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~ 9TH LCT FLOTILLA ~ 

THE LOST FLOTILLA

In mid October 1944, the terrible fate of the 9th LCT (Landing Craft Tank) Flotilla was sealed as its craft sailed beyond Lands End in the tow of merchant ships. The flotilla was part of Convoy OS92/KMS66 bound for the Mediterranean, en route to the Far East. There had been warnings of bad weather but there were safeguards to protect the craft in these circumstances. However, despite this, over 50 men were lost as 6 craft foundered. How did the tragedy happen and was it avoidable?

[Photo of Telegraphist John Shipston who was lost in OS92/KMS66. Seen here with his wife Pam in September 1944 shortly before he was drafted to LCT 494 of the 9th LCT Flotilla].

This page is especially dedicated to the memory of Telegraphist, John Shipston of LCT 494 and to all the men of the 9th LCT Flotilla, who perished with him. There is a casualty list on this page.

Background

After the D-Day landings, the need for landing craft shifted to the Far East. The Japanese occupied many Pacific islands, which required large numbers of seaborne troops to dislodge them. The process of transferring landing craft from Europe to the Far East, after D-Day, was code named "Appian". In anticipation of the transfer of landing craft, the first Appian committee was convened in February 1944.

Mk3 LCTs had a range of 1,900 miles, fully loaded, at a speed of some 10 knots or 2,700 miles at 9 knots. However, to reduce wear and tear on the engines, it was decided to tow them behind large merchant ships travelling in convoy from the UK to Gibraltar . They would then proceed, under their own power, to Malta and Alexandria and then, under tow again, to Bombay via Aden. The minutes of the first Appian meeting advised that no towing should take place between October and March. This was to avoid the winter storms in the Biscay area and the monsoon season in the Indian Ocean.

[The Middle East Combined Training Centre, on Egypt's Little Bitter Lake, played an important role in receiving "Appian" craft from the UK and preparing them for the onward journey to the Far East].

Such a long journey was not without risk so sea trials were carried out in both calm and rough conditions. Their aim was to assess the towing characteristics of the various landing craft types. In the case of the Mk3 LCTs, whose tank decks were below the waterline, towing was restricted to wind speeds of up to force 4 on the Beaufort scale, described as a moderate breeze. The Mk4s were approved in winds of up to Force 6 (strong breeze). There was an additional proviso that LCTs were not to be towed into a heavy head sea, as water ingress would overwhelm the pumps. In any conditions, outside these parameters, they should hove to in good time and turn to run before the wind. Furthermore, in bad weather, only one LCT was to be towed by a merchant vessel while an oiler (oil tanker), a repair ship and a minimum of 3 tugs were to take up position at the rear of the convoy.

[Photo; Tug towing LCT's during the trials. © IWM (A 24634)].

In the summer and autumn of 1944, landing craft were prepared, or tropicalised, for Far East operations. The 9th LCT Flotilla, along with half of the 70th Flotilla, with new crews and refurbished craft, would be the first to set out with operational crews, base staff, spares, guns, ammunition and stores - a total of  18 LCTs in the tow of merchant convoy KMS66. A week or so later, the other half of the 70th, plus the 71st flotilla, along with stragglers from the first convoy, were to go as part of KMS67.

A "contract" with the Merchant Navy was drawn up to deal with insurance, liabilities and operational matters. It was expected that both convoy Commodores and merchant vessel Captains, would cooperate in this project to tow the LCTs. The Commodore, or Escort Commander, had the authority to abort the towing, if the weather was deemed to be too severe. The LCT skippers could act independently to slip the tow in an emergency, otherwise, they were to await orders from the Commodore or Escort Commander.

The Departure

In command of the convoy was Commodore J Ratsey RNR in the SS Mantola. The convoy comprised 35 merchant vessels with 9 LCTs under tow and 3 submarines. Convoy Escort B23, led by Lt Com. Newey RNVR, comprised 1 sloop, HMS Fowey and 2 corvettes, HMS Allington Castle and HMS Knaresborough Castle.

A deep depression moving westward across the Atlantic held the promise of extremely severe weather, typical of the the time of year. The submarine threat was greatly diminished, so enabling the convoy to sail south through the Irish Sea towards the SW Approaches. The LCT skippers received their convoy sailing instructions, which included authority to slip the tow if in trouble and to proceed independently or make for a safe harbour. To this end, they were given navigational details of UK and neutral ports en route.

The convoy had four sections sailing from different locations;

  •  the Clyde Section departed at 19.45 on Saturday 14 October, after a slight delay due to bad weather. LCT 480 was attached to The City of Lyons, LCTs 488 & 489 were attached to Samfoyle and LCTs 491 and 7015 were attached to Fort Finlay. A 6th LCT, believed to be carrying the flotilla officer, fouled her tow and had to return to port,
  •  the Belfast Section joined the convoy on Sunday 15th October at 09.10 along with 3 submarines, Thrasher, Trident and Seascout,
  •  the Liverpool Section joined the convoy on Monday 16th October at 07.45. Their escorts carried signalmen for the Clyde towing ships but bad weather conditions prevented their transfer. From LCTs 7022 & 7023 were attached to Ocean Vanity and LCTs 494 & 7014 were attached to Nairnbank,
  •  the Milford Haven Section joined the convoy at 11.50 on the same day.

The convoy was now complete with the 5 merchant ships towing the 9 LCTs at the rear of the columns. Responsibility for the 9th LCT Flotilla passed to Senior Officer Lt J Murts in LCT 494. Ominously, LCT 488 reported problems but intimated she would be able to continue if the weather did not deteriorate further.

[Photo courtesy of Daniel Lovell; LCT 474 was a first series Mk3 LCT built during 1941-1942 as were LCTs 480, 488, 489, 491, 494 mentioned in this page. The remaining MK3 LCTs in the convoy, 7014, 7015, 7022 and 7023, were second series Mk3s built between 1943-1944 and referred to as 'Stars' to distinguish them from their sister MK3 craft].

The last surviving craft of this type, LCT 7074, is undergoing restoration in Portsmouth (2016).

The Storm

On Tuesday 17th October, weather conditions rapidly deteriorated. The Commodore asked Senior Officer Murts, in LCT 494, how "his children" were doing. His ominous response indicated that his LCTs were beginning to labour in the worsening weather. Visual signalling was practically impossible as the convoy scattered. While most ships had TBS radios, they were not very effective in the storm conditions so communications amongst the craft were compromised. Over the next 10 hours, in increasingly hazardous conditions, the following events ensued;

Time Activity/Incident
18th Oct LCT 488 reported heavy weather damage and would have to abandon ship.
1020 SO escort group advises that towing ships should heave to. Commodore gave the order for all towing merchant ships to heave to.
1050 Nairnbank reported that he had lost contact with LCT 494. HMS Allington Castle was ordered to assist in rescue operations.
1112 Signal sent to Admiralty and C in C. WA reporting that weather conditions had worsened to whole gale proportions and requesting extra escort assistance.
1235 LCT 7022 reported holed, making water and about to abandon ship.
1251 Another signal sent to Admiralty and C in C. WA.
1340 SS City of Lyons reported LCT 480 was foundering and about to abandon ship.
1355 LCT 494 loudly requesting assistance.
1420. LCT488  with escort HMS Knaresborough Castle standing by had turned to run before the wind towards Milford Haven. All RN escorts and merchant ships in the area were alerted to look for LCTs and assist with rescue.
1559 LCT 480 reporting to be about to abandon ship.
1625  HMS Tobago and Zanzibar under orders from C in C. WA to assist in rescue were approaching vicinity.
1629 LCT 7014 in the tow of Nainbank reporting in distress and wanting to abandon ship. At 1645 Nairnbank reporting that he was slipping the tow of one of the LCTs to save the other ( 494 or 7014?)
1715 City of Lyons reporting LCT 480 full of water and sinking.
1730  Signal from commodore that LCT 489 has broken adrift from Samfoyle.
1831  SO escort group in touch with SO B2 escort that the latter in touch with LCT 7014.

This escort group were looking after convoy ON 260 from Southend to Halifax, Nova Scotia which was sailing astern. HMS Kingcup and Blankney were ordered to assist with rescue by NOIC (Naval Officer in Charge) Milford Haven. Also assisting were HMS Manners, HMS Highlander and HMS Drury.

By this time, all the LCTs, badly pounded by the mountainous seas in the force 9 gale conditions, were filling with water and sinking. Water was pouring into the tank spaces over the coamings (raised frames around hatchways to prevent water ingress) and the canvas cover protection overhead was ripped apart by the ferocity of the wind and waves. Pumps, if working at all, were unable to clear the water. Some LCTs were holed and letting in the sea. The masts and aerials were ripped away from the aft housing, letting water into the crew quarters and engine room. Some of the LCTs had stores, gun parts and caravans on board, which had broken loose and were rolling around the deck, causing a further hazard to the crews. Water was also penetrating ruptured fuel pipes, causing engines to fail. It was proving difficult for the towing vessels to slip the tow, or to rescue the LCT crews, as they too were being tossed about in the storm. In some cases, their cargoes were shifting, making it hazardous on deck for their crews.

   
Wed 18th @ 2007 Allington Castle had rescued the crew of LCT 480 and had sunk the craft. They then carried out search for LCT 489.
Thurs 19th @ 0047 Kingcup reported that LCT 7022 and 7023 were damaged, still in tow of Ocean Vanity, and could hold out until daylight. Position 50.26N, 9.34W
 0445 Allington Castle had rescued crew from LCT 491 and sunk the craft.
0800 Situation was that LCTs 489, 494, 7015 and submarine Trident unaccounted for, and the convoy badly scattered
0958 LCT 488 had sunk and Knaresborough Castle had picked up all the survivors.
1235  C in C WA ordered all LCT crews to be removed to avoid further loss of life.
1435 Allington Castle rejoined convoy with 38 survivors onboard.
 1539 Submarine Trident sighted.
1549 Sunderland and Liberator aircraft sighted sweeping for LCTs and survivors.
1800 Kingcup had rescued all the crews of LCT 7022 and 7023
21.55 Some time during the day, the crew of LCT 7014 were picked up by rescue ship Dundee which was part of convoy ON260. The tow on LCT 7014 had parted early on the 18th but they managed to start the engines and keep going. Engines failed around noon due to water in fuel pipes and the craft wallowed beam to sea until about 21.55  when it sank.
2400 At the end of this day, LCTs 489, 494 and 7015 were still unaccounted for. Weather had improved during the day but was now deteriorating again.
Fri 20th The convoy was still scattered and merchant ships Lagarto and City of Lyons had sustained damage and were returning to port. Air and sea searches continued for the missing LCTs including frigates Drury, Goodall, Bullen and Anguilla. Most of the convoy regrouped and finally reached Gibraltar on 25th October without any LCTs.

In total, 55 men died but well over 100 were saved. LCT 489 did not founder and was, apparently, part of the 9th LCT Flotilla, which operated out of Cochin during 1945. With her were LCTs 7022 and 7023 as far as can be certain.

Flotilla KMS 66 was not alone in the storm. An American convoy, NY119, from New York to Falmouth comprising tugs, tankers and floating barges had spent 30 days crossing the Atlantic via the Azores. It, too, was badly smashed up in the storm in the same area. Many ships were lost and 19 men were drowned. The storm was described as the worst recorded since the war started, with winds at 60mph and mountainous seas.

Former torpedo man, Raymond Mace and fellow torpedo man, Charlie Wheeler, were aboard the Castle Class corvette, Knaresborough Castle, on escort duty that fateful night. They recall that bad storms were not uncommon down the west coast of southern England but this one was most severe with mountainous seas.

"One minute our ship plunged down, burying the forecastle under the sea and the next it rose on a peak with the propeller thrashing out of the water. Despite its size, our ship of over 1000 tons was tossed around like a cork. We were concerned that if any high waves caught us on the beam we would capsize.

 [Photo l - r; Raymond Mace and fellow torpedo man, Charlie Wheeler.]

If we had such concerns, it's difficult to imagine what the sailors on the flat bottomed LCTs were thinking. The LCTs were half our weight and were not designed for stormy weather in open seas. At the height of the storm, as the LCTs began to succumb to the elements, the sailors faced an impossible dilemma as they realised that their chances of survival were rapidly diminishing... to stay on board or to jump into the raging sea.

Acting Lt Commander Marchant, of the Knaresborough Castle, tried everything possible to rescue the crew of LCT 488 which had sunk. Costain gun lines were fired in the hope of pulling any survivors across on carley floats and we attempted to launch our lifeboat, which was damaged in the process. When the lifeboat began to sink, we set about the rescue of the life boat crew. Scrambling nets were secured over the side, as we tried to pick up one solitary member of the crew of 488 and our own. We recovered them all, although two sustained injuries. By then, all our lifesaving gear was gone and there was nothing more we could do. The LCT officer, who was saved, had clung to a table and managed to get alongside the scrambling nets. A rope was secured around him and he was hauled aboard.

[Photo; Knaresborough Castle.]

The landing craft had been adapted and strengthened for their tropical destination, as described elsewhere on this webpage, no doubt in anticipation of stormy weather on their long journey under tow.

On return to Ardrossan, we spent 2/3 months in dock, presumably for repairs. Perhaps we had sustained damage when approaching the LCT, although there were rumours that the engines had moved out of alignment in the storm."

Having read this webpage, everything matches up with the recollection of my friend Albert St Pier of Romford and myself.

[Photo; Albert St Piers who also served on the Knaresborough Castle.]

The Aftermath

 ~ Admiralty Board of Inquiry ~

An Admiralty Board of Inquiry was convened in Gibraltar. It received verbal and written reports from the senior officers of the three escort ships, as well as some of the surviving LCT officers and crews. They considered the division of responsibilities, agreeing with the Board that the LCTs, attached to merchant ships, were part of the convoy and consequently their safety was the responsibility of the Commodore. The Senior Officer, Escort Group, was responsible for convoy protection from enemy action and could only advise on matters relating to the LCTs.

Broadly the Board’s findings were as follows:-

That the towing vessels and LCTs should have been heaved to much sooner; at least by nightfall on Tues 17th, before the worst of the damage was sustained and then turned to run together before the wind to a safe harbour, with an escort in tow. For this delay the Commodore was deemed responsible.

They also concluded, that when bad weather was expected, only passage crew should be on board, that no unnecessary gear be carried, that the tank space should be properly decked or plated to stop water ingress and that only one craft be towed. It was also considered that the number of escorts for this type and size of convoy was far too small. The Board commended the escort ships, particularly HMS Allington Castle, for the fine handling of rescue operations in mountainous seas.

Those from the RN, giving evidence at the enquiry, were: Acting Lt Commander George Edward Newey, RNR of HMS Fowey; Acting Lt Commander Philip Almond Read, RNR, HMS Allington Castle; Acting Lt Commander John Frederick Marchant, RNR, HMS Knaresborough Castle; Sub Lieutenant Keith Whitfield Steele, RNVR, LCT 488; Leading Seaman Donald King, C/JX 354628, LCT 488; Lieutenant William Colin Gray, RNVR, LCT 491; Sub Lieutenant Leonard Arthur, RNVR,  LCT 491; Sub Lieutenant George Rennell Sample, RNVR, LCT 480; Midshipman Robert Reay, RNVR, LCT 480; Leading Seaman Kenneth Rodgers, D/SSX 36506, LCT 480 and Motor Mechanic William Sloan, C/MX 501539, LCT 480. 

 ~ The Commodores Report ~

The Commodore’s convoy report stated that he was expecting 14 LCTs to be towed as an experiment but only 9 sailed. He did not know of the missing 5 but assumed that they had problems with the tow lines. Every effort was made to care for and nurse the LCTs keeping convoy speed below 6 knots by revs and 3.5 knots through the water. At the Liverpool conference, the LCT skippers had been given discretionary powers to slip the tow if necessary and that towing merchant ships would render all possible assistance.

After clearing St Georges Channel, the weather worsened and Commodore signalled Senior Officer Murts in LCT 494 (171050A) "How are your children making out? What sort of weather are you making of it?" The reply came back "We are managing but making very heavy weather of it". On the morning of the 18th, after consultation with the senior officer of the escort group, it was agreed that the escort group could not cope with the LCTs in distress and, at the same time, protect the convoy from enemy action. The Commodore suggested that C in C Western Approaches be made aware of the worsening situation and, in view of small number of escort ships and potential prolonged rescue efforts, requested the dispatch of additional escort support. The senior officer of the escort groups had, in fact, already taken these steps and the Commodore believed that this action got prompt rescue assistance.

The Commodore ordered each towing merchant ship skipper to send a report to the Admiralty via NCSO (Naval Control Service Officer).

 ~ The Liverpool Inquiry ~

An inquiry also took place in Liverpool on 20th October and, although no direct mention was made of the disastrous KMS66, all towing was stopped and towing LCTs in convoys never happened again, potentially avoiding further loss of life. Thereafter, LCT modifications were improved to enable them to withstand rough seas on long voyages. Many were conveyed on board larger ships as deck cargo. Those that did make the passage were routed to Falmouth, where they waited for good weather before proceeding through SW Approaches and Biscay area.

 ~ Reports from Towing Vessels ~

Report from Nairnbank states that on 18/10/44 at 0845, LCT 494 tow wire parted in position 35 degrees. 172 miles from L. Stood by to render assistance. Low visibility. Last sighted proceeding under own fire. Fate unknown.

Report from Fort Finlay states that LCT 7015 and LCT 491 believed slipped tow at 035 degrees. 170 miles from L. at 1500/18. Proceeded in company with LCT 494 heading 270 degrees. Did not signal me. Fate unknown.

 

Report from City of Lyons states that LCT 489 broke lug at 034 degrees 198 miles from L at 1730. Craft reported able to make port.

 ~ Lands End Radio ~

On 21/10/44 Lands End radio broadcasts to LCT 7015 (call sign BYMK), LCT 489 (call sign MZXJ) and LCT 494 (call sign MZXM). No response.

 [Photo; Pam Shipston, widow of John Shipston with her son Bryan and grandson John on Horseguards Parade, Remembrance Day 2008.]

 ~ Extract from War Diary - Western Approaches Command ~

LCT 489 returned to Falmouth under own power. LCT 7022/7023 brought into Falmouth after being abandoned. LCT 494 and 7015 were not accounted for and their loss must be presumed.

On 22/10/44, LCT 7022 and LCT 7023 were re-crewed and towed into Falmouth. The search for missing LCTs continued until 23/10/44.

Casualty List

Wednesday, 18 October 1944
 ALLINGTON CASTLE
(lost overboard)
BARNES, Douglas, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 549647, MPK
LCT 480
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
HOWARD, Edward G, Able Seaman, P/JX 387399, MPK
HOWARD, Roy W, Stoker 1c, D/KX 158239, MPK
MCCOLL, James, Act/Able Seaman, D/JX 227963, MPK
LCT 494
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
BAYFORD, Charles, Leading Motor Mechanic, C/MX 125979, MPK
BERRY, John D G, Stoker 1c, C/KX 140548, MPK
BUSUTTIL, John J, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 408048, MPK
DICKINSON, Ronald V, Act/Leading Stoker, P/KX 146595, MPK
DONALDSON, Andrew, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 409670, MPK
EAGER, Leonard A C, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/JX 351717, MPK
ELLINGWORTH, Peter, Ty/Midshipman, RNVR, MPK
FITZSIMON, Barry S, Act/Leading Seaman, P/JX 327463, MPK
FRASER, Alistair, Wireman, D/MX 615703, MPK
GILMOUR, Roland J, Ty/Act/Sub Lieutenant, RNZNVR, MPK
HARTLEY, Edward C, Ordinary Seaman, D/JX 421185, MPK
JAMES, Arthur S, Stoker 1c, D/KX 163293, MPK
KILLINGBACK, Kenneth, Ordinary Seaman, D/JX 640249, MPK
MCCUNNELL, William H, Wireman, D/MX 658129, MPK
MURTS, John, Ty/Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
SHIPSTON, John, Telegraphist, C/JX 343262, MPK
SMITH, George, Able Seaman, C/JX 351355, MPK
LCT 7014
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
DAWSON, Leslie, Leading Stoker, P/KX 116656, MPK
DIXON, Edward G, Stoker 2c, P/KX 526160, MPK
FAIRHEAD, Alan H G, Telegraphist, C/JX 677000, killed
FARRELL, James, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
FIRTH, Parker, Leading Seaman, P/JX 231331, MPK
HOLT, Jack W, Able Seaman, P/JX 416613, MPK
PRATT, Donald W, Stoker 1c, P/KX 162280, MPK
REGAN, James, Able Seaman, C/JX 188625, MPK
WESTCOTT, Robert C, Motor Mechanic, C/MX 623901, MPK
LCT 7015
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
CONDICK, Dennis H, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, killed
CONNOLLY, John, Ordnance Artificer 4c, D/MX 90406, MPK
GERNER, Christian A, Act/Leading Stoker, P/KX 127662, MPK
GLEADALL, Horace, Stoker 1c, P/KX 140446, MPK
HAIGH, Geoffrey J, Able Seaman, D/JX 362563, MPK
HANNAN, George, Telegraphist, C/JX 579916, MPK
HARDAKER, Kenneth, Leading Motor Mechanic, C/MX 691177, MPK
HAVELOCK, Leonard, Able Seaman, C/JX 372400, MPK
HAYWARD, Humphrey M, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
JONES, Park K, Act/Petty Officer, P/JX 159796, MPK
KELYNACK, William, Ty/Act/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
LORIMER, James W, Stoker 1c, P/KX 525156, MPK
ORAM, Bertram W J, Able Seaman, P/JX 325605, MPK
POWELL, Rhys W, Wireman, D/MX 619718, MPK
SINGER, Leslie C, Able Seaman, P/JX 383916, MPK
TAYLOR, John M, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 397191, MPK
TONGE, Peter, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 542284, MPK
WARRINGTON, Clement S, Able Seaman, P/JX 328995, MPK
LCT 7023
ARCHIBALD, James, Act/Able Seaman, D/JX 367179, MPK
Thursday, 19 October 1944
LCT 488
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss,18th-19th)
ARMSTEAD, Stanley, Leading Wireman, D/MX 510022, MPK
BELL, Peter G, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNZNVR, MPK
COCKBILL, Alfred C, Wireman, D/MX 630047, MPK
GLADMAN, Reginald J, Telegraphist, C/JX 616299, MPK
LONG, Martin, Petty Officer Motor Mechanic, C/MX 126648, MPK
THOMAS, Arthur P P, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK
LCT 491
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
EDWARDS, Charles J, Able Seaman, P/JX 328647, MPK
Source: www.Royal-Navy.net

Able Seaman James Regan, C/JX 188625, LCT 7014. A brother of my late grandmother, nee Lily Regan,  was killed on LCT 7014 and is listed above. His death was an enormous shock to the family. We still have messages of condolence from Buckingham Palace and his Commanding Officer which are attached together with a photo of James. He was born in December 1922, lived in Liverpool and married Esther May. They had no children. Colin Mutch
 

Temporary Sub Lieutenant Arthur Paul Phillips-Thomas RNVR. Missing Presumed Killed. Arthur was my father’s brother. I had never heard or seen him referred to as Arthur until I read his name on this web page. He was always known as Paul within the family.

Paul was born on October 3rd 1916, the first child of John and Catherine Phillips-Thomas and subsequently older brother to Frank. The family lived in NW London where he grew up and then worked for an insurance company. It was in Hampstead Garden Suburb that he married his beloved Margaret on 1st Nov 1941. [See photos courtesy of Jane Porter]. Remarkably for wartime, she travelled to Greenock in the Clyde estuary to wave goodbye to Paul when the 9th LCT flotilla sailed on the 14th Oct 1944. She remembered how few of Paul’s comrades had loved ones there to witness their departure.

Paul was on LCT 488 and the chilling account of the tragedy about to unfold is recorded above. His family always believed that he had died as a result of enemy action in the Bay of Biscay. Perhaps the real story was withheld to prevent loss of morale. It was in the mid 1990s that, in conversation with Paul’s cousin, John Clifford Hughes, who was also in the Royal Navy and survived the war, that we became aware that Paul possibly died in home waters.

My grandmother, Paul’s mother, always thought that the accompanying ships to Paul’s convoy had instructions not to stop, or search for, survivors, which she found excruciatingly difficult to deal with. I wish she had known the truth, that everything possible was done to rescue the men.

Margaret married again and she, and her new family, always kept in close touch with our family. When she died recently, at the age of 94, papers were found which led us to this website and finally to the truth of what happened to Paul.

Acting Leading Seaman Barry Symons FitzSimon P/JX 327463 was lost in HMLCT 494 October 18th 1944. Sadly his relatives have no photographs of Barry as he was at the time he was lost. All that remains is the image (right) taken in 1919 showing him as a very young boy with his parents. Barry was the son of Richard Granville Grenfell Symons FitzSimon and his wife Lillian Alberta FitzSimon nee Vickery. It is thought that Barry was born during 1918-1919 making him around 26 years of age at the time of his death. When Barry’s niece read this webpage she was horrified to discover the manner of his death and indeed the loss of so many others and asks the question many have asked both then and now.........why were they not turned back? Please contact us if you have a wartime photo of Barry; there's a family who would be thrilled to have a copy.

Sub.Lieutenant Dennis Henry Condick R.N.V.R. Following his death while serving in, and having command of HMLCT 7015 on October 18th 1944, Sub. Lt. Dennis Condick’s parents had a Silver loving cup engraved in memory of Dennis and his crew who perished in the storm in the vicinity of the Bay of Biscay along with other men of the 9th LCT Flotilla.

Relatives of Dennis recently donated the cup to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, Hampshire and the photo opposite shows Dr. Richard Noyce after officially accepting the cup on behalf of the museum. Dr. Noyce read this page about ‘The Lost Flotilla’ which, we understand, was instrumental in the museum's decision to accept the cup. He would welcome contact with families who lost relatives in the storm and also any additional information about the men lost together with any photographs of them. More generally any items with a clearly demonstrable provenance to the tragedy that befell the 9th LCT Flotilla would also be of great interest to the museum.

The museum is about to expand into new quarters in the near future and has plans to include a special display area dedicated to the part played by the landing craft of the Second World War and the men of the Royal Navy who manned them. [Contributed by Archivist/Historian Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association. 30 May 2010].

Petty Officer Motor Mechanic Martin Long HMLCT 488. Photo of Martin Long seemingly taken during his early days in the Royal Navy. Martin was born on January 11th 1923 and was the son of Suzannah and William Long of Preston, Lancashire, England. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman on June 30th 1942 later becoming Petty Officer Motor Mechanic... the rank he held on October 19th 1944 when he met his death while serving on the Mk3 HMLCT 488 of the 9th LCT Flotilla. Prior to joining the Royal Navy he had been employed as a telephone operator in his home town of Preston.

Service Record. 30th June 1942, HMS GLENDOWER - Training establishment in Pwllheli; 26th August 1942 HMS VICTORY - Portsmouth Depot; 26th September 1942: HMS SHRAPNEL (Bournemouth); 27th March 1943: HMS VICTORY - Portsmouth Depot; 3rd April 1943, HMS PEMBROKE - Chatham Depot; 17th July 1943, HMS DINOSAUR - Base in Troon; 1st September 1943, HMLCT 488 - landing craft serving with the Combined Operations Unit.

AB Leonard Havelock who was lost in LCT 7015 left five children behind, three daughters and two sons. His loss devastated his family causing repercussions that still reverberate through to the present day. His relatives both then and now consider him a hero and rightly so as were they all. Following his death his wife along with the children emigrated to Canada in the hope of making a better life for them all.

Members of Leonard's family who knew him back then recall him being a very good man... a gentleman, in the true sense of the word, a hard working man who was strong, compassionate, loving and brave. [Photos; l to r, Leonard Havelock in uniform. Leonard Havelock (third from left front row) during happier times with his workmates and Commemorative Scroll.]

Telegraphist Alan Fairhead HMLCT 7014. Alan’s parents were horrified when the events that brought about his loss and indeed the loss of so many other men of the 9th LCT Flotilla became known. They were appalled that apparent disregard appeared to have been shown for the safety of the men within the convoy given the known weather conditions prevailing at the time; neither could they understand why the convoy was allowed to continue instead of being ordered to turn about and run for home.

Such was their intense anger with the Royal Navy and the powers that be in general that they refused to allow Alan to be buried within a recognised Commonwealth War Grave, electing instead to have him buried in a civil plot at Beccles Church in Suffolk. Alan was laid to rest on Friday November 3rd 1944, his funeral conducted by the Reverend Harold Birch, the coffin draped with the Union Jack. Alan’s headstone carries  the words ‘Died in Action’.

Commonwealth War Grave Commission staff inspect the grave periodically and within recent times a tree has been removed that was beginning to crack the surface of the headstone. The damaged headstone was then repaired.

Stoker 2nd Class Edward George Dixon of HMLCT 7014 - Aug 19th 1925 to Oct 18th 1944. Edward Dixon, the son of Albert and Dorothy Dixon of Ramsgate, Kent, was just 19 years of age when he met his death while serving in the Mk3 HMLCT 7014 of the 9th LCT Flotilla on October 18th 1944. His body, as nearly all those lost with the flotilla during the storm, was never recovered.

Edwards brother passed away earlier this year (2011) and it had always been his wish that his ashes should be scattered as close as possible to where Edward and HMLCT 7014 were lost.

Archivist/Historian Tony Chapman was contacted and asked if it was at all possible to plot a possible location for HMLCT 7014 in order that his final wishes could be carried out. Tony spoke to contacts at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard to ask if they could assist.....the family have now been given a possible or near location point for the stricken HMLCT 7014. Family members are hoping, by some means or other, to place themselves in that same location sometime this year, when, hopefully, the two brothers who were always close and who became parted by war 67 years ago will be reunited and close again, but this time...for eternity.

Stoker Donald W Pratt was lost in HMLCT 7014 of the 9th LCT Flotilla on October 18th 1944. He was born on May 15th 1923 and attended Lowestoft St.Johns mixed school and then Notley Road school. The manner of Donald's loss has only just become known to family members following their reading of this webpage. Donald was the son of William James Pratt and Ivy Susannah Pratt of Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Craft "State of Readiness" Records (Extracts from Royal Navy ‘Green List’)

The information below pertains to some of the vessels of the ill fated 9 LCT Flotilla. It was obtained from the Royal Navy's ‘green list’ (UK. PRO reference ADM210) and records, on a weekly basis, the location, condition and assignments of all ‘minor vessels’ including landing craft. The condition of the vessels is recorded by annotating the vessel number with a letter corresponding to a defined state of readiness as set out below.

  •  A – Craft structurally and mechanically fit for operational use regardless of type and not undergoing repairs which will require more than 72 hours to complete.
  •  B – Craft structurally and mechanically fit for non-operational use regardless of type and not undergoing repairs, which will require more than 72 hours to complete.
  •  C – Craft awaiting or undergoing repair work, which will require more than 72 hours to complete.
  •  D – Craft damaged or cannibalised beyond economic repair.
  •  E – Craft or barge awaiting repairs.

The condition of vessels is often supplemented by additional notation, which corresponds to ‘standard’ notes also defined in the document e.g. ‘awaiting refit for tropical operations’ or ‘engine removed’.

19th June 1944 488 is reported as being part of the ‘pooled reserve’ at Glasgow, not attached to any flotilla and in condition B. Also part of the pooled reserve were HMLCTs 29 and 479 (Mark 1) and 1054 (Mark 4).
26th June 488 as being assigned to 62 LCT flotilla, still ‘pooled reserve’, with LCTs 478, 479, 490, 7019 (Mk 3) and 865, 1054, 1173 and 1319 (Mk 4). All craft are at Troon (Scotland) with the exception of 1319 (on passage to Troon) and 834 at Lamlash (Scotland).
3rd July 62 flotilla comprises 479, 488, 7020, 7021 (Mk 3) and 865, 1054, 1173 and 1319 (Mk 4) still based at Troon. 478, 490 and 7019 (Mk 3) have been transferred to 60 LCT flotilla at Lamlash, still as pooled reserve.
10th July 488 transferred to 60 flotilla at Lamlash and 490 transferred to 62 flotilla at Troon.
17th July 60 flotilla at Lamlash comprises 6 Mk3 LCTs: 478, 479, 488, 490, 7019 and 7021. 62 flotilla at Troon comprises 480, 489, 491, 7014, 7020 (Mk 3) and 865, 1055, 1139, 1319 (Mk 4).
24th July  1054 (Mk 4) has joined 60 flotilla at Lamlash. All vessels are noted as being in condition A. 62 flotilla at Troon now comprises 480, 489, 491, 7014, 7022 and 7023 all Mk 3.
31st July 60 flotilla at Lamlash comprises 9 Mk 3 LCTs: 478, 479, 480, 488, 489, 490, 491, 7019, 7021 and 2 Mk 4 LCTs: 1054 and 1055. Interestingly 7014, 7022 and 7023 (all condition A) have now been assigned to 9 LCT flotilla, ‘D LCT squadron’ and are on passage to Belfast.
7th, 14th and 21st August Reports indicate that the flotillas remained fairly static with 60 flotilla in Lamlash and 7014, 7022 and 7023 with 9 flotilla in Belfast.
28th August 488 is part of 9 flotilla, ‘D LCT squadron’ which has moved to Port Glasgow, and this appears to remain fairly static until the end of September.
2nd October 9 flotilla, ‘D LCT squadron’ is complete with 12 Mk 3 LCTs, although spread over 4 local bases. 478 is at Glasgow undergoing topical refit (C1). 480 is tropical refitting at Irvine. 488, 489 and 491 are at Port Glasgow in condition B. 492, 493, 494 and 7015 are at Troon in condition C and 7014, 7022 and 7023 are at Troon tropical refitting. LCT 490 is at Ayr tropical refitting but is not assigned to a flotilla.
9th October The works are still being carried out but 478 (Glasgow) and 492 (Lamlash) are reported condition A. 480, 488, 489, 491, 493, 494, 7015, 7022 and 7023 are at Troon in condition C or C1. 7014 is in condition C1 at Irvine.
16th October 9 of the 12 LCTs are in condition A and are ‘on passage to India in tow’. 494 is in condition A ‘on passage to Milford Haven’, presumably in an attempt to catch up with the remainder of the flotilla. 478 and 493 are condition C at Troon. Presumably works to 478 and 493 were incomplete and they could not sail with the rest of the flotilla.

Tropical refitting was denoted by the addition of a capital T to the above notations, although this appears to have started on the report of 23rd October 1944 and is, therefore, outside the concern of this particular paper. The additional ‘T’ notation is defined as ‘major landing craft that have completed preparation for tropical service’. It is interesting to note, however, that several of the landing craft that were on the west coast of Scotland on the 23rd of October 1944 (478, 492 and 493) were reported to be in condition ‘TA’.

The ‘tropical refit’ apparently included modifications to strengthen the vessels for the long voyage under tow and briefly comprised reinforcing the welding to the ramp door (possibly welding the doors shut) and watertight doors between the ramp and the tank deck (closing these also?). The front compartment formed was filled with empty 45-gallon drums held in position by welded 4-inch steel straps. In an attempt to deflect sea and spray a double weight canvas cover was lashed across the front part of the tank deck.

A cork based insulating material was spread over the wardroom and mess deck bulkheads but in the rush to join the convoy now assembling insufficient time was allowed for the insulation to dry and at time of sailing the bulkheads were running with water.

The usual crew for a Mk 3 LCT comprised 2 Officers and 10 Other Ranks but for the long voyage under tow each vessel carried at least 3 extra crew members. LCT 488 carried a total crew of 3 Officers and 16 Other Ranks:

Sub Lieutenant K. W. Steele RNVR. (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve); Sub Lieutenant A. P. H. Thomas RNVR; Sub Lieutenant P. G. Bell RNZNVR; R. Gladman Tel. (Telegrapher); S. Armstead L/Seaman. (Leading Seaman); A. Cockbill W’Man. (Wireman - ships electrician); E. Howard O/S. (Ordinary Stoker; R. Howard Stoker 2. (Stoker 2nd Class); M. Long L/MM (PO). (Petty Officer Motor Mechanic); J. McCall AB. (Able Seaman); D. King L/Seaman. (Leading Seaman); G. Killoran (Stoker); J. C. Barbour (Stoker); Abbott AB. (Able Seaman); J. R. Monogles AB. (Able Seaman); T. Brady AB. (Able Seaman); W. Jackson AB. (Able Seaman); J. Woods O/Signalman. (Ordinary Signalman); J. O. Bailey SBA. (Sick Berth Attendant).

Accommodation for the additional crew members was provided by loading a wooden caravan in the tank hold of the vessel. From other sources (eg 'War of the Landing Craft') the caravans and cargo carried caused many problems with pump-fouling during the loss of the craft.

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page. They, or any other books you know about, can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Just 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.

The war of the Landing Craft by Lund and Ludlam. It covers the convoy in chapter 14 'caught in the great gale' and gives some further insights into the use of landing craft in WW2. English Library number 45003039 3. Copies are available on the ABE website - just click on the books icon above and copy and paste the title into their search banner.

These reports are available from the National Archive ADM 217/48 and others

Report by Sub. Lieutenant K. W. Steele (surviving Officer of HMLCT 488) to L/Cmdr J. F. Marchant (Commanding Officer of HMS Knaresborough Castle) after his rescue from HMLCT 488.
Report by Lt. Commander J. F. Marchant (Commanding Officer H.M.S. Knaresborough Castle) on the loss of H.M. L.C.T. 488.
Report by G. E. Newey, Senior Officer, B.23 Escort Group. Admiralty file ADM 217/48.
Report by R. A. Read, Commanding Officer H.M.S. Allington Castle.

Appeal for Information

Prior to the tragedy that befell the 9th LCT Flotilla, it had seen considerable service in the Mediterranean. In June of 1943 the flotilla comprised the British Mk3 LCTs 329, 330, 344, 356, 358, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389 and 404. Each craft no doubt has its own story to tell, but, as far as is known, nothing about them has been published. LCTs 329 and 358 were lost during 1943. Most if not all the craft of the 9th LCT Flotilla took part in the landings on Sicily (Operation Husky, 9/10th July) they departed from Malta to land at Augusta and Siracusa. Confirmation of the part played by the flotilla  at Salerno and Anzio is currently being reviewed.

No reference to the 9th LCT Flotilla during the summer of 1944 has been found so we can reasonably speculate that it was in the process of being reformed with the very craft that sailed in the ill-fated convoy. In December 1944, two months after the tragedy, the 9th LCT Flotilla made ready for its departure from Falmouth to the Far East... a journey of some six months according to Telegraphist Arthur Fairchild who served in LCT 489. Other craft recorded assigned at that time, and based in Cochin, India were 441, 451, 462, 466, 478, 493, 7016, 7022, 7023 and 7024.

Of those lost, Telegraphist John Shipston off HMLCT 494 is buried at Pornic in Western France, Ordnance Artificer John Connolly off HMLCT 7015 is buried at Servel on the Cotes-d’Armor, France and Telegraphist Alan Fairhead, off HMLCT 7014,  rests within Beccles Cemetery, Suffolk, England.

It may be reasonable to assume that Alan Fairhead was brought back to England by the Convoy Rescue Ship Dundee which is recorded picking up the survivors from LCT 7014. What his condition might have been at that time will likely never be known, possibly he was barely alive and died on passage home. Had he been retrieved from the sea and ‘discharged dead’ at the scene he would likely have been buried at sea.

This may well be what happened with Sub. Lieutenant Dennis Condick who commanded HMLCT 7015, he, like Alan, off HMLCT 7014, is recorded ‘Killed’ and not ‘Missing Presumed Killed’ as indeed are the other men of the 9th LCT Flotilla who were lost. The exceptions being John Connolly and John Shipston who were recovered at a later date. Rescue Ship Dundee is recorded picking up eleven survivors during her war service, it is possible that all eleven were off the stricken HMLCT 7014.

[Photo above was taken in a Gloucester school in 1937. Seated, second from left middle row, is Dennis Condick. In October 1944 at the rank of Sub. Lieutenant he commanded the MK3 'Star' LCT 7015 which was lost with all hands in Convoy OS92/KMS66.]

I am keen to make contact with anyone who sailed in any craft assigned to the 9th LCT Flotilla or indeed their families. So far, in addition to Bryan Shipston, I've been in touch with a relative of Dennis Condick (lost in LCT 7015), the brother of Telegraphist Alan Fairhead  (lost in LCT 7014) and a relative of Leading Wireman (Electrician) Stanley Armstead (lost in LCT 488).

Please contact us by clicking on the e-mail icon. Many thanks!

Old Richian (school), Alan O Watkins provided remarkable additional information about the photo in April 2014...

I can add a little bit more to the information relating to Dennis Condick. He was a friend of my late parents, Frank and Pat Watkins. Dennis, like Dad, was a pupil at Sir Thomas Rich’s Grammar School in Gloucester (where the soccer photo was taken). He was a keen all-round sportsman, and is remembered each year with the presentation to the outstanding cricketer in the school of the Condick Bat, with which he hit a century. Also in the photo (2nd row, extreme right) is Bill Hook, now 93, who as W G Hook, was England fullback in 1951 and 1952, appearing against Scotland, Wales and South Africa. He also attempted to teach me how to kick but still remains a friend! Dennis is commemorated on the school’s war memorial, which was transferred to Longlevens when the school in the city centre was replaced in the 1960s.

Correspondence

Dear Geoff,
 
It was quite by accident that I came across the website re. the above, and noted your wish to trace any relatives of the flotilla personnel concerned.
 
Well, I am the nephew of Midshipman Peter Ellingworth, MBK on 18-19th Oct `44 with LCT 494.
 
I knew my late Father`s younger brother was lost at sea during the war at but not of the circumstances - the war as far as my parents were concerned was very much regarded on a need to know basis and "was best left were it was" : my Father was a veteran of N. Africa, Tunisia, Sicily, Italy & Greece, and had shell-shock as it was known as then on his return, his sister who died recently (emigrated to Australia in 1967)  was a nurse in Burma, suffering health after effects for the rest of her life (jaundice, Beri Beri) and my late Mother had memories of the Blitz.
 
His death at only nineteen had a profound effect on my Father, his Sister in particular and Grandmother as you can imagine, especially as my Grandfather (on my Father`s side) died a relatively young man just as WW2 started, because of suffering on-going after effects of WW1.
 
It is only recently I have been able to bring myself to obtain my Father`s army record as the surviving next of kin and as said only yesterday found the Lost Flotilla site.

Any relatives of veterans of the 'Lost Flotilla,' in particular the crew of LCT 494, are welcome to contact me.

 
With kind  regards,
 
Peter Ellingworth.   

Acknowledgments

This account of the tragic story of the 9th LCT Flotilla in Convoy OS92/KMS66 was transcribed by Archivist/Historian Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy) and Bryan Shipston, son of John Shipston who died when LCT 494 foundered off Lands End. It was further edited by Geoff Slee for website presentation. Extracts from Royal Navy ‘Green List’ courtesy of Mike Long.

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