Pair of ‘Spitfires of the seas’ arrive to be centrepiece of new exhibition

A pair of historic naval boats nicknamed “Spitfires of the seas” have been painstakingly moved into position for a new exhibition.

The boats, coastal motor boat CMB331 and motor torpedo boat MTB71, arrived at the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s (NMRN) Explosion Museum in Gosport, Hampshire, after being brought 100 miles by road from Yeovilton, Somerset, where they have been stored.

The 60ft attack motor craft were deployed during the Second World War armed with torpedoes for close-range attacks.

They will now play starring roles in the new exhibition The Night Hunters: The Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces At War which will open in the autumn to tell the story of the Royal Navy’s coastal forces from inception in August 1916 to their demise in the late 1950s.

Naval boat
One of the boats at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Nick Hewitt, head of collections and research said: “It’s an incredible opportunity to pay tribute to these boats and the crew who manned them by putting them at the very centre of our exhibition.

“Our visitors can see them up close and marvel at just how perilous their tactics were, stealthily travelling at high speed, often in the dark, and get a sense of the real risks these young men took.”

A museum spokeswoman said: “Immortalised as ‘Spitfires of the seas’ the boats, coastal motor boat CMB331 and motor torpedo boat MTB71, were often deployed in the dark, at incredibly high speeds as small but fast attack motor boats which carried torpedoes.

“It was a branch of the Royal Navy commonly manned by very young men, often reservist volunteers, in wooden craft, heavily armed carrying ammunition, explosives and high-octane fuel as they went in to attack enemy naval forces at close range.”