Why ‘Spitfires of the Sea’ could become part of Portsmouth attraction

Second World War war boat MGB81, one of the Spitfires of the Sea
Second World War war boat MGB81, one of the Spitfires of the Sea

HISTORIC war vessels, known as 'Spitfires of the Sea', could become part of a Portsmouth attraction as a tribute to those who lost their lives in 20th century conflicts.

Several original crafts and one replica ranging from the First World War to the Falklands campaign are set to be displayed near the entrance of the Historic Dockyards in time for the D-Day 75 celebrations next year.

If planning permission is granted by Portsmouth City Council the vessels will be moored behind Boathouse 4 and will be accessible to the public, weather permitting, via a Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust project.

Peter Goodship, chief executive of the trust, said: 'It's part of a wider project to create what we call a memorial flotilla (fleet) to commemorate the vessels that were used in a number of conflicts in the 20th century. And to pay respect to all those who were involved in those conflicts who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

'We want to display them on the water because it is where they belong. Only when people see them like that can they fully understand their roles.'

In total the project, including restoration, dredging and building the replica, will cost around £2.5m, with funding secured from Libor. The next stage of the scheme requires the construction and installation of the pontoons to sit alongside the boats, at a cost of £600,000.

Mr Goodship added: 'We hope to get the pontoons in place in the spring so that it will be ready for the 75th anniversary.

'It's more important than ever because most of the Second World War veterans are around 90 years old now. In terms of what the trust is doing this is the last big hoorah.'

D-Day veteran John Jenkins, 98, from Cosham believed it would be a welcome addition to the site. 'I think it is a good idea,' he said. 'I think seeing the boats and touching all these things is a good way for people to learn about them and to help them understand what happened.

'I remember the motor gun boats (MGBs) being based in Belgium. I never saw them but I know how fast they were meant to be.'

The council's head of culture, Cllr Steve Pitt, agreed. He said: 'This is great news for the city.

'The memorial fleet project will really add to our maritime heritage - the restored boats will be a fitting and welcome addition to our D-Day 75 celebrations.

'They will help to create an interest in vessels of this period, ahead of the arrival of the landing craft tank to Portsmouth at the end of 2019.'

Planning permission from the council to build the pontoons will be decided at a future date.

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Vessels set for the display:

MGB 81 - The only fully restored and operational example of a Royal Navy Coastal Forces motor gun boat which saw active service in the Second World War

HSL 102 - A 64ft high speed launch craft used during the Second World War for air-sea rescue operations to save allied aircrew from the sea

ST 1502 - Built in 1942, she saw wartime service in various part of the UK and was armed and fitted out for air sea rescue duties

Green Parrot - Was finished as a barge in 1956 on board the HMS Maidstone

Landing craft F8 - Foxtrot Eight was one of four smaller landing craft used by Portsmouth-based assault ship HMS Fearless during the Falklands War

Spinnace Steam 199 - Built for the Royal Navy in 1911, she is believed to be the last remaining naval steam pinnace in operation

Steam Cutter 438 - Served aboard the cruiser HMS Falmouth in 1916 and was present at the Battle of Jutland. She is one of only two known Jutland survivors to still exist today

HMS Medusa - A harbour defence motor launch that was built in 1943, she was one of 480 vessels designed to provide an offshore anti-submarine screen for harbours

MASB 27 - She served in the Second World War first as a motor anti-submarine boat and later possibly as a motor gun boat

D49 - A diesel Harbour Service Launch built in 1956

Danae - The Danae or D class was a class of light cruiser built for the Royal Navy at the end of the First World War which also saw service in the Second World War

Cyclops - A 42ft rowing launch built by in 1915 at Portsmouth Dockyard as a pinnace for the Battleship HMS Royal Sovereign

CMB4 - The Trust will construct a replica of Coastal Motor Boat (CMB) 4 which sank the Bolshevik cruiser Oleg in 1919

HMS Gay Archer - A Gay-class fast patrol boat of the Royal Navy launched in 1952

ASC 26 - The Armed Steam Cutter, Falmouth, restored by the Trust. She served aboard the cruiser HMS Falmouth in 1916 and was present at the Battle of Jutland. She is one of only two known Jutland survivors to still exist today

Fairmile B - A type of motor launch built during the Second World War for the Royal Navy for coastal operations