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Naval motor launch MB 172

Date: 1936-1937
Vessel Dimensions: 11.88 m x 3.48 m x 1.22 m, 10 tonnes (38.98 ft x 11.42 ft x 4 ft, 9.84 tons)
Medium: Spotted gum planking and ribbing, teak cabin
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transferred from Department of Defence, Navy
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Powerboat
Object No: 00053724
Place Manufactured:Sydney
Related Place:Jervis Bay, Darwin, Port Melbourne,

User Terms

    MB 172, built of spotted gum and teak with brass fittings in late 1937 at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney, is a naval motor launch used to transfer officers from ship to shore and ship to ship. It was in use in the Royal Australian Navy in Darwin, Port Phillip and Jervis Bays from 1938 to 1985.
    SignificanceMB 172 is representative of naval craft of this type that were once in common use around Australia. Only three examples remain of these craft. MB 168 (built at Garden Island Dockyard in 1936 for use at the naval depot HMAS RUSHCUTTER at Edgecliff) has been retained by the Navy and is currently allocated to the Director of the Naval Heritage Collection, Sydney. JANET – formerly MB 621 – was built at Garden Island Dockyard in 1922 for use by the Master Attendant’s Department in Sydney and underwent modification for private use after being sold in 1947.

    MB 172 is in the most original configuration and is an excellent example of pre-war shipwright skills. The boat is locally designed and built and represents a workhorse of the navy, a vessel type that more often than not disappears from the historic record. Searches of naval records have found that of the 55 vessels designated as Motor Boats (MBs) only the three mentioned above appear to have have survived. Of the 22 work boats built at Garden Island Dockyard (including 11 MBs), again only JANET, MB 168 and MB 172 appear to have survived; with MB 172 standing as the most original.
    HistoryMB 172 was built in 1936-37 at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard, Sydney as a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) district officers’ boat. It appears to have spent a short period in Darwin harbour before being sent to the naval shore establishment HMAS LONSDALE in Port Melbourne in 1940. LONSDALE was established in 1940 for the receipt and dispatch of naval recruits during World War II. MB 172 remained there as the NOIC’s (Naval Officer in Charge) launch where it was primarily used as the Naval College tender. From 1957 and through the 1960s and 1970s MB 172 was attached to the Royal Australian Naval College (RANC) at HMAS CRESWELL at Jervis Bay, New South Wales.

    It should be noted that as a support craft its history is far less well documented than fleet vessels.

    MB 172 was one of at least four very similar craft built for naval dockyard officer's use in ports around Australia and Papua New Guinea. Two of the others were MB 168 and MB 170. It is known that one other was built in the early 1920s at Garden Island and went by the name JANET. Drawings show JANET was project number 64 and intended as an officer's launch. The original cabin arrangement featured an open steering position for the helmsman. However later plans for MB 168 show the enclosed wheelhouse, and just refer to the craft as a motor launch.

    MB 172 has a similar arrangement to MB 168 and both were built in 1936/37 at Garden Island to be used in Papua New Guinea. They were used as an officer's launch and given the title District Officers' Boats. After World War II they were classed as Senior Officers' Boats and MB 172 is understood to have been allocated to the General Manager of Garden Island Dockyard. The Navy List for 1959 indicates that the MB172 was called CRESWELL and was attached to HMAS CRESWELL at Jervis Bay. No record of it being used for survey work has been uncovered, but MB 168 was used for survey work on Sydney Harbour, as well as being allocated to the Commanding Officer, HMAS Kuttabul (a shore establishment).

    With fibreglass and aluminium utility boats displacing aging timber craft MB 172 was decommissioned from the RAN in the mid-1980s, and was stored ashore and stripped of all equipment that could be used elsewhere. Initial restoration by the RAN began in 1986 but faltered due to defence restructuring. In 1987 the boat was transferred from the RAN to the newly established Australian National Maritime Museum. Apprentice shipwrights at Australian Defence Industries rebuilt the launch at their yard in Ryde, New South Wales and fabricated fittings at their Rosebery foundry. Sponsors who assisted this restoration included Volvo Penta distributor Eastern Engines Pty Ltd who supplied a TAMD41 diesel engine at a generous discount; and Taubmans Industries Ltd (Epiglass Australia) who supplied marine paints and varnishes. For a period, MB 172 was renamed EPIC LASS in honour of this support, and used primarily as a museum work boat. It is now used as a launch for transporting ANMM guests on Sydney Harbour and has resumed the title MB 172.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Kriegsmarine motor boot MB172

    Assigned title: Marine motor boot MB172

    Assigned title: Naval motor launch MB 172

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