Sixty wood-hulled boats made in Brooklyn were carried across the North Atlantic to England on the decks of Liberty Ships seventy years ago. The patrol boats, each 83 feet long, were designed for anti-submarine patrol and coastal search and escort, but had been modified as rescue craft. Most had radar; some had sonar.
The group of small, wooden, gasoline-powered cutters, vulnerable to incendiary shells, was understandably nicknamed the ”Matchbox Fleet.” On June 6, 1944, these boats crossed the English Channel as U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One (ResFlo1), part of Operation Neptune/Overlord.
Inscription on the Rescue Flotilla 1 (The “Matchbox Fleet”) Memorial, harborside at Poole, Dorset, UK:
“From this Quay, 60 cutters of the United States Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla 1 departed for the Normandy Invasion, 6 June 1944. These 83 foot boats, built entirely of wood, and the 840 crewmembers were credited with saving the lives of 1437 men and 1 woman. In remembrance of the service of Rescue Flotilla 1, and with appreciation of the kindnesses of the people of Poole to the crews, this Plaque is given by the men and women of the United States Coast Guard.”