Thornycroft 43ft Range Safety Launch - 1650

RSL 1650 was built by Thornycroft at their Thames Hampton Yard as Yard No. 2391, having been ordered in 1955 under contract 6/MC/1483/CB21(a). After trials the craft was accepted by the Royal Air Force and taken on charge on the 9th July 1956./p>

Prior to being taken on charge RSL 1650 had been allocated to 1103 MCU, to serve out of Felixstowe (Voucher No. MC2/601/MC), to replace ST 1514. As she took up her duties at 1103 MCU she joined RSL's 1648 and 1668 for a couple of years, before both of the latter were reallocated elsewhere, leaving RSL 1650 as the sole craft of her type serving at Felixstowe. She was probably the last craft to serve at the base, as she, herself was reallocated a further year later on the 15th June 1959 (Voucher No. MC2/50/MC) to 1107 MCU at Newhaven. She was not replaced at Felixstowe. Based at Newhaven she was to be used by NO. 1 Movement Unit (Embarkation) operating from Woolwich, for almost a year until she was recalled to 238 MU at Calshot on the 8th June 1960. (Voucher No. MC2/32/MC). She was replace by RSL 1664 and after "drying out" and several months in repair/storage, the craft was to be transferred to MCT&SU in February 1961 (Voucher No. MC2/22/61) but she was returned to replace RSL 1664 to serve out of Newhaven with 1107 MCU according to (Voucher No. MC2/9/61) dated 9th February 1961.

Nine months later RSL 1650 was again recalled, but to MCT&SU at RAF Mount Batten for storage on the 24th November 1961 (Voucher No. MC2/102/61). The storage time was very short, as she was transferred to the MCTS at Mount Batten a couple of months later on the 8th January 1962 (Voucher No. MC 3/62) to replace RSL 1656. This in turn was also short lived as the craft was returned to storage at Mount Batten on the 21st March the same year on (Voucher No. MC 24/62). With engines barely cooled off and covers probably even rigged, RSL 1650 was reactivated once more on the 2nd April 1962 on (Voucher No. MC 29/62) to be transferred to 1114 MCU at Ramsey, Isle of Man. The authorisation ws to "fulfil establishment and to replace RSL 1655 ". As it turned out, the 7 year refit of RSL 1655 was deferred and she was replaced by RSL 1658, however RSL 1650 replaced the gap left by 1640 leaving a year earlier. The gapping was only for seven months, as the RSL 1650 was consequently returned to storage at Mount Batten on (Voucher No. 24/62) on the 21st November 1962.

After approximately two years in storage, she was one of four similar RSL's that were surveyed by the PAS organisation, with a view of transferring craft to the PAS service. A PAS letter N/DM 1398/64 dated 21st September 1964 gave approval for the RAF to transfer 3 x RSL's to PAS at Londonderry for the Lough Foyle ferry service to replace the ageing 72ft Hospital Boats numbered 5857 and 37281. The transfer took place on the 25th September 1964, with the craft actually being transferred to the Royal Navy under special terms of issue, i.e. repayment arrangements under liability serial No. F67/446/SPEC/NAVY. RSL 1650 was transferred on an issue voucher IV 842. On transfer to PAS control the RSL was redsignated within the Admiralty Motor Boat numbering sequence, and allocated Motor Boat No. 6476. The craft was also given the name "PINTAIL".

MB 6476 (PINTAIL) On the 26th October 1864 report NS/641/64/15B-26/10/64 indicated that the first of the PAS RSL's was cargo on board the RFA Robert Dundas and that the launch was being discharged at Londonderry. The second RSL was shipped from the 18th to 21st December the year; however the third was reported to be in the new location by the 4th February 1965. Letter DM 1104/65 and FOSNI 103/M. 291/70 of the same date indicated radio equipment spares, drawings and spare propellers were required to maintain the craft on station. Later the same year a note from SNONI indicated that T.C.S. had been fitted to MB 6476. Spares were still being chased on various letters in 1966, and a previous DM 8566/65 indicated, after survey, that the craft had an estimated operational life of over 8 years, hull state was "good" and machinery state "operational" and "good", but awaiting spares. Spare propellers were consigned from the 15th December 1966, 2 to Greenock for 6475 (then just transferred to the Clyde) and four for Londonderry for MB's 6476 and 6474.

Four years later, after continued service out of Londonderry: the craft had been operated in support of the HMS SEA EAGLE J.A.S.S. (Joint Anti-Submarine School), she was transferred on relocation to the Clyde on the 18th September 1970 (DM 489/70). The base at HMS SEA EAGLE had previously closed down on the 24th June the same year. Her role on the Clyde was similar to that at Londonderry, acting as a ferry and passenger transfer craft for staff working with RN submarines based on the Clyde. For this role the MB 6476 was fitted with a small cuddy cabin over the after section of her cockpit, to provide some protection from the weather for personnel and stores carried.

In 1972 MB 6476 was due to be refitted, however a report, DMS 677/71 dated 22nd November 1972, stated that the craft was to be repaired and removed from the PAS Capital Account and that a coastal arrangement was to be made for the shipment of the craft to Plymouth.

MB 6476 was allocated to replace MSMB 5736 at Straight Point Range, Exmouth. The MSMB was requiring a survey and a faster craft was requested to replace her. A second related report, DM 677/71 dated 15th March 1973 further indicated that MB 6476 was to be shipped to the Royal Marines at Straight Point. Events overtook themselves and 6475 (Ex RSL 1645) took over at Straight Point in lieu of 6476 (delayed due to repairs). Consequently MB 6476 arrived at Portsmouth instead, on the 30th April 1973 and was taken on the PAS Capital Account on the 8th May the same year (DMS 5/22/4/73). There may have been a shortfall in MOD Police craft at Portsmouth around the same time, with FL's 6264 and 6760 in refits, as the MOD police acquired or were allocated MB 6476 from around mid 1973.

The craft was re-designated PD 5 by the MOD Police and modified for their use. A pulpit was added to the bows, rubbing strakes were added on both sides of the hull from the stern to approximately half way down her cabin area, and the transom was similarly modified. The strengthening was required for the craft to lie at her new moorings adjacent to the Hard, the location later taken up by HMS WARRIOR. Other additions were a change of radio fit and new aerials to suit, the fitting of pads on her poop decking to accept a pair of davits for a small dinghy carried over her stern and the fitting of a POLICE sign on her cabin roof. The latter required adjustments be made to her mast arrangement and associated rigging. The former RSL was repainted with a dark blue hull, white superstructure and mast and she wore the MOD Police crest on each side of the wheelhouse, just abaft the window/door access to the same. Another visual feature was the addition of rope fenders around the bow and on each of her transom quarters.

PD 5 was in service with the MOD Police at Portsmouth for approximately two years: however a short note on her admiralty card indicated that in 1975/76 she had been damaged and sunk. From the MOD Police, reports are that she was "on a call" in 1976 responding to an emergency, and that when in the vicinity of the ROWAY wreck buoy about a mile off Langstone, she actually hit the wreck, due to the buoy being slightly out of position. Damage was severe: her port shaft having taken the worst of the impact, and the bracket was pushed up through the transom, aft peak and the aft part of her cockpit. Flooding occurred quite rapidly thereafter and PD 5 sank. The normal crew were on board at the time, comprising coxswain Sgt Burt Morris and Constables Peter Stickwell and Chris Ashton. All were rescued and the craft itself was later salvaged by the PAS organisation. According to her Admiralty card, a report DMS 5/45/11/76 dated 26th August 1976, stated the craft was to be taken to the burning ground and destroyed. However, with the craft in Royal Clarence Yard, she was bought by a local PAS pilot, Mr Otley, who had intention to repair the craft using assistance from the Y.T.S. (Youth Training Scheme). The former RSL remained in Royal Clarence Yard for some time, with only one engine fitted, but as the Y.T.S. folded up, his assistance failed to materialise. Although full details are as yet to be confirmed, the craft was sold on by Mr Otley to another local owner. The launch was then taken to her new home - in the back yard of her new owner's house, somewhere in the Waterlooville area. There she remained for several years as a "back garden project" that was never completed.

The next chapter of the RSL 1650 started in the 1980's with the new development of the Hythe Marina Village complex, between Hythe and Marchwood in Southampton Water. The contractors, Dean & Dyball, were well into developing the site when Mt Jeff Phillips and Mr Richard Redihoff were tasked to locate and acquire suitable ojects of a nautical nature to spread around the new marina complex, to add effect. £1 million was allocated for the task, and amongst the nautical ephemera acquired were an ex RNLI Lifeboat and the launch from the backyard of a house in Portsmouth. Ex-RSL 1650 was taken to the Marina site and refurbished for her new role. The hull with additional rubbing strakes, pulpit and the remains of her MOD Police crests were still visible, was sighted on the 2nd November 1988. Subsequently the hull side "rubbers" were removed, however the transom section remained and the craft was repainted. The person tasked with repainting RSL 1650 back to her service colour scheme, including RAF insignia, was Mr Nigel Lanning. He painted up her numbers, "as he found them" and the craft suddenly changes to RSL 1652. The impostor was in position as "1652" by September 1989 and was still there nearly 10 years later in early 1999.

Since 1999 the former RSL 1650 has remained at Hythe Marina, however over the years up to 2003 the "exhibit" has been subjected to several attacks of vandalism and her condition is deteriorating.

All background information supplied courtesy of Terry Holtham.