The Vosper MTBs were originally a private venture, designed by Commander Peter du Cane, CBE. Eventually, over 300 were built, but initially, the Admiralty had to be persuaded of their worth. MTB 102 was the prototype, built in 1937. She had a wooden hull, with double diagonal mahogany planking and was powered by three Italian Isotta Fraschini petrol engines, each of 1000 hp, which gave her an impressive 48 knots and, in addition, for manoeuvring at slow speed, two Vosper V8 auxiliaries. She became the smallest and fastest warship of the Royal Navy. Commander C W S Dreyer DSO, DSC RN was given command of MTB 102 in March 1940.
On 26 May they received their sailing orders to proceed with all speed to Dover. At the time they had no machine gun mounted, so they borrowed a Vickers K O 303 from HMS VERNON and rigged it between torpedo tubes. On 27 May they were ordered to Dunkirk, arriving 28 May, and helping a few hundred soldiers to get away. They were ordered back to Dover with about 30 soldiers and a message for Admiral Ramsay. Next morning at 6am they were called to return to Dunkirk and report to Admiral Wake-Walker on the destroyer KEITH in Dunkirk Roads. They arrived just as KEITH was hit by bombs and began to list. They took off Admiral Wake-Walker and his staff. In the course of the next eight days MTB 102 made a total of eight crossings in her role as the Admiral's flagship. On the last night MTB102 was present at the blocking of Dunkirk Harbour and was the third last vessel to leave.
In 1943, MTB 102 was transferred to the army's 615 Water Transport company, RASC, renamed VIMY and used as a high speed 'staff car' on the Solent. She was chosen to take Churchill and General Eisenhower on a secret outing in the Solent to view the armada of ships for the D-Day landings.
After the war she was sold and converted to private cruising. Her first civilian owner installed less thirsty Perkins diesel engines. Her next owner had plans to convert her to a houseboat, but she was saved by a local scout group from Brundall, Norfolk. Keslo Films wanted an MTB for their film 'The Eagle has Landed' in 1976 and offered to refurbish her for their purpose and then return her to the Scout group.
In 1977, she went to Holland to feature in the Dutch film 'Soldier of Orange'. In 1983 major work was carried out on her decks and hull by Fred Newson of Oulton Broad, and two years later, Perkins of Peterborough generously provided a pair of turbo-charged V8 engines. Two new gearboxes and propellers were fitted.
In August 1995, on the way to VJ Day celebrations, MTB 102 suffered a major seizure of the port engine and was forced to return to Norfolk. Due to the cost of repair, the Trustees of the Norwich Area Scout Council handed her over to the MTB 102 Trust in April 1996 and a new engine was ordered and fitted in June. A second engine was ordered and fitted at Easter 1997. With these she attended events around the East and South coasts. A generous sponsor donated two 10ltr Cummins diesels which were worked on to increase power output and in 2002 MTB 102 was re-engined again with these 600hp units.
In 2005 MTB 102 was commanded by the then CinC Fleet, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, to take part in the International Fleet Review and was honoured to be part of the fast frigate sail past for HM The Queen. A new boatshed and marina at Newsons Boatyard was officially opened on the 7 December 2006 by Lady Anne Wake-Walker and MTB 102. Lady Anne cut the ribbon and MTB 102 glided into the shed on the cradle to take up residence for the next three months. Whilst on the slip MTB 102 was repaired, modified and had a complete paint job ready for 2007. MTB 102's 70th Anniversary was held in 2007, starting at HMS HORNET (Gosport) with the Coastal Forces Veterans Association and their ceremony to lay up their colours. MTB 102 also visited Deal, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Dover in May 2007 and Brightlingsea in June.
MTB 102 continues to take part in Maritime events and in 2010 led the flotilla of the Dunkirk Little Ships to Dunkirk and finished the year at the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Annual Vets Cruise on the Thames. She goes into 2011 as the little ship of the Commodore ADLS.
Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships: The Survivors (Amberley, 2010) and MTB 102 Trust, updated Mar 2011.
Brouwer, Norman J, International Register of Historic Ships, Anthony Nelson, pp164, Edition 2, 1993
Sullivan, Dick, Old Ships, Boats and Maritime Museums, Coracle Books, 1978
North, A J D, Royal Naval Coastal Forces, Almark Publications, 1972
World Ship Society British Armed Forces Small Craft Historical Society, Survivors Register, 1998
Brann, Christian, The Little Ships of Dunkirk: 1940-1990, Collectors Books Ltd, 1989
ADLS News: Fleet news, Spring 2015
Classic Boat: The Little Ships Prepare to Revisit Dunkirk, May 2015
Classic Boat: MTB 102, January 1998
Classic Boat:1,000 Boat Pageant - Ones to watch for, June 2012
Hall, Nick, WSS Small Craft Group Journal: Chasing 102, pp82, Volume 14, December 1999
Built by Vospers Ltd. of Portsmouth as a prototype torpedo boat
Following extensive trials and replacement of the original engines, vessel was based at HMS VERNON, Portsmouth
Hosted the Board of Admiralty for King George VI’s Review of the Home Fleet
Ordered to Dunkirk to assist with the evacuation and became the Flagship of Admiral Wake-Walker following the sinking of HMS KEITH
Allocated to the 11th MTB Flotilla at HMS WASP at Dover
Took part in the sail past of Coastal Forces with King George VI taking the salute
Transferred to the Army and re- named RASC Vessel VIMY for target towing duties
Acted as the inspection vessel used by Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower to view the D-Day invasion fleet
Returned to the Navy to await disposal. Was stripped of engines and equipment, but was then purchased by Lt. Cdr. Nigel Parkinson and fitted with two Perkins P6 engines
Bought by John Van der Ould
Used by the Van der Ould family and cruised extensively
Bought by Derek Brown for use as a houseboat
Bought with a plot of land by Blofield and Brundall Sea Scouts as a floating headquarters
Refurbished by Kelso Films for use in the film “The Eagle has Landed” and returned to Norfolk to operate as a youth training vessel
Featured in the Dutch film “Soldier of Orange” but ran aground twice
Operated as a youth training vessel in the Norfolk Broads and off the East Anglian coast
Returned to the River Thames to lead the Dunkirk Little Ships section of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Pageant
Suffered a seizure of the port engine on the way to a VJ Celebration
Handed over to the MTB 102 Trust and new engines fitted
Took part in the International Fleet Review and formed part of the fast frigate sail past for HM The Queen
Official opening of Newsons Boatyard where MTB 102 was to be repaired and repainted
Took part in the 70th Anniversary celebrations of the Coastal Forces Veterans Association, as well as visiting Deal, Ramsgate, Sandwich, Dover and Brightlingsea
Led the commemorative return to Dunkirk and participated in the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Annual Veterans Cruise on the Thames
Took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames
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