Allied Coastal Forces of World War II, Volume I, Fairmile Designs & US Submarine Chasers

This is the definitive work on Allied Coastal Forces vessels, written and illustrated by former RN officer, the late John Lambert, and American author and technical illustrator Al Ross. Originally, this work was published in two volumes by Conway Maritime and this new book is a new edition of Volume I with additional material, published beautifully by Seaforth publishing. – Most Highly Recommended

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NAME: Allied Coastal Forces of World War II, Volume I, Fairmile Designs & US 
Submarine Chasers
FILE: R2897
AUTHOR: John Lambert, Al Ross
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Seaforth Publishing
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 255
PRICE: £40.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, World War Two, Second World 
War, Torpedo Boats, Motor Gun Boats, MTB, MGB,  Fast Attack Craft, 'Mosquito' 
Craft, Coastal Forces, convoy escort, submarine chasers, radar pickets, landing ships

ISBN: 978-1-5267-4449-4

IMAGE: B2897.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y5jmhrno
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION:   This is the definitive work on Allied Coastal Forces vessels, 
written and illustrated by former RN officer, the late John Lambert, and 
American author and technical illustrator Al Ross. Originally, this work was 
published in two volumes by Conway Maritime and this new book is a new 
edition of Volume I with additional material, published beautifully by Seaforth 
publishing. – Most Highly Recommended

The authors worked well together and it is sad that John Lambert is no longer with 
us. It is most welcome that Seaforth Publishing has released this new and enhanced 
edition with some excellent colour drawing of camouflage patterns applied to the 
vessels.

The story of the Vosper fast attack craft and the US PT Boats is perhaps the best 
known of the huge Allied design, construction and deployment of Coastal Forces 
during WWII. However, in many ways, the most extraordinary story is the one told 
in this new book about the Fairmile designs and the US submarine chasers.

Fairmile designed the original 'flat-pack' warships and the manufacturers involved 
in the program included one furniture workshop that was acquired after WWII by a 
British furniture manufacturer that became a famous 'flat-pack' furniture producer. 
Hopefully the assembly instructions for the warship were of a higher quality.

Where Vospers and British Powerboats, and the US Higgins and Elco equivalents 
were established defence contractors with experience in the design and production 
of small warships, Fairmile was a design bureau. As the war clouds started to gather 
in the 1930s, the Admiralty became increasingly aware of the huge number of new 
warships that would be required for the Royal Navy to meet its objectives in war. 
There simply was not the shipyard capacity available or the guaranteed supplies of 
steel and other strategic materials. This led to the brief given to Fairmile to design 
warships that could operate in coastal waters, but also be capable of operation 
beyond coastal waters. These warships were to be used for convoy escort, anti-
submarine use and employ the minimum of strategic materials.

The Fairmile bureau rose to the challenge magnificently and ended up producing 
a family of designs to meet a wider operational brief and go on to be used in even 
more roles. The story told here in detail is of the designs, the weapons and 
deployment of these craft. The detail of the component manufacturers is told only
 in passing but in some respects it was at least as extraordinary and was part of a 
major logistics operation in pulling together all the components, shipping them to 
the shipyards and building the vessels in amazingly short time under air attack. As 
the ships were made largely of wood, furniture workshops and factories were put to 
work producing plywood bulkheads and components from natural timber. Small 
engineering works and even village blacksmiths built metal components. Engines 
were shipped to the UK from the US under Lend Lease. The work was done largely 
by small shipyards and yacht builders, some of them twenty miles up rivers from the
sea, and they built hundreds of Fairmile boats during WWII in Britain, but also in 
Canada, Egypt, India and Australia.

The Fairmile A was a starting point for the family. It was a bilge keel form that was 
originally intended to have three petrol or diesel engines and be able to carry out all 
of the convoy escort tasks that a destroyer would carry out. It had a novel tracking 
system to allow various weapons fits to be applied and modified very quickly to 
meet operational needs. That meant that it could carry guns and cannon to deal with 
aerial and surface targets, sweep for mines and keep up with the faster coastal 
convoys. It had much better sea keeping qualities than the smaller hard chine 
MTB/MBG hulls but still depended on the same materials, double diagonal 
mahogany planks on a wooded skeleton of natural wood and plywood. 

An initial success, the Fairmile A was to be joined by the Fairmile C which was an 
improved version  of the A design. These two classes operated in British coastal 
waters through WWII with distinction. Where the A had been fitted with three 
600hp American Scott Hall petrol engines, with the exhausts enclosed by a funnel, 
the C had 909hp supercharged Scott Hall petrol engines and did not run its exhausts 
through a funnel as the A had proved this had no merit and was deleted on As that 
joined the Coastal Forces with funnels.

The Fairmile B was an extraordinary success and more than 700 were built in the 
UK and around the world. This design was a bilge keel hull with two Scott Hall 
engines. Originally it was intended to be equipped with three engines but by reducing 
to two meant the operational performance targets could be met and more Bs could be 
built. This model had a real anti-submarine capability with sonar and depth charges in 
addition to a heavy gun armament. It served in British waters and across the world 
with good seagoing capability and range. Some Bs were used in the Western 
Approaches to sail out to relieve destroyers and corvettes escorting British-bound 
convoys after long battles with U-Boats had depleted their fuel and ammunition. 
Although Bs were true multi-role warships, they were the direct equivalent to the US 
Submarine Chasers. Designed from lines for a steel destroyer, scaled down and 
applied to a wooden hull, the B had a silhouette like a much larger warship with its 
funnel and gun mounts. To a submarine taking a quick peek with a periscope, a B 
could be mistaken for larger steel-built escort at greater range.

Fairmile also designed a Harbour Defence Motor Launch that proved very successful, 
An H that was built to land infantry on open beaches, and the legendary D heavy 
gun/torpedo boat. The Royal Navy experience of operating 70 ft MTB/MGBs had 
shown that they were often outmatched by the much larger and more heavily armed 
German S-Boats. At 112ft, the Fairmile D was a very effective answer.

The D was powered by Packard Merlins and the fastest Fairmile design. It served 
around the world and carried an incredibly heavy armament in a fast hard chine 
planing hull. It was specifically planned to take on the German S Boats that were 
outside the class of the numerous 70ft MTB and MGB Vospers designs, being much 
larger than the British 70ft MTBs and more heavily armed. Once Ds arrived with 
flotillas, their capabilities were appreciated and they were consequently used in 
British coastal waters but also across the theatres of war. Often making long 
voyages to their new bases.

The US Submarine Chasers were a little different from the Fairmile B in that their 
roots were in boats built for WWI in recognition that US entry into the war would 
require very rapid expansion of the US Fleets and a 110ft wooden submarine chaser 
could fill roles normally expected to be filled by larger steel warships. Those built 
for WWII were similar in size to the Fairmile B, fitted with three engines but having 
a slightly lower top speed. As with the B, they were equipped with a heavy 
armament for their size, with a 3in gun on the foredeck, where the Fairmile B started 
with similar WWI 2 pounders and then moved to power operated 4.5in guns or power 
operated Bofors 40mm cannon. Both types carried 20mm cannon and machine guns, 
making them formidable against air and surface targets, but their use of radar and 
sonar, together with depth charges and anti-submarine mortars made them capable 
submarine hunters, effective far beyond their size, and the armament was rounded 
off with the ability to lay mines.

This book is filled with superb technical drawings and crammed with detail. In 
addition to reviewing each Fairmile & US SC design in great detail, there are very 
detailed sections on engines, weapons and other equipment,  together with lists of 
vessels built, and by which boat yard. This book really deserves the title of 
“definitive” and includes details of some of the survivors. Considering that all these 
vessels were considered war emergency expendable warships and being used 
intensively under the most testing conditions, it is surprising that so many survived 
the war. Most survivors had their engines removed. For British boats, the engines 
had to be returned to the US under the Lend Lease agreements, and most where 
then converted to houseboats, being allowed to decay as bomb damaged homes 
were replaced. Some were converted to yachts or as ferries and the handful of 
survivors have mostly come from these. One challenge facing restorers is that the  
size and tonnage of a Fairmile boat places it in a more demanding maritime 
Compliance class and it requires ticketing similar to smaller merchant marine 
craft, rather than private yachts. It is probably bureaucracy that will make these 
craft extinct.