The seaplane tender was a boat which was equipped to refuel,rearm, and repair seaplanes. They were stationed at any size-able body of protected water where sea planes could land and take off. They were also used to ferry crew and supplies for the seaplane. Often also used to tow the seaplane to a mooring or away from a mooring for take-off.
They were particularly useful in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, when bases for traditional reconnaissance aircraft were rare. The seaplane tender not only carried the seaplanes, but can also facilitated all their needs for their operation; these boats are regarded by some as the first aircraft carriers and they started to be spotted just before the start of the First World War.

Following the creation of the seaplane in 1910 the first seaplane tender was functional and in use around 1911 with the French Navy. Another early seaplane carrier was HMS Hermes, an old cruiser which was converted with a flying-off deck around 1913. However, it was the HMS Ark Royal that was the first ship that was designed and commissioned to be built as a seaplane carrier in 1914.

The British built HMS Ark Royal was a seaplane tender built with a flying-off deck specifically for the use of seaplanes, so that they could be recovered while the ship was out at sea. How it worked was a sheet towed behind the vessel, once the seaplane was on the mat it was stationary and it could then be hoisted aboard.

The success of the seaplane tender in the 1st World War made way for their use during the Second World War, with both the American and the Japanese Navies commissioning and building several seaplane tenders to support their aircraft carrier fleets. The tenders allowed the air craft to be rapidly deployed to new bases because their runways did not have to be constructed, and support facilities were mobile much like supply ships for submarines or destroyers.

In World War II Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine decided that they didn’t have any use for the seaplane tenders. However, the Luftwaffe had a fleet of them with around nineteen seaplane tenders in use.

By the end of the Second World War the Seaplane tenders became out dated. A few remained in service after the war until the 1950's and then they were scrapped or converted for other uses.

To this day, you will still see some fine examples of the seaplane tender. With their history, they are a very worthwhile project, and to get them back to their original glory would be bringing history back to life. Boatshed Suffolk currently has one of these very boats for sale. Built in 1942, with almost certainty that it would have been active in World War II, this seaplane tender would most probably have been used to ferry crew and supplies for the seaplane. Often also used to tow the seaplane to a mooring or away from a mooring for take-off. You will find this boat to be a worthwhile project with a lot of the original solid structure still in place.

If this article about the seaplane tender has sparked your interest and you would like to look at our Brooke Marine Seaplane Tender Project boat, then please feel free to get in touch with our friendly team at Boatshed Suffolk -