There are a range of books available to those interested in the history of Coastal Forces. As well as general histories of different campaigns or units, many former crewmen have put pen to paper since the end of the war, and have left us with some quite detailed and often graphic accounts of their service.
These publications fall into the following categories. Highly recommended book are in bold.
- General Histories of Coastal Forces
- Specific Stories of actions or operations that involved Coastal Forces
- Boats, Biographies and Memoirs specific to Coastal Forces careers
- Construction and Technical Details of Coastal Forces boats
- Smaller Publications that detail specific Coastal Forces events or boats
- Other Publications, including longer memoirs and boat building company histories
- The Royal Air Force and the fleet of boats that served in the Marine Branch
- The Royal Army Service Corps and the boats of the ‘Army’s Navy’
- German Coastal Forces, including Kriegsmarine S-boats and Sicherungsstreitkrafte (security force) vessels.
Warren Armstrong, 1958. HM Small Ships. Frederick Muller Ltd.
A history of small fighting boats in the Royal Navy in both World Wars, but largely oriented towards MTBs and MGBs in the Second World War.
Bryan Cooper, 1970. The Battle of the Torpedo Boats. Macdonald & Co.
A general history of coastal forces of all nations, but primarily Britain and the US, in the Second World War.
Bryan Cooper, 1970. The Buccaneers. Purnell.
One of Purnell’s History of the Second World War series, a well illustrated overview of fast boats in British, US, German, Italian and Japanese service during the Second World War.
Bryan Cooper, 1970. The War of the Gun Boats. Pen & Sword.
In spite of the name, this book deals with the history of Royal Navy MTBs and MGBs, as well as American PT boats, German S-boats, Italian MAS boat and even Japanese torpedo boats in the Second World War.
Bryan Cooper, 1976. The E-Boat Threat. Purnell Book Services Ltd.
Largely a history of the growth of the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces.
Peter Evans, 2002. Fairmile Ships of the Royal Australian Navy, Volume I. Australian Military History Publications.
The story of Australian built Fairmile Bs and Harbour Defence Motor Launches serving in the south west Pacific theatre.
Peter Evans and Richard Thompson, 2005. Fairmile Ships of the Royal Australian Navy, Volume II. Australian Military History Publications.
Expanding the story begun in volume I, this volume was completed by Thompson after Evans passed away in 2004 (both men served on Fairmiles during the war) and expands on the role of Coastal Forces around New Guineaand other islands north of Australia.
Gordon Holman, 1943. The Little Ships. Hodder & Stoughton.
The history of Coastal Forces as written during the war.
David Jefferson, 1996. Coastal Forces at War. Patrick Stephens Ltd.
An overall history of RN Coastal Forces, including the boat builders, the inception of the force and the main theatres of conflict, including covert missions. This was republished with more illustrations by Haynes in 2008.
Paul Kemp, 1997. British Coastal forces of World War II. ISO Publications.
A photographic history of Coastal Forces.
Hal Lawrence, 1989. Victory at Sea. McClelland & Stewart Inc.
The history of Canada’s sailors and their ships in Coastal Forces.
Gordon Maxwell, 1920. The Motor Launch Patrol. J. M. Dent and Sons, Limited.
The story of the Motor Launches that patrolled Britain’s coast in the First World War.
Brian Nolan & Brian Jeffrey Street, 1991. Champagne Navy. Random House.
The story of Canada’s contribution to Second World War Coastal Forces.
Dudley Pope, 1954. Flag 4. Chatham Publishing.
Coastal Forces in the Mediterranean. Review.
Leonard Reynolds, 1998. Dog Boats at War. Sutton Publishing.
Part one of Reynolds’ history of Coastal forces, this volume deals with Fairmile D’s in all theatres.
Leonard Reynolds & Herbert Cooper, 1999. Mediterranean MTBs at War. Sutton Publishing.
The second instalment of Reynolds’ history of Coastal Forces deals with the war in the Mediterranean.
Leonard Reynolds, 2000. Home Waters MTBs & MGBs at War. Sutton Publishing.
The third and final part of Reynold’s Coastal Forces history deals with the war around Britain and North West Europe’s coasts.
Wilfred Granville & Robin Kelly, 1961. Inshore Heroes. W. H. Allen.
The story of Motor Launches in the First World War and the Fairmiles and HDMLs in the Second.
Peter Scott, 1945. The Battle of the Narrow Seas. Country Life.
Written by one of Coastal Forces’ senior officers, the definitive post-war history.
Gordon Williamson, 2011. E-Boat vs MTB: The English Channel 1941-45. Osprey Publishing.
Coastal Forces and S-boats at war around Britain’s coast. Part of Osprey’s ‘Duel’ series. Review.
James G. Dorrian, 1998. Storming St Nazaire. Leo Cooper.
The St Nazaire Raid was a daring commando attack led by the destroyer Campbeltown and ably supported by 16 Fairmile Bs, a Fairmile C MGB and an MTB. Their role was as important as the Commando’s and is well described here.
Harry Ferguson, 2008. Operation Kronstadt. Arrow Books.
A detailed account of the Coastal Motor Boat operations in the Baltic in 1919, including Agar’s attack on the Oleg and the raid on Kronstadt Harbour.
O. A. Gouldon, 1987. From Trombay to Changi: The Story of Arakan Coastal Forces. Self published for the Arakan Coastal Forces Reunion Committee.
A thick collection of reminiscences, stories, official reports and pictures of the Coastal forces operations in the Indian Ocean.
O. A. Gouldon, 1987. The 13th and 14th Fairmile Flotillas in Burma. Self published for the Arakan Coastal Forces Reunion Committee.
Largely the story of the two flotillas’ journey from the UK to Burma and their subsequent service there, interspersed with images and reports.
Nick Hewitt, 2008. Coastal Convoys 1939-1945. The Indestructible Highway. Pen & Sword.
An insight into the never ceasing coastal convoys that steamed around Britain during the war, frequently escorted by MLs and protected by MGBs.
Brian Lett, 2013. The Small Scale Raiding Force. Pen & Sword.
The actions of a small Special Operations Executive Commando force who carried out a number of raids around the Channel Islands and Normandy coast in 1942. The unit employed a number of Coastal Forces boats, principally MTB 344, whose story is well told here.
Tim Luard, 2012. Escape From Hong Kong: Admiral Chan Chak’s Christmas Day Dash. Hong Kong University Press.
The escape of a Chinese General and his compatriots following the fall of Hong Kong, accompanied by the survivors of the 2nd MTB Flotilla. Probably the best account of the flotilla’s brief war in December 1941.
C. E. Lucas Phillips, 1958. The Greatest Raid of All. William Heinemann Ltd.
Another excellent book on the St Nazaire Raid, with detailed accounts of Coastal Forces’ role.
Brooks Richards, 2012. Secret Flotillas Volume I: Clandestine Sea Operations to Brittany, 1940-1944. Pen & Sword.
Volume one of a two volume set, originally published as a single book about Coastal Forces’ clandestine work in 1995. This volume looks primarily at the work of the 15th MGB Flotilla based on the River Dart.
Brooks Richards, 2013. Secret Flotillas Volume II: Clandestine Sea Operations in the Western Mediterranean, North African & the Adriatic 1940-1944. Pen & Sword.
Volume two looks at covert operations carried out in the Mediterranean theatre.
Boats, Biographies & Memoirs
Augustus Agar, 1959. Footprints in the Sea. Evans Brothers Limited.
The author’s complete memoir of his service in the Royal Navy, including the First World War, the Baltic Campaign, his time as Chief Staff Officer Coastal Forces and his final command at sea.
Augustus Agar, 1963. Baltic Episode. Hodder and Stoughton.
Agar’s service in the Baltic Campaign of 1919, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross whilst in command of Coastal Motor Boat CMB 4.
C. C. Anderson, 1997. Seagulls in my Belfry. The Pentland Press Ltd.
Following the naval career of Rear Admiral Anderson Anderson through training, MTBs at home and in the Mediterranean, destroyers and Naval Intelligence.
Stephen Fisher & Diggory Rose, 2020. Royal Navy Motor Gun Boat Owners’ Workshop Manual. Haynes.
One of Haynes’ historical series of books, detailing the story of Motor Gun Boats through the restored example of MGB 81. Although Haynes are most well known for their technical detail, this book focuses more on the story of MGB 81, covering its conception, design, construction, service and post-war fate, right up to its 2017/18 refit. The book is a comprehensive retelling of MGB 81’s story and features completely new details about its wartime service. A brilliant book – although I would say that as I wrote it. Review. Purchase .
Francis Rodwell Banks, 1978. I Kept No Diary. Airlife Publications.
Air Commodore Banks was a significant figure in the fledgling RAF during the inter-war period and the Second World War, and then in the post-war aircraft industry. The early part of this lengthy memoir includes 32 pages on his service on First World War Royal Navy Motor Launches and Coastal Motor Boats, including operations in the North Sea and the Caspian Sea during the Russian Civil War.
Hubert Beavis 2013. The Boy Down the Lane. Privately Published.
Beavis’s memoirs cover almost his entire lifetime, of which service in Coastal Forces was only a small part. His account of time spent on MGBs and Fairmiles accounts for 35 pages in this 180 page book.
Michael Bray, 1993. One Young Man’s War. Square One Publications.
The life of a young crewman and then officer, from training, through MTBs and then destroyers in the Pacific. Review.
Anthony Chapman, 2013. The War of the Motor Gun Boats: One Man’s Personal War at Sea with the Coastal Forces, 1943-1945. Pen & Sword.
Lengthy accounts from ratings are fewer in number than those from officers, so Chapman’s account of his time in training and then serving on Fairmile Motor Launches in the Mediterranean and Aegean is a rare and excellent story.
Eric Denton, 1999. My Six Wartime Years in the Royal Navy. Minerva Press.
Denton began the war as a rating, but by the summer of 1941 was an officer in an ML flotilla. The following year he sailed to the Mediterranean where he was mostly employed on minesweeping duties, eventually in the 3rd ML Flotilla with Gordon Stead (see A Leaf Upon the Sea, below).
Peter Dickens, 1974. Night Action. Seaforth Publishing.
The wartime memoirs of the commander of the 21st MTB Flotilla in 1942 and 1943. Review.
Peter Du Cane, 1971. An Engineer of Sorts. Nautical Publishing Company.
The autobiography of the man who turned Vosper from a small shipbuilding firm into a world leader in fast boat design, including his role in building MTBs and Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird II.
Michael Forsyth-Grant, 1990. Courage in Adversity. The Pentland Press Ltd.
Wartime experiences of a Scottish officer, from midshipman to MTB commander and later, service in the Arctic convoys and Africa.
Robert Hichens, 1944. We Fought Them in Gunboats. Michael Joseph Limited.
Published posthumously after his death in 1943, the wartime experiences of perhaps the most famous MGB commander and highest decorated RNVR officer.
Anthony Hichens, 2007. Gunboat Command. Pen & Sword.
Written by his son, a full biography of Robert Hichens, using extensive material from We Fought them in Gunboats and diaries.
Geoffrey Hobday, 1985. In Harm’s Way. Imperial War Museum.
A New Zealander’s wartime memoirs, as the commander of an ML in home waters, in charge of a Fairmile D in the Mediterranean and further commands on Dog Boats in Home Waters.
Marsden Hordern, 2005. A Merciful Journey. Recollections of a World War II Patrol Boat Man. The Miegunyah Press.
After a brief stint in the Australian army, Hordern was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1942. After a few months sailing on convoys he was appointed to motor launches and for the rest of the war served on both Fairmile Bs and Harbour Defence Motor Launches, operating against the Japanese north of Australia.
Geoffrey Knowles, 2009. Just a Pedlar of Pills. Appin Press.
Knowles’s memoirs cover his life from 1919 to 2009 and almost the first half is dedicated to his service in the Royal Navy during the war. Much of his service was on MTB 725, and ironically he served under Geoffrey Hobday in 1944, although neither author mentions the other by name.
Anthony Law, 1989. White Plumes Astern. Nimbus Publishing Ltd.
The memoirs of the commander of the 29th (Canadian) Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla, from 1943 to 1945. Full of his own artwork.
A. H. Lewis, 1992. A Caul & Some Wartime Experiences. Self Published.
Wartime memoirs of an RNVR officer, including service and command of a variety of MLs and MTBs in home waters and the Caribbean.
Brendan A. Maher, 1996. A Passage to Sword Beach: Minesweeping in the Royal Navy. Naval Institute Press.
The experiences of a young officer on minesweepers and then minesweeping duty on MLs in the latter half of the war. Review.
Patrick McNee, 1988. Blind in One Ear. Virgin Books.
McNee, better known as Steed in the television series The Avengers, and a familiar face in a whole host of films, enjoyed a full and varied life. Unfortunately this means that his time with the 1st MTB Flotilla in the second half of the war only fills ten pages in his memoirs. There’s a somewhat confused timeline to some major events, but there are some interesting reminiscences about life in a front line Coastal Forces flotilla.
Charles Milner, 2014. HM MTB 718 “Something Special”. Milner-Seddon.
A detailed account of MTB 718’s service in the secretive 15th MGB Flotilla, written by her wireless operator. The book includes contributions by her skipper Ronald Seddon and the first lieutenant, Guy Hamilton (the film director). The book is well illustrated, and full of small details and copies of original documents and reports.
Harold Pickles (Ed), 1994. Untold Stories of Small Boats at War. The Pentland Press Ltd.
A collection of articles, stories and personal reminiscences of members of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association, first published in their newsletter.
Adrian Rance, 1989. Fast Boats & Flying Boats. Ensign Publications.
The biography of Hubert Scott-Paine, the founder of British Power Boat Company and one of the leaders in short MTB and MGB design. Review.
Leonard Reynolds, 1955. Motor Gunboat 658. Cassell.
The wartime career of a young officer serving on a Dog Boat in the Mediterranean, from midshipman to eventual command. Review.
Alan Rowe, 1995. Air-Sea Rescue in World War Two. Alan Sutton Publishing Limited.
Although air-sea rescue is typically ascribed to the RAF during the war, Royal Navy Fairmile B Rescue Motor Launches played an important part as well. This book is a first hand account of service on one of those boats.
Peter Scott, 1961. The Eye of the Wind: An Autobiography. Hodder & Stoughton.
The memoirs of the famous artist and naturalist, approximately a quarter of which concerns his wartime service and career in Coastal Forces.
Geoffrey Searle, 1994. At Sea Level. The Book Guild Ltd.
The career of an officer in command of HDMLs and MLs in the Mediterranean and, later, in home waters. Review.
Philip Seymour, 1995. Where the Hell is Africa? Memoirs of a junior naval officer in the mid-twentieth century. The Pentland Press.
Seymour’s memoir opens with his time as a Royal Navy cadet in 1939 and concludes with the end of his naval service in 1959. During that time he spent a year on MTBs as a first lieutenant in the 30th MTB flotilla and, although this only covers 25 pages, it’s an interesting insight into the final year of operations in Coastal Forces.
Russel Spurr, 1992. Let the Tiger Turn Tail. Mainstream Publishing.
An unusual memoir, in that Spur began his wartime career as a private in a Scottish infantry regiment before receiving a commission into the Indian Army. In India he transferred to the Royal Indian Navy as a photographer and served on a variety of craft, including Fairmile MLs. Coastal Forces is therefore only a part of this story, but it’s an enjoyable story nonetheless.
Gordon Stead, 1988. A Leaf Upon the Sea: A Small Ship in the Mediterranean, 1941-1943. University of British Columbia Press.
Stead’s story of his time as a Fairmile B commander, and eventually CO of the 3rd ML Flotilla, in the Mediterranean, including operations at Malta and the invasion of Sicily.
John Townend, 2000. Broad Oceans and Narrow Seas. The Lark’s Press.
The wartime memoir of a Coastal Forces officer who began his career inthe Middle East before joining Farirmile Ds and the secretive 15th MGB Flotilla, serving on MTB 718 (see HM MTB 718 “Something Special” by Charles Milner, above). Towards the end of the war (and halfway through the book) he moved to minesweepers and sailed to Burma.
John Wingate, 1971. Last Ditch: The English Channel, 1939-1943. Northumberland Press Ltd.
A fictional account of factual events in Coastal Forces’ operations in the English Channel. Review.
Construction & Technical Details
Martin H. Brice & Keiren Phelan, 1977. Fast Attack Craft: The Evolution of Design and Tactics. Macdonald & Janes.
Although this book looks at first like a basic bargain store publication, it’s a surprisingly detailed and well presented story of the evolution of fast attack craft, from the advent of the torpedo to the latter half of the 20th century.
A. T. G. Coleborn, 1961. The Builders of Motor Torpedo Boats. Journal of Naval Engineering. Volume 13, Book 1, pp 101-130. Ministry of Defence.
A paper on the main builders of Coastal Forces craft during and after the war, including Thornycroft, British Power Boat Company, Vosper, J. S. White & Company, Fairmile Marine, Camper & Nicholsons and Saunders-Roe.
Christopher Dawson, 1972. A Quest for Speed at Sea. Vosper Ltd.
The evolution of fast motor boats and the story of Vosper’s role in the creation of fighting boats during and after the war.
Harald Fock, 1978. Fast Fighting Boats, 1870-1945: Their Design, Construction and Use. Nautical Publishing Co. Ltd
The evolution of fast war boats, from the late Victorian period until the end of the Second World War.
J. W. Holt, 1947. Coastal Forces Design. Transactions of the Institute of Naval Architects, 1947. Later republished in: Selected Papers on British Warship Design in World War II, 1983. Conway Maritime Press.
A paper by the Royal Navy’s wartime Chief Constructor of the Naval Construction Department and designer of the Fairmile B.
Angus Konstam, 2010. British Motor Gun Boat 1939-45. Osprey.
An Osprey Vanguard publication, well illustrated technical details and service history.
Angus Konstam, 2003. British Motor Torpedo Boat 1939-45. Osprey.
An Osprey Vanguard publication, well illustrated technical details and service history.
John Lambert, 1985. Anatomy of the Ship: The Fairmile D Motor Torpedo Boat. Conway Maritime Press.
Part of the excellent Anatomy of the Ship series, this book contains sufficient construction details of the Fairmile D that you could very nearly build your own.
John Lambert & Al Ross, 1990. Allied Coastal Forces of World War II Volume 1: Fairmile Designs & US Submarine Chasers. Conway Maritime Press.
A detailed technical history of Fairmile’s boats and their US equivalents, packed with detailed construction histories and technical drawings. This was republished by Seaforth in 2018.
John Lambert & Al Ross, 1993. Allied Coastal Forces of World War II Volume 2: Vosper MTBs & US ELCOs. Conway Maritime Press.
A detailed technical history of Vosper and Elco boats, packed with detailed construction histories and technical drawings. Like Volume 1, this was republished by Seaforth in 2019.
Anthony Preston, 1982. Strike Craft. Bison Books.
Part of a series of books on different classes of warships, this slim book would at first appear to have little to recommend it. However, Preston is a noted authority on military vessels and this volume helps place Coastal Forces in the wider picture of fast attack boat development in the 20th century.
Anon, 1920, A Short History of the Revival of the Small Torpedo Boat (C.M.Bs.) during the Great War and Subsequently in the Kronstadt, Archangel and Caspian Sea Expeditions of 1919. Thoryncroft.
Originally published immediately after the war, this republished and expanded 44 page booklet covers the development of CMBs and their roles in the First World War and the following Russian campaign.
Anon, 1991. The British Power Boat Company, Hythe, Hampshire. Personal Recollections. Totton & Eling Historical Society.
A collection of anecdotes and stories of men and women employed by British Power Boat, particularly during the war years.
S. A. Armstrong, 1998. The Fair (Few) Miles: The History of the Western Lady Ferry Service. Privately published in Brixham.
An account of the four Fairmile B RMLs and a HDML that served as ferries around Torbay in the post-war period, including RML 497, today preserved by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.
Lloyd Bott, 1997. The Secret War from the River Dart. Dartmouth History Research Group Paper 23.
A publication on the 15th Flotilla and their secret operations on the French coast.
David Cobb, 1971. Warship Profile 7: HM MTB Vosper 70 ft (British Motor Torpedo Boats). Profile Publications Ltd.
A short and well illustrated technical description of the early Vosper MTBs.
Garth Connelly, 2000. Vosper MTBs in Action. Squadron/Signal Publications.
Mainly a picture book of Vosper boats and their role in coastal Forces.
Michel Guillou, 1996. Operation Fahrenheit. Dartmouth History Research Group Paper 20.
An account of a commando raid in Brittany and the role of MTB 344.
Tom Jea, 1998. MTB 102: Vosper’s Masterpiece. Friends of MTB 102.
A 64 page booklet on the story of Vosper’s first MTB, covering the story of her design, build and service through to her restoration and present life as a floating museum.
H. T. Lenton & J. J. Colledge, 1963. Warships of WWII, Part 7: Coastal Forces. Ian Allen Ltd.
Ship lists of small boats in the Royal Navy, including MTBs, MGBs, MA/SBs, MLs, HDMLs, coastal minesweepers and Admiralty trawlers.
A. D. North, 1972. Royal Navy Coastal Forces 1939-1945. Almark Publishing Co.
Ship lists and specifications of MTBs, MGBs and MA/SBs.
Brian Pink, 2005. Wartime Exploits of Coastal Forces Craft built at Berthon Boat Company, Lymington, 1939-1945. St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery.
A local historian’s research into the Vosper MTBs and HDMLs built at a small boat yard in Hampshire.
Peter Geoffrey Porter, 2009. Frank Jones and the Secret War. Amazon.
A short 45 page booklet on the role of the 15th MGB Flotilla in Dartmouth, compiled from recent local history newspaper articles and documents supplied by the titular Frank Jones.
Eric Preston, 2007. The Commando Raids on Sark in 1943. Dartmouth History Research Group Paper 34.
An account of the French and British raids on the Channel Island of Sark, and the MTB that carried them there.
Mark Smith, 2014. Coastal Craft History Volume 1: Vosper Motor torpedo Boats. Coastal Craft Histories.
Primarily targeted at modellers, each page of this 50 page book contains full colour plans and profiles of Vosper’s Coastal Forces craft, with camouflage and paint colours established using historic photographs and documentary sources where available.
Mark Smith, 2015. Coastal Craft History Volume 2: British Power Boat Company. Coastal Craft Histories.
The second in Smith’s series covers British Power Boat MTBs, MGB, and MA/SBs. As with the other volumes, the history of Coastal Forces is basic in these books, but genuine boats are depicted and interpreted in as much detail as possible.
Mark Smith, 2016. Coastal Craft History Volume 3: The Fairmile D MGB/MTB/FPB. Coastal Craft Histories.
Smith’s third volume covers all iterations of the Fairmile D ‘Dog Boat’. Interpreting colour schemes from black and white photographs is difficult, but pretty well executed in these volumes. The photographs themselves aren’t included (probably for copyright reasons) and one criticism that could be levelled at the series is that the photo ID (such as a catalogue number) is never disclosed.
Mark Smith, 2017. Coastal Craft History Volume 4: The Fairmile A, B and C. Coastal Craft Histories.
The final volume in Smith’s series covers Fairmiles. It’s perhaps a pity that the Cs weren’t included in volume 3 (being MGBs) leaving room in this volume for HDMLs alongside the As and Bs. Still, there is promise of a volume 5 covering Elcos, Higgins and Thornycrofts, so perhaps HDMLs can make up a later volume.
Ben Warlow, 2001. RN Minor War Vessels in Focus. Maritime Books
A picture history of small RN vessels, including landing craft and minesweepers. Approximately one third of the pictures are of Coastal Forces craft, primarily of the Second World War but including some post-war Fast Patrol Boats.
Kenneth Cloves Barnaby, 1964. 100 Years of Specialized Shipbuilding and Engineering. Hutchinson.
The history of John I Thornycroft Limited, published in their centenary year and just two years before their merger with Vosper. Includes some brief information on their development of First World War CMBs and later MTBs.
Graeme Cook, 1977. Small Boat Raiders. Granada Publishing Ltd.
Cook covers four stories of small boats in the Second World War in this 130 page book. Amongst the stories of Royal Navy charioteers, Operation Frankton and Japanese kaiten submarines and shinyo boats, is a 38 page chapter on Coastal Forces.
J. P. Foynes, 1994. The Battle of the East Coast (1939-1945). Self Published.
A thick volume on the wartime experiences of the East Anglia coast, including much detail on Coastal Forces operations and RAF Air-Sea Rescue.
A. Cecil Hampshire, 1978. On Hazardous Service. William Kimber & Co. Ltd.
In this book, Hampshire looks closely at four stories of perilous maritime actions during the war. These include coastal manoeuvres in the retreat from Burma, Q-ships and evacuations from southern France. The fourth chapter deals with Operation Bridford — the use of converted MGBs as merchant ships to make fast runs from Sweden with vital cargoes of ball bearings.
A. Cecil Hampshire, 1978. The Secret Navies. William Kimber & Co. Ltd.
Hampshire looks at three secret maritime units in the Second World War. Alongside the Royal Navy Boom Patrol Detachment and 30 Assault Unit is a chapter about the 15th MGB Flotilla and their operations off the coast of France.
A. Cecil Hampshire, 1981. Undercover Sailors. William Kimber & Co. Ltd.
In his second secret history book, Hampshire looks at the work of the Sea Reconnaissance Unit and their surfboards in the Far East, maritime commando operations in the Aegean, operation Checkmate and finally, the African Coastal Flotilla, who carried out clandestine raids in the Mediterranean using a variety of Coastal Forces craft.
Eric Lee, 2016. Operation Basalt: The British Commando Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order. The History Press.
The story of one raid carried out by the Small Scale Raiding Force, transported by MTB 344. Brian Lett’s book (above) is perhaps better at telling the MTB’s story though.
Richard O’Neill, 1981. Suicide Squads: Axis and Allied Special Attack Weapons of World War II. Salamander.
Although this covers a wide range of extreme forms of attack, including aircraft and infantry, this is a detailed reference for many of the midget submarines and explosive motor boats that Coastal Forces faced during the war and how they were dealt with.
Peter C. Smith, 1984. Hold the Narrow Sea: Naval Warfare in the English Channel, 1939-1945. Moorland Publishing.
Although this book is exclusively about warships in the Channel during the Second World War and clearly states it does not deal with Coastal Forces, it is an excellent reference to the overall strategic situation and many of the surface ship encounters during the war.
Peter C. Smith, 1987. Massacre at Tobruk. William Kimber & Co. Ltd. Operation Agreement, the failed raid on Tobruk in September 1942 has not received the same level of attention as Chariot or Dieppe, perhaps because it was such a disaster. The part played by two flotillas of MTBs and several Fairmiles is covered (although not in much detail, regrettably) in this book.
Geoffrey Till (Ed), 1994. Brassey’s Sea Power, Volume 10: Coastal Forces. Brassey’s (UK) Ltd.
Primarily dedicated to post war developments and strategy in coastal warfare, but with some reference to the Second World War.
The Royal Air Force
Eric Blackman, 1979. Airman at the Helm. Kenneth Mason.
The wartime and post-war memoirs of an RAF HSL helmsman.
Keith Beardow, 1993. Sailors in the RAF: The Story of the Marine Branch of the Royal Air Force. Patrick Stephens Limited.
The story of the RAF’s Marine Branch, from its foundation in 1918 to its end in 1986. This naturally gives a lot of detail on the role of High Speed Launches during the war, but does not ignore the other vessels employed by the air force.
Bill Jackson, 2010. Air-Sea Rescue During the Siege of Malta: An Eyewitness Account of Life with HSL 107, 1941-1943. Matador.
Until the autumn of 1941, HSL 107 was the only dedicated rescue boat at Malta, and was credited with rescuing 86 airmen between 1940 and 1944. This well written memoir was penned by her wireless operator and details his own journey to Malta as well as the numerous rescues the boat made.
W. D. Periera, 1985. Boat in the Blue: The Wartime Story of an RAF Air-Sea Rescue crew and their boats. Line One Publishing Limited.
The well written wartime memoirs of the author. The appendieis include a surprisinglt detailed list of all 63 ft ‘Whalebacks’, 68 ft ‘Hants & Dorsets’ and 115 ft Fairmile D rescue boats (the three types the author served on).
Graham Pitchfork, 2005. Shot Down and in the Drink: RAF and Commonwealth Aircrews Saved from the Sea 1939-1945. The National Archives.
A detailed book drawing directly from source documents in the UK’s National Archives, which naturally focuses on High Speed Launches, but includes the work of aircraft (like the Supermarine Walrus) in Air-Sea Rescue.
Tony Overill, 2005. Crash Boats of Gorleston: An Illustrated History of 24 RAF Air-Sea Rescue Unit, Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk. Woodfield Publishing
An account of one of the most active RAF ASR units during the war, written by the son of one of the men who served there.
Percy Shipperbottom, 2010. Percy’s Piece of the War: Exploits of an RAF High Speed Launch Wireless Operator in the UK and Far East During the Second World War. Woodfield Publishing
A brief account of one mans service on HSLs, published by his family after his death. This was written for his family rather than as a book but is interesting nonetheless, given his service on 100 class HSLs in 1940, and in the Far East later in the war.
Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell, 2005. The RAF Air-Sea Rescue Service 1918-1986. Pen and Sword.
Probably the easiest book to find about the Royal Air Force Marine Branch, this is sadly one of the poorest. Full of errors and not as well written or detailed as Beardow’s account, this book is best avoided.
The Royal Army Service Corps
Reg Cooley, 1993. The Unknown Fleet: The Army’s Civilian Seamen in War and Peace. Alan Sutton Publishing Limited.
A story of boats in RASC and Royal Artillery service, including the role of fast launches in the Second World War.
David Hasbech, 2001. The Army’s Navy: British Military Vessels and Their History since Henry VIII. Chatham Publishing.
A history of boats in RASC service, including fast launches in the Second World War and landing craft in the post-war period.
German Coastal Forces
Garth Connelly & David Krakow, 2003. Schnellboot in Action. Squadron/Signal Publications.
Largely a picture book of the different classes of German S-boats and their role.
Hans Frank, 2007. German S-Boats: In Action in the Second World War. Seaforth Publishing.
A large format book dealing with the history, construction and service of German S-boats.
G. Hummelchen, 1973. Warship Profile 31: German Schnellboote (E-Boats). Profile Publications Ltd.
A short and well illustrated publication that largely follows the wartime service of S-boats.
Jean-Philippe Dalliues-Labourdette, 2003. S-Boote: German E-Boats in Action, 1939-1945. Histoire & Collections.
Translated from an original French book, this is a large format and well illustrated history of S-boats during the war.
Lawrence Patterson, 2015. Schnellboote: A Complete Operational History. Seaforth Publishing.
A detailed work on the story of the German S-boat, starting with a brief overview of their early roots in the First World War, followed by a detailed narrative of their campaigns in the Second.
Lawrence Patterson, 2017. Hitler’s Forgotten Flotillas: Kriegsmarine Security Forces. Seaforth Publishing.
In his second work, Patterson turns his attention on the other boats of Germany’s coastal forces; the R-boats, VP boats and the myriad of other small boats that duplicated the work of the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces.
James Foster Tent, 1996. E-Boat Alert. Airlife Publishing.
The story of the Allied efforts to defeat S-boats during the Battle of Normandy. In fact this owed a great deal to aerial and land based warfare.
M. J. Whitley, 1991. German Destroyers of World War II. Arms & Armour Press.
A detailed history of the evolution, construction and service of all types of German destroyers and large torpedo boats, which quite frequently came into contact with Coastal Forces craft.
M. J. Whitley, 1992. German Coastal Forces of World War II. Arms & Armour Press.
A thorough history of the evolution, construction and service of all types of German coastal warfare vessels in all theatres.
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