HSL 102

High Speed Launch built 1936 by British Power Boat Co Ltd. Hythe

Ensign House flag


National Historic Fleet

Fighting Vessel


High Speed Launch


Museum based






Web site









To be confirmed

14.00 feet (6.25 metres)

64.00 feet (21.81 metres)

3.50 feet (1.75 metres)



HSL 102, the only survivor of the 100 class in the UK, was launched in 1936 and was one of the very first, fast offshore rescue boats in service with the Royal Air Force. She was one of the most technologically advanced production craft of the day, the brainchild of Hubert Scott-Paine. From his powerboat racing days, he developed the concept of fast planing 'hard chine' powerboats. He realised that boats which travelled over the surface of the water could travel more quickly and more efficiently than those which travelled through.

Of mahogany double-diagonal construction, she was powered by three Napier Sea Lion petrol engines. During the Battle of Britain, she was mostly based at Blyth, Northumberland. Her war service also included periods based on the Firth of Forth at Calshot. In two months in 1941, she rescued thirty-eight aircrew from the North Sea, including the crews of two German bombers. As a result, she was inspected by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in July 1941.

When working off Calshot, she was damaged by a Messerschmitt 109 and her radio operator was killed. In 1943, she transferred to the Royal Navy for target towing, and paid off in 1946. She became a houseboat in Mill Creek at Darmouth and was in a sorry state when acquired for restoration. The extensive work needed was carried out by Powerboat Restorations at Fawley between 1993 and 1996. Three six-cylinder 420-bhp Cummins diesels were installed, giving a top speed of about 38knots.

On 5 July 1996, HSL 102 was relaunched at Fawley by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and was subsequently based at Lymington, Hampshire. In late 2009, she moved to Portsmouth following her acquisition by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, with the help of a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated Mar 2011.

World Ship Society British Armed Forces Small Craft Historical Society, Survivors Register (1998)
Christian Brann, The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 55th Anniversary Supplement (1995) pub: Collectors' Books Ltd
Classic Boat (August, 1998) Nice weather for ducks
Dan Houston, Classic Boat (April, 2000, pp24-29) Powerful reminder

Subsequent Developments

  1. 1 May 2012 Vessel was taken in hand at Universal Marina, Sarisbury Green, on River Hamble, in September 2011 for re-engining by Mermaid Marine, of Poole. Three new FPT Iveco (not Fiat as first reported), six-cylinder diesel engines, each developing 400HP, have been fitted and her gearboxes have been overhaulsed. She made 30 knots on sea trials. The work was completed in April 2012 and she has returned to Portsmouth. Source: Paul Brown, May 2012
  2. October 2012 Vessel's been out of the water in the month and had her propellers changed along with some ongoing maintenance. She completed sea trials shortly after completion. Source: Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT) Newsletter, Oct 2012

Key dates

  1. 1936 Built by British Powerboat Company of Hythe
  2. 1937 Entered service with the RAF
  3. 1941 World War II service included 1940 Dunkirk evacuation and air sea rescue
  4. 1943 Transferred to the Royal Navy for target towing duties
  5. 1946 Decommissioned by the Royal Navy
  6. 1983-1996 Found in a derelict condition, rebuilt and restored
  7. 1996 Relaunched by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
  8. 2010 Acquired by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust
  9. 2012 Vessel selected for  Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012


  1. 1995 The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 55th Anniversary Supplement - Brann, Christian
  2. 1998 Survivors Register - World Ship Society British Armed Forces Small Craft Historical Society
  3. 1998 Classic Boat Nice weather for ducks
  4. 2000 Classic Boat Powerful reminder


  1. 2009 The National Heritage Memorial Fund awarded £580,000 for the acquisition of this vessel and MTB 102
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

hawse eye:

tubular metal fitting in the bows of a vessel through which the anchor cable passes