Early in 1942, the RAF Marine Craft Policy Committee decided they needed a new HSL, the British Power Boat Company (BPBC) was one of the companies that submitted a design.
George Selman at BPBC was able to adopt a more expansive approach; he was able to conceive an original design which was close to the RAF ideal. The result was the 68ft BPB HSL, also known as the BPB Type 3 HSL, but nicknamed the "Hants & Dorset" after the bus. The new HSL was a big and beamy craft in comparison with all other HSLs, and the interior was palatial after the confined spaces of the other types.
The amount of space was further enhanced by the designer's concept of placing a full height deckhouse above the main deck instead of the customary half-height, recessed deckhouse. Apart from the engine room, which was separated from the forward sections by the tank space, all working and accommodation areas of the craft were interconnected, hence the crew were able to move from any part of the deckhouse, via hatch and ladder to any part of the lower deck without venturing outside.
The hull design was advanced for its day, the chines were lifted at the forward end to create a deep vee forefoot and a soft wave entry, twisting to an almost flat planning section aft. Although the 68ft HSLs did pound, they were more comfortable than the BPB 63ft HSLs. They were also slower than the 63ft craft, but could hold a good speed in rough sea.
HSL 2552, the first of the type, arrived at Calshot in October 1942 and after gaining the confidence of RAF crews many more were ordered and built. A total of 90 of the type were eventually built at Hythe and Poole between 1942 and 1946.
Construction gained great pace in 1943 when 69 craft of the type were completed. The last 2 craft were completed in 1946, however in 1944 a reassessment of requirements led to cancellation of an order for a further 32 craft originally allocated numbers 2747 - 2778.
The 68ft HSL was very successful, with many serving into the 1950's, 2552 was one of 10 wartime HSLs to be retained by the RAF in the big sell-off after VJ day. With the war over, the role of the craft was changed to that of Rescue and Target Towing and several craft were given limited or full conversions to Rescue & Target Towing Launches (RTTL) Mk.1 configuration. Limited conversions involved removing the guns and glass domes, the tubs being retained, whereas in the full conversion the gun tubs and all associated fittings were removed. In both conversions a small target towing winch and cuddy were fitted aft. Four former HSLs were also converted to Remote Controlled Target Launches (RCTL), these later being converted to RTTLs.
During their service, she, her sister ships and their crews saved over 13,600 lives.
We do not know much about her history since she left the RAF, however for the last 20 years of her time on the water she had been moored near the Tarleton Lock on the Leeds Liverpool Canal, you can actually see her on google maps. She is located in the lower right of the photo, you can see how she is half covered in her white tarp.
Unfortunately as the years moved on she started to let in more and more water, over a period of weeks she would sink. Her owner at the time left various pumps on board to keep her afloat, however, due to power failures or blockages on the pumps, she would sink.
About 4 years before we bought her he finally gave up trying to keep her afloat and left her on the bottom.
In 2012 we were looking for a boat that would be large enough to become a live aboard for us and be capable of being taken anywhere in the world. We had decided that we wanted something with character and something different, something that we could restore so we knew every inch of her and would be able to maintain her as a result.
After years of research we had come to the conclusion that an ideal boat would be an old WW2 boat and ideally a High Speed Launch. After coming across 2552, we visited her sometime in 2011 and discounted her due to her condition however, after looking at various boats all needing work we kept coming back to 2552. She might be in a bad way, but her structure was sound and nothing needed to be removed to fix something else, which was the most time consuming part of restoring our previous boat.
Over the coming years she will be restored externally to her former glory, however the restoration will use the same materials but modern methods and resins so she will last another 70 years. Internally she will be our home and will contain all the modern conveniences that we will need for our retirement.