The Navy formed its first two (and only) Motor Torpedo Boat flotillas (the 29th and the 65th) in 1943, using craft supplied by the Royal Navy.  MTBs were small (25m or less in length), made of plywood, and designed primarily for patrol purposes to mitigate the impact of German mine-laying E-boats.  The latter were a frustration to MTB crews since the faster E-boats could easily outrun the MTBs when they were engaged.

Two MTBs were lost when they struck mines, but by far the flotillas major crisis came in Ostend harbour early in 1945. Most of the Canadian boats and several British ones were undergoing maintenance prior to continuing their work along the Belgian and Dutch coasts. Some high octane gasoline had been flushed from one of the boats during the cleaning of a fuel tank.

“An accidental spark, possibly even a cigarette, ignited the gasoline floating on the surface and in moments the whole basin was aflame with a roar. The wooden boats, themselves impregnated to some extent with oil and the floating gas, caught fire almost at once. The on-deck torpedoes and depth charges exploded with thunderous crashes, heard as far away as England, as boat after boat was swept up in the conflagration.” The Canadian Naval Chronicle

The 29th flotilla effectively ceased to exist, five of its eight boats having burned to a crisp. The three that were saved resulted from the crew of one of them heroically getting their engines started and towing the other two to safety in the outer harbour.

WRN Crang, AJ Cross, JB McMahon and P Thompson lost their lives while serving aboard HMCMTBs.

See photos etc. at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_gorham/6194931428/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_gorham/6113523460/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_gorham/sets/72157627656588871/detail/?page=5.

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