Conceived by Elco General Manager Henry Sutphen in conjunction with representatives of the Royal Navy these fast, sea-worthy craft served with distinction in a variety of roles during and immediately after World War One.

Designed and built by Elco of Bayonne, New Jersey, the Motor Launch, or ML, can be considered the forerunner of the famous PT boats of World War Two—both springing from the board of the same design team, led by Irwin Chase. They are also related in many respects to the World War One era 110' Sub-Chasers of the U.S. Navy. Ultimately, 580 ML's were delivered to the Royal Navy's Auxiliary Patrol in three batches: ML's 1–50, 51–550, and 551–580. Later in the war 40 of these were sold to the French navy. Elco also sold at least 105 ML's to Italy and some may have made it into the Russian navy as well. Elco eventually built 701 ML's with at least two being deployed by the US Navy and and many finding their way into civilian hands after the war.

The Motor Launch was often referred to as a "Movie" by the men who served aboard them (who often jokingly referred to themselves as "Emmelites"). This nickname hints at their lively movement in a seaway. Indeed, it was often complained that motion was the outstanding feature of the ML. However, their service record certainly demonstrates many versatile qualities of these relatively little-known craft and the men who served aboard them.

My research evolved from a general interest in certain turn-of-the-century British yachtsmen who were often skilled artists and authors. At the outset of war many of these men volunteered for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), bringing an extensive knowledge of the coastlines of England and Europe and the generally excellent seamanship of their pre-war yachting days. The fact that they were not "regular Navy" may have been a benefit in that they were not constrained by tradition or conservative thinking when it came to nautical matters, and this aided immensely in the performance of the "improvised Navy" that was the Auxiliary Patrol—with the ML being a typical posting.

This site presents information about the Elco-built Motor Launch drawn from books, the web, family photo albums and personal correspondence—all compiled over the course of more than a decade. If you have additional information, family history that pertains to the ML's, Motor Launch Patrol, the Dover Patrol, the RNVR during World War One, service immediately after the war, or about any of the authors referenced here please feel free to contact me.

—Jeffrey Charles