This fine shipyard half-hull model has a painted pink hull with a pale green waterline and white topsides with a line of portholes. There are two truncated masts, a funnel and a bowsprit above an eagle figurehead. The decks have a coach house and bridge with painted windows, a gilt-top binnacle, steering wheel, capstan and railings. Pencil markings on the deck fittings and guard rail state ‘Ab-Bass’. The name plate reads ‘Ab-Bass, Designed by G.L. Watson built by Ailsa shipbuilding Co., Troon, Engined by Dunsmuir & Jackson, Glasgow, 1891’. Scottish.
Ab-Bass was designed by the renowned G.L.Watson and built at the Ailsa Shipyard alongside ‘May’, a slightly larger steam yacht commissioned by repeat Watson client Ninian B. Stewart, an agent for the Egyptian government. However, she was not a gentleman’s yacht but instead a Revenue, or in more modern terminology, a Coast Guard Cutter. Commissioned by the Egyptian government, her finesse is a testament to Egyptian frustration at being banned from maintaining any kind of navy after the Anglo-Egyptian war of 1882. Nonetheless, during World War I, as British dominion continued in the area and the vital Suez Canal became a target for the Germans and their Ottoman allies, Egyptian government vessels were at risk. In early November 1915 German submarine U-35 delivered supplies and Ottoman personnel to the Senussi insurgents in Libya, then cruised east looking for targets. First it sank HMS Tara, an armed steamer and former ferry and next entered the Egyptian port of Sollum and bombarded it for 45 minutes. Ab-bass was sunk and another Coast Guard Cutter Nour al-Bahr was damaged. The lesson of Ab-Bass’ sinking was clear; the back door to Egypt was wide open and despite being hard pressed on the Western Front, in the Dardanelles, Sinai and the Persian Gulf, the British would now have to find troops to the guard the Western Desert.