High Speed Launch 102

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High Speed Launch (HSL) 102, commissioned in 1936, is the only 100 class high speed, air-sea rescue launch to survive.

The inspiration behind these RAF rescue craft was Aircraftsman T E Shaw (better known as Lawrence of Arabia), who pressed for the development of a large craft for offshore rescue work.

The prototype vessel, HSL 100, was launched in May 1936 and on trials surpassed all the parameters set by both the builders and the RAF. The air ministry immediately placed further orders. In the event, production of this type ceased after HSL 121 when the remaining 11 craft scheduled for completion in 1941 were switched to the later British Power Boat Company “Whaleback” design which superseded the 100 type for ASR work.

Capable of a speed of up to 38 knots. HSL 102 saved 38 aircrew in 1941 and received a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. HRH The Queen Mother relaunched HSL 102 on completion of her restoration in 1996, 55 years after she had first stepped on board.

The dimensions of the launch are 64 ft. overall with a beam of 14 ft. 6 ins. and powered by a trio of Napier Sea Lion engines. The range was 500 miles at a speed of 38 knots. The two wing engines were inclined to drive directly to the outboard propeller shafts, whilst the centre engine faced the opposite direction and transmitted via a Vee-drive to the centre propeller.

This arrangement was necessary to fit the three large engines into the narrow hull as there is not sufficient space in the boat to position the engines abreast. The accommodation included an officer’s wardroom/sickbay for four and forecastle bunks for eight crew.