Veteran rescue boat from the Second World War sets sail for Portsmouth

The Rescue Motor Launch 497 will be a new attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
The Rescue Motor Launch 497 will be a new attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Picture: Ministry of Defence

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A BOAT used to save fallen airmen during the Second World War is coming to Portsmouth after it was bought by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The Rescue Motor Launch (RML) 497 has been purchased by the museum, with a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £90,600, with an extra £5,000 each from the museum and the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust (CFHT).

Prior to the purchase, the boat had spent 60 years as a ferry in Devon.

Nick Hewitt, head of heritage development at the city museum, was delighted by the purchase.

He said: ‘She’s an amazing survivor, full of original features and still fully operational, which is incredible for a wooden warship built for “hostilities only” service during the Second World War.’

The RML 497 served with the 62nd ML Flotilla at Portland, Dorset, until January 1944.

She then undertook anti-submarine target towing duties in Kirkwall before joining the 69th ML Flotilla at Felixstowe.

She was also involved in a commando raid on the Channel Islands after D-Day, a museum spokesman added.

Stuart McLeod, head of HLF south east, said: ‘This vessel’s daring missions during the Second World War are a little-known part of the UK’s naval history. Thanks to National Lottery players, our investment will bring the best surviving example of a Fairmile B motor launch to Portsmouth, creating an exciting new attraction for the Historic Dockyard and ensuring the contribution of those who worked on this vessel is much better known.’

Mr Hewitt said the purchase of RML 497 would bolster the city’s rich crop of heritage vessels.

‘When she comes to Portsmouth she’ll be entering a whole new phase of her long life, and I’m sure our visitors will be just as excited as we are to step aboard her and see Portsmouth’s amazing naval heritage from the deck of a real warship,’ he said.

Trevor Robotham, acting chairman of the CFHT, added the vessel was one of only a few remaining examples of this very famous wartime design.