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Fairmile B motor launch

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Title: Fairmile B motor launch  
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Subject: Coastal Forces of the Royal New Zealand Navy, List of shipwrecks in May 1941, List of shipwrecks in April 1941, Canadian Bird-class patrol vessel, Hall-Scott
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Fairmile B motor launch

Class overview
Name: Fairmile B motor launch
Preceded by: Fairmile A motor launch
Succeeded by: Fairmile C motor gun boat
Completed: 650 approx.
General characteristics
Displacement: 85 tons
Length: 112 ft (34 m)
Beam: 18 ft 3 in (5.56 m)
except Canadian built at 17 ft 0 in (5.18 m) or 17 ft 10 in (5.44 m)
Draught: 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m)
Propulsion: Two 650 bhp (480 kW) Hall-Scott Defender petrol engines
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Range: 1,500 mi (1,300 nmi; 2,400 km) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 16 (later increased)
Sensors and
processing systems:

(for 1940 Sub Chaser) 1 × 3-pounder Mk I gun 1 × twin 0.303 in machine guns

12 depth charges
Armour: Wheelhouse plated

The Fairmile B motor launch was a type of motor launch built by Fairmile Marine during the Second World War for the Royal Navy for coastal operations.


While the Type A had been designed entirely by Fairmile, the Type B design had come from Bill Holt of the Admiralty based on the lines of a destroyer hull and the detailed design and production was taken on by Fairmile.

Like all their designs it was based on total prefabrication so individual components could be contracted out to small factories for production and these arranged as kits that would be delivered to various boatyards for assembly and fitting out.

Altogether approximately 650 boats were built between 1940 and 1945. Like the A Type, the B Type were initially intended as submarine chasers, so the boats were fitted with ASDIC (sonar) as standard. Their main armament initially reflected their anti-submarine focus, with 12 depth charges, a single Hotchkiss 3-pounder gun aft, and one set of twin 0.303-in machine guns. The specifications given are for the original 1940 British version. As the war moved on, the vessels were adapted to other roles and the armament was modified and upgraded such as the replacement of the 3 pounder with one or more 20 mm Oerlikon cannon. Some boats were configured as motor torpedo boats.


The first Fairmile B motor launch was completed in September 1940, with a further 38 from the first two production batches entering service before the end of the year.[1]

All boats were essentially the same, although they could be adapted to serve in several roles by the expedient of having pre-drilled rails on their decks spaced to allow the fitting of various types of armaments. Although their armament initially reflected their main anti-submarine mission, nine of them were fitted with 21 inch torpedo tubes taken from ex-US Town-class destroyers; they formed the 2nd ML Flotilla tasked with anti-invasion duty, until the threat had passed. During the Siege of Malta, they were successfully employed as minesweepers, as the larger specialist craft were too vulnerable to air attack.[2] A number served in the St Nazaire Raid as assault transports, but their light construction meant that they suffered heavily; twelve B motor launches were lost in the action,[3] out of sixteen deployed.[4] Many were later converted to rescue motor launches with small sickbays aft of the funnel, and several more were converted to use as War Office ambulance launches with larger sickbays.

Canada built eighty boats. These were built in thirteen different boatyards to slightly different specifications and used as escort vessels. Eight of these (ML392-399) were built by Le Blanc for the Royal Navy. These eight boats were transferred under Lend-Lease to the US Navy, because US coastal protection had been depleted by transferring ships to the Royal Navy for convoy work. The US Navy used them as submarine chasers (SC1466-1473) until their forces could be built up. There are two surviving examples on the west coast of Canada serving as party charter vessels.

HMNZS Kahu post war
New Zealand built twelve boats. These were used in New Zealand waters and around the Solomon Islands, and included HMNZS Maori and Kahu.

At least six boats (ML380-383,829 and 846) were built by South Africa and commissioned during November 1942. These were sent as the 49th Fairmile Flotilla (SANF) to Burma and deployed along the Arakan coast. The boats saw much action in support of ground forces and disrupting Japanese supply lines.

A number of boats were built in Egypt by Thomas Cook & Son, who had a Cairo shipyard for constructing Nile tourist craft. Armament was fitted in Port Said. The first three to enter service in 1942 were MLs 355, 353 and 348.[5]

Post war they were often taken on as pleasure boats and a number of Fairmile Bs are on the National Register of Historic Vessels

Surviving Fairmile B ML, RML497 at Brixham Harbour in Devon, England, 2009, prior to restoration to her wartime appearance

14 Fairmile B were operated by Italy Guardia di Finanza naval service, between 1947 and eighties.

Four currently survive in the UK, two of which are in excellent condition. One is RML497. Many others of the type are known to survive around the world, some still in commercial service as tourboats.

See also


  1. ^ Osprey Publishing Limited 2010,ISBN 978-1-84908-077-4 (p.15)British Motor Gun Boat 1939-45Angus Konstam,
  2. ^ World War Two Ships - Fairmile Type B Motor Launch by James Davies
  3. ^ Royal Navy Vessels Lost at Sea, 1939-45 - by Date: January 1942 - December 1943 (Entry for March 28)
  4. ^ ), Part OneChariotHistory of War - St. Nazaire, Raid on, (Operation
  5. ^ Searle, G. W. At Sea Level Book Guild 1994 pp47-8 ISBN 0863328970


  • Allied Coastal Forces of World War Two, Volume I : Fairmile designs and US Submarine Chasers - by John Lambert and Al Ross - 1990, ISBN 978-0-85177-519-7
  • War at Sea - South African Maritime Operations during World War II : CJ Harris - 1991
  • Fairmile 'B' Class Launches Accessed 28 November 2007

External links

  • Fairmile Motor Launch at Juno Beach Centre "Canada In WWII"
  • Canadian Fairmile Q105 presently under restoration
  • Fairmile B motor launch
  • (photo of Fairmile B motor launch)A Fairmile Submarine Chaser
  • Book on New-Zealand built Fairmiles used in New Zealand and the Solomons
  • The Fairmiles, Canada's Little Ships by Spud Roscoe
  • Stoker Harold Siddall Royal Navy, his service in ML.1030 and capture in Crete 1941 at
  • Pictures of Fairmile models
  • List of books at
  • Little ships
  • Fairmile Radio Fit by Jerry Proc
  • Canada's Little Ships by Spud Roscoe
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