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ML 357 History Required

Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:31 pm
by Whimsicalfish
Hi
I am the new owner of ML 357 - currently a static houseboat, moored at the top of the tidal creek in St Osyth Boatyard, Essex.
We acquired her mid-2017 and having spent 6 months or so of rubbish removal and of inappropriate materials, we are setting about about the task of a sensitive restoration as our new family home. She is a fantastic project, in a lovely location - but as they say for the “faint hearted”!
Between the work, I am trying to piece together some history...
One main question I have is that there seems to be some verbal and online confusion (previous owners, etc) between ML 357 (of which there is some history) and “MGB 357”
Images of boats seems pretty similar and both boats operated in the same area of the Eastern Med, but crew records differ...
If anyone can help, it would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks in anticipation.
Mark

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:50 am
by Stephen
Hi Mark and welcome to the forum,

You have indeed got a lovely piece of history there. I remember seeing her for sale, although my better half would never have approved!

To the best of my knowledge, there was no MGB 357. Off the top of my head, I believe the chronological numbers for commissioning MGBs never got to the 200s before the MGB designation was essentially abolished and all new MGBs were designated MTBs. There was an MTB 357, but she was a 70 foot Vosper and not especially similar to ML 357.

There were 24 Fairmile C MGBs with 300 numbers. These are much more similar to your Fairmile B - very similar in length and appearance, although the bridge was further forward and there was no funnel on the C. However, these numbers only ran from 312 to 335 (there is a corresponding gap between these numbers for Fairmile B MLs). There were also a few Fairmile D MGBs with 600 numbers, but all Fairmile D MTBs and MGBs began at 600 and there were no 300s.

I have seen Fairmile Bs, especially those in the Mediterranean theatre, referred to as MGBs before. However, I don't believe this was a formal designation - I think it had more to do with the significant up-gunning that MLs in that theatre received, including the fitting of Bofors guns to significantly enhance their fighting power (relative to those serving in home waters). Similarly, some MLs were fitted with torpedo tubes, but I don't think were ever officially redesignated as MTBs. It could be that you're seeing references to the same vessel, just referred to differently. Crews of vessels changed - sometimes frequently - over the course of the war, so you may be seeing records from different years.

Doubtless someone else here may be able to correct me or add more to this, but I hope it helps.
Cheers,
Steve

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:25 pm
by Whimsicalfish
Hi Steve,
Many thanks for the reply and welcome - sorry for any delays (as you can imagine we are making use of the good weather on the boat for topside repairs!)
Your comments are really helpful - there is quite a lot of information on various forums for our boat ML 357 regarding wartime engagements (confirmed by surviving crew relatives, some of which visited the boat with the previous owner) along with various wartime images on Pinterest that tally with existing ship detailing.
The real confusion I think lies with the account of a surviving relative who has posted images of “MGB 357” on the following website:
http://www.39-45war.com/mgb357.html
It’s a great read of various wartime actions, but at the bottom of the item is picture of an ML, clearly marked “357” on her hull, but much more heavily armoured than corresponding images of our boats more or less the same period - also, she doesn’t appear a Vosper or MTB type, but I’m no expert....the author of the item has also posted an image of our boat in St Osyth (some years ago) and seems sure they are one of the same!
Sure is a bit confusing, as we would like to compile an accurate history for a potential website, etc.
Best
Mark & Jacqueline Walker

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:39 pm
by Stephen
Hi Mark & Jacqueline,

No delays at all! I only posted a few hours ago.

I had a feeling I'd seen 357 described as an MGB elsewhere - this is it. The picture certainly appears to be of a Fairmile B ML - the bridge/wheelhouse cabin is correct. It's been fitted with a Bofors gun on the bow and immediately behind it, the two near-vertical poles may be flare launchers or Holman projectors. There appear to be floats on the side of the wheelhouse which give the impression of extra armour, and a scrambling net folded on the ship's railing immediately below them.

I think it's safe to say that 357 was up-gunned exactly along the lines I was thinking. Whether it was officially commissioned as an MGB I wouldn't like to say 100% for certain, but I've certainly never seen it referred to as such in ship's lists I've consulted before (I'm 99% certain it wasn't). I suspect this was an informal category assigned to it at a crew and flotilla level - perhaps even at a command level in the Mediterranean too, to distinguish it from regular (less well armed ) Fairmile B MLs. You'll notice the scanned "Record of Actions in the Aegean" on the website refers to 357 as an ML. Similarly, I don't think the 42nd Flotilla was an MGB Flotilla - most references I can find to it describe it as an ML Flotilla.

I recommend reading The War of the Motor Gun Boats by A J Chapman. He served on a number of Fairmiles in the Mediterranean, including ML 838, which appears on the front cover in a very similar configuration to the picture of 357.

Hope this helps,
Steve

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:35 pm
by Whimsicalfish
Hi Steve,
Firstly, apologies to all for various grammar and spelling errors in my previous posts - that will teach me to type with disposable nitrile work gloves on!
Many thanks for your reply and analysis - can’t say I’m not chuffed, as this completes the boat war record for 1943 & now 1944. I think your right about the frequent crew changes, as both years have completely different crews and thus the confusion.
Thanks again - we will be in regular touch with the forum to report on progress ( but as we are a very small team, restoration/repairs progress isn’t that rapid!)
Best
Mark & Jacqueline Walker

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:05 pm
by Stephen
Hi Mark & Jacqueline,
I'm sure everyone else on the forum will look forward to seeing work in progress as much as me!
Steve

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:42 pm
by Sparkeyboy60
Hi
My father is the last surviving crew member of 357. We gave a load of info and pictures to the previous owner Terry. Please fell free to contact me as my Dad who is now 96 has a lot of memories of 357. We visited it a couple of years ago .
Regards
Peter Turner
Son of William Turner Original Crew member of ML357

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:58 pm
by David Carter
Peter I don't know where you or your father live, but the London Branch of the CFVA is still going strong and we are meeting next Sunday on HMS Belfast, where we will be showing a film about the restoration of RML 497. Many of our members do not live in London, but we keep in touch by newsletter etc and we would very much like to contact you both. My father was a Sub-Lt on Fairmile B ML 253. David Carter (Secretary CFVA)

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Mon Apr 08, 2019 10:52 pm
by Sparkeyboy60
Hello David
We Live in Chelmsford Essex not far from ML357 at St Osyth. We would be pleased to be contacted but unfortunately my father is not up to travelling. Whats the procedure for making contact.
Regards
Peter

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:24 am
by RogerP
Hello Mark & Jacquiline,

Did you receive a message from me a week or so ago?

Roger in Oz.

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:01 am
by Whimsicalfish
Hi All
Thanks for all your recent responses since my last post.
Between restoring ML357, we work as a Landscape Architects, with large projects abroad that take us away from the boat.
Responses in turn;
Thanks Peter - I’ll chat to Terry about those pictures ;) You and maybe your Father would be welcome to come aboard anytime. Just email info@whimsicalfish.com and we can arrange a mutually good time. However, it’s pretty hazardous for the foreseeable future (dodgy access bridge, floors are up and being replaced with suspended timber floors for hull access, no handrails, etc!) but all manageable.
Best
Mark & Jacqueline Walker

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:09 pm
by Sparkeyboy60
Hi
If no luck with getting pictures from Terry can let you have them via email. or get another set printed. I would be able to visit but unfortunately My Dad is not mobile enough at the moment,but can give you the info that he has told me.
Regards
Peter

Re: ML 357 History Required

Posted: Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:54 pm
by Whimsicalfish
Thanks Peter,
Email/scanned copies would be great!
We aim to get some of the wartime archive images together for a sort of picture wall of ML357 for us and any visitors...maybe in the wheelhouse?
We think it would be great tribute, possibly with a dedicated website for the boat that assmbles all of the history and crew.
Your welcome anytime.
Thanks again
Mark