"Being daylight, no-one expected to come back and no-one gave a damn either. There were Me.s above us all the time, even while we were leaving Dover Harbour, enemy all around us in great numbers. We got fed up of being chased everywhere by German destroyers as we tried to break through the screen surrounding the heavy ships. That day our respect for the RAF reached zero. We saw nary a one. If they had arrived they could probably have blasted a way through the screen for us, but with our own ‘massive’ armament of two .05in machine guns and three rifles, even our two stripped Lewis were at base maintenance, we didn’t stand a chance of doing so on our own. Especially so, when you remember the 11-inch and 8-inch projectiles were churning up the water around our frail hulls all the time we were in range.
But the outstanding sight of the day for me was Lieutenant Gould, the skipper of MGB43, shooting up the bridge of the destroyer which was chasing us and gaining while bracketing us with his 5-inch bricks. He certainly saved us that day as there was no way we could have escaped. Our best speed was only eighteen knots and although we did fire our torpedoes in the general direction of the German fleet it was a forlorn gesture. To cap everything, the rabbit stew which the Coxswain had brought back from Birmingham the previous day was lying all over the Galley floor when we eventually arrived back in harbour!" (Hold the Narrow Sea, by Peter C. Smith at page 147)
Those lines were written by a 19 years old seaman named Ken Pritchforth, whose previous ship had been the Ark Royal, and expresses the determination, daring and bravery of the men of the MTBs. It recounted his boat’s actions to get at the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen during the Channel Dash of Operation Cerberus in February 1942.
In the last two decades of the 19th Century, the Whitehead torpedo gave rise to a new type of warship, the torpedo boat. This vessel promised a cheap way that an inferior navy could overcome a superior one. La Ecole Jeune, the "Young School" in the French Navy saw the torpedo boat as the equalizer to the numerical superiority of the Royal Navy. Hundreds of these small steam powered torpedo armed boats were built for the naval powers of Europe and caused uneasiness at the Royal Navy. Cause and Effect – the small torpedo boat was the cause, the result or effect on the Royal Navy was the production of a new warship type much larger and more capable than the torpedo boat. This warship was first called the "Torpedo Boat Destroyer" subsequently shortened to destroyer. The new destroyer designs had the speed to overtake torpedo boats, the gun power to sink them and as a bonus, mounted torpedoes themselves. As a consequence of the appearance of the destroyer, steam torpedo boat design and production died.
The mission of the steam torpedo boat was replaced in the 20th Century by a smaller craft with a new propulsion system, internal combustion engines. In World War One the Royal Navy had produced 116 craft called CMBs, Coastal Motor Boats. The Italian Navy with their MAS boats, was the most successful of the countries employing motor torpedo boats. MAS boats were responsible for sinking battleships of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. For the Royal Navy, the greatest success came on the night of 17-18 August 1919. This was the interventionist period of the Russian Civil War and the target of the CMBs was the Red Fleet at Kronshtadt in the Baltic. Eight CMBs under Commander C. Dobson made a night attack on the Red Fleet. Three CMBs were lost and the other five were damaged but the results were spectacular. The dreadnought Petropavlovsk, the predreadnought battleship Andrei Pervozvanny, and the training ship Pamiat Azova were all sunk or beached. The Petropavlovsk was raised and came back to the Soviet Fleet but the CMBs disappeared from the Royal Navy. By the late 1930s only two CMBs were still in existence, serving as training facilities.
The British Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) of World War Two got a start in 1935. Hubert Scott-Paine, one of the founders of British Airways and the British Power Boat Company, sold one of his designs for crash rescue work at seaplane bases. Twenty-two of these highly successful craft were produced for the RAF. On a 64-foot hull the boats managed 40 knots. The Royal Navy decided that they needed to have a portion as well and in 1936 ordered six and eventually 18, of these craft dubbed MTBs. This was the RAF design shortened to 60-feet and carrying two 18-inch torpedoes, but dash speed was down to 33 knots. However, for mass production the RN opted for Vosper MTB designs and Scott-Paine peddled his designs elsewhere. The American firm Elco bought one of Scott-Paine’s boats and brought it home. It became the basis of all Elco built PT boats of the USN.
The 60-foot British Power Boat run for the Royal Navy became MTB 1 through MTB 12 and 14-19. Rival Vosper Boats built a larger 68-foot competitor as a private venture and subsequently sold it to the Royal Navy as MTB 102. The Royal Navy went through a series of different designs from Vosper from 1938 onwards. There were 60, 63, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 110, and 115-foot designs. The RN experimented with different sizes and designs, trying to find the right combination. Boats were originally also distinguished in designation based upon their armament and consequently mission. There were three classifications; Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB), Motor Gun Boat (MGB) and Motor Anti-Submarine Boat (MA-SB). However, as these distinctions eventually merged back to the MTB designation. The different types were normally produced in small runs but when the Royal Navy found a good design, they purchased it in numbers. One such design was the MTB 31.
The MTB 31 class was in production from 1940 through 1945. Vosper built 117 boats of this type MTB 31-40, 57-66, 73-98, 222-245, 347-362, 380-395 and 523-537. Although White Ensign Models list their MTB 57 as a 70-foot design, Conway’s All of the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946 list this design as being 72-feet 7-inches in length and 73-feet from MTB 380 and higher. However, HM MTB/Vosper 70ft generalizes them all as 70-footers. Equipped with three Packard gasoline engines, they had power ranging from 3600 bhp to 4050 bhp producing top speeds from 37 to 40 knots. The original MTB design gave the boats two 21-inch torpedo tubes, two 0.50 machine guns and two 0.303 machine guns, plus the ability to carry four depth charges or four mines. The base design was later changed to give the torpedoes, plus three 20mm and two machine guns. The MTB 380-395 had four 18-inch torpedo tubes and the MTB 523-537 had two 18-inch torpedo tubes, plus a 4.5-inch gun. This design proved very successful, as seen from the fact that they were in continuous production from 1940 through 1945, the only type to do so.
During World War Two the MTBs operated primarily in home waters, stationed at Dover, Portland, Harwich and Felixstowe, contending for control of the English Channel and North Sea but substantial numbers of the boats made it to the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike the case with heavy ships, the Kriegsmarine had substantial numbers of a counterpart to the British MTB, the Schnell Boat, called S-Boots by the Germans and E-Boats by the British. These designs were bigger and packed a stronger armament than the MTB. During the four years of contesting the "Narrow Sea" the unsung battle between the British MTBs and German S-Boots was a fairly evenly matched, give and take affair. Each side had its own larger destroyers and other larger combatants but the small boats were prime contenders in the struggle.
The Germans would run transports in ones and twos up the French coast and a prime mission of the MTBs was the interception of this commerce. The first response was for increased escort for the merchants but this was not cost effective. The German forces began to use their heavy S-Boots in anti-MTB patrols. In response the Royal Navy employed the MGB Motor Gun Boat, which had landed the torpedo tubes in order to gain heavier armament for slugging it out with the E-Boats. Combat of almost all of these small combatants occurred primarily at night, when the aircraft of the contestants was grounded. The almost always amounted to close action barroom brawls.
The British MTBs also operated in the Mediterranean against the Italian MAS boats and more German small combatants. In addition to anti-surface torpedo or gun missions, anti-submarine depth charge missions and mine missions, MTBs were also extensively involved in secret operations. Due to their speed, small size and very shallow drafts, they were ideal vessels for insertion and extraction of commandos and secret agents. Under the cloak of night and using rafts or dinghies carried by the MTB coastal landings and departures could be accomplished fairly easily. Considering this mission, it is very appropriate that the WEM Code number for this kit is NS007. In 1944 two former enemies came together for a joint mission against the heavy cruiser Bolzano, which had been seized by the Germans at La Spezia. One of the participants was MTB 74, which was the sister of MTB 57.
"A very complex operation, which came off perfectly, was carried out against the port of La Spezia during the night of 22 June 1944. The aim was to sink the cruiser Bolzano, which the Germans had raised there and were repairing for service under the German flag. The destroyer Grecale and the MTB 74 approached close to La Spezia and disembarked five ‘pigs,’ crewed by six Italians (Lieutenant Cugia, Ensigns Berlingeri and De Angelis, and Divers Zoppis, Gianni, and Cattorno) and four British (Sub-Lieutenant Causer and Petty Officers Smith, Serly, and Lawrence). The operation was commanded by Captain Forza, under whose orders both the Italian and British crew members worked, and attained complete success." (The Italian Navy in World War II by Commander Marc’ Antonio Bragadin, at page 345)
During the war the MTBs and MGBs of the Royal Navy fought in 464 actions in home waters and 316 actions in other areas. During these actions they sank 269 enemy vessels while losing only 76 boats. (History from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946, HM MTB/Vosper 70ft, Warships in Profile Number One by David Cobb, Hold the Narrow Sea by Peter C. Smith, The Italian Navy in World War II by Marc’ Antonio Bragadin, Nelson to Vanguard by D.K. Brown, The Russian Battleships Sevastopol Class by Maceij Sobanski, and United States PT-Boats of World War II by Frank D. Johnson)
White Ensign Models MTB 57
The WEM MTB 57 has only four resin parts and two of those are identical, the hull, two torpedo tubes and a carley float. However, Peter Hall, designer of the craft has packed all of the renowned White Ensign Models detail into those few parts. Deck depth charges, machine gun cupola, ventilator cowlings, smoke generators, open control position plus assorted other fittings and gee-gaws are all cast integral to the hull. At 1:350 scale this 70-foot boat measures two inches in length but comes with all of the resin detail that you would expect from WEM. The two torpedo tubes are exceptional parks as well in that the tube segments are clearly defined, plus having additional fittings cast integral to the tubes. The Carley raft is the only part that is not exceptional. It is OK and fits on the foc’sle.
White Ensign Models includes one of Mad Pete’s wonders, a full photo-etch brass fret for the MTB 57. The fret is composed of 31 pieces and has some really superb pieces. Ranking first are the torpedo tube cradles. Both of these cradles are super-detailed with 78 weight-saving open voids in the structure, which will add an incredible amount of detail in the finished kit. In comparing the MTB 57 with photographs of the earlier MTB Vosper models produced by WEM in the Narrow Seas Range, Mad Pete has clearly and dramatically raised the bid in detail. Second to the torpedo cradles comes the three pieces that make up the twin 0.50 machine gun mount for the gun cupola, plus the additional two .303 machine guns.. The fret comes with about everything but the kitchen sink. One of the detail photographs from the instructions shows the entire brass component list with each piece identified by text.
Instructions comprise one sheet, printed front and back. Considering that there are only four resin pieces, the instructions are simple by WEM standards. The front page consists of the parts index where each part is designated by text, drawing and number, as well as three modules showing the assembly of subassemblies, the twin machine gun mount, the torpedo mounts and the mast. The reverse has the overall assembly diagram as well as the delicious full color plan & profile painting guide, for which White Ensign Models is noted.