Rescue Motor Launch 497 arrived at the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool at the end of January 2019 and has been safely under cover in our carpark ever since.
The Second World War boat was in very poor condition and could not stay afloat any longer, so she was rescued in the nick of time.
She is one of very few remaining now, so we have been working to dry her out and get her in the best condition we can for future display.
One of the first jobs was to clear the old seaweed, barnacles and mussels from the boat’s hull. This was a messy, smelly job, but we had help from a team of enthusiastic volunteers and it was important to do it before it all dried out and set like concrete.
In the summer months of 2019, a few volunteers also opened up the roller shutters to show the boat to visitors and passersby.
While that was happening, some work on board was taking place too including moisture monitoring and fungicide treatments; the onboard work has been difficult as access is only by a ladder, so any equipment had to be either taken up in a rucksack or hauled up in a bucket on a rope!
We have learnt a lot more about RMLs since having 497 on site, thanks to some great images we have received from people whose fathers served on them, and a batch of papers purchased at auction, which came from an ex-skipper (captain) of one of these boats.
Furthermore, to show visitors how she used to look, a fantastic ‘cutaway’ image was commissioned from artist, Roger Hutchins, for the side of the building.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy commissions Conservation Management Plans (CMPs) for all our historic ships and boats.
This document is important as it contains detailed research about each vessel and outlines why and how the ship or boat is significant – this could include one or more of the following: age, rarity, construction methods and historic associations.
It also includes details of the condition of the vessel and contains policies and timetables for future care and maintenance.
RML 497’s CMP told us that the boat is very fragile and brittle in certain areas, even more so now the timbers are partly dried out, so we plan to have a full structural survey this year.
The vessel is currently sitting on a steel cradle, but it needs some more support at the stern end where the weight of the metal rudder and propellers makes it vulnerable; the Museum’s own shipwrights will do this work.
In the two years she has been at Hartlepool, RML 497 has made quite an impact. It is curious how we can become attached to these old ships and boats, and we all look forward to seeing the work progress so she can one day go on public display in her full glory.
Photograph of officers on board RML 499 during the Second World War. Taken by John Derrick, a Sick Berth Attendant on the boat. Given to the Museum by his son, John Derrick, in 2019.