Motor Launch

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Motor Launch ML 59.jpg
WW I Motor Launch - ML 59
Class overview
Builders: Elco
Operators:  Royal Navy
Built: 1915–1918
In commission: 1915–1920s
Completed: 580
General characteristics ML.1-50 series
Type: Motor launch
Displacement: 34 t
Length: 75ft
Propulsion: Petrol engine
Speed: 19 kn (35 km/h)
Complement: 8
General characteristics ML.51-550 series
Type: Motor launch
Displacement: 37 t
Length: 86ft
Propulsion: Petrol engine
Speed: 19 kn (35 km/h)
Complement: 6
General characteristics ML.551-580
Type: Motor launch
Displacement: 37 t
Length: 80ft
Speed: 19 kn (35 km/h)
Complement: 8

A motor launch (ML) is a small military vessel in Royal Navy service. It was designed for harbour defence and submarine chasing or for armed high-speed air-sea rescue. Some vessels for water police service are also known as motor launches.

World War I service

Although small by naval standards, it was larger than the preceding Coastal Motor Boats of 40 and 55 ft length. The first motor launches entered service in the First World War. These were 580 80-foot-long (24 m) vessels built by the US Elco company for the Admiralty, receiving the designations ML-1 to ML-580. They served between 1916 and the end of the war with the Royal Navy defending the British coast from German submarines.[1] Some of the earliest examples, including ML 1, also served in the Persian Gulf from June 1916 onwards. After the Armistice of 11 November 1918 a flotilla of 12 RN Motor Launches traveled down the Rhine performing duty as the Rhine Patrol Flotilla.[2] The only known surviving example of a World War 1 Motor launch is Motor Launch ML-286, which now lies in a poor condition on the banks of the River Thames.

Royal Norwegian Navy motor launches off Dover during the Second World War.

World War II types

Type Length Weight Speed Built Total Lost Designed for
Fairmile A motor launch 110 ft 57 tons 25 knots (46 km/h) 1939 12 Submarine chasing, later minelaying
Fairmile B motor launch 112 ft (34 m) 85 tons 20 knots (37 km/h) 1940-45 1,284 Submarine chasing, many later roles including air-sea rescue
Harbour defence motor launch 72 ft (22 m) 54 tons 12 knots (22 km/h) 1940-45 486 47 Defending harbours; anti-submarine
RAF Type 2 Whaleback 63 ft (19 m) 21.5 tons 36 knots (67 km/h) 1940-42 70 Rescuing downed aircrew, particularly in the English Channel

Post-war, many motor launches were taken on as pleasure boats. A number of them are on the National Register of Historic Vessels.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Gardiner, p. 101
  2. ^ Jeffrey Charles. "The Rhine Patrol Flotilla Part I: Establishment of the Flotilla".
  3. ^ Gardiner and Chesneau, p. 71
  • Gardiner, Robert, Conway's all the world's fighting ships 1906–1921 Conway Maritime Press, 1985. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
  • Gardiner, Robert and Chesneau, Roger, Conway's all the world's fighting ships 1922–1946, Conway Maritime Press, 1980. ISBN 0-83170-303-2.

External links

  • UK National Register of Historic Vessels
  • Naval Museum of Manitoba
  • Juno Beach
  • A Short History of HMS St Christopher. Royal Navy Coastal Forces training base, mainly for MLs
  • Stoker Harold Siddall Royal Navy, his service in ML.1030 and capture in Crete 1941
  • "The Movies" A Motor Launch History
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