Vosper's Ferocity powerboat trials in Portsmouth left onlookers gasping in awe: Retro

The Vosper fast patrol boat Ferocity I wrote about in Remember When two weeks ago brought an instant response from former News defence correspondent, Tim King.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 12:32 pm
Updated Friday, 26th July 2019, 1:53 pm
Vospers fast patrol boat, Ferocity, scything through the Solent at 50 knots during a demonstration. Photo: The News archive.

Tim recalls his first-hand experience of the sleek FPB during trial demonstrations in the Solent.

‘It was like tearing the Solent apart when Vosper let loose Ferocity, their latest fast patrol boat.

‘In an hour-long whirl of spray, screaming engines, gravity-defying turns at full rudder, 90 feet of sleek hull and streamlining took my breath away’.

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This was how he began his report after an exhilarating experience on board Ferocity as she was put through her paces for the Press and members of Commonwealth navies on November 23, 1961.

It was Vosper’s latest venture to tempt Nato and friendly navies to buy the FPBs and they hoped the fact that her lighter, cheaper wooden construction would be a sales winner over the marginally larger, slightly faster and more expensive Brave class.

Tim’s story continues: ‘Numerous times, the stern dug into the waves, carving a huge hollow behind the gas-turbine outlets of Ferocity’s two Bristol Siddeley Proteus marine engines.

‘Merchant ships’ crews gasped as we left their vessels wallowing in our huge wake – and at 50 knots (almost 60 mph) it was quite a following.

‘Ferocity will carry the same armament combinations of Bofors guns, torpedoes or mines as the Brave boats, and she has one engine fewer.

‘One of her principal engine features is the two manoeuvring diesels, which can be used for cruising up to 10 knots and 2,000 nautical miles.

‘The high speed gas turbines, with a maximum of 54 knots, give her a range of 400 nautical miles.

‘Apart from her machinery capabilities, Ferocity has a totally enclosed airliner cabin-type bridge with remote controls and atomic, bacteriological and chemical cloud protection.

‘There are even safety belts on the seats of the conning positions.’

Sadly, of course, Ferocity’s naval service was short, but there is a chance that she is still afloat.

An article on the British Military Powerboat Team website suggests she ended up in the Middle East.

Richard Symonds, a former Camper & Nicholson’s employee, says he worked on the boat in 1971-72 and she was then named Kaplumba, having been bought by a member of the Hyderabad royal family, Mir Barkat Ali Khan Mukarram Jah. 

Her Proteus engines were removed and four Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turbines installed.

Richard adds: ‘Trials in the Solent were semi-successful along the measured mile at Lee-on-the-Solent and show up to 60 knots plus were achieved.

‘She was taken to the Med and the last I saw of her was in Rhodes where I flew out to do repairs and trials.

‘Jah offered me a full-time position on her, which I declined.

‘I subsequently left Campers and lost contact with her.’

Thank you to all those who contacted me about last Monday’s column and the finding of baby Richard who became an adult and moved to Wolverhampton.

What I couldn’t mention was the reaction I received when interviewing many dozens of local people for the book, Portsmouth – City of Gallant Hearts

I talked to many people who lost family and even then, some 50 or more years after the event, they broke down and cried while I was talking to them.

If I’m honest, it even affected me too. 

The horrors of the war never went away from them and I don’t think they had ever spoken to anyone about it until they talked to me.

It was like a complete release of emotion for them and I am sure they felt better for getting it out of their systems, even after all that time.

It was in 1929, 90 years ago, that we nearly had a new station between Fratton Station and Portsmouth & Southsea Station, which was then called the Town Station.

At a meeting with city councillors it was resolved to purchase the land where the railway goods yard stood for the sum of £55,000 and to remove the railway station and to purchase the land on the north for £50,000.

They planned to move the goods yard, where Isambard Brunel Road is today, to Fratton and wanted to build a new railway station to the east of Jacob’s Ladder (the footbridge from Greetham Street to Canal Walk) to replace both Fratton and Town stations.

Councillors also proposed raising the bridge and widening  Commercial Road under the High Level.

It appears only the movement of the goods yard took place.