Watch: Historic RAF rescue boat gets new lease of life as it is lovingly restored
- Credit: Archant
As the world prepares to remember those who have died in conflicts, a relic of the Second World War which saved the lives of dozens of aircrew is being restored on the Suffolk coast.
The former RAF air/sea rescue craft is being restored to its original condition at Felixstowe Ferry – and now looks just as it did when in service during the early 1940s.
It has been restored over the last two years by Tony Rose, who lives near Ipswich, and a couple of friends. It is now complete except for the fitting of its engines.
The vessel, which was never named during the war, was originally built in 1938 as a seaplane lighter at Hythe in Kent for the Royal Navy. It would take crews out to seaplanes and was also used to take out engineers to service them.
It was originally fitted with two Rolls Royce Merlin engines – the same type used on Spitfires and, later, on Lancaster bombers – but these were replaced later in its life.
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When war broke out vessels like this were transferred to the RAF and were used to pick up crews who were forced to ditch or parachute out of their aircraft over the North Sea or English Channel – it played a vital role in ensuring aircrews were able to return to action as soon as possible.
It remained in service with the RAF until 1957 when its history becomes rather unclear.
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Mr Rose said: “We know it was used to save the lives of RAF crew but we are still trying to find out where exactly it was based – there were boats like this based along the North Sea and English Channel.
“It was retained by the RAF until 1957 when it was disposed of. It ended up at Beccles – many of these boats were converted into Broads cruisers.”
Mr Rose bought it two years ago as a restoration project after its previous owner had done considerable work. He and two friends have now completed its cosmetic restoration and are just waiting to refit its engines before it can go to sea again.
In the meantime, however, the vessel now looks just as it did during the Battle of Britain – just in time for the commemorations of the centenary of the end of the First World War.
It is currently moored at Felixstowe Ferry at the mouth of the Deben which is opposite Bawdsey Manor – the key World War Two radar station.