World War II
The Ships Bell was purchased by Mike at T.W. Gaze Militaria Auctions, Diss
MTB 747 was one of the famous Fairmile D Class Boats & Motor Gun Boats which won great fame in the Channel, North Sea & Mediterranean during the Second World War in hot actions, attacking enemy shipping, coastal convoys and their counterparts, the German E Boats (Schnell Boot) at close quarters.
The Coastal Forces, which were largely manned by officers & ratings of the RNVR and Royal Naval Reserves, won more awards for gallantry than any other branch of the Naval Service.
229 Fairmile D's were built between 1942 - 45. They were 115 feet long, 21 feet beam, 4 feet 10 inches draught, 102 tons displacement powered by four Packard 4M2500 engines which delivered 29 knots, with a crew of 21. They had a variety of gun armament which included a six-pound gun, 20mm Oerlikon cannon and machine guns.
MTB 747 was built by Sussex Shipbuilding Ltd. of Shoreham & commissioned on 6th June 1944 under command of Lieutenant Richard Fawcett RN. She was assigned to MTB Flotilla 66, comprising MTBs 731, 733, 737, 747, 750, 756, 757 and 760 based at Portland and subsequently operated from Plymouth and Ramsgate.
By this stage of the war the Italian Navy had surrendered, convoys of German merchant shipping were much reduced and their remaining bigger warships were bottled up in their home ports where they were being heavily bombed by the RAF. The opportunities for classic MTB/MGB attacking actions at close quarters were therefore also considerably diminished.
U-Boats had largely left the Atlantic to concentrate on defence of the homeland by attacking the expected invasion fleet. They were active in shallow waters round Britain, including close inshore in the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea. A number of MTBs were adapted to meet this new threat. They were equipped with Radar and an ASDIC (Sonar) set, similar to that carried by destroyers & frigates plus, in place of torpedo tubes, they were armed with 32 depth charges as seen aft.
In this picture of her sister ship MTB 371, the tall mast before the bridge carrying the 'Bee Hive' shaped radar aerial and depth charges can be seen. The depth charges are cylinders lined up along the ships side - six fore and aft of the bridge & ten back aft, on both sides.
The ships also appear to have twin machine guns mounted in cylindrical towers either side, just forward of the bridge.
It is probable that the MTBs would not have had the sophisticated range recorder as fitted to frigates, which was linked to the the asdic set and automatically launched the underwater weapons at the optimum distance from the target. It rather appears as though the charges, without throwers, were just kicked over the side. This tactic may have been an adequate counter to U-Boat lurking in shallow water close to a port if a couple of these MTB submarine hunters could snare it in a bay with limited scope to escape to the open sea.
On 23/24 December 1944 MTB 747 engaged in one such action in the Channel, together with sister ships 732 & 750. 747's asdic was defective, so she maintained a radar watch to seaward as the other two vessels attacked the submerged contact in partnership. Although they were in contact for several hours and reported very good quality echoes, the action appears to have been inconclusive, as it did not produce the debris & human remains required as evidence of a successful 'kill'.
Lt D Bird RNVR took over command of MTB 747 in June 1945 but she appears to have been placed in reserve shortly after the end of the war. She became a headquarters for a Sea Cadet unit in 1946 and was sold(presumably for breaking up) in February 1958.
In the later stages of the war some MTBs were further adapted to a minesweeping role. Details of the equipment used for this is being researched but there is one report that 747 may have been engaged in sweeping for Oyster mines off the northern coast of France. Oyster mines were activated by pressure of the ships hull passing overhead, usually accompanied by an acoustic signal from her engines/screws. In the 1940's the Italian and American navies had similar small warships, termed Submarine Chasers, for the defence of coastal waters and in the 1950's the Royal Navy built a new class of small warships, the Ford Class Seward Defence Boats, to meet a similar requirement. They were armed with 40mm cannon and Squid anti-submarine 3-barrelled mortar and rendered good service in the Royal Naval Reserves into the 1960's.
The picture seen here is of a Fairmile-D MTB at speed in a more typical role armed with a 6 pounder gun for'd, twin Oerlikons aft and two torpedo tubes.
Cdr David Joel who purchased and restored the home of Sir Peter Scott
This 'Nazi' flag was removed from a German 'E' boat in 1946 after they had surrendered in Northern Ireland.
Donated by Cdr. David Joel 2012
An Update on the ships bell of MTB 747
MTB 747 was acquired by Ajax Troop Sea Cadets HQ based at Surbiton a few yards upstream from the Thames Ditton Marina is situated
Now there's a sight to gladden the
eye of any small ships man -
Nothing better to
warm you up during a cold night
watch on an open bridge.
While on the Home Front