Motor Torpedo Boat
A prototype MTB, she was shipped to Canada in 1940 by the British Power Boat Co., which had contacts for 12 of the type to be built at Montreal, CMTB-1 arrived on 16 Jul 1940, was rebuilt to RCN specifications and sent to Halifax as a training vessel that fall. She arrived there on 17 Dec 1940 after a trip fraught with difficulties owing to ice and weather, and had been aground for a time near Richibucto, N.B. on 27 Nov 1940. She was at some point designated V-250. The boat returned to Montreal for refit in Aug 1941, following which she was turned over to the RN as MTB 332. She seems to have been the only one of the twelve to serve, however briefly, in the RCN. The others became MTBs 333-343 (RN).
Lt Harold Fullilove Newell, RCNVR - 01 Mar 1941 - unk
WOODEN SHIPS AND IRON MEN (AGAIN)
"A true story of the navy during wartime."
by: Gilbert E. Short, Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Gunnery Instructor, RCN, ret'd
The ship had been accepted a few days before at the Canada Power boat in Lachine, as a welcome addition to the Royal Canadian Navy. In addition to the three officers and four ratings of the RCN there was also on board three civilians from the British Power boat company and one young Canadian Navigator, originally with the Lady Boats.
Travelling at 44 knots the M.T.B. ate up the miles toward the scheduled stop of the day, Gaspé, Quebec and was ahead of schedule.
At approximately 4:00 P.M. the Captain, Navigator and Coxswain where in the wheel house with the Coxswain at the wheel when the navigator said "Captain we are ahead of our schedule, instead of going into Gaspé, let us travel into Shediac, New Brunswick." The captain was not against the idea, but the Coxswain spoke up, "that would be ok but there is snow ahead" at this time the Navigator said, "that's not snow but a low lying cloud." I've navigated around the River for the past two years and I'd say it is a cloud. Well the Coxswain observed, "I have been in the Canadian Navy for eleven years and I have spent a lot of time in the North Atlantic and the Gulf and I say it's snow."
The captain decided to go on to Shediac and the crew started taking turns having a meal before night fell.
One hour later, the M.T.B. hit the snow storm and had to reduce speed to 25 knots, motor torpedo boats knock the hell out of you at 44 knots, but at 25 knots in a storm they are very hard to handle and all on board were getting thrown around quite badly. The speed was increased to forty knots with the captain (an RCNVR Lt.) handling the wheel. At 7:30 P.M. the Coxswain came up to the wheelhouse to take over from the Captain, who instructed him to "steer by Compass" as the storm has made it impossible to see out of the "clear view screen," then went below to get a cup of tea, leaving the Coxswain and the young Navigator in the wheelhouse. There was silence for awhile then the Coxswain who didn't have much regard for the Navigator said, "we're heading through the Northumberland Straits. If you hit anything hit P.E.I, because they grow a lot of potatoes there, and we could hit mud." The navigator in an angry voice said "We're not going to hit anything."
Five minutes later the navigator ordered "Hard a Starboard," full speed astern, anyone having any knowledge of boats, know that on a two engine boat, you have to bring the throttle back to normal, brings the engines to stop, then put the engines to astern and put the throttles back to full speed, at the same time try to turn the ship 90 degrees to the right, then the MTB piled high on the sand stopping just a few feet from a fisherman's hut. The Coxswain casually said to the navigator "Looks like P.E.I." It turned out later that this -was one of the highest tides of the year and we had beached on a small Island off Richibucto, New Brunswick.
The engine's were now useless as the batteries are only good enough for two attempted starts, and the crew climbed over the bow, and dropped onto the sand and headed into a fisherman's hut to talk things over. It was decided, if we could get the MTB re-floated, possibly we could get the engine going. So the three Canadian officers stripped and holding a kedge anchor, above their head, waded out into the freezing water up to their chins and threw the anchor as far as they could then we all heaved, but to no avail, the boat was high and dry, when you consider the temperature was 18 below Fahrenheit and the water very near to freezing the Coxswain commented "it was one of the bravest things I've seen in my time."
After making a supper of tea made by melting the snow on the Island, and fried pork chops that were cold before you could eat them, fried on the small stove left by the fisherman who owned the hut. The crew settled down, some in the hut, and some in the bunks aboard the boat to try to get a nights rest, however, with the very low temperature, it was a very restless night.
next day, the crew checked the Island for any method of transportation, as
they could see smoke coming from the chimney from a hut on one of the other
small Islands. A small row boat was found, and it was decided that two men
would try to get over to the Island, where someone was still living. It
turned out later that he was in charge of the lighthouse at the entrance to
the Harbour and would only be there for two more days. It was now starting
to get dark, and they watched with anxiety as the boat made slow progress
through the broken ice, until suddenly they saw a light blinking in morse
code asking for help but this was an impossibility as there was no other
mode of transportation on the island, and they reluctantly had to leave the
shore to try and get another night's sleep.
They then saw a small row boat about 150 yards from shore, and they found now that the heavy tide of the night before had recessed and they could walk out to the boat, only to find that the boat was empty, this of course saddened them as they had no way of knowing what had happened to the two men, and they went back to shore to spend another night.
The next morning the crew went about collecting wood, etc., to make sure they could keep the fire in the old hut going, because they felt it would be awhile before the crew could get off the Island. However, early that evening an RCMP boat from Richibucto arrived bringing some much needed cigarettes, and the crew heard the story of their two men who had gone to try to get to the other Island. Apparently, the tide had gone out leaving them sitting high and dry in the ice and they made their way across the ice to the Island where the smoke had been seen. Both had been very badly frost bitten in their face, hands, and feet, however, they had kept each other awake by slapping each other in the face every once in awhile.
They got to the hut and found a man there who tended the lighthouse, who made them warm food and got them wrapped up and gave them a warm spot to sleep for the night, but he told them he could not leave the Island until a boat came in the following day (the boat we had seen earlier that day), which incidentally did not get into harbour because of the harbour freezing over. However, as soon as the boat turned away the man took the two men over to Richibucto where they reported to the Mounted Police about the M.T.B. crews plight on the Island. The next day they were all taken into a small hotel in Richibucto where they were treated royally. A meeting was held by the officers and the English civilians and the Navigator, as to what happened on the first night, and the Navigator was heard to say that the Coxswain was at fault and the Captain said that if they had listened to the Coxswain in the first place, we would have gone into Gaspé Bay, and even though an inquiry was held, when the crew returned to Halifax, the Coxswain was not asked to attend the inquiry.
Some interesting side notes is that the boat was re-floated by digging a long channel out to the sea and towed off the shore by a corvette and was put on active duty after minor repairs. It was reported later that the main light house had not been turned on the night the M.T.B. went ashore, as the lighthouse keeper had died of a heart attack while riding his bicycle through the storm to get to the lighthouse.
Two Freighters collided in the Northumberland Strait that night so it could have been a blessing that the M.T.B. went ashore on a sand bar Island with no loss to the crew.
The aircraft searching for the M.T.B. passed over the Island a few times, but a light grey boat sitting on sand and surrounded by snow would be hard to see. The Crew was eventually sent to other ships where they continued their service to the navy.
The three RCNVR Lieutenants returned to live in Toronto, after the war, although news came later that the Captain had lost a leg in a Corvette sinking. The Navigator returned to Halifax where he died a few years ago. The whereabouts of the rest of the crew is not known by the author.
This is a true story in the annals of the Royal Canadian Navy, although, it was never published at any time during the war, the only mention being in any dispatch was that the Admiral in charge at Halifax, was worried about an overdue torpedo boat. I know that this is a true story and I know that there was much heroism shown on a small island off Richibucto, because I was the Coxswain of that torpedo boat.