previously Mahalia, Grey Mist, Doris
Glala’s origins are unclear. Entries in Lloyd’s List show that she was designed by A R Luke and that construction began in 1915 at Luke &
Sons’ yard on the River Hamble. For some reason she and a sister vessel were put aside unfinished and lay incomplete until 1919 when
they were sold to Camper & Nicholson in Gosport, who fitted them out as a motor yachts.
Glala was launched in 1920. Initially called Pampa II and then Doris, she appears to have spent most of the 1920s on the Scottish Lochs. In 1935 she was bought by Lord Brockett of Mallaig who named her Cupid and kept her on the West Coast of Scotland. In 1936 she was lying in Greenock and this is where the aviation pioneer Sir Alan Cobham – or rather his wife, Lady Gladys – found her. He bought her for £900, a bargain even then, and spent £140 on a re-fit. He combined his wife’s name with his own and named her Glala. In 1938 she was taken over by the engineering company AEC.
The Admiralty requisitioned Glala in October 1939 and she became a Harbour Defence Patrol Yacht stationed at Sheerness on the Thames estuary. A photograph taken in 1940 shows a machine gun on the foredeck and depth charges on the stern. She appears in the naval records of Saturday, 13 January 1940, “Sloop BITTERN found a German mine which she towed towards Sheerness. It was secured to the Nord Buoy and harbour defence patrol yacht GLALA (51grt) beached the mine from there.”
Like so many other vessels her moment came during Operation Dynamo. Commanded by Sub-Lieutenant John Alexander Dow, RNVR, she set out for Dunkirk at 0800 on 31st May 1940 in company with the yachts Amulree and Caleta. She arrived in Dunkirk Roads at 1130 and, amidst air raids, towed two whalers full of soldiers to the paddle steamer HMS Golden Eagle. Glala then towed boats for the destroyers HMS Venomous and HMS Vivacious. According to the Naval Staff History, “It was about this time, 2000, that the yacht Glala (which was standing by to tow the boats of the Vivacious from the beach) found that her tiller wire was reduced to a single strand. Her Commanding Officer said, ‘The bombing and shelling which had been going on continuously, became intense. A Captain RN in yacht No 1 of the Solent Patrol (i.e. Captain Howson in the Ankh) ordered us to make for the open sea, and all the small craft followed him out'”.
Glala returned to Ramsgate for repairs on 2nd June, arriving at 1845. From there she proceeded to Sheerness with her port engine out of
action. In June 1941 Glala became a hospital tender in Belfast with a civilian crew, possibly ferrying the injured from the incoming
Atlantic convoys. In October 1943 she joined the Naval Fire Service in Liverpool.
Glala is believed to have been cruising in the Mediterranean through the 1950s and 60s. She returned to England in the 1970s and was in a poor state of repair until renovated in 1978. She was then used as a houseboat in Southampton. In 1985 she took part in a commemoration return to Dunkirk. In 1989 she was substantially restored again and the aging AEC engines were replaced with a pair of Gardner 6LXBs. In 2005 she was seaworthy enough to take part in a return to Dunkirk again.
In 2007 Glala found a new owner and the resources became available to fully restore her. Despite considerable progress at the time of writing (Oct 2016) Glala was sold and bought again in July 2017 and is once again under restoration.
Source: 3, 4 & 5
Updated April 2018