35th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla

 

     

My thanks to Terry Mills, Rod's friend and wartime colleague, who has allowed me to use part of his records of his involvement with the 35thMTB Flotilla.

 

"In March 1944 three new 71ft 6in Gunboats, re-classified as MTB’s (minus torpedo tubes) numbered 447, 448 & 449 were lying at a Jetty at the British Power Boat Yard, Hythe, Southampton Water, waiting commissioning on the arrival of their Officers, crews and stores to become the first three boats of the new 35th MTB Flotilla and the start of a friendship that would outlast time.

It was there that Rod and I first met as we suffered the rigours of blending crew and stores together before proceeding to HMS ‘Bee’ at  Weymouth and work up the vessel to a fine-tuned unit fit to carry out the task of hounding the enemy in the Channel and North Sea.  I am not sure how long the work up took, save it was demanding on time and effort, the only solace being the four ale bar of the Golden Lion where I and Rod leaned heavily on the bar during the short time of spells ashore.  Rod joined the Flotilla from Dover, MS ‘Wasp’ where he had been a spare Gun Boat officer and blooded in battle.  He was appointed as No.1 to Lt Rodney Sykes on MTB 448 whilst I continued as No.1 to Lt Peter Warren where we had served together on MGB 58 before transfer, less their original crew, to commission MTB 449 with a fresh team.

The work-up complete, the three boats were sent to Newhaven to get the feel of the Channel before the impending invasion.  During this short period we fired our guns in anger and felt better for it.  MTB 449 had a 2 pdr Pom-Pom on the fore-deck, a powered twin Oerlikon turret  behind the cockpit, plus a single Oerlikon unit aft.  She was subsequently fitted with 18” Torpedo Tubes and a 6pdr replaced the Pom-Pom - a formidable outfit, well able to carry out her designed role: earning her Skipper, Cox’n, Gunner and No 1 Their Lordships recognition for the part they played in the war effort.  Sadly the tubes were never fired in anger (being rudely damaged by an enemy shell to the disgust of the Skipper when most required). Newhaven was a ferry terminal where Rod and I drowned our misery aboard or in the mess ashore, the nearest highlife being many miles away in Brighton and the boats at short notice to correct the Hun’s mining intentions off the English shore.  It was here an unkindly shell curtailed Dudley Dixon’s (the Flotilla Commander) enthusiasm to ‘engage the enemy more closely’. A forced degree of discomfort he accepted until the night of the invasion when he promptly discharged himself from hospital to lead his flotilla guarding the Western edge of the ‘Spout’ (down which the Invasion Fleet sailed on that momentous occasion)

Just before the invasion the flotilla mustered with many other MGB's and MTB's in Portsmouth Harbour, the 35thFlotilla being allocated berths alongside HMS ’Vernon’, the Torpedo and Mining Training Establishment. Unfortunately we were not well received by the ‘died-in-the-wool’ instruction staff (mostly Commissioned Torpedo Gunners); who did not appreciate the laxity of the ‘gung-ho’ RNVR officers amongst the formalities of a peace-time training establishment.  This necessitated shore going for other items of attraction, Rod gaining the interest of a flirtatious lady willing to guide his thoughts away from seagoing escapades.  This incident had its problem.  ‘Vernon’ was on the Portsmouth side of the harbour whilst HMS ‘Daedelus’ (The Fleet Air Arm Base) was beyond Gosport on the other side, and it was there that Leading Wren Pilcher, Rod’s fiancée, was employed on signals duty!  Here co-operation was essential and I took on the role of Jean’s escort as necessity demanded or when Rod was away at sea.

During the mêlée of the invasion and days after until Cherbourg was relieved, the flotillas guarding the ‘Spout’ from enemy infiltration normally worked night about.  One morning, I was going down to muster the crew and saw a dishevelled Rod cursing his socks as he walked shoeless down the jetty. Rod usually wore a red one on his left leg and a green one on his right for luck.  On this occasion the socks were on their opposite feet; Rod’s boat was at the bottom of the deep blue sea and all he had to show for it was the ship’s binoculars.  Apparently his Skipper, Sykes, had engaged the enemy E-boats with great gallantry, dividing their line in a manner Nelson would have approved. This penetration aroused considerable objection by the enemy who exercised their spite tearing the bottom out of the MTB with their combined gunfire and immobilising 448.  The enemy retired licking their wounds whilst Lieutenant Neil Watson (a New Zealander) came alongside in 453 and, finding 448 beyond a tow directed their 6pdr Gunner, Andrew Bangor, to give the coup de grâce to the wounded warrior. 

Rod rejoined the flotilla after a short ‘Survivor’s’ leave and relieved Bertie Smail as Dudley Dixon’s No.1 in 450. Bertie Smail was given command of new boat 482, a super updated flush deck ‘proper’ Torpedo Boat (originally destined as a replacement for 448) which was quickly commandeered by Dixon, Bertie Smail taking over 450. Peter Warren was given new boat 478 whose crew, Harry Ashby and Dickie Barlow took over 449."

Have you noticed all the Coastal Forces Bases were named after flying beasties? HMS Midge at Lowestoft, HMS Mantis at Yarmouth and HMS Beehive at Felixstowe, all on the East Coast. Ramsgate and Dover were HMS Wasp. Portsmouth was HMS Hornet and Weymouth, the Training Base, was HMS Bee and later HMS Grasshopper. Dartmouth and Newhaven were used as casual bases but were not given ‘beastie’ names.

 

Sadly Terry - Terence Eric Bromley Mills "Crossed the Bar" on the 1st February 2013.

 

 
The photo above left is of Wren Jean Pilcher, it was taken in 1943.

 

Above right is the wedding photo of my father (Rod Timms) and my mother (Jean Pilcher) who were married on the 23rd June 1945

 

   
The photo above left shows from left to right, Rod Timms, "Guns", "No1", Leslie Yock, Terry Mills and "Bertie" Smail standing outside HMS Beehive.

The picture above right shows Officers ready to go to sea that night. They are from left to right, Peter Hodson "Hodders", Rod Timms, Dave Balkwill and "Mid" Malinson. The grey leather jacket Rod was waring was "liberated" from an "E" boat Officer, there were trousers to match. I (Chris Timms) wore them subsequently on many occasions when riding my motor bike. They were very warm but when they got wet their weight increased dramatically! I still have the binoculars with swastika on that were also liberated at the same time.

 

 

Officers of the 35th

MTB Flotilla

 

September 1943 to May 1945

 

Senior Officer Lt J Dudley Dixon

 

MTB 447's CO was Ian Glennie, his 1st Lt was Barrie Roberts. Jimmie James followed as CO, Barrie Roberts remained as 1st Lt.

MTB 448's CO was Rodney Sykes, the only 1stLt was Rod Timms. MTB 448 sunk in June 1944.

MTB 449's CO was Peter Warren, his 1st Lt was Terry Mills. Harry Ashby then took over as CO with Dickie Barlow as his 1st Lt.

MTB 450's CO was Dudley Dixon, his 1stLt was Bertie Smail. When Bertie Smail left Rod Timms took over as 1st Lt.

When CO Dudley Dixon left Bertie Smail rejoined as CO with Ron Wood-Spencer as 1st Lt.

MTB 451's CO was Jumper Collins, his 1stLt was Tommy Thompson. David Balkwill then took over as 1stLt. When Jumper Collins left (was killed in action) Chas Allen was the CO with David Balkwill remaining as 1st Lt.

MTB 452's CO was Leslie Yock, his 1st Lt was Lawrence Kenny.

MTB 453's CO was Neil Watson, his 1stLt was Peter Hodson. When Tony Halstead took over as CO Peter Hodson was the 1st Lt.

MTB 454's CO was Bob Dyke, his 1stLt Guy Natusch. Pete Irvine took over as CO with Guy Natusch staying on as his 1st Lt.

MTB 478's CO was Harry Ashby his 1st Lt was Dickie Barlow. Peter Warren took over as CO with Terry Mills as his 1st Lt.

MTB 481's CO was Brian MacGinty with Martin Higham as his 1st Lt. Gordon Carr subsequently took over as 1st Lt.

MTB 482's CO was Bertie Smail and 1stLt Ron Wood-Spencer. They were succeeded by Dudley Dixon as CO and Rod Timms as 1st Lt

 

The above changes of CO's and 1st Lt's did not all take place at the same time, as can be seen Officers moved boats within the Flotilla. Rod was 1stLt of MTB 448 from its commissioning on 23/9/1943 until it was sunk on 10/6/1944. He moved to MTB 450 on 18/6/1944 until 5/12/1944 when he moved to MTB 482. MTB 482 was "paid off" on 28/5/1945.

There are no dates in Rod's records as to the exact movements of the Officers in the above chart. However Rod remained Dudley Dixon's 1st Lt throughout the time he was with the 35th. On occasions Rod listed the operations, the boats involved and the Officers on board. So although the dates of "start/finish" are not known we do know some dates when certain Officers were on certain boats. The information above (correctly copied from Rod's records) does not show Peter Hodson as being on 450 but his log repeatedly mentions "Hodders" as being in 450! In my opinion the log is probably right. Dudley Dixon was on sick leave for a while after an action, this probably accounts for the change.

In a photo taken in April 1944 officers names written underneath list Glennie and Roberts as being in MTB 447, Sykes and Timms in MTB 448, Warren and Mills in MTB 449, Dixon, Smail and Bragg in MTB 450, Collins and Balkwill in MTB 451, Yock in MTB 452, in MTB 453 Watson and Hodson, Dyke and Natusch in MTB 454.The back row of this photo is used as the banner at the top of each page of this website.

 

On November 19th 1943 Rod list the following officers on MTB's MTB 447 Glennie and Roberts, MTB 448 Sykes and Timms, MTB 449 Warren and Mills, MTB 450 Dixon and Smail, MTB 451Collins and Thompson, MTB 452 Yock and Kenny, MTB 453 Watson and Hodson, MTB 454 Dyke and Natusch.

 

23/12/1944

449 Harry Ashby

450 Peter Hodson

451 Chas (or Ches) Allen

453 Tony Halstead

454 Pete Irvine

482 Dudley Dixon

The same names appear for the 24/12/1944.

 

26/12/1944 adds

447 Jimmy James

452 Leslie Yock

 

24/1/1945 adds

478 Peter Warren

 

 

I would welcome any alterations that you may have to the above.