Scott-Paine’s Seaplane Tender RAF 206

Now on view at RAF Hendon, ST206 was one of the first planing launches built at British Powerboat at Hythe Hants. Mr. Harry Banks, one of Scott-Paine’s Coxwains at the boat factory was the first to take this new type of craft to sea;


I first met Harry at British Military Powerboat Trust. He was a small man, at that time aged about ninety five years, he spoke with a unique Countryman’s brogue and spent a good amount of his time telling interested people like myself, all about Boats and all about Hubert Scott-Paine. As the years passed, I got to know him more and more, got to learn more and more about his Boss, Mr Scott-Paine, as he always addressed him. When Harry came to ‘work’ at BMPT, in his last years, I took him the couple of miles home each evening, home to a lonely cold existence in a cottage in Hythe. As he passed his 102nd Birthday in the local Hospital, he was too frail to look at a programme on the Nurses’ room TV . A programme about his boats, himself, and Philip Clabburn, (his great Friend and narrator of the Film piece). He tugged on my sleeve from his wheelchair and bade me return him to the Ward.

Within days he had hurried to his Maker. The Church at Hythe was crammed by friends workmates and boatmen, together with Scouts, Sea Cadets and Cadets from the RAF groups. A wonderful send-off for a wonderful old man.

Harry, during one of his talks about the Boss, told me about a request from old friends on the Isle of Wight and their plight at not being able to receive the Southampton Saturday evening Newspaper, “The Football Echo” ( you will need to be over pension age to understand the mad scramble and huge queues at paper shops at six o’clock every Saturday evening to obtain your copy).

Harry approached the Boss; “Could he borrow one of the Seaplane Tenders each Saturday Evening, collect a hundred or so copies of the paper and transport them to Cowes on the Island?” The Boss immediately agreed and the Newspaper Office leapt at the chance to spread their wings over the Island. From then on every Saturday evening, hundreds then thousands of the pink newspapers were shipped to the Island and Harry took them there…not only in a seaplane tender, but often a Motor Torpedo Boat, Air Sea Rescue Launch or anything available. (yes Harry would ‘let go, crew and moor up all on his own. and Yes for some years, Phil Clabburn, with myself as crew sailed and moored Gunboat 81, a WW2 craft, twice the length of ST 206 and with a wartime crew of 14)

RAF 206 was purchased as a wreck by Phil Clabburn in 1990, she had been converted into a Cabin Cruiser with her additions constructed of plywood and was sold to Phil for a little over £600.

Phil's father, Mr Robin Clabburn, a stepson of a WW2 heroic Air sea Rescue Skipper who, with other brave young men, fought to fame, with their astonishing rescue of a whole British Bomber Crew from the Dutch coast during WW2; Robin spent his early life and an interest in boats and boating. Spurred on by his Mother, who had more than a keen interest in all things Nautical, Robin passed to his Sons the same love of the Sea and the many skills he had learnt at his mother’s knee.

Mr Clabburn and son Phil set about returning the hulk to its original skeleton and from there to restore her to her original pre-war condition. It took more than two years of continual hard work, for Father and Son to carry out the Restoration with a cost of more than £30,000.

My own connection with ST 206 was as a volunteer at British Military Powerboat Trust, where she took guests of the Trust on 10 mile jaunts in the Solent, Phil skippered the vessel and I crewed her.

I remember that in accordance with the rules for the Solent, he pood’led down the Southampton Water until he passed the Hythe Pier, then signalling me to prepare the passengers to be aware of flying spray, he throttled the craft from a pedestrian Eight, to Thirty knots. A year or two later, then operating from the Beaulieu River, more trips, this time into the swell of the open sea, the effect on the passengers was more dramatic. I went on to serve as crew on the second equally brilliant HSL 102 then the Clabburn’s third restoration, Gunboat 81 (a real Fighting Vessel of WW2). What little I have learned about boats and particularly WW2 boats, I have learnt from Mr Robin Clabburn and Phil.

John Cook

See also related articles at: www.bmpt.org.uk and www.rafmuseum.org.uk
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