White Heather now RIIS I

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
RIIS I previously White Heather
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
57ft 6ins
Boat Beam: 
10ft 6ins
Boat Draft: 
4ft 9ins
Boat Displacement: 
27 tons
Boat Engine: 
2 x Thornycroft 85hp Diesels
Boat Construction: 
Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: 
McGruer & Co., Dumbartonshire
Boat Year: 

White Heather was designed by W.G. McBryde and built in 1920 by McGruer & Co. Ltd. of Clynder, Scotland as a 21st birthday present for Isla Johnston, daughter of the owner of a Scottish shipping company. It was thought to be such a prestigious project that the foreman at McGruers made a model of the boat. The family also had a racing yacht and White Heather, with her powerful Thornycroft petrol/paraffin engines, which she had for 34 years, was used to tow the yacht from regatta to regatta.

By the time war broke out, she belonged to W.M.V. Wright of Glasgow. Early in 1940 she was brought by a Naval crew from Conway in North Wales to the South Coast to take part in Operation Dynamo. She was hired by the Royal Navy from the owner at a rate of ?7: 10s (?7.50) per calendar month.

White Heather went to Dunkirk on 1st June 1940, first spending time carrying troops to larger vessels offshore and then doing three trips carrying troops direct to England. After this she took part in evacuating the 51st Highland Division from St. Valery-sur-Somme. After St. Valery the Navy requisitioned her, renaming her HMS Manatee. As she was to be used for special operations in the North Sea and Channel the Navy carried out a refit. This included fitting fourteen (14) 4-inch sea-cocks in the bilges to facilitate silent and very rapid sinking should her secret operations bring trouble. They also decked in a small cockpit situated aft in which Ilsa used to take the sun.

In 1947 her Naval service ended and she was returned to Mr. Wright. Later she was sold to Lieut. C.H. Brewster, who changed her name in 1949 to Riis I. 'Riis' is apparently Finnish for 'journey', the 'I' indicating First or Maiden voyage. Her original 85hp Thornycroft petrol/paraffin were changed in 1954 for two 80hp Dorman Diesels.

In 1959, the late Dr. J.W.E. Fellows found her lying at Conyer Creek, off the Swale in Kent. In 1972 he replaced her Dorman engines with 85hp. Ford-Thornycroft diesels. He worked continuously on her over three decades, externally at least keeping her exactly as she was when new. Between 1984 and 1987 Dr. Fellows was the 8th Commodore of the A.D.L.S. and flew his flag in Riis I during this time.

Subsequently owned by a later Commodore and his wife, Riis1 continues to be an active member of the Association, and is a frequent sight on the East Coast where she is kept.

She featured in the set of (2015) Palau postage stamps 'The Little Ships of Dunkirk'.

Source: 2

Updated: April 2018



My father, Henry Trewick bought her in about 1957 from a broker on the Thames , she was moored just below Kew Bridge and as a young boy I spent many happy hours on her, including quite few trips including cross channel voyages. I believe my father said that the previous owner was a lieut Brewster.
My father is 90 and has a few problems recalling details but he believes that he sold it to Dr Fellows.
I have a few old photos of her and more information, if you would like to get in touch.