For Posterity's Sake
A Royal Canadian Navy Historical Project
29th MTB Flotilla
29th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla
Click on the above images to view a larger photo and the full press release
The 29th MTB Flotillia was formed in March 1944 under the command of Lt Anthony Law, RCNVR and equipped with eight British Type 'G' MTBs. The flotilla initally worked up at HMS Bee (Coastal Forces Base at Holyhead) in April 1944 before moving to HMS Fervent (Coastal Forces Base at Ramsgate) in May 1944.
The first mission assigned to the 29th MTB Flotilla was given to MTBs 460,462,464 and 465. Tasked with escorting a clandestine mine gathering expedition to the German controlled Normandy coast, on 16 May 1944 the Canadian MTBs proceeded to the French Coast along with two British MTBs, protecting them as volunteers were landed ashore by outboards to lift sample mines from the German beach defence. Managing to accomplish their mission undetected, the captured mines provided much needed intelligence prior to the Allied D-Day landings.
Between 20 and 22 May 1944, the 29th MTB Flotilla joined RCN Tribal-class destroyers and the 65th MTB Flotilla in intercepting enemy coastal convoys in the English Channel. Targeting German schnellboote (E-boats), escort ships, merchant vessels; the MTBs lured German destroyers within the gun range of accompanying heavier warships. Following this success, on 27 May 1944 the 29th MTB Flotilla moved to HMS Hornet Coastal Forces Base at Gosport (Portsmouth), in preparation for Operation Neptune in June 1944.
During the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, the 29th Flotilla was tasked with guarding the east flank of the invasion fleets, while the 65th Flotilla was assigned to protect the western flank. Following the invasion, the MTBs of the 29th Flotilla patrolled the 15 km distance between the eastern edge of the assault area and the German naval base at Le Havre. Each night three or four Canadian MTBs waited until larger Allied ships tracked the German surface ships attempting either to attack the allied assault area or transport supplies into Le Havre. Typically, short, sharp engagements followed, with the Germans turning back to safety once they realized Allied forces were in place.
Based at HMS Beehive, Felixstowe in October 1944, the 29th Flotilla was later transferred to Coastal Forces Mobile Unit (CFMU) No. 1, Ostend, Belgium.
The destruction of the 29th MTB Flotilla at Ostend
On the afternoon of February 14, 1945, disaster struck the Canadian 29th Motor Torpedo Boat flotilla docked in Ostend (Oostende), Belgium. Fuel that had been spilled in the harbour suddenly ignited and, before an alarm could be raised, a fire quickly spread amongst the closely-moored vessels. Fuel and ammunition supplies exploded as boat after boat caught fire. Many of the men were trapped on board and had no escape as even the water was aflame. By the time it was over, 26 Canadian sailors and MTBs 459, 461, 462, 465 & 466 were lost in the accident. The 29th Flotilla was subsequently disbanded with the remaining vessels attached to other RN flotillas.
Thirty-five British sailors and seven Royal Navy vessels had also been lost.
Members of the 29th MTB injured in the fire and explosion on 14 Feb 1945
In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice
Lest We Forget
Press release on the destruction of 5 MTBs of the 29th MTB Flotilla and Casualty List
Bystander looking at the burning remnants of the MTB is Ostend Harbour
Source: RCN facebook page. Photographer unknown
Remains of the 29th Flotilla at Ostend
From the collection of Emery Savage
Courtesy of Jessica Santos
Click on the above photo to view large images
29th MTB Flotilla Christmas card - 1944 - designed by Cdr (then Lt) Tony Law
From the collection of Murray Varrin
Courtesy of Larry Varrin