Built by J. White & Son on the Isle of Wight during the early months of World War I, with a steam engine, the naval pinnace MB 278 was delivered to Harland & Wolff, Belfast, to join her first mother ship, HMS Sir John Moore, in 1915. Her next ship, HMS Raglan, was sunk off the coast of Imbros, but MB 278 survived and after five years in Malta, joined the battleship Iron Duke in the Mediterranean. Then she went to HMS Barnham and later to HMS Resolution, in the Atlantic. In 1929, she had her first major refit in Malta and received a new 22hp Ferry engine before joining the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1930.
Just before World War II, she was assigned to HMS Erebus and she nearly missed Dunkirk when she was crushed in an accident in Portsmouth dockyard and sank, in March 1940. When hauled to the surface, her hull was badly damaged but she was quickly repaired and received a new engine. She has the scars to prove her Dunkirk service: a row of bullet holes made by a German machine gun in her hull, visible until her recent refit.
When the Admiralty disposed of MB 278 in 1948, Thomas Duffy bought her for ?125 and when he died in 1983, his son took over. She has been renamed Susan K., much time and effort has been spent restoring her and she is worth it. When the Admiralty sold the ship, her description did not do her justice, 'round bilge ex-Naval hull of double-skin mahogany with mahogany shelter aft. Fair condition. No engine.' In fact, she is of double-skin teak on rock elm and oak frames, with a third skin fitted internally athwartships. She has five steel bulkheads and when her present refit is complete, should last another hundred years - with a lot of love and care, as is due to a boat with such a history.
In early 2010 Susan K was obtained for restoration by Michael Dennett, the boat builder based at Laleham and renamed MB 278. In preparation for the 2010 Return to Dunkirk MB 278 is undergoing extensive restoration.
Updated April 2010