~ LANDING BARGE KITCHEN - HM
LBK 6 ~
A Normandy Veteran Still
on Duty in the 21st Century
When the enormous scale of the 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
anticipated demand. 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!
[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).]
also had the capacity to bake fresh bread
were constructed of steel with a hull of
79 feet long by 21 feet wide - the proportions and characteristics of
Thames lighters, including flat bottoms and a shallow draft of only 3.5 feet.
Unlike the lighters (or barges) the LBKs were fitted with engines, so could
LBK 6 (His Majesty's Landing Barge Kitchen) was a barge that saw service
off Sword beach. Below, we follow her story into the 21st century.
LBK 6 -
Following her arrival off Normandy, LBK
6 stood off Sword beach as part of the 35th Supply and Repair Flotilla of
'U' Landing Barge Squadron. With her, also part of the 35th Flotilla, were
other converted Thames barges of assorted designations, namely LBE or Landing Barge (Engineering), LBO
or Landing Barge (Oiler) and LBW
or Landing Barge (Water).
The 35 Supply & Repair Flotilla was part of Force 'S'. The Flotilla consisted
of the trawler Damito, which had been converted to a fuel carrier, the
minesweeping trawler Empyrean and Vindelicia, a trawler which had been
converted to carry fuel but was acting as a tug.
[Photo; LBK 6 is
seen departing Portsmouth Naval Base at 13.30 hours on May 10th 2007, under
tow of a marine tug out of Itchen. Her destination believed to be Babcocks at Southampton for disposal.
Read on to find out what really happened. Photos
courtesy of John Wardale.]
The rest of the Flotilla comprised emergency repair craft LCE 13, emergency repair barges LBEs 1, 7,
35, 40, 42 & 43; LBK 6; oiler barges LBOs 5, 12, 15, 25, 31, 42, 50, 51,
52, 85 and water barges LBWs 12 & 13. A further nine
similar LBS & R (Landing Barge Supply and
Repair) Flotillas operated in support of the Normandy Invasion.
LBK 6 moved westwards and
for some time also stood off Gold beach. On July
24th, 1944, Admiral Ramsay went aboard and was photographed with her crew. In
1997, Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing Craft Association reminded crew
member, Les Hinchliffe, of the occasion. Les was most surprised having
completely forgotten that he had been in the presence of the great man!
A Brief History
LBK 6 is
believed to be the last
surviving landing vessel, which saw service as a floating kitchen
off the Normandy beachheads in 1944. The vessel was built as a steel
'swim' barge in 1944,
with a deadweight of about 150 tons.
The hold was
approximately 50ft long by 16ft wide. Similar kitchen conversions
were carried out on a further
nine vessels, each with a storage capacity to feed 900 men for one week.
Other barges were converted to oil, water
and engineering barges to cater for the varied requirements of the invasion
were installed aft of a kitchen space with stores for bulk and
perishable goods forward. A ten ton fresh water tank was fitted in the hold
with additional fresh, seawater and diesel tanks on the accommodation
In the after section of the
hull were two Chrysler petrol engines, separated by a diesel tank.
The engines developed a total of 130bhp producing a speed of 6
knots. The estimated
endurance was 300 miles at 5 knots on 600 gallons of petrol carried in tanks
fitted in the after peak.
toilet and coal storage were provided in the forepeak,
while at deck level aft was the steering shelter which, along with
the various fuel tanks, was provided with 2.5" plastic armour. The middle
section of the deckhouse above the galley
was the 'servery' area with accommodation for the one officer, aft, over the
engines, and accommodation for the 24 man crew, forward over the storage
In September 1946, LBK 6 was at Chatham where she continued
to serve as a floating galley for ships in the dockyard. By 1948,
classed as a Servicing Craft (Civilian), operating under control of the
Captain of the Dockyard's Department. In July 1951, the hull was surveyed and
given an expected life of 13 years; at the same time it was reported that
the engines had been removed. Two years later,
she was listed under the
Captain of the Dockyard's Department, Chatham until
December 1957 when the barge was absorbed into the newly formed Port
6 was modernised in 1957 and continued to serve as a
galley for ships under refit. In September/October 1961,
she was docked for
essential repairs, including a tank clean followed
the next month by
emergency repairs. Approval was given on 24 April, 1963, to
dispose of the barge and Portsmouth was formally
advised of this in September 1963. It was found
that LBK 6 was a suitable
replacement for YC 3029 or YC 3030, formerly LBK 1 and LBK 3 respectively.
[Photo; sister craft LBK1 courtesy of the
Jack Smale / Philip Simons Collection.]
Approval to transfer to
Portsmouth was given on 14 Oct, 1963 and LBK 6 was ready for tow by 5 Nov. The tug
Sheerness with LBK 6 in tow on 13 November 1963, arriving at Portsmouth the
refit was required before LBK
6 could replace YC 3030. In late 1964,
the refit and quadrennial survey were
carried out at
Portsmouth. In 1965, the
crew complement was increased
by one stoker and facilities were further improved as LBK 6 continued to provide food for ships in refit.
6 underwent various refits at Portsmouth throughout the
1960s and 1970s but
was once again declared for disposal on 20 Nov,
1977. However, the barge was used during the refit of Intrepid
between June, 1977 and Nov, 1978 and continued to have an active role in the
Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service. [Source; DA Sowdon, BSc (Hons),
1994. World Ship Society RMAS Central Record.]
May 10th, 2007, under tow by a marine tug out of Itchen,
LBK 6's destination was believed to be Babcocks
at Southampton for disposal. That didn't happen! She was
given a new role as the clubhouse of the Harwich
and Dovercourt Sailing Club. These photos show her arrival at Harwich on
April 2nd 2008 - the first opposite the harbour master's pontoon and the
on her new mooring quay
at the club by the HHA workboat Hornbill. Whilst serving as their clubhouse,
the sailing club hope to incorporate some of her history, thus making her a
public attraction as well. LBK 6 is the ultimate
survivor of her class.
Five years after the Harwich & Dovercourt Sailing Club
took delivery of LBK 6, their planned conversion was completed. Rear
Commodore Shirley Constable explained, "It has been a long hard road, but
as well as being our Clubhouse, LBK 6 will also serve as a memorial to all
the landing barges and the men who sailed on them, that took part in
Operation Overlord, which started with the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944."
A Remembrance Service was held on the 69th
anniversary of D-Day on June 6th 2013. Representatives from the service
organisations, veterans, their families and friends assembled on the
lower deck (function room), which was very ably opened by D Day veteran
Ron Smith (photo opposite), a member of the LST & Landing Craft Association. The lower
deck is now officially known as "The Normandy Room" as a tribute to
those ships and men, whose destiny it was to sail to Normandy that
fateful day, amongst which was, of course, LBK6.
This 70th Anniversary year, we are again
holding a Commemoration event and hope to welcome all service veterans
from whatever field, who cannot make it to Normandy, plus their family
and friends. The programme starts around 11.00 am with coffee and
biscuits, followed by a gentle short parade with pipe band at around
11.30 am. Lunch and a few "goodies", provided by the club, will draw the
proceedings to an end.
To help with the organisation of the
event, anyone wishing to attend should please e-mail the
Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing Club
in the first instance.
Club is located at: Gas House Creek, Harwich, Essex.
Following the conversion the exterior is unchanged, with the
same deck furniture and 'LBK 6' on her superstructure. However, the interior has
witnessed an amazing transformation as the photos above illustrate.
As far as is known LBK 6 was, until May 10th 2007, the last surviving
Thames barge converted for service during WW2.
Recollections of a Crew Member
Prior to joining HM
LBK 6, myself and others were billeted on Hayling
Island at Havant, Hampshire, England. HM LBK 6 was brought to us from London,
as confirmed by a veteran who had ferried numerous Thames barges to
Hampshire. He himself served aboard HM LBK 10.
Our Normandy crew were the first to board her but the precise date
escapes me. Our commanding officer was Sub Lt Smillie, a Londoner. On June 4th
he told us that we were to be part of an invasion force to be landed on the
5th June, later to become June 6 because of a delay due to bad weather.
We departed Hayling Island early in the morning to join up with the main
invasion force. The hundreds of ships and boats of all shapes and sizes was
an unforgettable sight as they made their way towards the Normandy beaches
of France. Our crossing was far from pleasant. The sea was so rough
that LBK 6 pitched up and down like a bucking bronco!
We were assigned to Sword beach at Ouistreham on the extreme eastern
flank of the invasion beaches. By my recall, when we arrived we were the only
craft there apart from a merchant ship or ammunition ship. This vessel was
later hit by incoming shell fire or by striking a mine and went up in
flames. I vividly recall her crew and other personnel jumping into the sea
to escape the inferno.
[I have been unable to confirm either the actual or planned departure or
arrival time for LBK 6. The convoy records show that she possibly set
out with Convoy SM 4, which had with it two LBKs. That particular convoy was
due off the Normandy beaches on D+1. (Tony Chapman).]
We did not stay long in the vicinity of Sword beach and soon moved
westwards to take up position off Gold beach at Arromanche, where we
HMLBK 6 was about 79 feet long by 21 feet wide at her bows. She had four
ovens aft of her kitchen space, storage for bulk and perishable goods
forward, a ten ton fresh water storage tank housed in the hold with
additional fresh and sea water tanks on the accommodation roof. She could
hold sufficient provisions to feed 900 men for a week. In the after section
of the hull two Chrysler petrol engines gave her a speed of six knots. At
her forepeak were two toilets or ‘heads’ which were emptied by her crew.
crew complement was 24 men, including our commanding officer. His quarters were
aft above the engine room and the crew quarters were forward above the storage
I can recall the names of some crew members but others are now only faces
remembered. For the record, those I can recall are;
AB ‘Haircut Sir’ Gutteridge, a barber in civilian life from Hayling
AB L Higgins a native of Norwich,
Cook Bailey from Northampton,
Cook Wicks from London,
AB Isley from Peterborough,
AB Dawson from Hull,
Stoker Gibbons from the Staffordshire area,
Storeman or ‘Jack Dusty’ as they were known, also from Staffordshire, from
Brownhills I believe,
AB ‘Scouse’ Hughes from Liverpool,
AB Gibson from Boness in Scotland,
Cook Tyson from Staffordshire,
Cook Barton from Tunbridge Wells,
AB Harold Armitage from Huddersfield in Yorkshire (my best mate ),
AB Douglas Mackrell from Bradford, Yorkshire,
Cook Ward from London,
AB Leslie ‘Tubby’ Morris from Bolton, Lancashire, also known affectionately
as ‘Little Eva,'
AB Les Hinchliffe, a native of Sheffield,
Odder who came from South Africa,
Our Coxswain whose name escapes me. He came from London and in
civilian life he was a "lighter-man" working on the Thames barges... the
very same craft he found himself serving with in Normandy... and myself of
As I sit writing this in November of 1995, I am aware that HMLBK 6 is
still going strong and still feeding Royal Navy personnel in Portsmouth.
The photos below were
provided courtesy of Peter Booth, son of ‘Jack Dusty’,
Fred Booth of LBK 6. They are of crew
in Sas van Gent, a small coastal town in Zeeland, Holland in May/June 1945. Where
names are given they read from back row to front row and left to right.
VE Day May 5
Chef, Tubby &
Taffy & Chef
Spike and Dusty
Ginger & Taffy
Lofty & Spike
VE Day May 5
Given her presence in Normandy in 1944, the Harwich and Dovercourt Sailing
Club held a remembrance service on D-Day the 6th of June, 2009, with HMLBK 6 as the focal point flying the White Ensign.
Members of the local area Royal Navy and Merchant Navy Associations were
present as well as members of the Royal British Legion and veterans from the LST
and Landing Craft Association.
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I hope you are well and still tending the
website. This is just an update on LBK6 for visitors to your website with an
interest in WW2 landing craft.
Fred Booth (Jack Dusty), the last surviving
crew member of LBK6 who sailed with her to the landing beaches, was presented
with the Legion d'Honneur by the French ambassador in a ceremony at Walsall
[Photo; Fred wearing his Legion d'Honneur medal with pride
alongside his WW2 medals.]
Ron Smith, another of LBK6's 'friends', was
also presented with the same honour at Shoreham. Both so richly deserved this
honour. Fred only left LBK6 when she docked in Rotterdam with provisions to
help the resistance feed the starving people of Rotterdam.
LBK6, herself, has had a bit of a facelift.
Her upper deck was shot blasted last season, thoroughly sealed and new
handrails fitted. This coming season, the plan is to undertake similar work on
the main deck. Portholes are in the process of being resealed to keep her
weather tight. Work is always ongoing on the interior.
It's a fairly slow process, as some of the
work is being done by the members to keep the cost down. Her topsides will
also be done this year, if it stops raining long enough!
Able Seaman Les Hinchliffe's recollections were transcribed by Tony Chapman, Archivist/Historian of the LST and Landing
Craft Association (Royal Navy). Thanks to John Wardale for sending in the photos of
LBK 6 leaving Southampton.