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The War of the Gunboats (Paperback)

Maritime Military WWII > Naval Warfare WWII

By Bryan Cooper
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399019897
Published: 27th July 2022



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The 'little ships' of the Second World War - the fast and highly manoeuvrable motor torpedo boats and gunboats which fought in coastal waters all over the world - developed a special kind of naval warfare. With their daring nightly raids against an enemy's coastal shipping - and sometimes much larger warships - they acquired the
buccaneering spirit of an earlier age. And never more so than in the close hand-to-hand battles which raged between opposing craft when they met in open waters.

Large numbers of these small fighting boats were built by the major naval powers. The Germans called them Schnellboote (Fast Boats), referred to by the British as E-boats (E for Enemy). In the Royal Navy they were MTBs and MGBs. The American equivalent were PT boats (for Patrol Torpedo). They fought in the narrow waters of the English Channel and the stormy North Sea, in the Mediterranean off the coasts of North Africa and Italy and among the islands of the Aegean, across the Pacific from Pearl Harbour to Leyte Gulf, in Hong Kong and Singapore, and off Burma's Arakan coast.

Bryan Cooper's book traces the history and development of these craft from their first limited use in the First World War and the fast motor boats designed in the 1930s for wealthy private clients and water speed record attempts. With account of the battles which took place during the Second World War, when the vital importance of coastal waters came to be recognised, he captures the drama of this highly individual form of combat. And not least the sea itself which was the common enemy of all who crewed these frail craft.

The book has a lovely vignette of an E-boat demanding and achieving the surrender of 5,000 Italians and the city of Venice! Other operations covered are the St Nazaire raid – the “greatest single undertaking by Coastal Forces” and D-Day where Coastal Forces successfully prevented E-boats attacks and harassed German coastal shipping as the Allies advanced.

Peter Wykeham-Martin

I have just finished reading this book. Not only was it most enjoyable but any ‘Ton’ man, especially those who served on Inshore Sweepers, will relate to the description of living on board small ships & the camaraderie that lives to this day.

Ton Class Association

Despite its title, this book looks at the operations of Royal Navy motor torpedo boats as well as motor gun boats, plus those of US Navy PT boats. It covers the development of the boats, their tactical use, and describes individual actions in which they were involved, and gives a good overview of the extent and nature of costal forces warfare.

Ships Monthly magazine
 Bryan Cooper
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