Certificate no 2025
Status Registered


Function Fighting Vessel
Subfunction Launch
Location Southampton
Vessel type Admiralty Pinnace
Current use Ongoing conservation
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder Royal Naval Yard Portsmouth
Built in 1915
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 2
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Inboard diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
12.00 feet (3.66 m)
4.00 feet (1.22 m)
Length: Overall
43.00 feet (13.12 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



  1. What is the vessel’s ability to demonstrate history in her physical fabric?

Evidence for designs, functions, techniques, processes, styles, customs and habits or uses and associations in relation to events and people.  How early, intact or rare these features are may impact on significance.

DORIAN was built in 1915 at the Royal Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth as a pulling launch rowed by 38 men. She is a 43ft vessel of double diagonal teak timber construction and, has undergone conservation work since 2011 to return her to her 1937 configuration as a motor yacht. 

Her hull as built is largely original and she has a 1915 carving on her stem.  The double diagonal planking can be clearly seen, as can the uprights for the nine rowing thwarts.  However, the original transom has been totally renewed and a new rudder housing fitted. Replacement skegs were cut out of solid Iroko and shaped, and new frames fitted for the new planking. Eroded wood was removed from the keel, exposing the old bolts. New forward bulkheads have been fitted. The interior has been stripped and painted. Re-planking has been completed, rotten wood has been removed from the bow, and new scarfed in-work undertaken.

An engine was first fitted in 1918 and she will have a new engine as part of the conservation programme, although she was originally powered by oar with two masts that could be rigged for sailing.  Since none of her internal fittings survive, she is being completed with modern accommodation and fixtures.

2.  What are the vessel’s associational links for which there is no physical evidence?

Associations with people or places.  Off-ship research.

DORIAN is significant in having historical associations with both World Wars. During the First World War she was used as a harbour launch. She is believed to have been assigned to HMS RESOLUTION in 1915, with the plans showing RESOLUTION carrying two steam picket boats and two pulling launches.  She has international significance from participation in the evacuation of Dunkirk 1940 which has led to her subsequent rescue and conservation by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust.  She has been visited in recent years by the descendant of one of the servicemen she rescued at Dunkirk.

In private ownership as a motor yacht after the Second World War, she cruised both regionally and nationally from: the Thames to Great Yarmouth in the east, and to the south through the Solent to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. She frequently crossed the Channel and spent holidays on the French canals.   She also has a religious connection, being subsequently used by the late Lord Soper, a Methodist minister and president of the Methodist Conference, for a religious revival campaign based on the Dunkirk spirit. She carried a large banner lashed to her guardrails saying ‘Jesus Saves,’ a story reported in the Sunday Times.

DORIAN was recorded on the National Register of Historic Vessels in 2007 and is one of only two 42ft Royal Naval open pulling launches to survive; the other is CYCLOPS.

  1. How does the vessel’s shape or form combine and contribute to her function?

Overall aesthetic impact of the vessel, her lines, material she was built from and her setting.  Does she remain in her working environment?

DORIAN is mono-hulled with a pointed bow and a cruiser shaped stern and has a single deck which reflects her time as a motor cruiser, as do the aft cabin, internal engine and superstructure.  Her sturdy build and beam, plus the double diagonal lower hull and rowing points are from her original build function as a harbour pulling launch.  She was lengthened as part of her conversion to motor cruiser and retains this extended length today.

Source: NHS-UK team, 5 August 2015

This statement was developed as part of the Heritage Lottery funded First World War project. http://www.ww1britainssurvivingvessels.org.uk/


DORIAN was built in 1915 by the Royal Navy as a naval pinnace and is a vessel of timber construction with a Perkins diesel engine. She was sold to a Mr Findlay in 1937 and converted to a cruising yacht. During World War II, she was commandeered by the Navy and took part in the Dunkirk evacuations. Restored to her owner after the war, she was used by the late Lord Soper for a religious revivial campaign based on the Dunkirk spirit which was reported in the Sunday Times.

In 2007, she was undergoing major conservation.  In January 2020 it was reported that DORIAN was now at Port Solent under new ownership and projected to return to the water at the end of February.

This vessel is a survivor from the First World War. You can read more about her wartime history by visiting our First World War: Britain's Surviving Vessels website www.ww1britainssurvivingvessels.org.uk



City of London & Dockland Times  Dunkirk Little Ships, May 2011   
Classic Boat: Navy pinnace set for restoration, August 2011   

Own this vessel?

If you are the owner of this vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information, please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

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