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MTB 416, MTB 413 and MTB 414 returning after dawn from an anti E-Boat patrol off Cherbourg

Channel Dash hero boat needs £10,000

Published: 22 Jul 2013

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, MTB219 is moored in a Thames barge but has to be removed before September 2013, where she can then be restored to service condition.

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 BrestOn 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 his actions Mark Arnold-Forster later received a Distinguished Service Order and became a journalist after the war; writing ‘The World At War’ book for the BBC and “The Siege of Berlin” in 1979.

The plan is to bring 219 to Watchet and reconstruct her to become one of five boats on public display as floating museums.  She will be accompanied by twoDerbyclass Army co-operations boats Hyperion and Humorist, Hyperion notably took King George VI over to Gold andSwordBeachon D-Day +10 and both ships were involved in the transportation of German officers from Alderney to Guernsey, following the surrender of theChannel Islands. MA/SB 27 (Motor Anti-Submarine Boat), also currently under restoration in Watchet, defended the English Channel and was a lead ship for theOmahaBeachlandings on D-Day. The fifth ship is the successfully restored FPB (Fast Patrol Boat) Gay Archer who escorted Queen Elizabeth on the Royal Yacht Britannia down the River Thames; following the Queen’s tour of the Commonwealth in 1954.

Paul Childs, restorer of Gay Archer said, “It would be great to have the opportunity to reconstruct MTB219. She would make an excellent complement to the 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 wrens of Coastal Forces, and hardly anyone has heard of them and their achievements – or the ‘Channel Dash’.”

Coastal Forces was established in late 1940 to defend against the Kriegsmarine bases on the French, Belgiumand Dutch coasts. Coastal Forces bravery during the Channel Dash lead to the nickname ‘Iron Men in Wooden Boats’ and 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 theFar East.

Paul added, “We would like to add 219 to our flotilla in the West Country so the public can come and see her and find out about the  history of Coastal Forces and their Channel Dash exploits; but cannot afford it ourselves.”

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 “Although the National Historic Ships Society are helping, most heritage funds 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 a houseboat she’s not currently eligible for Fleet status. MTB 219 is the only surviving vessel of the Channel Dash 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 throughLondonto 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 she will be towed down the coast to Watchet, where she will join ‘Watchet Warships’.

EDF are offering the use of their facilities free of charge at Combwich and Harris Transport have 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.”

Towage from SW3 to E16 - £1,500
Materials for sheathing and wooden frame - £1,800
Contract Lift 100 tonne crane in London £2,000
Transport fuel costs - £1,500
Contract Lift inSomerset- £1,560
Towage Combwich to Watchet - £500
Cranage out at Watchet to restoration bay £1,560
Total: £10,420 

Contact details: Paul Childs 07980 029938 Rhian Childs: 07867 229307
gay.archer41@gmail.com

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