Motor Gunboat 658: The Small Boat War in the Mediterranean
By L. C. Reynolds
Paperback, illustrated, 248 pages
Published by Cassell, May 2002
Dimensions: 5.0 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
The Motor Gunboats were a variety of wooden vessels of various designs operated by the British Royal Navy Coastal Forces during the Second World War. Fast and heavily armed for their size, they were deployed in small groups and used to interdict Axis coastal traffic among other duties. MGB 658 was a Fairmile “D” design (known as “Dog Boats”), which could be completed in either Torpedo (MTB) or Gunboat (MGB) configuration. They were 115 feet (35 meters) in length and powered by four Packard engines. Crew was three Officers and thirty ratings.
Midshipman Reynolds reported aboard MGB 658 as her most junior Officer, with primary duties as her navigator or “pilot”. She was building at Weymouth, and deployed in convoy through the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. There she spent the war screening landings, patrolling against German shipping, and moving from port to port as the Allies advanced. Her main adversaries were E-boats, F-lighters, various armed schooners, and mines.
This is a first person account, as Reynolds describes his experiences in MGB 658 in great detail. He was very much in the thick of it, and does an outstanding job relating the confusion of night engagements involving multiple vessels, all firing and maneuvering. He also describes the requirements of supply and maintenance to keep the boats ready, and general life aboard. Over time Reynolds was promoted and advanced to First Lieutenant, and eventually rose to command MGB 658 himself.
I found this a very enjoyable read, Reynolds’ writing style is easy to follow. His experiences are very relatable and give the reader a great insight into one of the more obscure perspectives of the war. Highly recommended.