Certificate no 525
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fighting Vessel
Subfunction Launch
Location Portsmouth
Vessel type High Speed Launch
Current use Museum based
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes
Info required No


Builder British Power Boat Co Ltd. Hythe
Built in 1936
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 1
Primary engine type Inboard
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
14.00 feet (6.25 m)
3.50 feet (1.75 m)
Length: Overall
64.00 feet (21.81 m)
Tonnage: Gross
Air Draft
To be confirmed



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 
Brann, Christian, The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 55th Anniversary Supplement, Collectors' Books Ltd, 1995
Classic Boat: Nice weather for ducks, August 1998
Houston, Dan, Classic Boat: Powerful reminder, pp24-29, April 2000 

Key dates

  • 1936

    Built by British Powerboat Company of Hythe

  • 1937

    Entered service with the RAF

  • 1941

    World War II service included 1940 Dunkirk evacuation and air sea rescue

  • 1943

    Transferred to the Royal Navy for target towing duties

  • 1946

    Decommissioned by the Royal Navy

  • 1983-1996

    Found in a derelict condition, rebuilt and restored

  • 1996

    Relaunched by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

  • 2010

    Acquired by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust

  • 2012

    Vessel selected for  Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012


  • 2009

    The National Heritage Memorial Fund awarded £580,000 for the acquisition of this vessel and MTB 102

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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