Wednesday 3 July 2013 by Miranda Cookman. No comments
First World War Centenary, Conservation, Collection Highlights, Gallery redevelopment, Packing up the galleries


Steel lifeboat from HMT Ascot used in the landings on Gallipoli.
AWM RELAWM05086.001

The start of the redevelopment of the First World War galleries has been an exciting time for the Memorial, with the removal of many significant collection items from the current galleries into temporary storage. A notable part of this project has been the move of the iconic Ascot boat from the Orientation Gallery.

Weighing in at over 1,570 kilograms, the Ascot boat needed a purpose-built frame to hoist it from its current position. A team from Collection Services ensured the boat remained unharmed during its move.

The team at work moving the lifeboat

Used by the 13th Battalion, AIF, during the 25 April 1915 landings on Gallipoli, the lifeboat came from HMT Ascot, a transport vessel that carried the battalion’s B, C and D companies from Egypt to Turkey.

The 13th Battalion started disembarking around 9.30 in the evening of the first day. The Ascot’s lifeboats were lowered and hitched to the torpedo boat destroyer HMS Chelmer. The troops climbed the rope nets onto the Chelmer, which took them close to the beach. The troops then climbed into the Ascot’s lifeboats and rowed for shore.

The Ascot departed Gallipoli at the end of April, filled with wounded soldiers. This lifeboat was one of three from Ascot that was not recovered from the beach. It remained there until 1921, when it was finally shipped to Australia, having been earmarked for the Memorial’s collection by Charles Bean in 1919.

The lifeboat suffered extensive damage from bullets and shrapnel while lying on the shore, and many holes are visible in the hull. When recovered, the boat was cut in half to facilitate transport. This was necessary in order for it to be manoeuvred up and along the steep coastal road built by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The two halves were re-united for display in Australia.

The Ascot boat has long been a striking feature of the Orientation Gallery. It will feature prominently at the entrance to the new First World War galleries currently being developed once they reopen in 2015.