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Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 10:58 UK
The man who bought Hitler's boat
The Grillet
The Grillet, the largest of the three sea-to-shore boats on the Aviso Grille

The Grillet was built at the Lurssen yard in Bremen in 1934.

It was one of three vessels, originally named 'Motorbooten' 1, 2 and 3, which were attached to Adolf Hitler's 'royal yacht', the Aviso Grille.

'Grille' in German means 'whim' or 'fancy', and 'Grillet' is the small ship-to-shore boat that used to be carried on Hitler's big boat, the 'Grille'.

Today, it belongs to Teessider Revel Barker: "The grille was the biggest yacht in the world at the time, and it was too big to get into most harbours, so it needed a ship to shore boat, and mine is the biggest of the three at 36ft and made of marine oak."

The Nazi leader would entertain guests on the boat, but he also used it as part of his war against the Allies. As part of 'Operation Sealion', Hitler, assuming victory against Britain, even planned to use the Grillet as transport up the Thames, where he planned to take up residence at his new home, Windsor Castle.

The Grillet at war

Hitler on board the Grille
May 2-4: Flag at half-mast in memory of the hero's death of our Führer
Grille ship's log

It became a large part of the Nazi's war effort, as Revel explained: "It was used by Hitler before, and at the start of the war, and he loaned it to the German Navy to drop mines along the North East coast. It was then used as the headquarters of the U-Boat fleet."

Regular visitors to the yacht included members of the Third Reich hierarchy, such as Goering, Hess, Goebbels and Himmler, plus honoured visitors from Hungary, Italy and Japan. In 1937, the boat left on its first voyage to England, carrying the German delegation for the coronation of King George VI.

Then, in 1945, as the Nazi war machine crumbled, the boat was used to ferry Grand-Admiral Doenitz to the Grille, where he brought the news of Hitler's death. The last entry in the ship's log read: 'May 2-4: Flag at half-mast in memory of the hero's death of our Führer'.

From Reich to Ruin

Hitler's yacht, the Aviso Grille
The Aviso Grille has had any uses since it was Hitler's yacht

Days later, the ship was commandeered by British forces, as Revel reveals: "The Royal Navy took it as a prize of war, but didn't know where to put it, and the nearest place was the coal dock at Hartlepool, where it stayed until 1948."

The Grille was opened up to the public. The Hartlepool public paid to look around Hitler's private quarters and those reserved for his mistress, Eva Braun.

A year later, the Grille boat was sold to a Canadian shipowner for around £125,000, but the Grillet remained in Hartlepool. The local yacht club used her as a rescue boat during races, and in 1946, Mr Tommy "Tot" Richardson, commodore of the club, acquired her in exchange for his new Austin Ten car.

She was sold again in 1966 and 1974, spending time as a weekend please boat moored on the River Ouse in York.

And despite being over 70 years-old, she's still being used today in Malta, as Revel explains: "I use it purely for leisure, just going out and swimming in the sea. People don't really know the history of the boat, but when I was bringing the boat to Malta through France there was a group of old French Nazi's touching the boat where Hitler had walked."

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