~ D-DAY FLOTILLA 814 HMLCV(P) ~
814 HM Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel)
Flotilla [814 HMLCV(P)] took part in the D-Day landings. Royal Marine Roy
Nelson was on board LCV(P) 1155 which was hoisted aboard a Landing Ship
Tank (LST) for the journey across the English Channel to the beaches of
Normandy. These are Roy's recollections.
[Photo: back row; 1st left Cpl Clark, 4th left Cpl Hewitt, 6th
left Pete (Zeke) Barlow, far right 'Lofty' Wagstaff, 3rd from right John
Tomlinson; 4th row 2nd left Cpl Pete Money, 3rd left Cpl George Pargeter, 5th
left Cpl Roy (Admiral) Nelson, 5th from right Syd Liddle, 7th David How 8th Ray
Pedelty; 3rd row 7th from left K 'Darkie' Wisdom; 2nd row 1st left Ron Tomkins,
3rd left Cpl Rhodes; front row 1st left Cpl Ken Smith, 5th left Col/Sgt
Adams, far right Cpl Hannabus, 4th from right Sgt Cox, 5th from right Sgt Smith.
Centre Front Captain Harry Barnes and Lt Peter Haynes.]
I joined the Royal Marines at the age of 17 years in March of 1943 and, during
that summer, I was transferred to Combined Operations and commenced training in
North Wales on crewing minor landing craft. Further training was provided at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where we were issued with our
‘blues’ and the treasured Combined Operations badge. The latter entitled us to an
extra sixpence (2.5p) a day! Whilst at Dartmouth, we practiced ‘beachings’ at Blackpool Sands with
American troops based in the area.
These joint training exercises were commonplace since both the navy crews
and army passengers were would share the hazardous experience of sailing
across the English Channel and landing on the beaches of Normandy, in many cases
under enemy fire. To land safely and to discharge their cargos of men and
machines in an efficient manner, required all concerned to know what to do and
how too react to unpredictable circumstances.
In late 1943, I arrived at HMS Robertson at Sandwich in Kent, with my
‘oppo’ Norman ‘Goldie’ Goldsmith. Initially, we were allocated to 810 LCV(P) Flotilla of ‘C’
Squadron, which comprised four flotillas, 810-814 inclusive. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted to Corporal/Coxswain and transferred to
814 LCV(P) Flotilla and took over HMLCV(P) 1066. We were now operational and
undertook many landing craft training exercises in the area in readiness for what became the D-Day landings of June 1944.
Our commanding officer was Captain Harry Barnes, RM, from Liverpool and 2nd i/c
was Lieutenant Peter Haynes, RM. Other names I recall are Sergeants Cox and Lovell and Corporals Kent, Hannabus and George Pargeter. As
this is being written on March 31st 1997, I have in recent years made
contact with several old comrades including Ron Tomkins, John
Tomlinson, Pete Barlow and Ray Pedelty. Together, we attended re-unions at Lympstone and the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth.
It was early in 1944, whilst practicing beach landings at Ramsgate, that we ran
into a spot of bother. There was an unfortunate coincidence of malicious weather, tide
and conflicting orders,
resulting in my landing craft hitting a sandbank on
the way in. I am reluctant to admit to poor seamanship! Sadly, LCV(P) 1066,
‘broached to’ and became fast on the beach. In spite of supreme efforts of 814,
the 1066 was firmly beached as the tide receded. We were obliged to stay
overnight and resume our attempts to re-float craft the following morning. When
1066 stubbornly refused to move the next morning, we were forced to
remove our equipment and ‘abandon ship!' I often wonder what became of 1066
after I left her in Ramgate. [Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft
Association writes; LCV(P) 1066 is recorded lost during exercises in the Richborough
area of Kent during February 1944.]
My second command, following the loss of the 1066, was the HMLCV(P) 1155. In the spring of 1944,
together with the craft of 814 Flotilla, we left HMS Robertson and sailed through the Dover Straits and along the coast to Rye in Sussex,
where we had a break. I think it was on that leg of the journey that a
steering cable snapped and 1155 proceeded to go around in circles! With the help
of an emergency rudder, we limped into
Rye for repairs.
We later made our way along the south coast to Hayling Island's
HMS Northney III, where we continued training in readiness for the
forthcoming Normandy landings. We also assisted a battalion of US Navy ‘Sea Bees’
(naval construction personnel) who were working on caissons off Selsey Bill. Although we
didn't know it at the time, these caissons were later towed across the English
Channel shortly after D-Day to form part of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches.
By my recall, it was Saturday June 3rd 1944, when the craft
of 814 LCV(P) Flotilla joined a section of the fleet anchored off Ryde on the Isle
of Wight. Our reserve crews, meanwhile,
boarded the depot repair ship, Cap Tourane in Tilbury Docks, London. The
Cap Tourane was to be our base while
off Sword beach.
LCV(P) 1155 was hoisted aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) suspended from davits at the stern.
There were two craft to portside and two to starboard. However, a fellow veteran believes
our whole flotilla of 16 LCV(P)s, was carried in one converted LST, with eight
craft to portside and eight to starboard, while others believe we were carried
over on a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI).
814 Flotilla set off on the morning of June 5th to become part of
that vast armada. [Tony Chapman writes:-
Recorded as part of 814 Flotilla on June 5th 1944 are LCV(P)s 1064,
, 1067, 1148,
1155 , 1157,
1170 , 1171,
1181, 1184 and 1250. Craft shown in bold
are listed war losses in the assault area].
It was an unforgettable sight, one which has
been described by many people on many occasions. Suffice to say here that it was
then that it dawned on me that ‘this was it’……the culmination of almost a year’s
training. On our arrival off Sword beach we were lowered into the water by our ‘carrier ship’ to begin our allotted
tasks. We never returned to her and sadly, as this is being written, the
question of her identity remains unresolved and will likely remain so.
Our depot ship,
Cap Tourane, took up position off Sword beach on June 8th,
to become our rendezvous point for changing crews. [Tony Chapman, LST and
Landing Craft Association writes; The Cap Tourane departed Tilbury at 0600 hours on the
morning of June 7th sailing in Convoy ETM 2 for service at Gooseberry
5 (Sword beach area, sheltered by the sunken ‘blockships’ Becheville, Belgique,
Elswick Park, Empire Defiance, Empire Tamar and Empire Tana.) She was later damaged by gunfire on June
22nd and the 25th and later moved to Gold beach area on
June 29th It was six days after first leaving Cap Tourane that
we returned to her to take our first break.
[Photo; Cap Tourane.]
At this time, I discovered that I had lost my gold signet ring given to me six
months earlier by my parents on my eighteenth birthday. The loss upset me as
much as anything I had witnessed during the invasion, and it was several months
before I was able to tell my parents. They were understanding and were just
pleased I was home. It put the loss into perspective.
Our Headquarters ship was HMS Largs, which we visited from time to time for
briefings and instructions. To provide us with some shelter, several ships were sunk off Sword beach.
It was known as
the ‘Gooseberry’ and although not as sophisticated as it’s big brother the 'Mulberry Harbour'
at Arromanche, it proved to be invaluable to minor landing
craft crews and was a popular rendezvous, particularly so during the
severe gales that blew up on June 19th-22nd. This was a very
critical and concerning time since no supplies or reinforcements could reach the
It is true that no amount of training can prepare you mentally for
actual warfare. I was 18 years of age and in charge of a landing craft and crew
which was a lot of weight to carry on such young shoulders. The majority of landing craft crews were between the ages of 18-20 and
‘Hostilities Only’ men. We certainly found the hostilities we had joined up for
with their associated dangers,
but, to offset that there was a great camaraderie amongst the lads, which saw us through the
Living conditions on board LCV(P) were pretty basic, a bucket for a toilet and
a primus stove for making tea with compo rations to live on. It was never
intended for crews to live on the craft for any length of time; but we often
did. I often wondered how we were expected to survive for several days between
visits to the Cap Tourane for ‘rest and recuperation.’
In the weeks following D-Day, we became the work-horses of
the beach-head fetching and carrying according to need.
It kept us busy, which was no bad thing although we did find the time to scout around
scrounging food whenever the opportunity presented itself.
After several weeks, we
evacuated to Gold beach near Arromanches, where the Mulberry Harbour was well
established. LCV(P) 1155 was, by then, in urgent need of repairs and I left her in
the hands of a beach repair party until the following morning. The crew and I (all three of
us!), took advantage of our first run ashore in ages although, if the truth be
told, we did not have a very comfortable night. When we returned to the beach, there
was no sign of LCV(P) 1155. I felt sick in the stomach
to find her missing. We discovered that the repair party had declared the craft
beyond repair, written her off and unceremoniously bull-dozed her out of the way to
allow the war to continue. [Official records show that HMLCV(P)
1155 recorded lost in the assault area approximately June 1944.]
So, there we were, up a creek without the proverbial paddle, or, in our case,
a landing craft. We made our way back to the Mulberry Harbour to hitch a ride
back to the Cap Tourane to explain our circumstances to Captain
Barnes. In the event, there was no court martial or even a charge. I believe we had only three craft operational out of a total complement of sixteen
and were urgently due replacements. I have little doubt in my mind that the ‘powers that
be’ never expected many minor landing craft to make the journey home.
We were fortunate in 814 LCV(P) Flotilla to have Flotilla Officer Captain
Barnes. He was a great leader but very approachable and a father figure to most
of us young men. After the war he wrote a letter to every member of 814 offering
his services should any of us require his help or advice. I
have always regretted the fact that I never wrote back.
Sword beach was on the extreme eastern flank of the invasion and was subjected
to much enemy shelling which continued throughout our stay there. We lost a
number of craft but, surprisingly, casualties amongst our
flotilla were light, several being injured and sadly, two killed They both rest
in the cemetery at Hermanville and I have visited their graves
to pay my respects. One was a much liked ‘Geordie’ lad named Syd Liddle aged 19 years
(photo middle left)
who was fatally wounded
whilst with his craft and the other was our Lieutenant Peter Haynes aged 20
years killed when a shell hit the Cap Tourane. [Photo l -
r; Cemetery at Hermanville, grave of Syd Liddle and grave of Lieutenant
ROLL OF HONOUR.
Lieutenant Peter Broadhurst Haynes. RM June 25th 1944, Wolverhampton.
Royal Marine Sydney Liddle June 26th 1944 of Morpeth, Northumberland.
We will remember them ~
[Tony Chapman writes:- Since receiving Roy’s recollections I was in
contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to advise them of the loss
of Peter Haynes and Syd Liddle from 814 LCV(P) Flotilla. Both men were recorded
lost from their shore base as opposed to the 814 LCVP flotilla they were serving
with at the time. The WGC records
have now been amended.]
In any battle, there are many unsung heroes and a few who receive official
recognition. One of the latter was a fellow coxswain, George Pargeter, who was awarded the DCM
(Distinguished Conduct Medal). A rhino barge was being loaded with ammunition
from a supply ship when it received a direct hit and caught fire putting the
ship at great risk. George and his crew secured a line to the barge and towed it
away from the side of the ship averting a possible disaster - an action that put George and his crew
at great risk.
66 Years On
Roy Nelson could never have imagined that 66 years after
the events described above that he would once more take the wheel of an LCV(P).
His journey back in time happened during the filming of the BBC 4 series "Boats
That Built Britain" in November 2009 with Tom Cunliffe as presenter. The
film was broadcast in May 2010. In the 30 minute programme Roy talks of his wartime experiences
and is seen at the wheel with Tom Cunliffe and his film
crew as passengers.
The American built LCV(P) or 'Higgins Boat' was, we
understand , brought over to the UK for the filming of "Saving Private Ryan" and
has been moored
at Beeston Marina in Nottinghamshire
since circa 2006/07.
There are around 300 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.
These are the recollections and impressions of former Royal Marine Roy
Nelson as transcribed by Tony Chapman, Official Archivist/Historian for
the LST and Landing Craft Association. (Royal Navy). Further edited by
Geoff Slee for presentation on the website.