History and Work of the Small Craft Group

The Small Craft Group was created in 1993, when it became apparent that military small craft enthusiasts were unaware of the histories and technical data of craft within their field of research. The six founder members, Terry & Tony Holtham, Geoffrey Hudson, Phil Simons, Mike Jennings and Dave Sowdon, decided to co-ordinate their efforts of research to help each other, and formed the Small Craft Group (SCG). Each founder member had certain amounts of unique information that was needed by other members. This was eagerly passed on by means of round robin letters and phone calls, often with startling results for each of the founder members. It threw up a lot of contentious information for each one of them, mainly because the sources of the information were unique, and that it was mostly obtained from official military sources. Impeccable source verification meant that any doubts were soon discarded and progress was then easily maintained and led to class lists being completed including vessels that were never completed, some vessels only ordered or that were completed commercially.  As class and type lists became longer and fates needed researching, the sources of information were further investigated by others in order to challenge the outstanding disputed information and to check whether other classes of craft were still hidden in archives and were, for example, only in the projected stages of construction.

This also led to other researchers including the late Dick Dennison, Roy Wilson, and George Ransome joining the SCG while the photographers Nick Hall, James Goss and Leo Van Ginderen helped immensely in this early stage of the SCG. Information from visits to ports, marinas, estuaries and boat yards, and notes from members locating craft of all shapes and sizes, some of which previously they would have walked by led to the introduction of Trip Reports, one of  which  formed the centre piece of our first Journal; a report on the craft located in and around Bristol Docks.

On our visits around the UK and abroad, we often came across very interested owners of craft associated with our research and a mutual interest was quickly established with the owners to ensure as much information could be gleaned from them regarding the craft’s identity and its history that was known to them. In return SCG members would trace the service history of the craft and provide the owner in return a Boat Report. Obtaining photographs from the owner(s) was essential. These photographs in turn provided our experts with photographic evidence to check on and to compare with their own previous notes on the vessel or craft type. These Boat Reports were then included into the newly produced journal to highlight the Trip Reports. This was especially the case when a new find, called a Survivor, was discovered.

As the Group and its activities grew and Tony Holtham assumed the role of SCG Secretary and Treasurer. The need for a bank account led to the establishment of a SCG constitution and the identification of group aims and objectives. This in turn led to the development of formal links to the Society’s then Naval Sub Committee (NSC) and a gift of £200 from the NSC to fund the cost of printing the journal which is edited by Terry Holtham assisted by sub-editors Mike Jennings and Tony Holtham.

For many years Phil Simons had made lists of Survivors which were vessels of the three armed forces which were still being utilised as houseboats, pleasure craft, workboats, commercial craft, and all other un-recognisable sorts of use. Seeing their hull forms urged him to try and identify their origins not only for his own interest but also for the owners of the various craft listed. Once his avenues of research had been exhausted he approached others, including the founder members of the SCG, to provide the military history and identification. These lists of survivors are on-going, not only are new survivors being found in the UK, but also abroad as more and more members venture abroad on holiday and researchers conducting visits to foreign ports for their own interests.

Their reports, whether a trip report, boat report or report on a survivor, once read in the journal, gave our readership the chance to search their own records, photographs and other material, to see if they could add, correct or confirm our investigations and identifications. This new information is mentioned in the Look Astern section of each journal. These articles, read by members and others with access to the SCG Journal, developed further information on the subject and photographs become released to the Group for future inclusion in another journal. This approach, coupled to extensive research in official archives led to the publications about RAF Marine Craft produced by the SCG.



The British Armed Forces Small Craft Group’s aims are to:

Obtain information about Small Craft

Verify its accuracy

Safeguard its existence by copying it

Reproduce it in a manner such that other members of the SCG and associate experts can benefit from it


If you wish to join the Small Craft Group or submit material for publication in the Journal please contact Tony Holtham at ajholtham@hotmail.com.