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Pictures from the Heritage Archive

Updated: Sep 28

Unusual uses for Aero engines.

To complete our trilogy of unusual uses for engines designed for aircraft

we might have considered those used in tanks and heavy military vehicles over the years, but most of us are probably less inclined to think of those used to power boats.

Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) had been devised during the latter part of the 1930 s, but is was during the second world war they came into their own. Several hundred were made by an assortment of companies using marinised petrol aero engines followed by diesel engines for power plants.

Moving forward through time, our pictures are from the first two years of the 1960s. Unfortunately the British navy having decided three years previously that there was no need for a Coastal Defence Corps saw no future for MTBs. However Vospers of Portchester decided on a private venture to produce and sell for export fast patrol boats. In this they were successful and sold a number to six different countries, including two to the Royal Navy.


'Brave Borderer', seen here, and sister boat 'Brave Swordsman' were powered by three Bristol Siddeley Proteous gas turbine engines giving an incredible combined power output of 10,500 HP. These 90ft long MTBs, having a beam of 25 feet 6 inches and a draught of 7 feet, could reach the equivalent land speed of 60 mph. At that time they were the fastest navel vessels in the world.

Our second picture is of ‘Pfeil’ ordered by West Germany and is based on a slightly smaller hull, so sports only two Bristol Siddeley Proteous engines. Later this boat was transferred to the Greek navy. Armament was common to both and consisted of a Bofors 40 mm gun and four 21inch torpedoes and two depth charges.

As a footnote it is remembered that Walter Wilson, inventor of the Wilson Preselector gearbox familiar to many Armstrong Siddeley car owners, was during the Second World War, invited to make a gear box which would solve the problem of engines rotating in one direction but propellers which required to counter rotate. This he did successfully and made it compact enough to fit into the restricted space available. During this time Armstrong Siddeley was also making and developing the motors to drive and guide torpedoes.


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