Glory Redeemed

September 2021 News Austa Cook Web Exclusive

If you’re interested in restoration stories, you don’t want to miss this one—which involves a little history lesson to boot.

A Second World War Royal Navy torpedo boat, retired as a houseboat on the River Thames in Chelsea for the past fifty years, is now being restored by engineer Paul Childs. A year into his work, reports that the Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) 219 was originally built in Portsmouth in 1941 to defend Britain from Germany’s threat of invasion. Now floating at Bridgwater Docks in Somerset for the next stage of its restoration, this 73-foot boat is believed to be the last of her kind.

So far, the work has cost Childs £30,000 and will require that sum again in order to finish the restoration. Currently on stage two, the beginning of the three-stage process started with some refurbishment at Tilbury Docks in Essex.

This MTB 219 was one of the vessels involved in the Channel Dash in 1942, when efforts to intercept the Gneisneau, Scharnhorst, and Prinz Eugen were attempted. She also had a hand in sinking two German destroyers and saved several aircrew when their Fairey Swordfish bomber aircraft was brought down.

The houseboater who previously owned this boat gave it to Childs in August of 2013 when her hull was compromised the year previous.

Childs said, “We’re going to put a wreath on the front, which has been donated, just to commemorate the guys that actually died on this vessel whilst in service, and the hundreds that died elsewhere in the campaign.”

The engineer estimates that stage two will wrap up in a year, but he might stick around in the area a little longer. His aim is to host opens days and encourage volunteers to lend a hand in the restoration process with painting and maintenance.

The only known boat in her category, it is believed that a 102 and 331 MTB boat also survive in their respective classes.

In their time, 577 MTBs were commissioned for the Royal Navy and 637 more for the US Navy, adding up to 1,214 total boats. Around 173 were reportedly lost while World War II raged. These MTBs, with other boats in the Coastal Forces (a division of the Royal Navy), saw a lot of action when they were frequently sent out to attack enemy ships in the English Channel and protect British convoys, especially near enemy-occupied coasts.  

THE MTB 219: Specifications

Built: Portsmouth, Hampshire

Class: Vosper 70 feet-type

Length: 73ft

Breath: 17ft

Maximum speed: 27.5 knots (31.6mph) 

Ordered: December 1940

Commissioned: July 1941

Decommissioned: December 1943 

Armaments: Two 21in torpedo tubes, two quadruple 0.303in machine-guns and two single 0.303in machine-guns 

Photos and video credited to Mark Passmore, Apex and

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