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 in the 70 years since the end of the war and left us with some quite detailed and often graphic accounts of their service.
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 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.
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.
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.
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, 1991. Champagne Navy. Random House.
The story of Canada’s contribution to Second World War Coastal Forces.
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 detiled 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.
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 & H. F. Cooper, 1999. Mediterranean MTBs at War. Sutton Publishing.
The second installment 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 ‘Dual’ 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.
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.
Tim Luard, 2012. Escape From Hong Kong: Admiral Chan Chak’s Christmas Day Dash. Hong Kong University Press.
The escape of a Chine 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 accopunts 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peter Dickens, 1974. Night Action. Seaforth Publishing.
The wartime memoirs of the commander of the 21st MTB Flotilla in 1942 and 1943. Review.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 eventuially CO of the 3rd ML Flotilla, in the Mediterranean, including operations at Malta and the invasion of Sicily.
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.
Charting 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 & David Krakow, 2003. Schnellboot in Action. Squadron/Signal Publications.
Largely a picture book of the different classes of German S-boats and their role.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 information on their development of First World War CMBs and later MTBs.
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 only accounts for 35 pages in this 180 page book.
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.
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.
Patrick McNee, 1988. Blind in One Ear. Virgin Books.
McNee, better known as Steed in the Avengers TV series and 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 does not warrant a huge amount of space in his memoirs, but there are some interesting reminiscences nonetheless.
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.
© Spitfires of the Sea