RAF High Speed Launch (HSL) 142 was one of a batch of 69 craft, 63 feet in length, produced for the RAF by the Power Boat Company between 1941 and 1942. They were known as ‘whalebacks’ due to the unusual shape of their superstructure. HSL 142 was built at Hythe, Southampton and was originally destined for the South African Air Force but was taken over by the RAF during build. On completion and after trials, she was taken on charge by the RAF at Calshot on15 November 1940 and then transferred to No 22 Air Sea Rescue Unit (ASRU) at Grimsby a month later. In February 1941 she was transferred to operate with several other sister craft with No 27 ASRU from Dover. En route to Dover, she set off an acoustic mine causing damage to the launch but fortunately suffered no casualties. In August 1941, HSL 142 returned to Calshot for repairs before sailing to 71 ASRU at Gibraltar in November 1941. She served out the remainder of the war at Gib before being returning to England at the end of 1944.
HSL 142 was officially written off charge by the RAF in April 1945 and was disposed of through the Admiralty Small Craft Sales in November 1946 at Felixstowe. Her post war career is sketchy but she ended up as a houseboat on the River Thames. A private owner attempted to restore HSL142 to her wartime condition between 2000 and 2004 but the project failed due lack of funds. However, the transom of this important wartime Air Sea Rescue Launch has been saved and was donated to the Museum by Peter Arnold in June 2012.
THE TRANSOM OF HSL 142 IS ON DISPLAY IN THE MUSEUM’S MERSTON AIRCRAFT HALL