The Swedish Navy’s first Motor Torpedo boats were built in Italy and delivered shortly after the First World War. Designated Mtb 1 and Mtb 2, in 1925 the Navy ordered two more boats, although these two, Mtb 3 and Mtb 4, were of British design, built at the Thornycroft yard.
The Italian boats enjoyed only a relatively short service life in the Swedish navy, whereas it was not until 1934 that Mtb 3 and Mtb 4 were overhauled for their final period of active duty. The principal drawbacks of the MTB’s were that they had a limited operational radius and were not particularly seaworthy. Furthermore, they were expensive to maintain and the unreliability of the petrol-driven motors did little to enhance their reputation which resulted in that no new types of MTB’s were produced during the first part of the inter-war years.
However, the rapid advance of technical developments in the 1930’s, particularly in regard to the engines, lead to a heightened interest in the possibilities of the MTB on the part of the major naval powers. The size of the boats was increased, and although they were now slightly slower, had better sea-keeping qualities. In 1938 the Swedish Parliament authorised the purchase of four MTB’s from Britain, but following the outbreak of war in 1939 only two of these, the T3 and the T4, could be delivered.
Nonetheless, in 1940 Sweden managed to acquire four somewhat smaller boats from Italy.
Confronted with a European War, Sweden saw that a realistic and effective way must be found to meet the Navy’s pressing demand for new MTB’s. Given the prevalent political situation, it was impossible to purchase them from abroad, and consequently the sole remaining alternative was to design and produce them at home. This task was entrusted to Kockums Mekaniska Verkstad AB in Malmö, working in close cooperation with the Naval Administration Board.
In all, 15 MTB’s were ordered, the nos. T15-T18 and the somewhat larger T21 – T31 boats. After the war, the Naval Administration Board was instrumental in developing a new class of MTB which in many respects differed from their predecessors. The new T-boats were built with one-stepped hydroplane and the number of engines increased from two to three. Sea trials commenced with the first of the boats, the T32, in the autumn of 1950.
The T38 was launched at the Kockums yard in the spring of 1951, and during the summer of 1952 joined the Fourth MTB Division at the Gålö Naval Base. Following her final period of active service, in the summer of 1956 she arrived in Karlskrona where her pennant was lowered for the last time and her crew transferred to the T42.
The MTB’s were multi-purpose warships that usually operated in coastal waters. In an offensive capacity, they harried enemy warships and shipping, and conducted hit-and-run raids on harbours and base areas. Their defensive responsibilities would include mine laying, patrol-, escort-, guard- and reconnaissance duties.
Attacks were generally carried out during the hours of darkness. The range of their torpedoes was limited to about 2,000-3,000 metres and the element of surprise was therefore vital for the success of their missions.
The T38 was laid up at the Karlskrona Navy Yard for 22 years before she was sent to the County Museum in Malmö in 1976 for inclusion in their collection of vessels. In 1995 she returned to Karlskrona where, under the auspices of the National Naval Museum, she was restored to her original condition.