Fairmile Type-B motor launch, ML 443

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Fairmile Type-B motor launch, ML 443

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Vehicle Design:

Unlike the Type A design, that had been done entirely in house by Fairmile. the Type B design, came from the design office of Bill Holt of the Admiralty, based more along the lines of a destroyer hull, with only the more detailed design and production undertaken by Fairmile. The ship followed most of the design conventions Fairmile was known for including total prefabrication, so individual components could be subcontracted out to small factorys, to creat knockdown kits that could be assembled and fitted out by various boatyards, as demand dictated. Because of this ease of manufacture around 650 boats of this clas were built between 1940 and 1945 across the common wealth. Like the A type, the B was initially intended to soley be a submarine chaser, so the boats were fitted with ASDIC (sonar) as standard and their main armament reflected this anti submarine role, featuring . 12 depth charges, a single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun aft, and one set of twin 0.303-in machine guns. Like most classes of small boat in british service though this original specification soon changed, and as the war moved on many vessels were adapted to serve in other roles and as such their armament was modified and upgraded accordingly. Common modifications included the removal of the ASDIC dome for more clearance in minesweepers, and the replacement of the long outdated 3-pounder with one or more 20mm oerlikons, as the boats were adapted into more fearsome MTBs as the war progressed.

Vehicle Service:

ML 443 is a representative of one of the more obscure modifications of the B type, in which the vessels were fitted out as gun boats in order to take part in the commando raid “Operation Chariot”. The refit removed the 3-pounder, and instead mounted a single 20mm oerlikon cannon forward and aft. The number 13 was painted on the funnel, and the normal depth charges were not carried, along with the normal dinghy stored on the amidship deck which was also removed. The lighter Anti-aircraft defenses were retained and iincluded post-mounted Lewis-guns amidships and Vickers Gas-Operated machine-guns mounted on the bridge-wings. For the leangth of the mission large deck-mounted fuel tanks were fitted, and they occupied most of the space either side of the superstructure, and were negotiated via steps at either end.

It was in this configuration that ML 443 took part in the raid Captained by Lieutenant K.M. Horlock, where she carried demolition teams destined for the Power-station target group. She was one of only three attacking boats to sucessfully return, after she reached Falmouth along with the other two surviving vessels, ML 160 and 307 which were also farmile B’s in the same configuration. After this little adventure ML 443 was assigned to the mediterranean, where she was present for the surrender of the italian fleet in 1943, before she was ultimately sunk by a mine strike off Anzio on 12 July 1944, where the entire bow was blown off, leaving her a total write off.

Vehicle Specification:

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Displacement: 85 tons

Length: 112 ft (34 m)

Beam: 18 ft 3 in (5.56 m)

Draught: 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m)

Propulsion: Two 650 bhp (480 kW) Hall-Scott Defender petrol engines

Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)

Range: 1,500 mi (1,300 nmi; 2,400 km) at 12 kn (22 km/h; 14 mph)

Complement: 16

Sensors and processing systems: ASDIC

Armament: 1 × twin 0.303 lewis machine guns

2 x twin 0.303 Vickers GO machine guns

2 × Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

Armour: Wheelhouse plated

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