A SHIP built in Poole that played a crucial role on D-Day needs vital funds to return to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the landings.

HMS Medusa is the final remaining Harbour Defence Motor Launch in its original condition, and volunteers that keep her ship-shape plan to take her to Normandy next June.

She was built in the site now occupied by Sunseeker 80 years ago this month, October 1943.

However, thousands of pounds are needed for her to take part in the D-Day anniversary.

Bournemouth Echo:

On D-Day in 1944, Medusa was among the first vessels across the Channel, setting off from Portland before the invasion was delayed.

She returned and set off again on June 5 to mark a precise spot on the edge of a German minefield off Omaha beach before the landings the following day.

The ship stayed for 30 hours as a beacon for minesweepers and as a marker for the invading force.

HMS Medusa carried advanced navigation equipment, which was so precious the ship was fitted with demolition charges so she could destroy herself rather than see the equipment seized.

After the war, Medusa worked off Scotland as an escort and went to the Netherlands in May 1945 to accept the surrender of the German forces.

Bournemouth Echo:

She was the first allied ship to navigate the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam and was there for VE Day.

Her current captain, Alan Watson OBE, said: “On top of the £20,000 a year we need just to keep her in a seaworthy condition we need another £10,000 and most of that is fuel costs.

“Many ships that took part in D-Day will be marking the anniversary in UK waters, but we think Medusa should be in France. We have taken her a number of times over the years.

“She is an incredible survivor. There are one or two hulls of her class remaining used as house boats and one other that has been modernised, so she is unique.

“She had a short but eventful war and took part in Exercise Fabius 1 - the rehearsal for the Normandy landings conducted at Slapton Sands in Devon.

“On D-Day itself she performed a very important role and had an increased crew of 20, up from the usual 12.

“She had to be extremely precise with her positioning and her job as ‘navigational leader’ was to mark ‘Channel 4’ – one of the passages to Omaha beach – for the minesweepers then the invasion force, which consisted of mainly Americans.

Bournemouth Echo: D-Day chart

“None of her D-Day crew are alive today but in their memory we’d like to take her across the Channel.

“We have a volunteer crew and a team that keeps her seaworthy, but we need extra funds to enable us to go.

“Medusa was sold by the Admiralty in 1968 after 25 years’ service and was intended for the breaker’s yard, but a group led by Mike Boyce in Weymouth spent 18 years restoring her.

“In 2002 a trust was formed to look after her and she is now based at Gosport in Hampshire.

“This country’s maritime heritage is often overlooked and Medusa is a living, breathing part of that history.”

Donations can be made through the Medusa Trust’s website.