MTB 539 (1602)

Post-war development of Coastal Forces craft covering the Proud, Bold, Gay, Dark or Brave Class boats, as well as experimental craft
Pioneer
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MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Pioneer » Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:47 am

Some astonishing images and drawings have come to light of MTB 539 on David Mills' web site
This craft was certainly the precursor to the Royal Navy Dark-class of the 1950s, being of all alloy construction, but she was an entirely different animal and more pleasing to the eye in my opinion.

A couple of tasters of what is on David's site (click images for full view):-
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Pioneer
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Pioneer » Thu Mar 03, 2011 9:13 am

Another stunning shot of P1602, courtesy of David Mills, sandwiched between two London Transport double deck buses giving a perspective of the size of typical RN 'Short Boats'.
Also, it gives a glimpse of the diversification required by company's to survive after WW2.
(click image for full view)
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Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Wed Mar 30, 2011 10:19 pm

Having just spoken to a friend who was an inspector at Saunders-Roe Anglesey, he told me the aluminium hull plates and rivets of the five Burmese Dark Class were assembled with a brown marine adhesive as a form of belt and braces. I assume the plating was effectively caulked with it. It would be fair to assume MTB 539 was treated in a similar way. In service it seems the countersunk rivets in the viscinity of the three ROTOL variable pitch propellers were prone to 'loosing their heads' and falling out. I have photos showing this problem that may have been caused by a combination of cavitation and vibration from the close proximity of the prop blades. Whatever the cause of the rivet failure, it hads been reported that the plating would go as far as peeling open. P1602 suffered an engine failure and was towed ashore on the south west of England. It may have been at this time she was towed back to Anglesey for repairs when she ran into a storm and was sunk. It is at present unsure if she took on water due to opening platework, or that a loosely replaced engine may have shifted in the storm-tossed boat and punched a hole in the hull. The cause of sinking may be discovered shortly as research into MTB 539 (P1602) continues.
SEE UPDATE OF CAUSE OF FAILURE IN NEXT POST>
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P1602 rivet heads missing next to ROTOL props.

Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:22 pm

P1602 seems to have had a number of problems during trials. The first observation was the light gauge hull plating (1/10") and slight flexing and 'panting' of the plates when taking a rough sea. The plates above the triple ROTOL variable pitch props were also vibrating considerably and were some cause for concern. It suffered a number of ROTOL propeller breakdowns, particularly when under load and running fast. There is a report that the left prop failed and caused the boat to lurch to port. Later the s'bd prop failed and the blades flipped to a neutral or even feathered position (not yet determined which). This was so violent on the boat that it threw it round and casued a huge wake on the port bow and even produced some damage to the hull structure due to the strain. A number of crew were reported to have been thrown around and injured on this occasion including the Saunders-Roe boatman Harold Jones.
She burn out ignition cables on another occasion and was towed to safety.
Her final failure was an explosion in one of the Packard petrol engine exhaust pipes that was blow apart and caused the engine room to flood (presumably through flying debris going through the hull. She was patched up and returned to HORNET to await a tow to Saunders-Roe Anglesey for a refit. It was this trip north that was also her last.
The following 'edited' extract from the 'ships cover' dated February 1952 (courtesey John Lambert) tells briefly of her final loss at sea.
Report.jpg

Dave Mills
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Model of MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Fri Sep 16, 2011 11:56 pm

A model of P1602 had been found at the Holyhead Maritime Museum, Anglesey.
See the Model section on this forum for the photo.

Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:22 pm

Steve Green has written about P1602 in the Model Section of the forum. His late father CFA Green was ERA on 1602 during her short life from 1948 to early 1952 and wrote his memoirs a few years ago. Steve has kindly permitted us to share this wonderful photo from his father's collection. May thanks to Steve for making contact.
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P1602 at speed. ERA C.F.A. Green collection

Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Fri Nov 11, 2011 1:19 pm

I have recently spoken to a 92 year old local lady who told me she was the first aluminium welder at Saunders-Roe in Anglesey and that she welded up the exhaust silencers and handrail stanchions for MTB 539 (most of it being of riveted construction). She is very keen to know if there are any of her old work friends from the 40's still living in the area.
I will be visiting her shortly as she also has some photos of the boat.

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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:48 pm

Since writing about the 92 year old lady welder on 539, I have just made contact with a fitter who worked with her on the construction of the aluminium hull from its start. He lent me a photo of her launching after my recent talk to the Gwynedd Engineering Society in Bangor. It was the same photo as the lady welder had, so all the workers must have been issued with this photo of them lined up on the deck during her launching in 1948.
I'm planning to interview both of them shortly to gather more information, reminiscences etc.
He also told me that during her first trial run around Anglesey the aft peak become flooded with sea water by the time she came to Trearddur Bay, south of Holyhead. They eventually moored at Port Dinorwic dock and the chief designer Carl Butterfield dived into the half full compartment to try to plug up the leaks with some mastic while they sent for the fire pump from the factory (about 7 miles away by road).
It was found that many rivets had been lost from the hull plating around the ROTOL prop area from vibration and cavitation. This problem continued to dog the boat until heavier 1/8" plating and larger rivets were fitted in place of the original 1/10" plating.
Attachments
a 539zc.jpg
Saunders Roe workers during launching of MTB 539

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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:23 pm

FILM CLIPS OF P1602 IN ACTION
While reading through CFA Green's memoirs aboard P1602 he refered to a film made in 1951 that shows a 'brief' glimps of P1602 in action. She appears for only 2 or 3 second at a time, but does show her charging through the sea and even shows up small impact damage near her Port bow!
The film is 'Appointment with Venus' staring David Niven and Glynis John.
There is also what I think is a Fairmile that is featured as the 'British' MTB while P1602 plays the inconvincing part as a German E Boat. A very blatant error as are some of the shots aboard the Fairmile that was used for both British and German Navy close-up shots.
If you do find the film the MTB action is all in the last few minutes. There are some DVD's on ebay, but they generally come from Greece or other Med. countries.
Steve Green kindly lent me his English language copy so I could enjoy what may be the only film of P1602 in action, albeit just a few seconds. Let's hope some Naval films come to light!
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Venus 1ax.jpg
The other MTB. The shed was for the prize cow Venus. Is this a Fairmile?
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P1602 posing as a German E Boat in the film 'Appointment with Venus' (note the damage near the bow)
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P1602 posing as a German E Boat in the film 'Appointment with Venus'

Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:39 pm

SEARCH FOR MTB 539
On the 13th July 2013 I was invited to join a dive team to go in search of MTB539 (P1602).
We set off from the east coast of Anglesey initially for the team to dive a fishing boat wreck. If there was time they were to head out about 12 miles into the Irish Sea to search for the MTB. By 16.00 the first boat decided to head back to shore while four of us in a 18ft RIB took off out to sea. We had two approximate locations to check out, but neither turned up anything on the sonar. I spent eight fascinating hours on the RIB watching the divers at work.
It's planned to take more time to find the boat that lies at approx. 45m on a sandy sea bed. When last seen it was claimed to be "polished shiny". I presume this had been by the action of tidal flow rather than any wave action at such depth.
Let's hope there will be another attempt to find her this year.

johnk
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby johnk » Sun Jul 28, 2013 8:19 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for your very interesting post there, glad you had a good time 8 hours on a RIB! but yes would be great to know hat her condition is, as you say, sounds like she is still "polished" on the aluminum structure.....all the best,

Johnk

Dave Mills
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MTB P1602 (New Photo)

Postby Dave Mills » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:31 pm

I found another photo of P1602 dated 1951 from France and bought it. It shows the pennant number on the bridge like the photo I bought of her in Liege harbour. I therefore assume the two photos were taken during the same visit abroad.
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Last edited by Admin on Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Adjusted the title to remove all caps

Dave Mills
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Re: MTB 539 (1602)

Postby Dave Mills » Fri Nov 28, 2014 9:48 pm

A diver explored MTB P1602 this summer and found she was in a little rougher condition than I had hoped for. The engine room deck area showed many small raged holes that appear to possibly due to electrolytic corrosion. I suspect this occurred due to the large amount of 'yellow metals' (brass, copper, bronze etc) in that area just below the deck. I think the exhaust system is all in copper pipework. The aluminium hull would be the first area to suffer after 62 years in sea water.
Maybe other parts of the hull have fared better, but it will take another dive in better visibility to carry out more close inspections.

The four 18" torpedo tubes are all in place, but there is no sign of the twin 20mm Oerlikon AA gun on the engine room hatch. This must have been removed at HMS Hornet during the temporary repairs before she was towed back to Anglesey on that last fateful journey in February 1952.

I understand that the bridge telegraph has been removed by the divers for restoration at Beaumaris and may be destined for the local yacht club. I personally believe to be a very bad choice of home as most have no interest whatsoever in "boats without sails" and it may end up in a cupboard, or worse!
I will try to persuade the diver to consider a better and more fitting home when the telegraph restoration is complete.
I'm hoping to upload part of the dive video when I can get onto a decent broadband speed link to Youtube.
WATCH THIS SPACE.


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