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Mar. 7, 2019

This is ST 437, aka Dame Vera Lynn.

She is a 41 ½ foot, Mk1 RAF sea plane tender built in 1941 by the British Powerboat Company and used for air/sea rescue throughout WW2. She was stationed in Porthcawl, South Wales and affiliated to RAF Stormy Down, later in the war used as a training base for US and French pilots. Her function was primarily to rescue downed pilots – either trainee pilots who end up in the drink or planes returning from depth-charging the ‘wolf-pack' attacking the North Atlantic convoys – or other vessels that get into trouble in the Bristol Channel.

Discharged from the Admiralty in 1956, Abakama, as she was then known, was used as a gentleman's launch around the South Wales coast until 2015 before I acquired her in 2017.

She had been previously advertised as ‘needing a new coat of paint' but it was apparent on first sight that she was in need of much more serious repair and she was in a very sorry state. Although floating when I went to Watchet, where she was lying, she was taking on copious quantities of water and the decks and superstructure were very badly rotted. This is my first restoration project but, as a former cabinet maker, the woodwork holds no fear for me, although cabinetry and boat restoration require different skillsets.

I am replacing all the hull planking, have re-built the transom, which has suffered damage at some point, possibly in the war years, judging by the quality of the repair job, and all the coachwork and interiors are being replaced. In effect, the only parts I am not replacing are the keel (or ‘hog', as she is hard-chined), sub-frame and ribs. I am fortunate that she came with much of the original 1940s cockpit gear as well as the original engines – Twin Perkins SM6s – although one is definitely in need of a total re-build and mat be beyond repair. I have been able to acquire copies of the original ‘general arrangement' drawings from the RAF Museum at Hendon and workshop manual from the owners of ST 441 that can now been seen cruising the waters around Pembroke Dock.

Between 1956 and 2017, ST 437 was known as ‘Abakama'. Many, many years ago, when I was a schoolboy chorister, I sang on stage with Vera Lynn. When I acquired Abakama, I felt she deserved a name that reflected her place in British wartime history so I wrote to Dame Vera who, very graciously, agreed to 437 being re-named after her. This will be done, with all due ceremony, at her re-launch in three or four years' time.

You can follow my progress on and there are some videos on YouTube – just search ‘ST437 Restoration'.

Richard Kay

Mar. 3, 2019

I am restoring a 1941 MkI seaplane tender - ST 437 and also employed in air/sea rescue duties throughout the war. She is an earlier model than ST 1502 - a mk1A - featured on your excellent site. I am a year or so into a 5 year restoration, doing all the work myself with some help from a neighbour. It is not a simple tart-up; I am practically re-building the entire vessel - coach work, hull, interiors and engines (I have two original war-time Perkins SM6s.) I also have a website but I am not good at keeping it updated: Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
Richard Kay

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