~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

WW2 land, sea and air forces of the Allied Nations planning, training and operating together as a unified force on amphibious raids and landings against the enemy.

Australia Greece  Belgium Holland Canada UK USA France Norway Poland New Zea'd

Home

Membership

Memorial

Roll of Honour

Books

FAQs

All Pages Index

Notice Boards

Donate

They Also Served

Search

Contact Us

 Approaching 500k visits per year to 200  web pages & 3000 photos.  General information at the bottom of this and every web page.

Please show your appreciation for those who served the Allied cause in WW2 by 'liking' the Combined Ops Facebook page. Many thanks.

~ HMLCT 795 ~

This is the story of HMLCT 795 from early training to D-Day and beyond seen through the eyes of the craft's electrician. From the hazardous work off Normandy, where experiences shared bonded the crew together, to an unexpected event that dispersed them without ceremony. The author never met any of them again.

Foreword Initial Training Prep for D-Day D-Day Demise of 795
Photo Gallery Further Reading Correspondence Acknowledgements  

Foreword by Tony Chapman

On the morning of D-Day, June 6th 1944, under the command of 21 year old Sub. Lieutenant Lyon, HMLCT 795 of the 52nd LCT Flotilla of the G LCT Squadron, was on Utah beach in support of the US 4th Infantry Division. Loading orders for the craft in Michael's group record that HMLCT 795 was carrying men of the USA's 531 Engineer Shore Regiment. Furthermore, landing tables show that HMLCT 795 was due on Tare Green sector of Utah beach at H-Hour + 320 minutes; just before mid-day. (Photo; Sub Lt Lyon (left) with his second in command, or 'Jimmy the One' as they were all affectionately known.)

With her were other British manned Mk4 LCTs;  LCT 758 with the 4th Field Artillery Battalion, LCT 798 with men of the 3rd Battalion 12th Infantry, LCT 799 with men of the 1st Battalion 12th Infantry, LCT 822 with men of 531 Engineer Shore Regiment (same as LCT 795), LCT 977 with men of the 12th Infantry, LCT 974 with 29th Field Artillery Battalion and LCT 996 with elements of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade.

That at least was the intention, but the reality on the day may have been different. We would be delighted to hear from any veterans of 531 ESR who were carried on to Utah beach by way of LCTs and who may be able to add to the record.

Initial Training

I joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer on May 11th 1943 and reported to HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness in Lincolnshire on the east coast of England. The establishment, formerly a Billy Butlin's Holiday Camp, was a central reception depot for new naval recruits.

Following my initial training I was drafted in turn to; HMS Vernon a shore base at Portsmouth as a Junior Provisional Electrical Mechanic (JPEM), HMS Shrapnel at Southampton from where we travelled every day to the training in Totton to continue our J.P.E.M. course. After several weeks, myself, along with others, were suddenly taken off the course and drafted to HMS Drake at Devonport for onward draft to the Royal Navy Training Unit at Letchworth in Hertfordshire to take the Landing Craft Wireman course. This was soon followed by instruction in aspects of seamanship at Troon in Scotland. (Photo; the author.)

When I was at Troon I joined HMLCT 795 in the Gare Loch. This was most likely around the early weeks of 1944. From there we undertook sea trials between Oban, on the east coast of Scotland, and Lamlash on the Isle of Arran in the Clyde estuary. The daily routine was broken from time to time by the exuberance of youth. On one occasion our Petty Officer motor mechanic and I went ashore but missed the last liberty boat back to our landing craft. There was an exercise the following day so it was imperative that we were back on board in good time.  By chance we spotted a dinghy tied to the stern of a motor cruiser and this offered a solution to our problem. We quickly untied it and proceeded to row out.

We hadn't travelled very far when we heard the burst of an engine from a powerful boat. A searchlight swept the bay soon picking us out in its glare. It was our misfortune that the motor cruiser, from which we had untied the dinghy, was a Naval Police Patrol vessel. Its crew were not amused and we found ourselves on the receiving end of a well earned punishment from our commander. However, I believe I saw a twinkle in his eye as he thought about us catching out the Naval Police!

Preparations for D-Day

After leaving Lamlash we headed south to Falmouth by way of the Irish Sea. In Falmouth our craft was put into dry dock around March '44 to have Mulock extensions fitted to her bow door, this giving some indication of the flatness of the beach we would likely be required to land on at some point.

At that time other British craft were in Falmouth for refitting or repairs. There were also many US Navy craft which, we now know, were those of the US Navy's Force B Follow-Up to the first wave of landings destined for the American sectors. Nights ashore were so organised that the British and Americans seldom, if ever, found themselves drinking together. Experience had taught the authorities that a mixture of the two nationalities had the potential for conflict! (Photo; most of the crew in relaxed mode.)

With our Mulock extension in place LCT 795 departed from Falmouth and anchored at St. Mawes. This gave the crew a chance to enjoy some fishing to supplement rations. Talking of which an American soldier from Los Angeles joined us to guard the US Army K Rations stacked on board. We nicknamed him GI (Indian) Joe. I'm ashamed to say that we stole two boxes on one occasion when he wasn’t looking, but, fortunately, he did not get into trouble - nobody was counting in those days!

During early springtime everything became more serious. The pace quickened with regular, often daily, practice landings. Time after time we carried US Army troops and deposited them on to the beach at Slapton Sands.

Many of our exercises involved night sailings and one particular night I saw a ship burning in the distance. Next morning in Brixham Harbour all the American LSTs had their flags at half-mast. For a time we believed someone important had died but discovered much later that a convoy of USLSTs had come under attack from German E-boats. The incident we now know took place during Operation Tiger in April 1944…..nearly 750 men were lost.

D-Day

The long awaited day for which we had trained so hard arrived. In the very early days of June we took our cargo onboard and tied up alongside other craft in Dartmouth harbour. After that no-one was allowed to leave the vessel without very good reason and, even then, only with an escort. Secrecy was paramount. Our skipper told us ‘this is it’ and gave us details of the part that HMLCT 795 would play in the imminent invasion of France.

I will never forget our departure from Dartmouth. Crowds of people gathered to wave us off knowing that this was the long awaited invasion. We sailed on what must have been June 4th but had to put into Portland because the planned landing intended for June 5th had been postponed for 24 hours owing to bad weather.

The following morning as we left Portland we saw a most amazing sight... to the distant horizon the sea was full of landing ships and craft of all shapes and sizes. The enormity of the spectacle made a lifelong impression on me. I was only 18 years of age and recall saying to my shipmates…"We are about to become part of history!"

The crossing to Normandy was very rough and many of the American soldiers could not wait to get off our 'God damned boat.' There was no escape from the smell of vomit, it was everywhere. I chose to sleep in the Oerlikon gun pit in an attempt to breathe clean air!

We arrived off the Normandy beaches during the pre-dawn hours and stood off as we watched Allied planes going over during the first light of dawn. Our run to the beach was planned for approximately 1000 hours as part of the fourth assault wave. Every man was given a tot of rum, even underage me. It tasted really good.

My action station on landing was to operate the cable brake drum when the Kedge anchor was dropped. As HMLCT 795 approached the beach there were explosions in the sand which I thought were caused by our own demolition engineers. However, an American soldier was sure they were 88mm shells from German defenders taking their bearings on the Barrage Balloon flying above our craft.

Having delivered our cargo of men and trucks on to the beach HMLCT 795 was left high and dry as the tide receded. Alongside us, also part of 52nd Flotilla, was one of our sister craft HMLCT 996 (see photo). Given that we were beached, and therefore relatively easy targets for German gunners, we left our craft and ran up the beach to seek shelter. As we did so shells landed between the craft and HMLCT 795 suffered a few holes in her side. Thankfully there was no major damage but it would have been a very different outcome had it happened a short time earlier since some of the trucks we had just unloaded onto the beach were carrying high explosives for demolition purposes. Had one of them gone up HMLCT 795 and all onboard would have been lost.

As the shelling continued I jumped into a foxhole and found myself with an American soldier who shared his K Ration chocolate with me. He asked if I was a Commando to which I replied 'no fear!' I told him it was my intention to get back to England as soon as the tide came in. Other members of HMLCT 795’s crew found themselves in a blockhouse where they discovered the body of a dead German soldier. They took his helmet, Very pistol and a hand grenade as souvenirs. The combination of youth and wartime can make people very callous, but now, all these years later, I wonder about him, his family, who he was and where he came from.

With the return of the tide we rejoined HMLCT 795 and retracted from the beach and anchored off-shore until the following morning. We spent the night watching tracer bullets back on land and feeling glad that we were out of harms way.

On arriving back in England damage to the bottom of our landing craft caused by an underwater object was repaired at Milford Haven. Thereafter, we became part of the ferry service back and forth between England and France. We worked out of Portland ferrying troops and tanks to the Mulberry Harbour and other areas until the harbour at Le Havre was liberated in September 1944. It was a place where we could go ashore but the town itself was in a terrible state following allied bombing and shelling.

We continued working between England and Le Havre until the early part of 1945. We had minor bumps and scrapes during that period but remained operational throughout.

The Demise of HMLCT 795

The end came for HMLCT 795 on February 15th 1945. Whether the incident took place on the night of the 15th or during the early morning hours of that day escapes my memory. I do recall that we were returning during the hours of darkness from Le Havre with the craft in our convoy sailing in line astern.

I was on the mess-deck when there was an almighty crash and the stern bulkhead buckled. We had run on to rocks and the craft immediately astern had run into us. HMLCT 795 lost power as water entered the fuel tanks and the generator shorted out causing sparks to fly out of the funnel. We lashed 795 to another craft and obtained power for lighting from their generator. In this way we limped back to Portland Harbour where 795 was formally written off thirteen days later. Her crew, including myself, were paid off and individually were drafted to new posts. Suddenly I lost all contact with my then shipmates and sadly I've failed to locate any of them since.

The craft that ran into us that night I have since discovered was HMLCT 1127. She too was a veteran of the Normandy landings as part of the Royal Navy’s 59th LCT Flotilla of Q LCT Squadron which formed part of Force B Follow-Up. On June 6th 1944 LCT 1127 was under the command of Sub. Lieutenant Fred Clements RNVR.

I was sent to Glasgow to join the Mk3 ‘Star’ HMLCT 7124 which was being made ready and 'tropicalised' for service in the Far East. In the event I missed her sailing since I was sick in Mearskirk Hospital at the time. Later, albeit briefly, I joined the crew of LCG(L) 811 at HMS Vansittart in Bristol whose guns were manned by men of the Royal Marines. From 811 I went to HMS Turtle at Poole in Dorset for training on rocket firing LCTs. While there the news came through that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which brought the war to an end.

My time in the Royal Navy was coming to an end. I was drafted to Plymouth to act as skeleton crew or 'Care and Maintenance Party' looking after a number of empty landing craft that were moored in the river there. Finally, I was sent to the Demobilisation Centre in Scotland for release in Class A on June 11th 1946.

I have always been pro-American and have an affinity with the country for family reasons. My uncle emigrated there and became a naturalised citizen, later fighting with the US Army during World War One. I felt sorry for the American lads I met. They were all so far from home with all its comforts and security. They told us about their country and their families. So many of them never to return to their homeland.

Photo Gallery

1 2 3 4 5 6

1

AB 'Ma' Leat.

2

LCT 795's Signalman or 'Bunts' as he would have been known manning one of her 20mm Oerlikon guns.

3

Cox and Motor Mechanic on Oerlikon.

4

Cox, Lofty and Motor Mechanic on Oerlikon.

5

Fishing in Scotland.

6

Gordy (Geordie from NE England?)  outside ramp door winch.
7 8 9 10 11 12

7

GI Indian Joe.

8

LCT 795's Stoker referred to as 'Scouse' from Liverpool.

9

Author on tank deck.

10

Bathing in Brixham Harbour.

11

Motor Mechanic, GI Joe & Taffy in working party.

12

LCGL 811 - author on gun barrel.

Further Reading

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.

Correspondence

I believe my late father, Graham Robert Taylor (Bob), was on the 795's sister ship which beached on D Day. He told me about this incident many years ago and it's great to see the story has been archived for all to read. He had an eventful war having been torpedoed in the Mediterranean in a flotilla returning from north Africa. He and six others survived and were picked up some seven hours later one of whom was was named Lou Boozey from the Teddington/Twickenham area. Father was immensely grateful to his rescuers for the clothes he and his mates were given even if he looked like a ragamuffin with bits of Navy, Army and Air force uniforms! When they arrived in Poole Harbour there was a lot of drinking and they all ended up in the Fireman’s hut on the harbour for the night very much worse for wear! After what they had been through, in the morning they were allowed to get on with the job in hand without reprimand.

I would love to know if the ship my father was torpedoed in was the HMLCT 996. My father later reported to his skipper that he had heard a ticking sound before the ship blew up and was absolutely convinced it was a limpet mine, but the skipper put the noise down to the generators on another ship.

Regards

Peter Taylor

Acknowledgments

This account of  HMLCT 795 was prepared from the notes of RN Wireman Michael Jennings D/MX574620. These notes were transcribed by Tony Chapman, archivist/historian for the LST and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy) and further edited by Geoff Slee for website presentation.

News & Information

 

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Events and Places to Visit

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge.

To everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event or place of interest, click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Restoration of Geoffrey Appleyard's  Memorial 

Click on the image if you'd like to contribute to the improvement of the memorial to Geoffrey Appleyard, DSO, MC and Bar, through the purchase of a limited edition print of a book about him. Geoffrey achieved so much in service with No 7 Commando, No 62 Commando, the Small Scale Raiding Force and the Second SAS Regiment. He was posted Missing in Action in July 1943, aged 26.

www.bramleywarmemorial.com/major-geoffrey-appleyard-book-now-available-for-purchase/

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Print too small or large?

Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

 

Copyright © 2000 to 2017 inclusive [www.combinedops.com]. All rights reserved.