ML 357 History Required

Motor Launches (ML), Harbour Defence Motor Launches (HDML) & Rescue Motor Launches (RML)
Whimsicalfish
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

ML 357 History Required

Postby Whimsicalfish » Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:31 pm

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

Stephen
Sub Lieutenant
Posts: 87
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stephen » Fri Feb 22, 2019 10:50 am

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

Whimsicalfish
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Whimsicalfish » Fri Feb 22, 2019 4:25 pm

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

Stephen
Sub Lieutenant
Posts: 87
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stephen » Fri Feb 22, 2019 5:39 pm

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

Whimsicalfish
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Whimsicalfish » Fri Feb 22, 2019 6:35 pm

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

Stephen
Sub Lieutenant
Posts: 87
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:58 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stephen » Sun Feb 24, 2019 12:05 pm

Hi Mark & Jacqueline,
I'm sure everyone else on the forum will look forward to seeing work in progress as much as me!
Steve

Sparkeyboy60
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:37 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Sparkeyboy60 » Sun Apr 07, 2019 5:42 pm

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

David Carter
Sub Lieutenant
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jan 18, 2011 6:06 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby David Carter » Mon Apr 08, 2019 4:58 pm

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)

Sparkeyboy60
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:37 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Sparkeyboy60 » Mon Apr 08, 2019 10:52 pm

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

RogerP
Chief Petty Officer
Posts: 51
Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2008 9:32 pm
Location: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby RogerP » Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:24 am

Hello Mark & Jacquiline,

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

Roger in Oz.

Whimsicalfish
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Whimsicalfish » Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:01 am

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

Sparkeyboy60
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:37 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Sparkeyboy60 » Sat Apr 27, 2019 2:09 pm

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

Whimsicalfish
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:52 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Whimsicalfish » Sat Apr 27, 2019 11:54 pm

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

Stuart T
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stuart T » Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:01 pm

Hi Mark
Really pleased to stumble across this thread - having carried out some research on ML357 intermittently a few years back, I’ve not done anything for the last 18 months or so due to a new addition to the family!
My grandad was Leonard (Len) Thurston, and his service history shows him serving on ML357 from October 1942 until November 1944. He passed away ten years ago, and while he left us with lots of general impressions of his wartime service, no one quite managed to pin down exactly what he and the ship got up to.
My dad, Les, visited the previous owner of the boat several years back, and got some information from him about its history since the war. Dad used to live in Essex but has relocated up to Derbyshire so is no longer local.
I live down in Cornwall, and in between work and (now three) children I occasionally get time to research our family history, which has included some research on ML357. As you indicated in this thread, I found confusing information on the web which seems to put the boat in different places at the same time! I also have found, which is confusing from a personal perspective, that none of the information about crew members list or show my grandad, despite the photos and lists covering the period he served on the boat. I have some photos passed down from grandad which show him on what seems to me to be the right vessel, so I’m not sure quite how to solve that puzzle now that so many of his contemporaries have sadly passed on, but I hope to understand what the boat and its crew did in general.
I have a few notes collated from research online and at the national archives in Kew which I’ll try and attach to the thread or send to you directly if you prefer.
I hope the restoration is going well, it is so pleasing to know the boat will continue to survive.
Stuart Thurston
(I think I’ve managed to attach a scan of one of grandads photos - the note on the back reads “Gun drill, somewhere off Crete, 1944”)
Attachments
F552E566-AD2E-4ED5-BD64-08354DF7A913.jpeg

Admin
Site Admin
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Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Admin » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:36 am

Hello Stuart

Thanks for your post and for the photo. Just to add to the mystery slightly, I note the presence of the large square looking structure behind your grandfather which doesn’t look like the front or rear of the bridge of a standard Fairmile ‘B’. The photo appears to be taken from the stern of the vessel, so the structure could possibly be that of a Rescue Motor Launch (RML), which could make this a different boat to 357?

Regards
Admin

Stuart T
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stuart T » Wed Nov 13, 2019 7:43 pm

Ah interesting! Here’s where an expert eye is really what’s needed! Thank you.

Do you think this might imply he actually served on a different boat, despite what the official record shows? Or did seamen move between these types of boats during their service without it showing up on their official record? Or something else?!?! Would welcome any thoughts or advice from those in the know :).

Will try and track down my research summary on ML357 at the weekend and upload it on her for info.

Admin
Site Admin
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Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Admin » Thu Nov 14, 2019 1:40 am

8610E976-09AF-4E40-9DE5-5FE13E64CACE.jpeg
Rescue Motor Launch
8610E976-09AF-4E40-9DE5-5FE13E64CACE.jpeg (95.44 KiB) Viewed 1824 times
This photo shows the square structure characteristic of an RML used to shelter airmen recovered from the water which I believe is what your photo shows too. Depending on the length of service, most Coastal Forces personnel who joined early on in the war could serve on two or more boats, particularly if their boat was sunk or damaged beyond repair. Also, if posted abroad, personnel would normally be returned to Home Waters where possible after two years or so, leading to a different posting. The service records of Coastal Forces personnel always register a ship name which is a shore base that is recognisably a Coastal Forces base, and sometimes the boat number too, but not always. If you have your Grandad’s service record, then it may be possible to determine from the bases and their timeframes which flotilla he may have been with.

Stuart T
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stuart T » Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:21 am

Thank you again! More interesting information, thanks.
I see what you mean about the square structure, it does look very much like the structure behind my grandad.
Have attached a picture of the print off of his service record following on from your other comments - any thoughts you have in this would be most welcome.
Cheers
Stuart
Attachments
4DC5FBFA-8E24-43E4-9E4A-29ACDC24DD0D.jpeg
4DC5FBFA-8E24-43E4-9E4A-29ACDC24DD0D.jpeg (101.01 KiB) Viewed 1770 times

Stuart T
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stuart T » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:13 am

For anyone interested, these are notes I made summarising where I was on research on ML357 a couple of years ago, so I (or my dad) could pick it up when we had more time. I spent a day at the National Archives in Kew looking for various things but including spending a fair amount of time on stuff relating to ML357, but haven’t had any time yet to return to it. Hope it may be of use or interest to others:
C26AB8E0-CAC3-4099-9CDA-218CF22BB672.jpeg
F2E31762-FAE5-4D80-90FE-4711B5736759.jpeg

Admin
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Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Admin » Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:09 pm

Thank you for your research thus far Stuart, which I will look at later, and for the sight of your grandad’s service record, which makes sense now.

Collingwood would have been basic training, Excellent at Whale Island, Portsmouth for gunnery training which he would have been selected for and then stuck with during his time on boats. St Christopher was the Coastal Forces training base at Fort William, and Attack a CF base at Portland. Stag was Port Said where he was assigned to MLs and 357 specifically. Sphinx was a transit camp at Alexandria ahead of posting back to the UK and Hornet, the principal CF base at Gosport. Finally he was assigned to RML 528, which is likely the boat in your photo above, before being returned to Victory, main barracks at Portsmouth, ahead of being demobbed. I will try and find out where RML 528 operated from, which was possibly Lowestoft or Great Yarmouth on the East Coast where there was the greatest amount of coverage required for the North Sea and the RAF and USAAF bases in Lincolnshire and their flight paths to the continent.

Admin

Stuart T
Seaman
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Nov 12, 2019 10:15 pm

Re: ML 357 History Required

Postby Stuart T » Sat Nov 16, 2019 9:38 pm

Thank you once again - more fascinating details, helping to join some of the dots!

Just looking back at your previous post with the picture of an RML and realised the number on the boat looks a lot like 528 to me - don’t know if it is but quite a coincidence if so!!

One of the other photos I have of grandad in service, attached below, is annotated ‘off duty, holy Loch (Clyde) 1945’. As far as we know, he was based there for some time as this was where my grandmother and he met (she was a WREN posted up there). So I guess RML 528 operated out of the Clyde at least for some of its time in that period?

Dad and his brother may be doing a bit more work on the research soon, so will update as and when we have anything more on 357
89FEC98F-DDF0-4388-9AE4-8F05096838AB.jpeg


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