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Pre-NAHANNI : Who would have thunk it? “The Genius Behind Sea Plane Tenders”


The Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society has immersed itself in marine type legacies. Whether it be a model of the first ship to sail in what are now British Columbia waters in 1774 and known as Santiago de Nueva Galicia under the command of a Spanish Captain Juan Joseph Perez Hernandez to a five masted topsail built in 1919 known as the City of Port Alberni. The 37 foot steamship they called the SWAN built in 1880 probably in Coal Harbour Ship Yards is now an iconic display at PAMHS. Then again it could be the model of the Princess Maquinna noted in 1913 as the largest steel hull ship built in BC at the time. Or maybe it is the Tatoosh boom boat built in the 1940's that plied the waters of the Alberni Inlet, or perhaps the Lady Rose, built to carry passengers and cargo for the Canadian Union Shipyard Company in 1937. Then again, and keeping with history and marine legacy of ships on the West Coast perhaps it was the NAHANNI, previously called the RCAF Pelican M264 built in 1940 most likely in North Vancouver and modeled after similar boats of the Class 200 British Power Boat Co. in the UK. It certainly resembles the prototype ST206 developed by none other than T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in his little-known career after his famous desert exploits in WWI.

Upon researching the background of T.E. Lawrence we find he was born August 16, 1888 in Tremadog, Wales. In his career he became a British archaeological scholar, military strategist, and author but best known for his legendary war activities in the middle east during WWI. From 1911-1918 his adventures propelled him to Northern Sinai on the Turkish frontier then Gaza, Cairo Egypt, Arabia, Jerusalem and Damascus. By the age of thirty T.E. Lawrence had risen to the rank of Colonel which he held until he was 34. For a number of years up until March 1921, he worked on his memoirs, at which time he was wooed by the powers to be back to the Middle East as an advisor on Arab affairs under the direction of none other than our good friend and colonial minister of the day, Winston Churchill. I gather from my readings that by 1921 Lawrence had enough of government and with the help of a wartime colleague and under an assumed name, (John Hume Ross) he enlisted in the Royal Air Force, August 28, 1922. The press at the time, much like the press of today found out what he had done and where he was and on December 27,1922 the London Daily Press broke the story. The truth here is stranger than fiction. You just can't make this stuff up. The embarrassment caused by T.E. lead him to being released from the RAF early in 1923.

Not to be thwarted, however, and through the intervention of another wartime friend he was able to enlist as a private in the Royal Tank Corps under a new name of T.E.Shaw which he legally acquired in 1927. As of March 1923, however, he was based in India where numerous rumours unfolded that he was a spy in Central Asia and working on a plot against the Soviet Union. One can only imagine what Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time said when they brought T.E. back to England. “Blimey, will that #*!?!*# every learn.”

On his return in 1925 and now serving as an Aircraftman with the Royal Air Force Marine Section under the pseudonym of T.E.Shaw he began an association with Scott Paine of the British Power Boat Company and the Air Ministry to develop faster and more effective rescue boats. After witnessing a fatal seaplane crash in 1931. T.E.Shaw was well aware that the chances of being rescued from a seaplane or flying boat, that crashed on take-off or landing were very slim based on the slow tenders that the RAF used at the time, He was posted to RAF Mount Batten to help develop this new craft and the result was the 200 Class Seaplane Tender (a 37.5 foot vessel capable of 27 knots.) The project in which TE Shaw worked on made a vital contribution to speed boat design and ensured that the new generation of boats specifically designed to rescue pilots during WWII were faster and more effective. In fact, in 1932, once these boats started to be delivered, it was claimed that the 200 series were the fastest craft of their size in the world. The 200 class


formed the blueprint for all subsequent classes of high speed vessels. They were twin engine, hard-chined, vee-bottomed boats which were designed to combine safety at sea in any flying weather with immediate speed in an emergency and economy of maintenance. The 104 craft made at the Hythe Shipyard from 1931 on had original 100 horse power petrol engines made by the Meadows Company of Wolverhampton for the British Power Boat Company.

338171 Aircraftman 2nd Class T.E.Shaw better known as Lawrence of Arabia was discharged from the Royal Air Force on February 26, 1935 to face retirement at the age of 46. On May 19, 1935 after a motorcycle accident six days previously he passed away leaving behind a legacy with his literary works in a book titled “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” in which he provides an action-packed narrative of his campaigns in the desert with the Arabs. As well he will always be connected with the RAF/ British Power Boat Company 200 class of Seaplane Tenders and subsequent Canadian edition of the RCAF Pelican M-264 which now resides as NAHANNI at the Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Societies' Maritime Gallery on Lighthouse Pier.


Prepared by President Kenn Whiteman for PAMHS December 5, 2018 using Google for research.

#Nahanni #CrasherBoat #LawrenceofArabia #TELawrence #boats #exhibit

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