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Airborne Lifeboats

Ed Russell

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  • 4 weeks later...

Good Evening to you all. I've deliberated over contacting you regarding the specifications etc requested on the airborne lifeboat's.

So apologies for any toes that feel stepped on.

Firstly the request by Steve on the differences between models.

The MK1 (Hudson) Total production 71 & MK1a (Warwick)  Total production 403 are O.L 23'2"  and W.L 22' and both are constructed the same the only difference between them is the gunwales shape (altered to suit the fuselage of each aircraft). Both models are built twin skin mahogany interspaced with treated calico cloth, internally diagonal & external carvel planked and use two Britannia Middy 4hp engines mounted through the their hulls.

The MK2 (Warwick) Total production 144 & MK2a (Lancaster) Total production 97 NOTE! all of which where converted from the MK2's are O.L 30'2" and W.L 30' and again constructed the same this time the height of the gunwales and necessary construction increased the weight of the 2a. Both models again this time built treble skin mahogany with the treated cloth, internally double diagonal & external carvel planked, each was fitted with an Austin 8hp marinised engine.

The MK3 (Shackleton) Total production 56 are O.L 31' and W.L 30' and was constructed from riveted aluminium with a single Vincent HRD engine.

The Barracuda model known officially as RN1  :

The RN1 (Barracuda) Total production 24(ish) O.L 17'9" and W.L not known, this boat was a stand alone model constructed for the F.A.A and so not converted from any of the others. It was again CARVEL built of twin skin mahogany planks with the calico cloth between exactly the same as the MK1's, again it like the MK1 & 1a was powered by a single Britannia Middy which was remotely stored and then mounted in position by the crew once waterborne .

To clarify all of the production wooden boats where mahogany planked hulls and support frameworks but used water resistant plywood (marine) on the bulkheads, decks & hatch covers.

Further to your request Steve, I can confirm that Hendon's boat is a MK1a and if you study the web pictures you can see the copper nails used ON ALL of the wooden boats to construct them which are "clenched" through the stringers in side the hull. And yes you are correct on the multiple boat yard construction to the Uffa Fox design which obviously included his own yard. One of the firms being Taylor Woodrow who constructed some of caissons used during D.Day and later built " Canary Wharf". Sadly I have no knowledge of Fairey Marine being involved in the construction of the production models.

Secondly to try & answer the other questions. Using the two photos at the top of this request. The boat nor aircraft is fitted with any trapeze arrangement to help with its drop. Someone as suggested and correctly identified that what is showing is oil staining from the engine. This is due if this modification wasn't carried out. "I quote" Fit rubber hose extensions to all oil exhaust pipes when shipping the boat, ensure that they are positioned so as to prevent the interior of the boat from becoming saturated with oil. And secondly the metal strip which as been mentioned is actually a shroud plate (both sides) they would have shroud lines fixed to them & the parachute suspension cables (they help to stabilise during drop)..Just to confirm that the main parachute strops are mounted to strong points on the centre line of the boat. The small angled bar seen at the boats stern are attached to the stabiliser fins. These are released by the boat crew members after alighting. If you study the 2nd photo the aircraft doesn't have the fins fitted but the wooden channel visible at the stern is the slot for them to slide in. Just for those interested  only the MK1a of the wooden boats & the MK3 used the same system. These fins are there to aid with the drop. they are supposed to stop the stern rising and damaging the underside of the aircraft on release. Also the boat was fitted with three Schermuly rockets the bow one carried out the drogue during the drop (oblong slots) and the two rear ones of which protrude through the hull just under the gunwales, you can just make out the exit position on the  2nd image (on the backside of the guy under the wing) these carry out the floating lines after touch down.

Finally (I think), yes the boat was mounted from a fixing bracket of the same design as all the rest (like the Hudson Ed). The torpedo crutch is removed and a assembly adapter for the airborne lifeboat as been fitted to the aircraft torpedo suspension beam . I will try to find an image for this.


Thanks for taking the time to read this , I hope it helps.


Regards, Nev (Dinghy Cole).


Finally   (I think) The 


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Hello again everyone,

Apologise for the slow follow up. This would have been easier with pictures, unfortunately I wanted to attach images from my own collection (not from a website) but don't know how. 

So I've tried to keep it brief.  How the boat is mounted to the aircraft, the following is an abridged version .

Along the centre-line of the boat, beneath the deck and joining the latter to the keel is a mahogany keelson. Secured on each side on the keelson near the after end of the centre-board slot is a wooden block, drilled & shaped to receive the bomb-release attachment & tension nut's fitted at 6ft 9in aft the bow (Ed, like the Hudson). When the attachment is inserted it's bolts extend to just shy of the bottom of the boat to receive the tension nuts coming through the hull from below ,these incorporate tubular internal threaded extensions which when coupled with steel plates (shaped to suit) at both ends protect the hull and also provide the means for final adjustments on shipping , that is they are tightened to bring the gunwales of the boat against the fuselage. A small door fitted on the starboard side of the boat (sort of visible in the 1st picture just forward of the swivel ladder bolted on the side) provides access to inside the hull to the release attachment when the boat is shipped or unshipped. The boat is attached directly to the E.M. release unit (over to you chaps for that one). The boat is freed by pressing the bomb release switch. To facilitate shipping etc and moving the boat a trolley is provided , its design obviates the use of the standard type winching equipment as the complete trolley is raised or lowered by jacks .


Before shipping check are to be made to ensure that the carrier aircraft is adapted to receive it. In instances with Modification 565 is incorporated ensure that the assembly adapter for airborne lifeboats has been fitted to the aircraft torpedo suspension beam. Ensure that the E.M release unit operates correctly by cocking selecting No16 (single & salvo) making the master switch and firing in the usual manner. The test should be repeated two or three times.

On completion of the forgoing checks prepare the boat for shipping. As follows: Slacken the tension nuts on the "Bomb release attachment (do not remove them completely) and raise it as high as possible.

Ensure that static lines to the operating head C,O2/safety switch & delay switches are free from obstructions etc. (includes prepping all of the release functions) that's another story.  

Place the prop in a position to enables the boat to pass under the fuselage, position the boat so that the bomb release attachment is directly under the E.M release unit. Raise the boat evenly with the screw jacks fitted at each end of the trolley and after support chock until the bomb release attachment engages with the E.M unit on the aircraft. Engage the bomb release attachment from in side the aircraft or via the access door ( on the side of the hull). Connect the parachute static line, continue jacking up the boat till its gunwales touch the fuselage, make sure it lines up fore & aft and side to side. Then finally tighten the tension nuts through the hull. 

So as you can see the normal torpedo wire strop is not used & the boat is only slung by one fixing . I have an image to show you if I could attach it.



Thanks again. Nev Dinghy Cole.

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here are the pictures @Dinghy Cole refers to, with his captions


Fig   7 is the boat slung whilst still on the trolley.


Fig   5 shows the deck layout with Fig 17 in the centre of shot.


Fig 17 is the bomb release attachment.


Fig 18 is the trolley with jack arrangement.


Fig 000 is an actual bomb release attachment on a MK1a  (they varied in height & size depending on the weight of the boat).


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Dinghy Cole - excellent information - I hope you may be able to help me.

I volunteer at the Museum of the Broads and we have a Mk1 on which we are enhancing the display. Trolling online has found masses of info and some pics but the Schermuly floating lines launching apparatus less so. Do you have, or can you point me in the direction of, any details or pics for that apparatus.

It is stowed on the port side of the boat ( unlike the Mk1a at Hendon, central) and presumedly, would be stowed with the rocket launchers ‘down’, until landing in the sea and then released into the firing position. Its general construction, I imagine, would be similar to the Mk1a using spring tension, so are they released by a inertia type release and fired electrically or released electrically and fired by the launcher striking a firing pin when sprung into the ‘up’ position? The Schermuly history site has helped me model a rocket, based on the extended Very pistol, but the same as the floating lines rocket.

To establish my modelling credentials, from the items of equipment stowed on the Mk1, I have reproduced a T1333 transmitter, Bigsworth chart board, Molens 1” flare gun, Everhot bags and Mk2 smoke floats plus a few smaller items still on the ‘bench’.

Anyone on this forum with any info would also be great fully received.







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Afternoon Ted,

I will do my best to answer your question.

Firstly if my memory serves me well, the lifeboat you have is actually a MK1a . (sorry)  I do know that the deck arrangement for the rockets as been built as though a MK1 boat. The raised area that surrounds the rockets  create a recess which as you know give a perfect area for the launching apparatus. Sadly I don't have an image showing the dischargers, so I will try an do this with a description of the operational function.

The transverse rocket and elevating mechanism consists of a spring loaded ratchet(s) (I believe there to be one at the base of each.) which as the effect of raising & locking the tubes @ 40 degree's above the horizontal (pointing over the gunwales either side) on release. When the ratchet is disengaged this will allow the tubes & rockets to be pressed down into the recess. Both rockets are to be held down by hand  during the loading. Once under the aircraft and after raising the boat to meet the fuselage they will raise automatically to the restricted height (space available) . All three rockets & heads as you have said are the same, the bow one (attached to drogue) is operated by a mercury level switch (4-way front-back  /L&R). when the boat is released from the aircraft it takes a bow down attitude which was caused by the way the boat/parachutes strops where arranged, this causes the mercury to rise and complete the circuit so firing the bow rocket taking with it the drogue & rope . At the same time the two transverse rockets would now rise on the ratchet (40deg) too their required height, but would not fire until the boat was water borne, when the immersion switch which was fitted under the hull on the starboard side would complete it's circuit in conjunction with the level switch (now L&R) which then as you have rightly said sends an electrical feed so firing the cartridges fitted into the base of the tubes before the rockets are inserted. Sending the rockets & the 175 yards of buoyant rope on each to port & starboard, thus giving a floating life line to any dinghy borne aircrew .


Ted I hope this help's 


Nev Dinghy Cole. 


I've  just attempted to add an image if it hasn't worked here is the webpage. 


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Many Thanks Nev.

When making something with only pictures for reference, eg T1333 transmitter, I like to understand how it works so that I can work out the details.

Your description certainly does that and together with the picture, I can see the spring mechanism tucked into the corner of the recess, and can make a reasonable assumption of what it needs to resemble. Just to clarify, the rocket ratchets are not locked down but raise when released from the aircraft?

I take it you have been to visit us, you sound familiar with our boat. I believed it to be a Mk 1 from lack of aft fin slot and as for distinguishing the gunwales for a Hudson or Warwick???

Guidance was provided by one of our members who served his apprenticeship building these and Mk2’s at a local yard during late WW2 and the deck arrangement is taken from Air Diagram 3983 Mk1 Equipment.

When I suss how to attach some images of items I produced for the display, I’ll post.

Once again, thank you.









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Hello Ted,

To clarify with reference to the ratchet arrangement . Yes they are held down only by pressure from above & return to operating height when the boats released. I have given this a little more thought since sending you the last email. I can't confirm this BUT, if your are able to view on-line the ratchet arrangement used on the Flixton Museum boat which as two ratchet/brackets secured bolted back to back (this arrangement is correct for MK1a models).  Well I believe this to be a modification of the MK1 brackets that would have had one unit placed in opposite corners of the recess with the rockets appearing like crossed swords from a side view.

Regarding the missing aft fin slots, these where more then likely removed at the time she was converted from " airborne lifeboat" to "dinghy sail training" this involved the removal of the engines & buoyancy chambers and rescue equipment deemed not required as for a purely sailing craft. She would have retained her drop keel / rudder & mast & sails obviously. On checking records I see her RAF keel/craft number is AR9, she was later to numbered 4036 which puts her in the 1st batch converted from 4030-4067 (circa 09/46). The use as training aids only lasted to 1950 when they where sold to the RAF Sailing Association.

 I Also need to work out how to include/post images on the site.

If your not desperate & I can eventually work it out I have an image from a AP showing the MK1a bracket as an illustration & you maybe able to use it.


Yes me & my wife stayed in Suffolk in 2019 & visited your museum & had a lovely  trip on your little electric chugger.


Regards, Nev.

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Hello Ted,

This is the image I mentioned in the last email. I haven't worked out how to add test to it yet. 

I did mean to ask. Where you involved in the rebuild of the lifeboat or are you now the custodian? If possible I would like to see your modelling efforts on items she would have carried.

We may need to contact each other by other means (not wanting to bore the other users).  


Regards, Nev Dinghy Cole.

If I can help with anything else please let me know.


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Hi Nev

Wow, lots of interesting info there - some of which I’ll be discussing with Nicola, our curator about how authentic to the keel number we should be.
I’m not in a hurry, the line launchers will be put on hold as we have to build and move reception to the boat shed next door as soon as we’re allowed back and complete the archive store upgrades. I have studied the Flixton images, which give me quite a good idea of the construction, but if you could send the AP image that would be excellent.

It would have been interesting to chat with you when you visited - we are open to learning too!

I seem to have managed posting images from Flickr by copying and pasting the URL address directly in to the text and not using the ‘Insert image’ box - don’t know if that’s correct but it seems to work.

A couple of images from my completed lifeboat display work.

Many thanks



EDE10DE4-808D-43AA-AB6B-4D7544F8E511 4A91CE5E-A83D-44A9-AFC7-7621CBCDD092 FCB8122C-6808-4902-AF4A-CF8371622ABA


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Your obviously a prolific and able model maker per say. I bet apart from the weight you couldn't tell the difference of the T1333 transmitter against a real one (it is an heavy lump).

When you made the Bigsworths chart board did you include the little canvas pouch and wooden block & loop string ? For holding the pencils and the loop retains the swivel arm looping over to the front.

I will send you an image if not. (via other means).. Keep a look out for flare cartridge tins, they are little RED coloured tins which accept three flares, the boat would have carried 18 tins = 54 flares.

I will contact you soon via your other address.


Regards, Nev.



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  • 5 months later...

Hi Ed

John Fox Aviation Illustrator here.


I have just started to illustrate a Mk1 boat on a Lanc do you possibly have the length measurement I cannot see it on the GA.


Any help would be great





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Hi John

First I have to say that the Mk1 was fitted to the Hudson Bomber. The Lanc carried the Mk2a which has a different hull. It’s length is 30ft and it has a single prop In a tunnel where as the Mk1 and 1a had twin outboard drive units mounted forward of the midship point. Hopefully attached is a photo borrowed from the Facebook page of the Airborne Lifeboat Mk2a Restoration. There’s some good reference pics to help.





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18 hours ago, John S Fox said:

Hi Ed

John Fox Aviation Illustrator here. I have just started to illustrate a Mk1 boat on a Lanc do you possibly have the length measurement I cannot see it on the GA.

Hello John - To attract someones' attention you need to put a @ in front of their name. Like @John S Fox. Nev has answered the question - the Mk I Lifeboat was only on the Hudson. The Lancaster ASR used the larger Mk 2A Lifeboat.

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