Centenary of coastal forces boats marked with sail-past

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ONE hundred years of Coastal Forces boats – known as the Spitfires of the Seas – were celebrated with a sail-past.

The event, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, was organised by the Coastal Forces Heritage Trust, which is affiliated to The National Museum of the Royal Navy.

The crew of the Medusa - Brian Holmes, Ed Dewar, Barry Ford, Sam Small, Alan Watson and David Carter at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard before setting sail Picture: Kimberley Barber

The crew of the Medusa - Brian Holmes, Ed Dewar, Barry Ford, Sam Small, Alan Watson and David Carter at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard before setting sail Picture: Kimberley Barber

Veterans who served on Coastal Forces boats were in attendance, as well as other descendants. Some sailed on the boats, which included HDML 1387, known as Medusa – a navigational guide for the Normandy landings.

Other people watched from the bow of the Warrior, including trustee Captain Trevor Robotham RN.

He said: ‘The centenary of Coastal Forces celebrates a branch of the navy which played a significant part in the naval success of both world wars.

‘The brave young men who manned these fast-attack craft made an extraordinary contribution to naval warfare.

‘They operated in the darkest of nights in flimsy heavily-armed craft, attacking the enemy at very close range.’

Royal Navy veteran Rodney Agar, from Shaftesbury, was watching from the jetty.

The 86-year-old said: ‘The centenary is a great event.

‘It marks a big change in naval strategy. These ships here were invaluable, and presented a huge threat to big ships.’

Mr Agar’s uncle, Commodore Augustus Agar, was a pioneer of the Coastal Motor Boat programme from 1919 to 1960.

Also watching from the Warrior was 92-year-old Robin Coventry, from Guernsey. He served on board the MGB 81 from 1943 until 1945, and was based at HMS Hornet in Gosport.

He said: ‘Events like this are important for young people to learn. Nobody has done the speed higher than we did, except the Germans who were also getting away from us.’

The Coastal Forces was born from the idea of Coastal Motor Boats during the Great War.

A group of young officers in Harwich wanted to build a small but fast-attack motor boat which carried torpedoes and 100 years ago exactly, the first six Coastal Motor Boats were delivered to the Royal Navy.

The CMB flotillas had been disbanded by 1922 and were replaced by Motor Torpedo and Gun Boats.

Young men served in Coastal Forces manned craft that were wooden, heavily armed, carrying ammunition and high-octane fuel as they went into attack naval enemy at close range.

Coastal Forces played a prominent part in both world wars and the people who served in the motor torpedo boats, motor gunboats and motor launches gained a greater number of distinguished service awards than any other branch of the Royal Navy.

Other boats involved in the sail-past were the P2000 patrol boat HMS Smiter, seaplane tender ST1502, rescue boat HSL102 and motor gun boat MGB 81.