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Royal Air Force Rescue Launch, 1943

December 19, 2013 in Ships

Built by the British Power Boat Company, the 67′ Air Sea Rescue “Whaleback” boats were used by the RAF in WWII to rescue downed pilots. The design of these rescue craft was an adaptation of a motor gun boat developed by the Royal Navy. After numerous rescues in the English Channel, these small craft earned a great reputation amongst their crew members and the pilots they saved. Primarily seeing service along the English coast, some boats were sent to bases in the Mediterranean and others to the coast of India. At 21.5 tons these wooden boats carried a nine man crew that included a medic and was commanded by a Flight lieutenant. Powered by 3 Napier Sea Lion (1500 HP) engines, the boat’s top speed was 36 knots. Originally armed with two small caliber machine guns, wartime battles with German E Boats had the tiny vessels guns upgraded to a 20mm cannon on the stern and a 50cal on the bow. In addition, sandbags were placed around the bridge and cabin area as “armor”. The boat’s distinctive paint scheme is reminiscent of a “peacetime” color scheme but it’s yellow deck and gloss black hull was to identify it as a rescue craft to both friend and foe alike. Downed allied pilots, as well as axis pilots were snatched from the Channel’s frigid waters, the boats living up to the Service’s motto: “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”.

The Model

Introduced in the late 1970’s Airfix’s rescue boat is a typical offering of the period. At 1:72 scale, the boat was molded in light blue gray and went together very well in terms of fit. I purchased this model in 1980 but for one reason or other, it never got built. Over time I “looted” the kit for small boat parts for other boat models. By 2008 only the hull, decals, and part of the cabin remained. About this time, I read an article about these “colorful” boats and remembered the remnants I had in a junk box. I gathered what was left and began construction starting with a scratch built bridge. I added scratch built guns, star shell projectors (yellow tubes on the bow), cut open the door to the cabin and added bunks as well as medical cabinets, deck toe rail, new masts, radio antennas, life raft and equipment, datum buoys (long poles with flags to check water current when on a search), new propellers and rudders, new sandbags from clay, new scramble nets, ammo lockers, life rings and other odds and ends, the original kit was really stripped! It was painted with Tamiya rattle can paint and finished using the kit’s water slide decals. I couldn’t believe they didn’t disintegrate in water. They were applied with no problems and looked great after being 28 years old!

10 additional images. Click to enlarge

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15 responses to Royal Air Force Rescue Launch, 1943

  1. Top notch build there Mike. Some great scratch building details added,
    Nice paint job to, well done sir.

  2. Excellent build Mike. You have me looking at my Vosper and PT kits. Nice presentation as well.

  3. Another winner from Mr. Maynard.

  4. Yet another exemplary maritime offering… to see your display area sometime.

  5. Yep, that is cool. The boat is cool enough but the revitalization is amazing. Great paint and detail.

  6. Another exceptional craft Mike. That last shot really shows this boats sexy lines.

  7. Beautiful job, Mike. Some really nice additions, too. You should spend more time resurrecting your “junk” box, if this is the result !

  8. color is your trade mark…i knew it was you…as craig said i’ll bet it’s a beautiful display

  9. Mike ,this is great I love it when one of us posts something different , I remember this one from being a kid , though some would say I still am, I seem to remember it with aircraft style glazed gun turrets are they optional ? I definitely want one of these and a vosper and an E- boat and a Severn class lifeboat and……Oh well we can all see where this is going, Santa baby put an Airfix under the tree -for me.

    • Neil
      thanks for the kind words…yes, the kit came with the “glazed” gun turrets but as I mentioned in the narrative, I used every part on another project. The glass turrets were used on a vacuform “Coronado” flying boat I built in 1981,they were perfect for the nose and tail turret. I took a little artistic license with the boat, I couldn’t find anything close to those “odd” shaped glass domes. And it’s funny, I have the E boat and Severn lifeboat to build, one of these days…Christmas Cheers!

  10. Hello Mike. Very nice build and congratulations with your success in scratch building all the missing parts. It certainly is colourful and it inspires to continue to have more success with the rattle cans, since I am not yet using an airbrush.

  11. Hey Mike,
    Another in your series of “Killer Builds”. Absolutely love the skill and quality of your work.

  12. Mike, this is very, very nice, amazing what you have done with what little was left of the original kit.

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