H.M. Motor Torpedo Boat 718

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The Tragedy of MGB 2002

MGB 2002 left Aberdeen at 0800 on Friday 11th May 1945 bound for Gothenburg in Sweden, under the command of Lieut. Commander Mike Marshall, she was carrying additional to complement not only the extra leading telegraphist, Gourley, but the Flotilla Engineer Officer, Lieut. Commander (E) L.H. Coppins and four passengers. They were Lieut. Commander Brian Reynolds then serving under the name of Brian Bingham, and three Ellerman Wilson Line M.N. officers, namely H.W. Jackson formerly Master of Nonsuch and Hopewell, First Mate C. Newton and W/T Operator C.V. Morgan.

‘Brian Bingham’ and Captain Jackson at least had been involved in the hazardous runs through the Skagerrak with ball-bearings from Lysekil in Sweden to Hull and Immingham in a fleet of five specially-converted Camper & Nicholson gunboats, nos. 504-505-506-507 and 508. These ‘ball-bearing runs’ had been instituted when an attempt early in the War by Sir George Binney to sail two merchant shiploads of the vital ball-bearings to England had been frustrated by bad weather and the close proximity of a strong German naval force with air cover. One of the three MGB's sent to escort the Norwegian merchantmen was in fact MGB 612 commanded by Peter Williams.

The object of 2002's voyage to Gothenburg was to facilitate the Ellerman Wilson men make arrangements to finally have the two merchant ships, which had in effect had to be used as storage for ball-bearings, sailed to England.

MGB 2002 was due to arrive Gothenburg thirty-six hours after leaving Aberdeen, i.e. at 2000 on 12th May and a signal announcing her safe arrival was expected in Aberdeen. When it did not arrive there was no immediate concern, but after one day, then a second, passed with no news, our officers started to get worried. It was obvious to the ships' companies of 718 and 2009 from the demeanour of the officers that there was something amiss, and it was no real surprise when ‘clear lower deck’ was piped and both crews were mustered to be addressed by Lieut. Commander McQuoid Mason.

He told us that 2002 was long overdue in Gothenburg and, in the absence of news of her of any sort, she must be presumed lost. He added that an offer by our Captain to fly as an observer in an RAF aircraft to search had not been taken up, and he was still awaiting authority to mount a sea search using our own boats.

Both boats eventually set out for Norway on 17th May and this would be after the Admiralty had received a signal p.m. the previous day from the NOIC Kristiansand that two survivors from MGB 2002 had been picked up at 2200 on 15th May by the Norwegian M.V. Uranus, approximately six miles NW of the Lista Light and taken to hospital in Kristiansand.

Our two boats commenced searching on 18th May and on into 19th off the SW tip of Norway working with a Liberator and two Warwick aircraft by Aldis lamp and W/T. At 1253 on the 19th, the following signal was sent by wireless:

To: C in C Rosyth

Info: Admiralty

From: MTB 718

Wreckage of MGB 2002 found ashore near Lista Light. Aircraft report floating

wreckage in position 57o 36’N 07o 00’ E. No survivors. Investigating.

The wreckage found ashore at Lista was part of 2002's bows and our CO reported that the indications were of a violent explosion under her bridge. When we closed that reported by the aircraft we found it to be the flag locker, and in fact we pulled it inboard and took it back to Aberdeen when the search was called off later on the 19th.

There was not much time, nor was there a lot of inclination under the sad circumstances, for us to explore this part of newly-liberated Norway which 718 had visited four times previously under conditions of secrecy and darkness. Our first sight of our late enemies was when we came alongside a German motor launch (weather ship?) and its crew looked at us with the same sort of curiosity as we regarded them. We also saw a group of Russian prisoners-of-war who seemed a moronic bunch, displaying absolutely nothing in their faces as they stood silent in response to our attempts to communicate. In contrast, a group of young Norwegian schoolgirls gave an impromptu concert, including a parody of one of their National songs which had a reference to the collaborator Quisling himself ending up in the concentration camp at Grini, where many loyal Norwegians had been incarcerated,

MTB 718 and MGB 2009 left the search area early on Sunday morning 20th May, arriving back in Aberdeen harbour to secure at Mearns Quay at 05.30 on the 21st. In our absence, another 15th Flotilla boat had arrived after undergoing tropicalisation. She was MGB 2003 (formerly 503 in Dartmouth days) and we secured astern of her.

The two survivors were PO Motor Mechanic Tommy Sheehan and Able Seaman Norman Hine.

In a letter from Kristiansand Hospital to the Motor Mechanic of 2003 they described in horrific detail how 2002 struck a mine at 0345 on 12th May, the for'ard part including the bridge just disappeared, with the stern half remaining afloat for only a few minutes before that too sank. Amidst the carnage and wreckage they heard and saw terrible things in the time that it took for all to go quiet and only three men remained alive. Tommy swam to a Carley float and was exhausted by the time he had clambered aboard it and pulled up Norman, a non-swimmer clinging to a hammock and a surf-boat standard, and Leading Stoker Fred Bristow. They had a paddle to start off with but they lost it and had to use their hands afterwards. There was no food and the contents of the water cans on board must have been old stock and had an unpleasant taste. When that supply ran out, they had no fresh water, and Bristow died after drinking sea water. Twice in the three and a half days they thought rescue was at hand. About eight aircraft flew overhead at one stage and flashed them but nothing came of it, and afterwards they sighted some fishing boats but they were carried away from them before they could attract their attention. By the time they were picked up by the Uranus, Norman was unconscious and Tommy delirious. They spoke later of how good the coaster's crew were to them, and in particular the Captain's wife who was aboard.

Because of the gangrene which had set in during the time their legs were in water, even in the Carley float, Tommy Sheehan had to have both legs amputated at the knee whilst Norman Hine lost all his toes. They were flown back to England during June and admitted to Derby Royal Infirmary, where on 10th July 1945, Sheehan was listed as dangerously ill. By coincidence, one of the volunteer librarians at the hospital was the mother of Sub. Lieut. John Boissier who had gone down with MGB 2002 and she, despite her own sorrow, mothered her son's two injured shipmates, bringing them home-baked delicacies etc.

Both Tommy and Norman have lived successful lives despite their ordeal and disabilities and are the firmest of friends, enlivening those occasions when the veterans of the 15th MGB Flotilla get together to have a good time.

DIED IN MGB 2002 12th MAY 1945


MARSHALL, Robert Michael


Lieut. Commander RNVR


Lieut. Commander RNVR

BELL, Gordon Hamilton

Lieut. RNVR


Sub Lieut. RNVR


Sub Lieut. RNVR




Leading Stoker



Able Seaman



Leading Seaman

BRISTOW, Frederick J

Leading Stoker


Wireman (L)

GADD, Charles K


Leading Telegraphist



Able Seaman


Leading Telegraphist

HAWKSBY, Bernard

Leading Seaman (Radar)



Able Seaman


Able Seaman

HEARN, Charles F


Chief Motor Mechanic

HILL, George I


Able Seaman


Able Seaman

McNULTY, Anthony A

Ordinary Seaman (Radar)



Able Seaman


Leading Motor Mechanic

SMITH, Frederick S


Petty Officer Coxswain

WREN, Cyril W


Able Seaman


REYNOLDS, Sylvanus Brian John

served as Brian Bingham


Lieut. Commander RNR

JACKSON, Herbert W

First Mate


First Mate


W/T Operator

The following extract from Coastal Forces Veteran's magazine reproduces survivor Tom Sheehan's poignant letter

The following are Ronnie Seddon's contemporaneous notes from information given by the survivors


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