Royal Navy Coastal Forces - Hong Kong


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Some of the Coastal Forces Boats of the 2nd MTB Flotilla, Hong Kong


British Power Boat Company [Hythe, Hampshire, UK]

In 1933 Hubert Scott-Paine built and raced Miss Britain III which used a Napier Lion engine, in the United States and Venice setting world records for a single engined boat.










The 2nd MTB Flotilla was commissioned into the China Station in 1938 under the command of Lt-Cmdr D G (Nobby) Clark RN. Clark, along with most of the younger Imperial RN officers was recalled for action in the European war theatre.
Lt-Cdr John Boldero RN (Rtrd) was a Coastal Forces veteran from WWI. He had served with distinction in the famous CMB attack on the Bolshevik Fleet in Kronstadt harbour in 1919. Boldero was awarded a DSC for his part in torpedoing a Russian Battleship. He retired in 1922 taking a position with the Shanghai Water Company. After twelve years John was mobilised in 1939 as once again the clouds of war began to darken. Before being appointed to serve on HMS Durban, a cruiser on the China Station he had been serving in the Shanghai Navy Control Station.
Following Lt-Cmdr D G (Nobby) Clark RN being recalled Boldero took over as Senior Officer commanding the 2nd MTB Flotilla, China Station. During an exercise on night maneuvers Boldero's boat was in a high speed collision with one of the destroyers severely injuring Boldero's upper body. His right arm was amputated and his left arm severely damaged requiring much continued surgery.
Lt-Cdr GH Gandy RN (Rtrd) was the Officer Commanding HMS Cicala, one of two surviving Insect Class River Gunboats which had been sunk previously in 1919. Gandy now transferred as Officer Commanding the MTB Flotilla, with Boldero taking his place on the 645 ton Cicala two months later. Boldero gained a bar to his DSC for his spirited actions defending Hong Kong.He subsequently spent nearly four years as a Japanese POW. [102]

A 1/24 scale model of MTB 07 (built by the author) takes to the water in 2009 in memory of Ron Ashby & the crew. MTB 07 on patrol in Hong Kong. This model, built by John Davies is now on display in Hong Kong.

MTB 07 in Hong Kong




Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©















Below MTB 08 on high speed trials over the measured mile in East Lamma Channel in 1941

MTB 08 alongside HMS Vernon     
    Photo from Laurence Kilbee's collection ©

MTB 08 January 1938

Lt Laurence.D.Kilbee H.K.R.N.V.R. Commander of MTB 08 during the battle of Hong Kong. MTB 08 was hit by a bomb while on the slip at Aberdeen on the 16th December 1941. Note the removable ports in the stern with the fold over racks above for torpedo launch.








MTB 09 on high speed patrol in the East Lamma Channael in Spring 1940

MTB 10

MTB 10 on patrol in Mirs Bay 
    Photo from the Hide collection ©




MTB 10, the Flotilla Senior Officers boat on patrol.

Following Royal Navy tradition of the day the flotilla leaders boat does wear a Pennant number on her hull.

Photo from Lt C.J. Collingwood's collection ©

MTB 11

MTB 11 alongside in 1940
    Photo from the Hide collection © 



MTB 11 alongside

Photo from Lt C.J. Collingwood's collection ©

MTB 12 during sea trials at HMS Vernon.

Photo from Lt E M (Mickey) Thorpe RN ©

MTB 12 on the rocks 
	 Photo from the Hide collection ©


MTB 12, ran aground under the command of Lt H.G.A.G Eyre RN at Crooked harbour, Hong Kong, June 1939 & was later towed off by HMS Cicala

Tel Alf Hunt; Able Seaman A Bartlett were the only other known survivors Alf Hunt also survived the torpedoed Lisbon Maru while being transported to Japan.

MTB 26 was hit and blew up in Kowloon harbour 19th Dec 1941

The remaining five MTB's escaped on Christmas Day 1941.

Run the cursor over to another view of MTB 12

Photo from Hide collection ©

MTB 07 under fire 
	Photo from Hong Kong 1941-45 published by Osprey Publishing 
	Illustration by Giuseppe Rava
	Click here for more information

The flotilla took a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and shoot up everything in sight, and to expend all ammunition in the process. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point.
Guns to the left, guns to the right, guns to the front and cannon from above, on they sped into the fiery jaws of the oriental dragon itself. This was the maritime equivalent of the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea.
Lt Ronnie Ashby whose family motto was "Be Just and Fear Not" led the flotilla with Jix Prest & Buddy Hide at the controls of MTB 07. Pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, they suffered heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back and come alongside HMS Robin in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07", peppered with 97 holes and two dead bodies in the engine room, back to base. The flotilla had lost 40% of its attacking force. The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."

MTB's 07 & 09 under camouflage on Christmas Day 1941

Under camouflage in Telegraph Bay on Christmas Day 1941 prior to the escape that evening

MTB 07 & 09 under camouflage in Telegraph Bay by day  prior to the escape on Christmas Day 1941.     
    Photo from the Hide ©

Under camouflage in Telegraph Bay on Christmas Day 1941 prior to the escape that evening

Photo from Ron Ashby's collection ©

MTB 07 alongside the stone pier with 09 under camouflage covered in straw and branches hiding from enemy aircraft in Telegraph Bay on the day of the escape, Christmas day 1941. 07 still has a full complement of depth charges on deck.

The Flotilla was over-painted with a mixture of dark camouflage colours on the 14th December 1941 in preparation for air attacks. Here MTB 07 is alongside a stone jetty at Telegraph Bay on Christmas Day with MTB 09 lashed alongside. The boats were covered with straw and branches for camouflage from air attack during daylight hours. Later in the day when Governor Sir Marc Young finally surrendered to the Japanese the boats rendezvoused south of Ap Le Chau Island and made good their escape with the Chinese liaison party headed by Adm Chan Chak.

1st MTB Flotilla escorting King George VI from Westminster to Greenwich

MTB 01 during sea trials in 1937MTB 01 on sea trials

The torpedo stern racks can be seen very clearly


The first two post WW1 Coastal Motor boats were ordered on 27th September 1935. By October another four Scott-Paine boats were ordered. The six boats were commissioned on 27th April 1937. The 1st Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla was born. The first public appearance was escorting King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I with Princess Elizabeth down the River Thames from Westminster to Greenwich to open the new National Maritime Museum housed in the former Royal Hospital School buildings.

MTB 27 launching a torpedo 
		  Photo from the Hide collection ©

MTB 27 launching a torpedo.

The two Thornycroft 55 foot ex CMBs could launcg torpedos while under way, whereas the Scott-Pain 60 footers had to be stationary as with the stern ports open under way the engine room would flood. One launched the engines were crash started to clear the torpedo.

Loading torpedo's onto MTB

The 60 foot Scott-Paine boats carried two 18 inch aircraft torpedo's stored in the engine room on overhead rails, with two hinged lattice girders stowed on deck. The hinged lattice girders swung over the stern to form a continuation of the engine room overhead rails. The torpedo's fired forward from astern of the boat, and it took great skill in aiming the boat at the target, firing, then turning sharply away to avoid the torpedo.

The boats were powered by three Power-Napier Sea Lion W12 petrol engines.

The 1st MTB Flotilla shaped course for the Mediterranean on 22nd June 1937, calling in at Brest, Corunna, and Lisbon before arriving in Malta on 17th July 1937. Later it was increased by the 3rd Flotilla which was bound for Singapore originally. At midnight on the 11th November 1939 the 12 boats of the 1st MTB Flotilla shaped course to return to the UK via the French canals. MTB 06 was scuttled by HMS Dainty en route to France and the remnants were later stationed at Felixstowe. MTB's 01-05 were disarmed and used for other duties.

If you have any Knowledge of the above please contact the Webmaster Thank You.








British Power Boat 1939

MTB 26 & 27 were Thornycroft 55' Coastal Motor Boats built for the Chinese Navy.


MTB's 26 & 27 bought back from the Chinese Navy on 4th Sept 1939


MTB 27, ex Kuamintong Kuai 20 leaving harbour for exercises in March 1940 with Lt Kilbeee as her CO.

Photo from the Hide collection ©







MTB 27, Thornycroft 55 foot ex Kuamintong CMB Kuai 20 completed 10th September 1938 loaded with depth charges and torpedo's getting an XDO inspection in February 1940 with Lt Kilbeee as her C/O.

Photo from the Hide collection ©











MTB 27 underway with Lt Kilbee in command in March 1940

Photo from the Hide collection ©










MTB 27 alongside HMS Robin in Mirs Bay

Photo from the Hide collection ©























MTB 27 alongside HMS Robin the 226 ton MTB mothership launched in 1934 and armed with a 3.7 inch howitzer. Photo from the Hide collection ©















MTB 27 on patrol Photo from the Hide collection ©








MTB 27 alongside HMS Robin loaded with depth charges in lieu of torpedo's.

Photo from the Hide collection ©

An MTB similar to MTB's 26 &27 on the River Thames in London 1939



MTB 27 on patrol

Photo from the Hide collection ©

Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©

The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.

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