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The Military Boats Experience

The Military Boats Experience is not currently open, but we will reopen Easter Weekend.

 

However, we are around in Watchet, so give Paul a call on 07980 029938 and if he's not working on MTB 219 he'll try and show you around.

 

Why not take the Steam train from Minehead or Bishops Lydeard see http://www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk/

We Need to Save MTB 219

MTB 219 During Service
MTB 219 During Service

Please help by sending cheques to P1041 Gay Archer Association, 39 Bayford Road, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 4QW;

 

Making an electronic payment to P1041 Gay Archer Association Sort Code: 20-85-26 Acc No: 33161781 

 

Decorated World War Two hero Motor Torpedo Boat 219 needs £10,000 to save her from imminent destruction. Currently in use as a houseboat in Chelsea, 219 is seated in a Thames barge, which has been condemned, so has to be removed before September 2013. MTB restorer and enthusiast Paul Childs said “It would be such a shame to lose such a war hero, but we’re running out of time!”

 

Built by Vospers of Portchester, 219 is a 73ft motor torpedo boat which was launched in July 1941 and used by the Royal Navy Coastal Forces branch, operating out of Dover. In February 1942 she was part of the “Channel Dash” little ships which attacked the German battle cruisers: Scharnhorst, Gneisneau and Prinz Eugen as they sneaked through the English Channel to avoid the bombing in Brest On 13 May 1942 she and the other Coastal Forces 6th Flotilla ships battled in the Dover Straits, sinking the German destroyer Seeadler and the Kreigsmarinewerft Iltis. During both these battles she was under the command of Temporary Lieutenant Mark Arnold-Forster RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reservists) who received a Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry during these battles. Mark Arnold-Forster later received a Distinguished Service Order and was three times mentioned in dispatches; after the war he became a journalist writing the book ‘The World at War’ which accompanied the 1973 television series of the same name for the BBC.

 

The plan is to bring 219 to Watchet and reconstruct her back to how she looked during service. Paul Childs, restorer of the MTB Gay Archer said, “It would be great to have the opportunity to reconstruct MTB219. Not only would she be a living memorial and tribute to the unsung heroes of Coastal Forces, but she would make an excellent complement to the restored Vospers type 1 MTB102 in Lowestoft and the type 3 flush deck Gay Archer; all built of double-diagonal Honduras Mahogany. It will perfectly illustrate the progression of Vosper design and build from WWI through WWII to the disbanding of Coastal Forces in 1957.”

Unfortunately due to the original proliferation of Coastal Forces craft they were not considered that important; they were thus used for target towing, scrapped and abandoned. Now few examples exist to commemorate the brave sailors and WRNS of Coastal Forces, and hardly anyone has heard of them and their achievements.

Coastal Forces was established in late 1940 to defend against the Kriegsmarine bases on the French, Belgium and Dutch coasts. Their bravery led to the nickname ‘Iron Men in Wooden Boats’ as they became essential in the defence of merchant shipping; their effectiveness based on both the motor boats, the fastest craft of their day and the “Mavericks” who crewed them; mostly reservists or volunteers supplemented by Allied nationalities including Dutch, French, Norwegian, Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders. At their height they operated 1,700 boats, with 25,000 officers and ratings and expanded to defend the Mediterranean, Africa and the Far East.

 

Back in Watchet, 219 would become one of five boats either on public display as floating museums or undergoing restoration.  Paul has already successfully restored FPB (Fast Patrol Boat) P1041 Gay Archer; who escorted the Queen on the Royal Yacht Britannia down the River Thames following the Queen’s tour of the Commonwealth in 1954. She will also be accompanied by two Derby class Army co-operations boats Hyperion and Humorist. Hyperion notably took King George VI over to Gold and Sword Beach on D-Day +10 and both ships were involved in the transportation of German officers from Alderney to Guernsey, following the surrender of the Channel Islands. MA/SB 27 (Motor Anti-Submarine Boat), also undergoing restoration in Watchet, was a lead pilot for the American landing craft for the Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. Previously she was used to defend the English Channel against the U-boat threat and operated as a Navel Air Sea Rescue Launch.

Paul added, “We would like to add 219 to our flotilla in the West Country so the public can come on board, see her and find out about the history of Coastal Forces and their exploits; but haven’t got the funds to do it on our own.”

 

The restoration of Gay Archer was completely self-funded by Paul and his wife Rhian, who purchased her for a £1; but then sold their house and possessions to fund her restoration back to seaworthiness and stock configuration. MA/SB 27 is currently being restored and funded by their sons, Simon & Owen – it’s a real family affair!

Paul said “219’s owner, Ruth Ivo, has kindly donated the boat to our museum and has even started a crowd funding page to help (http://crowdfunder.co.uk/mtb-219s-final-journey/). The National Historic Ships Society have also agreed to  help, but most heritage bodies either don’t have an emergency fund we can access in time or will only support ships already on the Historic Fleet. As MTB219 is currently a houseboat she’s not presently eligible for Fleet status. 219 is the only surviving vessel of her type and still bears the scars of war damage including bullet holes in the forward saloon. Her hull is reasonably sound and we want to reconstruct her bridge back to how it was during service. About 95% of the original interior remains authentic, so she’s on the National Historic Ships Register, but not yet part of the Historic Fleet.

219 will first need to be towed from Cheyne Walk, Chelsea to Thames Wharf. Once there, we will encase 219 in a temporary fibre glass sheathing below her waterline to ensure she is water tight. We will then need to construct a wooden lifting cradle around her within the barge and remove the current inadequate metal one.

Once secure she will be craned out of the barge onto a lorry. The journey through London to the M4 will take place at night so that roads can be closed as she is nearly 18 foot wide. The lorry will transport her to the EDF facilities in Combwich, Somerset. Once craned into the River Parrett and towed down the coast to Watchet, she will join ‘Watchet Warships’.

 

EDF are offering the use of their facilities free of charge at Combwich and Harris Transport has agreed to supply transport at cost, with a volunteer driver. All towage will be at cost and we have the goodwill of Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company and Watchet Harbour Marina to provide help at either end of the journey. The labour for the rectification works will also be performed by volunteers, but we need to cover fuel costs and craneage by the end of August – and that’s before we even start to think about restoring her!”

 

 

Hyperion and MASB27 join the flotilla

In November 2012 Gay Archer was joined by MASB27 a 1941 Motor Anti-Submarine Boat. MASB27 was the lead ship for the Omaha Beach landings on D-Day and was used in defence of the English Channel throughout WWII. MASB 27 was built by the British Powerboat Company at Hythe. Like Gay Archer she  has a double diagonal construction of Honduras Mahogany.

She served in the Second World War first as a MASB and later possibly as an MGB and rescue launch. She was stripped to a bare hull in the 1980s and used as a houseboat.

 

She will have a complete wartime restoration, requiring new decks, original design wheelhouse, stern gear, engines, artillery and a total refit below decks. MASB27 is currently coated outside in fibreglass, which will need completely stripping to allow the wood to "breathe".

 

A week later Hyperion, a 1940 army co-operations boat, also joined us in Watchet; Hyperion notably took King George VI over to Gold and Sword Beach on D-Day +10. Hyperion is in quite good condition, but does need some work to her planking below her waterline to ensure she is completely waterproof. She is therefore currently located on the hard standing on Watchet's East Quay behind the old cargo shed.

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