Registration number 1882
Status Registered

Previous names

  • 1978 - 1998 La Rochelle


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Lifeboat
Location Hartlepool
Vessel type Watson 46 Class Lifeboat
Current use Ongoing conservation
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No


Builder White, J Samuel & Co Ltd, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Built in 1938
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
12.75 feet (3.89m)
Length: Overall
46.00 feet (14.03m)


Built in 1939 by J Samuel White & Co, THE PRINCESS ROYAL assisted in the rescue of the first Spitfire Pilot shot down in action by the Germans. Flt. Lt. W. Ryder was on patrol off Redcar when he spotted and opened fire on a Heinkel 111 twin engined bomber. He hit the port engine and the Heinkel ditched, however not before it damaged the Spitfire's engine, which was also forced to ditch nearby. Flt. Lt. Ryder was awarded the D.F.C. and continued his service throughout the war, and retired as Group Captain in 1960. She served served as the Hartlepool lifeboat from 1939 until 28 April 1968. She arrived there new from the makers and was christened by Princess Alice in 1941.

On 20th January 1941, The Princess Royal Lifeboat rescued 5 crew from the forward section of the S.S. Hawkwood, which broke in half in very rough seas off Hartlepool. The Lifeboat was awarded the R.N.L.I. Gold Medal (equivalent to the V.C. One of only 39 Lifeboats to receive this distinction) for courage, bravery and determination during three rescues.

During her career as a working lifeboat, The Princess Royal saved a total of 122 lives (94 off Hartlepool) and  the coxain received the first of two gold medals and a bronze medal.

After leaving Hartlepool in 1968, The Princess Royal then became a reserve lifeboat and served at many stations including Humber, Kirkall, Stromness, Lerwick, St Peter Port, Falmouth, Weymouth, Dunbar, Torbay and Exmouth, ending her career in the Orkneys before de-commissioning in Plymouth in 1976.

She was sold into private ownership to a Mr McCarthy of Cardiff, who then sold her to a Mr K. Osbourne who kept her for 20 years. Following Mr Osbourne's death in 1998 his wife Christine and family donated the boat back to the people of Hartlepo

The Princess Royal returned to Hartlepool from Barry Island, South Wales in Easter 2000 for restoration.

Key dates

  • 1939

    Watson class motor lifeboat built by J. Samuel White and Co. Ltd, Cowes, Isle of Wight

  • 3.4.1940

    Assisted rescue ditched RAF spitfire pilot

  • 21.7.1940

    Dedicated by HRH Princess Royal

  • 26.1.1941

    Rescue crew SS Hawkswood, Awarded RNLI Gold Medal 

  • 1939-1968

    Served as Hartlepool lifeboat

  • 1968-1976

    Served as reserve lifeboat

  • 29.4.2000

    Relocated from Barry Island to Hartlepool. Start of restoration 

  • 1.2.2001

    Entered into Register NRHS 

  • 23.9.2004

    Relaunched after restoration 

  • 11.10.2004

    Re-dedicated by present Princess Royal


  • June 2012

    A Sustainability grant of £500 for training was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships. Source: National Historic Ships UK

  • June 2009

    A Sustainability Grant of £600 for a survey was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships


Ward, Jonathan, The Hartlepool Mail Ferry plan for Former Lifeboat, 2000

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