Well, RML – Rescue Motor Launch – 497 is hardly a baby, having seen sterling service in WWII, but she’s getting exemplary cradling. This (picture) is what she will rest in from now on – and importantly, on her way to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool. The cradle was designed by Malin Marine of Glasgow – and what they had to take into account above all was how she would fare in potentially rough late winter seas on her way, in a special barge. The key point about 497 is how much of her has been preserved, and for anyone in any heritage sector that’s what must, must be saved. As the cradle sat on the dockside in Southampton, all working on the project knew very well how important it was to get this completely right…
As RML (Rescue Motor Launch) 497 was prepared for her epic journey north – under tow in a special barge – we talked to her “mother”, Arabella Roberts (picture), who’s kept 497 alive and as well for 3 long years, as the Fairmile’s future was planned in great detail. Not least of course by Arabella herself, (picture) who as Historic Ships Manager at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth cared for her charge at a mooring on Southampton’s River Itchen. It was nothing if not a long haul – 3 years in all. With shipwright colleagues, Arabella pumped and patched, checked and re-checked to ensure 497 would make it to her new home at NMRN Hartlepool safely. As Arabella told us (catch our second film about 497 at https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/fairmile-2/ ) : “It’s great to see she’s just as excited and game for this project as I am!”
Anyone who’s ever owned any kind of ship or boat knows well how fast deterioration can set in if the vessel isn’t being used the way she was intended. Witness the foliage RML 497 has acquired! (Picture.) So the team at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) had their work cut out to get her ready to voyage to her new home at their base in Hartlepool – where she’ll begin her new future, telling her and the Royal Navy’s WWII story to a new audience. This last surviving Fairmile motor launch has certainly endured many problems since she was taken out of service down in Devon – The NMRN are working hard and fast to sort everything out – rescuing her just as she rescued downed airmen at sea in her wartime service. Hang in there, 497!!
A sight never to be seen again… RML (Rescue Motor Launch) 497 in her natural home, the sea… or at least on a gateway to the wide ocean, the Itchen at Southampton, where the river opens out into Southampton Water. She’s under tow on the first stage of her final voyage, which will see the Fairmile taken to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool to develop what the museum has to offer, enabling them to tell the story of the RN in the second world war through the history of coastal forces. This will add to their present offer, the history of the 18th and 19th century navy – told through their heritage ship HMS Trincomalee – a superbly preserved frigate, launched in India in 1817, with 60% of her original timbers still intact. A new beginning for both the museum and 497.
One thing that really helps when you’re filming is having the enthusiastic co-operation and support of those you’re filming. In the case of HMS ’Victory’, Maritime Films UK been really lucky – starting with the project’s engineering whizzkids, ML (UK) of Portsmouth, and going through the painters and shipwrights working on her, all the way up to the management in the National Museum of the RN – Andrew Baines, Matthew Sheldon and Arabella Roberts. They’ve been steadfast in their support, though under great pressure every day managing numerous just-can’t-fail projects, as well as the running of the Museum itself. This (picture) is our latest Good Guy – Tom Bates, who’s relatively new to the project, but a great help on location. Here he’s explaining the monitoring bay, high up on the edge of ‘Victory’s dock. Just… don’t step back Tom..!
Someone had to do it. As the cutting of the first of HMS ‘Victory’s giant steel cradles proceeded, with infinite care, it was very important to check whether any heat was building up on the inward side of the action – down deep in the hold. Dark and close in there for the young guy looking after it hour after hour into the night (much of the work on ‘Victory’ is being done late and early – she’s staying open to the public throughout the two decades-plus of the work on her – as England Expects..!) Here Leon is operating an infra-red monitor, which will warn him if anything is getting too warm. Vital work, because the whole ship is highly flammable – old, dry timbers, paint, cordage, caulking –all of it ever ready to burn. No-one can forget what happened to ‘Cutty Sark’…
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.
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