Graphic detail of the typical experiences of the crews who manned Landing Craft on D-Day June 6 1944.
At dawn, on the morning of D-Day, the 6th of June 1944, the greatest armada ever assembled was stood ready a few miles off the landing beaches. Their presence there was the culmination of some two years preparation, the previous attempt to gain a foothold in Europe had been the ill-fated assault on Dieppe during August of 1942. Although a disaster the assault on Dieppe taught the Allies much. The lessons learned paved the way for the landings in Normandy.
For many of the craft that were stood off the Normandy beaches that summer morning, the journey across the English Channel had been long and arduous. Many of the first wave LCT ( Landing Craft, Tank ) had set out during the early morning of June 5th, laden with troops and tanks. Their journey had taken some eighteen hours or more, for the crews and their officers, sleepless hours, scanning the sky and sea for German activity.
For many of the men of the Royal Navy, in particular those serving with landing craft, D-Day would be their first action. For others, it would be ‘just another day’, they being veterans who had taken part in the landings in the Mediterranean during 1943 and recalled from there for Normandy, seasoned, experienced men. For many, irrespective of their length of service, D-Day would be their last action, the dawn of that morning being the last they would ever witness.
The sea was such that troops were violently seasick but in truth they could not wait to get ashore and face the enemy. One craft, the American built, British manned Mk5 LCT 2226 making for Utah beach, broke down and was forced to return for repairs. The men of the US 4th Infantry Division aboard the 2226 were in all sorts of distress, to quote crew member George Cooper ' the craft was awash with vomit.' The 2226 was one among many where such scenes were being played out
The strength of the sea also took its toll of craft as they made their way to their assigned positions off the Normandy beaches. The LCT(A)s (Landing Craft, Tank (Armoured) in particular, were very vulnerable. Prior to D-Day some 48 American built Mk5 LCT's, serving with the Royal Navy under lend-lease, had been converted to the designations LCT(A) and LCT(HE), the (HE) denoting "high explosive." The conversion took the form of a custom built ramp erected on the tank deck. Its height was such that when the LCT approached the beach, the tanks mounted on the ramp, were able to fire over the bows, thus, hopefully, forcing defenders on the beaches to keep their heads down. One of the problems with such craft was that they were prone to turning over in heavy seas. The weight of the tanks, mounted on the assault ramps made the vessels top heavy; thus, the craft were difficult to handle.
Making her way to Gold beach that morning, as part of the 109th LCT(A)(HE) Flotilla, was the LCT (A) 2039. She, and other craft of her flotilla, were carrying Centaur and Sherman tanks of the 1st Royal Marine Armoured Support Group. The LCT(A) 2039, and her sister ships of the 109th, were due with the 'first assault' on King sector of Gold beach to the west of La Riviere. They were supporting the men of the 69th Infantry Brigade of the British 50th Division. Sadly the 2039 failed to keep her appointment. During the early morning hours, when some 20 miles off the beaches, she was swamped by heavy seas, the force of which caused her to turn turtle. Two crew members, Able Seamen Illingworth and Donnelly were lost.
Initially the survivors were picked up by a control craft. Later in the day they were transferred to the Canadian troopship Prince Henry returning to England having discharged her duties on Juno beach. Later on D-Day, or possibly on D+1, the 2039, still afloat, was fired upon by the Royal Navy until she sank.
H-Hour drew ever nearer as the British 50th Division closed on Gold beach. The 231st Infantry Brigade and their support units were lowered from the troopships Empire Arquebus, Empire Crossbow, Empire Spearhead and Glenroy, their destination the Jig Red/Jig Green sectors of Gold at Le Hamel. On their left (to the eastward), on to the King Red/King Green sectors at Ver sur Mer, went the men of 69th infantry Brigade lowered from the troopships Empire Halberd, Empire Mace, Empire Lance and Empire Rapier.
Present in support on Gold beach were the men and craft of the Royal Navy's 'D' LCT Squadron. Of the five flotillas assigned numerous craft were hit and in difficulty, the Mk4 LCT's 809 and 886 of the 28th Flotilla were lost. LCT 810 lost Able Seaman John Tilley.
Sub Lieutenant Victor Bellars (opposite) was in command of LCT 896. He recalls; 'With a spigot LCA(HR) in tow, a landing craft equipped with up to 24 mortars, we approached our designated landing area – Gold Beach, King, Red Sector. It was a wet and windy night and the LCA crew had a most uncomfortable time. About a thousand yards off the beach the LCA slipped the tow and proceeded independently at some stage firing her spigots on to the beach near the German beach defences. This allowed me to more safely beach in that area.
H-Hour was 0723 but we arrived 2 minutes early and received some spasmodic friendly fire. After hitting the beach we commenced to discharge our petard tanks. Our landing point was nearly opposite a pillbox which we thought contained an 88mm anti-tank gun. Our suspicions were confirmed when the first tank off LCT 896 had its turret destroyed when it reached the beach. The tank was totally disabled. The 2nd tank didn’t fare any better but either the 3rd or 4th tank* used its petard to deal with the pillbox. At the same time a Hunt Class Destroyer, believed to be the Pychley, was firing 4 inch shells over my head at the pillbox. *(The Churchill AVRE with a 290mm spigot mortar known as the Petard. This fired an 18 kg round over a range of about 75m).
Things that had never been tried usually went disastrously wrong. On D-Day-1 we took on board a canvas boat about 20 ft in length and loaded with army stores. We hitched it to what would be the last tank to disembark. On D-Day when this tank was being landed it pulled the bow off the canvas boat! With no boat to gain the shore the boat’s army personnel requested permission to go ashore on foot. This was refused because the incoming tide was gradually pushing 896 up the beach and they could have been crushed.
During our time on the beach my gunners engaged any suitable target. Having completed my unloading task I un-beached and had just begun the astern manoeuvre when a signal requesting assistance came from Peter Conolly’s LCT 899 which was firmly beached nearby. To do this we manoeuvred LCT 896 short round (180 degrees) and drifted down so that the stern passed the stern of LCT 899. A heaving line was thrown and the tow passed over to 896. The only towing wire I had was my 2½ inch kedge wire. For many months I had never used a kedge except for anchoring because kedging off was a long, slow business. I found engines un-beached the ship far more quickly by using astern power.
I used about half a cable of my wire secured to my after-winch and I eased the power on until the wire was taut then cleared the quarter deck and put on full ahead. The second wave of landing craft was fast approaching and I didn’t want them caught up in the tow. Fortunately LCT 899 came off the beach like a cork out of a bottle. I kept going but eased the speed down to half ahead, shortened the tow to about 10 fathoms and proceeded out to sea.
Two or three miles off Courseulles I anchored and brought 899 alongside. Some of his crew were transferred and some of both crews tried to effect temporary repairs. 899 was taking in water. I hoped that someone would find us but I think we had drifted on the tide towards Le Havre where the main German coastal defences still posed a threat. We decided to wait until dark before attempting to tow 899 home. After many hours steaming and after encountering a German warship, we reached the relative safety of Southampton's waters.'
At Courseulles sur Mer, on to the Mike Red/Nan Green sectors of Juno beach, the men and craft of 'K' LCT Squadron were present in support of the 7th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. Also present was the LCT 2047 of the 102nd Flotilla. As she made her dash for the beach, her port gunner, Able Seaman George Pardoe, manning the 20mm Oerlikon gun, noticed numerous LCAs (Landing Craft, Assault) running in alongside. He then turned his attention to the beach and did not witness what befell the LCAs but as 2047 beached, Pardoe turned round expecting to see the approaching craft. To his horror they and all the men aboard had gone. All he could see was debris and floating bodies.
LCT 2243 was also present with the 102nd Flotilla. At one point she struck a mine and was lifted out of the water by the bows only to crash down again moments later and continue her run. During her approach Wireman (Electrician) David Johnson heard shouting. He looked over the side to see a soldier struggling in the sea. Attempts to extricate the stricken man from the water met with failure. So too did Johnson’s pleas to his commanding officer, Sub Lieutenant Eric Wilkinson, to slow down in order to effect a rescue. The order of the day, for all commanding officers, was stark and simple...make for the beach, whatever the cost, do not stop, do not pick up survivors....!!!
A total of nine troopships were assigned to the first assault on Courseulles with the Canadian 7th Infantry Brigade. One of them was HMS Invicta under the command of Acting Lieutenant Commander J R Law. LCAs of 510 Flotilla were lowered and amongst the men of 510 was Seaman Ken Porter. He records that as his LCA approached the beach he witnessed sailors and soldiers struggling in the water. He wanted to stop and help but their orders that day were clear. "We had to leave them, couldn’t stop, not allowed to stop, those poor lads, shortly after, our craft hit the beach and the Canadians went off, I can still see them now, those poor Canadians, dear God those poor Canadians….!"
East of Courseulles lay Bernieres sur Mer and St Aubin sur Mer, their beaches bearing the code names Nan White and Nan Red respectively. These sectors were assaulted by the men of the 8th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. Present in support were the men and craft of ‘N’ LCT Squadron, comprising three flotillas of LCT with the 11th Flotilla carrying in the Sherman Duplex Drive ‘swimming tanks’ of the Canadian Fort Garry Horse. The Mk3 LCT 317 lost Ordinary Seaman Sidney Bartley and Stoker 1st Class Dennis Purnell. Also in support were the Mk5 LCT(A)(HE)’s of the 103rd Flotilla of J2 Support Squadron carrying in the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group. Of the 103rd Flotilla, the LCT(A) 2283 was knocked out as she made her dash for the beach after striking a mine or being hit. She was left dead in the water and the crew were ordered to abandon ship. They spent the better part of D-Day in a ditch on the beach at St Aubin. Later, crew members off the 2283 became part of a beach clearing party. Amongst them was Seaman Howard England who spent some two days checking on wrecked and abandoned landing craft in the vicinity of Bernieres sur Mer and St Aubin. While doing so, he retrieved numerous photographs, all of them depicting sailors. Those same photographs are now in the possession of the author but whether or not the identity of the men will ever become known is uncertain. There is no way of knowing if they survived or met their deaths that day. The LCT(HE) 2285 of the 103rd was also hit on D-Day and lost crew member Ordinary Seaman Percy ‘Ginger’ Rogers. On D+1, Percy Rogers was buried at sea by his shipmates.
East again was the beach bearing the code name Sword. Its landing zones given the names Queen Red and Queen White were at La Breche and Lion sur Mer respectively, the former being the most easterly. The first assault wave comprised the men of the 8th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd British Division. With them went ‘E’ LCT Squadron comprising four flotillas of LCT with 261 LCI(L) (Landing Craft Infantry (Large) Flotilla. The 8th Brigade suffered heavy losses during the initial assault.
Several craft of the 45th Flotilla delivering Royal Engineers were hit and in difficulty. Close behind them, some ten minutes late on H-Hour, went the Mk5 LCT of the 100th LCT(A)(HE) Flotilla delivering the 5th Independent Battery of the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group.
For two craft of the 100th Flotilla the landing turned into a disaster. The LCT(A)s 2052 and 2191 beached on the easternmost flank of Queen Red sector, 2191 being at the extreme with 2052 to her starboard (right). Having discharged their respective Centaur and Sherman tanks, a mobile German 88mm approached from the immediate portside (left) of 2191. A crew member shouted a warning and commanding officer, Sub Lieutenant Julian Roney, gave the order for the gun crews to open fire. However, against an 88mm the men aboard 2191 stood little chance.
(Photo; The American built, British manned, MK5 LCT 2012 in the Far East. On the morning of June 6th 1944 as LCT(A) 2012 she was a unit of the 100th Flotilla. LCT(A) 2191 was of the same design and specification).
The first shell to hit 2191 exploded to the immediate portside of the bow door. The blast killed Sub Lieutenant Sidney Green (Photo) and Wireman (electrician) Edward Joseph Trendell both of whom had been manning the portside winch (the mechanism for lowering and raising the door or ramp). On the starboard winch were Leading Stoker Victor Orme and Acting Able Seaman Robert "Geordie" Bryson. Following the initial blast neither were seriously wounded. The impact from the shell caused 2191 to turn to starboard at one point taking her broadside on to the beach. The tidal currents continued to turn the craft leaving her stern exposed to the beach. Her tank deck, with ramp still in the down position, was now exposed to the open sea.
Gunner Roy Brown was manning the 20mm starboard Oerlikon on 2191's quarter deck. He recalls that following the initial blast the craft soon became engulfed by smoke. The smoke was such that he could barely see the beach let alone German targets sited there. To compound his problems as 2191 turned to starboard (right), as a result of the explosion, the mobile German 88mm to portside (left), that was wreaking such havoc aboard 2191, was being taken out of his line of fire.
Brown recalls a seaman named Heath, known by his shipmates as 'Darkie' owing to his dark, weathered complexion, was manning the port gun . LCT(A) 2191's Coxswain, the man steering the craft into the beach, was a seaman named Lemon, not surprisingly known by his shipmates as 'Squash.' Brown recalls that he came from the London area. (The author's attempts to trace Lemon have so far been unsuccessful).
With 2191's bows and tank deck engulfed by smoke Brown soon found his position untenable. He left his gun station and made for the wheelhouse but, soon after reaching it, a shell burst through and ricocheted around the interior finally exploding on the deck of the wheelhouse at Browns feet. The upwards blast wounded Brown in the legs and back. Coxswain Lemon is thought to have sustained a neck wound at this point. What became of him thereafter is not known for certain but it is accepted that he made it off the craft and on to the beach.
Later in the morning Gunner Roy Brown found himself lying on a stretcher on the beach from where he was transferred to a field hospital. On Friday, June 9th 1944 he arrived back in England, still stretcher bound, clutching a German helmet as a souvenir of his time in Normandy on D-Day. (Photograph opposite).
Stationed on the bridge were 2191's Commanding Officer Sub Lieutenant Julian Roney, Observation Officer Richard Thornber(1) (photo right) and 19 year old Signalman Peter Hutchins. The second shell was as devastating as the first. Roney and Thornber, as far as can be certain, died where they stood. Signalman Hutchins now stood alone. He tried to report the action to the wheelhouse but found that the explosion had destroyed the voice-pipe.
Undaunted Hutchins (left) went over the starboard side of the bridge, lowered himself on to the gun deck by way of the gun supports, and gained entry to the wheelhouse. Through the forward slits he saw Orme and Bryson running towards him along the tank deck. Just as they entered the wheelhouse 2191 was hit yet again. They could have gone over the side where they might have found shelter from enemy shells. However, in the heat of the action, they opted for what they thought was the relative safety of the wheelhouse - a fatal decision for Bryson. When the wheelhouse was hit Hutchins staggered but remained upright. He saw that his right ankle had been smashed and his foot was attached to his leg by a tendon. Part of his uniform and overalls had been ripped away and his right boot and sock were missing. Amazingly Hutchins remained standing but both Orme and Bryson lay wounded on the deck.
Hutchins' only thought was to get off 2191 and to seek help for his stricken shipmates. However, he heard voices from below and struggled over to a small open trap door in the floor of the wheelhouse which led, by means of a ladder, down to the mess deck. He lowered himself down the steel ladder and with help he lay face down on the mess deck. Another shell struck and for an uncertain period he was rendered unconscious but, on coming round, he heard cries of help. The mess deck was full of smoke, he was alone, 2191 was on fire and munitions were exploding. He crawled back to the ladder and pulled himself up into the wheelhouse. Orme and Bryson were still there, both in great distress and Bryson, in particular, terribly wounded. Because of his injuries, Hutchins was unable to offer assistance to the men but after a short rest he set off to summon help.
With great difficulty he crawled, hopped and shuffled his way to the still lowered bow door. There he blew up his lifebelt and lowered himself into the sea. The vessel was ablaze, munitions were exploding and she was still drifting eastwards some distance off the beach. Once in the water, and aided by his lifebelt, he swan to the beach and lay face down, exhausted and severely weakened through exertion, shock and loss of blood. He had no knowledge of how the landings had gone but instinctively crawled to a nearby sand-dune always moving to the right. He rested many times and lapsed into periods of unconsciousness. The beach appeared to be deserted and he grew increasingly concerned about his own condition and that of his shipmates he had vowed to help. Two soldiers came into view and he called for help not knowing if they were British or German. They turned out to be survivors from a lost British amphibious tank. He told them of the plight of his two comrades still aboard 2191. One of the soldiers left to find a stretcher and the other stayed with Hutchins. At moments of crisis the passage of time becomes distorted but eventually he was 'stretchered' off to a first aid post on an adjacent beach to the west. In great pain morphine was administered and the following day at a nearby field hospital his right leg was amputated below the knee.
Hutchins had made valiant efforts to effect a rescue for his shipmates. In some desperation he spoke to an officer of senior rank who undertook to send in a stretcher party as soon as possible. Shortly after, at 20.30 hours, a full 13 hours after 2191 had first beached, Hutchins saw vast numbers of parachutists dropping some distance inland. Unbeknown to him at the time the trials and tribulations of Bryson and Orme aboard the vessel were long since over, but with very different outcomes. [Photo; Peter Hutchins on a Channel ferry in June 2004. This was his first trip to Normandy in 60 years... a long way from his New Zealand home. Photo courtesy of Andy Bystram].
With the departure of Hutchins, Orme and Bryson were the last of the crew still alive and still aboard - Victor Orme with terrible injuries and Robert Bryson most likely mortally wounded. Orme remained on board despite appeals from Bryson for him to save himself. Orme lapsed into periods of unconsciousness but on one occasion he felt heat coming through the wheelhouse deck. Clearly the fire had spread below and both men realised that Orme would have to leave to save himself... in fact Bryson insisted that he should go. What final words passed between the men as Orme prepared to leave is not known but can be imagined. Orme was recovered from the sea by soldiers who were amazed at his escape from the then blazing wreck of 2191.
Stoker Victor Orme (right), a one time member of the crew of HMS AJAX never forgot the tragic events of D-Day that he found himself involved in - an event that left both physical and mental scars. Down the years as he watched the Remembrance Day Services, including the marches past at the Cenotaph, his thoughts often turned to Robert Bryson. Orme could be heard to say "Poor old Geordie, poor old Geordie." Sadly he passed away several years ago.
Peter Hutchins too still carries the scars of D-Day - his right leg missing from below the knee being a constant reminder. Peter a native of Leicester, England now lives in retirement in New Zealand. Little is known about the movements of Motor Mechanic William "Ross" Moore during the action. He was seen to jump into the sea off 2191's stern but while swimming clear he was killed by a shell that exploded close by. [Photo of William Moore (left) in uniform courtesy of
During his schooldays in Brighton on England’s south coast, Moore (left) proved himself to be a good sportsman. Later he took up amateur boxing and made quite a name for himself. He and his fellow crew member Robert ’Geordie’ Bryson (right), had a feeling that D-Day would not go well. Bryson believed, that for him, it would be a one-way trip. Events tragically proved him correct. Moore’s sense of foreboding was somewhat different. He believed that 2191 was an ‘unlucky ship’ because the digits added up to 13 - unlucky for some. In the run up to D-Day he spoke to Electrical Artificer (Staff) Harry Ashurst [photos below]. Being flotilla staff it was possible that Ashurst would make the trip across the Channel with an LCT of the 100th Flotilla. He accordingly advised Ashurst not to go with 2191 if offered. In the event Ashurst was carried over by what he believed was an LCVP. (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel).
Ashurst was witness to the destruction that befell 2052 and 2191 on D-Day. As the craft, crewed by Royal Marines,
carried him towards Sword beach he could see the two Mk5 LCTs on the beach. He
knew they were part of his flotilla and expected to go ashore close to
but, given the activity and congestion in the area, his craft was ordered away and beached further to the westward.
Later he made his way back to 2052 and 2191 but by then it was over. [Photos left; Harry Ashurst on a Channel ferry in June 2004
(courtesy of Andy Bystram) and of him with a
limited edition print that
depicts the demise of the two LCTs.
Photo right of LCT (A) 2052 courtesy of Tony Chapman].
Having knocked out 2191 the German 88mm was turned on the craft to her starboard... 2052. As she attained the
beach she too was hit and Sub
Lieutenant Lawrence Francis fell seriously wounded. Moments before he felt that
2052 was in a vulnerable position exposed on the flank. His wounds rendered him
unable to continue his service in the Royal Navy. As Francis lay wounded a
shell, passing through the wheelhouse, killed Coxswain Norman Hannah (left) and seriously wounded Able Seaman Albert Smith and Telegraphist John
All three spent a considerable time in hospital recovering.
Julian Roney, Richard Thornber, Sidney Green, Edward Trendell, Robert ‘Geordie’ Bryson, William ‘Ross’ Moore and Norman Hannah, all lost from LCT(A)s 2052 and 2191, are at rest in the cemetery at Hermanville.
The LCT(A) 2433 was also present with the 100th Flotilla. She too was hit and had a narrow escape, but, in this instance, it was friendly fire. As 2433 made her approach a rocket firing LCT(R ), stationed at the rear, released her salvo. One of the rockets fell short and hit 2433’s bow door rendering it useless. After a struggle the craft disgorged its tanks and returned to seaward its downed ramp dragging in the sea. [Photo; right 2433, centre background, possibly LCT(A) 2334 and left LCT(A) 2432].
Of the Mk 4 LCT 980 of the 41st Flotilla, Denis Garrod recalls; "I was the Wireman, 'Wires,' on D-Day. Our skipper was Lt. Peter Gurnsey, from Christchurch, New Zealand. Lt Gurnsey married a local Scottish girl, Margaret Fowler from Catrine, who was a WREN serving in Combined Ops at Troon. In December 1945 Peter returned to New Zealand with his family. He was a very fine man who died several years ago and was buried at sea. His widow now resides in Hamilton, New Zealand.
At the wheel of LCT 980 was 20 year old Coxswain Bill Brentnall. On the way in to Sword beach it was impossible to get into our sector without striking a beach obstacle of which there were two rows (see photo opposite). The tide carried us over the first row but this was not possible with the second row. Our skipper selected an obstacle and intentionally hit it dead centre on our heavy steel landing ramp door. As expected the obstacle was mined and it blew a sizable hole in the middle of the door. However the hole was in such a position that the disembarking vehicles were able to straddle it on their way onto the beaches. It was my job to drop the kedge anchor and then to tear forward to the port side winch locker where a two man winch was provided for raising the door. There was a similar winch on the starboard side.
The troops were disembarked under the supervision of Sub Lieutenant Tait and we proceeded to raise the door passed the horizontal position. Tait took the left handle from me and I quickly returned to the stern capstan to haul in the kedge anchor. As Tait and AB Cyril 'Chesh' Cheshire were manning the winch on the port side, an explosion occurred off the starboard bow and a large piece of shrapnel flew in striking Tait in the front of the head killing him instantly. Chesh told me afterwards that I missed that one by a few seconds. We struck a beach mine as we came off in reverse and that killed our rudders. Despite this setback the skipper got us out to sea a couple of miles where Coxswain Brentnall stitched Sub Lt Tait's body into a hammock, along with a heavy tank chock, and he was committed to the deep." (Photo courtesy of Denis Garrod; Crew members back row l-r "Sparks" & Denis Garrod, front row Chess, Harry, Mac and Jake).
A newspaper article of the day reported on the experience of LCT 980.....
LONDON June 12th 1944. TANK FERRY. BEACH LANDINGS. LIVELY TASK – DOMINION OFFICERS WORKING UNDER FIRE
"With one or two exceptions it was the worst weather I have experienced at sea in a tank landing-craft," said Sub-Lieutenant A.P. Gurnsey of Christchurch (Photo opposite), commenting on the Channel crossing to France on D day. He was one of very many New Zealand officers in landing craft of all types.
"My craft rolled like a barrel all the way," he said. "Our job was to get the tanks ashore at the extreme left flank of the British front and we ran into absolute hell. Our zero hour was 8.10 a.m. and by the time we arrived the Jerries had woken up and were ready to give us a warm reception. They sniped and used mortars both very unpleasant. In addition there were beach obstacles and mines fixed on tripods."
"There were 12 landing-craft in our flotilla. It was a great sight to see them, line abreast, going full speed for the beach. We avoided those obstacles we could, but it was a case of hit or miss."
"One of the mines blew a hole four foot wide in my ramp door, but we got all our tanks ashore. There were a lot of mortar bombs bursting everywhere. One which exploded on the beach covered me with mud and water. It covered my craft, too, which was most annoying, seeing it had recently been given a nice new coat of paint. In addition to mortar bombs, shells also were coming at us and my starboard bow was a mass of holes about as big as your fist, caused by shell splinters. Unfortunately my No. 1 was killed."
"When all the tanks were ashore I rang for emergency full astern, for a quick getaway, but no sooner were we afloat than a mortar bomb landed astern. The explosion was so violent that it stopped both motors, which had to be started up again. Then the coxswain reported that the wheel was jammed amidships which meant that we had no rudders and we were only able to turn round by using the engines. It meant that we were sitting under fire for about ten minutes longer than we should have been. Fortunately everything went all right and we reached England under our own steam."
Two No. 1’s in other tank landing-craft, whose job it was to let down the ramp doors, were Sub-Lieutenant M.R.M. Glengarry of Wairoa, and A.M.W. Bain of Gisborne.
Sub-Lieutenant Bain’s craft was hit by a mine, but although it made some water, they carried on and got all their tanks ashore. Sub-Lieutenant Glengarry’s craft suffered four direct hits from mortar bombs and as a result only one tank was serviceable enough to go ashore. Sub-Lieutenant Glengarry was temporarily knocked out by concussion. "We felt awful mugs bringing our tanks back when everyone else got theirs ashore," he said.
Other New Zealanders in landing-craft included Lieutenants I. Lipanovic of North Auckland; D. Lewis and K. Todd of Auckland; T. Bourke, Lower Hutt; O.B. Reeve, Wellington; A. Good, Taranaki; H. Buchanan and F. Barnes, Invercargill. Sub-lieutenants were W. Day, Nelson; D. Hammond, Hawkes Bay; W Coutts, Napier; K. Bowe, Wellington; F. Bishop, Christchurch; also E. Chote, E. Krull, N. Sutton, I. Monaghan, E. Richards and D. Dodson.
[As a result of Denis Garrod's contact with me, and my contact with Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association, shipmates Denis and Bill have been reunited by telephone contact after 60 years. They may meet in Normandy this June. Please get in touch if you served on LCT 980 or have a special interest in the vessel. Ed 13/4/04]
The troopships assigned to Sword were HMS Glenearn, Empire Battleaxe, Empire Broadsword and Empire Cutlass. With them was the SS Maid of Orleans carrying the LCA’s of 514 Assault Flotilla, delivering Commandos. Seaman Ray Maddison of 514 recalled an incident which took place immediately the Commandos aboard his LCA had gone ashore. As his LCA returned to seaward, having aboard a mortally wounded soldier of the 2nd Battalion The East Yorkshire Regiment, an explosion shook the beach….and something passed over Maddison’s head. Later he searched the well of his LCA and found a crucifix on a chain, perfectly intact. Who was wearing that crucifix, prior to the explosion on the beach, will never be known. To this day Ray Maddison still treasures that crucifix. (Photo; Peter Hutchins and Harry Ashurst together on a Channel ferry in June 2004. Photo courtesy of Andy Bystram).
George Downing on board HMS Glenearn recalls; After disembarking our troops on the morning of D-Day we picked up some of the first wounded and returned to Blighty where we urgently embarked more troops to reinforce those already landed. Without a constant supply of men, ammunition, vehicles and supplies the advancing invasion force would stall giving the enemy time to regroup for a counter attack. We could carry 1500 plus soldiers and were ideally suited for the task of ferrying them from the UK to the Normandy beaches. We witnessed many consequences of war to graphic to describe here but one of the most poignant was the suicide of an American GI who could not face the trials ahead and took his own life on the quayside while waiting to embark.
I recall making a fast overnight crossing in the company of our sister ship HMS Glengyle with the frigate HMS Starling as escort and on another homeward bound trip we met up with HMS Warspite returning to the beaches to give more support to the troops after having her gun barrels replaced. Her gun turrets were later placed at the entrance to the Imperial War Museum in London as a fitting and lasting tribute.
Our ferrying duties continued for ??? weeks/months and then we were recalled to Greenock where a surprise awaited us. We were destined to go to the Far East.
A full hour before the British and Canadian landings on GOLD, SWORD and JUNO beaches the men of the US 4th Infantry Division began landing on the Uncle Red/Tare Green sectors of Utah beach. Present with them, in addition to men of the US Navy, were the Royal Navy’s ‘O’ and ‘G’ LCT Squadrons, both divided across the two landing zones. Also present, delivering the initial wave of the 1st Battalion 8th Infantry of the US 4th Division, was the Royal Navy’s Empire Gauntlet lowering her LCA’s of 552 Flotilla.
East of Utah beach was the formidable cliff face of Pointe du Hoc, atop which, intelligence sources believed, were heavy enemy guns. In the D-Day plan, Pointe du hoc was within the Omaha Area but the big guns positioned there had the potential to cause havoc to incoming craft and troops making for both Omaha and Utah beaches. It was essential that these guns be silenced. The task was assigned to the men of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Colonel James Rudder. Royal Marine John Lambourne was present serving with the LCS(M) (Landing Craft Support (Medium) 102 of 901 Flotilla. He and his crew were assigned to the troopship Prince Leopold which carried the LCAs of the Royal Navy’s 504 Flotilla. LCS(M) 102 was present in support as LCAs carrying the Rangers made their way to the beach. Lambourne watched in awe as the Rangers attained the beach and began scaling the cliff by way of grappling hooks fired from their LCAs. The memory of the bravery he witnessed remains with him after nearly 60 years.
Many tragedies were played out during the course of D-Day, in particular on Omaha beach, assigned to the men of the US 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The initial wave of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, landing on Dog Green sector, was decimated. The greater part of some 200 men perished on the beach or in the water. Company A were carried in by LCAs of the Royal Navy’s 551 Flotilla off the troopship Empire Javelin. Seaman William ‘Bill’ Wain was crew of an LCA carrying them in and to the best of his knowledge and belief all the men he landed were lost.
What befell the assault troops on Omaha beach has been well documented, not for nothing is it remembered as ‘Bloody Omaha’. Later in the morning, the Royal Navy’s LCT 1000 of ‘Q’ LCT Squadron approached the beach but because of the congestion her beaching was delayed. Present on her bridge were her commanding officer, Skipper Albert Wiseman and Signalman Arthur Tarr. Wiseman scanned Omaha beach with binoculars. The carnage was self evident. Bodies were strewn across the beach and wrecked craft littered the water's edge. Bodies of the numerous dead in the sea were carried down to the eastwards on the tide. Wiseman then passed the binoculars to Tarr so he too could view the scene, having done so, Tarr turned away...sickened.
For many months, prior to the day, the many men who perished on D-Day had trained, lived and worked together. On the morning of June 6th 1944, they fought.. and died together. It is in Normandy they perished, it is in Normandy they remain,… together…for eternity.
Photographs shown here are some collected from wrecked and abandoned landing craft by Howard England, on D-Day, serving with the LCT(A) 2283 of the 103rd Flotilla. Nothing is known of the men depicted here. I have no way of knowing if they were even present on the day, but, I have a feeling they were. I also hope they survived. If anyone reading this recognises the men, please contact me, I will happily return the photographs to any of their family.
Visit Operation Overlord - the D-Day Landings for background information to the landings and a general perspective of events on the day.
One Mystery Solved thanks to Robert Dodds a motor mechanic on LCT 2286 who contacted us in August 2009. He writes; The photograph of two people immediately above "Further Reading" shows Edward Jevet (left) and Ted Ballard (right). They both survived the war. They were stokers on LCT 2286 which went into Juno beach. Thanks for the web site. I found it very interesting. Regards, Robert Dodds.
On this website visit D-Day Assault Convoy G6.
You'll find information and photographs on the restoration of LCT 7074 on the Historic Warships website.
This account of life on WW2 Landing Craft presents some brief glimpses of specific events seen from the perspective of those manning the various landing craft on D-Day. It was transcribed from notes by Tony Chapman, Archivist/Historian for the LST and Landing Craft Association and further edited by Geoff Slee for presentation on the website.
Footnote(s). 1. Sub Lt Richard Thornber RNVR HMLCT(A) 2191. Richard Thornber, 26, came from Darwen in Lancashire. A well-built, popular man he swam competitively and played full back for Darwen Football Club. In 1939, he joined the Liverpool Police force and in 1940 was awarded a Humane Society silver medal for stopping a runaway horse and cart. In October 1941, he joined the RAF and became a pilot until damage to his eyesight led him to join the RNVR being assigned to Combined Operations.
Richard died in the knowledge that his wife was expecting their first child who grew up ignorant of her father’s precise fate until 2005 when, as a result of finding this website, she was able to speak to Signalman Peter Hutchins off HMLCT(A) 2191 and to flotilla Electrical Artificer Harry Ashurst.
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