Second World War boat ends ferry life to go on display


A boat used to rescue fallen airmen in the Second World War is to go on display after spending more than 60 years working as a ferry.

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

Nick Hewitt, head of heritage development at the NMRN, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has supported us in acquiring RML 497.

"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.

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

A NMRN spokesman said: "She was involved in a commando raid on the Channel Isles following D-Day.

"RML 497 played an active part during the Second World War rescuing downed airmen including other difficult and sometimes secretive roles."

The RML 497 was sold off in 1947 and entered service as the Western Lady III between Brixham and Torquay until 2007 when it was sold and renamed the Fairmile to act as a ferry at Torbay before it was returned to its wartime colours in 2013.

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."

Trevor Robotham, acting chairman of the CFHT, said: "Constructed to the same Fairmile Type B design as the motor gunboats and constructed by the same company, the boat is one of only a few remaining examples of this very famous wartime design."