Allied Coastal Forces of World War II, Volume II, Vosper MTBs & US Elcos

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 II with additional material, published beautifully by Seaforth publishing. – Most Highly Recommended

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NAME: Allied Coastal Forces of World War II, Volume II, Vosper MTBs & US Elcos
FILE: R2871
AUTHOR: John Lambert, Al Ross
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Seaforth Publishing
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 256
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, US PT Boats, Vosper, Elco, Fast 
Attack Craft, 'Mosquito' Craft, Coastal Forces, convoy escort

ISBN: 978-1-5267-4755-6

IMAGE: B2871.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y3tpkhc7
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 II 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.

During WWI, Thornycroft built a number of wooden high speed motor torpedo boats 
for the Royal Navy and they were sailed with distinction in a number of daring actions. 
At that time, they were small wooden planing hulls equipped with large petrol 
engines, a single torpedo carried on the aft deck and launched down a ramp through 
the stern. Some craft carried light gun armament, generally one of two Lewis guns 
on simple mounts in the bridge wings. They became increasingly useful as the size 
of destroyers increased. Early Torpedo Boat Destroyers were designed specifically to 
counter torpedo boats but increased in power and size to fill a range of roles, similar 
to the frigates of Nelson's day.

After WWI, Vospers, British Powerboats and Fairmile began working on designs for 
fast attack craft. These were employed as Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor 
Gunboats. Initially, the differences between the two classes were a reflection of 
their armament and they were used across a range of similar missions. 

Vospers built a private venture MTB which they demonstrated to the Royal Navy 
and it was quickly acquired by the Admiralty and operated as MTB 102. At the 
time it was the fastest warship in the RN Fleet with a timed top speed above 40 
knots, powered by Italian aircraft engines developed from the Italian Schneider 
Trophy float plane racers and similar to the engine used by the winning 
Supermarine 5 float planes that won three years of races to hold the title in 
perpetuity. Their engine was developed into the war winning Rolls Royce Merlin 
that powered RAF fighters and bombers and was license built in the US by 
Packard, also powering the best US aircraft the P51.

MTB 102 was commanded by Lt. Dreyer and used to develop tactics and operating 
manuals for the anticipated large fleet of RN MTBs and MGBs. Dreyer (later 
Cmdr Dreyer, 1st Exo of carrier HMS Ark Royal IV) obtained orders from a friend 
in the Admiralty to allow him to cross the Channel to Dunkirk “to see if he could 
be useful”, during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of British and French troops. 
MTB 102 proved extremely useful and served during the closing days as Flagship 
when Admiral Wake-Walker moved to her as the destroyer HMS Keith was sunk 
under him. One of MTB 102's crew quickly made the Admirals flag by taking a 
large tea towel from the galley and painting a red cross on it. The Flag flew until 
MTB 102 safely made port in Britain and it survives to this day. Conditions off 
Dunkirk were bad with heavy German bombing and MTB 102 surv ived 500lb 
bomb from a Stuka that exploded within a metre of her transom. Due to her Italian 
engines and potential spares problems, MTB 102 transferred to the Army and was 
renamed Vimy. Under this name she carried Eisenhower and HM King George VI 
on a review of the Allied ships collected in Portsmouth on the eve of their departure 
for Normandy. 

After WWII she was sold off without engines and might have rotted quietly as a 
houseboat, the fate of many Coastal Forces vessels. Maurice Gardner set up a Sea 
Scout unit at Brundal, Norfolk and looked for a riverside base for the unit. He 
bought a mooring on condition that he also took responsibility for disposing of an 
old MTB that had been partly modified as a houseboat. On looking over the vessel, 
he realised what it was and determined to restore her to operational condition, able 
to take parties of young people to sea on short trips. To achieve this, he made the 
vessel available for the filming of “Soldat van Orange” (Rutger Hauer) and “The 
Eagle Has Landed” (Michael Caine). For the filming, she was crewed by volunteers 
supporting the Sea Scouts. She carried parties of young people to sea every weekend 
through the Summers for many years until a volunteer skipper tried 'parking' her on 
some pilings at Felixstowe. The Scout Council decided they could not afford the cost 
of repairs and passed the vessel to a new MTB 102 Trust that has maintained and 
operated her since then.

MTB 102 was 68 ft with a single internal torpedo tube exiting through a cap in the 
bow. She also carried a 20 mm canon on the aft deck but she was the basis for the 
hundreds of Vospers boats that followed her. Her hull was a hard chine planing hull, 
built of double mahogany planks with a tarred canvas sheet between the two sets of 
planks, on wood and plywood framing. This became the standard for Allied Coastal 
Forces vessels and for US Patrol Boats from Elco and Higgins. Before WWII, MTB 
102 had her internal torpedo tube removed, along with the track aft of the 
wheelhouse which carried a reload torpedo. Two deck mounted tubes either side of 
the superstructure replaced the original system and became the model for all later 
MTBs. Various changes were made to the gun armament before the end of WWII.

From this start, Vospers built hundreds of MTBs of which the 70 ft versions were 
most numerous and the classic MTB, powered by Packard license built versions of 
the Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Many more were built under license in the US. 
Twin torpedo tubes became standard, but Vosper MTBs were also given a variety 
of gun armament, some of it local fits by the dockyard or depot ship engineers. 
However, the RN wanted to increase the weapons power and commissioned the 
suppliers to offer 'heavy' MTBs. At this point the differences between Gun and 
Torpedo boats largely disappeared. The 'heavies' were longer and carried four 
torpedo tubes and a formidable gun armament that included power operated 4.5in 
guns, or 40mm canon, multiple 20mm cannon and both heavy (0.5in) and rifle 
calibre (303in) machine guns. In contrast, early MGBs were basically the same size 
and engine power as MTBs but carried no torpedo tubes, being armed with several 
twin heavy machine guns, sometimes a single 20mm canon, or perhaps a 37mm 
canon and perhaps a couple of depth charges.

This book provides all of the detail about Vosper Coastal Forces boats that anyone 
could ask for. There are many photographs and a mass of excellent technical 
drawings of the boats and their weapon systems.

Al Ross has contributed an equally outstanding history of the US Elco boats which 
covers in the same level of detail these important small warships that shared much 
with the British Vosper craft. One story that has been supported and rejected 
variously by historians is that a US PT Boat was given as the reason for Germany 
declaring war on the US after Pearl Harbour. The vessel had apparently not even 
been launched from the ship that was delivering it, when her crew manned her 
machine guns and canon to fire on attacking Japanese aircraft. Certainly, Hitler 
was already exercised by US war surplies shipped to Britain, including Coastal 
Forces vessels and Packard engines, and by US warships escorting convoys half 
way across the Atlantic to meet RN escorts that took over the escort to British ports. 
The Elco boats were important in the Pacific Theatre.

This is a book not to be missed and the companion Volume I, covering Fairmile 
and US Submarine Chasers, is equally important.