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A piece of history uncovered

Printed From: BMPT Forum
Category: Boats (In alphabetical order)
Forum Name: High Speed Launches
Forum Description: Discussion on High Speed Launches
Printed Date: 15 September 2019 at 11:38am

Topic: A piece of history uncovered
Posted By: Christian
Subject: A piece of history uncovered
Date Posted: 13 October 2006 at 11:48pm

I quote from "Shot down and in the Drink" by Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork;

Gallant rescue off Sardinia (p203)

On 2 August (1943) a USN Catalina was scrambled to search for a Beaufighter crew who had radioed that they were baling out close to the Sardinian coast.Lieutenant Roger Bishop and his crew located the two dinghies 2 miles off the enemy coast near Cagliari and the Catalina alighted in rough seas and picked up the two men. In attempting to take off, the starboard propeller was damaged by the mounting seas. Bishop attempted to taxi away but the enemy shore batteries opened fire each time he tried. Enemy fighters then appeared on the scene, but the Catalina's fighter escort managed to shoot down three before the amphibian was set on fire. So soon after being rescued, the two Beaufighter aircrew found themselves in the sea for the second time as they abandoned the blazing aircraft with the Catalina's six man crew, three of them wounded. They all took to the amphibian's large dinghy, which they soon discovered had been damaged by bullets.

The eight men fought to keep the half-submerged dinghy afloat as it drifted towards the enmy coast. For four hours they took it in turns to bale out the sea water and inflate the surviving chambers of the dinghy. They watched as battles continued to rage overhead, with P 38 fighters seeing off the enemy.

Shortly before this episode started to unfold, HSL 2595 of 254 ASRU left Bizerte to search for a US Warhawk pilot. Two hours into the search, the master, Flight Lieutenant James Lang, picked up a VHF radio call from one of the P 38 fighter escorts alerting him to the perilous situation of the eight men off the Sardinian coast. He immediately ordered his coxswain, Flight Sergeant John Edwards BEM, to head for the position. After two more hours they reached the scene and soon located the swamped dinghy, which had drifted nearer to the enemy coast. The high speed launch immediatelty came under heavy fire from coastal batteries and salvoes landed around it. Lang calmly directed the launch, and Edwards' expert handling in the difficult sea conditions allowed the survivors to be taken from the dinghy. The launch was just two miles off the coast when the fighter escort had to leave, short of fuel, just as the rescue was being completed. Throughout the 40-minute operation the launch was under constant enemy shellfire. Eventually HSL 2595 was able to wihdraw without sustaining damage. Six hours later it reached Bizerte after completing a round trip of 250 miles. Edwards remained at the wheel throughout the 14-hour operation, including the night passage back to port. 

For their actions during this daylight rescue close to the enemy coast, Lang was awardeed the DSC...and Edwards was awarded the DSM...

I'm sure we've all heard something about this amazing rescue, when I first did I wondered if this most famous HSL (a Hants & Dorset famously nicknamed "Solitude", the subject of many plans and pictures) had survived the war and if so, what had become of her.

Also, for the last very many years, there has been an unidentified Hants & Dorset (or identical Battlefield HSTTL) here in Gibraltar, variously called Potemkin, Bulldog and now Adelheid and believed to be ex HSL 2554. This week, in a determined effort to confirm her ID, I searched from the stempost to the transom gunwhale (literally) to find her yard number which would finally give her the wartime ID she so desperately needed. I checked under all the floorboards too, but they were not the originals, and the very last place searched (due to having to pull the carpets aside) was the floor of the sickbay (now a very comfortable saloon). Sure enough, on the battens of first 4 of the floorboards I pulled and inverted, was the clearly stamped yard number 2055. 

As you have by now guessed, this yard number relates to HSL 2595. She is this most famous of wartime veterans! Worth waiting for I'd say.

Her condition is frankly remarkable, I have poked my nose into all her bilges and I am truly impressed at just how sound she is. It is now the sad duty of the widow of her (ex-engineer) owner who so meticulously maintained her to find her a caring home, she has pegged the price at a very realistic EUR60K (about forty grand) for a quick sale as the boat will no longer be able to stay at her affordable mooring beyond the end of this month.

Regards, Christian.        

Posted By: Christian
Date Posted: 14 October 2006 at 12:29am

John Pritchard's famous colour plate

Posted By: cofrada
Date Posted: 04 February 2007 at 7:54am

I have a colleague at work whose only connection with the water is he makes model boats. As he knew of my connection with the RAF he bought a file to work containing the full makers specification for

  1.  41ft 6in RAF General Service Launch, the documents were rubber stamped with The British Powerboat Company stamp.
  2. General specs for 37ft 6in Aircraft Control Tender as used by Imperial Airways.
  3. A full Cabin version of the 37ft 6in launch with "Pullman" type seating with deep sprung squabs, for ferryin passengers, (Pullman?  deep Sprung)
  4. Test data for 100class 64ft HSL plus building plans dated October 1941.
  5. Photo's of Imperial Airways Control launches at work and a photo of aircraft embarking passengers from a 36ft 6in launch
  6. A part copy of the BPC magazine, giving a tribute to the Air Sea Rescue Service, with a copy of Royal Air Force Commentary 16 from the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

Many of these documents are in what I would call distressed condition but 95% complete, I had retyped the Royal Air Force Commentary 16, word for word. I am trying to scan and enhance the documents and put them in PDF format.

I await your email Barry

Here is RAF Commentary 16

In the following reproduction of R.A.F. Commentary No.16, by permission of M.A.P. it is of interest to note that H.S.L. 118 and Seaplane Tenders Nos. 441 and 444 mentioned in the following are some of the types of craft built for the Royal Navy and the R.A.F. By the BRITISH POWER BOAT Co. Ltd.




Farther and farther spreads the range of the R.A.F.'s wings-- more and more aircraft, more and more men. Wherever they fly, near or far, sea-craft must be within call to save them in the hour of danger. Not a great Ocean liner, not a huge battleship nor cruiser travels farther from its cradle than your small rescue ships, flung as they are to-day across the span of every Ocean. No vessels of our great Navy need more speed, resistance and seaman's skill to face the hazards of desperate journeys than these Air Sea Rescue craft.

Only those who man them know the terrors they face and the faithful service rendered, and only those whose lives they have saved can praise them as they deserve.

Here is a story of a life and death race , told for the first time, and told by the man best qualified to do so; the Captain of the H. S. Launch concerned, H.S.L. 118, engines P. 246, C. 346. S. 117.

"The aircrew in this story ditched at 11 one morning in January, 100 miles from land. They sat all day and night in their dinghy, wet to the skin in a biting east wind and blizzards of sleet and snow. No signal was received, it was a homing pigeon that bought us the news of their danger.

"We left base at 10:30 the following morning, and at 3 that afternoon we found them in their dinghy. Their clothes were frozen on their backs; it was absolutely a matter of life and death to get them quickly ashore. We opened our throttles full-out, and for the whole hundred miles of rough water they were never slackened off for a single instant. Never once did the launch or engines give us the slightest trouble. We were preprepared for the craft to be U/S at the end of that run; but no part of it suffered in any way."

"Those four airmmen are to-day all on active flying operations"

It is not every craft that could have stood up to such a test."

Seaplane Tender 441 (engines S6M Diesel 40743, 40748) went to the rescue of a Lancaster aircrew adrift in a dinghy off the S.W. Coast. A Mosquito sighted the crew boarding their dinghy and stayed circling it until relieved by other aircraft of the A.S.R. Service. The crew used Verey lights and torch to signal their position, and the tender was able to locate them and pick them up successfully...........

......... A complete Fortress crew was rescued by Seaplane Tender 444 (Perkins S6M engines 40803, 40802). This time the Fortress was seen coming down in the sea by members of the Royal Observer Corps, a very speedy rescue was effected.

A Mosquito pilot whose aircraft had caught fire was seen bailing out off the South West coast. Within half an hour, he was safely bought ashore by Seaplane Tender 480 ( Perkins S6M engines, 40524, 40612).

These instances are quoted, not as outstanding or rare occurences, but because the details of the craft are available, and will interest those who sent them out from the yards. They are simply typical examples of unceasing service of A.S.R. here, and in every corner of the world where our aircraft fly and danger lurks below then across the seven seas.

Ministry of Aircraft Production, Directorate of Public Relations. January 194?

Posted By: dgray
Date Posted: 04 February 2007 at 9:21am
Hello Barry,

I hope to start on the restoration of a BPB 40'6" Seaplane Tender  in   the next 8 weeks or so. I'm trying to get as much information  and documentation about  her  type before I start.  The aim is to bring her back to her service condition.

I'd appreciate it if you'd be willing to let me buy a copy of any documentation on the 40'6"  BPB ST (when you get around to getting them copied) that you have.  May I ask what document/drawings there are?



Only a number, not even a name. How shall posterity hear of thy fame?

Posted By: cofrada
Date Posted: 04 February 2007 at 10:58am

Originally posted by dgray dgray wrote:

Hello Barry,

I hope to start on the restoration of a BPB 40'6" Seaplane Tender  in   the next 8 weeks or so. I'm trying to get as much information  and documentation about  her  type before I start.  The aim is to bring her back to her service condition.

I'd appreciate it if you'd be willing to let me buy a copy of any documentation on the 40'6"  BPB ST (when you get around to getting them copied) that you have.  May I ask what document/drawings there are?


It's Colin actually Don, the reference to Barry was guess that he may be interested in the same documentation, but for other reasons.

The way these documents have been copied are from foolscap paper and what method of reproduction was used is a mystery to me, but there are a couple of lines missing, but the loss is not disasterous.

there are references on the documents to launch 1628

There are no drawings of this craft, but the specification is 17 pages long and includes the Painting and Decoration Schedule.

Posted By: dgray
Date Posted: 04 February 2007 at 11:40am
Doh! Sorry Colin.  

Well I'd love a copy. Will gladly pay all costs as they's be a goldmine of information for me.

I don't know the yard number of 'Che Sera' yet so it will be interesting to know who she is!    I'll try to do a  better online restoration site that I'm doing with the little 32' boat.



Only a number, not even a name. How shall posterity hear of thy fame?

Posted By: Christian
Date Posted: 20 July 2007 at 10:09am

Hi Don

I thought I'd reply to your question about HSL 2595 here, I hope you don't mind. She is still here, and as far as I know she remains unsold.

Rgds, Christian.

Posted By: rafwebfoot
Date Posted: 20 July 2007 at 12:48pm

Hi Cofrada,

I also would love copies of the documentation you hold and will be more than happy to pay all copying and postal charges.

For those restoring 40 footers, I hold builders constructional drawings for this class along with GAs

Fair winds


Posted By: tramontana
Date Posted: 20 July 2007 at 12:58pm
Don, don't you dare buy 2595, I am just waiting for the right oppurtunity to go for this boat and I will be on the first flight to Gib, she is a lovely boat and was well looked after by her owner who was a superb engineer, he unfortunatly died last year but having been aboard her before he died and speaking to him you could tell he knew his stuff when it came to looking after an old wooden boat correctly.

Posted By: rafwebfoot
Date Posted: 21 July 2007 at 11:13pm


I forgot to mention that 1628 was a 41.5ft Seaplane Tender (Broadbeam) built by the BPC as yard No.2312.  She was transferred to the RN 01/04/45 as RN No 4767.  She finished up in Hong Kong where she was sold 17/11/50.


Still want copies of your stuff.

Fair winds,


Posted By: dgray
Date Posted: 22 July 2007 at 9:02pm
Hello  Tramontana,

I wasn't about to buy her, I was just enquiring as I had heard nothing about her for a while (she's been advertised as for sale for over a year I believe).

If you are in the process of buying her, I wish you the very best of luck with her. 

However, I'm not sure that I understand the line "Don, don't you dare buy 2595".  I'm sure that it just reads badly and wasn't intended as an order!!

Again. my  best wishes with her

Kind Regards


Only a number, not even a name. How shall posterity hear of thy fame?

Posted By: tramontana
Date Posted: 23 July 2007 at 3:51pm
Don, just a request!!, I am afraid at the moment it is just a pipedream (if I still smoked one, It's now an offence is'nt it), my pension/s don't run to it knowing from past experience of wooden boats and how much they cost to look after properly, I am realistic enough to know that there can be no half measures, as well as the ever increasing Marina fees in the Med, that's if you can find a berth, I  was invited aboard around two years ago and she is/was a nice boat however her present owner like me is a bit limited on funds at the moment so I do not know as to whether she has had all the little job's that require doing on a wooden boat and need to be kept on top of done, hopefully in my case she will still be available when my funds are more fluid and I can retire to Gib. Lambs around 5 a litre if I remember correctly.

Posted By: Jim
Date Posted: 24 July 2007 at 10:12am

Just had look at "Trigo" in Balloch someones been "At her" not sure if its to work on or the ply cover fell off!  The cabin is now open at the rear off this week so think i will pop down and get some pic's.

The planned building work for flats at the entrance to the marina has been put on hold....But i dont think Trigo has a lot of time left as the cabin is pretty rotten.

Still waiting for name of the Boat sunk at Cambelltown....last thing i have heard she was one of the Troon boats brought over from Norway...



Posted By: d-zine
Date Posted: 24 July 2007 at 10:20am

Is "Trigo"  the Balloch DWC featured else where on the forum?

No takers or is she just to far gone?

Advance - Runaway Quickly , Runaway Quickly

Posted By: rafwebfoot
Date Posted: 24 July 2007 at 10:32am
This TRIGO at Balloch, what is she? If she is a Seaplane Tender she is possible ex DANNY BOY as she lay at Balloch for some years.


Posted By: dgray
Date Posted: 24 July 2007 at 11:32am
Hello Donald,
Have a look at page 1 onwards of  topic "General Message Board on Where Boats Are"

I thought she was a Seaplane Tender but those in the know reckoned she was a Derby Class.  



Only a number, not even a name. How shall posterity hear of thy fame?

Posted By: webfoot
Date Posted: 22 April 2015 at 2:08pm
I have AP 2865 covering leading particulars of all RAF marine craft. I was in the mcs for my sins, I also towed hsl 2597 from Poole to Chichester after Brian Oliver died. WEBFOOT


Posted By: johnk
Date Posted: 28 April 2015 at 2:35pm
Hi there,

Just reading latest above, and wanted to just talk about my visit to HSL 2552 on Saturday at ex RAF Hooten park with Karen and Paul, what a fantastic day, people and project, I had a great day, and learnt so much more about this fantastic craft. I commend any one interested to get in touch via the link on the links page of this site,


Posted By: Lang2595
Date Posted: 07 February 2019 at 7:20pm
HSL 2595
Very interested to read about HSL 2595 on your website in a message in 2006. My father was Flight Lieut. James Fulton Lang, who captained this rescue launch off Sardinia during WWII. I am trying to find out what has happened to this launch, if she is still afloat and if anyone owns her ?
If anyone has any information about this I would really appreciate it as I no longer live in the UK
Thank you,


Posted By: Christian
Date Posted: 13 February 2019 at 4:24pm
Hello Judith
HSL 2595 was on the boatyard at Badalona in May 2018 (Google streetview). 
Probably still in the area.

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