Arthur Wheeler Bartlett MTB 12 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla Coastal Forces Hong Kong

Battle for Hong Kong - The MTBs Attack

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A/B A W Bartlett (P/J98569) MTB 12 (Southampton)

Arthur joined the Royal Navy 16th May 1923. After seving on the Leander class light-Cruiser HMS Neptune he transfered to HMS Vernon in July 1937 training for Motor Torpedo Boat skills. The following year in August 1938 he joined MTB 10 of the 2nd MTB Flotilla in Hong Kong.

MTB 07 under fire 
	Photo from Hong Kong 1941-45 published by Osprey Publishing 
	Illustration by Giuseppe Rava
	Click here for more information

The flotilla took a beating during the battle for Hong Kong.
When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong Island, the 2nd MTB Flotilla was ordered to attack and expend all ammunition shooting up everything in sight. Unbeknown to the flotilla, the Japanese had already established a beach head on the Island west of the Sugar Refinery at North Point.
Guns to the left, guns to the right, guns to the front and cannon from above, on they sped into the fiery jaws of the oriental dragon itself. This was the maritime equivalent of the charge of the light brigade in the Crimea.
Lt Ronnie Ashby whose family motto was "Be Just and Fear Naught" led the flotilla with Jix Prest & Buddy Hide at the controls of MTB 07. Pressing home the attack under withering fire from land, sea, and air, they suffered heavy losses in the process. Only three MTB's survived to limp back and come alongside HMS Robin in Aberdeen. Lt Kennedy on MTB "09" towed the stricken "07", peppered with 97 holes and two dead bodies in the engine room, back to base. The flotilla had lost 40% of its attacking force. The attack was arguably the most daring daylight MTB attack of all time, and was referred to as The Balaclava of the Coastal Forces world wide. They were hailed "The bravest of the brave."

Lt Kennedy RNVR: "MTB 11 returned alone from the harbour with her coxswain wounded. There was a long silent pause as we strained our ears to catch the sound of distant engines, but none came. It was a dark day for the flotilla, and for the whole island." [9]

MTB 12 took a direct hit while attacking Japanese landing craft on 19th December 1941.
With all but three crew lost in what is arguably the most daring daylight MTB raid of all time, dubbed“ The Balaclava of the Sea.
Tel PO Alf Hunt woke up on the beach tied up with barbed wire and surrounded by IJA troops, while Arthur managed to swim ashore on Hong Kong Island where he was taken to the Queen Mary hospital suffering immersion.

Upon Hong Kong surrendering to the overwhelming forces of the Japanese on 25th December 1941 Arthur was taken prisoner and interned in Argyle Street untill the cesation of hostilities in 1945.

MTB 12 during sea trials at HMS Vernon in the UK 1938

Photo from Lt E M (Mickey)Thorpe RN ©





MTB 12 at HMS Vernon 1938

Photo from Lt E M (Mickey) Thorpe RN ©



MTB 12 in the Kowloon Camber

Photo from the Ross collection ©


















MTB 12 on patrol with MTB 07

Photo from Lt Ashby's collection ©




MTB 12, ran aground under the command of Lt H.G.A.G Eyre RN at Crooked harbour, Hong Kong, June 1939 & was later towed off by HMS Cicala

Photo from Lt CJ Collingwood's collection©








MTB 12 on the rocks


MTB 12 on the rocks 1939






Research and web publication by Buddy Hide Jnr ©

The contents of this web site led to a considerable number of escapee families contacting me and now each other, and remains the principle source of contact and private information for the spin off projects that have followed. The personal accounts enabled me to record the complete and true account of this remarkable episode of Sino-British war time co-operation. The information compiled here has directly resulted in a museum exhibition in Hong Kong, a re-enactment of the escape in Hong Kong and China, with a movie drama and documentary in the making.

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