Motor Torpedo Boat

Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. The 'motor' in the formal designation, referring to the use of petrol engines, was to distinguish them from the majority of other naval craft that used steam turbines or reciprocating steam engines.

The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy (RN) boats and abbreviated to "MTB". During the Second World War, the US Navy built such craft, identified by the hull classification symbol "PT", for "Patrol, Torpedo".

German motor torpedo boats of the Second World War were called S-boote (Schnellboote, "fast boats") by the Kriegsmarine and "E-boats" by the Allies. Italian MTBs of this period were known as Motoscafo Armato Silurante ("MAS boats", torpedo armed motorboats). French MTBs were known as vedettes lance torpilles ("torpedo-launching fast boats"). Soviet MTBs were known as торпедные катеры (torpyedniye katyery; "torpedo cutters", often abbreviated as TKA). Romanian MTBs were known as vedete torpiloare ("torpedo fast boats").

After the end of the War in 1945, a number of the Royal Navy's MTBs were stripped and the empty hulls sold for use as houseboats.

MTBs returning from an anti-E-boat patrol, June 1944
Israeli MTB formation, circa 1967


MTBs in the Mediterranean, February 1945

MTBs were designed for high speed, operating at night, low speed ambush (to keep noise low and to produce no wake) and manoeuvrability on the water; this was to enable them to get close enough to launch their torpedoes at enemy vessels. With no significant armour, the boats relied upon surprise and their agility at high speed to avoid being hit by gunfire from bigger ships.

The British and Italian navies started developing such vessels in the early 20th century, shortly before the beginning of the First World War. Italian MAS boats were comparatively small, at 20-30 tons displacement. MAS 15 was the only motor torpedo boat in history to sink a battleship, the Austro-Hungarian vessel Szent István in 1918.

British torpedo boats of the First World War were small at only around 15 tons and were known as Coastal Motor Boats. In the Second World War, British MTBs were operated by Coastal Forces. A similar size boat with a different role in the Second World War was the BPB 63 ft (19 m) High Speed Launch used by the RAF. The last MTBs in the Royal Navy were the two Brave-class fast patrol boats of 1958 which were capable of 50 knots (93 km/h).


Many boats designated MTBs. A variety of designs were adopted and built. For instance, a 55 ft (17 m) type, capable of 40 kn (46 mph; 74 km/h), was shown in 1930.[1]

Vosper private venture boat

The Vosper private boat was designed by Commander Peter Du Cane CBE, the managing director of Vosper Ltd, in 1936. She was completed and launched in 1937. She was bought by the Admiralty and taken into service with the Royal Navy as MTB 102.

  • Length: 68 ft (21 m)
  • Beam: 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
  • Draft: 3 ft 9 in (1.14 m),
  • Powerplant: 3 Isotta Fraschini 57-litre petrol engines
  • Power: 3,300 hp (2,500 kW; 3,300 PS)
  • Speed: 48 kn (55 mph; 89 km/h) (light), 43 kn (49 mph; 80 km/h) (full load)
  • Crew: 2 officers, 10 men.
  • Armament:

MTB 102 was the fastest wartime British naval vessel in service. She was at Dunkirk for the evacuation and carried Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower when they reviewed the fleet before the Invasion of Normandy.

British Power Boat 60 ft MTB

They were based on the British Power Boat rescue craft and were originally designed for the Royal Air Force but reduced to 60 ft (18 m) in length. They could carry two 18-inch (457 mm) torpedoes and achieve a maximum speed of 33 kn (38 mph; 61 km/h). The Royal Navy ordered their first (of a total of 18) in 1936. These entered service as MTB numbers 1 to 12 and 14 to 19. In the early days of the war, they were painted with different numbers and photos distributed to the press to give the impression the Royal Navy had more than they actually did. One photo was sent to the American monthly Popular Science showing the number twenty-three. [2]

Vosper 70 ft Motor Torpedo Boat

Although various boat lengths were produced by Vosper for the Royal Navy, the "70 ft" boat was produced from 1940. The design was produced with modifications as MTBs 31-40, 57-66, 73-98, 222-245, 347-362, 380-395 and 523-537.

Using three Packard V1-12 marine engines, they were capable of around 37 kn (43 mph; 69 km/h). Early models carried two 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, two 0.50 in (13 mm) machine guns and two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns. They could also carry four depth charges.

Vosper Types 1 and 2

Between 1943 and 1945, two Vosper designs appeared, the "Vosper Type I 73ft" and the Type II.

Vosper Type I

Vosper Type II

This design remained in use after the war.

  • Length 73 ft (22 m)
  • Engine 4,200 hp
  • Speed 40 knots (74 km/h)
  • Range 480 nmi (890 km) at 20 knots (37 km/h)
  • Displacement 49 t
  • Armament
    • Two 18-inch (457 mm) torpedoes
    • QF 6 pdr (57mm, 2.24 inch) Mark IIA[3]
    • 20mm Oerlikon
    • Two 0.303 Vickers MG
  • Crew 13

Canadian MTBs

MTB-460 MIKAN 4821109
MTB-460 of the Royal Canadian Navy

These boats were used by the Royal Canadian Navy 29th MTB Flotilla. Originally designed as Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) carrying a 6-pounder (57mm, 2.24 inch) to engage enemy small craft, they were re-designated Motor Torpedo Boats.

Scott-Paine Type G 70 foot boat.

  • Manufacturer: British Power Boats, Hythe
  • Displacement: 55 tons
  • Overall length: 72 ft 6 inches (21 m)
  • Breadth: 20 ft 7 inches (6.3 m)
  • Draught: 5 ft 8 inches (1.7 m)
  • Maximum speed: 38–41 kn (44–47 mph; 70–76 km/h) (new)
  • Armament:
  • Powerplant - three Rolls-Royce or Packard 14M supercharged V-12 engines
    three shafts
  • Power - 3,750 hp total
  • Range - 140 nmi (260 km) radius of action at 25 kn (29 mph; 46 km/h)[4]
  • Crew -

Post-war usage

After the end of World War II a number of Royal Navy vessels were stripped and sold for use as houseboats. These included Motor Gun Boats as well as MTBs. Many of these were moored in Langstone Harbour, Littlehampton, Hayling Island and Wootton Creek, although most have now disappeared from these locations. Nowadays most MTB houseboats can be found at Shoreham-by-Sea (West Sussex), Cobden Bridge (Southampton) and Bembridge (Isle of Wight).[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Midget Torpedo Boat Has Forty-Knot Speed" Popular Science, April 1930, p. 38.
  2. ^ "Fast Mosquito Boats Aid British Navy" Popular Science, December 1939
  3. ^ An automatic loading version of the 6-pounder anti-tank gun
  4. ^ Naval Museum of Manitoba
  5. ^ Simons, Philip; Hall, Nick (2006). Retired on the River, a Short History of the Houseboats of Shoreham (3rd ed.). World Ship Society, Small Craft Group. p. 3.


  • British Motor Torpedo Boat 1939–45 by Angus Konstam, Osprey, 2003, ISBN 978-1-84176-500-6
  • Dog Boats at War: A History of the Operations of the Royal Navy D Class Fairmile Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Gunboats 1939-1945 by L. C. Reynolds and Lord Lewin, Sutton Pubns Inc, 2000, ISBN 978-0-7509-2454-2

External links

CRDA 60 t motor torpedo boat

The Motosilurante CRDA 60 t (also known as MS boat) was a type of motor torpedo boat built for the Regia Marina during World War II. It was designed on the pattern of German E-boats—some early examples of which were captured by the Italians from Yugoslav Navy—to complement the faster but less seaworthy MAS boats. It was two Motosiluranti CRDA that scored the biggest success by fast torpedo craft in the Second World War, the sinking of British light cruiser HMS Manchester.

After the conflict surviving boats remained in service with the Marina Militare—the last ones being ultimately dismissed after almost 40 years of service, in the late 1970s.

Fairmile D Motor Torpedo Boat

The Fairmile D Motor Torpedo Boat was a type of British Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) designed by Bill Holt and conceived by Fairmile Marine for the Royal Navy. Nicknamed "Dog Boats", they were designed to combat the known advantages of the German E-boats over previous British coastal craft designs. They were bigger than earlier MTB or Motor Gun Boat (MGB) designs (which were typically around 70 feet) but slower, at 30 knots compared to 40 knots.

Unlike the Fairmile B designs, the Dog Boats were only produced in component form in Britain. Some were built for the RAF's Marine Branch for use in the long range air-sea rescue for downed airmen. 229 boats were built between 1942 and 1945.

Many versions were produced or converted from existing boats; MGB, MTB, MA/SB, LRRC and post-war FPB.

Since the Fairmile D could be fitted out with a mix of armament that gave it the capabilities of both a Motor Gun Boat and a Motor Torpedo boat, the MGB designation was dropped.

Two captured boats were put in Kriegsmarine service.Today the D-type is a popular choice among boat modelers.There are no known survivors, other than two abandoned wrecks, one in Chatham, England and the other in Ellingsøy, Norway.

Finnish motor torpedo boats of World War II

The Finnish Navy used several different types of motor torpedo boats during World War II. Four Soviet motor torpedo boats were captured and commissioned by the Finnish Navy during the World War II. One of these was of larger D-3 class while three others belonged to G-5 class.

G-5-class motor torpedo boat

The G-5 was a Soviet motor torpedo boat design built before and during World War II. Approximately 300 were built, of which 73 were lost during the war. Four were exported to the Spanish Republican Navy during the Spanish Civil War and others were transferred to North Korea after the war. Three were captured by the Finns, but only two were used before all three had to be returned to the Soviets after the Moscow Armistice in 1944.

Hurja-class motor torpedo boat

The Hurja class motor torpedo boats (English: Fierce) or H class was an Italian-designed class of Finnish motor torpedo boats, seeing service with the Finnish Navy during World War II.

The five boats of the H class were built by Cantieri Baglietto in Genoa, Italy and transported to Finland over land and sea, a journey that took 11 days. These boats had been ordered during the Winter War in 1940, but due to lack of material, the production took time, and became ready by 1943. Their main engines, originally aircraft engines, were of bad quality. Therefore, the engines had to be spared and not used at all for training. After only 20 hours of service, the engines had deteriorated greatly in power. The Finnish Navy stopped using these as torpedo boats after the summer of 1943 and used them instead as fast mine-layers and smoke dischargers.

The ships were converted into patrol boats in 1949, in accordance with the Paris peace treaty. They were then equipped with two 20 mm anti-aircraft cannons and two heavy machine guns. The H class were stricken from the lists in 1963 and auctioned out. H 4 has survived until today as the M/Y Odysses.

Jymy-class motor torpedo boat

The Jymy-class motor torpedo boats (English: Rumble) or J class was an Italian-designed class of motor torpedo boats, seeing service during World War II with the Italian Navy in Lake Ladoga, and later with the Finnish Navy in the Gulf of Finland.

The four boats of the J class were built by Cantieri Baglietto in Genoa, Italy and transported to Finland over land and sea. The ships were initially used by an Italian contingent, the XII Squadriglia MAS, who served in Lake Ladoga during the sailing season of 1942. The Finns purchased the boats on 5 May 1943 in Tallinn and transported them to Finland.

The ships were converted into patrol boats in 1949, in accordance with the Paris peace treaty. The J-class vessels were scrapped in 1961.

MTSM motor torpedo boat

The MTSM motor torpedo boat ( Motoscafo da Turismo Silurante Modificato) was a series of small motor torpedo boats developed by the Italian Royal Navy during World War II. The vessel was an improved version of its predecessor, the motor torpedo boat MTS. This was achieved through a larger sea-going hull with reinforced keel and a sharper stem. The MTSM were designed to be towed by larger motorboats into the target area. Once there, the MTSM could carry out a torpedo attack on moored or stationary ships. The boat could also been transported by land on trailers.

Motor torpedo boat PT-346

PT-346 was an 80 ft Electric Launch Company (Elco) motor torpedo boat which suffered the worst PT-boat friendly-fire casualties of World War II, with nine men killed and nine wounded by airstrike.

Motor torpedo boat PT-617

Motor torpedo boat PT-617, also known as Big Red Cock and Dragon Lady, "is the sole surviving 80' Elco type PT boat and represents the United States's most heavily used, highly favored, and combat-tested PT boat type in World War II." She is a museum ship at the PT Boat Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. The 80-foot (24 m) Elco type boat was the predominant type and is the same type as the famous PT-109 commanded by John F. Kennedy; the 78-foot (24 m) "Higgins" boat is the other type.

PT-617 was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.

Motor torpedo boat PT-658

Motor torpedo boat PT-658 is a PT-625-class Higgins 78-foot (24 m) PT boat, built for the United States Navy during World War II. PT-658 is a prime example of US Navy motor torpedo boat development during World War II. PT-658 was in the last group of four boats delivered from the 36-boat contract NObs-1680, October 1944 for PT-625 to PT-660. Delivered and accepted on July 31, 1945, she was fitted with all of the latest armaments and design modifications as a result of lessons learned from previous contracts and battlefield experience. In this way, PT-658 is a showcase of the final form that motor torpedo boats would take by the end of World War II. PT-658 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 2012. Of three PT boats listed on the National Register, she is one of 2 maintained in operating condition.

Motor torpedo boat PT-796

PT-796 is a 78-foot PT boat built by Higgins Industries of New Orleans in 1945. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986 as one of a very few surviving PT boats, which were built in large numbers during World War II. She is part of the collection of the PT Boat Museum, which itself is part of the Battleship Cove museum in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Motor torpedo boat tender

Motor torpedo boat tender is a type of ship used by the U.S. Navy during World War II and Vietnam War. The motor torpedo boat tender's task was to act as a tender in remote areas for patrol boats (PT-boats) and to provide the necessary fuel and provisions for the torpedo boats she was responsible for. The type finds its root in the torpedo boat tender, developed in the 19th century.

This type of ship was classified as "AGP" and is sometimes called a "patrol craft tender."

PT boat

A PT boat (short for patrol torpedo boat) was a torpedo-armed fast attack vessel (MTB) used by the United States Navy in World War II. It was small, fast, and inexpensive to build, valued for its maneuverability and speed but hampered at the beginning of the war by ineffective torpedoes, limited armament, and comparatively fragile construction that limited some of the variants to coastal waters.

The PT boat was very different from the first generation of torpedo boat, which had been developed at the end of the 19th century and featured a displacement hull form. These first generation torpedo boats rode low in the water, displaced up to 300 tons, and had a top speed of 25 to 27 kn (29 to 31 mph; 46 to 50 km/h). During World War I Italy, the US and UK developed the first high-performance motor torpedo boats (often with top speeds over 40 kn (46 mph; 74 km/h)) and corresponding torpedo tactics, but these projects were all quickly disbanded with the Armistice. World War II PT boats continued to exploit some of the advances in planing hull design borrowed from offshore powerboat racing and were able to grow in size due to advancements in engine technology.

During World War II, PT boats engaged enemy warships, transports, tankers, barges, and sampans. As gunboats they could be effective against enemy small craft, especially armored barges used by the Japanese for inter-island transport. Several saw service with the Philippine Navy, where they were named "Q-boats", most probably after President Manuel L. Quezon.Primary anti-ship armament was four 2,600 pound (1,179 kg) Mark 8 torpedoes. Launched by 21-inch Mark 18 (530 mm) torpedo tubes, each bore a 466-pound (211 kg) TNT warhead and had a range of 16,000 yards (14,630 m) at 36 knots (66 km/h). Two twin M2 .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns were mounted for anti-aircraft defense and general fire support. Some boats shipped a 20 mm Oerlikon cannon.

Propulsion was via a trio of Packard 4M-2500 and later 5M-2500 supercharged gasoline-fueled, liquid-cooled marine engines.

Nicknamed "the mosquito fleet" – and "devil boats" by the Japanese – the PT boat squadrons were hailed for their daring and earned a durable place in the public imagination that remains strong into the 21st century.

Syöksy-class motor torpedo boat

The Syöksy-class motor torpedo boats (English: Attack) was a series of four British Thornycroft type motor torpedo boats of the Finnish Navy. The vessels were constructed in 1928 by the John Thornycroft & Co. shipyard in Woolton, UK. The vessels saw service in World War II. The Thornycroft type released its torpedoes by dropping them from rails in the aft. The ship then had to steer away from the torpedoes path, a manoeuvre that could be quite tricky in the close waters of the Gulf of Finland.In 1942, the vessels received individual identification symbols on their superstructures. Nuoli had the ace of hearts, Vinha the ace of clubs, Syöksy the ace of diamonds, and Raju the ace of spades.

Taisto-class motor torpedo boat

The Taisto class motor torpedo boats (English: Battle) or T class was a Finnish-designed class of motor torpedo boats, which saw service with the Finnish Navy during World War II.

In 1943, the Finnish Navy was in great need for new motor torpedo boats and the Finnish ship designer Jarl Linblom studied the Finnish Navy's Italian-designed motor torpedo boats and improved the design. The improved hull design gave them better seaworthiness and the boats could reach up to 63 knots (117 km/h; 72 mph) without armament. Six were manufactured at Turun Veneveistämö during the war, and called the "Taisto class".

In the summer of 1944 the motor torpedo boats participated in the battles near the Karelian Isthmus. On 21 June the Taistos were attacked by Soviet aircraft, who managed to sink Tarmo and damage Tuuli, resulting in the loss of two men. The T class served with distinction during the attempted conquer of the island of Hogland in Operation Tanne Ost.

Five of the six vessels survived the war, and another two were manufactured after the war. The ships were converted into patrol boats in 1949, in accordance with the Paris peace treaty. The T class vessels served until 1964, when they were auctioned out.

USS Antigone (AGP-16)

USS Antigone was a Portunus-class Motor Torpedo Boat Tender in service with the United States Navy during World War Two.

Authorized originally as LST-773, She was reclassified Motor Torpedo Boat Tender, and laid down the next day at Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., Seneca, IL. On 27 October 1944, she was launched, and put into reduced commission for conversion to a Motor Torpedo Boat Tender. On 5 December 1944, she was decommissioned for the conversion at Maryland Drydock Co., Baltimore, MD. 160 days later, on 14 May 1945, USS Antigone was put into full commission with LCDR. Whitson M. Jones in command. After serving in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater for a year, USS Antigone was decommissioned on 27 May 1946, at San Francisco. On 10 June 1947, she was struck from the Naval Register, and sold to the Maritime Administration for final disposal on 6 February 1948 and simultaneously sold to Kaiser & Co., for scrapping.

USS Orestes (AGP-10)

USS Orestes (AGP-10) was a motor torpedo boat tender that served in the United States Navy from 1944 to 1946.

Orestes was laid down as landing ship tank USS LST–135 at Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, Seneca, Illinois, on 8 July 1943, and launched on 16 November 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Bernard Sharp. Prior to completion, she was converted into a motor torpedo boat tender at Maryland Drydock Company, Baltimore, Maryland. Redesignated AGP-10, she was commissioned as USS Orestes (AGP–10) on 25 April 1944 with Lieutenant Kenneth N. Mueller in command.

Successfully concluding her shakedown out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 23 May 1944, Orestes prepared for World War II duty in the Pacific. Departing Chesapeake Bay on 5 June 1944, she transited the Panama Canal and, after a stop-over at Bora Bora, sailed on to New Guinea. She began motor torpedo boat tending operations at Aitape on 23 August 1944, transferred to Mios Woendi a month later, and on 12 November 1944 joined General Douglas MacArthur’s Philippines invasion forces at Leyte. In the Leyte area control of the air was still disputed and Japanese air attacks were numerous. On 24 November 1944 Orestes’ gunners got their first confirmed kills, two Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” (Zero) fighters.

Late in January 4, 1945, while Orestes was in a Mindoro-bound convoy designated "Uncle plus 15" with 30 patrol torpedo boats (PT boats) and 50 other vessels, Japanese planes made life tenuous. On 30 December 1944, an Aichi D3A “Val” dive bomber came in low on the starboard side and crashed into Orestes amidships, causing heavy damage and killing 45 members of her crew. In a series of sweeps by boat PT-350, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas A. Dent (USNR), about 70 men were rescued from the burning Orestes. Fifteen more were plucked from the sea. Lieutenant Dent was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism in the saving of the lives of American Naval personnel in action. Accompanying landing craft infantry (LCIs) finally brought the resulting fires under control and Orestes was beached. Landing ship tank USS LST-708 later towed Orestes back to Leyte on 27 January 1945, and after temporary repairs Orestes departed Leyte on 24 February 1945 on a slow voyage back to the United States, arriving at Terminal Island, California, on 13 May 1945. There shipyard personnel went to work and 202,500 man-hours of labor later they had completely rejuvenated Orestes.

Orestes departed the United States on a second trip to the Pacific war zone on 8 August 1945, but the war with Japan ended on 15 August 1945 and the Japanese surrender had been formalized (on 2 September 1945) by the time she reached Guinan Harbor, Samar, in the Philippines. Orestes served under the Commander Motor Torpedo Boats, Philippine Sea Frontier, until 17 December 1945, when she sailed eastward with naval passengers for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States, arriving at San Pedro, California, on 3 February 1946.

Orestes made a month-long round trip to the Panama Canal Zone, then was deactivated. She decommissioned on 29 April 1946 at Oakland, California, and was struck from the Navy List on 23 April 1947. She was transferred to the Maritime Commission on 15 March 1948 and then was sold to the Walter W. Johnson Company of San Francisco for scrapping.

Orestes received two battle stars for her World War II service.

USS Portunus (AGP-4)

USS Portunus (AGP-4) was an LST-1-class tank landing ship acquired by the U.S. Navy for use during World War II as a motor torpedo boat (MTB) tender. She was named after a Roman god of the sea, who had jurisdiction over ports and the shores.

Portunus was laid down as LST-330 by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, 12 November 1942; launched 11 February 1943 as Portunus (AGP-4); and commissioned at Baltimore, Maryland, 12 June 1943, Lt. Comdr. James R. Hanna in command.

USS Silenus (AGP-11)

USS Silenus was a Motor Torpedo Boat Tender in service with the United States Navy during World War II. She was laid down by Chicago Bridge and Iron on 28 October 1943 as LST-519. She was redesignated LST-604 on 18 December 1943 and launched on 20 March 1944. She was commissioned on 8 April 1944 with LCDR. Henry L. Baron, USNR, in command. LST-604 was decommissioned on 29 April 1944, at Maryland Drydock Co., Baltimore MD. for conversion to a Motor Torpedo Boat Tender. It lasted 104 days, the now USS Silenus, was recommissioned on 9 August 1944 with LCDR. Henry L. Baron, USNR, in command once again. On 14 March 1947 she was decommissioned and on 25 July 1947, she was scrapped. During World War II, USS Silenus was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.

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