D-DAY BY VETERANS ~
75th Anniversary Year of D-Day
This web page is dedicated to
all veterans who served the Allied cause on D-Day, June 6th,
brings together in a single
place over 30 personal recollections of veterans from the
Army, Navy and Air Force who served in or alongside the
Combined Operations Command, including several from the USA.
There are contributions from,
for example, a Commander of a Squadron of 50 landing
craft to individual crew members of a landing craft types such as Tank, Rocket, Gun, Flak,
Kitchen, Vehicle, Personnel etc. The recent addition of
Google maps, extracts from the Admiralty's "Green List" of landing
craft dispositions just prior to D-Day and Imperial War
Museum photographs, now 'illuminate' the texts.
We think of those
who lost their lives that day in the service of their
country who will be remembered on a magnificent new memorial
to be constructed in Normandy not
far from the site of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches (http://www.normandymemorialtrust.org/
We also remember the
sacrifices and achievements of those who served the Allied
cause before and
after D-Day in many parts of the world.
On D-Day + 6,
and his military advisers
visited the Normandy
to see the invasion in progress for
themselves. On return to London
that evening they sent Mountbatten a signal to
express gratitude for
the part Combined Operations had played in what they described as
'the manoeuvre in progress
of rapid development'.
Operation Neptune, the amphibious phase of Operation
Overlord, was 4 years in the making.
Churchill flanked by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir
Alan Brooke and General Sir Bernard Montgomery, commanding 21st Army Group at
Monty's mobile headquarters in Normandy, 12 June 1944. © IWM (TR 1838).]
D Day, June 6, 1944. Operation Neptune was
the seaborne/amphibious part of D Day, which was the
culmination of four years of planning and training under the
auspices of Combined Operations joint staff from the Army,
Navy and Air Force. Around 132,000 troops
landed on the Normandy beaches by over 4,000 landing craft
on D Day but the total who completed landing craft training
at the No 1 Combined Training Centre. Inveraray was around
250,000... and there were many other training establishments
in Scotland and the south coast of England.
45 (RM) Commando
The landings on the beaches of Normandy and the immediate aftermath are
brought together with the story of Marine, Bernard Charles Sydney
Fenton. It covers the early years of 45 Royal Marine Commando and draws
heavily on the official publication 'The Story of 45 Royal Marine
Commando' written by the 45's officers and published privately for
members of the unit and their relatives.
[Photo; Men of 45 (RM) Commando, 1st
Special Service Brigade
in high spirits as they prepare to embark for the invasion, 3 June 1944.
H E Harden, VC, is in the right foreground.
© IWM (H 39038).]
Front lines were often unclear and transient as troops on both sides
moved around the contested area. This is graphically illustrated in the
detailed descriptions of the many actions 45 Commando was involved in.
Radar, Communications & Intelligence
HQ Ships In WW2, Headquarters Ships and HQ Assault
ships shared the task of implementing the detailed plans for large
scale amphibious landings on enemy held beaches. They also monitored the
progress of these plans and adjusted them in the light of experience and circumstances. In modern parlance, they were floating
Command and Control Centres with enormous capacity to communicate with
aircraft, other ships, home shore establishments and units operating in the
battlegrounds. They worked closely with the FDTs.
Fighter Direction Tenders Fighter Direction
Tenders were, in conjunction with their HQ ships, floating command and control centres which
bristled with antenna and aerials for radar, communications and
intelligence gathering purposes. They were the eyes and ears for the
large scale invasion forces off the beaches of Normandy in June of
1944. They extended the cover provided by shore based radar and
communications on the south coast of England well into enemy occupied
France. There were 3 Fighter Direction Tenders designated FDT 13, 216
& 217. After about 3 weeks, the two survivors were withdrawn as land
based mobile radar units were established in France.
LST 216, converted to FDT (Fighter Director Tender) in coastal waters off
© IWM (A 21922).]
is based on the diary of
LAC, Leslie Armitage,
who served on Fighter Direction Tender (FDT) 216 off the American beaches of Utah and
Omaha. It covers only 10 days from June 5, 1944 because
a further 22 days went down with the ship! On July 7, FDT 216 was hit by
a torpedo, turned turtle and was deliberately sunk because she was a
hazard to shipping. By then, her vital work was almost over as mobile
land based radar units established themselves in Normandy.
Landing Craft Assault
524 LCA Flotilla
524 LCA Flotilla took part in the
landings on Gold Beach on D-Day against heavily defended enemy positions. There
were 18 craft in the flotilla, 15 LCAs each carrying around 35 assault troops and 3 LCS (M)s
providing heavy machine gun cover.
carried to Gold beach on their 'mother ship' the SS
Empire Arquebus. This account explains
the experiences of both type of craft separately although, on
training exercises and operations, they operated closely as a single unit.
A fleet of
© IWM (A
519 LCA Assault Flotilla Leonard Albert King was just 20 years old
when he piloted
his flat bottomed Landing Craft Assault
(LCA) from his mother ship to the Normandy beaches early on D-Day
Their small flotilla of six were amongst the very first to
land on D-Day to face enemy guns, mortars and shells. LCAs were small troop carrying craft usually transported on mother
ships to within a few miles of the
landing beaches. At a predetermined time and place,
they were lowered
into the water with their crew of 4 and around
35 fully armed troops, to
make their way to the landing beaches.
Landing Craft Infantry
US LCI (L)
Landing Craft Infantry (Large) 502, carried 196 Officers and men
of the Durham Light Infantry to Gold Beach on D-Day, June 6th,
1944. The well planned and disciplined order fell into disrepair
as she and her sister craft approached the landing beach to chaotic
scenes. Despite this, 502 successfully disembarked her troops onto a
broached British LCT and hence onto the beach. They also rescued 27
stranded British sailors whose small landing craft from earlier landings
were lost. Unusually, this account includes photographs taken during the
actual landing. Based on the writings of
John P Cummer (Photo) including information from 502s Deck Log.
Landing Barge Kitchen
LBK 6 Landing
Barge Kitchen. When the enormous scale
and composition of the Normandy invasion
force became known, it was realised that many small craft, operating off
the landing beaches, would not be equipped with a galley to prepare their
own hot meals, or indeed any meals. The Landing Barge Kitchen was designed and
developed to satisfy the
[Photo; Crews of small craft lining up on the Landing Barge Kitchen for
the midday meal, served through a hatchway, while other craft wait their
turn to come alongside. © IWM (A 24017).]
They had a capacity to provide 1,600 hot meals
and 800 cold meals a day and operated like an amphibious fast food outlet
with unlimited parking! In this account we follow the history of the craft
from the Normandy beaches to its 21st century use, despite several
declarations along the way to 'retire' her. A remarkable Normandy
Support Landing Craft (Landing Craft Flak, Landing
Craft Gun & Landing Craft Rocket)
Landing Craft Support Squadron The primary
task of support landing craft LCGs,
LCFs and LCRs (Guns, Flack and Rockets) was to soften up
entrenched enemy positions on and near the beaches in advance of the
initial assault troops
landing. Hundreds of high explosive rockets were launched in rapid
sequence onto the landing beaches by the LCRs but all firing
ceased as the LCAs, carrying the initial assault troops,
were nearing the beach. The LCGs & LCFs, however, continued
to provide protective fire cover if the LCAs were attacked
from land, sea or air. Because they could operate close
inshore they also fired on targets identified by the
advancing troops. The LCGs were described by the BBC as
"mini destroyers"! There are separate accounts of the 3
support craft on this page.
Craft Flak (LCFs) were converted Landing Craft Tank (LCTs) with the front ramp
welded in position and the hold decked over as a platform for
anti-aircraft guns. There were a number of variants (Marks) but most
were around 150/200 ft long with a beam of around 30/40 ft. LCTs were designed to carry tanks and heavy transport while the LCFs were equipped with anti-aircraft guns to provide air cover for
the invasion fleet, particularly the troop carrying Landing Craft Assault (LCA)
flotillas, which were poorly equipped to defend themselves against air
attack. A light-hearted and humorous style belies the very dangerous
situations the author found himself in and the death and destruction he witnessed.
LCT (R) 363
Landing Craft Tank (Rocket).
approaching enemy held landing beaches from the sea the initial assault troops
were likely to come under fire from machine guns, mortars, shells and snipers
and be confronted by a variety of beach obstacles, including mines.
There were other measures for dealing with the latter but blasting an
area of beach about 400 yards by 100 yards would degrade everything in
The more the enemy's defensive preparations and
communications were destroyed, disabled or
disrupted and the enemy troops manning their posts were disorientated, the
fewer casualties would be suffered by Allied troops in establishing their
beachheads To assist in
number of secret weapons
was the Landing Craft Tank (Rocket)
- LCT (R).
In just a few seconds, LCT (R)s could fire hundreds
rockets, each with the explosive value of a 6 inch shell. They were fired
onto the landing beaches
just ahead of the first wave of assault troops so accuracy in ranging and timing
was paramount to avoid self inflicted Allied casualties. This account is by
stoker Frank Woods, DSM, who served on LCT (R) 363.
US LCT (R) The deployment of British made
United States manned Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) vessels off Omaha, Utah and
as told by
Lt Commander Carr who was in charge
of 14 such craft and their crews. After a
few months training in the USA with converted British Mark 3 LCTs, they shipped
to Scotland in November 1943. They were based at HMS Roseneath, known to them as
US Navy European ‘Base II’ in the River Clyde estuary, where their training
continued with the LCT (R)s they would take to war. The
British rocket craft were twice the size of their USA equivalents with
the capacity to launch over a thousand explosive
projectiles onto enemy held beaches just minutes ahead of the initial
assault troops landing. Ranging and timing were, therefore, vital to avoid Allied
casualties. The more the enemy's defensive preparations and
communications were destroyed, disabled or
disrupted and the enemy troops manning their posts were disorientated, the
fewer casualties would be suffered by Allied troops in establishing their
US LCT (R) 439
United States Landing Craft (Rocket)
439 - US LCT (R) 439, was a specialized landing craft which carried 2896 5 inch x 4
feet (127mm x 1.2m) explosive rockets, designed to soften up enemy coastal
defensive positions immediately prior to the landing of the initial assault
Her Commanding Officer was Lieutenant (jg) Elmer H Mahlin and his 2nd in Command
was Ensign George F Fortune, the author of the first part of the craft's
story. The second part gives the Commanding Officer's perspective as compiled by his
son, Stu from the contents of his father's old sea chest.
Landing Craft Mechanised
601 LCM Flotilla
601 LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised) "Build-Up" Flotilla
comprised 16 identical
craft whose primary purpose was to
ferry supplies, ammunition,
from large vessels anchored several miles
offshore to the landing beaches. They did this for 6 weeks from D-Day
but their battle
with the elements had
more tragic consequences
than their battle with the enemy. They were on their way
home from Normandy when they encountered very rough weather. Most of the
craft were in rather poor condition by then and two
sank but the crews were
rescued by another LCM. However, any jubilation was short-lived since,
three hours later, it foundered as well. Only one man survived out of a
total complement of 32.
LCV (P) 1228
Landing Craft Vehicle
(Personnel) 1228, was a relatively small flat bottomed boat with a
capacity to deliver a few vehicles or around 35 fully armed assault troops
or general supplies onto the landing beaches.
There were many hundreds of these craft deployed on D-Day, June 6th,
1944. 1228 was part of the 805 LCV(P) flotilla of 16 craft bound for
Gold beach. Her initial cargo was one hundred 5 gallon jerry cans of
petrol. The 3 man crew's concerns about the hazardous cargo, soon gave
way to survival strategies in the choppy waters of the English Channel.
a little over 24 hours.
Landing Craft Tank
This is an incisive, often amusing account of a
Craft Tank Squadron of around 50 LCTs and LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry),
written by its Commanding Officer shortly after the end of the war. The
story starts in the harsh, cold, winter of 1943/44 in the Moray Firth on
the north east coast of Scotland and ends with the hazardous landings on
the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The story is told by the
Flotilla's Lieutenant Commander Maxwell O W Miller, RN, later Commander.
Of his men he wrote; Elie Halévy, that great French historian of the British people, says somewhere,
that the most inexplicable thing about the British Navy is that its greatness
has been built up against a background of ill-used sailors, in ill-found ships,
commanded by the most undisciplined corps of officers that ever stepped a
quarterdeck. In the recent war, it was my good fortune to serve in Major Landing
Craft, the Tank and Infantry Landing Craft that bore the brunt of the
landings in France and Italy, and to command a squadron that would have
delighted Monsieur Halévy’s historian’s heart!
LCT (3) 318
This Landing Craft
Tank was itself a veteran as she made ready to deliver the Canadian Fort
Garry Horse and their 5 Duplex Drive (DD) Sherman tanks to Juno Beach.
Incredibly, these tanks would disembark 2 or 3 miles from the beaches
and "swim" for the shore! LCT
saw action off
Dieppe, North Africa,
Sicily, Italy and Normandy. After such an illustrious wartime service,
the end came from a most unexpected source.
318 was built by the Teesside Bridge and Engineering Company and
launched on February 14, 1942
LCT (4) 749
Landing Craft Tank (Mark 4) 749 was in the first assault wave onto Gold Beach on D-Day
morning. 749 was part of the 28th LCT Flotilla ‘D’ LCT
Squadron. Her cargo included specially adapted tanks (known as Hobart's Funnies)
for the clearance of beach obstacles in advance of troop landings. This
was extremely hazardous work undertaken before enemy resistance had been cleared. Crew member,
Crew member, stoker Mountain, was
lawarded the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) for his cool conduct
under fire. This account was written by Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Jack E Booker, RNVR.
LCT 795 Landing
Craft Tank 795.
From early training to D-Day and beyond
seen through the eyes of the craft's electrician. The crew lived through
hazardous work off Normandy when they disembarked the USA's 531 Engineer
Shore Regiment onto Tare Green sector of Utah beach at H-Hour + 320
minutes; just before mid-day. The crew's safety and well-being depended
on each other and they bonded well as a team but that came to a sudden
and unexpected end. Their craft was unexpectedly written off during
repairs, while the crew were scattered to the four winds on home leave.
They were individually allocated to other duties and the author never
saw his shipmates again.
LCT 861 was a unit of the 38th Flotilla of
Assault Group S3, Support Squadron. Their primary task on
D-Day was to deliver a detachment of the 76th
Field Regiment and four of their self-propelled Priest 105mm
howitzers mounted on a Churchill tank chassis and two
half-track reconnaissance vehicles to Sword beach. The 24
guns carried by the flotilla fired on enemy positions from a
distance of 11,000 yards down to just 2,000 yards, when the
initial assault troops were about to land. Although official
records show 9 LCTs were in the flotilla, both accounts of
861 on D-Day record only 6. It's entirely possible 3 were loaned to
another support squadron.
On D-Day, Signalman Eric J Loseby served with His Majesty's Landing Craft Tank 821 of the
Flotilla of ‘I’ Squadron Landing Craft.
From training and over-wintering in the cold waters around Scotland's
north-eastern shores to undertaking running repairs while stranded on a
Normandy beach, there were many hardships and dangers from the natural
elements and the enemy.
The common purpose
of these non specialised landing craft was to transport the Allied
armies, their weapons, equipment and supplies across the English Channel
to the landing beaches and on the return to southern England to
transport prisoners of war (PoWs) and wounded troops.
HMLCT 980 survived the D-Day landings and a subsequent return
visits to the Normandy beaches after which she became part of another
flotilla in readiness for any future landings that might arise. That
came in early November 1944 in the form of the much more arduous
landings on the island of Walcheren in the River Scheldt estuary. She
survived that too and after a stay in Ostend returned to the UK where
she was assessed as just seaworthy but beyond economical repair. She was
ordered to moor on the River Thames where she was de-masted and
ridiculed by punks who missed the draft because of their age. Revenge,
when it came was sweet but their return journey down the Thames was a
sad time for their once proud small craft of the Royal Navy
Midshipman, John Mewha of LCT (5) 2304 often wondered what became
of the men of the US 238 Engineering Combat Battalion (ECB) that his LCT
delivered to Utah Beach on the morning of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Sixty one
years later, through Tony Chapman,
archivist and historian of the LST & Landing Craft Association,
John Mewha was reunited with former Lieutenant, Ernest C James of
Company A, 238 Engineer Combat Battalion. Under their commanding
officer, Captain Richard Reichmann, the ECB men were shipped to Utah
beach by LCT (5) 2304. A UK Landing Craft Tank
carrying US Engineers to a US landing beach. Both Midshipman Mewha and
Lieutenant James left a record of their memories of that fateful day
Royal Navy Signalman, Mike Crumpton
was a late addition to the crew of LCT 2331 in April 1944. Come D-Day,
they successfully disembarked USA Army
Lt George Worth commanding the 1st Platoon of
Company B of 238 Engineer Combat Battalion with his men and vehicles...
but in the wrong place! The shared experience of the crew of 2331 during
the following 6 weeks when they simply vanished from official records,
is unbelievable, even in the fog of war. No one they were in contact with saw it as their duty
to inform the authorities of the whereabouts of 2331 or the state of
health and wellbeing of her crew. Mike's frantic mother had made enquiries
but after D-Day nothing was known. Read this remarkable and fascinating
story of service to the Allied cause under the most difficult
Flotilla 814 Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel)
"Build-Up" Flotilla comprised 16 identical craft whose primary task was
the transport of men from large troop carrying ships anchored a few
miles off shore to the landing beaches. On D-Day, Royal Marine, Roy
Nelson, was a crew member on LCV (P) 1155 aboard a Landing Ship
Tank (LST) for the journey across the English Channel to the landing beaches of
Normandy. 7 of the 16 craft in the flotilla were subsequently recorded as war losses
and two Royal Marines from the flotilla were killed. Their Commonwealth
War Grave Commission records were corrected as a result of information
gleaned during the preparation of this account.
was a Landing Ship
Infantry (Large), LSI (L). The purpose of this class of vessel was to carry
large numbers of fully armed
troops and the Landing Craft Assault (LCAs) that would carry them on the last few miles to the landing beaches. The LSI (L)s are often referred to as 'mother
ships' because of their 'brood' of LCAs, 24 in the case of the Glenearn,
all securely fixed to davits ready to be lowered, fully laden, into the water like a
modern lifeboat. Since an LCA typically carried around 35 fully armed troops and some craft would
return for a second load of troops, the Glenearn could carry around 1,500
men. She was a converted 16 knot cargo liner of about 10,000 tons and a D-Day
veteran that also saw service in the Pacific theatre.
Landing Ship Tank
Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo in South America, Misoa saw service off
N Africa, Pantellaria, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. These
are the wartime memories of a young Royal Navy seaman who served on
her. Although his ship didn't have the sleek lines and style of
a cruiser, she came through many hazardous actions, relatively unscathed.
She was regarded as a lucky ship since the only bomb to hit her failed
to explode. As the crew were dispersed in April/May of 1945 as Misoa lay
off Inveraray in Scotland, there was a sense amongst the crew that a
great adventure had finally come to an end.
HMS Royal Ulsterman
was a WW2 troop carrying ship called a Landing
Ship Infantry (Hand Hoisting) or LSI (H). Its purpose was to carry
large numbers of fully armed
troops and the Landing Craft Assault (LCAs) they would use to travel the last few miles to the landing beaches. LSIs are often referred to as 'mother
ships' because of their 'brood' of LCAs, 6 in the case of the Royal Ulsterman,
all securely fixed to hand operated davits ready to be lowered, fully laden,
into the water. She was an ex English Channel ferry and saw action
off North Africa, Pantellaria, Sicily, Italy and Normandy.
USS LST 28 This was a large landing craft
around 400 feet long and 50 wide with a capacity of around 1500 tons. There
were a number of variants of this class of vessel which carried tanks,
lorries, heavy equipment, supplies and troops. Its draft was 11 ft aft and 4
ft forward making it possible to land directly onto unimproved beaches. It
was armed with a variety of 40mm, 20mm and machine guns. It carried its own
40 ton crane for loading/unloading and was akin to a RoRo ferry but with
only one ramp.
Others Not Mentioned Elsewhere
Coastal Command were not, of course, part
of Combined Operations but, on and around D-Day, they played a vital
role in support of the invasion fleet. German submarines (U Boats) were
known to be concentrated in French ports and they were expected to
attack the invasion fleet particularly on the approaches to, and in, the
western side of the English Channel. Coastal Command's planes were
equipped with radar and depth charges. Their
task was to cover every part of the 'Operation Cork' area from southern Ireland to
the mouth of the Loire, 20,000 square miles, every 30 minutes, day and
night for an indefinite period... and it wasn't by accident that the
interval was 30 minutes! These are one pilot's recollections.
The Allies needed secure sheltered harbour
facilities within days of the Normandy landings to supply their
advancing forces until were captured and made usable. How did they
erect two harbours, each the size of Dover, in just a few days in
wartime, when Dover took 7 years to construct in peacetime? It was a
civil engineering project of immense size and complexity. Such was
Churchill's annoyance at what he perceived to be slow progress, that
he indulged his frustration in a terse signal to Mountbatten
on the 30th May, 1942...
for use on beaches.
They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be
mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don't argue the
matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves."
The Pipe Line Under The Ocean, was
a storage, pumping and pipeline distribution network in southern/central
England, designed to supply petrol to the Allied armies in France, as
they advanced towards Germany. This page tells the story of the planning, development, testing
and installation of the 21 pipelines across the English Channel and the contribution of PLUTO to
the war effort.
A fine collection of heartfelt poems
mostly about the Normandy landings on D Day and the Commando Memorial at Spean
Bridge, near Fort William, Scotland.
RAF Air Sea Rescue
For five specially selected crews serving in the
RAF Air Sea Rescue Service, D Day found them holding predetermined positions
some miles off the Normandy beaches. Inexplicably, their orders told them to
switch on their searchlights shortly before midnight. Heavy aircraft were
soon heard overhead
carrying thousands of paratroops behind enemy lines. They were guided by
the searchlights acting as navigational beacons! The Air Sea Rescue
crews knew nothing in advance of this small but vitally important task.
Later, they resumed their normal duties patrolling the waters off the
coast of north west France in search of downed airmen.
Royal Observer Corp Seaborne Ops
The 796 civilian
personnel from the ROC, were not formally attached to Combined
Operations, although their curious uniforms had aspects of all three
This created the unique spectacle of civilians in RAF blue uniforms,
with Army black berets serving as Royal Navy Senior NCOs!
On board ships on D-Day and beyond, they identified approaching aircraft as friend or foe,
for the information of gunners. This, potentially, would reduce friendly
fire incidents while increasing the number of enemy aircraft downed.