~ 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!
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 fleet.
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 areas.
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 Auxiliary Service.
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 LBK1courtesy 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 second 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."
A Remembrance Service was held on the 69th anniversary of D-Day on June 6th 2013. Representatives from the service organisations, veterans their families and friends assembled on the lower deck (function room) which was very ably opened by D Day veteran Ron Smith (photo opposite), a member of the LST & Landing Craft Association. The lower deck is now officially known as "The Normandy Room" as a a tribute to those ships and men whose destiny it was to sail to Normandy that fateful day, amongst which was, of course, LBK6.
This 70th Anniversary year we are again holding a Commemoration event and hope to welcome all service veterans from whatever field who cannot make it to Normandy, plus their family and friends. The programme starts around 11.00 am with coffee and biscuits followed by a gentle short parade with pipe band at around 11.30 am. Lunch and a few "goodies", provided by the club, will draw the proceedings to an end.
To help with the organisation of the event, anyone wishing to attend should please e-mail the Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club in the first instance.
The Club is located at: Gas House Creek, Harwich, Essex.
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.
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 remained.
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.
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
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 members taken 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.
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.
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.
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.