This page is my online collection of notes on the RN Ship’s Boats of WWII; it is not a reference page and will contain errors. Below is a list of what I have so far. A few ‘false positives’ are added as well as a reference (e.g., RAF rescue launch, royal barges).
There is no (comprehensive) volume available on the subject and modellers have to track down drawings by e.g., Underhill, Ough, or Lambert. For my modelling I relied on John Lambert for many smaller craft and equipment; is work has been published by Seaforth Publishing in the British Weapons of World War II series—I cannot recommend these four volumes enough—but the ship’s boats drawings are unfortunately not in any volume. Incidentally, none of the material below is by any of these authors (copyright) but most of the drawings I have uploaded were copies of original shared with me by John Lambert to whom I am indebted. Some drawings from museums are reproduced with permission.
Small craft were often made by different yards, so one type of boat may appear in many variants while some boats appear unique.
See https://ontheslipway.com/ships-boats-change-log/ for updates.
List (note to self: tiny pics to be added).
Sailing & Pulling Boats
14 ft Dinghy
16 ft Dinghy
25 ft Whaler
27 ft Whaler
27 ft Boarding Boat 1943
30 ft Gig
30 ft Cutter
32 ft Whaler
32 ft Cutter
34 ft Cutter
36 ft Sailing Pinnace
42 ft Motor Launch
Motor boats (Soft chine)
16 ft Motor Boat
20 ft Motor Boat
20 ft Motor Sampan
23 ft Motor Sampan
25 ft Motor Cutter
28 ft Motor Boat
30 ft Motor Pinnace
32 ft Motor Cutter
35 ft Motor Pinnace
36 ft Motor & Pulling Pinnace
36 ft Harbour Launch
41.5 ft RAF Seaplane tender
45 ft Motor Launch with Aux sails
45 ft Motor Launch (light type)
45 ft Diesel Picket
(Scanned from Stapleton, 1980)
Fast Motor Boats (Hard chine)
(A Vosper add showing several of their smaller craft. left row: Bluebird II, 40ft Admiral’s barge, 20ft Fast Tender, unknown x 3, right row: 68ft MTB 102, 40 ft Royal Barge, 35 ft Admiral’s barge, 35 ft Fast Motor Boat, 40ft Seaplane Tender, unknown(early 25ft fast motor boat?), 16 ft Fast Motor Boat)
16 ft Fast Motor Boat (Skimming Dish)
20 ft Fast Tender
25 ft Fast Motor Boat 1935 (?)
25 ft Fast Motor Boat
30 ft Fast Motor Boat
35 ft Fast Motor Boat type I (admiral’s barge variant?)
35 ft Fast Motor Boat type II
35 ft Fast Motor Boat type II (Seaplane tender)
35 ft Fast Motor Boat II (Admiral’s barge)
35 ft Fast Motor Boat type III
37.5 ft RAF Seaplane Tender
40 ft Royal Barge
45 ft Fast Motor Boat & barge
45 ft Fast Motor Boat type II
45 ft Fast Motor Picket Boat
Rafts & Floats
Source: Newton (1970?)
Source: Manual of Seamanship, vol 1 (1937)
Painting. CAFO snippet I once saved to disc:
- Sides: black or any shade of grey
- Upper works: black, white, varnished, or or any shade of grey
- Bottom colour: black, white, or a different shade of grey if desired
Pulling boats other than the Captain’s galley
- Sides: any shade of grey
- Bottom colour : white, or a different shade of grey if desired
- Gunwales: Scrubbed, varnished, any colour except green and blue which are reserved for gunwales of the Fleet Flagship’s and other flagships’ boats, respectively, if desired.
- Captain’s galley: any colour except green and blue, at Captain’s discretion
Note (i) The power and pulling boats of individual ships other than Flag officers’ barges and Captain’s galleys, should be uniform in appearance, although it is not compulsory for both categories to be alike.
Note (ii) Green is reserved for the boats of the Commander-in-Chief and blue for the boats of other Flag Officers.
The barge of the CiC was referred to as the Green Parrot.
For Capital ships the camouflage pattern is usually not carried over to the ship’s boats. Seen pics of Dido’s with camo pattern running over the FMBs.
Steam Pinnacles, Pickets and Tenders
Boathouse No. 4 in Portsmouth contains several boats including a skimming dish, a 25ft FMB, and a 45ft Diesel Picket.
I found a list of drawings at this archives with most of the relevant ship’s boats; some have been reproduced here with permission .
National Maritime Museum
They have boxes upon boxes with ship’s boat’s plans; however, their website is terrible as they are keen on updating their website annually rendering all links and bookmarks obsolete, yet again, so I have given up on keeping track.
British Military Powerboat Trust
A dead website / forum that contains several informative pages on smaller craft.
Cane, du, P., High-speed small craft, 1964, Temple Press Books
Manual of Seamanship, vol 1,H.M. Stationary Office, 1937
May, W.E., The Boats of Men of War, 1974 Chatham Publishing
May, W.E., The Boats of Men of War, 1974 Maritime Monographs & Reports No 15, National Maritime Museum
Newton, R. N., Practical Construction of Warships, Longman London 1970
Stapleton, N.B.J., Steam picket boats: And other small steam craft of the Royal Navy, 1980 Terence Dalton publishing
The British Power Boat Company, Hythe, Hampshire, Personal Recollections, Totton & Elling Historical Society
Weatherall, D.J., Naval Gigs,: Past and Present, Occasional Paper 90, vol 33, 2019.