Pilgrim had a delightful encounter during the first weekend in June. On arrival in Dartmouth she was faced with ML1387 on the Town Pontoon.
Although it may seem unlikely both vessels have quite a bit in common. They are both historic wooden vessels proud to feature in the National Historic Fleet. They have also both benefitted from Heritage Lottery Funding to enable them to have major restorations. Both are now in superb condition and are operated by charities to ensure their long term operation and preservation for public benefit.
ML1387, HMS Medusa, is a Harbour Defence Motor Launch built in Poole in 1943, one of 480 vessels designed to provide an offshore anti-submarine screen for harbours. Entirely built of wood, and powered by diesel engines, they were not fast but had huge endurance. The original concept was for them to be transported to where they were needed as deck cargo but soon they were making the passages themselves from the UK to the Mediterranean, West Indies, South Africa and the Far East.
The Medusa Trust, a registered charity, exists to preserve HMS Medusa, ML1387, for future generations. Their mission is to keep Medusa operational and at sea for as long as possible as a tribute to the veterans, for education of the public and as an inspiration for the young.
There is a further local connection as Medusa participated in Operation Fabius on nearby Slapton Sands in early May 1944. This was a follow up exercise to the ill-fated Operation Tiger the previous month. The objective was to provide realistic practice D-Day landings including a similar length sea passage for troops based in Dorset.
So, on a gorgeous sunny day 75 years after her launch, Medusa finds kindred spirits with Pilgrim. She’s a bit longer in the tooth at 123 years young and on her restoration in 2009 they removed bullets from her planks and frames from incidents in her distant past.
Medusa made passage onwards to Alderney and Cherbourg. Pilgrim returned home to Brixham prior to making passage to Falmouth and onto the Scillies and Brittany for her summer adventures.
For further details of Medusa, her history, war service and restoration visit: www.hmsmedusa.org.uk