Vosper "private venture boat", MTB 102

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Vosper “private venture boat”, MTB 102


Design History:

MTB 102 was designed by Commander Peter Du Cane, the Managing Director of Vosper Ltd, in 1936 as a private venture. She was completed and launched in 1937, where due to her impressive speed was bought by the Admiralty and taken into service with the Royal Navy as MTB 102, the 100 prefix denoting a prototype vessel. MTB 102 has an all-wood hull, described as “double diagonal Honduras mahogany on Canadian rock elm”, in line with similar vosper craft of the time. The vessel was initially built only with a pair of 2 × 21 inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes, but this would be supplimented by depth charges, machine guns and the Swiss Oerlikon 20 mm anti-aircraft cannon at various times during her career. The Light weight and whippet like nature of the vessel meant that the installed powerplant of three Isotta Fraschini Asso V-18 57-litre petrol engines delivered 3,300 hp (2,500 kW) which gave her a speed of 48 kn (55 mph; 89 km/h) light and 43 kn (49 mph; 80 km/h) when carrying a full load, making her the fastest vessel in royal navy service during ww2.

Service History:

The Royal navy MTB’s (Motor Torpedo Boats) were developed to initially serve as harbour defense ships, able to mount a quick response to threats from any sea-going vessel, either warship or submarine. Under this design mentality,MTB 102 was designed under the designation ‘Vosper private venture boat’ by Commander Peter du Cane CBE, Managing Director of Vosper Ltd., in 1936. she was completed quickly, and in may 1937, she was launched and underwent sea trials succesfully on the Solent. Due to her impressive performance, she was bought by the Admiralty and brought into service she was called MTB 102 (the 100 prefix denotes a prototype vessel), making MTB 102 the first modern MTB in royal navy service. She was crewed by two officers and eight men, and during 1939/40 she saw active service in the english channel, that would come to a head with her involvement during operation dynamo, more commonly known as the Dunkirk evacuation.

During the evacuation of the british expeditionary force she crossed the channel no less than seven times, and when the destroyer HMS Keith was disabled by a bomb from a stuka dive bomber, MTB 102 was commandeered by Rear Admiral Wake-Walker, to be used as flagship, making her the smallest vessel in royal navy history to fulfill this role. Because MTB 102’s flag box lacked a rear admirals flag, one of the crew made one from a Navy dishcloth so that MTB 102 could fly the correct flag. MTB 102 served in this role for the last two days of the evacuation, and she was the thrid to last warship to leave Dunkirk. in 1943, she was transferred to 615 Water Transport Company, R.A.S.C. and renamed ‘Vimy’. this more banal career would not last long though, and in 1944 she carried Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower to review the ships assembled on the South Coast for the D-Day landings, fittingly allowing her to both witness the fall of france along with the determined return of allied forces 4 years later. At the end of the war she along with most small navy vessels was sold off, and she was converted into a private motor cruiser, from which she would then trade hands multiple hands before being restored leaving her the only Royal Navy vessel involved in the Dunkirk evacuation to have survived to the present day.

Vehicle specification:


Length: 68 ft (21 m)
Beam: 14 ft 9 in (4.50 m)
Draught: 3 ft 9 in (1.14 m)
Propulsion: 3 1,150hp Isotta Fraschini IF 183 57-litre petrol W18 engines: 3,450 hp (2.57 MW)
Speed: 48 knots (89 km/h) unloaded, 43 knots (80 km/h) loaded and armed
Complement: 2 officers, 10 men
Armament: 2 × 21 inch (530 mm) torpedo tubes angled at 10 degrees from the centre line

1 x 20mm oerlikon cannon

Additional Historical Photos:

Photo showing MTB 102 with her 20mm oerlikon cannon, which was mounted forward of the bridge:

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