MTB 640

Enquiries relating to individual men and women who served with HM Light Coastal Forces; help with interpreting service records, or with tracing former comrades
Graham White
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:20 pm

MTB 640

Postby Graham White » Mon May 12, 2014 6:28 pm

Dear all

I am new to the Forum although I have been eagerly researching as much information as I can about MTB 640 for some time. The background to my interest lies with my father's twin brother: Cecil White, who was promoted from Able Seaman to A.B. / R.D.F during his service.

He was on the same boat from commissioning until his death on the night of the 26/27th June 1944 when the boat hit a mine and caused the death to him and several of his colleagues off Vada, Italy.

Understandably to me now, my father never once mentioned his name when he was alive, or referred to him. I can only now understand his grief, not least because I was born on the 26th June 1951 so my birthday must have been a particular difficult time for him.

I have completed a reasonable amount of information on MTB 640 from references on this forum, letters he sent home (not that they let on what and where he was) his service record and of course the excellent book by LC Reynolds and HF Cooper; MTB's at War. I have a good knowledge of the technical information about the boat.

I would really like to learn as much as I can about the crew ( I have a good account of the officers), if there are any pictures associated with the boat or crew, and any other information that anyone feels would be of interest to me.

I am travelling to the area where his boat went down on the 27th June which will be the 70th anniversary of his death.

Many thanks for any help.

Best wishes

Graham White

Brian Holmes
Posts: 245
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 3:26 pm
Location: Portsmouth

Re: MTB 640

Postby Brian Holmes » Mon May 12, 2014 8:51 pm

MTB_640 Wallasea Bay Yacht Station Ltd, Wallasea Bay, Nr Rochford 1/11/42

For good service while commanding a ship engaged in amti-submarine operations (Gazette Date - 14/5/46)
MID Tlt Richard Routledge Smith RNVR

Known Crew
TLt Francis William Carr RNVR TLt 1/3/41 32nd MTB Flotilla MTB 640 24/9/42 31st MGB Flotilla MGB 622 23/11/42 Commanding Officer MGB 622 3/43 For an action with an enemy convoy off the Dutch coast 9/3/43 DSC
Lt Philip Francis Stewart Gould RN Commanding Officer MTB 16 04/39 MID Commanding Officer MGB 43 5/9/43 and Senior Officer 3rd MGB Flotilla DSC DSC* MID MTB 640 23/11/42 Commanding Officer MTB 622 11/42 - 3/43 then Senior Officer 32nd MTB Flotilla MTB 639 Killed in action 28/4/43 MID (Post) 1943 aged 26 Son of Lt Col. Philip Gould and Marie Agusta Gould, of Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire; husband of Mary Gould, of Shedfield, Hampshire Buried in Enfidaville War Cemetery, Tunisia II. F. 277
TLt Richard Routledge Smith RNVR SLt First Lieutenant MTB 15 4/40 First Lieutenant MTB 104 03/07/40 Commanding Officer MTB 68 1941 Lt 26/6/41 HMS Mosquito for MTBs 22/2/42 Commanding Officer MTB 266 Commanding Officer MTB 640 Commanding Officer MTB 629 18/10/43 Commanding Officer MTB 775 3/8/44 MID 1943 DSC 1943 MID 1944
TLt Campbell Martin Maclachlan RCNVR TSLt MASB 23 31/3/42 TLt 31/12/42 Commanding Officer MTB 640 18/1/43 Commanding Officer MTB 655 1944 HMCS Stadacona
TSLt M R Grey RNVR TSLt 10/7/42 MTB 640 11/42 HMS Mantis TLt 10/1/45 HMS Vernon
TSLt Robert George Gaunt RNVRSA as a rating in Winchester Castle TSLt 23/12/42 MTB 36 MTB 222 12/1/42, MTB 223 (ferry crew) - MTB237 MTB231 (9th MTBF) Dartmouth First Lieutenant MTB 640 19/12/42 Commanding Officer MTB283 (17th MTBF) Commanding Officer MTB254 First Lieutenant HMS Grey Fox 22/11/44 Staff Officer Operations to Captain Minesweepers, Portsmouth - subsequent RN career, ending as Commanding Officer HMS Leopard (Frigate)1960 DSC 1945 Ministry of Mercantile Marine Silver Medal 2nd Class (Greece) for the rescue of vessel Argo Dilos 22.10.60 Coombs (Commanding Officer)
TSLt F Hewitt RNVR MTB 640 26/7/43
TSLt Patrick Charles Beaumont Barr SANF(V) TASLt 26/2/43 HMS Mosquito (Alexandria) 32nd MTB Flotilla MTB 640 16/8/43 TSLt 26/8/43 First Lieutenant MTB 62 26/08/43 33rd MTB Flotilla MTB 655 For an attack on enemy forces off Elba 17/6/44 MID Commanding Officer MTB 667 22/11/44
TSLt John Nevil Snowdon RNVR TSLt 3/9/42 MTB 640 28/9/42 Navigator MTB 622 11/42 killed in action 10/3/43
POMtrMch William John Edward Last P/MX78726 MGB 89 MGB 89 MID 1941 MTB 640 MGB 658 MID 1944 DSM 1944 Transfers to MGB 658 in Bone 1/6/43
LTel Richard Baker P/JX 262946 56th MGB/MTB Flotilla MTB 640 Killed in action 27/6/44 when MTB 640 sank on a mine. Son of Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Baker, of Hove, Sussex
AB Ronald Day P/JX 322089 56th MGB/MTB Flotilla Based at Bastia, Brindisi, Komiza and Ancona MTB 640 Killed 27/6/44 Age 21 when MTB 640 was sunk by a mine off Vada rocks. Son of George and Marian Day.
AB Alfred George Shiner D/JX 174091 (Killed in action 27/6/44) Age 27. Son of Albert and Annie Shiner, of Fishponds, Gloucestershire
AB Cecil White P/JX 350063 (Killed in action 27/6/44) Son of James H. and Ada E. White, of Ardingly, Sussex
Ord Arthur Ford D/JX 567267 (Killed in action 27/6/44) Age 24. Son of Louisa Elizabeth Ford, of Cardiff. Buried in Florence War Cemetery XII. E. 6.

Wartime Activities
32nd MTB Flotilla
MTB 633, MTB 634, MTB 635, MTB 636, MTB 637, MTB 638, MTB 639, MTB 640
16/3/43 With five other Fairmile Ds departs Milford Haven for the Mediterranean
18-19/4/43 MTB 640 and MGB 644 are in action against E boats off Cape Guardia north of Bizerta All three E boats are damaged, one seriously, causing them to retire. German night fighters attack both MTB 640 and MGB 644 and their own E boats.
10/7/43 Operation Husky Invasion of Sicily
32nd MTB Flotilla
MTB 633, MTB 640
11/7/43 At 2115, MTB 640, MTB 651 and MTB 670, attack and damage Italian submarine Flutto by torpedo, gunfire and depth charges. The submarine returns fire causing seventeen casualties in the MTBs.
15-16/7/43 MTBs 634, 640, 651 and 670 intercepted five E Boats causing them to retire northwards.
15-16/8/43 MTB 76, MTB 85, MTB 640, MTB 665 and MTB 670 are on patrol in the Straits of Messina.
0124 The patrol is illuminated by searchlights. Shore batteries open up from both sides of the straits. The patrol turns through 180 degrees and makes smoke. MTB 665 is hit by a shell in the engine room, is set on fire and comes to a halt. MTBs 640 and 670 clear the area.
0154 MTB 76 approaches MTBs 640 and 670 to offer assistance MTB 76 embarks the Senior Officer and heads towards MTB 665. Heavy shelling causes MTB 76 to abandon the attempt. MTB 85 and MTB 315 attempt to reach MTB 665 but are driven back by shellfire. MTB 665 drifts towards the coast, on fire and suffering sporadic explosions. Rescue attempts are abandoned at first light. Several crew members reach the shore and are taken prisoner.
0730 The survivors are picked up by a Flak Lihter and taken prisoner. A German sailor jumps into the sea to assist with recovering the wounded. The survivors are landed in Reggio and handed over to elements of the Herman Goering Division.
56th MGB/MTB Flotilla
Based on Maddalena
1/44 56th MGB/MTB Flotilla
MGB 657, MGB 658, MGB 663, (MGB 642) MTB 655, MTB 633, MTB 640, MTB 649
Based at Bastia, Brindisi, Komiza and Ancona
21/1/44 Operation Lurcher
1700 MGB 657, MGB 658, MGB 663, MTB 640, MTB 655 and MTB 659 depart Bastia to create a diversion at Civitavecchia in support of the landings at Anzio twenty miles to the south.
2109 The vessels are on patrol between Giglio Island and Giannutri Island.
2341 The vessels rendezvous with USN PTs 203, 209, 211 and 217, form two columns and head for the ‘release’ point off Civitavecchia.
0147 PT 209 reports Radar contacts on the port bow at 2800 yds. The USN vessels continue with the diversion whilst MGB 657, MGB 658, MGB 663, MTB 640, MTB 655 and MTB 659 turn to close the Radar contacts. The cruiser HMS Dido commences a bombardment firing over the force. MGB 657 reports two Radar contacts at 1500 and 1700 yds.
0207 The contacts are identified as a Flak Lighter escorted by two E Boats heading southeast at 7 kts.
0211 The targets are engaged and repeatedly hit by gunfire from all six boats.
0213 The boats turn onto a reciprocal northwest course and make a second run. The Flak Lighter is again hit, one E Boat is set on fire and stopped and the other E Boat makes off.
0216 The boats turn onto a reciprocal southeast course and make a third run. The Flak Lighter is now also on fire.
0222 MTB 655 disengages to the west due to action damage. The remaining boats close the Flak Lighter and engage with gunfire. Shore batteries open up on the boats but they evade and retire towards MTB 655.
0240 The Flak Lighter explodes and sinks.
22/1/44 Operation Shingle Landings at Anzio
56th MGB/MTB Flotilla
MGB 657, MGB 658, MGB 663, MTB 640, MTB 655 and MTB 659
7-8/2/44 At 1800 MGB 658, MGB 659 and MTB 640 depart from Bastia for a patrol off Giglio Island.
2207 MGB 658, MGB 659 and MTB 640 are, in bright moonlight, ten miles off Giglio Island and sight a convoy four miles away.
2211 The convoy is identified as six Flak Lighters, in two columns, escorted by two larger Flak Ships ahead and astern. MGB 658, MGB 659 and MTB 640 approach the convoy from astern and are challenged by a Flak Ship. Shortly afterwards the convoy opens up with 88mm guns. Shore batteries then join the action. MGB 658, MGB 659 and MTB 640 withdraw to the west behind a smokescreen before bombarding a lighthouse and then returning to Bastia.
24-25/4/44 Operation Newt - LCGs 14, 19 and 20, MGB 657, MGB 660 and MGB 662, MTB 633, MTB 640 and MTB 655 with USN PT 202, PT 209, PT 211, PT 212, PT 213, PT 216 and PT 218 depart from Bastia. The LCGs depart at 1500, the MGBs and MTBs depart at 1800 and the PTs at 1830. At 2000, the force forms up and sets off at 7kts. Also at 2000, Flak Lighters F-515, F-423 and F-621 with the tug Tebessa depart Livorno for San Stefano with supplies. Also in the area are ‘Armed Flak Lighters’ (Gunboats) F-350, F-589 and F-610 in one group and patrol vessels M7607 and Vp 7013 in another group.
2125 PT 202, PT 212 and PT 213 are detached to the Vada Rocks area.,
2205 PT 202, PT 212 and PT 213 report a southbound convoy.
2207 PT 218 reports a Radar contact off Piombino Point and this is assessed as an escort group about to rendezvous with the convoy.
2300 The force turns north in an unsuccessful attempt to get between the two contacts.
2320 The force turns south and, shortly afterwards the ‘escort group’ turns west making interception inevitable. At 0005, the force opens fire. Starshell illuminates two Flak Lighters.
0008 A tug and three more Flak Lighters are encountered. The tug is hit repeatedly and sinks. One Flak Lighter explodes and a second is set on fire before later blowing up. A third Flak Lighter is sunk. MGB 657, MGB 660 and MGB 662 close the beach and encouter and engage an undamaged and apparently abandoned Flak Lighter which is set on fire and explodes. MGB 657, MGB 660 and MGB 662 recover twelve survivors including Dutchmen from the tug crew. The force is now closing on the ‘escort group’ and fires starshell. The Germans fire a recognition signal and the force waits for two minutes whilst closing before opening fire. Flak Lighters F-350 and F-610 are repeatedly hit by gunfire. On F-610, ammunition starts to explode and the crew abandon ship. F-589 is hit by gunfire putting two guns out of action and starting a fire amonst ammunition that the crew extinguishes. F-589 attemps to escape behind a smokescreen. MTB 633, MTB 640 and MTB 655 are tasked with destroying F-589 and lose contact with the force. F-589 is severely damaged and is beached south of San Vicenzo.
0120 PT 202, PT 212 and PT 213 encounter a third group that opens fire on them before thet are in a firing position. PT 202 fires a five star recognition signal and the Germans cease fire. The boats attack with torpedoes causing a Flak Lighter to explode and sink before gunfire from the other two lighters forces the boats to retire behind a smokescreen. The force then breaks off to return to Bastia.
0400 Bastia reports an enemy force, on the return route, off Capraia.
0440 The scouting force reports being in an attacking position and then makes an unsuccessful torpedo attack on German Torpedo Boats TA 23, TA 26 and TA 29.
17-8/6/44 TA 29 and TA 24 are in action with PT 207, MTB 633, MTB 640, MTB 655 and MGB 658 .
26-27/6/44 Sunk by mine off Vada rocks in the Livorno - La Spezia area, Italy. Three boats had departed Bastia to investigate a report of minelayers operating off San Vicenzo. MGB 658 appears to have detonated an acoustic mine which exploded under MTB 640 following astern. Survivors were picked up by MGB 658 and a PT Boat. Five men were reported missing.

Graham White
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:20 pm

Re: MTB 640

Postby Graham White » Tue May 13, 2014 3:18 pm

Dear Brian

Many thanks for the very quick response. Your information has provided some more detail that I had not previously found, not least the circumstances of the mining and sinking.

I have solved an issue today regarding the exact location of the sinking. Various references are made in a general form about the location which do not accurately place the boat position. I have found the shipwreck of MTB 640 marked on a nautical map held in the website: It is situated off Vada and probably in the Vada Rocks area. The precise position is recorded as Lat. 43.22n Long. 10.19E and is in 65 meters of water.

Can I clarify a couple of point please? Did the armoury of MTB 640 include torpedoes? I understand the boat was originally classified as a MGB. However the information from the sinking of the submarine; Flutto, on the 11th July 1943 refers to a running surface battle, which on one account suggested it mainly involved MTB 640. The information stated that the attack included the use of torpedoes and I had assumed that the MTB 640 was armed with this weapon.

Secondly, in the book; British Motor Gun Boat 1939-45 by Angus Konstam and illustrated by Tony Bryan, there is an illustration called;' MGB-655 During a Convoy Battle near Giglio, Italy January 1944.' The caption alongside this painting is almost identical to the reference you supplied about Operation Lurcher on the 22nd January 1943 except that there is no reference to MTB 640's participation. Was there a similar battle in the same month and area involving all the same boats except 640? It seems unlikely to me.

Many thanks again.


Graham White

Sub Lieutenant
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:38 pm

Re: MTB 640

Postby cdsc123 » Wed May 14, 2014 7:45 am

ref. torpedo armament.

Commissioned as Motor Gunboat MGB 640 on 1 Nov 1942
Reclassified as Motor Torpedo Boat MTB 640 in 1943

Site Admin
Posts: 482
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MTB 640

Postby Admin » Fri May 23, 2014 12:19 pm

The situation with regards to the early Fairmile D-Types is quite varied. Geoffrey Hudson, the Coastal Forces historian notes that of the first 96 boats built, half were completed as MGBs and the others as MTBs. Of the 48 boats completed as MGBs, two flotillas, comprising 16 boats in all, went to the Mediterranean in summer 1943, and as such were never converted to MTBs. Those MGBs that served in Home Waters were converted to MTBs from autumn 1943 onwards. MTB 640 was completed before this date too, so in fact was never an MGB at any time. Although no conversions took place, the Mediterranean MGBs did receive an upgrade to their gun armament in 1944.

Some of the very first MGBs were completed without the bow scallops and when converted to MTBs later, had to have their torpedo tubes especially raised to allow sufficient clearance when being fired. The later Home Waters MGBs were completed with scallops ready for any future conversion.
MGB 605, one of the first D-Types which did not have torpedo scallops fitted

Graham White
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:20 pm

Re: MTB 640

Postby Graham White » Thu May 29, 2014 6:20 pm

Many thanks for the information regarding the conversion or not of the MGBs to MTBs.

As I understand it, MTB 640 sailed as the lead boat to the Mediterranean on the 16th March 1943 a little earlier than the summer of 1943. I assume then that she was built as a MGB but was never converted with torpedo tubes but never the less was classified as a MTB, from the beginning, at her commissioning.

Is there any logic why she was classified as a MTB?

Site Admin
Posts: 482
Joined: Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:40 pm

Re: MTB 640

Postby Admin » Fri May 30, 2014 12:09 am

As I understand it, MTB 640 sailed as the lead boat to the Mediterranean on the 16th March 1943 a little earlier than the summer of 1943. I assume then that she was built as a MGB but was never converted with torpedo tubes but never the less was classified as a MTB, from the beginning, at her commissioning. Is there any logic why she was classified as a MTB?
Some Fairmile 'D' Dog Boats were ordered as MTBs from the outset, and were equipped with torpedoes by the yards building them, while others were ordered and equipped as MGBs. The only difference between the two types lay in the deck mounted armament, and as already described, the absence of torpedo scallops on the bows of the early MGB type. So MTB 640 would have came from the yard as an MTB equipped with torpedo tubes as new, prior to sailing to the Mediterranean. The MGBs in Home Waters got torpedo tubes in 1943, while in the Mediterranean, the distinction between the MTB and MGB types, which had all been built and equipped that way before they sailed for the Mediterranean, remained. In fact, there were operational reasons for the MGBs posted in the Mediterranean to remain as gun boats, since there was a need at times for more heavily armed boats, as the German coastal convoys which they often targeted were protected by heavily-armed F-Lighters, which were shallow drafted craft that were difficult to destroy using torpedoes.

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