Stephen Fisher & Diggory Rose, 2020. Royal Navy Motor Gun Boat Owners’ Workshop Manual. Haynes.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that this book comes highly recommended – that’s because I wrote it! So naturally it is exactly the sort of book I’d want to see on Coastal Forces.
The book was originally going to be written by Diggory Rose, the boatkeeper at Boathouse 4 and effective skipper of MGB 81. However, as the real life work of running MGB 81 took up much of his time, I was invited to contribute to the historical chapters detailing MGB 81’s service. Then, as Diggory’s time became less and less, I ended up writing the whole thing. It wouldn’t have been possible without Diggory’s expertise and advice on MGB 81’s technical detail though.
Even so, the result is a book that isn’t quite as technical as many other Haynes books. Some of their editions are packed with mechanical specifics, giving examples of the maintenance needed to keep the vehicle in operation. In this manual, the focus is more on the evolution and history of Motor Gun Boats. As such, there is a comprehensive retelling of the origin of the MGB and the type’s service in wartime. The chapter I am most pleased with is the one retelling MGB 81’s own career, which includes a huge amount of specific detail that I don’t believe I have seen equated in any other Coastal Forces book – except perhaps in memoirs where a sailor has been on a vessel from its creation to its end (and I can only think of MGB 658 in that category). It is the product of some prodigious research of which I am especially proud, building on initial work done by others before me, revisiting primary sources and incorporating events and memories from secondary sources to construct an entire wartime service record. I like to think it is an example of what can be achieved when researching even these small and unassuming vessels.
There is technical detail though. I myself learned a great deal on the specifics of the British Power Boat Company’s construction techniques in writing the chapter on how MGBs were built, and both Diggory and Tiger Juden helped me extensively in compiling the chapters on operating a restored historic vessel. There is also a large, photo-led chapter on the refit carried out by Berthon Boatyard in 2017/18, detailing some of the work that went into servicing her, including replacing the engines and refitting hull timbers.
All told, if you want a book that gives you an insight into the design, construction and operation of Coastal Forces boats and a detailed overview of their service, this one is highly recommended. You can purchase it directly from me here.
© Spitfires of the Sea