Boat Length: 80ft
Beam: 12ft 3ins
Displacement: 37 tons
Engine: 2 x 22hp 4cyl petrol
Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: Electric Launch Co, Quebec, Canada
Boat Year: 1916
Eothen was based on an original design by Irwin Chase, chief designer of the Electric Launch Company (formed in 1892 for the purpose of building fifty-four 36ft. electric launches before the World's Fair in Chicago the next year) at Boyonne, New Jersey.
From the outset of the first World War the British suffered heavy losses at the hands of German U-boats. Elco company head Henry R. Sutphen suggested to the British government that light, ocean-going motor launches powered by two 6-cylinder petrol engines might be effective as anti-submarine vessels. Chase came up with a design which included certain criteria stipulated by the British, and in April 1915 the Admiralty placed an order for fifty 'motor launches' through Canadian Vickers, acting as their agents. These were wooden-hulled vessels, 75ft long. With the United States still neutral, the boats went from New Jersey to Canada, euphemistically called 'yachts' with attractive names on their hulls.
The sinking of the Lusitania was the catalyst for a huge, additional order. In June 1915 the Admiralty requested a further five hundred; these were to be 80ft long, would cost over £12,000 each and the first twenty-five were to be delivered by the last day of November. Two hundred more had to be in British hands by the end of May 1916 and the remainder delivered at the rate of fifty per month thereafter. Eothen was part of the batch to be delivered in June 1916.
Her parts were prefabricated at Bayonne and sent by rail to Quebec (an Elco assembly plant was also opened at Montreal for the same purpose) to be put together. The British code name for the motor launches (MLs) was 'Sutphens', and the controversially high price paid by the Admiralty gave the MLs the nickname 'Money Losers'. They were not ocean-going and could not cross the Atlantic on their own, so they were shipped to Britain in fours as deck cargo. For most of the building period Elco was producing a complete boat each day, and in 1917 the Admiralty ordered a final thirty.
Eothen would have been sold off between late 1919 and 1924 when only eight of the MLs were still in military service. So popular were they and reasonably priced by the Admiralty, that the weekly 'Motor Ship and Motor Boat' ran extensive articles throughout July 1919 on the best ways of converting them to motor yachts in every detail 'to allow comfortable cruising at moderate cost'.
ML286 became Cordon Rouge in private hands, and then, in 1930, Eothen which was still her name at Dunkirk. Afterwards she was returned to Ramsgate and towed to Teddington by Toughs, from where she was requisitioned for service as an auxiliary patrol vessel in the Thames. Found to be unsuitable, however, she was returned to her owners in August 1940.
In 1986 she was said to be in 1920s condition with her original bronze castings by Tiffany’s but deteriorating fast. All efforts to find sponsors, interest trusts and museums or set up a fund, have failed and she now lies at Isleworth, Middlesex in a sad state of neglect, a waiting the inevitable.
In 2017 she was still at Isleworth having deteriorated further, see here:-
2018 is the centenary of the Ostende and Zeebrugge raids where the use of the Elco Motor Launches contributed greatly to the successes of these iconic naval actions.
On 10/05/2018 a wreath and memorial card were laid in Ostende to the memory of those involved in the 'Vindictive' raid. These individuals have links not only to 'Eothen' but to several other ADLS vessels. (photograph appended)
Updated May 2018.
Brings a tear to my eye to think she's rotting next to BJ Woods and Son dry dock, she was home to my family when we lived on the Thames. Would love to see more pics or a rescue!
If only I had the money :-(
Me and 3 of my friends used to work for the couple who owned this little ship, she was moored on the Thames in old Windsor opposite the Bells of Ouzley public house, when I said we worked, we were all around 15 years old back in the summer of 1978, the owners, who were Ron and Greta Gill, had a boat hire service and we would take charge of the rentals through our summer holidays from school, all for free as it was such good fun.
We spent many a happy summer holiday on the boat even though she never moved from her moorings.
My name is Nigel Jones and my 3 friends are Martin Carver, Tony McKeith and Simon Baker.
Shame about her condition now.