Previous names

  • 1941 - 1947 RML 497
  • 1947 - 2009 Western Lady III
  • 2009 - 2015 The Fairmile
Certificate no 307
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fighting Vessel
Subfunction Launch
Location Hartlepool
Vessel type Fairmile B
Current use Museum based
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No


Builder Southampton Steam Joinery Ltd, Southampton
Built in 1941
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Inboard
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
18.30 feet (5.58 m)
4.59 feet (1.40 m)
Length: Overall
111.93 feet (34.14 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed


WESTERN LADY III was originally ordered for the Royal Navy on 27 August 1941 from Southampton Steam Joinery Ltd, Southampton, and was completed as RML 497 in July 1942 with a Fairmile B hull type. She served with the 62nd ML Flotilla at Portland until January 1944, when she was transferred to Kirkwall on anti-submarine target towing duties, and in August 1944, she was sent to Appledore.

She then joined the 69th ML Flotilla at Felixstowe and was eventually sold at Itchenor in 1947. Although she never fired her guns in anger, she was involved in a commando raid on the Channel Isles following D-Day. Her main duty was to rescue downed aircraft crew, especially if the weather conditions were too rough for RAF Air Sea Rescue launches.

She entered service with the Western Lady Ferry Service, as WESTERN LADY III, in that same year. She was withdrawn at Torbay, but returned to service from Swanage for Fairmile Classic Cruises in August 2007 running five cruises along the Dorset coast daily, apart from Tuesdays when a she took a day trip to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight). She only operated there for one season and by Jun 2009 had been impounded at Poole. She was then purchased by the Greenway Ferry Company, for service in south Devon and returned to Brixham on 26 June 2009.

After a refit at Polruan, Cornwall, and renamed THE FAIRMILE, the vessel started a service in July from Brixham and Torquay to Dartmouth and Greenway, after a very substantial refit. The decision to rename her FAIRMILE is to honour her origins and pedigree as a vessel of the Royal Navy seeing service during the Second World War as RML 497.

In October 2018 it was announced that planning permission was granted for the vessel to be located at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool. She will be barged approximately 400 nautical miles by sea from Southampton Water, arriving at Hartlepool marina where she will then be carefully craned into place alongside the National Museum and placed into a temporary building. Her relocation is in anticipation of a conservation programme to get her on permanent display telling the rich naval story of the coastal forces in the North Sea.


Tripp, G W, The Engineer: Some Interesting Ship Conversions, pp664, December 1948
World Ship Society British Armed Forces Small Craft Historical Society, Survivors Register, 1998
Armstrong, S A, The Fair (Few) Miles: The History of the Western Lady Ferry Service, Western Lady Ferry Service, pp664, December 1948
Hamer, Geoffrey, Trip Out 1995/6 - A Guide to the Passenger Boat Services of the British Isles, G P Hamer, 1995
Motor Boat and Yachting: Model Boats, pp63-5, October 1993
Hobbs, John, Old Glory: Western Ladies, pp14-18, May Edition 63, 1995   
Armstrong, S A, Ships Monthly: The Western Ladies of Torbay, pp16-18, August 1993 
Fricker David, Warship World: Fairmile MLs - some survivors still seagoing, pp15, pp18, Winter 1988  

Key dates

  • 1941

    Vessel built by the Southampton Steam Joinery Co. Ltd as RML 497

  • 1942-1944

    Placed with the 62nd ML Flotilla based at Portland

  • 1944

    Transferred to Kirkwall to be employed in anti-submarine target towing duties

  • 1947

    Vessel sold at Itchenor

  • 1947-2007

    Vessel renamed WESTERN LADY III in operation as a passenger ferry after being refitted as such

  • 2007

    Sold to Blue Max Cruises and left Torbay

  • 2009

    Vessel purchased by Greenway Ferry Company for service in South Devon and returned to Brixham in June.  Renamed THE FAIRMILE in July

  • 2015

    Vessel acquired by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth.


  • 26 October 2015

    £90,600 awarded to the National Museum of the Royal Navy from the Heritage Lottery Fund

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