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Fast and Furious

Foudre, a torpedo boat carrier

Catalogue number 46314

Port view of Foudre

Note guns on foredeck and three along the port side, one torpedo boat on cradles under the forward gantry. Extensions to enable the mobile gantry to project over the side of the hull are folded back against the gantry in this photograph (see the diagonal struts at either end of the three port gantries).

Verso:"Foudre" in pencil

28cm x 20.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 27040

Another port bow view of Foudre

Foudre is given as being able to transport up to eight of the nine light torpedo boats built (8 built by Le Creusot at Chalons-sur-Saône, 1 by Yarrow*). They were named A to I with C being built by Yarrow. The idea was for Foudre to transport her boats to where they were needed in the open sea and release them for an attack. * Lecalve and Roche, 2001, give all boats built by le Creusot.

Verso:"The Foudre, armoured coastguard ship - Torpedo boat carrier. 410 crew." In French and in blue ink

16.5cm x 11.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 21046

Protée and Lynx on Foudre, 1904

Foudre had been modified when she went through Ismailia so as to carry two Naiade submarines (Protée and Lynx) in place of two torpedo boats. She was on her way to Saigon, Indochine, the submarines were for the protection of harbours and the coastal seas off South Indochine.

Verso:"Best regards Ismailia 16/8/904" franked "Port-Said 1904, in French and in black ink

11.6cm x 8.4cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 131013

The torpedo deck of Foudre

We can see two light torpedo boats on the aft torpedo boat deck. Along the midline is the system of gears and shafts acting on chains to move the gantries out. Torpedo boat A is yet to be hooked up the the gantry chains. The embarked torpedo boats (Torpilleur à embarquer or Torpilleur vedette) were 19m long and of 14 tonnes. Note the ships' priest right of center with his white collar.

Recto:"Foudre-The torpedo deck"

10.9cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 131012

Bow view of light torpedo boat A

The torpedo was launched from a downward sloping tube, note the mechanism to open the hinged tube cover running along the port foredeck. The boat is being raised off the deck crutches. The boat "C" was built by Yarrow of Poplar, U.K., the hull skin and frames were of aluminium from 1mm to 5mm thick. Although this boat had a high rate of speed on trials, 20.5kts, it was subject to a high degree of corrosion by electrolysis and was quickly disarmed.

Recto:"Foudre-Handling torpedo boat A."

10.9cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 131002

Handling light torpedo boat A, view from the deck

An exceptional view of the boat suspended from the gantry. On the gantry, men are on what appears to be the winches for raising and lowering the boat. Note the funnel hinged back, fore and aft conning positions, single propeller and four dark unpainted bands on the hull where the boat rested on cradles ashore. The gear wheel and rotating shafts are probably part of the mechanism for moving the gantries across the deck and out from the hull.

Recto:"Foudre-Handling torpedo boat A."

10.9cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 130083

A torpedo boat suspended from the gantry

In this photograph we can see a light torpedo boat swung out on the aft starboard gantry ready to be lowered into the sea, the extensions either side of the gantry have been swung out. The strakes protecting the hull can be seen. Note the funnel is hinged down, the torpedo was launched from a tube on the slanted foredeck.

Recto:"Handling the light torpedo boat A"

11cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 130082

Taking on a torpedo

This stern view of one of the light torpedo boats from Foudre shows it taking on its single torpedo. The aft armoured conning dome with its slit openings can be seen. The gantry extensions are run out and we can see the bar strakes on the hull and against which the torpedo boat slid when being hauled out or put to sea.

Recto:"Foudre-The light torpedo boat taking on torpedoes" in French and in black ink

10.8cm x 8.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 19032

The problem of light torpedo boats in a heavy sea

Part of the naval strategy of the French "Jeune Ecole" in the late 1800s was to build up a large fleet of torpedo boats that would make a mass attack on an enemy warship like a swarm of hornets. The torpedo boat shown here as it steams full ahead in a relatively calm sea was almost twice the length of the Foudre boats and much heavier.

13.8cm x 9cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 50023

Torpedo boat ploughing into a light swell

In contrast to the photograph above, the poor sea-keeping qualities of small torpedo boats show up in just the lightest of swell. The boat is shown with the bow digging into a wave, difficult to make any headway for a fast attack and very wet ships. And these torpedo boats were heavier and longer than the Foudre boats!

11.9cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 36177

Foudre with main gantries removed

In practice, the concept of the Foudre as a torpedo boat carrier was unfeasible (the boats could be lauched in only the calmest of seas) and the ship was modified for other functions. The main gantries have been removed but there is no seaplane hanger, for some time Foudre was a minelayer, seen here in the naval port of Toulon.

Verso:"Foudre will transport the troups of the Armée d'Afrique to France. 2-6-10" in French and in light pencil

14.9cm x 10.1cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 03024

Foudre as a seaplane carrier

A canvas hangar has been built up around the aft part of the center superstructure to house a single floatplane. The structure on the foredeck behind the anchor cranes may be the 10-meter flying off deck that was tested in November 1913 (see heading "Naval Aviation. II" Catalogue number 128013). There is a derrick on the foremast for handling the Caudron G.3 floatplane.

Credit: Marius Bar

13.4cm x 8cm Modern print

Catalogue number 87

Foudre as a seaplane tender

All the gantries have gone except those for the ships' boats. Aft of midships is a canvas hangar with a seaplane inside and a lifting derrick is on the aft mast. The guns have been shipped and the flying off deck removed.

Credit: Marius Bar

58cm x 23.5cm Gelatin silver print



Catalogue number 16030

Russian torpedo boats, detail

The Russian Navy seriously began the design and construction of fast torpedo boats only in the late 1920's. They were to be based mainly in the Baltic and the Black Sea. Most Soviet high-speed motor torpedo boats were of the type G5 which had the following characteristics: stepped hull, length 19.10m, breadth 3.33m, moulded depth 1.75m, displacement 14.84 tons, maximum speed 48 kts. Equipped with two petrol engines acting on twin shafts, two 53.3cm torpedoes and a 12.7mm machine gun on the bridge. The Duraluminium hull suffered damage from vibration and salt-water corrosion. Note machine gun at the rear of the bridge on the left boat. Wireless aerial running from stump mast on bridge to bow staff.

Recto: Short text in Russian.

9.1cm x 12.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 57058

Russian G5 boats in Spain

During the Spanish Civil War, four G5 torpedo boats were transferred to the Spanish Republican Navy. In this stern view, we can see the two torpedoes stowed on the launch rails.

10.4cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 128034

Russian G5, bell-shaped torpedo launcher

In the G5, the 21-inch torpedoes were pushed out of the stern trough by an explosive-activated piston with a bell-shaped head pushing back onto the torpedo nose. This photograph shows one of the two Russian G5 boats captured by the Finns in 1942. Note the 0.5 inch DSHK machine gun on the small bridge.

Verso:"Russian torpedo boat S-57. Photo taken when the boats were captured by the Finns in 1940 (sic)" in French

7.8cm x 13cm printed image


Catalogue number 79076

Italian motor torpedo boats

Like other European Navies, Italy began to expand its fleet of high speed torpedo and gun boats (Motobarca Armata Svan o Silurante, MAS) at the start of the First World War. Numerous problems arose - insufficient supply of suitable engines, slow speed, lack of seaworthiness, choice of propeller - and there were many different series of MAS. Most of the early MAS boats were considered too unreliable for offensive operations and were relegated to convoy work, anti-submarine and harbour defence duties. This image shows a group of MAS boats from the MAS 23 to MAS 52 series of 1916 at the Ansaldo shipyard in Sestri Ponti.

21.9cm x 14.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 72106

Thornycroft Coastal Motor Boat

M.T.V. 4 was one of two 55ft motor torpedo boats built by Thornycroft in 1928 at Woolton, UK for the Finnish Navy. They had a one-step hydroplane hull and were made of pine with elm frames and double diagonal mahogany with a steep V-shape. They were powered by two Thornycroft Type Y/12 main engines and, interestingly, had one Thornycroft Type RA/4 cruising engine. They could move at 40 kts with a crew of 5. The two 45cm torpedoes were launched from rails over the stern of the boat. This required the boat to quickly get out of the way of the launched torpedo and this could be difficult when navigating alongside other boats or in confined waters.

Verso: "Thornycroft 55ft Coastal Motor Boat. Built for the Finnish Navy. " in pencil. Ink stamp "John I. THORNYCROFT & CO., LIMITED Engineers & Shipbuliders THORNYCROFT HOUSE, WESTMINSTER LONDON, S.W.1."

19.8cm x 14.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71083

French Navy VTB7

The French Navy became interested in fast motor torpedo boats after the First World War. Two Thornycroft boats (a 45ft boat and a 55ft boat) were bought in 1921 and then began a building programme of Vedette Torpilleur type B boats (VTB) similar to the Thornycraft 55 ft boat. However, the authorities were not satisfied with these boats and solicited a design from the French company Silbur at Meulin sur la Seine. VTB8 (in service 1935) was one of the two twin petrol-engined boats built and reached 52 kts unloaded on trials. Lightly built with three layers of mahogany, the design was dropped when the second boat broke up when running at full speed. At the level of the bridge, we can see one of the two torpedoes that were launched over the side, port and starboard.

11cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71084

French Navy VTB10

VTB10 was a departure from the previous designs using a stepped hull. Developments had been made with the hard chine hull which, if reducing maximum speed, gave better sea-keeping qualities. The Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire built VTB10 around the 650hp Hispano-Suiza aero engine. The boat made 55kts unloaded on trials powered by four of these petrol engines, two to each shaft.

11cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44048

Early British Motor Torpedo Boat

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Admiralty, as a stop-gap measure, decided to convert about half of the existing motor anti-submarine boats into motor gun boats (MGB). The craft in this photograph from 1940 looks like a British Power Boat Company 60ft motor torpedo boat of 1940-1941, note the lifebuoys marked "HMMTB" (His Majesty's Motor Torpedo Boat). It has two tubs with quadruple Lewis guns and we can see a depth charge just behind the starboard gun mounting. There's not much room on the bridge - note the ship's lights and crest. This is the MTB crest "Caudae Spiculum Caveo" "Beware the sting in the tail". A zoom on the bridge just above the crest shows what appears to be a dromedary mascot!

Verso: "These pictures show the Navy motor torpedo boats on duty off the East Coast. These craft are used for patrol work and are capable of fast speeds and have a big cruising radius. Photo shows- Gunners at action stations on board one of the motor torpedo boats during duty off the East Coast. Judging by this picture enemy aircraft would certainly get a warm welcome" with "2 MAART 1940" (translated from Dutch as 2nd March 1940) stamped in blue.

14.2cm x 19.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104009

US Navy PT303, detail

The United States Navy only became interested in high speed torpedo and gun boats (PT boats in American nomenclature) when they became necessary for naval operations, notably in the Pacific and the Mediterranean Sea. This photograph shows one of the 197 boats mass produced by Higgins Industries, New Orleans, USA, thanks to standardisation of engines, armament, equipment and fittings. PT306 "Hogan's Goat" is seen here in the pass at Taranto, Italy late 1943 or early 1944. Two twin 12.7mm machine guns are in turrets either side of the bridge with what looks like the barrel of a Bofors gun on the aft deck and a 20mm Oerlikon cannon on the foredeck. The warhead of one of the four 53.3cm torpedoes can be seen just aft of the bridge. A British Royal Navy officer is looking on maybe impressed - or otherwise! - by the customised turret and the jacket of the crew member.

14.3cm x 10.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88

Free French Vosper MTB96

The image of a flotilla of MTBs and MGBs roaring off into the sunset with all guns blazing away to attack the enemy is rather a Hollywood cliché. With a low profile and capable of a sudden turn of speed, making the most of a poor visibility, they would wait in ambush, engines stopped or idling (some of the first Vosper 70ft boats had a Ford V-8 wing auxiliary engine fitted to enable the boat to approach the enemy at slow speed and in silence) whilst listening for the noise of an approaching enemy. Both Allied and Axis forces used such tactics. Another tactic when being chased was to drop depth charges with a shallow setting in the tracks of the pursuing enemy. This Vosper 76ft 6-inch boat was loaned to the Free French Forces in 1942, we can see the French flag flying from the stump mast. A hard chine hull of double skin, diagonal mahogany powered by three Packhard petrol engines with a maximum speed of 35kts, range was 400 miles at 20kts. Two 21-inch torpedoes were carried, with twin 0.5-inch machine guns in a powered turret abaft the bridge and two machine guns on mountings either side of the bridge (one is visible at the level of the wheelhouse roof and alongside the torpedo tube). The crew consisted of 2 officers and 11 men.

38cm x 27.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 101192

Construction of Vosper high-speed boats

Although this photograph shows the construction of Vosper Air Sea Rescue launches, the techniques are the same as for MTBs and MGBs - a hard chine hull (i.e. a sharp angle at the bottom of the V hull and sharp angles where the V joins the side of the hull), double diagonal mahogany on wood (pine and elm) frames and planking. Note the close framing and the bulkhead just aft of the bow.

Verso; "LAUNCHES FROM THE AIR SEA RESCUE SERVICE. Sea Rescue Launches, built by Vospers, which operate round our coasts, have been the means of saving the lives of many of our air crews brought down into the sea by enemy action. Photo shows. Sea Rescue Launches under construction at one of the Vosper factories.

20cm x 14cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 102007

Vosper 70ft MTB

Loading one of the two tubes with a 21-inch torpedo, freshly greased apparently as there is a barrel of grease and rag waste between the two air intakes. The aft hand-operated, shielded Oerlikon twin machine guns can be clearly seen. Aft of the air intakes is the smoke generator on its blocks.

10.9cm x 14.3cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 35183

American Coast Guard launch, 1917

This photograph illustrates how the US Navy, from humble beginnings, developed a fleet of high-speed torpedo and gun boats of nearly 800 craft. This photograph shows a US Coast Guard motor launch with a belt-ammunition machine gun in 1917. One crew member has a pair of binoculars and another is doing contortions whilst trying to aim and fire the gun but the gun mounting is totally inadequate for the task. The Commissariat general à l'information, source of the photograph, was a French propaganda ministry aimed at boosting moral and mobilising public opinion against Germany. Personally, my moral wouldn't be too high if I was told in 1940 that the American coastline was defended by the type of boat shown in this photograph!

Verso: "American motor boat with machine gun (USA 1917) type written in French and ink stamp "Commissariat général à l'information 30MAR1940",

16.8cm x 11.8cm Gelatin silver print