News

The Trust has its first Patron

The Chairman of Trustees and all the Trustees are delighted to be able to announce that Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the last First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, has agreed to become the Trust's first Patron. This is excellent news and gives the Trust an enormous boost, as well as, of course, raising the Trust's profile.

MTB 71 is on her way

For the last 7 years MTB 71, a sixty foot 1940 Vospers boat, has been a static display at Duxford Airfield. During the war, this boat was in the thick on it, mostly with the 11th Flotilla. She suffered damage from enemy action on at least four occasions and was involved in the attempts to intercept the Scharnhorst, Gneisneau and Prinz Eugen (known as the “Channel Dash”). We are delighted to be able to report that the Director General of the Imperial War Museum and the Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy have agreed that MTB 71 will now be transferred.  A large, secure and weather-tight building on Ministry of Defence land has been found for MTB 71.  Once she has arrived the restoration programme to bring her fully back to her World War Two appearance will start in earnest.  The Trust has established a liaison with the Royal Navy's Engineering Training Establishment, HMS SULTAN, which is close by and it is hoped that engineer trainees will become interested and involved in the MTB 71 Project.

Museum Expansion

Work to convert one of the great storehouses into the 20th/21st Century Galleries started on 1st October. The new galleries, which are due to open in spring 2014, will tell the story of the Royal Navy over the last 100 years and would complement a Coastal Forces Exhibition very well. In addition, the new Mary Rose Exhibition will open in February next year. In short, things are moving forward.

A History of the Royal Navy's Coastal Forces DVD

This DVD is presented as a record of the Coastal Forces of the Royal Navy during the 20th Century. First brought to prominence in World War 1, then discarded for cost reasons until the very late 1930s, these ‘little ships’ proved their worth many times over during World War 2. After the war, history sadly repeated itself, and since their final de-commissioning in the late 1970s the Royal Navy has been without fast strike craft.

From their early days with Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs) and WW1 Motor Launches (MLs), the men of this specialist branch of the sea-going navy have fought many fierce battles, suffered many casualties, and won an amazing number of awards and decorations. Their activities reached a peak in WW2 when some 750 Motor Gun Boats and Motor Torpedo Boats, plus 1,000 MLs, were involved in over a thousand actions.

During this period 25,000 men and women served in Coastal Forces, operating from over 50 bases in areas which stretched from Iceland to the Far East.

The essence of service in these boats was one of a highly trained, and highly tuned, team of men who took the fight right to the enemy’s doorstep. Indeed, it included the nearest thing to hand-to-hand fighting experienced within the Royal Navy. It also spawned an exceptionally high ‘esprit de corps’ within individual crews and flotillas. Discipline was based on complete trust in the man next to you, and the worst thing that could happen to you was to be ‘returned to general duties’. This level of morale also led to a very high standard of support from those, which included many members of the Womens’ Royal Naval Service (WRNS), who managed and worked in the shore bases from which the boats operated.

Operationally, the tasks entrusted to Coastal Forces were many and varied. At one time or another boats could be found hunting enemy warships, attacking enemy convoys and defending our own, acting as ant-submarine patrols, laying mines, sweeping mines, landing secret agents on enemy shores, delivering arms to resistance fighters, rescuing shot down air-crew, picking up escaped air-crew from enemy territory, carrying reconnaissance teams to and from potential landing areas, guiding landing forces to their objectives, guarding the flanks of amphibious landings from both sea and air attack, harrying the retreating Japanese Army in the creeks of Arakan, and even, with Merchant Navy crews, carrying cargo to break the blockade of neutral Sweden! In all of these activities the Royal Navy was supported by the countries of the Commonwealth and from the USA, France, Holland, Norway, Poland and Yugoslavia.

By their very nature many of these tasks had to take place by night and often in very brief, hectic bursts which usually required instant decision taking. It follows that film and photographic records cannot be anywhere near comprehensive. However, this DVD film attempts to tell this inspiring story in such a way that viewers will be able to appreciate at least some of the debt which the United Kingdom owes to those, almost all of whom were volunteer reservists or ‘hostilities only’ sailors, who served in all these ‘little ships’. It is also hoped it will serve as a fitting tribute to those who designed, developed, and built these wonderful craft.

Orders for the DVD should be sent to Coastal Forces Heritage Trust, c/o The National Museum of the Royal Navy, HM Naval Base (PP66), Portsmouth, Hampshire POP1 3NH

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Bringing the story of the Royal Navy's Coastal Forces to present and future generations through a permanent exhibition  


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