Sad end for Strand Quay warship

RML 526 remains on the river bed as the tide rises around her

A Notice to Mariners, issued by the Harbour Master on behalf of the Environment Agency recently, notified them that vessel RML 526 had sunk at its moorings in Strand Quay and could constitute a danger to shipping. Fortunately, it had remained secured to its moorings and has since been refloated.

Possession order fixed, as tradition dictates, to the mast

She has lain at moorings for many years, initially undergoing work to restore her to her original WW2 profile. The cost of restoration, however, spiralled beyond even the deep pockets of her owners and for some time she has been abandoned to rot and with harbour dues left unpaid. The Harbour Master, on behalf of the Environment Agency has served notice that unless the owners take action to remove the vessel with 48 hours of March 22 (which they have not done) it will be subject to legal distraint, removed and destroyed as a survey of condition has revealed that the hull is irreparably damaged.

It is probable therefore that before too long this familiar sight in Strand Quay will be removed; but before it can be disposed of, a further inspection will be required to ensure that it is free of contamination.

The 112ft long vessel is of considerable historical interest. It was built in 1942 at the Solent Shipyard on the River Hamble, leading to Southampton Water, to a then revolutionary design incorporating the use of plywood in the frames of the ship’s hull. Such vessels, known as Rescue Motor Launches, were used during the Second World War on convoy protection duties and for recovering downed aircrew in the seas around Britain. It has been reported that RML 526 was later used as a target towing vessel for gunnery practice.

How RML 526 would have looked in WW2 – a sister ship

Decommissioned in 1946, RML 526 served in successive conversions as an ambulance launch, a smugglers vessel, a private yacht and as a ferry operating between Brixham and Torquay. An arrangement had been made with the Royal Navy to conserve the ship as only one of five remaining examples of its class still in UK waters, but sadly this fell through at the last moment.

Image Credits: Charles Bronsdon , John Minter , Rye News library .


  1. This would be an awful shame – especially as I understand that the vessel played an important part in the D-Day landings.

    If it is no longer sea-worthy then, rather than dismantle it, couldn’t it be removed from the water, given a lick of paint, and displayed in some sort of cradle or dry-dock as a visitor attraction?

  2. So sad its a part of historical heritage, it only 1 of 5 left and its going to get scrapped,disgusting and what a waist,i dont believing its irreparable, council wants the mooring revenue i suppose.

  3. Even as this gallant old lady is about to fade away, the lands-people insist of referring to her as ‘it’. Shameful for such an old harbour as Rye who should know better……

  4. Why this unnecessary sentiment? It served its purpose; now it’s just an eyesore. I look forward to its overdue removal.

  5. More inaccurate reporting, yet again. Your picture shows RML 628 NOT RML 526!
    Basic journalism. Come on! You should read the caption more carefully, we never said it was 526 but since you did not understand this, have made a small alteration/addition to make it even more clear. Editor

  6. If she’s one of 4 wouldn’t a maritime society or museum take it on and do it up. Seems such a waste otherwise.

  7. These vessels were built in WWII to fill an immediate need for coastal patrol and defence duties. They were only ever intended to last as long as they were needed. They were built from a kit of parts, so that small boatyards anywhere could assemble them. Due to their design, there were some inherent faults that were acceptable, mostly concerning poor ventilation below decks, and areas where condensation and rainwater could collect. During wartime service of a few years, this wasn’t a problem, but to prolong their lives after the war, they needed constant attention, and regular repairs. If they were neglected, they would rot from between the double diagonal timbers of the hull planking, resulting in what has happened here. Her sister vessel, RML497, now at Portsmouth appears to have similar issues which are being addressed by the RN Historical Dockyard. This is a sad sight for me personally, as I worked on this vessel when she was in Torbay as Western Lady IV, in the early 1970’s. I have happy memories of her carrying passengers to Brixham, Torquay and the River Dart in the summer months. I was Master of her sister vessel, Western Lady, ex RML 535.

  8. It’s a shame that she has now been destroyed after surviving through the war & over 60 years of passenger carrying service!

    She was a much loved vessel, saved lives during the war & carried hundreds of thousands of people across Torbay.

    Heart breaking that she was allowed to get to such a state to be broken up after surviving for so long!


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