Coastal Forces
Britishmtb.jpg
Motor torpedo boats in the Mediterranean, February 1945
Active1914–1918, 1939–1968, 2020–present
Country United Kingdom
Branch
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Royal Navy
TypeNaval force
Commanders
CommanderRear Admiral Coastal Forces
Coastal Forces Squadron
Active2020–
Country United Kingdom
Branch
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Royal Navy
TypeNaval force
SizeTwo divisions (14 P2000 patrol boats and 3 offshore patrol vessels)

Coastal Forces was a division of the Royal Navy initially established during World War I, and then again in World War II under the command of Rear-Admiral, Coastal Forces.[1] It remained active until the last minesweepers to wear the "HM Coastal Forces" cap tally were taken out of reserve in 1968. On 21 May 2020, Ministerial approval for the change in name from 1st Patrol Boat Squadron to Coastal Forces Squadron was given. It encompasses the Archer-class patrol vessels and the Batch 1 River-class offshore patrol vessels and are responsible for UKEEZ Protection and Patrol.[2]

History

The steam gun boat Grey Goose
MTB 5 c. 1939-1945
Crewmen with a Molins autoloading 57-mm gun on a Fairmile D motor torpedo boat during World War II
The Royal Navy Captain-class frigate HMS Rutherford underway during World War II. She served as a coastal forces control frigate in 1944 and 1945.

Predecessor

The Royal Navy had previously operated flotillas of small torpedo- and depth-charge-armed craft (coastal motor boats) during World War I (1914-1918). They operated as often in action against the enemy coast as in defence of British coastal areas.

Establishment

The first post WWI motor torpedo boats built for the Royal Navy were built by the British Powerboat Company at Hythe, Southampton. MTBs 01-19 were built between 1935–38, following the hard chine planing hull designed with T E Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), for high speed rescue of downed aircraft crew.[citation needed]

During World War II (1939-1945), the first Coastal Forces headquarters was set up at HMS Vernon in 1940 under Rear Admiral Piers Kekewich, Flag Officer Coastal Forces. The chief staff officer to the admiral was Augustus Agar, VC, who had commanded coastal motor boats during World War I and in British operations in the Baltic Sea in 1918 and 1919 in support of White Russian forces during the Russian Civil War.[citation needed]

World War II operations

Royal Navy Coastal Forces craft operated mainly in the English Channel and North Sea waters. They were also based in Malta, The 1st & 3rd MTB Flotillas, Numbers 01-06 & 14-19, and HMS Tamar, Hong Kong, the 2nd MTB Flotilla, numbers 07-12, 26 & 27.

On 19 December 1941 MTB 07 led the attack on Japanese landing craft in Kowloon Harbour, Hong Kong, taking fire from land, sea and air. The operation was arguably the most daring daylight MTB raid of all time losing over 40% of the flotilla. MTB 07 was hit 97 times losing two crew dead and all three engines. It was hailed as the "Balaclava of the sea".[3][full citation needed]

They were also used in the Mediterranean[4][page needed] and off the Norwegian coastline.[5] They were used at the St. Nazaire Raid and the Dieppe Raid. They were used to attack German convoys and their S-boat (known to the Allies as "E-Boat") escorts, carry out clandestine raids and landings, and pick up secret agents in Norway and Brittany. Alongside British officers and men, the coastal craft were manned by various Allied nationalities including Dutch, Norwegian, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealanders.[6][7]

A number of Captain-class frigates were configured to operate as "coastal forces control frigates" (CFCF).[8] Operating with Coastal Forces officers embarked and responsible for controlling and providing radar support to groups of Coastal Forces' motor torpedo boats intercepting German motor torpedo boats in the North Sea,[9] these frigates were involved in the destruction of at least 26 E-Boats.[10]

By 1944 Coastal Forces numbered 3,000 officers and 22,000 ratings. Altogether there were 2,000 British Coastal Forces craft. Affectionately known as the Royal Navy's "little ships", they fought over 900 actions and sank around 400 enemy vessels, including 48 E-boats and 32 midget submarines. They fired 1,169 torpedoes, shot down 32 enemy aircraft and carried out many mine laying operations. 170 of the "little ships" were sunk or otherwise destroyed.[11]

Post-World War II

After World War II, the Royal Navy re-designated all its motor torpedo boats (MTBs) and motor gun boats (MGBs) as "fast patrol boats." The Brave-class fast patrol boats were the last craft to be built for the Coastal Forces, and the Coastal Forces were disbanded as a separate unit and their last base, (HMS Hornet), decommissioned in 1956.

The last sailors to wear the "HM Coastal Forces" cap tally were the ship's companies of the inshore minesweepers Dittisham and Flintham on being taken out of reserve in 1968, before individual cap tallies for the minesweepers had been manufactured and issued.

Craft types used

Coastal Forces included the following types of coastal defence craft:[11]

Type[12] Designation Built Lost Designed purpose
Motor launches ML, HDML, RML Harbour Defence Motor Launch and submarine chasing or rescue motor launches.
Motor Gun Boats MGB
Steam Gun Boats SGB 7 1 Hunting down German E-boats
Motor torpedo boats MTB

At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 there were three flotillas totalling 18 motor torpedo[13] "short boats" between 60 ft (18 m) and 72 feet (22 m) long. These could typically maintain 40 knots and were armed with two torpedo tubes. They were built mainly by the British Power Boat Company, Vospers, and Thornycroft.

In 1940 a modified craft, the motor gun boat (MGB), was introduced. These were armed with weapons such as the 0.5 in (12.7 mm) Vickers machine gun, 2 pounder (40 mm) "pom pom", a single or twin 20 mm Oerlikon cannon and ultimately the 6-pounder (57 mm) gun with autoloader.[14]

It was also apparent that larger craft were needed as the operational capability of the short boats was too restricted by sea conditions. Fairmile designed a series of larger coastal craft, up to 120 feet (37 m) long. The Fairmile A Type and B Type were Motor Launches and the C Type was a motor gun boat.[15]

In 1943 the Fairmile D Type appeared. It was a motor torpedo boat – nicknamed the "Dog Boat" – and was designed as a counter to the German S-boat (known to the Allies as the "E-boat"). It could be fitted as either a gun or a torpedo boat, so the designation MGB and MTB tended to be intermixed or 'MGB/MTB' used.[16] It was a good sea boat and could maintain 30 knots (56 km/h) at full load. The later D types carried four 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes.[17]

The Vosper Type I MTB appeared in 1943. This was a 73-foot (22 m) craft with four 18-inch (460 mm) torpedo tubes and was capable of a maximum speed of 40 knots (74 km/h).

Bases

Coastal Forces bases were located around the British coast and at major locations overseas.[1][18][19][20]

Commonwealth coastal forces

Although British Commonwealth coastal forces operated independently from British ones, they used similar vessels:

Coastal forces of Type Built Lost Notes
Canada Fairmile B motor launch
Fairmile D motor torpedo boat
BPB motor torpedo boat
80[25]
10[26]
11[27]
Australia Harbour defence motor launch
Fairmile B motor launch
31[28]
35[29]
New Zealand Harbour defence motor launch
Fairmile B motor launch
16[30]
12[31]

Surviving craft

Vessel Description Built Builder In the care of Condition
HDML 1387 Medusa Harbour defence launch which took part in the Normandy landings.[32] 1943 R.A.Newman & sons Medusa Trust[33] restored to original condition
MTB 102 Prototype for World War II MTBs[34] 1937 Vosper MTB102 Trust[35] still seaworthy
MTB 331 55 ft (17 m) Stepped-hull motor torpedo boat - sole survivor[36] 1941 Thornycroft British Military Powerboat Trust[37] Intention to get her seaworthy
MGB 81 71.5 ft (21.8 m) Motor gunboat 1942 British Power Boat Company Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust[38] Fully operational, based at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
MTB 71 60 ft (18 m) Motor torpedo boat 1940 Vosper Static exhibit

Some surviving motor launches in British waters were taken on as pleasure boats and a number of them are on the National Register of Historic Vessels.

See also

Coastal Forces memorial at the former HMS Hornet, Gosport
Coastal Forces memorial at the former HMS Hornet, Gosport

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b "Royal Navy Coastal Forces 1940-1945". www.unithistories.com.
  2. ^ "Coastal Forces Squadron - a Freedom of Information request to Royal Navy". WhatDoTheyKnow. 6 June 2020.
  3. ^ The fair log from MTB 07 along with official reports by the surviving commanders
  4. ^ Reynolds, L.C. and Cooper, H.F. (1999) Mediterranean MTBs at War: Short MTB Flotilla Operations, 1939-45
  5. ^ see for example Operation Brandy or MTB 345
  6. ^ "Coastal Forces Heritage Trust: History". Coastal Forces Heritage Trust. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  7. ^ Coastal Forces of World War Two (Royal Naval Museum)
  8. ^ Donald. The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War. p. 31.
  9. ^ Mason, Lt Cdr Geoffrey B (29 May 2011). Smith, Gordon (ed.). "HMS Rutherford (K 558) - Captain-class Frigate including Convoy Escort Movements". Service Histories of Royal Navy Warships in World War 2. Naval-History.Net.
  10. ^ Donald. The Captain Class Frigates in the Second World War. pp. 124, 139.
  11. ^ a b "The Coastal Forces Heritage Trust". www.coastal-forces.org.uk.
  12. ^ Note that minesweepers, trawlers and landing craft are not included.
  13. ^ Konstam p.7
  14. ^ Allied Coastal Forces of World War II - Volume II: Vosper designs and US Elcos - by John Lambert and Al Ross, 1993 ISBN 0-85177-602-7
  15. ^ Allied Coastal Forces of World War II - Volume I: Fairmile designs and US Submarine Chasers - by John Lambert and Al Ross, 1990 ISBN 978-0-85177-519-7
  16. ^ Konstam p17
  17. ^ The Fairmile D Motor Torpedo Boat (Anatomy of the Ship's series) by John Lambert, 1985 ISBN 0-85177-321-4
  18. ^ "UK Land Based Combined Operations Training Establishments".
  19. ^ List of Royal Navy shore establishments
  20. ^ "Western Approaches Command, Admiral Noble, January 1942". www.naval-history.net.
  21. ^ "Royal Navy Coastal Forces 1940-1945". www.unithistories.com.
  22. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070927041518/http://people.aapt.net.au/~jburchell/Index.html index
  23. ^ History of HMS St Christopher
  24. ^ "Things to Do – Dartmouth Museum". Dartmouth Museum. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2011. The Royal Dart Hotel between the ferries played a vital role in the Second World War. It was called HMS Cicala then.
  25. ^ "Canadian Fairmile Bs". Archived from the original on 13 September 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  26. ^ "Canadian Fairmile Ds". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  27. ^ "BPB motor torpedo boat". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  28. ^ "Australian HDMLs". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  29. ^ "Australian Fairmile Bs". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  30. ^ "New Zealand HDMLs". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  31. ^ "New ZealandFairmile Bs". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. ^ "HDML 1387 Medusa". Archived from the original on 13 January 2007.
  33. ^ Limited, LMA. "The Medusa Trust, preserving the small naval vessel of World War II". www.hmsmedusa.org.uk.
  34. ^ "MTB102". Archived from the original on 13 January 2007.
  35. ^ "MTB 102". www.mtb102.com.
  36. ^ MTB-331 - 55 ft (17 m) coastal motor torpedo boat Archived 15 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ "British Military Powerboat Trust, Coastal Forces, Gunboats, Target Boats, High Speed Launches, Motor Gun Boats, Torpedo Boats, Patrol Boats, Seaplane Tenders". www.bmpt.org.uk.
  38. ^ "Motor Gun Boat 81". Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust.

Bibliography

Further reading