MTB 24 was one of three 72ft motor torpedo boats built by Thornycroft in their Hampton works on the Thames in 1938/39. On the 15th August 1938, the Admiralty ordered eight new MTBs, based largely on the promise shown by Vosper’s MTB 102. Four boats — MTBs 20-23 — were ordered from Vosper and four — MTBs 24-27 — from Thornycroft.1
Thornycroft’s order was split into two jobs of different designs. MTBs 24 and 25 were both 72ft long boats, whilst 26 and 27 were 55ft boats, more akin in design to the CMBs of the First World War. Somewhat curiously, given the state of Europe in 1938, the Admiralty chose to sell most of these boats before they were even finished. MTB 22 was kept as a test model, but 20, 21 and 23 went to Romania, and 26 and 27 to China. To make up for these sales, the Admiralty ordered three more vessels from Vosper in September 1938. As Vosper did not have the immediate capacity, Thornycroft built MTB 28, whilst Camper & Nicholson built MTBs 29 and 30.1 MTB 28 was also built as a 72ft boat and incorporated several design improvements into the hull.2
All of Thornycroft’s boats were built at their Hampton works. Yard number 2430,3 MTB 24, had a 72ft long hard chine hull and was powered by three Italian Isotta-Fraschini engines and a fourth Ford V8 cruising engine. It could achieve in excess of 40 knots and was armed with four 0.5in machine guns in twin mounts and two 21in torpedoes.4
After it was completed in December 1939, MTB 24, under the command of Sub-Lt Parkinson, moved to Felixstowe along with MTBs 22 and 25. There, with some of the boats of the 1st MTB Flotilla, who had just returned from the Mediterranean, they formed the 4th Flotilla under the command of Lt Commander Cole, RN.5
On the 12th of May 1940, after the German invasion of the Low Countries, the three new boats (MTB 22 under Cole, MTB 24 and MTB 25) were sent to IJmuiden on the Dutch coast. In keeping with the rather confused situation, their orders were vague, being merely to obtain information on the situation and prevent the passage of enemy troops west by water.6
In the early hours of the 13th, they passed through the IJmuiden locks, travelled along the Noordzeekanal to Amsterdam, and passed through the east Oranjesluizen lock into the Dutch inland sea, the Zuider Zee. After mooring at the town of Enkhuizen overnight, they received information the next morning that the enemy had reached the Noordzeekanal and were attacking the Oranjesluizen lock. When they returned at lunchtime, they were relieved to find that the Dutch were still in control and slipped through the gates and back onto the canal. By early evening they were back at IJmuiden and passed into the North Sea.7
The boats all safely returned to the UK and were very shortly afterwards involved in covering the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk. MTB 24 later joined the 3rd and then the 5th MTB Flotillas under a number of different commanders. Throughout its career a number of men received gallantry awards whilst serving aboard, including a Distinguished Service Cross and a Distinguished Service Medal.8
Unusually for boats in service at the start of the war, MTBs 24 and 25 were still in service at the end of it, a testimony to the well-designed hull. MTB 28, although serving in 1940, was lost to fire in Portsmouth Harbour in 1941. Despite this, Thornycroft never became a successful manufacturer of Coastal Forces boats. Although several more boats of a similar design were ordered by the Admiralty in 1939, they were found to be underpowered and eventually handed over to the Army. Thornycroft’s rigid adherence to their own designs and lack of flexibility with Admiralty requirements may have been a cause of this, but perhaps if they had built more MTBs and MGBs, it would have been at the expense of their very significant contribution to the larger vessels of the Royal Navy.2
MTB 24 was placed on the disposal list in October 19459 and sold. In time she found her way to Bembridge Harbour where she became a houseboat. Apparently a very happy home for many years, she was vacated in 2014 and there is little hope for her now. A hole has been made in the side to stop her from floating at full tide and drifting away from her mooring. The stern sags so dramatically that it appears the hull has broken and the rest of the hull planking is clearly rotten and leaking. It would be impossible to move her in this condition and attempting to lift her would probably cause the hull to collapse. The only way she could be saved would be to stabilise her on site so that she could be lifted onto a barge and taken to a boatyard for further work. Not only is such a task extremely unlikely, but the significant investment of money this would entail probably makes such a project prohibitive. It’s more likely that she will be broken up on site in the near future.
- John Lambert & Al Ross, 1993. Allied Coastal Forces of World War II Volume 2: Vosper MTBs & US ELCOs. Conway Maritime Press. P.3
- A. T. G. Coleborn, 1961. The Builders of Motor Torpedo Boats. Journal of Naval Engineering. Volume 13, Book 1, pp 101-130 MoD..
- Kenneth Cloves Barnaby, 1964. 100 Years of Specialized Shipbuilding and Engineering. Hutchinson.
- H. T. Lenton & J. J. Colledge, 1963. Warships of WWII, Part 7: Coastal Forces. Ian Allen Ltd. P.8
- Leonard Reynolds, 2000. Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War. Sutton Publishing. P.4
- Ibid. P.5
- Ibid. P.7
- Ibid. PP.180-184
- Coastal Forces Veterans: Boats Database
© Spitfires of the Sea