New Britannic, a 56' passenger launch, originally built to carry up to 117 passengers operating trips from Ramsgate, was ideal for the job of rescuing men from the beaches. Coxswain W. Mathews of the Royal Navy took her over from her owner, Charlie Priddle of Ramsgate to go to Dunkirk. Built to carry a full load of passengers in safety, with easy access to her 54ft. open deck, a shallow 3ft. 6in. draft and a powerful 65hp Lister engine to pull her clear of the sands, she was the ideal boat for the job. She is credited with lifting 3,000 men off the beaches and remained in service with the Navy for the rest of the war on patrol duties.
After the war she was sold, going first to Weymouth and later to the Scilly Isles where she was renamed Commodore and remained in service carrying many thousands of holiday makers until 1991, when, with the advent of new regulations, she was withdrawn and, but for the intervention of the Trust, would have been broken up.
As she had been out of commission for some time, it was not practical for her to come to the mainland under her own power, so a tow was arranged with a fishing boat returning to Falmouth. The tow went alright but on arrival at Falmouth she sank at the moorings, had to be salvaged and the remainder of the trip to Southampton was by road.
On arrival she presented a very sorry sight and we began to realise the full amount of work needed to get her afloat and to move her to the slip where the repairs were to be carried out. With the help of friends with a powerful launch and an even more powerful pump, some plywood and nails and a large lump of putty she was moved to the Boathouse, and work commenced in November 1993.
It was decided that New Britannic would be ideal to take a number of wheelchair and other disabled persons on fishing and other trips in the Solent, and to this end a major rebuilding job was carried out largely with volunteer labour. The hull was stripped inside and out, 120 new ribs steamed and fitted, the hull caulked and the engine rebuilt. The wheel-house has been extended to include a toilet compartment large enough for wheelchairs, a sink, water tank and pump were installed and new decks fitted. The next stages were tanks, wiring, glazing, equipment and painting. Most of the necessary materials and equipment have been supplied, either free or at a discount by many firms to whom our thanks are due but this is almost insignificant in comparison with the efforts of two particular people. Chris Brown put in some two thousand five hundred hours of labour and Jim Newman organised or scrounged all the materials in addition to doing all the wiring and much of the engineering and without whom it is doubtful if the task would have been completed.
New Britannic was re-launched in August 1996 and after more work afloat was at last ready to take her first passengers and a number of successful trips were made before the end of the season. At the beginning of the next season the rent for the berth was raised from ?500 to ?5000 and a new home had to be found. Fortunately, we were able to arrange for her to go back to Ramsgate where the East Kent Maritime Trust have taken her under their wing and do an excellent job of maintaining her, completing a number of jobs which had been unfinished and running trips for the disabled.
In mid 2008 East Kent Maritime Trust relinquished title of New Britannic and she is now undergoing further renovation under private ownership.