MGB 658

Motor Gunboats (MGB) & Steam Gunboats (SGB)
Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:56 pm

The following report of the reunion held in London in May 1986, which accompanied the photograph shown above, was written by Len Reynolds

THE 56th MTB/MGB FLOTILLA REUNION

The Background
Five flotillas of Dog-Boats went to the Med in 1943 and 1944 — a total of forty boats. By the end of the war, fourteen of them had been sunk, but the Mediterranean Dog Boats had written a glorious page in the Coastal Force history.

One of those flotillas, formed in January 1944 as a consequence of reorganisation following boat losses in North Africa and Sicily, was the 56th, which consisted of three Gunboats (657, 658, 663) and three Torpedo-boats (633, 640, 655), Each boat was commanded by a Canadian and very quickly they established a tremendous reputation for aggression, efficiency and reliability. The original COs had all served in short boats in home waters in 1940-1942, and they brought experience and teamwork to the new flotilla.

The first S.O. was Lt. Cdr. Douglas Maitland in 657, and the original COs were Corny Burke (658) who later became S.O., Tom Ladner (663) Willie Keefer (633) Cam McLachlan (640) and Herb Pickard (655). Later Steve tendell (633), Derrick Holden-Brown (655) and Len Reynolds (658) became COs.

Throughout most of 1944 the flotilla operated with hardly a break and with considerable success, first from Bastia in Corsica, patrolling off the west coast of Italy from La Spezia to Anzio, and then in the Adriatic from island bases in the Dalmation Islands, principally from Tito’s H. A. Island of Vis. In August 1944, the three gunboats fought the "Battle of the Mjlet Channel" a five hour action in which six enemy craft were destroyed. This represented the peak of the flotilla’s achievements in both teamwork and gunnery of a very high standard, and was said by Captain Coastal Forces to have "hastened the German evacuation of the Islands".

Sadly, within a few weeks of that action, both 657 and 663 were mined, as 640 had been earlier in the year, and 655 was to be in March 1945. Only 658 and 633 saw out the war.

The Reunion In January this year, Tom Ladner wrote from Vancouver and suggested that a Reunion should be arranged in London in early May for the crews of the six boats of the Flotilla, with their wives: "Before we get too old". Then began the search for names and addresses of individuals, and here a very sincere tribute is due to two people. Firstly, Mrs. Margaret Cowley, wife of Justin Cowley of 655 and a member of the Midlands Branch of CFVA, whose energy in writing to the Daily Express and to local papers and local radio stations brought in a pile of totally new contacts. Then, Charles Milner the National Treasurer of CFVA who scoured the records to provide a list of every member with any affiliation to the flotilla. Plans were laid for the weekend of May 10th/11th, and the initial response not only revealed great enthusiasm, but also brought in more and more names.

So it was that at 1800 on Saturday 10th May, the gangway of HMS Belfast, above Tower Bridge, was thronged with old shipmates coming together, mostly for the first time since 1945, to pick up threads as though the years between had passed in a flash.

The count was impressive: a total of 93, made up of 54 men and 39 ladies. It included Doug Maitland, Corny Burke, Tom Ladner and Steve Rendell together with 657’s coxswain, Jake Burton, all from Vancouver and all with their wives, Jan Matthews, coxswain of 655, and a total of seven Motor Mechanics, besides Sir Derrick Holden-Brown and "Rover" Reynolds who between them organised the weekend. The boat count was eight from 657, ten from 658, fourteen from 663, ten from 655, eleven from 633 and just one from 640.

The first hour was hectic indeed. The wardroom ante-room of Belfast resounded to the excitements of countless introductions and stories, well fuelled by a non-stop drinks service. Then into the Ship’s Company Dining Hall, where flags and photographs of Dog Boats provided a backdrop to ten round tables resplendent with candelabra, bottles and flowers. Each boat's crew sat together, some at two or three tables but close enough to keep contact. After a splendid meal and lovely wines came the toasts and speeches: it was fitting that "The 56th Flotilla" should be proposed no less than three times, with the "Three Musketeers" (Maitland, Burke and Ladner) each making a memorable speech, with very sincere responses coming from Ch. MM Bill Last of 658, Ch. MM Alf Cowley of 663 and Cox'n Jan Matthews of 655. In the middle of all that Corny presented T-shirts, each emblazoned with the correct boat number, to every crew member, and the noise level and revelry rose to a new level. Later came Steve Rendell to toast "The Ladies", suggesting that the Reunion might be given the codename "Harry Three" (three engines out of action): a sentiment vigorously denied by most present—and by their ladies: The last toast of the evening—"Absent Friends" brilliantly proposed by Neil (Freddie) Mills of 657 was totally fitting when we recalled our shipmates— over thirty of them—who died in the boats of our flotilla.

There were many unsteady legs and many emotionally charged men and women who passed back over Belfast's gangway to join the two coaches which took them back to their hotels.

And that was not the end. On the Sunday, we gathered again, this time at the Naval Club in Mayfair, and from 11.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. we swapped stories, looked at photograph albums, ordered the prints of the magnificent photos from the night before, and enjoyed many more drinks and a splendid buffet. By the time we dispersed to return to Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and all parts of England, friendships which had blossomed immediately after being frozen for forty-one years, were firmly established, and our wives were as much a team as we had been all those years ago. The comradeship of Coastal Forces, reinforcing the shared and indelibly imprinted memories of our youth, had triumphed again:

Contributed by L. C. Reynolds, author of "Gunboat 658"

Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Admin » Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:23 pm

Amazingly - this has motivated dad to reveal a photo diary of his time in the RN! It has pages of carefully catalogued photos - examples of which I have tried to attach but not having much luck. He relates snippets which I try to write down (as above) but I hope I may just be able to sit and chat and record our conversations. Hopefully this may help others trying to do research.
Hello Gail

If you need any help posting images you can always contact us using the private message service and I can relay instructions to you, or failing that arrange to have you email the images to us and I can enter them into a forum post for you under your name.

Regards
Admin

chine
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:11 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby chine » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:11 pm

Gail - you are welcome.

It was a long shot that paid off. Glad you are here sharing info and helping me to discover even more about those times and my grandfather.

Thanks for the great crew photo which I reduced in size. All credit to Gail and Stanley for this photo. Higher Res/Better quality is no doubt going to be available - but just for all to see for now, the attached should be ok. Admin will chase you for super high-quality scans no doubt.

I'm pretty certain my grandfather is the one top-right in the back row. Stanley is in the middle(dark hat). Amazing that they served together. always great to see photos like this. Looking forward to seeing more of your fathers photos and hearing of the stories.

MGB 658 crew photo (all credit to Gail)
MGB 658 crew photo.jpg

Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Admin » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:05 am

Another great photo of the crew above from Gail, and one more from the archive!

Another member of crew in later life, together with the story of their reunion as related by Bill Rodger in the Summer 1988 edition of the CFVA newsletter.
bill-rodger-mgb-658-bill-last-mtb-636.jpg
Photograph of Bill Rodger (left), AB AA3 Gunner on MTB 636, and Bill Last (right) Chief Motor Mechanic on MGB 658, taken in an Oxford pub late last year (1987) on their reunion
SHIPMATES MEET IN OXFORD
I had never met Bill Last in person before, although we might have passed or seen each other on the jetties, at Malta, Augusta or Maddelena. Bill was Chief Motor Mechanic on MGB 658, and I was an AB. AA3 Gunner on MTB 636.

On the 14th October 1943, three ‘D’ boats left Maddelena for a patrol to the Piombina Straits between the Island of Elba and the Coast of Italy. MTB 633, MTB 636, and MGB 658. Before long MTB 633 had engine trouble and returned to Base. MTB 636 took on the roll of S.O.'s boat, we had already taken on board Lt Cdr. Green Kelly and his entourage, then proceeded on patrol with MGB 658 following.

It was about time to return to base when we first sighted the enemy and now this was the chance to show what the ‘Ds’ could do, so Lt. Fred Warner our Skipper on 636 set course for the enemy with Lt. Cornie Burke following in 658. There were three lighters and a flak ship, but we soon knew they had seen us when all the ‘muck' came flying towards us.

On the run in we lost our port torpedo (it was set off too soon by the port Torpedo Rating) we carried on but missed with the remaining starboard torpedo.

The two ‘D’ boats met up again, and after a little consultation Lt. Burke on 658 thought we could finish the enemy off with our guns, so we duly went back in to engage with guns. Both boats had taken different courses to engage, and it was then that 636 met 658 coming out, and through a misunderstanding of signals or what, 636 was riddled by gunfire all along the port side by 658, putting all our guns out of action and setting us on fire. We lost seven of the crew of 28 that night.

After 44 years and on the night of the 17th November 1987, I met Bill Last in a pub in Oxford. This meeting with Bill and I had been arranged by another shipmate of mine Bernard Cox of Oxford. What an enjoyable reunion we three had, quite a few tots were swallowed, but Bill and I related to each other our own comments and story about that fateful night of long ago.

After that meeting with Bill Last, I was a bit sorry to have missed out on the reunion of the 56th Flotilla which had been held in London early on in the year, but we hope to meet up with each other again sometime.

Bill Rodger

chine
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:11 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby chine » Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:02 am

Admin - that's a great post.

Peter
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:41 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Peter » Thu Feb 18, 2016 12:22 pm

The photos are interesting, in that in you original enquiry MGB 658 was fitted with what has become known as PPI Radar hence the dome near the bridge, at that time it was a very secret and was fitted to selective boats about AUG 1944. This may be a clue to your latest photo showing no Radar dome in the photo, and I would suggest the photo is of 2 boats including MGB 658 under going a refit may be Malta to have the new Radar installed.
In recent correspondence with Sir Derrick Holden-Brown, C/O of MTB 655, he quoted an interesting experience when his boat was selected to be fitted with the (very secret at that time) PPI Radar. The radar dome was fitted on a pedestal high above the bridge, replacing the existing hand rotating directional aerial.
The fitting took place in Brindisi (Italy) on returning from a brief spell in Zadar from the 20th–22nd of December 1944. Soon after fitting we sailed for Malta to join other boats of the flotilla. The dome having been fitted and the set installed, we did not have time to "swing the ship" for compass deviation before we set off for Malta on December 23rd. That taught me a lesson, we ran into bad weather off the heal of Italy. The main compass was many degrees out and all we could do was keep going south westerly in the hope of arriving in the East Coast of Sicily sometime after dawn. We were down to slow ahead on two engines, and realized that I had done something really irresponsible. Come the dawn and soon afterwards we saw the Sicilian Coast ahead, above Augusta, I think the wind eased off, we turned south and reached Malta about mid-day on December 24th. Great rejoicing as we joined MGB 658 and others, but that experience has remained with me and has always been on my conscience. As for MGB 658, I am pretty certain that she had not been fitted with the PPI Radar by Christmas 1944, so it was probably Jan–March before it happened. Incidentally, our Radar Operator Frank Allen was a wizard with the Type 291, but was never happy with the PPI set, which was often defective.
sir-derrick-holden-brown.jpg
Sir Derrick Holden-Brown, Commanding Officer of MTB 655, during a return visit to Vis, Croatia

chine
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:11 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby chine » Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:10 pm

Hi Peter

That's great information. Thank you.

Here are a couple more MGB 658 photos from Stanley Campion, via Gail:

(MGB 658 alongside fuelling barge, CRETE at Bastia)
MGB 658 - Photos 10.jpg
and (MGB 658 on patrol from VIS September 1944)
MGB 658 - Photos 13.jpg
and (MGB 658 alongside quay at VIS September 1944)
MGB 658 - Photos 14.jpg

chine
Able Seaman
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2016 11:11 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby chine » Thu Feb 25, 2016 1:22 am

Here is also a cutting from Stanley/Gail regarding surrendering ships
30 Ships Surrendered to MTB (Cutting) 068.jpg

Peter
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:41 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Peter » Thu Feb 25, 2016 5:03 pm

Eternal Father Strong to save.jpg
Hi Gail What a great photo of MGB 658 tied up along the jetty at Komiza. There has been little change to the scenery during the last 70 years, the bollards are still used but they have built a protective wall along the length of the jetty on to which you can see we have our memorial where each year we gather to Remember and Honour our Shipmates past and present of the Vis campaign of 1943/45.

Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Admin » Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:27 pm

I wonder if in the photo titled MGB 658 on patrol from VIS September 1944 those are Yugoslav Partisans shown onboard, and whether the caique shown in the quayside photo is captured booty or part of the Levant Schooner Flotilla.

Peter
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:41 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Peter » Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:46 pm

Remembering.jpg
Hello Gail
Vis Memorial Ceremony Wreath laid by Reg Ellis MTB 242 Vis Veteran

Peter
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:41 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Peter » Fri Feb 26, 2016 9:43 am

Close up of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association Memorial on Komiza Jetty September 2000
Attachments
8 Komiza Jetty Memorial.jpg

jonco
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:47 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby jonco » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:25 am

Here is also a cutting from Stanley/Gail regarding surrendering ships
30 Ships Surrendered to MTB (Cutting) 068.jpg
Do we know the numbers of the 3 MTB's referred to in this action? Apologies if I've missed it in previous text.

Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 279
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby Admin » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:36 pm

The three boats and their officers would have been:
MTB 634 (S.O. Lt.Cdr. T. Bligh DSO, DSC)
MTB 651 (Lt. W.E.A. Blount DSC)
MTB 670 (Lt. E. Hewitt, DSC)

jonco
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 52
Joined: Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:47 pm

Re: MGB 658

Postby jonco » Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:20 am

The three boats and their officers would have been:
MTB 634 (S.O. Lt.Cdr. T. Bligh DSO, DSC)
MTB 651 (Lt. W.E.A. Blount DSC)
MTB 670 (Lt. E. Hewitt, DSC)
Thanks for that confirmation Admin. My father was a telegraphist on MTB 670 at the time.These photos were in his album
Patrol type German `E' boat with Black surrender flag.tif
Patrol type German `E' boat with Black surrender flag.tif (1.86 MiB) Viewed 1546 times
Small German patrol vessel surrendering with destroyer blowing itself up in background.tif
Small German patrol vessel surrendering with destroyer blowing itself up in background.tif (1.67 MiB) Viewed 1545 times
Attachments
Off Tagliamento River - MTB634 going alongside German `R' boat for surrender talks.tif
Off Tagliamento River - MTB634 going alongside German `R' boat for surrender talks.tif (1.77 MiB) Viewed 1546 times


Return to “Motor Gunboats”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron