A FORMER Royal Navy motor launch that took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy in June, 1944, was involved in a rescue by two RNLI lifeboats on Aug 7.
The 1941-built Shearwater was heading past the River Tyne in tow of the former fishing vessel Wanderer II, with a crew of three. They were on their way from Scotland to Portsmouth where the Shearwater is to be restored.
However, the Wanderer II got her propeller caught up in a rope, stranding the two vessels some 15 miles south-east of the Tyne.
The Wanderer II’s skipper called the Coastguard Humber Operations Centre for assistance and they immediately requested the launch of the Tynemouth RNLI Severn class allweather lifeboat Spirit of Northumberland to go to the aid of the vessels.
The lifeboat arrived some 30 minutes after being launched and took both vessels under tow in a convoy on the two-hour run to berth them at the North Shields Fish Quay.
The RNLI said: “Due to the difficulty and potential danger involved in one lifeboat attempting to get both vessels alongside the quay, it was necessary to get assistance to do so.
“Luckily, other members of the Tynemouth lifeboat team had just sailed another Severn class lifeboat, the relief lifeboat Osier, used as a temporary replacement, into the Tyne from Eyemouth where she had been undergoing maintenance.
“The Osier was quickly refuelled and headed out to meet the three vessels outside the Tyne piers where the Osier took over the tow of the Shearwater. The Spirit of Northumberland continued with the tow of the Wanderer II and berthed her at the Fish Quay then the Osier put the Shearwater alongside her.”
Adrian Don, of Tynemouth Lifeboat Station, said: “We were initially informed that the vessel being towed was a military barge, and we were lucky to have the use of the relief lifeboat.”
The Shearwater was built by the Sussex Shipbuilding Co, of Shoreham, as the harbour defence motor launch HDML-1085 and joined the 195th Motor Launch Flotilla at Scapa Flow in January, 1942. She was with the 150th ML Flotilla at the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, and in 1945, she was converted to a survey launch and served in West German waters, becoming SML-324 in 1949.
She was sold by the Admiralty in 1959 and converted to carry passengers. Under new owners in 1964, she was used on Loch Etive as a ferry and was renamed Etive Shearwater in 1973, and later sold for service in the Hebrides. Converted to a houseboat at Inverness in 2002, she was sold to a Loch Ness owner in 2012 and then in 2016, she was bought by her present owners who unveiled plans to move her to Portsmouth for restoration.