The Coastal Forces Heritage Trust (CFHT) held an event on 25th August to mark the centenary of the founding of Coastal Forces. It’s a great story starting in WW1 with 50 foot fast boats armed with one or two torpedoes up against major warships. Between the wars Coastal Forces dwindled to nothing but were revived in WW2 with 2000 boats and 35,000 crew and support staff. They sank over 400 enemy ships and were the most highly decorated branch of the Royal Navy.
As part of the commemoration, some of the very few remaining vessels assembled at Portsmouth. It was intended that Medusa, MTB102 and MGB81 should represent the Royal Navy with HSL102 and ST1502 representing the RAF. As it happened MTB102 could not make the 400-mile passage due to adverse weather but her skipper, Richard Basey came down and was aboard Medusa. The present day Royal Navy fast patrol boats were represented by HMS Smiter.
The day started early with an interview live on Radio Solent from the bridge of Medusa. The interviewer was in the studio and it was a strange experience holding a conversation with an IPad knowing it was going directly to air.
This was followed up by another interview at 0800 with Captain Trevor Robotham RN on the broader objectives of the CFHT.
Medusa then moved across the harbour to berth astern of 81 and 102 on the heritage pontoon adjacent to HMS Warrior. The pontoon was packed with press and TV and I was conscious that a small error on my part could wipe out virtually the remaining stock of WW2 vessels. Mercifully all went well and we came to rest with 2 feet between our stern and that of MGB81.
At 1200 we slipped and went in company with the other boats up to the top of the harbour and formed up in a line with Medusa leading, then 81, 102, ST1502 and HMS Smiter. We came down the harbour at 8 knots as far as Warrior at which point Medusa came to full ahead and the flotilla exited the harbour looking like they meant business. Medusa had a film crew from the History Channel aboard and we took the opportunity to film 81 doing some close passes at speed. We were back alongside at 1330 and had more visitors from veterans and press.
At 1430 we went back out in company with ST1502 now with the History Channel crew aboard and Medusa was filmed from all angles at sea. It was a calm day and so we were able to transfer the film crew back to Medusa where they filmed inside the vessel and a long interview on her wartime history.
Back alongside there were more visitors including the Portsmouth MP Caroline Dinenage and the Minister for defence, reserves, veterans and personnel, Mark Lancaster. HMS Smiter came alongside the pontoon from 1700 onwards and there was a chance for ship visits either way.
Medusa crew with Caroline Dinenage MP
CFHT held a reception in Boat House 4 which was attended by over 100 people. All in all it was a great day and brought the role of Coastal Forces to the public attention as well as promoting plans for a museum at Priddys Hard. There is no doubt though that Medusa was the star of the ball and when we finally got back to our berth and closed down at 2100 we all felt it had been a successful day.
Medusa crew, Brian Holmes, Ed Dewar, Barry Ford, Sam Small, Alan Watson, David Carter.
The above supplied by TCA member and MEDUSA supporter Ray Brooks