The ‘Fairmile’ B was a wooden Motor Gun Boat (MGB), that served throughout WW2. RML497 was built by Southampton Steam Joinery Ltd in 1941 and commissioned in July 1942. Stationed with 62nd ML Flotillas at Portland between 1942 and 1944, the ‘Fairmile’ was then transferred to Kirkwall in January 1944 on anti-submarine target towing duties until August when she sent to Appledore.
Growing up in Brixham, the Western Lady ferries were a constant sight in the harbour, or crossing the bay as I was growing up. Little ( then) did I know of their WW2 heritage and national importance. During the D-Day 50th commemorations one of the Western Ladys was painted in a WW2 paint scheme, the first I learned of its heritage. I was living in Germany then, and when I returned all the Western Ladys had left Torbay.
She joined the 69th Flotilla based at Felixstowe until eventually being sold off at Itchenor in 1947.
The ‘Fairmile’ then entered service as a Western Lady III ferry between Brixham and Torquay, and was a regular sight in Torbay when I was growing up there. In June 2009 she was bought by the company Greenway Ferry and following a £55,000 refit entered service in the summer of 2009 as ‘The Fairmile’ between Torbay, Dartmouth and Greenway, after a very substantial refit. Sadly mindless yobs attacked the restored Fairmile and caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Restored once more, the ‘Fairmile’ currently operated a summer service between Torquay, Brixham and Dartmouth – with a cruise to the Exercise Tiger coast around Slapton Sands, before being passed to a maritime museum.
On Wednesday 20th October 2010 the Fairmile made a very special cruise. To commemorate ‘ Exercise Tiger’, the Princess Royal, HRH Princess Anne officailly launched the Grand Heritage Voyage and unveiled a plaque on the bow of the Fairmile. On board were local VIPs and a very special VIP – an original Veteran of this very special heritage boats WW2 crew.
In 2009 a small squad of WW2 reenactors carried out a charity walk to commemorate Exercise Tiger, on which we were privaledged to take the Exercise Tiger Commemorative Cruise from Dartmouth.