Historical information

The plans were used for the construction of the lifeboat ‘Warrnambool’, which began 15th September 1909 and was completed almost 12 months later 1st September 1910. It was built at the Government Dockyard in Williamstown, Victoria, along the lines designed by Great Britain’s Royal Lifeboat Institution, and included whaleback decks fore and aft, mast and centreboard, and rudder and tiller hung from the sternpost. It could be propelled by both sail and oar.

At that time Captain Ferguson was Chief Harbour Master and Mr Beagley was the foreman boat builder. Mr Beagley built the lifeboat with his fellow workmen. The boat was described as “… a fine piece of workmanship and does credit to her builders and designers…” It had all the latest improvements in shape, disposition of weight and watertight compartments, and it had space for a large number of people in addition to the crew.

It appears that 'H Meiers' whose signature was on the plaque that was found concealed in the hull, was involved with the building of the lifeboat. His signature and the dates of the start and finish of the boat’s construction are pencilled on the raw timber 'plaque' found in the hull in the early 1990s when the lifeboat was being restored. It is interesting that the ‘Melbourne Directory’ of 1911, published by Sands and MacDougal, lists McAuley and Meiers, boat builders, Nelson Place foreshore, between Pasco and Parker Streets, Williamstown, (Victorian Heritage Database, ‘Contextual History, Maritime Facilities’), It is quite possibly the business of the person whose name is inscribed on the lifeboat plaque. Flagstaff Hill’s documentation also mentions that the keel was laid at ‘Harry Myers, boat builders, Williamstown, Melbourne’ – the name ‘Myers’ can also be spelled ‘Meiers’, which could be the same person as the Meiers in “McAuley and Meiers” (as mentioned in genealogy lines of Myers).

The new lifeboat, to be named ‘Warrnambool’ was brought to town by train and launched at the breakwater on 1st March 1911 using the Titan crane (the old lifeboat built in 1858, was then returned to Melbourne in 1911). This new lifeboat was stationed at Warrnambool in a shed located at the base of the Breakwater, adjacent to the slipway. A winch was used to bring it in and out of the water.

The lifeboat ‘Warrnambool’ was similar in size to the old lifeboat but far superior in design, build and sea-going qualities such as greater manoeuvrability. The ‘self-righting, self-draining design was “practically non-capsizeable” and even if the boat overturned it would right itself to an even keel and the water would drain away. The hull was built of New Zealand Kauri, using double diagonal planking, laid in two layers at right angles, with a layer of canvas and red lead paint between the timbers to help seal the planking. It has “… plenty of freeboard area, high watertight spaces between the deck and bottom… through which pipes lead…” The backbone timbers were made of Jarrah.

The lifeboat Warrnambool was one of several rescue boats used at Port Fairy and Warrnambool in the early 1900s. In late 1914 the Warrnambool lifeboat and crew were used to help find what was left of the tragic wreckage of the Antares and were able to discover the body of one of the crewmen, which they brought back to Warrnambool.

Between 1951 and 1954 the lifeboat was manned under the guidance of Captain Carrington. He held lifeboat practice each month on a Sunday morning, to comply with the Ports and Harbour’s request that lifeboats be manned by a strong and competent crew, ready for action in case of emergency.

In the early 1960’s it ended its service as a lifeboat and was used in Port Fairy as a barge to help dredge the Moyne River, bolted to the Port Fairy lifeboat.

Flagstaff Hill obtained the Warrnambool in 1975. In 1984 it was on display at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, Warrnambool. On 23rd May 1990, she was lifted from the water and placed in a cradle for restoration. The name ‘WARRNAMBOOL could be seen faintly on the lifeboat before it was restored. It was during the restoration that Flagstaff Hill's boat builder discovered the 'plaque' inside the hull.

A copy of the blueprint plans has the name “V.E.E. Gotch” printed on it. His advertisement in Footscray’s ‘Independent’ newspaper of Saturday 11th May 1901 states he is “Principal and Skilled member (Naval Architect) to the Court of Marine Inquiry of Victoria and holds classes for naval architectural drawing and arithmetic.”


The line drawing is significant for its connection with the lifeboat WARRNAMBOOL. The lifeboat is very significant to local and state history for its use in the lifesaving rescues of seafarers, particularly in Lady Bay. It was part of the local rescue equipment. It gave a half-century of service to the local community as a lifesaving vessel, including its involvement in retrieving the body of a shipwrecked crew member of the ANTARES.

Physical description

Line drawing in black ink and pencil on rectangular parchment or waxed linen. Drawing has diagrams of three profiles of a vessel, with measurements and connecting pencil lines on the left quarter. The plan is for the lifeboat named “Warrnambool”, which was built in Melbourne and completed in 1910.
Old blue copies of the Lifeboat plan are archived also.

Inscriptions & markings

“Scale, One Inch to One Foot” “
“Length as shown 30’ – 8” “
“Breadth “ “ 8’ – 6 ½ “ “
“Depth “ “ 3’ – 4 ¾” “