed Steam Cutter 26
Armed Steam Cutter 26
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A SURVIVING vessel from the Battle of Jutland has arrived at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – nearly 100 years to the day that its parent ship HMS Falmouth was sunk in the First World War battle.

Built in 1910, Armed Steam Cutter (ASC) number 26 was the only powered vessel aboard HMS Falmouth (a Town Class Light Cruiser), and was present at various sea battles between 1914 and 1916 including Jutland, Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank.

She is one of only two known Royal Navy survivors of the Battle of Jutland, HMS Caroline in Belfast being the other.

An ASC was an important tool for communications, landings and training, and often gave covering fire.

HMS Falmouth survived Jutland but was torpedoed in the North Sea on August 19, 1916. After an epic salvage attempt she finally sank south of Flamborough Head in the morning of the August 20, 1916.

Her ship’s boats, including ASC 26, were found four days later by the trawler Buckingham and towed 68 miles to Immingham where they were handed back to the navy. The Buckingham’s men were rewarded £250 in recognition of the fishermen abandoning their fishing trip and salvaging the valuable boats.

Peter Goodship, consultant chief executive of Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT), said: ‘We are privileged to have this opportunity to save for the nation such an important survivor of the First World War, and in particular of the Battle of Jutland.

‘She is still in good enough condition for a full restoration and she’ll be a valuable addition to our collection of small boats from both world wars and the Falklands conflict. With the addition of ASC 26, our collection will eventually become known as the Memorial Fleet.’

Nick Hewitt, head of heritage development at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: ‘It’s extraordinary to think this little wooden boat bore witness to the greatest naval battle in history aboard HMS Falmouth, and we are very fortunate that she has been brought to Portsmouth for restoration in the battle’s centenary year.’

ASC 26 will have a home in Boathouse 4 while she is reconstructed to full working condition, including a new boiler and her existing, original steam engine. Her reconstruction will involve PNBPT staff, the Boathouse 4 volunteers, and students of the International Boatbuilding Training College Portsmouth.

When she is complete and ready to carry passengers, visitors to the historic dockyard will be able to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this 106-year old vessel back in action.