MTB 219: What MTB stands for, its History & the Reason for its Arrival in Bridgwater Docks, Somerset

Map of Bridgwater

The Docks, Canal & River Parrett can be seen in blue, surrounding the town.
The Docks, Canal & River Parrett can be seen in blue, surrounding the town. | Source

MTB 219

Berthed in the Docks
Berthed in the Docks | Source
Near the old warehouses (now converted into flats) and keeping company with the narrowboats.
Near the old warehouses (now converted into flats) and keeping company with the narrowboats. | Source
A Slice of History in more Peaceful Times
A Slice of History in more Peaceful Times | Source

An Unusual Visitor

Walk down to Bridgwater Docks, the marina area of the town ‘twixt canal and river, and you will be surprised. No, not by the narrow boats and small pleasure craft moored at the jetties. No, not by any remarkable new building or on-going festivities; not even by the charming surroundings. You will be surprised because there is an unusual visitor.

MTB 219 is moored by the jetty close to the canal end of the Marina. What does MTB stand for? Some of you will know but for those who don’t, it’s Motor Torpedo Boat. Incongruous, modestly majestic, never before has it been seen in our peaceful dock-side from where colourful craft chug slowly up and down the 12 mile long canal, to and from Taunton on a soporific Sunday afternoon, shooshing the swans and disgruntling the ducks.

In the past, you could have seen merchant craft making their way upriver then being winched into the docks to offload cargo. Seafaring ships can no longer access the marina; warring gun-boats certainly never did.


219's Origins & Specification

MTB 219 was built by Vosper in Portsmouth in 1940, as a 70ft long, 16ft wide, 38 ton, wooden torpedo boat. It was built for speed, to defend Britain in the English Channel against any threat of German invasion during World War II.

Launched in 1941, it was used by the Royal Navy Coastal Forces out of the port of Dover. They had the impressive name of ‘Iron Men in Wooden Boats’. Doesn’t that say it all?


219 in the English Channel 1941

219 in Action, torpedoes launched
219 in Action, torpedoes launched | Source

Wartime Action

In February 1942 MTB219 was one of a pack of five MTBs which tried to attack the German battle cruisers, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen as they ‘dashed’ through the English Channel, protected by destroyers, E-boats and the Luftwaffe. It was known as the Channel Dash.

The attack was unsuccessful as the battle cruisers managed to get through; however, none of them was able to return to attack allied shipping in the Atlantic again.

219 also rescued some of the crew from the Fairey Swordfish bomber aircraft which were shot down, as well as helping sink two German Raptor Class Torpedo Boats, including the Seeadler in 1942.

She was paid off in December 1945.

MTB 219 is the only surviving vessel of its type. It still has the scars of war damage; bullet holes can be seen in the forward saloon.


Further History

Since being decommissioned, MTB219 has led an interesting life. She’s been used by the Sea Scouts, for filming and, as a houseboat in Chelsea, was lived on for nearly 65 years (1948-2013). Its claim to fame as a film location was in the 1970s series 'The Professionals' and the 1980s' 'Dempsey & Makepeace'.

In 2012, the hull of MTB 219 was condemned and in 2013 was passed on to Paul Childs, the present owner, as a donation. Mr Childs wants to turn her into a floating museum in Bridgwater. He is a master restorer of antique military vehicles and has started the Community Interest Company "Militaryboats CIC" to fulfil this aim.

The first stage of restoration was towing 219 under Tower Bridge from Chelsea to Tilbury Docks, where it was taken out of the water. During the second stage she was ashore at Durleigh Displays in Bridgwater for a year, where her hull was restored. This third stage brings us to its arrival in Bridgwater Docks, to fit out the interior and the engine room.

It has been totally restored by Paul Childs and the Militaryboats CIC team of volunteers, who live in Bridgwater, at considerable cost and with the help of various sponsors. Further restoration is necessary before it is then opened to the public as a museum.

The plan is to restore MTB219 to full wartime authenticity, so she is on the National Historic Ships Register. Once fully restored she will be eligible to join the UK Historic Fleet.


Wreath & Flag

Click thumbnail to view full-size
WE REMEMBER THEM IN THE RISING OF THE SUN AND IN ITS GOING DOWN'IRON MEN IN WOODEN BOATS'
WE REMEMBER THEM IN THE RISING OF THE SUN AND IN ITS GOING DOWN
WE REMEMBER THEM IN THE RISING OF THE SUN AND IN ITS GOING DOWN | Source
'IRON MEN IN WOODEN BOATS'
'IRON MEN IN WOODEN BOATS' | Source

A Wreath & a Flag

A wreath has been placed on the bridge, to commemorate those who died on the vessel whilst in service and the hundreds who died in the campaign.

A flag flies from the bows reminding us of 219’s membership of the Coastal Forces.

Stage three of the restoration should take it to completion when it's hoped that 219 will be joined by the four other vessels of Militaryboats CIC.


Follow the Flight from Lowloader to Water!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crane is ReadyApproaching canal-side on lowloaderIn Position for the Cradle StrapsHoisting the BridgeLifting CommencesLowering to the WaterWill it hit the rails?!Phew!  Perfect landing.  What expertise!
Crane is Ready
Crane is Ready | Source
Approaching canal-side on lowloader
Approaching canal-side on lowloader | Source
In Position for the Cradle Straps
In Position for the Cradle Straps | Source
Hoisting the Bridge
Hoisting the Bridge | Source
Lifting Commences
Lifting Commences | Source
Lowering to the Water
Lowering to the Water | Source
Source
Will it hit the rails?!
Will it hit the rails?! | Source
Phew!  Perfect landing.  What expertise!
Phew! Perfect landing. What expertise! | Source

How do you get an MTB into the Docks?

It’s not currently possible to sail in from the river; the lock gates are set in concrete (though apparently this can be moved). Nor is it possible to bring an MTB down the canal. So how come it’s sitting in the marina?

On Saturday 31st January 2015, Bridgwater’s most unusual visitor was brought to the Docks on a low-loader which slowly backed up to the canal-side end of the marina by Bowerings Animal Feeds warehouse. A huge crane was already waiting dock-side, a crane familiar to local residents in its role of adding or removing narrow boats to and from the marina.

A large crowd had been gathering in the sunshine since 11am, waiting patiently despite the cold wind. Albeit a little late, a ceremony was conducted in honour of MTB 219, as she sat patiently atop the lorry. The Mayor of Bridgwater and various dignitaries said their pieces relating to its history, its crew’s bravery and praising the efforts of Paul Childs. Skilful placement of cradling straps and manipulation of levers and hydraulics saw the craft lowered into the water. I was in awe of the expertise of the crane driver; it took a matter of seconds to manoeuvre the craft from low-loader to water.

For security reasons the boat was moved across from the bank to the opposite jetty; safely out of harm’s way as the only access is by coded entry via the marina gate, another boat or swimming!


Averting Disaster

Checking for Leaks
Checking for Leaks | Source
Too much water!
Too much water! | Source

It Nearly Sank!

Overnight it leaked! Apparently the normal process for ensuring the wood is watertight isn't possible in Bridgwater Docks so four electrical pumps were installed to pump out incoming water. The overnight generator failed and water flooded in. MTB 219 listed over and nearly sank! Fortunately firefighters from Bridgwater Red Watch rushed over to the docks on the morning of Sunday 1st February, pumped her out and re-floated her. The pumps were then put onto shore electric and the generator went off for repair.

On Saturday 7th February, we saw 219 go flying once more. The effects of being flooded were nearly disastrous, water pressure pushing out some of the corking completely, creating gaps that could have caused her to sink again.

It had taken on about 6 tons of water, so weighed around 18 tons when taken out of the water! A deluge poured from the hull as it rested precariously on crates, supported all the time by the cradling straps.

The search for precise locations of the gaps was made whilst MTB 219 was hanging above the quayside for most of the day. One of the sponsors supplied CT1, a specialist sealant (meant for buildings!) that cures in water, and even came on site to help with repairs. The leaks were sealed and the craft regained its dignity when returned to its berth.


Incidental Story

Another local resident told us a story about one wartime crew member who crossed the channel in an MTB to pick up Resistance fighters who were in danger. There he met a Jewish girl who was frightened that she was going to be taken to the gas chambers. When he went back later, he looked for her. He found her and she came back to Britain with him where they were married!


Spectators Jostling

Watching the Lift
Watching the Lift | Source

Glorifying War?

Are such renovation projects glorifying war? I don’t think so and it seems that the renovators have other motives too. Remembering those who fought and died for their country, the dangers and restrictions they had to endure and the efforts they made to help others, soldiers and civilians alike, is important. History not only recounts facts and events, it should also give us warnings, teach us lessons, so that the same mistakes are not repeated, so that we deal differently with disputes if possible.

As with our Armistice Day, remembering by wearing our poppies (bought to support the care of ex-soldiers), we should not forget. ‘Lest we Forget’ adorns our war memorials. Lest we forget that war is senseless, war is cruel, that it solves nothing and that peace should be sought after wherever possible.

Yes, there are times when defending and protecting a nation is necessary, against a ruthless enemy who knows no mercy, no negotiation and no compromise.

I believe it’s important not to lose sight of what our soldiers went through, for the very reason that these mistakes should not be repeated. Apart from that, I find the history fascinating. The old cliché, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, is well-proven during hard times, during conflict when it’s necessary to stay a step ahead of the enemy. Such ingenuity helped us fly high, break codes and out-play the opponent in that ridiculous game of chess which is war.


The Legacy of MTB 219

This restoration and the launch at Bridgwater brought like-minded people together. On a beautiful, crisp winter's day a couple of hundred people gathered to watch; they chatted and some possibly made new friends. It was a spectacle. Everyone learned a little about the past, experienced a slice of history and most will follow the progress of MTB 219 until it reaches its status of museum. They met the restorers, realised how much time and effort had gone into their project and marveled at their expertise, along with the skill of the crane driver. Many children will be telling that story for a while, if not longer.

Seeing MTB 219 sitting in the waters of Bridgwater marina gives me a sense of pride, a feeling of sadness but most of all it brings a smile to my lips because it’s now a weapon of peace, a lesson to all who look at her, to all who search her history, that yes we fight for right but we do it only when pushed to such an extreme where no other option exists.


Copyright annart/AFC Feb 2015

I would like to thank Rhian Childs for drawing my attention to the facts and for providing me with incidental information for this article. I much appreciate her help.


History & Leisure

Torpedo Boat alongside Narrow Boats!   (the canal entrance is seen to the right of the MTB's prow)
Torpedo Boat alongside Narrow Boats! (the canal entrance is seen to the right of the MTB's prow) | Source

Sources, Sponsors & Further Information

http://www.militaryboats.org

http://www.fleetairarm.com/history-of-channel-dash.aspx ref Channel Dash

http://www.fleetairarm.com/exhibit/fairey-swordfish-ii-hs618/2-38-20.aspx ref Fairey Swordfish

http://www.durleigh.com/file/durleigh-mtb-219.pdf - used their yard during part of restoration

http://www.ct1ltd.com/en - C.T.1 being used to seal MTB 219 on 7th Feb 2015

South West Crane Hire - Plymouth & Exeter: http://www.sw-crane-hire.co.uk/

Other restorations:

'Historic Ships Register'

The restoration of HMS Gay Archer was completely self-funded by Mr Childs and his wife, Rhian, who bought her for just £1, but then sold their house and possessions to fund her restoration.

Militaryboats CIC registered as a Community Interest Company no: 08975176, 39 Bayford Road, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3QW


War Museums

What is your opinion?

  • Do you enjoy such museums & find them worthwhile?
  • Do you think we should forget about the past?
  • Do you think such museums glorify war?
  • Are you totally disinterested in history?
  • Should children learn about wars and their impact?
  • Do you find all history fascinating?
See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 44 comments

annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Ron. It's nice to know that people think it worthwhile to restore such things and to record it for posterity. I think it's really important to pass our history on to our children and to advertise it as widely as possible too. Thanks for the visit.

Ann


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Great story, Ann. I loved the photo of MTB 219 in action. Looks like the MTBs were what we call PT boats here in the U. S. I think it's great to preserve that history, and you're helping to do that.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Hello Patricia! Yes, it's good to keep these things in the public eye. The story of the couple getting married is a lovely one, isn't it? I'm still trying to find out a little more about that but I haven't seen our neighbour lately.

Lovely to see you today; thanks for your comments and votes and have a lovely day!

Ann


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 21 months ago from sunny Florida

How interesting and how wonderful that it is being restored and will be open as a museum. Too often pieces of history slip away and are lost for all time.

I love the story of the two meeting and then he went back to find her and they married....lovely.

thanks for sharing Voted up++++ and shared

Angels are once again winging their way to you this morning ps


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, RQ, for your kind words and your interesting input. Glad you enjoyed reading this. It's an ongoing story so I'll be updating when the restoration is complete and, hopefully, when the museum is up and running.

Have a great day!

Ann


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 21 months ago from Lincolnshire, England

This was a fascinating article to read Ann, especially living on the coast where there floats docked barges and trawlers converted into public houses and museum heritage pieces.

Living history should be preserved, I believe, for the next generation as a careful reminder of the resistance against evil and the folly of war, of which the legacy of the MTB 219 you've so wonderfully photographed, fulfils admirably.

Thanks for the history tour.

R.Q.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Colleen. I'm glad this was enjoyable for you and close to your heart.

I know what you mean about visiting those kinds of sites. We went to the memorial on Flanders Fields and it was so moving. The thousands of names around the pillars took our emotions to an entirely different level.

I appreciate your visit and thanks for the interesting input.

Ann


Colleen Swan profile image

Colleen Swan 21 months ago from County Durham

Hi, Ann,

I really enjoyed reading this thorough and moving Hub. My dad spent most of WWII on shipboard, often in menacing waters. Still, he always retained a love of the sea, which I have inherited.

An American now living in England, I recall visiting the memorial to Vietnam veterans in Washington D.C. Somehow I needed to touch those names; they are imprinted on my heart.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

manatita: Yes, the various parts played in the jigsaw were all vital in the end. Some are less well known and MTBs deserve their recognition.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ann


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 21 months ago from london

A well-written and historically interesting Hub. A sweet touch with the woman who got married eventually. MTB's eh? So many different kinds of approaches in War. Changes all the time. Thanks for sharing.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Devika, for reading and for the votes. Glad you found it interesting.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Frank, glad you liked it.

Ann


DDE profile image

DDE 21 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Hi Ann you have brought to light a very interesting topic. Voted up, and useful.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 21 months ago from Shelton

annart this was an entertaining historical read I was so amused bless you


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Maj. Good to see you and I'm glad you enjoyed this. I love that quote too!

Ann


travmaj profile image

travmaj 21 months ago from australia

This was fascinating Ann - a history lesson indeed and photo's to add to the scene. What a day you had - I wish I'd been there. I certainly don't see any glorification of war - we should never forget. I love the quote - 'Iron Men in Wooden Boats,' Thanks again, Maj


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Dora. In fact, MTBs were successful in many of their attacks, though not always. Now, as you say, this one is doing an entirely different job but a great one too.

I appreciate you reading and your insightful comments. Always good to see you here on my hubs.

Ann


MsDora profile image

MsDora 21 months ago from The Caribbean

Such a rich, beautiful part of history. The MTB 219 is still serving though unsuccessful in its original task. Sometimes life's like that. Thanks for an interesting read.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Hi, Alan. What an amazing story! It is indeed a small world.

These particular MTBs of the Coastal Forces in the Channel were definitely part of the Royal Navy. There were others which may well have been to do with the RAF. I'll check on that.

Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked this.

Ann


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 21 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Nice piece of history here, Ann. I think rather than being under the auspices of the Royal Navy, these MTB's and the Rescue Launches were operated under the RAF. They were basically the same craft.

I was told a story by someone a while ago about his Dad being in aircrew. For reasons I can't go into here, he was transferred to the RAF Rescue Launches in the Med. He and his crew picked up a downed German airman once and until they got him back to base looked after him, fed him and so on until giving him up to be taken as a POW back to 'Blighty'.

After the war, the man who told me this, had been a sickly child so the family moved to a caravan site in Epping Forest near Chingford, away from the London air. Near the caravan park was a pub, 'The Owl' (it's still there, although extensively rebuilt), and his Dad went there for a drink one day - to find out the landlord was the German airman he'd rescued.

Small world, eh?


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

hsen1415: Thanks for reading & commenting.


hsen1415 profile image

hsen1415 21 months ago from i love you

Nice


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Hello, Flourish! Thanks for your kind comment. Yes, that story of the Jewish girl seems to have struck a chord with many; I liked it too and it gave a further dimension to the history. Always good to have a particular human element. I really need to find out more about that.

Good to see you!

Ann


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 21 months ago from USA

Nicely done and how fortunate you are to have been there to bear witness to this as they commemorate history. I love the story of the soldier who married the Jewish girl he rescued.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks for your comment and tweeting, Ruby. I loved that story too; we heard it just by chance from one of our neighbours. I'm going to ask him a little more about it.

Ann


always exploring profile image

always exploring 21 months ago from Southern Illinois

Ann, I don't think we should ever forget WWII. Your story about the MTB-219 was interesting. I liked the story about the Jewish girl being found and later married her rescuer. Tweeted...


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Looking forward to reading your story, Chris.

Ann


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 21 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Ann, the first story I ever wrote was in 4th grade. It was about Dunkirk/Dunkirque.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

I think it was to do with Dunkirque, Chris. The story came from one of our neighbours we were talking to the day after the boat arrived. We don't see him that often (he has Parkinsons) but if I see him again soon I'll try to remember to ask him. He said that several journeys were made and that would fit. It would make a good story wouldn't it? Please feel free to use it!

Great to see you today and thanks for the comments, Chris.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Hello, Theresa! Great to see you today. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Yes, it's wonderful to have this on our doorstep. These photos are a mixture of mine and my partner's - what you call teamwork!

The museum angle depends largely on permission from our local council; if I have anything to do with it, it'll be a resounding 'yes'! We need tourism and this would be ideal.

My grandson missed this event so I've promised he'll be able to be here when the other boats come in, so I hope it happens or I'll be in the doghouse!

Thanks for the votes and sharing; you're such a good friend.

Happy Sunday to you too, Theresa.

Ann


cam8510 profile image

cam8510 21 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

Ann, wonderful history. Thanks for sharing this. I am intrigued by the story of the man who took one of these boats and rescued the resistance fighters and married the girl. Do you have a source for this? Could it have been part of The Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940? I'm sensing a historical short story or flash fiction here.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 21 months ago from southern USA

Dear Ann,

Thank you for this fascinating read on the history of MTB 219. I think it is most important to never forget the sacrifices made and why. I do not believe it glorifies war in any way. It is part of history, and we must learn from history.

Your photos are great. I am so glad they were able to get to it before it sank! I do hope it is restored and made into a museum.

You have done a beautiful job in sharing about MTB 219. I am glad it dropped right there on your doorstep so-to-speak!

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Happy Sunday


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you so much, Jaye, for your lovely comment. Glad you liked this.

Yes, the team of volunteers have done, and continue to do, an amazing job on this and others.

The houseboat idea always appeals, doesn't it?!

I think they should definitely ask your opinion regarding HOTD! Never had that 'honour' and I'm not that bothered to be honest. I know what I like and the standard of some HOTDs leaves a bit to be desired.

Anyway, thanks for reading, for your contribution and for the votes and sharing. Much appreciated.

Ann


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 21 months ago from Deep South, USA

This is a splendid hub, Ann, a marvelous history lesson combined with an interesting contemporary story and illustrated with photos that allow the reader to share in the excitement of the event. If I were on the HP Team, this would be "Hub of the Day." (Alas, they never ask for my opinion!)

I'm intrigued that the MTB219 played a role in attack-and-rescue missions for the UK navy during WWII and later served as a houseboat and home to someone for 65 years after its wartime service before its latest incarnation.

Mr. Childs and the team of volunteers are to be commended for the MTB219's restoration and the plan for additional work to add this grand old lady to the UK Historic Fleet register.

Voted Up++++ and shared

Jaye


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, bill. Yes it's exciting to have something like this on my doorstep. Glad you enjoyed my little sortie into naval history.

My mother's side of the family was made up mostly of naval lads and lasses; living on the south coast I suppose this was inevitable. It's part of my heritage and part of my genes too. I love the sea, apart from swimming in it!

Happy Sunday to you too, bill!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Eric, for your kind comment. I'm glad you liked this and I agree entirely with your sentiments.

Ann


billybuc profile image

billybuc 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

Very exciting, Ann, and no, I don't think such things glorify war. It is part of history and as such should be public for enjoyment and education. We have a naval base near us...Bremerton...and many great battleships have been there for repair and tour. I happen to think it is fascinating.

Enjoy the tour and thank you for the history lesson. Happy Sunday to you.

bill


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Very cool. History is history and ignoring is just plain fool hearty. This was a great tribute to an inspirational fleet of MTBs.


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Mary, for your valuable insight and comments. I agree with you. My grandfather played an interesting part in WWII and I don't think we should ever forget.

Thanks for the votes and for commenting.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Jackie. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the votes and share.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 21 months ago from SW England Author

CASE1WORKER: Yes it does look odd and yes I find it fascinating.

Thanks for reading and for your comments.

Ann


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 21 months ago from New York

We cannot forget the past for if we do we are doomed to make the same mistakes. My mother-in-law was always worried her grandchildren would forget WWII. My father-in-law served on the island of Saipan.

I think restoring this MTB is a lesson in history for all.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 21 months ago from The Beautiful South

An enjoyable history lesson Ann, voted up and will share!


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 21 months ago from UNITED KINGDOM

How very interesting- something that was made so long ago is now still afloat and must look quite odd among all the canal boats

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working