MEMORIAL MAINTENANCE & DEVELOPMENT
"FLAT BOTTOMS AND SQUARE ENDS"
A Book based on the
daily war diary of Sub Lt Patrick Lennard Payne, RNVR.
Proceeds are in aid of the long term upkeep of the Combined Operations Command
Memorial and its educational component, this website.
The aim is to publish the book in this, the 75th
anniversary year of the D-Day landings. Patrick's story is typical of many who
carried, supported or defended the vast amphibious invasion force of over
156,000 troops on D-Day alone. Fortunately, Patrick kept a diary which gives us
a ring-side seat at the European theatre of total war
through the years of preparation, D-Day itself and further preparations for
amphibious warfare in the Far East.
[Photo; Patrick outside his accommodation at
HMS Foliot near Plymouth.]
After costs, all income
from the sale of the book will be donated to the Combined Operations
Memorial Maintenance and
Development Fund to provide security for
the memorial and this website in perpetuity.
Patrick's story is much more than
a chronological record of
events. It has touches of humour, irony and pathos as it
reveals the social history of a young 'subby' finding his way in the unfamiliar
surroundings of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR).
We follow his passage from school boy
to manhood in just a few years as he prepared for the day he would face the
enemy off the Normandy beaches. The culture of secrecy, that prevailed during the
war, ensured he knew little or nothing about his training and deployment until
he arrived at his new posting! He learned to
make the most of his free time by pursuing his love of the countryside and the
theatre. In more thoughtful moments, he reflected
upon the uncertain future of the
world and his part in it.
was declared in September 1939 and 9 months later, the expeditionary force was evacuated from Dunkirk.
Military planners knew it would take years to
re-equip and train a second invasion force of sufficient strength to overwhelm
the enemy in their entrenched 'Atlantic Wall' fortifications. The invading armies would land directly onto
unimproved, enemy held beaches using
recently designed and manufactured flat bottomed landing craft. This was the
reality that determined Patrick's training and deployment for the following four
years, only he didn't know it!
In the final stages of his training, joint Navy
and Army landings were practiced under simulated war conditions. The RAF laid
down smoke screens, strafed the landing beaches and dropped small bombs as the
RN and RM servicemen crewed the landing craft carrying the troops or in support
Hundred's of thousands completed this training at the No 1 Combined
Training Centre, Inveraray, Scotland and at other establishments mainly in
Scotland and the south of England.
[Photo; HMS Quebec was the naval base at the No 1 CTC.]
It was against this setting that
Patrick joined the Navy on September 6th 1941, straight from
school. He spent the first nine months aboard a cruiser in the Mediterranean and
elsewhere and some time on an old '15inch gun' Battleship, Queen Elizabeth,
launched in 1913. He was then attached to the Combined Operations Command, starting his long
association with landing craft, which is the
subject of the book. After all he endured and witnessed, he returned to
civilian life at the tender age of 22!
On the 10th of
Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister and wasted no time in setting
up the Combined Operations Command to plan for offensive amphibious operations.
The Command drew on the best practices and expertise of the Royal Navy, the Army
and the Royal Air Force to create a unified force. Some of their top planners
and experts provided the nucleus around which the Combined Operations Command HQ was formed.
The luxury of landing on friendly
shores, building up supplies and planning on the hoof, were not options. By the
time the country would be ready to mount an invasion, the coastlines of the occupied
from northern Norway to the south of France,
would be heavily defended, particularly
in and around ports and harbours.
They were most
unlikely to fall into Allied hands in any usable state. The need, therefore, was
to deliver vast armies of overwhelming power
directly onto more lightly defended beaches, with
less risk to the invading troops and the local populations. Such a force would
comprise several hundred thousand men, their arms, ammunition, field guns,
lorries, tanks, spares, food, water, fuel, medical services, mobile radar and
The combined resources of the Army,
Navy and Air Force, working closely together in common purpose, would be
required to improve the chances of success. New specialised landing craft,
equipment and munitions were needed, with trained personnel to operate them. The
landing craft crews and
training in amphibious landing
was a monumental task almost beyond comprehension... and they would
be starting from scratch.
There was a need to design, construct, test and modify a
range of landing craft to meet all contingencies. Over 40 types were brought
into service ranging in size from around 30 feet to over 200 feet. Typically
these craft had flat bottoms, square ends and a shallow draft with ramps
to land their cargoes directly on to beaches. In shipyards and engineering
establishments all around the UK and in the USA, work began on the mammoth task
of building them, while scores
of training establishments were set up in Scotland and the south of
England to provide the skilled naval crews to operate them and the
landing beaches on which to practice.
Note. From 17/07/40 to 27/10/41 Admiral of the Fleet,
held the post of Director of Combined Operations. He was succeeded by
Lord Louis Mountbatten
who held the redefined
post from 27/10/41 until he moved to Burma in October
1943. Major General
then held the post until 1947.