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~ D-DAY FLOTILLA 814 HMLCV(P) ~

814 HM Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel) Flotilla [814 HMLCV(P)] took part in the D-Day landings. Royal Marine Roy Nelson was on board LCV(P) 1155 which was hoisted aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) for the journey across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy. These are Roy's recollections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Photo: back row; 1st left Cpl Clark, 4th left Cpl Hewitt, 6th left  Pete (Zeke) Barlow, far right 'Lofty' Wagstaff, 3rd from right John Tomlinson; 4th row 2nd left Cpl Pete Money, 3rd left Cpl George Pargeter, 5th left Cpl Roy (Admiral) Nelson, 5th from right Syd Liddle, 7th David How 8th Ray Pedelty; 3rd row 7th from left K 'Darkie' Wisdom; 2nd row 1st left Ron Tomkins, 3rd  left Cpl Rhodes; front row 1st left Cpl Ken Smith, 5th left Col/Sgt Adams, far right Cpl Hannabus, 4th from right Sgt Cox, 5th from right Sgt Smith. Centre Front Captain Harry Barnes and Lt Peter Haynes.]

Early Training Operational Training D-Day Post D-Day Fatalities
Awards 66 Years On Further Reading Acknowledgments  

Early Training

I joined the Royal Marines at the age of 17 years in March of 1943 and, during that summer, I was transferred to Combined Operations and commenced training in North Wales on crewing minor landing craft. Further training was provided at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, where we were issued with our ‘blues’ and the treasured Combined Operations badge. The latter entitled us to an extra sixpence (2.5p) a day! Whilst at Dartmouth, we practiced ‘beachings’ at Blackpool Sands with American troops based in the area.

These joint training exercises were commonplace since both the navy crews and army passengers were would share the hazardous experience of sailing across the English Channel and landing on the beaches of Normandy, in many cases under enemy fire. To land safely and to discharge their cargos of men and machines in an efficient manner, required all concerned to know what to do and how too react to unpredictable circumstances.

In late 1943, I arrived at HMS Robertson at Sandwich in Kent, with my ‘oppo’ Norman ‘Goldie’ Goldsmith. Initially, we were allocated to 810 LCV(P) Flotilla of ‘C’ Squadron, which comprised four flotillas, 810-814 inclusive. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted to Corporal/Coxswain and transferred to 814 LCV(P) Flotilla and took over HMLCV(P) 1066. We were now operational and undertook many landing craft training exercises in the area in readiness for what became the D-Day landings of June 1944.

Operational Training

Our commanding officer was Captain Harry Barnes, RM, from Liverpool and 2nd i/c was Lieutenant Peter Haynes, RM. Other names I recall are Sergeants Cox and Lovell and Corporals Kent, Hannabus and George Pargeter. As this is being written on March 31st 1997, I have in recent years made contact with several old comrades including Ron Tomkins, John Tomlinson, Pete Barlow and Ray Pedelty. Together, we attended re-unions at Lympstone and the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth.

It was early in 1944, whilst practicing beach landings at Ramsgate, that we ran into a spot of bother. There was an unfortunate coincidence of malicious weather, tide and conflicting orders, resulting in my landing craft hitting a sandbank on the way in. I am reluctant to admit to poor seamanship! Sadly, LCV(P) 1066, ‘broached to’ and became fast on the beach. In spite of supreme efforts of 814, the 1066 was firmly beached as the tide receded. We were obliged to stay overnight and resume our attempts to re-float craft the following morning. When 1066 stubbornly refused to move the next morning, we were forced to remove our equipment and ‘abandon ship!' I often wonder what became of 1066 after I left her in Ramgate. [Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association writes; LCV(P) 1066 is recorded lost during exercises in the Richborough area of Kent during February 1944.]

D-Day

My second command, following the loss of the 1066, was the HMLCV(P) 1155. In the spring of 1944, together with the craft of 814 Flotilla, we left HMS Robertson and sailed through the Dover Straits and along the coast to Rye in Sussex, where we had a break. I think it was on that leg of the journey that a steering cable snapped and 1155 proceeded to go around in circles! With the help of an emergency rudder, we limped into Rye for repairs.

We later made our way along the south coast to Hayling Island's HMS Northney III, where we continued training in readiness for the forthcoming Normandy landings. We also assisted a battalion of US Navy ‘Sea Bees’ (naval construction personnel) who were working on caissons off Selsey Bill. Although we didn't know it at the time, these caissons were later towed across the English Channel shortly after D-Day to form part of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches.

By my recall, it was Saturday June 3rd 1944, when the craft of 814 LCV(P) Flotilla joined a section of the fleet anchored off Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Our reserve crews, meanwhile, boarded the depot repair ship, Cap Tourane in Tilbury Docks, London. The Cap Tourane was to be our base while off Sword beach.

LCV(P) 1155 was hoisted aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) suspended from davits at the stern. There were two craft to portside and two to starboard. However, a fellow veteran believes our whole flotilla of 16 LCV(P)s, was carried in one converted LST, with eight craft to portside and eight to starboard, while others believe we were carried over on a Landing Ship Infantry (LSI).

814 Flotilla set off on the morning of June 5th to become part of that vast armada. [Tony Chapman writes:- Recorded as part of 814 Flotilla on June 5th 1944 are LCV(P)s 1064, 1065 , 1067, 1148, 1153 , 1154, 1155 , 1157, 1158, 1159 , 1161, 1170 , 1171, 1181, 1184 and 1250. Craft shown in bold are listed war losses in the assault area].

It was an unforgettable sight, one which has been described by many people on many occasions. Suffice to say here that it was then that it dawned on me that ‘this was it’……the culmination of almost a year’s training. On our arrival off Sword beach we were lowered into the water by our ‘carrier ship’ to begin our allotted tasks. We never returned to her and sadly, as this is being written, the question of her identity remains unresolved and will likely remain so.

Post D-Day

Our depot ship, Cap Tourane, took up position off Sword beach on June 8th, to become our rendezvous point for changing crews. [Tony Chapman, LST and Landing Craft Association writes; The Cap Tourane departed Tilbury at 0600 hours on the morning of June 7th sailing in Convoy ETM 2 for service at Gooseberry 5 (Sword beach area, sheltered by the sunken ‘blockships’ Becheville, Belgique, Elswick Park, Empire Defiance, Empire Tamar and Empire Tana.) She was later damaged by gunfire on June 22nd and the 25th and later moved to Gold beach area on June 29th.] It was six days after first leaving Cap Tourane that we returned to her to take our first break. [Photo; Cap Tourane].

At this time, I discovered that I had lost my gold signet ring given to me six months earlier by my parents on my eighteenth birthday. The loss upset me as much as anything I had witnessed during the invasion, and it was several months before I was able to tell my parents. They were understanding and were just pleased I was home. It put the loss into perspective.

Our Headquarters ship was HMS Largs, which we visited from time to time for briefings and instructions. To provide us with some shelter, several ships were sunk off Sword beach. It was known as the ‘Gooseberry’ and although not as sophisticated as it’s big brother the 'Mulberry Harbour' at Arromanche, it proved to be invaluable to minor landing craft crews and was a popular rendezvous, particularly so during the severe gales that blew up on June 19th-22nd. This was a very critical and concerning time since no supplies or reinforcements could reach the beach.

It is true that no amount of training can prepare you mentally for actual warfare. I was 18 years of age and in charge of a landing craft and crew which was a lot of weight to carry on such young shoulders. The majority of landing craft crews were between the ages of 18-20 and ‘Hostilities Only’ men. We certainly found the hostilities we had joined up for with their associated dangers, but, to offset that there was a great camaraderie amongst the lads, which saw us through the rough times.

Living conditions on board LCV(P) were pretty basic, a bucket for a toilet and a primus stove for making tea with compo rations to live on. It was never intended for crews to live on the craft for any length of time; but we often did. I often wondered how we were expected to survive for several days between visits to the Cap Tourane for ‘rest and recuperation.’

In the weeks following D-Day, we became the work-horses of the beach-head fetching and carrying according to need. It kept us busy, which was no bad thing although we did find the time to scout around scrounging food whenever the opportunity presented itself.

After several weeks, we evacuated to Gold beach near Arromanches, where the Mulberry Harbour was well established. LCV(P) 1155 was, by then, in urgent need of repairs and I left her in the hands of a beach repair party until the following morning. The crew and I (all three of us!), took advantage of our first run ashore in ages although, if the truth be told, we did not have a very comfortable night. When we returned to the beach, there was no sign of LCV(P) 1155. I felt sick in the stomach to find her missing. We discovered that the repair party had declared the craft beyond repair, written her off and unceremoniously bull-dozed her out of the way to allow the war to continue. [Official records show that HMLCV(P) 1155 recorded lost in the assault area approximately June 1944.]

So, there we were, up a creek without the proverbial paddle, or, in our case, a landing craft. We made our way back to the Mulberry Harbour to hitch a ride back to the Cap Tourane to explain our circumstances to Captain Barnes. In the event, there was no court martial or even a charge. I believe we had only three craft operational out of a total complement of sixteen and were urgently due replacements. I have little doubt in my mind that the ‘powers that be’ never expected many minor landing craft to make the journey home.

We were fortunate in 814 LCV(P) Flotilla to have Flotilla Officer Captain Barnes. He was a great leader but very approachable and a father figure to most of us young men. After the war he wrote a letter to every member of 814 offering his services should any of us require his help or advice. I have always regretted the fact that I never wrote back.

Fatalities

Sword beach was on the extreme eastern flank of the invasion and was subjected to much enemy shelling which continued throughout our stay there. We lost a number of craft but, surprisingly, casualties amongst our flotilla were light, several being injured and sadly, two killed They both rest in the cemetery at Hermanville and I have visited their graves to pay my respects. One was a much liked ‘Geordie’ lad named Syd Liddle aged 19 years (photo middle left) who was fatally wounded whilst with his craft and the other was our Lieutenant Peter Haynes aged 20 years killed when a shell hit the Cap Tourane. [Photo l - r;  Cemetery at Hermanville, grave of Syd Liddle and grave of Lieutenant Peter Haynes].

ROLL OF HONOUR.

Lieutenant Peter Broadhurst Haynes. RM June 25th 1944, Wolverhampton.

  Royal Marine Sydney Liddle June 26th 1944 of Morpeth, Northumberland.

 ~ We will remember them ~

[Tony Chapman writes:- Since receiving Roy’s recollections I was in contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to advise them of the loss of Peter Haynes and Syd Liddle from 814 LCV(P) Flotilla. Both men were recorded lost from their shore base as opposed to the 814 LCVP flotilla they were serving with at the time. The WGC records have now been amended.]

Awards

In any battle, there are many unsung heroes and a few who receive official recognition. One of the latter was a fellow coxswain, George Pargeter, who was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). A rhino barge was being loaded with ammunition from a supply ship when it received a direct hit and caught fire putting the ship at great risk. George and his crew secured a line to the barge and towed it away from the side of the ship averting a possible disaster - an action that put George and his crew at great risk.

66 Years On

Roy Nelson could never have imagined that 66 years after the events described above that he would once more take the wheel of an LCV(P). His journey back in time happened during the filming of the BBC 4 series "Boats That Built Britain" in November 2009 with Tom Cunliffe as presenter. The film was broadcast in May 2010. In the 30 minute programme Roy talks of his wartime experiences and is seen at the wheel with Tom Cunliffe and his film crew as passengers.

The American built LCV(P) or 'Higgins Boat' was, we understand , brought over to the UK for the filming of "Saving Private Ryan" and has been moored at Beeston Marina in Nottinghamshire since circa 2006/07.

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.

Acknowledgments

These are the recollections and impressions of former Royal Marine Roy Nelson as transcribed by Tony Chapman, Official Archivist/Historian for the LST and Landing Craft Association. (Royal Navy). Further edited by Geoff Slee for presentation on the website.

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.

Forthcoming Events

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

To everyone else; Visit our forthcoming events page for things to see and places to visit. If you know of an event of possible interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event 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.

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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.

 

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