MTB 460 (PAC PA 136831)

MTB 460 (PAC PA 136831)

July, 1944

Flotilla worked out of Arromonches.

July 2, 1944

M.T.B. 460 mined – 10 Killed. On the night of the 2nd, boats 460 and 465 were returning from a patrol when 460 suddenly disintegrated. A sheet of flame lifted skyward, followed by a column of water and debris which rose two hundred feet in the air, and showered back upon 465 a hundred yards astern. Only six men of the crew were recovered, the Commanding Officer and nine of his men being lost. (Six survivors)

July 4, 1944

Action off Trouville. The night of the 4th and early morning of the 5th brought a prolonged engagement with E-boats. Boats 459, 462, and 464 were on their usual protective patrol about the assault anchorage. Shortly after midnight, radar indicated the approach of enemy craft from Le Havre. A few minutes of stalking followed; then ‘starshell’ revealed a line of nine E-boats two thousand yards away, making for the anchorage. As the Canadians opened fire, the German craft broke off into the dark, one of them trailing after the other, heavily hit and ablaze. The rest were overtaken in about half an hour, and the boats of the 29th ripped in through a smoke screen to damage a second craft. Pursuit was complicated by the appearance of a German dive bomber, whose efforts inconvenienced the Canadians, but failed to encourage the disorganized E-boats to make a stand. When the chase was finally abandoned at the entrance to Le Havre, one E-boat, lost in smoke, was considered sunk, and two others had been badly damaged. This was the longest-fought coastal forces action in history. It appeared that another unit of E-boats had come down from Fecamp, and run straight into the E-boats with which the 29th had just disengaged. A terrific all-German battle ensued, and the air was filled with massive quantities of green and yellow tracer going back and forth. The E-boats were fighting each other!

Of the some 17 German E-boats in the area, three were sunk, with a possible total of four in all.

Crew of MTB 462 with 'Chaulkers', boat's mascot. 'Chaulkers' is a Royal Navy word meaning "fed up". (PA 180039)

Crew of MTB 462 with 'Chaulkers', boat's mascot. 'Chaulkers' is a Royal Navy word meaning "fed up". (PA 180039)

After these actions, the 462 starboard engine broke down. While limping away to the control frigate they were dive-bombed by a Heinkel. The two remaining boats, 459 and 464, sighted two German minesweepers escorted by two R-boats. As the M.T.B.’s turned in for a torpedo attack, they were seen, and the enemy opened up with ‘starshells’ and 88 mm shells. The shore batteries opened up as well. Their shells came crashing angrily about the boats, making a most uncomfortable barrage. The German Convoy turned back toward Le Havre.

The crews of 459,462, and 464 were absolutely exhausted, both physically and mentally. The three wounded boats limped back to Portsmouth for repairs.

July 8, 1944

MTB 463 (PAC PA 144575)

MTB 463 (PAC PA 144575)

M.T.B. 463 mined – 5 wounded. An awkward assignment on the night of the 8th produced another mine casualty. ‘Human torpedoes’ were being launched against the anchorage from the eastern side of the Ouistrehan Canal, and the M.T.B.’s were sent close inshore along the whole stretch of shore to look for the sites from which the torpedoes had came. The boats had to move through shallow water, which had not been swept, since it lay just outside the anchorage along a shore still held by the Germans. At a little after five in the morning, after setting off twenty-six small mines without serious damage, boat 463 struck the twenty-seventh and began to settle. The other boats, closing the position, found 463 too seriously holed to be salvageable, but only four men of her crew, and one officer, were wounded.

M.T.B. 466, commanded by Lieut. Barney Marshall of Victoria, was along side the damaged craft within three minutes of the blast. Travelling behind 463, Lieut. Marshall’s boat had gone through a 200 ft. waterspout caused by the explosion, and almost turned over. Its engines stopped, but were restarted immediately, and he came alongside the sinking 463, picking one man out of the water, and others of her crew from off her tilting decks. Marshall’s boat took the injured for immediate medical treatment to a Polish destroyer which was anchored nearby.

July 9. 1944

Action off Cap De La Heve. The next night, clear and calm, brought heavy action for boats 459,461, and 464. A little after midnight shore batteries detected the craft as they patrolled eleven miles southwest of Cap D’Anifer. For an hour they were forced to zigzag at high speed under ‘starshell’ and total exposure. About one o’clock, as the fire from the coastal batteries began to abate, the M.T.B.’s observed new ‘starshell’ and gunfire to the north. It was rising, evidently, from an engagement of coastal forces close in to shore.

When the Canadians closed to investigate, they found two British MTB’s heavily damaged after an attack on a line of 10 R-boats which were now lying a mile from land in the lee of the cliffs. Between the R-boats and the two British craft lay a third British boat, crippled, and on fire.

Boats 459, 461 and 464 made a run along the enemy line, engaging each R-Boat in turn at a range of a hundred yards. As the M.T.B.’s reversed course, 461 swerved out of line, ran around the crippled British craft to lay a smoke screen, and then came alongside to assist her crew. When the other boats had completed their second run, 464 came over to help with rescue work, while 459 circled the area to hide it with more smoke. The R-boats clung to their dark lee shore, making no effort to interfere, and the Canadians departed at last with all but one of the British crew safe on board. They, to, had suffered, with one man killed and four wounded.

July 15, 1944

Action off Trouville. M.T.B.’s 459, 464 and 466 took on three E-boats in a fierce five-minute action, from which one enemy went limping away heavily ablaze, while 459 laboured off in the other direction with a hole below the waterline. The 459 was patched up by the following sunset, only to receive a more crippling wound later that same night.

July 16, 1944

459 taken in tow after being hit by shore batteries, 15/16 July 1944. (PAC C127034)

459 taken in tow after being hit by shore batteries, 15/16 July 1944. (PAC C127034)

M.T.B. 459 shelled and beached – 2 killed, 1-wounded. This time boats 459, 464 and 466 were close in to Le Havre, zigzagging under fire from batteries both at Cap de la Heve to the north of the port, and Trouville to the south. About midnight, their controlling frigate which was lying outside the assault anchorage with its radar team on the alert, vectored them on to some enemy minesweepers which were creeping northward out of Le Havre, close inshore. The three boats made for the position, and as they raced along the coast, were suddenly illuminated by flares dropped from an enemy aircraft overhead. The flares were followed by bombs. Then came the shells of the shore batteries, screaming down on them at a range of less than four miles. One shell crashed through the light sides of 459 to explode in the engine room, killing two men and wounding another. As wreckage from below spewed up through a hole blown in the deck, the boat began to settle.

Jim MacKay and I went aboard the 459 with just the bow above water, it was then an air raid alarm was sounded and the 459 was quickly let out on a long line under tow. Jim MacKay and I spent the rest of the dawn hours perched on the bow until we were recovered later that morning.” — George Halliday, Stoker, MTB 466

Another straddling salvo burst in the water, and through the descending splashes, 466 moved in to take 459 in tow. Boat 464 circled to make smoke while lines were rigged, then followed behind, feeding the smoke screen, while 466 and her tow (459) limped away, still under heavy fire. They reached the anchorage without further damage.

What remained of boat 459 was hoisted onto the beach, with 2 killed, 1-wounded. (M.T.B. 459 was later repaired and put back in service).

July 25, 1944

Action off Cap D’Antifer. Boats 461, 462, 464, 465 and 466 – all those of the 29th still in commission – were patrolling a little north of Le Havre between Cap D’Antifer and Cape de la Heve. The night was calm, with low clouds obscuring the moon and providing excellent conditions for M.T.B. operations. The boats kept in as close to shore as they dared in order to have a dark lee from which to attack any shipping they might encounter. A little after midnight, radar reports relayed from the control frigate indicated that an enemy convoy was moving up the coast from Le Havre. The M.T.B.’s crawled along in the lee of the shoreline, until they made out the silhouettes of two minesweepers, two flak trawlers, and several R-boats; they then moved into line abreast formation, opened their throttles, and roared out from the shadows.

They were met with sudden and heavy fire from a screen of R-boats which they had failed to observe on the inshore side of the convoy. Plunging through this line, they got their torpedoes away, and swept past the merchant ships with rocketing guns. Behind them, a huge explosion lifted above the blaze of ‘starshell’ and the lurid beads of tracer fire. They had sunk one ship of the convoy at the cost of light damage to their own craft, and only two men wounded.