SS ASCOT lifeboat No 6 was built around 1902 and used aboard the ship SS ASCOT. It is one of two surviving small craft of the many that took soldiers ashore in the first landing stages of the World War I ANZAC Gallipoli campaign in 1915, and probably evacuated troops to the hospital ships as well. The lifeboat was abandoned when the troops withdrew, and was left on the beach with at least two other lifeboats. When Australian representatives visited Gallipoli after the war it was identified as an artefact that should be acquired, and the Australian War Memorial brought the vessel back to Australia in 1921
DescriptionSS ASCOT lifeboat No 6 is s steel plated hull painted white with the number 6 in black. The structure is riveted together and it was fitted with four timber thwarts. It was made by Napier and Miller in Glasgow in 1902. It has hooks either end to take the lifting tackle. It also has a number of bullet holes in the bow and stern at both sides, scars from its mission in Gallipoli.
Detailed research by AWM has confirmed that the lifeboat was from SS ASCOT. In a letter from Watts and Watts Ltd to AWM - 29 October 1927-
".the Chief Officer of the s/s "Ascot" (Transport A"33") is now attached to our London staff and he reports to us as follows: s/s "Ascot" had 24 life boats, two of which were of steel, Outside boats (i.e boats in davits) Grey, inside boats white, steel boats were painted white, Three life boats were left behind, The numbers of the missing boats were 5, 6 & 9."
SS ASCOT, referred to as Transport A33, carried "B", "C" & "D" companies of 13 Battalion from Alexandria to Lemnos and thence to Gallipoli. It left Alexandria on 13 April 1915, arriving at Lemnos on the morning of the 17th. RQMS Byron Charles Hobson kept a diary (2DRL/0694) of his wartime experiences and included a detailed description of his time aboard SS ASCOT. From that diary the following events are known to have happened.
The period 17 - 23 April was spent on boat drill and practice in scaling ladders. SS ASCOT then sailed from Mudros Harbour about 10.30 - 11.00am, carrying the following: HQ 4th A.I. Bde 12 - w horses, Bde Sigs Sect 6 - w horses, 13th Btn 816, 4th Coy HQ NZ & A, Div. Tr. Supply Sect 111, Interpreter 1- Total 946
SS ASCOT arrived off Gaba Tepe about 5.00 pm. 13 Battalion started disembarking after 21.30 on the evening of the first day. The actual task of landing the 13 Battalion troops from SS ASCOTT was a three-phased affair. Firstly, the ship’s lifeboats were lowered and hitched to the torpedo boat destroyer (TBD) HMS CHELMER. Then the troops climbed the rope nets onto the CHELMER, which gave them a fast run into the beach, and finally the troops disembarked into SS ASCOT’s lifeboats which they then rowed ashore. This all took place under enemy fire, with covering fire from HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS CHELMER.
Once ashore, the battalion went straight into the front line - according to the Battalion diary, "D" company with one platoon of "C" disembarked at 03.30 on the 26th and "took up position at head of Monash Valley", the remainder of "C" company "on Quinns Hill" and the remainder of the battalion went to "Pope's Hill".
It is believed that SS ASCOT departed Gallipoli at the end of April, carrying wounded. It is known that the ship survived the war but it remains unknown exactly when the lifeboat was damaged and why it was abandoned.
In a Five-page telegram sent during February 1919 from historian Captain Charles Bean who was one of a small team sent to Gallipoli after the war noted: ".vast store relics from lifeboats guncarriages to innumerable shell fragments wherefrom local proprietors will make profits unless Australian Government anticipates them."
In a subsequent letter from Bean 11 March 1919 "There are still a number of trophies at Anzac which could well be collected; two ships lifeboats on the beach………. I don't know that the two life boats at Anzac were boats in which troops originally landed. They were driven ashore, I think, in November. They are two white painted steel ships boats."
In 1921 the AWM was in a financial position to fund transport and noted that. "Mr Bean has strongly recommended that we should obtain one of the old life-boats which were stranded at Anzac." On 23 September 1925 Bean wrote: "Before I forget - it has often struck me that our relics, such as the old white iron boat, are much more valuable and interesting if they have the original paint. I think the old white life-boat still has it."
AWM replied on 26 November 1925 ".there can be no doubt as to the desirability of keeping relics as far as possible in their original condition. In the case of the iron boat from Gallipoli, it still has a good outside coating of white paint."
Further, on 16 March 1926 AWM wrote: “Let Bean know that the Anzac Lifeboat was, in accordance with his advice, moved into store last week. Within the next few days we will make frames with the aid of which we hope to be able to restore it to its original shape.”
The SS ASCOT lifeboat was then secure in storage and has remained at the museum in its condition as found. It is now on display in the Australian War Memorial.
Hull material and construction:steel
Hull shape:canoe stern/double endedDE
Hull shape:round bottom