Dear Shipmates. Welcome to CFVA’s East Anglia Branch March 2010 newsletter. Firstly, what an unwelcome and pretty miserable Winter we have been having. As we are not getting any younger, keeping warm and suitably nourished (solid or liquid), has been a priority, and venturing out has been particularly hazardous for the majority of us.
Despite all this, East Anglia shipmates have attended our December and February Meetings in good numbers. (No meeting January). To bring you up-to-date, here is a brief summary of those meetings.
Summary of meetings
17th December 2009.
12 Shipmates attending, plus, later our Padre, Tim Jenkins, who was warmly welcomed.
As Padre not only to us, but to Missions to Fishermen, Tim is a great character, and we listened with much interest to his unbiased comments on our fishing industry. Tim travels hundreds of miles up the East Coast on his various missions, and he told us that talking virtually every day with fishermen, how furious they are with the EU quota system, confining them to port, when at present the North Sea is teeming with cod and mackerel and they are not allowed to earn a living.
We are forever getting more separated from our 1940s ideals than ever.
The branch had received many Christmas cards from other branches, and various shipmates. We were all agreed that these contacts, after so many years (60), was exceedingly heartening.
Also, of importance, as referred to in our December newsletter, are the current negotiations in respect of the laying-up of our standard at Christ Church in Lowestoft:
Buddy informed us that there maybe an opportunity to lay-up the standard in Portsmouth, but the final decision was that it should stay in Suffolk, at least to start with. Further information will be made available to all nearer the date, but it is expected to be at a Sunday morning service in May.
It is good to hear our Treasurer, Buddy Crowe, tell us our finances are in good health, and there will be no subscription payable in 2010. Good news! Buddy thanked all Shipmates that had supported the branch in various ways without claiming expenses that had helped branch finances.
The December meeting ended with our social exchange of Christmas cards, and mince pies and sausage rolls, kindly supplied by Cyril and Dorothy who were warmly thanked.
The food arrived warm, thanks to foil and hot water bottles!
18th February 2010. 12 Shipmates attending. This turned out to be a most convivial meeting which covered all our current topics and concerns, including our relationship with Lowestoft Sea Cadets, the laying-up of our standard, and our healthy finances. East Anglia Branch wishes to thank all of you who have sent favourable comments for our newsletter.
Some of you who watch BBC 1 Breakfast News may have seen their recent (February) five minute display of the beautiful restored RAFL 102, and MGB 81, powering around the Solent. No, OK I don’t watch early morning TV, but a kind friend phoned to let me know it was coming up. It was great! The two vessels are on public display at Gunwharf Quay, Portsmouth. However, have a chuckle shipmates, as a certain well known boating magazine has mixed up MTB 102 and HSL 102! To clear up any mystery, here with my photos of the three of them! HSL102 and MGB 81 are now part of the Naval Base Property Trust and our own MTB 102 is still based at Newsons at Lowestoft. We should all say a big 'thank you' to the Clabburn family who rescued these boats from houseboats on mud and spent thousands of their own money restoring them for future generations to see for themselves, the 'Little Ships' of WWII.
This is great stuff and were it not for despicable vandalism and arson, at Newsons Yard in Lowestoft, MGB 60 would be in all her glory in Duxford Museum Maritime Section as one of the great Robert Hichens flotilla. Yours truly had the privilege of being involved with her move from Woodbridge (another houseboat), to Lowestoft, and logging her restoration progress with photographs and logs of her exploits and crews. These two hard cased volumes were handed to Capt. Trevor Robotham and are, I believe, in the Coastal Forces Museum in Pompey.
Buddy and I served together on ML 194 for nearly two years, and at our February Meeting, he said to me, “I wonder what happened to 194?” According to records she was sold to the Malay Navy, minus presumably, her two Hall Scott engines as these had to be returned to the States as these were Lease Lend. She did well. Channel duties from Newhaven, Dieppe raid 1942 and Omaha Beach on D-day morning, all as SO 11th Flotilla, and then Far East as SO 34th Flotilla. What has happened to so many of the 'homes' we all knew so well in WW2? Any news of any known ones shipmates?
As we know various ex MTBs and MGBs are around, but no Fairmile Bs, yet, more Coastal Forces shipmates served on the 650 MLs than any other craft. They were the work horses of Coastal Forces, and served everywhere. The last survivors that we know of are the Western Ladies, that were running the ferry service between Brixham and Torquay. They were RMLs 535, 497, and 542. They are now laid up at Dolphin Shipyard at Galmpton on the River Dart. To comply with all the relative safety requirements, and increasing maintenance costs, unfortunately they had to be retired. Mrs. Sandy Armstrong, who was heavily involved with the Western Ladies wrote a booklet, The (Fair) Few Miles. This is fascinating reading…try and get a copy. At the end of the book there is this verse “We will win this, not in the fight when Leviathans come to grips, But by the dogged grit, and endless toil of the men in Little Ships”
We all know these vessels were not meant to last 60 years, but what a shame there isn’t a B Fairmile for future generations to see. Any ideas anyone?
Having said that, I have news from Mike Boyce about HDML 1387 Medusa. I quote from his latest letter to me.
“Work on Medusa has been proceeding apace although she is some way from being finished. However, in order to be relinquished from the Lottery’s requirement for full insurance up to the maximum of their grant, we plan to launch her on the 1st March. Once afloat, she can only be insured for her actual value, which is far less than the Lottery grant. The premium will then fall from the current £27,000 per year, to £2500 per year. We are working hard to get watertight and operational so that, when she goes afloat she can be driven from the slipway under her own power. That will just leave the internal fitting out to do. It is intended that, initially, she will be berthed back at Southampton Docks, but we are looking at the possibilities of eventually returning to Portsmouth and the Historic Dockyard, where she will be more visible to the public. As the public cannot enter Southampton Docks to see her due to security, Portsmouth seems to be the right place.
I have to thank Mike Boyce for my introduction to CFVA. Back in 1992, via an interest contact Mike invited me for a sea trip on Medusa. It was at Gosport that I was joined by a number of other 'elderly' gents, and on making access on board, I was asked "Which Branch?" As I was unaware of CFVA I duly responded, and found my arm being twisted by the late Harold Pickles, who acted as my mentor, and ensured my membership! Does anyone recognise any other shipmates on that day? I am talking to the late Alan Smith of Southern Branch, and the fellow with beard and glasses is John Lambert, author of the comprehensive illustrated books, Coastal Forces in WWII MLs and D boats. It is great to think that one occasion put me in touch with four other shipmates from ML 194, plus many others.
Seven decades ago MGB 81 and HSL 102 were 'the Spitfires of the sea' Among the fastest craft the nation possessed. Seventy years later, thanks to a £580,000 grant they are preserved, and will be speeding round the Solent at 40 knots, not just for the public to admire, but for charter. The aim is to allow people to charter the boats and experience the thrill of a 'plywood' boat, (thought they were double skin mahogany. Ed.) cutting through the water at 40knots! They will also run at a more leisurely pace to the Explosion Museum at Priddy’s Yard. “Those of us who particularly cherish these boats are very grateful” said Lt James Shadbolt a veteran of the 8th Gunboat Flotilla with which MGB 81 served. Both vessels were built by the British Power Boat Company at Hythe in Southampton, where the designs were tested by a certain T.E. Shaw Lawrence of Arabia
On a personal note, I am pleased shipmates and/or their relatives find the branch newsletters of interest. Our next newsletter will be June 2010, and by then we should have a fair amount of interest to relay to you.
Here’s to some warmer Spring weather. Up spirits!
Don Tucker. CFVA 2549
(Edited version of 5 page newsletter. We are unable to reproduce photographs)