The British Mk1 LCM (Landing
Craft Mechanised) was the type allocated to
the men of 601 LCM Flotilla. They were some 44 feet in length by 14 feet across the
bows. The vast majority of the 500 British built Mk1s came from the workshops of
the Great Western Railway at Swindon in Wiltshire and from the Southern
Railways workshops at Eastleigh, Hampshire. Others were built in various other metal-working
factories that were constructed between 1940 and 1944.
[Photo opposite of a Mk1 LCM of the type allocated to the
men of 601 LCM Flotilla. This particular craft, HMLCM 228 took no part in the
D-Day operation but LCM 229, the next in line, was ‘Leader’ of 601 LCM carrying
Flotilla Officer Derek Green RM at the point of departure from Itchenor bound
for Normandy. Courtesy of Danny Lovell.]
They were designed by Thorneycroft and could carry a 16 ton tank or 6 jeeps or 100 troops and
carried pennant numbers in the range from LCM 1 through to LCM 500.They were
driven by 2-shaft Thorneycroft or Chrysler petrol motors producing around 120
brake horse power and a
speed of just over 7 knots. Armament comprised two .303 calibre Lewis machine guns. The crew
comprised 6 men with an officer being assigned to every third craft.
American Mk 3 LCM were diesel driven craft designed by Andrew Higgins.
He also designed and built the LCVP (Landing
Craft Vehicle (Personnel), the USA equivalent of the British LCA (Landing Craft
Assault). Many LCM3 served with the Royal
Navy and Royal Marines under Lend-Lease. They were 50 feet in length by 14 feet
across the bows and were driven by 2-shaft Diesel motors B.H.P 220/450 giving a
speed of between 8-11 knots. Armament comprised two .50 calibre machine guns and could
carry a 30 ton tank or 60 troops. Her crew complement was 3 men.
Preparations for D-Day
Prior to June 6th 1944 the British built Mk1 LCMs of 601 Flotilla were based
at Shoreham Harbour on the south coast of England to the west of Brighton. In a later re-organisation of ‘F’ Build-Up
Squadron, of which 601 Flotilla was part, it moved to shore base HMS Sea Serpent
at Bracklesham Bay where the craft were moored at Itchenor Creek near
Chichester. During this period exercises and practice landings continued
unabated and half the men and craft of 601 took part in the review of the
Invasion Fleet by King George V1 just before D-Day. At that time the flotilla
complement comprised some 6 officers and 156 other ranks including reserve
Shortly before D-Day the administration officer, reserve naval officer and
reserve crews moved to a port of embarkation to board a troopship while the
engineer officer with part of the maintenance party joined a workshop barge, all
with the intention of rejoining the flotilla after the initial landings. Around
the same time the craft of 601 carried out loading operations in the Solent with
payloads varying from transport vehicles for beach parties, command trucks for
the assault tanks, ammunition trailers pulled by jeeps and crated ammunition to
replenish the supplies following the initial assault.
On June 2nd 1944 a briefing took place at HMS Sea Serpent about the landing
beaches, enemy defences and the opposition likely to
be encountered. The invasion was planned for June 5 but due to bad weather was
rescheduled for June 6 but not before many craft had set out in order to arrive
on the beaches on the earlier date. They were stopped and turned about. This
added to the discomfort of the men who by then had been confined to their craft
for four days for security
Finally, on June 5th, the eve of D-Day, the 16 Mk1 LCMs of 601 LCM Flotilla,
accompanied by their sister craft of the 600 and 604 Flotillas and the Mk3 LCMs
of 650, 651 and 652 Flotillas weighed anchor and proceeded in single line
ahead down Itchenor Creek having come out of Birdham Pool. The captain of HMS
Sea Serpent took the salute from each craft as it passed the pier-head.
The full complement of ‘F’ Build-Up Squadron at that time comprised 96 Mk1
LCMs - 6 flotillas comprising 16 LCMs, each craft with a 6
man crew, they being a coxswain, stoker/driver and 4 deck hands. Every third
craft carried a boat officer, the three craft together being a sub-division of
the whole; a total of 608 men. Whether or not each and
every single craft assigned to the squadron was present when they set out cannot
be confirmed. According to official records at the point of departure 601 LCM
Flotilla comprised Mk1 LCMs 166,
*168, *180, 199, *216, *226, *229, 238, 256, 266, 276, 298, *330, 339, *346 and
*383. * Signifies War Loss in Normandy during June/July 1944.
Carried in LCM 229 was 22 year old Flotilla Officer, Captain Derek Inglis
Green, RM (photo) making the craft ‘Flotilla Leader’. Green was born in the
village of Ben Rhydding, Ilkley, on the outskirts of Bradford, West Yorkshire
and had been educated at the famous Rugby Public School in Warwickshire, the
school being immortalised in the famous book ‘Tom Brown's Schooldays’ by Thomas
Hughes. He joined the Royal Marines in May 1941 prior to which he had worked in
his father’s firm of timber merchants at Silsden, Keighley, Yorkshire. His
brother Captain Jack Green had been taken prisoner in 1943 whilst serving with
an infantry regiment. Their father, John Green, had once been captain of the
Yorkshire and England rugby team.
After departing Itchenor the squadron proceeded to the rendezvous for FORCE J
(Juno beach) the craft being positioned about 2 to 3 miles off the Nab Tower
which is to the eastwards of the Isle of Wight. All the craft carried extra fuel
for the sea trip in Jerry cans strapped into every available space.
On June 6th 1944, commencing at approximately 0400 hours, the craft began
moving out to make for the beaches of Normandy. Weather and sea conditions,
although better than the previous day, were still difficult and the craft
experienced problems maintaining station in the line. Because of this the craft
LCM began to proceed independently for the Normandy beaches navigating along one
of the 'swept' channels cleared of enemy mines however, some craft soon found
themselves in difficulty.
Captain Greens 'Leader' LCM 229 with Marine Coxswain F J Dorrel, boat officer
Sub. Lt Page RNVR and Sub. Lt Herbert Pye RNVR broke down in mid-channel, the
crew being picked up by the minesweeper HMS Poole. LCM 346 whose
complement included Marines Timms and Billingham, arrived off Juno beach
at 2030 hours on the evening of June 6th. At some point the 346 was in
collision with another craft and holed badly portside (left) stern. The crew
recorded being lifted by the USLC(G) 893. It would seem from that point onwards
that LCM 346 was no longer operational being recorded damaged beyond economical
Despite the unfavourable sea and weather conditions the craft found their way
to their appointed places on Juno beach in the late evening of D-Day. Initially
they came under bombing but their cargoes were successfully put ashore. Enemy activity was later reduced to hit and run air
attacks, the dropping of many anti-personnel bombs and machine gunning
especially at night. The hazards of the sea and beaches proved to be a far
greater danger than enemy activity.
Initially the men of 601 LCM flotilla and those of
other flotillas lived aboard the Depot Repair Ship SS Ascanius. It arrived off
Juno Beach on the morning of June 8th having departed the River Thames the
previous day to take up her station at Gooseberry 4... a harbour comprising sunken block-ships
which was part of Mulberry A.
Following the storm that swept the Normandy coast between June 19th-22nd in
which so many craft were damaged or driven ashore and wrecked 601 LCM
transferred to the shore where they lived in dug-outs in a large field close to
Bernieres-sur-Mer Railway Station. Martin Tyrell recalled that during the 3 day storm 8 craft of the flotilla
were lost but records available on 601 do not appear to support that
belief. The records also throw doubt on the accounts of 11
craft being lost on July 21st 1944 unless this refers to craft lost from those
assembled including craft in tow and not necessarily part of 601 LCM Flotilla.
It's not surprising that confusion reigned during this frantic and frenetic
In all, the craft of 601 LCM remained on station for a period of 6 weeks
during which time the men and craft, with brief intervals for rest, ferried
every conceivable type of stores and equipment from supply ships to the
beaches. As the need for 'ferrying' craft diminished the number of LCM Squadrons
was halved including 601 LCM and they were ordered
back to England. It seems likely that craft of 650 LCM, or elements of it,
were also ordered to return leaving the remainder of F Squadron in place on Juno
For the homeward journey unmanned LCMs were assigned to
LCTs (Landing Craft, Tank) to be returned to England under tow. By the evening
of July 20th the craft of 601 LCM were lying in Gooseberry 4 stored and
provisioned for the journey. Each manned craft had an unmanned LCM alongside for
the short trip out to the LCTs anchored nearby.
The LCMs were not in the best of condition after 6 weeks of intensive ship to
shore ferrying often in rough seas and high winds and there had been little time for
servicing and repairs. 601 veteran Royal Marine Jim ‘Nobby’ Clark
confirmed that his craft had certainly seen better days and was not in very good
condition. His LCM was one of those lost on the journey.
At 0430 hours on the morning of July 21st 1944 601 LCM Flotilla weighed
anchor and proceeded independently to rendezvous just off the beach-head with
the LCT Flotilla.. The task of transferring the unmanned craft to the LCTs was completed by 0540 hours and the
LCM flotilla formed up astern
of one of the LCTs and a course was set for the swept channel. A thick blanket of mist descended which made
station keeping extremely difficult and which raised concerns about craft becoming
lost. For reasons of safety at 0700 hours the decision was taken to anchor. By
0930 hours the mist had cleared sufficiently to allow the flotilla to resume its
journey in satisfactory weather and sea conditions.
A total of 15 manned LCMs formed part of the homeward bound convoy including ‘Leader’ LCM 1059 carrying Flotilla Officer Captain Green. The 1059
was a Mk3 LCM, an American built, diesel driven craft of 651 LCM
Flotilla. It was larger and more powerful than the British LCMs and had been seconded for the journey home
because it had superior navigation capabilities.
As the day wore on the weather gradually deteriorated, initially, the change
was hardly perceptible, one moment the sea being calm with a rather heavy
atmosphere and then, the craft were being battered by heavy turbulent seas
coupled with thunderstorms. By 1720 hours the sea had become so rough that little or no
headway was being made despite engines being used at full throttle. It was
decided that the craft should return to Juno beach not the least of the
considerations being that petrol supplies for the
British Mk1 LCMs were getting low.
All Haste to Juno
Prior to giving the order to turn about and return to Juno beach, Captain
Derek Green, in the more powerful LCM 1059, fell out of line several times in
order to round up the stragglers. When the craft had re-grouped a course was set
for a return to the beach-head - they had been at sea for thirteen hours and
some were beginning to feel the strain and falling behind. One LCM developed
engine trouble soon after they had turned about and Sub Lieutenant Colin
Backhouse in LCM 226 turned back to render assistance. The decision was made to
take the crew off and the manoeuvre was started but the 226 and
unknown craft collided causing damage to the stern of LCM 226 which put her
steering out of action. The rescue craft had become unmanageable and was itself
in need of assistance.
Flotilla Officer Green went alongside to render assistance and both crews
were lifted by LCM 1059. The total number carried by her at that stage was three officers and twenty nine other
ranks which included her crew, the rescued men, the
reserve crew and part of the flotilla administration staff. Whilst LCM 1059 was engaged in
this operation Captain Green ordered the rest of the flotilla to return to the beach-head with
By this time most craft and crews were suffering the detrimental effects of
the rough sea, strong winds, heavy rain and sea water pouring over the sides. They soon became dispersed in to the
darkness, 5 craft eventually reporting back to the squadron while other craft
attained the beach-head at various points. (Here the historical record is far
from precise. On the one hand it's claimed that 11
craft were lost on passage home but that detail did not form part of Martin
Tyrell’s recollection of events.)
LCM 1059 - A Fateful
On completion of her rescue operation LCM 1059 was isolated in the darkness
of the English Channel with her then complement of thirty two men. Her remaining
fuel supply appeared sufficient for the journey home to England and for some
three hours thereafter reasonable progress was made. However, 1059 was becoming
sluggish and investigation revealed that water was getting into the aft
ballast tank through a leak in
the propeller gland. Attempts to stem the leak were made but they proved
fruitless. The water ingress continued and LCM 1059 became more and more sluggish.
The officers aboard put lifebelts on the men too overcome with sea-sickness to
do it for themselves and at 21.30 hours on the evening of July 21st LCM 1059 was
overwhelmed and sank.
Every man aboard had some buoyancy aid such as a Mae West or a cork lifebelt
but despite this the sole survivor was Sergeant Latham. He later recalled that
spirits were high when the decision was made to continue on to England. The men
rightly felt that their stronger and more powerful craft could safely complete
the journey while the
remainder of the flotilla, in the less sturdy Mk1 LCMs, sought
the relative safety of the Normandy beaches. It was a tragic twist of fate for
the men of 601 LCM Flotilla who 3 hours earlier had suffered the loss of LCM
226, experienced the joy of rescue by LCM 1059 only to find themselves once more
at the mercy of the turbulent seas.
"Lady Luck" smiled on Sergeant Latham the following morning when he was picked up at
first light after spending the night at the mercy of
the sea. Visibility was very poor but he had drifted into the path of a motor launch patrolling off
the beach-head. The launch immediately conducted a search of the area followed
by sea and air searches by Coastal Air Forces from Portsmouth but, sadly, all to
Veteran Royal Marine
Stoker Jim ‘Nobby' Clark was amongst the men of 601 who attained Juno beach.
He could not remember how long he had been in the water or when he had been
pulled clear by a rescue tug, but he did recall seeing the body of
Flotilla Officer, Captain Derek Inglis Green floating by as the tug moved away.
His body was never recovered.
It seems that Jim was picked from the water in
isolation, most likely in a state of shock. He did not name his craft or his five comrades. Once on the beach
he met Sergeant Latham and only then did he appreciate the full horror of
what had taken place the night before. [Photos left; Nobby
Clark in his "khakis" and "blues" courtesy of his son Jim.]
Royal Marine Corporal John
Lordon spent a considerable time at the mercy of the elements before being
retrieved from the sea. He never again saw active service. After recovering from
his ordeal he spent the remainder of the war inducting new recruits into the
The LCM carrying Royal Marine
Jim Colvin eventually attained safety after being taken in tow by a rescue
craft, possibly a tug. Colvin and his crew were later repatriated to England
where they, not surprisingly asked questions about the fate of their comrades on
July 21st. His persistence appears to have earned him a reputation as
a ‘trouble maker’ and his questions remained unanswered when he was later
transferred to the Far East. At the end of the war he
returned his campaign medals to the War Office in protest against the apparently
indifferent attitude of the military authorities and their silence on the
matter. Jim Colvin’s son recalls that his father made it quite clear to the War
Office where they could stick his medals! [Photo; Jim
Colvin courtesy of his son James Colvin.]
Royal Marine, John William Collins
worked locally to home in Bournemouth, Dorset, before
he volunteered to join the Royal Marines in 1939.
He was known to
friends and family as ‘Bill’ and was engaged
to be married to Eileen Lodge. He
served in 601 LCM
Flotilla and, sadly, was
lost at sea on the 21st July 1944.
Roll of Honour
601 LCM FLOTILLA
JULY 21st 1944
Royal Marine Captain Derek Inglis Green
Sub. Lt Colin Backhouse RNVR
Royal Marine Lt. Edward Meras Aylan-Parker
Royal Marine Sergeant Frank Harris
Royal Marine Sergeant Ernest Spence
Royal Marine Corporal Arthur Tidy
Royal Marine Corporal Joseph Barber
Royal Marine Eric Beadle M.I.D
Royal Marine Edward Knight
Royal Marine John Tillie
Royal Marine Maurice Bradshaw
Royal Marine John Collins
Royal Marine Ralph Jellicoe
Royal Marine Thomas Lowe
Royal Marine Kenneth McKenzie
Royal Marine John Marshall
Royal Marine Jack Pattison
Royal Marine Daniel Sharp
Royal Marine Ronald Smith
Royal Marine Peter Brookman
Royal Marine Jack Child
Royal Marine William Dunwoody
Royal Marine Hillary Edwards
Royal Marine William Goddard
Royal Marine Thomas Hamilton
Royal Marine Reginald Holmes
Royal Marine William Stewart
Royal Marine Harvey Taylor
Stoker Thomas Race RN
Royal Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Langan
Royal Marine Ronald Andrews
650 LCM FLOTILLA
Royal Marine Corporal William Daw
Royal Marine Walter Tillett
Royal Marine John Petrie
Royal Marine James West
Royal Marine William Turnbull
Royal Marine Henry Diviny
FOR THE FALLEN
They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the Sun
And in the morning
We will remember them.
THE ROYAL MARINES PRAYER
O Eternal Lord God, who through many
generations has united and inspired the members of our Corps, grant thy
blessing, we beseech thee, on Royal Marines serving around the Globe. Bestow
thy Crown of Righteousness upon all our endeavours and may our Laurels be
those of gallantry and honour, loyalty and courage. We ask these things in
the name of Him, whose courage never failed, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ,
The Itchenor Memorial
In 1951 a memorial seat was donated by the ‘D-Day Survivors Society’ who wished
to commemorate the kindness shown to them by local residents of Itchenor during
the time they were stationed there while preparing for the invasion of Normandy. The
Memorial Seat was dedicated at a place overlooking Chichester
Harbour, on July 21st 1951, seven years to the day after the tragedy that befell
601 LCM Flotilla in the summer of 1944. Since that event an annual service has
taken place within the first week of June. Captain Angus Forrest RM taking the salute at the
601 ROYAL MARINE
IN MEMORY OF THE
AND MEN OF
THE ROYAL NAVY AND
WHO LOST THEIR
WHEN RETURNING FROM
JULY 21st 1944.
Photo 1. Before the unveiling of the seat.
[Photo courtesy of Steve Knight.]
Photo 2. The first dedication
ceremony on July 21st 1951 with once Lieutenant later Captain Martin Tyrell of
601 LCM Flotilla standing immediately behind and to the left of the presiding
vicar. [Photo courtesy of Chris Bradshaw, grandson of Maurice Bradshaw.]
Enlarged photo of Captain Angus Forrest RM
taking the salute at the ceremony. [Photo courtesy of Chris Bradshaw,
grandson of Maurice Bradshaw.]
Veteran Royal Marine Reg Blake who served with 803 LCV(P)
Flotilla in Normandy. When he passed through Itchenor in 1976 he saw the
dilapidated condition of the seat dedicated to the men of 601 LCM and resolved
to do something about it. Together with friend Dennis Drew and
with the help of Royal Marines "Globe & Laurel" magazine, local newspapers and
the local council, he set in train a course of events that raised the funds from
local people and ex-paratrooper David Purley GM who became famous in the world
of motor racing. Purley was awarded the George Medal after attempting to rescue
fellow racing driver Roger Williamson following a fatal crash during the 1973
Dutch Grand Prix. On
June 6th 1978 a brand new seat, far superior in quality to the original, was
dedicated. [This photo and 4, 5, 6 & 7 below
courtesy of veteran RM Reg Blake.]
Dr. Martin Tyrell reading the Roll of Honour of the men of the Royal
Marines and Royal Navy who were lost on July 21st 1944 whilst serving
in 601 LCM Flotilla.. Standing to his right is the Royal Navy Padre from
Portsmouth. On his immediate left is George Morrison and then John Roles who
also sailed in the 601 Flotilla.
Photo 6. Veteran Royal Marines of 803 LCV(P) Flotilla at the
Itchenor Memorial seat Circa 1995. L - R were Phil Crampton, Andy Anderson, Ray
Hemsley, Reg Blake, Ken Reeves and Ron Dunham.
Photo 7. Veteran Royal Marines paying their respects to fallen
comrades on June 6th 2008. Standing on the extreme left of the group next to the RM bugler is
former Lieutenant (later Captain) Martin Tyrell RM who survived the tragedy that
befell the 601 LCM Flotilla on July 21st 1944. Sadly he passed away in May 2009.
Photo 8. Three veterans of 803 LCV(P) Flotilla at Itchenor at the
same event in 2008. In
the centre is Reg Blake seen above in photo 3. With him were Ray (Yorkie)
Hemsley left and Phil Crampton right.
2010 Service. A remembrance service was held at
1100hrs on Friday 4th June at Itchenor Hard to honour those members
of the 601 LCM Flotilla who lost their lives on the 21st July 1944.
The service was organised by Mr Peter Dean and Mr Peter Arnold of the Itchenor
Society and was attended by 190 people. The welcome address was given by Reg
Blake of the Royal Marines followed by the History of the Memorial Seat by Lt
Col John Davis OBE. Captain Johnny Talbot RN read the 32 names of the members of
the flotilla lost at sea. Mr Peter Dean, Chairman of the Itchenor Society, laid
a wreath on behalf of the residents of Itchenor. There followed the Last Post
and a one minute silence before the Reveille. Finally the Exhortation and
Prayers were led by the Reverend John Williams. [Photos below
courtesy of Peter Arnold, Honorary Secretary, Itchenor Memorial Society.]
Men Who Sailed with 601 (and not included elsewhere in this account).
Royal Marine Corporal Arthur (Mick)
Victor Tidy, PO/X 118747, 601 LCM Flotilla. Died 21 July 1944, Age 19. His
name and details are on the 1939 - 1945 Portsmouth Naval Memorial.
Mick was the beloved youngest son in a family of five children
and all were devastated by his loss. What made his death more poignant for the
family was that he couldn't swim. However, he was very keen to do his duty and
to serve his country. Added
here, in his memory, by his niece, Sandra Garrett.
Royal Marine Maurice Bradshaw
sailed with LCM 601 Flotilla and was
one of those who died on the 21st July 1944. Before the war he had been given a
trial for Portsmouth Football Club. In the photo opposite he is on the
extreme left of the front row. What the occasion was or the identity of the
group is not known for certain but thought to be an army football team.
Royal Marine William Alfred Goddard was lost at sea on the 21st July 1944.
He was born William Alfred Fletcher but through adoption he became known by
his new family as Peter Goddard. [Photo courtesy of Duncan R G Jolly.]
Royal Marine Edward Albert Knight whose name is on the
Roll of Honour above. [Photo courtesy of his nephew Steve Knight].
More photos and brief biographical details welcome. Please use "Information
for Website" on our "Contact Us" page.
601 Flotilla Composition
For those with a deep interest in the subject here are details of the craft
that formed 601 LCM Flotilla throughout the period June 5th through to July 31st
1944. For the period up to June 25 they are as recorded above in the text for
D-Day. After the severe storm which raged for several days from June 19 the
composition of the Flotilla changed as craft lost or damaged were replaced.
Thanks are due to Mike Long who obtained the information from the National
Archive at Kew, London.
Normandy war losses from 601 Flotilla were listed as; 168. 180, 216,
226, 229, 330, 346, 383 and from 650 LCM
1197, 1212, 1240, 1278.
601 LCM Flotilla
168, 180, 199, 226, 266, 276, 298, 339, 346, 383, 387, 411, 428, 449,
LCM(3)’s 502 and 511.
Leader LCM 229 is missing on the above date so must assume that news of her
loss had filtered through. LCM 346 seems to have been non-operational since
her arrival in Normandy on June 6th when she was damaged....that situation
appears to have continued throughout.
166, 168, 180, 199, 236, 238, 256, 266, 276, 298, 339, 346, 383, 411, 449.
On the above date166 and 168 recorded in need of repair. The 346 and 383
recorded damaged beyond economical repair.
166, 168, 180, 199, 236, 256, 266, 276, 298, 339, 346, 383, 411, 428, 449.
Recorded in need of repair on this date are 180, 236, 238, 256, 276 with 346
and 383 still non-operational.
168, 180, 199, 226, 236, 238, 256, 266, 276, 298, 339, 346, 383, 411, 428,
LCM 166 missing from list. LCM 226 also shown present although believed lost
on July 21st.
166, 168, 180, 199, 226, 236, 238, 266, 276, 298, 339, 346, 383, 411, 449,
LCM(3) 502 and 511.
LCM 226 still recorded present.
199, 226, 266, 298, 339, 346, 383, 411, 428, 449, LCM(3) 502 and 511.
LCM 166 missing from list. Although no details are recorded against any of
the craft on July 31st still listed are LCM 226 and 346 and 383.
Mk3 LCM 650 Flotilla:
1100, 1164, 1197, 1212, 1213, 1214, 1215, 1216, 1234, 1235, 1236, 1240,
1241, 1242, 1277, 1278.
LCM in italics are ‘War Losses’ in Normandy.
Editorial Note; The craft of LCM Flotilla 650 of F Squadron have once more
been included in this account which is primarily about LCM Flotilla 601. For the
sake of accuracy it should be noted that there is no documentary proof that 650
was involved in the same crossing of the English Channel as 601 on July 21st
1944 although the author strongly suspects that they were. Furthermore the Royal Marines lost from 650 LCM may have been lost from various craft of
the flotilla or may have formed the crew of one of the LCMs recorded as lost.
Of those lost from 601 LCM Flotilla only two have known marked graves - Royal Marine Corporal Thomas Langan who rests in Dannes Cemetery and Royal
Marine Ronald Andrews who is buried in Calais. Royal Marine Henry Diviny of 650
LCM is interred at Boulougne Eastern Cemetery. [Photos courtesy
of Robert Guthrie. Middle front row is Tommy Langan in the late 1930s. He was a
promising football player and was capped for the Scottish Junior International
A Close Encounter
Morrison RM. For some time prior to June 6th Morrison had been employed as flotilla clerk. He was regarded as Number 1 Reserve Coxswain in charge of Number 1
Reserve Crew and as such was not part of a specific crew so an LCM was not allocated to
Prior to setting off for Normandy Captain Green gave permission for Morrison
take passage with his friend Lance Corporal Thomas Langan. They had been
great friends since they ‘joined up’ together in May 1943 but immediately prior to departure the decision was reversed and
Morrison took passage in the LCM of Coxswain Lance
Corporal Bambrick. That change of mind by Captain Green doubtless saved Morrison’s life
Corporal Thomas Langan and his crew perished in the storm.
As they set off for England on that July day Morrison recalled that the weather
sunny but later it became very foggy and that they had problems seeing
the craft ahead of them. While struggling in the fog Bambrick's craft hit some
obstruction, possibly the craft ahead of
them. They immediately reduced speed and soon after they lowered the
Kedge anchor to wait for the fog to lift.
When the fog eventually lifted Bambrick's LCM was by itself. The LCT
that had been guiding them had disappeared and no other craft or ship was in
view. They resumed passage to England using a due north compass bearing. It
might not take them back to the safety of Itchenor but they would certainly arrive somewhere on the
south coast of England.
During the afternoon a landing craft was sighted ahead of them. It appeared
to be abandoned with its Kedge anchor down and the cable apparently
wrapped around the screws. They went
alongside because Bambrick's stoker/driver hoped to find petrol to supplement
his diminishing supply. However, the sea had turned decidedly rough and attempting to pull
alongside would not prove easy. After several aborted attempts the idea of tying
up alongside was abandoned. The only boarding option left was to jump aboard as the two craft closed together.
Since there were no volunteers and given that he was senior person on
board, Morrison decided to attempt it. The first pass failed but on his second attempt
was successful and he immediately began checking the petrol supply. Most of
the cans were full and they were quickly transferred by way of holding the two
craft together by means of a boat-hook and then throwing empty and full cans
back and forth between the two craft. When completed Morrison returned to his
Later that day the stoker/driver reported that one engine had stopped and
would not re-start but he opined that the craft could still
maintain headway and continue her journey to England. As day turned to night the storm increased in its ferocity and eventually all
the crew were overcome by sea-sickness with the exception of Morrison himself. Throughout the period he
had stood in the cockpit facing the wind constantly chewing
hard biscuits. It was that he believed that kept the sea-sickness at
bay. The memory of that night of July 21st 1944 never left him The waves were enormous and rose well
above the ramp. At times he was sure that neither he nor the men with him would
survive, expecting the craft to sink at any minute after being overwhelmed by the sea.
Morrison had never been so scared in all his life and the fact that the remainder of
the crew were overtaken by sea-sickness and unable to share his concerns did not help.
They appeared to be quite oblivious to
the enormity of the situation they were facing. It is often said that people
near to death by drowning see their life pass before their eyes. It was
certainly true for Morrison that day.
By the morning of July 22nd the storm had abated and the crew had recovered.
Throughout the night the stoker/driver had managed to keep the one engine
working despite the fact that he spent the night sitting in the engine room
vomiting into a bucket firmly clasped between his knees. But their problems were
only beginning. Shortly after daylight the stoker/driver declared that the second engine had stopped and
would not restart. Lance Corporal Bambrick's LCM was now without power and
drifting. The spirits of the men, already low, dropped further when it was
noticed that the bows of the LCM were getting lower in the water, the craft was
taking in water forward and there was no means of stopping it.
They concluded that the bows had been damaged the previous
day causing the forward bilge tanks to fill up. Later in the day when
the sea became choppy more water was washed aboard causing the bows to
sink even lower in the water. It was agreed to lighten the LCM by
throwing all unused petrol cans, kit bags and rifles over the side. Boots were
removed and the men put on their ‘Mae Wests’ and made ready to ‘abandon ship’ if
required to do so.
On the point o despair salvation came initially as smoke on the horizon which
later as small ships in ‘line abreast’ formation. The ships were a fleet of
minesweepers doing a sweep and Bambrick's LCM had drifted into an
un-swept channel ! The signalman made contact with the minesweepers using SOS
and one of them went
alongside to take the LCM in tow which was soon aborted when it became evident that
the speed of the minesweeper was pulling the LCM under. The minesweeper stopped, pulled the LCM alongside
and took off her crew.
A jar of Rum was immediately produced and the crew of the LCM were ‘ordered’
to drink. They were soaked to the skin and their uniforms were white with
salt. At the time Morrison was a teetotaller but the Rum made him feel much
better even though he hated the taste. Despite the beneficial effect of the rum
he never drank the stuff again. He reported to the Captain and gave an account of events that had taken place
from the point of departing Juno beach until the SOS was picked up. Arrangements were put in hand to check the landing craft's engines
and the degree of flooding.
The LCM crew borrowed some naval uniforms while their own dried
off and they were given a first class meal in the seamen’s mess followed by a
well earned sleep. Space was limited so Morrison
slept on a steel companion-way above the engine room. The LCM crew were so tired
they could likely have slept standing up !
The following day Morrison was informed that the landing craft had been
pumped dry but that both engines were still refusing to work and were beyond
repair. A tug was called-up to tow them back to Juno beach to join up again with 601 LCM Flotilla. Back in their own uniforms
again the crew left the minesweeper to take passage on the tug, with two
volunteers from the LCM crew manning the landing craft.
Later that day they arrived back on Juno beach to be met by Lieutenant
Martin Tyrell, who, to their great surprise, was delighted to see them. It was
then that Morrison and Bambrick and the other crew members of the LCM were given
the news of the terrible loss of life during the storm and that they themselves
had been posted ‘Missing Presumed Killed’. Later at the rank of Captain, Martin
Tyrell took command of 601 LCM Flotilla replacing Flotilla Officer Derek Inglis
Green lost on July 21st 1944.
Eventually Morrison and the other survivors from the landing craft found
themselves back in England. During the passage home the weather was typical of
summer......no wind, no rain and a calm sea, after arriving back in Portsmouth
they made their way back to the place where it all began - Itchenor.
As this is being written during May of 2010 I have been involved with the
veterans of the LST and Landing Craft Association for almost sixteen years, that
beginning just prior to the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy
in 1994. Initially, I was involved in private research, begun in the hope of
answering a question raised by a family member, that particular project kept me
engaged for a period of a year during which time I became very involved with
veterans of this association and indeed veterans world-wide, for them all, I
have the utmost respect and admiration and I count myself privileged indeed to
have unlimited access to them.
This association in 1994 comprised many more veterans than it does today, the
pass of time is now rapidly taking its toll of those who now remain within its
ranks and there is talk of the association finally disbanding in 2012, if not
before. That day, as and when it finally arrives, will be a very sad day indeed.
During the course of my early involvement I spoke to many veterans about
their experiences during the war years and sought details of the landing craft
or ship they were with at different times and the engagements in which they had
taken part during the period 1942 to 1946. Some had been at Dieppe in August
1942 and with others, had gone on to serve in the
Mediterranean. Amongst them were many who had been recalled for Operation
Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6th 1944. For many men arriving
on the beaches that day it was their first taste of action, sadly, for many men,
it proved to be the last action in which they would ever take part...!!!!
Even for survivors, the experience left an indelible mark that was impossible
to erase. Nobby Clark's
son regrets that his father did not live to read this account of the tragic fate
of the 601 LCM Flotilla. He feels that if his father had read it, many of
the ghosts that remained with him from 1944 until the day he died, would have
been laid to rest.
Many events were spoken of during the course of my numerous conversations,
two tragedies always mentioned it seemed to me were the loss of men and craft of
the 9th LCT Flotilla off Land’s End during October 1944, now recalled on this
website by myself, Bryan Shipston and Mike Long under the title ‘The Lost
The other, was the loss of the men and craft of the Royal Marine and Royal
Navy manned 601 LCM Flotilla returning to England from Normandy on July 21st
1944. Although many veterans spoke of it, very few it seemed had any knowledge
of what actually took place that day, many times I recall veteran Royal Marines
speaking of the tragedy saying to me ‘601 LCM should never have been sent back
given the weather at the time’...........!!!
What I lacked then was the true detail of events that took place, it is only
during recent times that the truth has become known to me. At now approaching 66 years down the road since that July day in 1944 I record
here what details have come to hand concerning the loss of the men of 601 LCM
Flotilla. Also lost on the same day were Royal Marines of 650 LCM who this
writer feels must have been part of the same homeward bound convoy although at
the moment I am unable to confirm that detail. I may yet discover more, if and
when that happens, it will be added here.
What a great website! At last I've been able to find out
what happened to my uncle, Royal Marine Ronald Smith. From the Itchenor photos you have
posted I can see my parents. Ronald's sister Cissy (nee Smith) is still alive, the last of her generation in our family. I feel so honoured
to be part of this history. Thank you so much for covering this WW2 tragedy
and bringing it to light for future generations.
would be great to hear from anyone who knew or served with my uncle. Click on
There are over 200
books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased
on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the
shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Type in or copy and paste the
title of your choice or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no
obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords. Click
'Books' for more information.
Recalling the loss of the men of 601 LCM Flotilla returning from Normandy on
July 21st 1944 by Tony Chapman, Official Archivist/Historian of the LST and
Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy). Source material was drawn from
the writings of Lieutenant (later Captain) Martin Tyrell RM MD and Corporal
George Morrison RM both of 601 LCM Flotilla both sadly now deceased. Thanks also
due to veteran Royal Marine Reg Blake of 803 LCV(P) Flotilla for his
support in this endeavour, also to Danny Lovell and Mike Long for supplying
details drawn from the National Archives.
Except for the author's personal reflections immediately above the material
supplied by him about 601 LCM Flotilla was redrafted by Geoff Slee for
website presentation and approved by the author before publication.