Museum bosses say arrival of Second World War rescue ship to be restored in Hartlepool will be 'a real spectacle'

Arabella Roberts, Project Director for the transfer of RML 497 from the south coast to Hartlepool.
Arabella Roberts, Project Director for the transfer of RML 497 from the south coast to Hartlepool.

Museum chiefs have welcomed moves that will see a Second World War rescue ship restored in Hartlepool as part of a £1.1m project.

Hartlepool will be welcoming a unique Second World War survivor, Rescue Motor Launch (RML) 497, after planning permission was granted for her to be located at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool.

RML 497 currently berthed on Southampton Water before her 400 nautical mile transfer to The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool

RML 497 currently berthed on Southampton Water before her 400 nautical mile transfer to The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool

RML 497 will undertake her most important journey to date, as she is barged around 400 nautical miles by sea from her current resting place on Southampton Water, arriving at Hartlepool Marina.

The 70-tonnes ship will be cradled onto a submersible barge, transported up the east coast and then 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.

The move has been made possible by a Tees Valley Combined Authority grant of £499,250 which combined with an investment by the National Museum forms part of a larger regeneration project to the value of £1.1 million. The fund is part of the so-called “Northern Powerhouse” initiative and seeks to focus on investments to create new jobs, grow the skills base and improve infrastructure.

The 34ft-long RML 497 has had a varied history, from rescuing fallen airmen in the Second World War to carrying people as a much-loved ferry service in the South West.

She was acquired by the Portsmouth-based National Museum of the Royal Navy in 2015 following a grant of £90,600 from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £5,000 each from the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust and the National Museum.

She was one of the first mass-produced vessels, likened to the modern-day flat pack. Although this type of craft was very much needed by the Royal Navy as the war progressed it was not possible for them to be built in the Admiralty's very busy shipyards. The designs were therefore spread around the small boatyards of the UK, which were well capable of undertaking the construction of these wooden hull craft, quickly and easily.

Rosalyn Adamson, general manager of The National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool, said: “She is an amazing survivor, full of original features, which is incredible for a wooden warship built for service during the Second World War. Her arrival will be a real spectacle and we can’t wait to welcome her on site.

"We are thrilled to have her here and are formulating exciting plans to get her conserved and put on display. There is a really strong story about coastal forces in the north east that can be told through her.”

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news. We’ve worked hard alongside colleagues at the Tees Valley Combined Authority to secure funding for the move and we can’t wait to see RML 497 arrive in Hartlepool.

“Bringing RML 497 to Hartlepool is another important part of our wider regeneration of the Waterfront site and I believe her arrival will help attract more visitors to Hartlepool and grow our visitor economy, supporting businesses and jobs within the area.”