- Price, David, OAM
- Ship design and development, Ship histories and stories, History - WW2
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1994 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The “B” Type Fairmile was a wooden hulled motor launch of approximately 90 tons displacement. It had a length of 112′, a beam of 17’10” and a draught of 3’8″ forward and 4’9″ aft.
It had a soft chine (round bilge type) and was of double diagonal wooden plank constriction with a treated membrane between the skins. The frarnes were of plywood. The hull was divided into 7 watertight compartments. It was powered by two Hall-Scott Defender high octane petrol engines each of approximately 600 horse power driving two out turning propellers. There were twin underslung rudders.
Fairmiles were originally produced by the Fairmile Marine Company of Cobham, Surrey to counter the German “E’ boats. There were 4 types, namely:
- A class MLs – Length 110′ – 25 knots
- B class MLs – Length 112′ – 20 knots
- C class Motor Gun Boats – Length 110′ – 26.6 knots
- D class Motor Torpedo Boats – Length 115′ – 34.5 knots; Motor Gun Boats – Length 115′ – 34.5 knots
The Fairmiles serving the Royal Australian Navy were “B” type MLs with a speed of approximately 20 knots, although ML827 constructed by Wright Ship Building Yards in Brisbane achieved 23.5 knots. The ML’s complement varied from 17 to 23 (normally 3 officers), but up to 50 soldiers were frequently carried.
- 1 Rolls Royce 40mm forward
- Stripped Lewis .303 on either side of bridge
- 1 Oerlikon 20mm midships
- 20 Depth Charges (14 in Chutes, 1 “Y” Gun with two reloads)
Armament was increased in some ML’s (not always uniformly) and one ML serving in Papua New Guinea (ML 827) carried:.
- 1 40mm Bofors forward
- 2 air cooled 5″ machine guns (one on either side of the Bridge)
- Twin gas operated .303 Vicker Machine Guns (rate of fire 950 rounds Per minute) on either side of Bridge
- 2 centre line mounted 20mm Oerlikons (rate of fire 450 rounds per minute) 1 Midships and 1 Aft.
- Twin water cooled .54 machine gun on the stern
- 1 Bazooka
The “B” ML s were fitted with ASDIC and I.F.F. (Identification Friend or Foe) and some later with Radar.
Fuel: 2305 Imperial gallons of high octane petrol.
In the United Kingdom some “B” ML’s were fitted with 21’Torpedo tubes, and some fitted for mine laying and mine sweeping.
In all some 160 “B” ML’s served under allied flags in all parts of the world. In the Royal Australian Navy there was a total of 35 “8” ML’s; numbers 424-431, and 801-827 inclusive. RAN “B” ML’s carried out convoy duties, anti-submarine patrols, shore bombardment, coastal patrols, landings, commando raids, survey duties and dropped off and picked up coast watchers mainly in the South West Pacific areas. The first RAN “B” ML’s were constructed from component sets of parts shipped out from the United Kingdom and ML’s were also built by Halvorsens in Sydney and Norman Wright in Brisbane.
ML430 was sunk on 14.8.44 by gun fire off Papua New Guinea. ML817 was towed south and virtually rebuilt following bombing on 3.9.43 at Morobe in Papua New Guinea. ML827 sank on 20th November 1944 in the tow of Cambrian Salvor after hitting an uncharted reef off Jacquinot Bay in New Britain.
The engine rooms of the “B” ML’s were deafening noisy, and unassisted conversation virtually impossible in the confined space. The engine room crew (1 Petty Officer Motor Mechanic and 2 stokers) spent their time on watch in sweltering heat alongside 2 aircraft type engines in a wooden “Box”, the only access being a deck hatch. The risk of fire and explosion was great, and stitched shoes only allowed on board to prevent sparks. In U.K., Africa and the Mediterranean, a number of “B” ML’s we lost through explosions and fire.
All remaining RAN “B” ML’s were sold after World War II.