HMLBK 6 ~
A NORMANDY VETERAN BOWS OUT
His Majesty's Landing Barge Kitchen 6 (HMLBK 6) is
seen departing Portsmouth Naval Base at 13.30 hours on May 10th 2007 under
the tow of a marine tug out of Itchen. Her destination believed to be Babcocks at Southampton for disposal.
Read on to find out what really happened. [Photos courtesy of John Wardale.]
Following her arrival off Normandy HMLBK 6 stood off Sword beach as part
of the 35th Supply and Repair Flotilla of 'U' Landing Barge Squadron. With
her, also part of the 35th Flotilla, were other converted Thames barges of
assorted designations, namely, LBE or Landing Barge (Engineering), LBO
Landing Barge (Oiler) and LBW Landing Barge (Water).
The 35 Supply & Repair Flotilla was, in turn, part of Force 'S'. The Flotilla consisted
of the trawler DAMITO which had been converted to a fuel carrier, the
minesweeping trawler EMPYREAN and VINDELICIA, a trawler which had been
converted to carry fuel but was acting as a tug. The rest of the Flotilla
was the emergency repair craft LCE 13, emergency repair barges LBEs 1, 7,
35, 40, 42 & 43; LBK 6; oiler barges LBOs 5, 12, 15, 25, 31, 42, 50, 51,
52, 85 and water barges LBWs 12 & 13. A further nine LBS & R Flotillas,
similarly composed, were also engaged in support of the Normandy Invasion.
At some point LBK 6 was moved westwards and stood off Gold beach. On July
24th 1944 Admiral Ramsay went aboard and was photographed with her crew. In
1997 Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association reminded crew
member Les Hinchliffe, of the occasion. Les was most surprised having
completely forgotten that he had been in the presence of the great man!
A Brief History
LBK 6 is the last of a class of landing vessels used as a floating kitchen to
serve groups of landing craft at the Normandy
beachheads in 1944. The vessel was built as a steel swim barge in 1944 with
an overall length of 79 feet, a beam of 21ft and draught of 3.5ft;
deadweight capacity was about 150 tons, the hold dimensions being
approximately 50ft long by 16ft wide. The kitchen conversion was carried out
to a total of ten vessels, while similar barges were converted to oil, water
and engineering barges to cater for the varied requirements of the invasion
The kitchen conversion involved the installation in the
barge's hold of four ovens aft of a kitchen space with stores for bulk and
perishable goods forward; a 10 ton fresh water tank was fitted in the hold
with additional fresh and seawater and diesel tanks on the accommodation
roof. The vessel had the capacity for storage and issuing space to provide
enough provisions to feed 900 men for one week. In the after section of the
hull two Chrysler petrol engines were fitted, separated by a diesel tank .
The two Chrysler engines developed a total of 130bhp and gave a speed of 6
knots; the estimated endurance was 300 miles at 5 knots on 600 gallons of
petrol carried in tanks fitted in the after peak, while in the forepeak a
toilet and coal storage were provided. At deck level aft was the steering
shelter which, along with the various fuel tanks, was provided with 2.5"
plastic armour. The middle section of the deckhouse, over the galley below,
was the servery area with accommodation for the one officer aft, over the
engines, and accommodation for the 24 man crew forward, over the storage
In September 1946 LBK 6 was at Chatham were she continued
to act as a floating galley for ships in the dockyard. By 1948 LBK 6 was
classed as a Servicing Craft (Civilian) operating under control of the
Captain of the Dockyard's Department. In July 1951 the hull was surveyed and
given an expected life of 13 years; at the same time it was reported that
the engines had been removed. Two years later LBK 6 was listed under the
Captain of the Dockyard's Department, Chatham and continued to be so until
December 1957 when the barge was absorbed into the newly formed Port
LBK 6 was modernised in 1957 and continued to act as a
galley for ships under refit. In September/October 1961 the vessel was
docked and essential repairs and tank clean carried out followed by
emergency repairs the next month. During 1963 LBK 6 was declared for
disposal and approval to give up was given on 24 April that year. Details of
the craft were forwarded to Portsmouth in September 1963 when it was found
that LBK 6 would be suitable to replace YC 3029 or YC 3030, formerly LBK 1
and LBK 3 respectively.
Approval to transfer to Portsmouth was given on 14
October 1963 and LBK 6 was ready for tow by 5 November. The tug BUSTLER left
Sheerness with LBK 6 in tow on 13 November 1963, arriving at Portsmouth the
following day. It was decided that a refit was required following which LBK
6 would replace YC 3030. In late 1964 a refit and quadrennial survey was
carried out at Portsmouth. The following year it was agreed to increase the
complement by one stoker. During 1965 facilities were further improved as
LBK 6 continued to provide food for ships in refit.
[Photo; sister craft LBK1
courtesy of the
Jack Smale/Philip Simons Collection].
LBK 6 underwent various refits at Portsmouth throughout
the 60's & 70's and was actually declared for disposal on 20 November 1977.
However, the barge was used during the refit of INTREPID between June 1977
and November 1978 and continues to have an active role in what is now the
Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service. [© DA Sowdon, BSc (Hons),
1994. World Ship Society RMAS Central Record.]
LBK 6 found a new role as the clubhouse of the Harwich
and Dovercourt Sailing Club. These photos show her arrival at Harwich on
April 2nd 2008 - the first opposite the harbour master's pontoon and the
on her new mooring quay
at the club by the HHA workboat Hornbill. Whilst serving as their clubhouse
the sailing club hope to incorporate some of her history thus making her a
public attraction as well.
Five years after the Harwich & Dovercourt Sailing Club
took delivery of LBK 6, their planned conversion was completed. Rear
Commodore Shirley Constable explained, "It has been a long hard road, but
as well as being our Clubhouse LBK 6 will also serve as a memorial to all
the landing barges, and the men who sailed on them, that took part in
Operation Overlord which started with the D Day landings on June 6 1944."
On 6th June 2013 the sailing club are held a short service of
remembrance to which local service organisations and all veterans
were invited. Standards were carried and medals proudly worn.
The proceedings started around 10.30 am with coffee and biscuits followed by a short
service of remembrance. Later, one of the veterans performed the official
opening of the new function room which was named "The
Normandy Room" in recognition of LBK 6's illustrious wartime history. A
buffet lunch was provided when memories old and new were no doubt be exchanged.
Following the conversion the exterior is unchanged with the
same deck furniture and LBK 6 on her superstructure. However, the interior has
witnessed an amazing transformation as the photos above illustrate.
As far as is known LBK 6 was, until May 10th 2007, the last surviving
Thames barge converted for service during WW2.
Recollections of a Crew Member
Prior to joining HMLBK 6, myself and others were billeted on Hayling
Island at Havant, Hampshire, England. HMLBK 6 was brought to us from London
as confirmed by a veteran who had ferried numerous Thames barges to
Hampshire. He himself served aboard HMLBK 10.
Our Normandy crew were the first to board her but the precise date
escapes me. Our commanding officer was Sub Lt Smillie, a Londoner. On June 4th
he told us that we were to be part of an invasion force to be landed on the
5th June, later to become June 6 because of a delay due to bad weather.
We departed Hayling Island early in the morning to join up with the main
invasion force. The hundreds of ships and boats of all shapes and sizes was
an unforgettable sight as they made their way towards the Normandy beaches
of France. Our crossing was far from pleasant. The sea was so rough
that LBK 6 pitched up and down like a bucking bronco!
We were assigned to Sword beach at Ouistreham on the extreme eastern
flank of the invasion beaches. By my recall when we arrived we were the only
craft there apart from a merchant ship or ammunition ship. This vessel was
later hit by incoming shell fire or by striking a mine and went up in
flames. I vividly recall her crew and other personnel jumping into the sea
to escape the inferno.
[I have been unable to confirm either the actual or planned departure or
arrival time for LBK 6. The convoy records show that she possibly set
out with Convoy SM 4 which had with it two LBKs. That particular convoy was
due off the Normandy beaches on D+1. (Tony Chapman)].
We did not stay long in the vicinity of Sword beach and soon moved
westwards to take up position off Gold beach at Arromanche, where we
HMLBK 6 was about 79 feet long by 21 feet wide at her bows. She had four
ovens aft of her kitchen space, storage for bulk and perishable goods
forward, a ten ton fresh water storage tank housed in the hold with
additional fresh and sea water tanks on the accommodation roof. She could
hold sufficient provisions to feed 900 men for a week. In the after section
of the hull two Chrysler petrol engines gave her a speed of six knots. At
her forepeak were two toilets or ‘heads’ which were emptied by her crew.
crew complement was 24 men including our commanding officer. His quarters were
aft above the engine room and the crew quarters were forward above the storage
I can recall the names of some crew members but others are now only faces
remembered. For the record, those I can recall are;
AB ‘Haircut Sir’ Gutteridge, a barber in civilian life from Hayling
AB L Higgins a native of Norwich,
Cook Bailey from Northampton,
Cook Wicks from London,
AB Isley from Peterborough,
AB Dawson from Hull,
Stoker Gibbons from the Staffordshire area,
Storeman or ‘Jack Dusty’ as they were known also from Staffordshire, from
Brownhills I believe,
AB ‘Scouse’ Hughes from Liverpool,
AB Gibson from Boness in Scotland,
Cook Tyson from Staffordshire,
Cook Barton from Tunbridge Wells,
AB Harold Armitage from Huddersfield in Yorkshire (my best mate ),
AB Douglas Mackrell from Bradford, Yorkshire,
Cook Ward from London,
AB Leslie ‘Tubby’ Morris from Bolton, Lancashire also known affectionately
as ‘Little Eva,'
AB Les Hinchliffe, a native of Sheffield,
Odder who came from South Africa,
Our Coxswain whose name escapes me. He came from London and in
civilian life he was a "lighter-man" working on the Thames barges... the
very same craft he found himself serving with in Normandy... and myself of
As I sit writing this in November of 1995 I am aware that HMLBK 6 is
still going strong and still feeding Royal Navy personnel in Portsmouth.
The photos below were
provided courtesy of Peter Booth son of ‘Jack Dusty’ Fred Booth off
HMLBK 6. They are of crew
in Sas van Gent a small coastal town in Zeeland, Holland in May/June 1945. Where
names are given they read from back row to front row and left to right.
VE Day May 5
Chef, Tubby &
Taffy & Chef
Spike and Dusty
Ginger & Taffy
Lofty & Spike
VE Day May 5
Given her presence in Normandy in 1944 the Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing
Club held a remembrance service on D-Day the 6th of June 2009 with
HMLBK 6 as the focal point flying the White Ensign.
Members of the local area Royal Navy and Merchant Navy Associations were
present as well as members of the Royal British Legion and veterans from the LST
and Landing Craft Association.
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Able Seaman Les Hinchliffe's recollections were transcribed by Tony Chapman, Archivist/Historian of the LST and Landing
Craft Association (Royal Navy). Thanks to John Wardale for sending in the photos of
His Majesty's Landing Barge Kitchen 6 (HMLBK 6) leaving Southampton.