Capable of a speed of up to 40 knots, 102 took part in the Battle of Britain and together with her fellow launches, rescued more than 13,000 airmen from the sea. HSL 102 herself saved 38 aircrew in 1941 as she patrolled the English Channel during the Battle of Britain, and as a result received a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The inspiration behind these RAF rescue craft was Aircraftsman T E Shaw (better known as Lawrence of Arabia), The dimensions of the launch were 64 LOA with a beam of 14 ft 6 inches, and powered by a trio of Napier Sea Lion engines originally. The range was 500 miles at a speed of 39 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 allowed for “cruising” on the centre engine only, a range extending economy measure which retained a high degree of manoeuvrability.
Today HSL102 is maintained by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.
Boathouse 4 is a new attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, combining an exciting interactive exhibition, traditional boatbuilding training, and a brasserie overlooking the harbour all under one roof. This attraction is free to enter.
The Boathouse was restored and opened to the public with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Regional Growth Fund.
On the ground floor of Boathouse 4, the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) Portsmouth, and Highbury College Portsmouth teach traditional boatbuilding skills and marine engineering. On the upper floor The Forgotten Craft exhibition tells the incredible story of small boats in the British Navy, including the display of several small craft. The exhibition overlooks the main workshop, so visitors can watch real boatbuilding in action.