Ark Royal - Fast Motor Boat

Fast Motor Boat (FMB) 43957 was allocated to HMS Diadem, a cruiser which was commissioned in January, 1944.  Early in her career, Diadem was engaged in the Northwest Approaches, and was in action off the Normandy beaches on D Day.  After that, the cruiser was largely on Arctic Convoy duties, then off to Norway until the end of 1944 in company with HMS Mauritius.  Early in 1945 with Vice Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton on board, Diadem was again in action which included an engagement with the German 4th Destroyer Flotilla.  The cruiser was again on Arctic Convoy duties during March/April 1945, and at the end of the war in May was operating off Narvik.

Edward Collins, who served on Diadem during the Arctic convoys, recollected:  “Apart from the U-Boats and planes, the real enemy in these parts is the weather....  Frost covers the shrouds and hand rails in a way that if one placed a hand on an object without a glove on, the skin stays on that object!  A heavy sea has waves forty feet high that batter even a cruiser, and anything not tied down goes overboard, or on mess decks, crockery fails to exist.”

FMB 43957 was one of hundreds of the type built for use as the officer’s duty boat or the captain’s boat on larger ships.  Some were fitted out as barges or senior officers’ boats, and 43957 was one of these.

Today you see Fast Motor Boat 43957 restored to a smart red-painted livery.  She wore this colour as the captain's boat of the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, a role she held from 1953 until her retirement in 1969.  This boat is in full commission and can be launched using the gantry cranes.

Boat Stats

Length Overall

25ft 6in


7ft 6in


2ft 3in


2.5 Tons


One Perkins P6M 65hp engine


12 - 14 knots


Mahogany double diagonal planking up to the chine. Clinker planking above hard chine.

Date Built

July 1944

Boat Yard

Staniland and Co. Ltd., Thorne.

Supported by:

Supported by Regional Growth Fund