Built by W. White & Sons of Cowes, Isle of Wight during the early months of World War I, the naval pinnace MB 278 was delivered to Harland & Wolff, Belfast, to join her first mother ship, HMS Sir John Moore, in 1915. Sir John Moore was a Lord Clive-class monitor, built to engage German shore artillery in occupied Belgium during the First World War.
Her next ship, HMS Raglan, was an Abercrombie-class monitor. (monitors were relatively small warships, neither fast nor strongly armoured, which carried disproportionately large guns). HMS Raglan’s displacement was 6250t, and her main armament was two 14” guns. She was sunk in 1918 following an attack by Turkish naval forces off Imbros in the Aegean Sea, but MB278 survived, and after 5 years in Malta, she joined the battleship Iron Duke in the Mediterranean, then went to HMS Barham, and later to HMS Resolution in the Atlantic.
Her first major refit was carried out in Malta in 1929, and she received a new 22hp Ferry engine before joining HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1930, the first of the ‘fast battleships’. Just before World War II, she was assigned to HMS Erebus (another monitor) and she
nearly missed Dunkirk when, in March 1940, she was crushed in an accident in Portsmouth dockyard and sank. When hauled to the surface, her hull was badly
damaged but she was quickly repaired and received a new engine. When the Admiralty disposed of MB 278 in 1948, their description of her hardly did her justice; 'round bilge ex-Naval hull of double-skin mahogany with mahogany shelter aft. Fair condition. No engine.’ In fact, she is of double-skin teak on rock elm and oak
frames, with a third skin fitted internally athwartships. This partial third skin possibly represents the repair carried out in 1940.
A CENTURY LATER
In late 2009, enthusiasts John and Louise Dudgeon learnt that Roma (as she was now renamed) was abandoned and at risk of being scrapped, as she had fallen into disrepair,
and her home boatyard was about to close down. They arranged for her transport to our yard and hoped to see her restored. However, they were unable to proceed with her restoration themselves, so we decided to take on the task, and commenced work in February 2010,
fitting it into our busy schedule, and with the target of completing it in time for the 2010 return crossing. This was achieved, and now MB278 (reverting to her
original Admiralty identity) crossed with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships for the commemorative 2010 return and subsequently the 2015 and plans to continue on all future returns.
Rumours that MB278 bares the scars of her Dunkirk service have recently been confirmed; repair of planking and damaged ribs were found in the bow where machine gun bullets passed through port and starboard sides. You may contemplate this event as you make use of the newly-fitted heads…
MB278 was restored in three moths this included re engining , new wheelhouse , deck, planking & riding where necessary, interior and decorate. She maybe one of the smaller little ships but what she lacks in size she makes up in character and history.
We sold MB278 soon after the 2015 return ,however, she was sorely missed at the yard and subsequently we have re-purchased her and she shall continue to be a regular alongside Gay Venture at many events.