The Anglo Saxon's Jolly Boat
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The Fate of the Jolly Boat

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The jolly boat was auctioned at Nassau in December 1940 and was bought by Lady Oakes, the wife of a wealthy Canadian, Sir Harry Oakes, who resided in the Bahamas. In April 1941 she presented the jolly boat to the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut, where it was placed on display. Interest revived in the Anglo Saxon tragedy in 1990, the 50th anniversary, and the jolly boat. By then, however, Mystic Seaport Museum no longer had the boat on display and it was stored in the small craft boat loft.

The boat was released by that institution after negotiations with the Imperial War Museum, which had expressed a desire to display the jolly boat. The eventual return of the boat to Britain was achieved through the energy, goodwill and co-operative effort of a number of individuals and organisations, to whom the Imperial War Museum is greatly indebted.

Anthony Smith, the broadcaster and author of 'Survived' had long been fascinated by the fate of the Anglo Saxon and her crew, and first proposed her return for display in the Imperial War Museum. He had met up with Ted Milburn, son of the Chief Engineer of the Anglo Saxon, and the compiler of a remarkable archive about the vessel from which much of the background detail of her history was obtained. Anthony Smith was able to provide invaluable contacts who facilitated the jolly boat's return: Dan Samuel, who conducted initial discussions on our behalf with Mystic Seaport Museum, and Captain Peter H. King, a Brother of Trinity House, who arranged transport through the generosity of P&O Nedlloyd, whose staff could not have been more helpful.

Equally committed to the return of the jolly boat were the members of the Newport SS Anglo Saxon Jolly Boat Association, especially their Secretary , Bert Bale and Chairman Mike Buckingham, both of whom did so much to keep the return a live issue in the media; and the Association's Presidents, first Mrs Norma Tapscott, the widow of one of the two survivors, who has been indefatigable in her efforts to ensure the appropriate display of the boat and who was succeeded by the author Leslie Thomas, whose strong interest in the Second World War ensured his support.

Three museums, besides the IWM, had been suggested as a suitable place for the display of the jolly boat: Newport County Borough Council's Museum and Art Gallery (as the port from which the Anglo Saxon began her last voyage); Merseyside Maritime Museum, with its fine exhibition on the Battle of the Atlantic; and the Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum, (now the National Museums & Galleries of Wales Collections Centre at Parc Nantgarw, whose Senior Curator, Dr David Jenkins, provided much good advice). When the jolly boat became a practicable possibility, all three museums gave their support to the IWM's proposal, which considerably assisted its case.

This enthusiasm and effort was matched by the commitment of the Trustees of Mystic Seaport Museum and it's then Director, Revell Carr, and his staff, who made possible the transfer of the jolly boat to the IWM. Since his retirement, Revell Carr has maintained a strong interest in the jolly boat and its history. He tracked down the boat's nameplate to Harlingen, Texas, and arranged for its very generous donation by Mrs Irene Payne, whose late husband Lloyd Payne Jr. had presented the nameplate to his father in 1941. The Imperial War Museum is grateful to all the aforementioned people and organisations.

Ultimately the jolly boat was returned to the UK in the container ship Sea-Land Atlantic and landed at Felixstowe on 15 November 1997. After conservation the jolly boat was put on display in May 1998 as the central exhibit of 'Survival at Sea: stories of the Merchant Navy in the Second World War'.

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