1. Home
  2. Adventures
  3. A thrilling ride on the South Coast aboard 1942 Royal Navy Motor Gun Boat, MGB 81
Wednesday 15th June 2022, 14:00-17:00 Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth PO1 3LJ

A thrilling ride on the South Coast aboard 1942 Royal Navy Motor Gun Boat, MGB 81

A afternoon of fast exhilarating high impact photography in the company of one of the fastest boats ever to be commissioned by the British Navy.


Book your place

Sold out

About this event

If you love high speed power boats and fast pace photography this is just what need! An afternoon on the Solent aboard one of the fastest boats to have been commissioned by the Royal Navy. Be amazed at just how fast this beautiful vessel is once we get out into open water. Try to catch our breath before the next turn! 

MGB81 was one of a batch of ten 71ft 6in boats ordered for the Royal Navy from the British Powerboat Company on 26th November 1941. She was launched on 26th June 1942. These boats were to the Mark V design, a development by George Selman from the earlier 70ft boats. The hull comprising double diagonal topsides and triple diagonal bottom, all in Mahogany. The design was generally well regarded in respect of construction, performance and seaworthiness amongst all of the 'short' boats. The Mark V hull form was used as the basis for both MTB and MGB with differences in superstructures and armaments. '81' was powered by three American Packard engines giving a total in excess of 3,600hp giving her a top speed of 50mph. She carried ten tonnes of aviation gasoline. Her main armament was a two pound semi automatic (pom pom), mounted forward (later replaced by a six pounder). She had twin 20mm Oerlikons mounted on the aft superstructure, various machine guns, a grenade launcher and up to 12 x 500lb depth charges. For her size she was the most heavily armed ship in the Navy. The first of these new boats, numbers 74 to 81 became the 8th MGB flotilla (later the 1st MTB flotilla), led by Lt Cdr Robert Hichens in MGB77. Hichens was to become the most Highly Decorated and one of the most respected and successful Skippers of the Light Coastal Forces in WW2. Although most Gunboats were reclassified as Motor Torpedo Boats, with torpedoes added in 1943, '81' remained a Gunboat. As a Gunboat, she led in the Landing Craft of the U.S. Invasion fleet on D Day 6th June 1944.

Our afternoon with MGB 81 will see us leave Portsmouth Historic Dockyard at 14.00 as you set sail on her out of the Harbour and into open water. Once clear of the speed restrictions hold on we will push out toward the famous Solent Forts where we will really see this icon of British Engineering push your photography skills. Not afraid of her and what she can achieve her skipper will show you just why this beautiful boat was loved by so many sailors during WWII. Our session will see us return to the Dockyard around 17.00. 

No WWII scene would be complete without correctly attired personnel, this being no exception; aboard 81 to complete the storyboard will be 2 or 3 Navy personal, as would have been seen when she was in every day Naval use. 81 will be shadowed by our photography boat throughout the trip.

This event will be limited to just 4 photographers/riders due to insurance.

Images courtesy of Mark Sutherland

Event requirements


  • Spare batteries
  • Camera
  • Lenses
  • Camera protection - rain covers etc

Other things you should bring

  • Snacks
  • Bottled water


  • All levels welcome


  • Low

Other essentials

  • Sturdy outdoor shoes
  • Warm clothing
  • Wet weather gear

Event location