MAY 1945


The late afternoon of 22 May 1945 saw the Royal Navy's MTB 2007 about to complete the last part of a poor weather passage from Blyth to Aberdeen, serious propeller shaft and vibration problems having forced two of her three 1000 IF diesels to be shut down. As she came up towards the port's South Breakwater the last engine unit also failed and she wallowed helplessly in -the strong NE wind and heavy swell at the harbour mouth. The dropping of one and then a second anchor failed to arrest her southward drift towards the rocky shore and according to Frank Jones, her then Petty Officer Motor Mechanic, she soon stranded some 150 yards east of the old South Breakwater. "Not long before I found that the trouble with the remaining engine had in fact resulted in- a slight leak at the A-bracket. Very shortly after she went ashore I lifted the floor plates again and saw a dirty great boulder sticking up through the bottom. There was a fair bit, of motion out where we lay and, as you can readily imagine, we were very glad indeed to see the lifeboat coming out to us." This was the reserve RNLI lifeboat "JOHN RUSSELL", then on temporary station duty at. Aberdeen, and she had been launched shortly before 6pm to assist with laying out anchors and the passing of towlines. However, several attempts by harbour tugs to tow the naval craft off the rocks failed and as darkness came in, she began to break up, the heavy swell taking its toll of her relatively light structure: She had a crew of 2l, all told; but the- LSA rocket team from the south shore had already taken one of them off as he had been slightly injured during attempts to refloat the casualty. Now in his early 80s and living in SW England, Frank told the Aberdeen RNLI lifeboat station 60 years after the- event, "The lifeboat had to make three approaches through the surf and I understand sustained some damage before we could abandon ship, leaving all our gear behind as by then the wreck was partly submerged. Sixty years on, I would like to thank the Aberdeen lifeboatmen concerned for saving us; also those and the other ladies who gave met us with blankets and so on as we were all soaking wet. If I recall correctly, they also produced lots of tea and then fed us Toadin the Hole. This was the first time I had ever tasted it and in fact we often have it for lunch”.. MTB 2007 broke in two within a day or so of her stranding, with the remains of her shattered forepart lying on the south side of the port's navigation channel for many years after the war ended. Subsequent research revealed that she had had an interesting and highly-classified career, being one of an eight-strong class of very large (117 feet) Motor Gunboats, originally built in Hampshire for Turkey in 1941/42, but taken up by the UK authorities. Only three of them initially went to the Royal Navy, where at least some of them were based at Dartmouth for special operations to Occupied France. At some point they were recategorised as Motor Torpedo Boats and tragically, one was mined when en route to Gothenberg , losing all but a handful of her crew, off the Danish coast just a few days after WW2 ended. The remaining vessels, being seen as inherently well suited for clandestine trans-North Sea cargo operations in most weathers, and allegedly being capable of speeds approaching 25 knots fully loaded, were converted under conditions of immense secrecy into fast cargo vessels. Named after Famous Elizabethan Sailing Ships, they were managed by the Ellerman Wilson Line of Hull on behalf of the British government and had volunteer Merchant Navy crews. During the latter part of WW2, some if not all of them, operated between the UK's E and NE coasts (known to have included Aberdeen on several occasions) and Lysekil and other ports in the north west of neutral Sweden.

As part of this process, the now-stranded MTB 2007 had become GAY VIKING but little is known of her blockade-running activities, although a consort (MASTER S TANDFAST) was captured by a German vessel in early November 1943 and taken into Denmark. During the course of these little-publicised operations the converted MTBs were seemingly much plagued by repeated defects and problems with the diesel engines, gearboxes and propeller shafts. Of perhaps greater interest, these clandestine blockadebreaking runs were apparently much assisted by ENIGMA decodes of Kriegsmarine. signals and other still-classified material (some allegedly Swedish) giving details of planned enemy patrol patterns so that arrivals and departures could be timed accordingly. Nowadays, and despite a continuing and regrettable lack of awareness of these too-littleknown operations, it is generally accepted that GAY VIKING and her consorts carried many times more vital freight, (ball bearings, tool steels. sophisticated machinery, etc.) than did the much better-remembered air route flown by civil Mosquito and other aircraft from RAF Leuchars and elsewhere. At least some of the four surviving merchant conversions seem to have reverted to RN control a month or so before VE-Day but none, nor any of :their two remaining RN consorts. appear to have survived much beyond 1948 at the latest. Commenting on the MTB 2007 rescue, current Aberdeen RNLI lifeboat coxswain Rod McGillivray said, “By no means the easiest of services carried out by our station, the more so as for example, 60 years ago there were no direct-acting controls and changes to engine settings were passed by voice order to the throttlemen. Also, the installed power was a fraction of what we have nowadays and, importantly in this case, the lifeboats of those days were far less manoeuvrable than the one we have here now. A demanding mission to a most interesting casualty and we are very grateful indeed to Mr Jones for providing us with the kind of additional information which is well beyond the material held in our local Archives."