Article on the Torpedo Boats of the Philippine Commonwealth Army Off Shore Patrol.
Attached article images for article In search of "Q"!
Photos from MacArthur Memorial Museum and Library, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Q1. - Thorneycroft Coastal Motor Boat delivered to the Philippines on high speed run passes US Asiatic Fleet Submarine S-41. designation Q1 to be changed to Q-112 Abra later on.
Q2. Port View of Q1 (Q112 Abra) taken from an aircraft above Manila Bay.
Title: In Search of the "Q".
By Franz Tinio-Lopez
In the study of military history in the Philippines, much emphasis has been placed on land warfare and the role of the Army. The Army defended Bataan, the US Army landed on Leyte, etc.
But the role of seapower and the Navy is overlooked or ignored. The Army needed supplies to continue the fight on Bataan. The Armies that landed on Leyte and Lingayen came on ships.
Airpower on the other hand has been acknowledged as a necessity for success on the ground and control of the sea. But with great distances of the Pacific Ocean, most aircraft had to be transported on ships to get to the theater of operations. In fact Naval Aviation has become defined as airpower projected from the sea, with no requirements for permission for overflights of national territory or airbase useage at another country's cooperation.
But I am getting ahead of myself. There is much maritime history, it just has to be made interesting for the desired audience. Let me try by presenting the story of the Q-boat. The term "Q" may already bring recollections of "Q" branch of her Majesty's Secret Service and the gadgets provided for Ian Flemmings' hero, Royal Navy Commander James Bond. The new actor portraying 007 will be arriving on the scene courtesy of the Royal Marines in the upcomming movie.
I first heard of the existence of the "Q" boats, when I was working on an exhibit with University of the Philippines Professor of History, Rico Jose. The topic of the moment was what were the torpedo boats that General Douglas MacArthur had in defense of the Philippines. Which he later used to escape from Corregidor? After the discussion as to the type of "PT" boat manufactured by..., three engines, running on avaition gasoline, hull numbers.., etc. Rico added, "did you know that the Philippine's had some torpedo boats also that time? This came as a supprise as we had not ever come accross this fact from our readings of popular history books available then. (Ballentines, etc.)
There were a few paragraphs mentioning the "Q-boats" of the Off Shore Patrol in the Philippine Navy history book released in the late 70s.
All we had to go on was that the designation Q was applied for auxilliary craft or vessels. These ships or boats for survielance, patrol, and deception. Inconspicous craft that were not recognized to be combatant vessels were used for special missions to infiltrate target coastlines and seaways. Taking soundings and measurments. Observing merchant and naval traffic while possing as a fishing vessel. Definetly a cloak and dagger theme it would seem.
In fact the the current Q-boat designation in the Philippine Navy at the time included a large fishing boat with outriggers, a small motor yacht, and some other vessels that may have been "Kumpit"s that plied the seas between the Philippines and Borneo.
A second Philippine Navy history book was released later. Though these were never sold in the bookstores, you could obtain these through friends in the Naval service. There were some photographs, but the quality was bad if not worse than those circulated of secret soviet and communist vessels.
Only when the book "Tides of Change" was released for public purchase during the Navy's Centenial celebration in 1998 were some clear photos of the "Q-boat" seen. We already had some clues over the years. These torpedo boats were manufactured by a British company "Thorneycroft". We recognized this was the same manufacturer who built the WW2 Motor Torpedo Boats of the Royal Navy from our readings back in the 70s.
Thankful for the advent of the world wide web. It made a search possible of published articles that were posted on cyberspace that were growing in number every day. Searching on Q boats gave the same results for auxiliaries utillzed in covert operations and deceptions against U-boat by possing as un-armed merchantmen. When the unsuspecting U-boat surfaced to inspect and board the "unarmed" merchant ship. Hidden 3" and 5" guns would fire on the enemy submarine. Concealed machine guns would also be fired to prevent the submarine crew from utilizing their deck gun. Some Q ships even attempted to ram the Uboats to sink them.
Searching on "Thorneycroft" and "Torpedo Boats" brought us closer to the goal of discovering the origins of the Philippine Off Shore Patrol Q boats.
Thorneycroft had manufactured torpedo boats for the Royal Navy during World War 1. and had continued in smaller numbers up to WW2. When war broke out they started manufacturing Motor Torpedo Boats and Motor Gun Boats with a "hard chine" hull. This description of the hull shape would be a further clue.
During this time however I had the privilege of meeting Rear Admiral Ramon A. Alcaraz, Philippine Navy (Retired) for research on the history of the Philippine Marines. "Ka Monching" as he would be called by his friends was one of the Q-boat officers during WW2. He was the Commanding Officer of Q-112, Abra from the begining of the war till he had to scuttle the torpedo boat when they attempted to escape from Bataan.
Armed with more specific information, we found out that the Thorneycrofft company had manufactured Torpedo boats that had a "step" planing hull.
The torpedoes were launched from the stern of the boat. These were designed to engage the "Dreadnaught" type battleships that had become the epitome of seapower at the turn of the century. The percived threat from these fast (45 knots) small and agile boats were serious enough that a class of warship was developed to counter them and protect the battleships. These were the torpedo boat destroyers, that eventually became the ships we know as "Destroyers".
To conceal the purpose of these Torpedo boats, the Royal Navy designated them as "Coastal Motor Boats" (CMB) to disguise their purpose from enemy intelligence, similarly as describing the tracked armored machinegun carrying vehicle as a "tank" ( as its armor was fabricated like a water tank).
Now searching for Coastal Motor Boats, we found 3 in museums, some scale models and drawings. But nothing closer to the Philippines' Q-boats.
With this information in hand we returned to see "Commodore Alcaraz" another title of Ka Monching when he was in Command of the Philippine Fleet. He was pleasantly supprised about our discovery. But we were more in awe at Ka Monchings' detailed recollection about the Off Shore Patrol.
The 1935 National Defense Act that was "signed off" by the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth of the Philippines General Douglas MacArthur. Stipulated a fleet of "mosquito boats" a nickname for the torpedo boats from the sound of their engines when running at speed. These were ordered from England as there were no torpedo boats being manufactured in the US at the time. The first boat that was delivered was a 55ft. vessel. The second was a 65ft. version both were powered by two Thorneycofft V12 engines. And a "cruising engine" was also provided that allowed the boats to travel at 15 knots in scielence. (Early stealth technology?). But since England declared war with Germany, no further boats would be sent to the Philippines even if these had been paid for.
Instead there was an attempt to fabricate the 55ft. CMB in the Philippines using locally available lumber. The first and only attempt was Q 113, which performed much better than it English built sister. The designation "Q" according to Ka Monching was possibly a means of MacArthur to flatter his "Kumpare" President of the Philippine Commonwealth Manuel Quezon.
"Q" for Quezon.
But another supprise was yet to appear. Our search led to the British Military Powerboat Trust, in South Hampton, England. Among the boats in their care was CMB 331. Rescued from being a derlict houseboat and a planned restoration with one of the Thorneycrofft descendants, CMB 331 was originally manufactured for the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines. When WW2 started the Royal Navy took possesion of all the boats for export to use them in defense against the likely German invasion. CMB 331 is the only surviving example of its type. The Imperial War Museum has the examples of the 40 foot and 65 foot CMBs of WW1. With our continued correspondence with the British Military Powerboat Trust(BMPT), Ka Monching was invited to attend their Annual General Meeting in September 2003. He was asked to present his experience as a Commanding Officer of a sistership of the Trust's CMB.
This also helped the BMPT raise interest in their efforts to begin the restoration of CMB 331 to operational status. They later recieved a Heritage Lottery Grant to help in this project.
Fast forward to present day. We have recieved copies of photographs of Q-112 from the collection of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virgina. And we followed a lead to obtain a copy of Life Magazine issue 9 February 1942, that featured an article and photographs of Carl Mydans. The story was about the success of US Navy PT Boat Commanding Officers, Lt. Bulkely, and LTJG. Cox. But the photographs of the PT boats are that of the Philippine Army Off Shore Patrol "Q-boats".
And as usual "Ka Monching" pulls another gem from his files; "Carl Mydans the Life Magazine photographer, was on my boat, Q-112 taking photographs while were running around Manila Bay." He passed away last year(2004), but his son Seth Mydans may still have access to the photos that he took of the Q-boats," Ka Monching said. "I belive there are more pictures than these we see in this issue of Life Magazine." he added.
We shall pursue this new lead on the Q-boats. We looked again at those poor quality photographs I mentioned in the early Philippine Navy history books. They were the same ones taken by Carl Mydans, and several more...perhaps they still exist in the negative files.
By Franz Tinio-Lopezhttp://www.reocities.com/pmcmssr