Tag Archives: airborne lifeboat

Airborne lifeboat for sale on eBay

Airborne lifeboat for sale on Ebay

If you fancy owning this piece of history you’d better move quickly – the bidding on eBay is under way.

PS – It went for just over £500.


An airborne lifeboat on the Isle of Man

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Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat

Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat

Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat Mk 1 Airborne lifeboat

Martin Birchenough’s Mk 1 airborne lifeboat

I’ve posted about Uffa Fox’s fascinating airborne lifeboats several times now (see post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5). They had an amazing story in saving downed airmen’s lives during World War II, and after the war their lovely lines enabled them to be converted into sporty big sailing dinghies. Old Uffa could certainly draw a hull!

I’m delighted to be able to post some more photos, thanks to Martin Birchenough, who lives in the Isle of Man.

Here’s what he says:

‘My airborne lifeboat was one of four Mk1 boats that were based at Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man during the Second World War.

‘It ended up in the grounds of a house at Castletown near Ronaldsway where it was damaged by cattle but was rescued by an elderly chap who patched it and then painted it with bitumen and moved it to his property in Kirk Michael where it lay for some years.

‘I had reason to visit him and saw the boat, spoke about it and he said he had been trying to find a home for it for some time but no one would take it on and I eventually took it on as a restoration project.

‘It was in pretty bad shape and after scrapping the bitumen off and repairing the holes the only way to save the hull which had become springy was to use West epoxy and clad it. I obtained plans from the RAF Museum at Hendon and had the dagger board and rudder fabricated locally and It is now solid but obviously not original.

‘I have added a fore deck and gunwales and had a rig designed by Jeckells and have made a mast. I sailed it with a bit of a jury rig prior to making the mast and it went like a scalded cat – it was so quick that it was in danger of sailing itself under water while close-hauled.

‘I am hoping to have it back in the water set up for the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend in July 2011.

‘Regards, Martin’

That’s fabulous thanks Martin. If you get some sailing photos sometime I’d love to see them please!


PS Do check out the Uffa Fox website – there’s a terrific film clip narrated by him that includes Drumbeat cracking along in a good breeze, and even a snatch of the old boy singing.

Uffa Fox’s airborne lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads

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Uffa Fox\'s airborne lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads

Airborne lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads. Notice
the unusual Saildrive engine it used on a stand in front,
and also the
Norfolk punt on display beneath. Click on
the photo for a larger image

This airborne lifeboat is one of the Museum of the Broads’ great treasures.  Note the Saildrive engine on a stand just in front of the boat – I gather many of these were volunteered by yachtsmen for use in the the airborne lifeboats, which couldn’t use anything else.

These boats were designed to save the lives of bomber aircraft crew – if a crew ditched in the sea and could be found, a bomber aircraft would drop one of these in the hope that the men below would be able to climb into the boat and sail or motor it home. In practice they saved many lives and made something of a hero out of the the inventor.

After the war, along with many other bits of war surplus equipment they were often bought for small sums and and converted into something more conventional – in this case they often became fully rigged sailing boats, and were frequently used for racing. You can’t keep a good Uffa Fox hull down, can you?

For more posts on topics relating to Uffa Fox, click here.

Uffa Fox airborne lifeboat poster at the Museum of the Broads

Poster showing lifeboat equipment. Click on the photo
for a larger image