The British Mk1 LCMs (Landing
Craft Mechanised), were allocated to the 601 LCM Flotilla. They were around
44 feet in length and 14 feet across the
bows, with a speed of around 7 knots. The vast majority of the 500 British built Mark1s,
came from the workshops of the Great Western Railway at Swindon, in
Wiltshire and from the Southern Railways workshops at Eastleigh, Hampshire.
The remainder were built in various metal-working establishments between 1940 and 1944.
opposite is a Mk1 LCM. This particular craft took no part in the
D-Day operation, but LCM 229, the next in line, was ‘Leader’ of the 601 LCM Flotilla
because Flotilla Officer, Derek Green, RM, was aboard for the journey from Itchenor on the
south coast of England, to Normandy. Photo courtesy of Danny Lovell].
designed by Thorneycroft, had a capacity to carry a 16 ton tank, 6 jeeps, 100 troops
or general supplies. Pennant numbers, in the range LCM 1 through to LCM 500, were
allocated to these craft. They were powered by two Thorneycroft, or Chrysler, petrol
engines, producing around 120
brake horse power (BHP) delivered through twin shafts. They carried two .303
calibre Lewis machine guns and had a crew of 6 men, with an officer assigned to every third craft.
American Mk 3 LCMs,
which also formed part of 601,were 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 LCM3s served with the Royal
Navy and Royal Marines under the American "Lend-Lease" scheme. They were 50 feet in length by 14 feet
across the bows and were driven by two diesel engines producing up to 450 BHP
with a speed of between 8-11 knots. They carried two .50 calibre machine guns.
They could carry a 30 ton tank, wheeled vehicles, 60 troops or general supplies
and had a crew of 3 men.
Preparations for D-Day
Prior to June 6th 1944, the 601 LCM Flotilla
was 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' was part, they 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 were routinely
conducted. Half the men and craft of the 601, also took part in the review of
the Invasion Fleet by King George V1, just before D-Day. At that time, the
flotilla complement was 6 officers and 156 other ranks, including reserve crews.
Shortly before D-Day, the administration
officer, reserve naval officer and reserve crews, boarded 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 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 was rescheduled for June 6
due to bad weather. However, many craft had already set out which added to the
discomfort of the men, who, by then, had been confined to their craft for four
days for reasons of security.
Finally, on June 5th, the eve of D-Day, the 16 Mk1 LCMs of
the 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 exited from Birdham Pool. The captain of HMS
Sea Serpent took the salute from each craft as they passed the pier-head.
The full complement of ‘F’ Build-Up Squadron
comprised 96 Mk1 LCMs
- 6 flotillas of 16 LCMs, each craft with a 6
man crew - 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].
board 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 near Ilkley, on the outskirts of Bradford, West
Yorkshire. He was educated at the famous Rugby Public School in Warwickshire, immortalised in the famous book ‘Tom Brown's Schooldays’ by Thomas
Hughes. Green 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 while 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
point for FORCE J (Juno beach) about 2 to 3 miles off the Nab Tower,
eastwards of the Isle of Wight. The craft carried extra fuel
for the sea trip in Jerry cans strapped into every available space.
On June 6th 1944, at around 0400 hours, the
craft moved out for their journey to 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
proceeded independently for the Normandy beaches, navigating along one
of the 'swept' channels cleared of enemy mines. However, some of the craft soon found
themselves in difficulty.
Captain Green's '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 were 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. However, she collided with
another craft and holed badly portside (left) stern. The crew were picked up by the USLC(G)
893. It is likely
that LCM 346 was no longer operational, being officially recorded as damaged beyond economical
Despite the unfavourable sea and weather conditions,
the other craft found their way to their pre-determined landing places on Juno beach in the late evening of D-Day. Initially,
they came under fire and bombing, but their cargoes were successfully put
ashore. Enemy activity was later reduced to 'hit and run' air attacks involving anti-personnel bombs and machine gun
especially at night. However, in the event, the hazards of the sea, the weather and the
landing beaches, proved to be a greater danger than enemy activity.
Initially, the men of 601 LCM flotilla and those of
other nearby 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 position
inside the Mulberry A harbour.
severe storm that swept the Normandy coast between June 19th-22nd, many craft were damaged or driven ashore and wrecked.
The crews of 601 transferred to the shore, where they lived in dug-outs in a field
near Bernieres-sur-Mer Railway Station. Martin Tyrell recalled that during the 3 day storm, 8 craft of the flotilla
were lost, but official records available on 601, do not confirm this.
In all, the craft of 601 remained on station for a period of 6 weeks,
during which time, save for brief intervals for rest and recuperation, they 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 and the surplus craft ordered back to England. 601 was included in
these arrangements and possibly elements of 650 LCM Flotilla, leaving the
remainder of F Squadron in place on Juno beach.
For the homeward journey
selected unmanned LCMs were assigned to
the much larger LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) for towing back to England, while
others would proceed under their own power. By the evening of July 20th, the
craft of 601 were lying in Gooseberry 4, stored and
provisioned for the journey. The LCMs were paired up for the short trip to the LCTs
anchored nearby - a manned LCM with an unmanned LCM alongside.
The LCMs were not in good 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 LCM had seen better days and was
not in very good condition. It was one of those lost on the homeward journey.
At 0430 hours on the morning of July 21st 1944,
the Flotilla weighed
anchor and proceeded independently to rendezvous with the LCT Flotilla, just off the beach-head. The task of transferring the unmanned craft to the LCTs, was completed by 0540 hours
and the manned
LCMs formed up astern
of one of the LCTs. A course was set through the swept channel but a thick blanket of mist descended which made
it extremely difficult to keep on station. This raised concerns about craft
becoming lost, so, for safety reasons, 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.
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 deteriorated.
At first the sea was calm with a rather heavy
atmosphere and then the conditions deteriorated with heavy, turbulent seas and thunderstorms. By 1720 hours, the sea was so rough that
there was little or no headway being made, despite engines on full throttle. It was decided
to return to Juno beach, not the least of the
considerations being that petrol supplies for the
British Mk1 LCMs, were running low.
All Haste to Juno
Prior to giving the order to turn about,
Captain Derek Green, still aboard LCM 1059, fell out of line several
times to round up stragglers and when the craft had re-grouped, a
course was set for the beach-head. By this time they had been at sea for thirteen hours and
some LCMs were having difficulty keeping up. 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 the crippled craft and the manoeuvre was started.
Unfortunately, 226 collided with an unknown craft causing damage to its stern, which put her
steering out of action. The rescue craft had become unmanageable and was now, itself,
in need of assistance.
LCM 1059 went alongside to render assistance and both crews
were lifted aboard to safety increasing her human cargo to three officers and twenty
nine other ranks comprising her crew, the rescued men, the reserve crew and part
of the flotilla administration staff. While LCM 1059 was engaged in
this operation, Captain Green ordered the rest of the flotilla to return to the beach-head with
all speed. Most of the craft and crews were suffering
badly from the rough sea, strong winds, heavy rain and sea water pouring over the sides. The
craft soon became dispersed in the
darkness but 5 craft eventually reported back to the squadron, while others reached 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
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 was sufficient for the journey home to England and for around
three hours reasonable progress was made. However, the craft was becoming
increasingly sluggish due to water entering the aft
ballast tank through a leak in
the propeller gland. Attempts to stem the leak proved
fruitless, so lifebelts were issued to the men, many of whom required assistance
because they were too overcome by sea-sickness. At 21.30 hours on the evening of July 21st,
LCM 1059 became
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 felt that their stronger, 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. 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 with the help of Coastal Air Forces from Portsmouth, but sadly, all to
no avail. [See Correspondence
for 2016 message from Sgt Latham's son].
Veteran Royal Marine,
Stoker, Jim ‘Nobby' Clark, was amongst the men of 601 who safely reached 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 when Jim was picked from the water
he was in a state of shock since he did not name his craft or his five comrades.
Later, 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 which carried Royal Marine,
Jim Colvin, was taken in tow by a rescue craft, possibly a tug. Colvin and his
crew were later repatriated to England, where they, understandably, 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. 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 right; Jim
Colvin courtesy of his son James Colvin.]
Bournemouth man, Royal Marine, John William Collins
worked locally 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
amongst those lost at sea on the night of 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’.
to remember their fallen comrades and to acknowledge the kindness shown to them by the residents of Itchenor during
the time they were stationed there while preparing for the invasion of Normandy. The
memorial seat overlooks Chichester
Harbour and on July 21st 1951, seven years to the day after the tragedy, it was
dedicated. Since that event, an annual service has
taken place within the first week of June. [Photo below. Captain Angus Forrest, RM, taking the salute at the 1951 ceremony].
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 Lieutenant Martin Tyrell (later Captain), 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 off Normandy. When he passed through Itchenor in 1976, he saw the
dilapidated condition of the seat dedicated to the men of the 601 LCM Flotilla and resolved
to do something about it. Together with friend Dennis Drew, and
with the help of the Royal Marines' "Globe & Laurel" magazine, local newspapers and
the local council, he 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. 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. Sadly he passed away in May 2009.
Photo 8. Three veterans of 803 LCV(P) Flotilla at Itchenor 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 of 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 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, Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft
Association, 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 was employed as flotilla clerk. He was regarded as Number 1 Reserve Coxswain in charge of
the 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.
Morrison recalled that on July 21st 1944, the weather
sunny but later it became very foggy making it difficult to see 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 in the
hope of finding petrol to supplement his diminishing supply. However, the sea
had turned decidedly rough, and attempting to pull alongside was not easy. After several aborted attempts, the idea of tying
up alongside was abandoned. In the absence of volunteers, Morrison decided to
jump aboard as the two craft moved together. The first pass failed, but on his
second attempt, he was successful and he immediately began checking the petrol
supply. Most of the cans were full and they were quickly transferred. When
completed, Morrison returned to his LCM by the same dangerous process.
Later that day, the stoker/driver reported that
one engine had stopped and would not re-start, but he thought the craft could
still maintain headway and continue her journey to England. As day turned to
night, the storm increased in 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 had serious doubts about their survival.
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 spending the night 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
reeported 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. Their 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 of despair, salvation came initially as smoke on the horizon, which
later transpired to be small ships in ‘line abreast’ formation. The ships were a fleet of
minesweepers going about their business. Bambrick's LCM had drifted into an
un-swept channel! The signalman made contact with the minesweepers using SOS and
one of them came
alongside to take the LCM in tow. The plan was soon aborted when the speed of
the minesweeper began 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, with 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.
Tony Chapman writes. As this account is
being written in May of 2010, I have been involved with the
veterans of the LST and Landing Craft Association for almost sixteen years. It
started just prior to the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in 1994.
Initially, I was involved in private research for 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. I
have the utmost respect and admiration for them all, and I count myself privileged to
have unlimited access to them.
This association in 1994 comprised many more veterans than it does today.
passage of time is taking its toll on those that remain. There is talk of the Association disbanding in 2012, if not
before. That day will be a very sad day indeed.
During the course of my early involvement with
the Association, I spoke to many veterans about their experiences during the war
years and sought details of the landing craft or ships they served on, and the
actions they were involved in during the period 1942 to 1946. Some had been at
Dieppe in August 1942 while 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, it was their first taste of
action, and sadly, for some, their last.
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, but
two tragedies stand out above all others - the loss of men and craft of
the 9th LCT Flotilla off Land’s End during October 1944, now recalled on this
website under the title ‘The Lost
Flotilla’. The other, was, ofcourse, the loss of the men and craft of the Royal Marine and Royal
Navy manned 601 LCM Flotilla. Although many veterans spoke of it, very few had any
first hand knowledge of what actually took place. Many times I recall veteran
Royal Marines voicing the opinion that the 601 LCM Flotilla should never have
attempted the return journey to England given the weather at the time.
In more recent times I have felt closer to the truth,
and now, 66 years after the events described above, I've recorded
here the product of all the information I have gathered concerning the loss of the men of 601 LCM
Flotilla. Also lost on the same day were Royal Marines of the 650 LCM Flotilla.
I feel they must have been part of the same homeward bound convoy, although I'm
presently unable to confirm that from official records.
James Albert Latham.
I look on the internet from time-to-time,
seeking anything relating to my father’s wartime service, and was amazed to
find your excellent website. On the 601 LCM Flotilla page, my father was the
‘sole survivor’ referred to. His full name was James Albert Latham, known as
Jim, from Birmingham. You rightly said that Lady Luck smiled on him when he
was rescued after a night in the water, but that was not the only time. On
another occasion, he was on board a ship, playing cards, when it was sunk by
a torpedo. When he was pulled from the water he was still holding on to his
I'll look out a photo of my
father in uniform, which I'll copy to you, together with a photo of his map
case. I wish I had found you website before his death in 2012, as your
account of the 601 LCM Flotilla, may have got him talking about his war
service, something he was never keen to do.
Many thanks to you, regards,
Royal Marine Ronald Smith. 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
the e-mail icon.
The Sole Survivor. My father, James E
Clarke, aged 90 in 2015, was with the 601 which set off for Normandy from
Itchenor in June 1944. I read him your account and he remembered many of
the names. He spoke to the sole survivor 'Latham' who gave him this
account of what happened just 3 days after the sinking.
The craft was sinking as it took in water.
Sergeant Latham told me that a lad from Blackpool had been trying to stem
the aft leak but to no avail. Latham was soon in the water and he held on to
a nearby cork ring life preserver 'belt.' A Canadian lieutenant, possibly
Aylan-Parker, held on similarly, but sometime during the night he let
go... either because he had died or simply because he could not hold on any
longer. All the men were very sea sick to start with which was debilitating
in itself, but when coupled to the cold sea water, their energy quickly
drained away. Sergeant Latham was picked up in the early hours of the
morning after spending about five hours in the water.
2015 Remembrance Ceremony
The ceremony is scheduled to take place at 10.30
am on the 5th June 2015 and the wreath will be laid by our Chairman Mrs
The event is held down on the hard by the Harbour Masters office. Best to park
in the nearby Ship Inn car park.
With kind regards
Hon. Sec. Itchenor Society
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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.