The Post War Forties

Late on the afternoon of 22 May, 1945, the large RN motor torpedo boat MTB 2007 was inbound to Aberdeen, one of a fair number of naval craft still using the port, despite the end only a fortnight previously of the war in Europe. Although many of these fast craft had used harbour facilities during hostilities, this particular MTB had a somewhat unique background in that she had served in both the Royal and Merchant Navies. Originally built for Turkey by Messrs Camper & Nicholson, she was taken over for RN use, and because of her large size -- 117 feet overall length with endurance to match -- was converted into a fast cargo vessel and renamed "Gay Corsair". A number of her class were similarly treated and with Merchant Service crews, ran on blockade-breaking missions between UK East coast ports and Sweden. Operating under conditions of the most extreme secrecy they carried large quantities of vital war materials such as precision machine tools, with at least one such mission setting out from Aberdeen.

A moderate North-easterly wind was kicking up a somewhat confused sea across a deep ground swell as the MTB entered the navigation channel - one of the most dangerous conditions which can occur in the harbour entrance. For some reason, and probably com pounded by the following sea, the MTB swung to port, losing steering control, and within a few moments she was hard aground on the rocks some 150 yards to the east of the old South Breakwater. Immediate efforts were made to tow her off, with the reserve life-boat "John Russell," being launched at 5.50pm to assist with the passing of lines and running anchors out into deeper water. It was soon apparent that these efforts would be unsuccessful as the MTB's frail hull was becoming more and more damaged with the pounding it was taking, and it was eventually decided to take off the crew. One navyman had in fact already been injured and was brought ashore by the Torry LSA Brigade. The heavy breaking swell had made the early part of the operation difficult as well as hazardous.

H.M. MTB 2007 wrecked in the Navigation Channel.

Some time after 9.3opm, and in the gathering darkness, the life-boat ran in once more through the heavy seas, which were by now sweeping right over the casualty. No less than three approaches were in the end required before the remaining twenty RN personnel were taken off, and on the last run the "John Russell" suffered damage from striking against the hull of the by now partly submerged warship. The rescued navymen were taken the short distance to Footdee, where they were given into the care of the RN authorities, and it was not long before the life-boat was back on her station. Over on the Torry shore the wreck began to break up, and after only a few days she seemed to have gone almost totally to pieces. However her shattered forepart lay on the rocks for many years thereafter as a reminder of one of the local life-boat's more obvious services and also of the port's inherent perils. The "John Russell" had later to undergo local repairs for her hull damage.

RNLB "John Russell"