Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Discussions relating to the day-to-day running of Light Coastal Forces; shore establishments and mobile bases; command structure; strategy and tactics; training and logistics etc
dutch
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Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby dutch » Tue Mar 18, 2014 7:56 pm

Hi

What was the every day kit used by coastal forces personnel taking part in operations in the channel. What type of life jacket would they have been issued with? Would it have been the admiralty issue you see on bigger ships or would it have been the more substantial full body Mae West type and if so what color would it have been? Also steel helmets what would the color have been for Admiralty Issued steel helmets. One more question please what would have been the common place trad badges worn by CF personnel on there number 2 dress. My father was a machine gunner on a MTB but I believe they had to be multitaskers. So which trade badge were they luckily to have worn.

Pioneer
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Pioneer » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:37 pm

Hello 'dutch'
Normal sea going rig in Home Waters would be white woollen sea jerseys as worn by submariner's etc. Life jackets would be the pusser's issue as per 'Big Ships' of the RN but, due to the nature of operations in 'small ships' other, probably 'acquired', types were commonly seen. The distinct nature of 'life' with Coastal Forces, although always proficient and professional, was a little more relaxed compared with being on a 'Big Ship'.
Admiralty issue steel helmets for Home Waters were painted dark navy blue but again, it was not that unusual to witness an un-official helmet, the classic American GI issue being much sort after type. White or Light Grey painted helmets could be issued in the Mediterranean.
The trade badge would have been worn on the right arm on the number 1 full dress and number 2 uniform plus the number 8 working rig (including full overalls). The trade badge for an A/B Seaman Gunner is shown here:
Trade Badge 1.jpg
Trade Badge 1.jpg (45.43 KiB) Viewed 5343 times

Although crews would be trained to fulfil other 'jobs' on a boat if/when needed, their worn trade badge would only denote their primary training role.
A small 'Combined Operations' badge could sometimes be worn on the lower right cuff as shown here:
Combined Ops insigniat 2.jpg
Combined Ops insigniat 2.jpg (44.95 KiB) Viewed 5343 times
If a trained marksman, a badge depicting crossed rifles could also be worn on lower right cuff in conjunction with any trade badge.

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Fri Mar 21, 2014 8:16 am

Anyone remember armoured suite issue to No2s on D-Boat twin .5 ???????????

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:59 am

kenjoyce wrote:Anyone remember armoured suite issue to No2s on D-Boat
I recall Ken Forrester, who manned the forward gun on a 'D' Boat, mentioning a kind of chain mail vest that was worn under the clothing, which served as a rudimentary flax jacket.

There was also an assortment of sheepskin jackets worn on occasion that may be seen in photos of Coastal Forces crews, but I don't know if they were standard issue as such. I also recall one tale of a pair of sheepskin lined boots, made as a gift and worn, and lost during a sortie when the boat was sunk I believe.

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:12 pm

I recall now that our armoured suits were as used by the U S Airforce for their gunners on Flying Fortresses. They came in three pieces, front, back and family jewels. Clip together with one release toggle. The dates when I was on D-Boats were May/June to September, 1944.

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:53 am

kenjoyce wrote:I recall now that our armoured suits were as used by the U S Airforce for their gunners on Flying Fortresses. They came in three pieces, front, back and family jewels. Clip together with one release toggle. The dates when I was on D-Boats were May/June to September, 1944.
Do you recall if they were a kind of chain mail or a different construction, and was it a layer designed to be worn over or under clothing or was it a piece of clothing in its own right?

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:19 am

Sorry not making myself clear. Firstly the only time I ever wore the suit was on MTB 738 of the 64th Flotiilla, CO Lt Cdr Wilkie. the suit were worn over normal D-Boat clothing that was a kapok suit covering from neck to ankle. Over this was a waterproof suit with large pockets, in one was a compact First Aid kit. Some of the crew wore a Merchant Navy style life belt that would be some use against splinters and such like. The No 2 on the power operated twin point five was standing on a platform and was probably the only one on board that didn't have at least some part of his body getting some protection. The suit, made of steel rods enclosed in light leather, was held together by quite a number of 'push buttons'.
I was also on MTB 749 but I never saw this armoured protection there. MTB 738 was the Flotilla Leader. On the trip I was on, there were six boats although one had to escort a mine damaged boat back to the UK. We went around Ushant to the Bay of Biscay and my memory is of being chased out of bays, harbours, by shore guns and searchlights. At dawn we turned west and met a Frigate with an oil barge and tug that refuelled us. In the evening we went back to the French coast and travelled up a River with land all around us. This came to a sudden halt when a RAF Catilina Bomber swoop down on us, bathing us in his Leigh Lamp. We were shelled from the shore and after laying a smoke screen, we belted out of the river with no casualties. I have never seen any mention of this patrol which is surprising considering the effort including us being away for two nights and the support of the frigate and tug. It would be great if someone could add to my story.

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:48 pm

Hello Ken

Thank you for the description of the armoured suit which I must say I haven't come across before, so I must try and track down an image of it on the internet if possible. I take it the suit was part of the equipment of that particular boat rather than a personal issue to you, which you couldn't take with you on leaving the boat.

I will see if I can find out anything about the mission you spoke of. Do you have any idea of the year at all and which month it may have been?

Regards
Admin

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:29 pm

Hello and thank you. As you say the armoured suite was tied to the Boat, probably to the Gun. Not sure of the date but definitely between July to September, 1944. The only time I have seen any mention of these suites was in photos or newsreals of the interior of US Airforce Flying Fortress where the gunners were wearing them.

At the time we were operating out of Devonport, I was on MTB 749 when Wilkie called for volunteers to augment his crew. Not long after, 749 was badly damaged when the bow was caught under the jetty by the rising tide. Big panic with shore gangs removing our torpedos. Later we went under own power to Penzance but found the dry-dock occupied by a cargo ship. The crew were soon dispersed with quite a number of us being transferred to the 14th ML flotilla in Milford Haven for passage to Burma. I only know of one other of 749 crew still alive.

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:48 am

It would appear from what I have been able to research, that the impetus for body armour came from the US Eighth Air Force in England and was manufactured in England by Wilkinson Sword Company, Ltd., of London. The material chosen was manganese steel, with some 600 suits being manufactured.

The following details come from Office of Medical History of the US Army, beginning at section 663.

The article goes into some depth about all the various types of armoured pieces and describes a system exactly like the one you described with the quick release mechanisms.

The article goes on to say:
Following the widespread use and adoption of flyer's armor, a considerable number of other sections of the fighting forces became interested in its possible usage. In October 1943, Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Number Twenty Five became interested in possible revision or modification of the flyer's armor for their usage.
Source: MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, UNITED STATES ARMY, WOUND BALLISTICS, CHAPTER XI, Personnel Protective Armor (Section 673)

So it's possible that your armour may have been sourced from the Air Force somehow, or possibly purchased privately, or was under assessment by the Admiralty before being provided to other crews. The article contains links to some black and white photos of the the armour, but this web site has some interesting coloured photos of US Air Force armour with two of the photos reproduced below.
body-armour-1.jpg
US Air Force body armour (external view)
body-armour-1.jpg (44.99 KiB) Viewed 5270 times
body-armour-2.jpg
US Air Force body armour (internal view)
body-armour-2.jpg (64.76 KiB) Viewed 5270 times

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Sun Mar 23, 2014 3:15 am

dutch wrote:What was the every day kit used by coastal forces personnel taking part in operations in the channel.
Some photographs of Coastal Forces personnel that have been kindly supplied to us by John Mercer, taken by and in some cases featuring his father William Altham Mercer, who served on Motor Gun Boats on the East Coast and in the Channel.
motor-gun-boat-crew-1.jpg
motor-gun-boat-crew-2.jpg
motor-gun-boat-crew-2.jpg (44.01 KiB) Viewed 5270 times
motor-gun-boat-crew-3.jpg
motor-gun-boat-crew-5.jpg
motor-gun-boat-crew-6.jpg
motor-gun-boat-crew-7.jpg

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:41 am

Great work, this is certainly the suit I wore, the coxswain helped to fit it on me, gave me a thump on my back and said something about, ---if you are in the oggin, pull that toggle.--- I remember trying that out, leaving me the task of putting it all together again.
Good if after all this time, you can trace something about this fairly unique patrol.
Many thanks. Ken

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:07 pm

Dog Boats At War by Len Reynolds states that MTB 738 and MTB 749 were part of the 64 MTB Flotilla under Lt Cdr D Wilkie RNVR, which comprised 724, 725, 728, 739, 742, 759, 766, 773, 787, 784, 788, 795, and 5015 as well, and that the 64th was involved in minelaying for Operation Neptune, which of course is D-day. I note from Google Maps that Ushant is directly off of Aber Ildut, which doesn't seem that significant strategically, but that further south lies the port of Brest, and further south still, the Loire and St Nazaire. Might you have been on a minelaying expedition, and do you recall mines being on board?

There was an earlier thread on MTB 737 and the 66th Minesweeping Flotilla which features a photo of a Dog Boat at the bottom of the second page which has a rack of depth charge holders in place of her torpedoes. Do you recall if either of the boats you worked on had their tubes removed and equipment for mines installed?

I will have a trawl through the old CFVA newsletters and see if I can come across anything else on the flotilla for around the time.

kenjoyce
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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby kenjoyce » Mon Mar 24, 2014 8:43 am

Our two day trip into the Bay of Biscay had no involvement about mine-laying, I think the last minelaying trip for 749 was at the end of June,1944. This was fairly close to Cherbourg and we were under attack by RN destroyers on the way home. I understand that after E-Boats heading along the coast to the Beaches were sunk by mines, Lt Cdr Wilkie was awarded a DSC for all the minelaying.

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Re: Uniform in general use by MTB crews

Postby Admin » Mon Mar 24, 2014 11:36 am

So how long after June 1944 would this have been can you recall? And was the boat that was mined part of your flotilla or entirely unrelated? I take it also that Lt Cmdr Wilkie would have been along for this trip. Might you have gone as far south as the Loire in your estimation, or did you stick fairly close to Ushant and the very northerly part of the Bay of Biscay?


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