Previous names

  • 1942 MGB 81
  • 1943 MTB 416
  • 1959 Jolly Roger
  • 1964 Cresta
Certificate no 524
Status National Historic Fleet


Function Fighting Vessel
Subfunction Gunboat
Location Portsmouth
Vessel type Motor Gunboat
Current use Museum based
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No
Info required No


Builder British Power Boat Co Ltd. Hythe
Built in 1942
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Number of masts
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 2
Primary engine type Petrol
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
20.57 feet (6.27 m)
5.90 feet (1.80 m)
Length: Overall
71.75 feet (21.87 m)
Tonnage: Gross



MGB 81's design was produced by the British Power Boat Company (BPB) in collaboration with the Admiratly and, in all, 105 of her type were built (including some which were completed as motor torpedo boats). MGB 81 had a chine hull form using double-diagonal mahogany sides and a triple diagonal mahogany bottom. Although ordered on 27 November 1940, MGB 81 was not laid down until 16 December 1941. She was launched on 26 June 1942 and was by then virtually complete, for she was on trials on 8 July and achieved a speed of 38.63 knots on Southampton Water.

She was accepted and commissioned on 11 July 1942 and then worked up at HMS Bee, the coastal forces base at Weymouth, before joining the 8th MGB Flotilla at Dartmouth in August 1942. Between then and September 1943, MGB 81 was involved in six actions. Off Guernsey on the night of 13/14 August 1942, she engaged in a close-range gun attack on two enemy armed trawlers and one trawler was severely damaged. The next month, the flotilla moved to Felixstowe and MGB 81 was soon in action off the Hook of Holland on 14/15 September, when two enemy motor vessels were damaged by gunfire and four armed trawlers were hit, with no damage to the MGBs.

In another action off Holland on 2/3 October, four enemy armed trawlers were engaged, and one of the flotilla, MGB 78 was lost. On 27/28 February 1943, the MGBs fought the escorts of a German convoy off the Hook, resulting in the sinking of MGB 79, and damage to MGB 81 caused by a shell hitting the engine room. In April 1943, the flotilla returned to Darmouth, though MG 81 was refitting at Brightlingsea from 29 April to 20 May. In June 1943, she was damaged in collision with MGB 115 and was repaired by BPB at Poole. On 11-12 September, she again sustained damage when fired on by shore batteries at Cap la Hague and spent the rest of the month being repaired at BPB's Poole yard.

In late September 1943, the boat was renumbered MTB 416 and her designated armament was increased to reflect her new role, with the addition of two 18-inch torpedo tubes. Even though they were given the motor torpedo boat (MTB) classification, some of the former MGBs did not ship torpedo tubes, so it is not certain that MTB 416 was so fitted. Her flotilla became the 1st MTB Flotilla and redeployed to Ramsgate for a short period in October 1943 before returning to Dartmouth.

MTB 416 was refitted at Poole by BPB between 5 January and 2 March 1944. Her first recorded action as an MTB was in Lyme Bay on 21-22 April, when she engaged German E-boats and sustained action damage. Repairs were again made at Poole, but she was back in action for Normandy landings, where she was involved from 6 to 30 June 1944, with Gosport as her base.

On the night of 23/24 June, she was involved in an attack on a German convoy leaving Cherbourg. Although MTB 416 was only backing up this operation, one of her crew was killed. On the night of 18/19 July, she obtained hits on German R-boats off Cap d'Antifer, but her hull was damaged by gunfire and she returned to Poole again for repairs.

In September 1944, the flotilla's base changed to Lowestoft and her next action was on 14 February 1945 at Ostend. On 27 April 1945, with the war in Europe in its final days, she paid off at Poole and was placed in reserve. On 2 October 1845, MTB 416 was approved for disposal and was later sold.

Little is known about her subsequent history until 1958, when she was arrested by Customs officers at Shoreham whilst on a smuggling operation. She was sold on for use as a sailing school accommodation ship at Hardway, Gosport, and renamed JOLLY ROGER. In 1964, she was sold to become the houseboat CRESTA, also at Hardway.

In 1984, she was towed to Burlesdon on the River Hamble, and in 1988, was bought by Guy Webster to restore her to her wartime appearance. On 17 September 1998, she was bought by Philip Clabburn and was reconstructed at the British Military Powerboat Trust's Marchwood site between 1999 and 2002. Petrol engines were thought to be prohibitively expensive to run, so three 1,000-bhp V-12 MAN turbocharged diesel engines were fitted, giving an estimated top speed of 45 knots.

Since late 2009, MGB 81 has been based at Portsmouth, following her acquisition by the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust. Source: Paul Brown, Historic Ships The Survivors (Amberley, 2010), updated Mar 2011.


North, A J D, Royal Naval Coastal Forces, Almark Publications, 1972
World Ship Society British Armed Forces Small Craft Historical Society, Survivors Register, 1998
Classic Boat: Sea Trials for MGB81, February 2003
Classic Boat: Gunning a gunboat, September 2011
Classic Boat: Power and the Glory, February 2004
Hudson, Geoffrey, WSS Small Craft Group Journal: Motor Gun Boat (MGB) 81, pp68-75, December Volume 14, 1999  

Key dates

  • 1942

    Built by the British Power Boat Co. as a Motor Gunboat

  • 1942

    After extensive trials, joined the 8th MGB Flotilla at Dartmouth

  • 1942

    Close range gun attack on two German armed trawlers off Guernsey

  • 1943

    After escorting minelayers, contacted a German convoy north of the Hook and engaged the escorts

  • 1943

    The 8th Flotilla again moved to Dartmouth and the vessel was refitted at Brightlingsea

  • 1943

    Damaged in a collision with MGB 115 and repairs carried out at BPB Poole.  Later damaged in an engagement off Cap de La Hague and again repaired at BPB Poole

  • 1943

    Re-designated MTB  416 with two 18 inch torpedo tubes

  • 1944

    Refit at BPB Poole after which she vectored onto and engaged five E-Boats in Lyme Bay, suffering damage

  • 1944

    Took part in the D-Day landings and later attacked a German convoy leaving Cherbourg, during which an AB was killed

  • 1944

    Attacked enemy R-Boats off Cap d’Antifer in which the CO was wounded and the vessel damaged.  Further repairs at BPB Poole followed by further action

  • 1945

    Approved to lay up in Category “C” Reserve at Poole, followed by final paying off

  • 1945

    Bought by Mr J Evans

  • 1958

    Arrested by HM Customs for smuggling and subsequently sold to a Gosport scrap dealer and used as an accommodation barge by a sailing school in Gosport under the name JOLLY ROGER

  • 1964

    Bought by Mr John Ould and fitted out as a houseboat named CRESTA

  • 1980

    Bought by Mr John Coker

  • 1984

    Bought by Mr John Pepperell and towed to a mooring on the River Hamble at Bursledon

  • 1988

    Bought by Mr Guy Webster for restoration to her wartime appearance

  • 1988-1992

    Restoration work carried out

  • 1990s

    Moved from her mooring at Bursledon to Crableck Marina, still on the River Hamble

  • 1998

    Bought by Mr Philip Clabburn for the British Military Power Boat Trust and lifted out of the water at Marchwood Military Port

  • 1999-2002

    Restored to original condition and fitted with three 1000hp MAN diesel engines

  • 2010

    Completed vessel bought for exhibition and display, based at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard


  • 2009

    £580,000 was awarded by the National Memorial Heritage Fund to purchase HSL 102 and MGB 81

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