~ HMLCT 795 ~
This is the story
of HMLCT 795 from early training to D-Day and beyond seen through the eyes of the craft's electrician.
From the hazardous work off Normandy, where experiences shared bonded the crew
together, to an unexpected event that dispersed them without ceremony. The
author never met any of them again.
Foreword by Tony Chapman
On the morning of D-Day, June 6th 1944, under the command of 21
year old Sub. Lieutenant Lyon, HMLCT 795 of the 52nd LCT Flotilla of the G LCT
Squadron, was on Utah beach in support of the US 4th Infantry
Division. Loading orders for the craft in Michael's group record that HMLCT 795
was carrying men of the USA's 531 Engineer Shore Regiment. Furthermore, landing
tables show that HMLCT 795 was due on Tare Green sector of Utah beach at H-Hour
+ 320 minutes; just before mid-day. (Photo;
Lt Lyon (left) with his second in command, or 'Jimmy the One' as they were all
With her were other British manned Mk4 LCTs; LCT 758 with the 4th
Field Artillery Battalion, LCT 798 with men of the 3rd Battalion 12th
Infantry, LCT 799 with men of the 1st Battalion 12th
Infantry, LCT 822 with men of 531 Engineer Shore Regiment (same as LCT 795), LCT
977 with men of the 12th Infantry, LCT 974 with 29th Field
Artillery Battalion and LCT 996 with elements of the 1st Engineer
That at least was the intention, but the reality on the day may have been
different. We would be delighted to hear from any veterans of 531 ESR who were
carried on to Utah beach by way of LCTs and who may be able to add to the
I joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer on May 11th 1943 and
reported to HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness in Lincolnshire on the east
coast of England. The establishment, formerly a Billy Butlin's Holiday Camp, was
a central reception depot for new naval recruits.
Following my initial training I was drafted in turn to; HMS Vernon a
shore base at Portsmouth as a Junior Provisional Electrical Mechanic (JPEM),
HMS Shrapnel at Southampton from where we travelled
every day to the training in Totton to continue our J.P.E.M. course.
After several weeks, myself, along with others, were suddenly taken off the
course and drafted to HMS Drake at Devonport
for onward draft to the Royal Navy Training Unit at Letchworth in
Hertfordshire to take the Landing Craft Wireman course. This was soon followed
by instruction in aspects of seamanship at Troon in Scotland. (Photo; the
When I was at Troon I joined HMLCT 795 in the Gare Loch. This was most likely
around the early weeks of 1944. From there we undertook sea trials between Oban,
on the east coast of Scotland, and Lamlash on the Isle of Arran in the Clyde
estuary. The daily routine was broken from time to time by the exuberance of
youth. On one occasion our Petty Officer motor mechanic and I went ashore but
missed the last liberty boat back to our landing craft. There was an exercise
the following day so it was imperative that we were back on board in good time.
By chance we spotted a dinghy tied to the stern of a motor cruiser and this
offered a solution to our problem. We quickly untied it and proceeded to row
We hadn't travelled very far when we heard the burst of an engine from a
powerful boat. A searchlight swept the bay soon picking us out in its glare. It
was our misfortune that the motor cruiser, from which we had untied the dinghy,
was a Naval Police Patrol vessel. Its crew were not amused and we found
ourselves on the receiving end of a well earned punishment from our commander.
However, I believe I saw a twinkle in his eye as he thought about us catching
out the Naval Police!
After leaving Lamlash we headed south to Falmouth by way of the Irish Sea.
In Falmouth our craft was put into dry dock around March '44 to have Mulock
extensions fitted to her bow door, this giving some indication of the flatness
of the beach we would likely be required to land on at some point.
At that time other British craft were in Falmouth for refitting or repairs.
There were also many US Navy craft which, we now know, were those of the US
Navy's Force B Follow-Up to the first wave of landings destined for the American
sectors. Nights ashore were so organised that the British and Americans seldom,
if ever, found themselves drinking together. Experience had taught the
authorities that a mixture of the two nationalities had the potential for
conflict! (Photo; most of the crew in relaxed mode.)
With our Mulock extension in place LCT 795 departed from Falmouth and
anchored at St. Mawes. This gave the crew a chance to enjoy some fishing to
supplement rations. Talking of which an American soldier from Los Angeles joined
us to guard the US Army K Rations stacked on board. We nicknamed him GI (Indian)
Joe. I'm ashamed to say that we stole two boxes on one occasion when he wasn’t
looking, but, fortunately, he did not get into trouble - nobody was counting in
During early springtime everything became more
serious. The pace quickened with regular, often daily, practice landings. Time
after time we carried US Army troops and deposited them on to the beach at
Many of our exercises involved night sailings and one particular night I saw
a ship burning in the distance. Next morning in Brixham Harbour all the American
LSTs had their flags at half-mast. For a time we believed someone important had
died but discovered much later that a convoy of USLSTs had come under attack
from German E-boats. The incident we now know took place during
Operation Tiger in April 1944…..nearly 750 men were
The long awaited day for which we had trained so hard arrived. In the very
early days of June we took our cargo onboard and tied up alongside other craft
in Dartmouth harbour. After that no-one was allowed to leave the vessel without
very good reason and, even then, only with an escort. Secrecy was paramount. Our
skipper told us ‘this is it’ and gave us details of the part that HMLCT 795
would play in the imminent invasion of France.
I will never forget our departure from Dartmouth. Crowds of people gathered
to wave us off knowing that this was the long awaited invasion. We sailed on
what must have been June 4th but had to put into Portland because the planned
landing intended for June 5th had been postponed for 24 hours owing
to bad weather.
The following morning as we left Portland we saw a most amazing sight... to
the distant horizon the sea was full of landing ships and craft of all shapes
and sizes. The enormity of the spectacle made a lifelong impression on me. I was
only 18 years of age and recall saying to my shipmates…"We are about to become
part of history!"
The crossing to Normandy was very rough and many of the American soldiers
could not wait to get off our 'God damned boat.' There was no escape from the
smell of vomit, it was everywhere. I chose to sleep in the Oerlikon gun pit in
an attempt to breathe clean air!
We arrived off the Normandy beaches during the pre-dawn hours and stood off
as we watched Allied planes going over during the first light of dawn. Our run
to the beach was planned for approximately 1000 hours as part of the fourth
assault wave. Every man was given a tot of rum, even underage me. It tasted
My action station on landing was to operate the cable brake drum when the
Kedge anchor was dropped. As HMLCT 795 approached the beach there were
explosions in the sand which I thought were caused by our own demolition
engineers. However, an American soldier was sure they were 88mm shells from
German defenders taking their bearings on the Barrage Balloon flying above our
Having delivered our cargo of men and trucks on to the beach HMLCT 795 was
left high and dry as the tide receded. Alongside us, also part of 52nd
Flotilla, was one of our sister craft HMLCT 996 (see photo). Given that we were
beached, and therefore relatively easy targets for German gunners, we left our
craft and ran up the beach to seek shelter. As we did so shells landed between
the craft and HMLCT 795 suffered a few holes in her side. Thankfully there was
no major damage but it would have been a very different outcome had it happened
a short time earlier since some of the trucks we had just unloaded onto the
beach were carrying high explosives for demolition purposes. Had one of them
gone up HMLCT 795 and all onboard would have been lost.
As the shelling continued I jumped into a foxhole and found myself with an
American soldier who shared his K Ration chocolate with me. He asked if I was a
Commando to which I replied 'no fear!' I told him it was my intention to get
back to England as soon as the tide came in. Other members of HMLCT 795’s crew
found themselves in a blockhouse where they discovered the body of a dead German
soldier. They took his helmet, Very pistol and a hand grenade as souvenirs. The
combination of youth and wartime can make people very callous, but now, all
these years later, I wonder about him, his family, who he was and where he came
With the return of the tide we rejoined HMLCT 795 and retracted from the
beach and anchored off-shore until the following morning. We spent the night
watching tracer bullets back on land and feeling glad that we were out of harms
On arriving back in England damage to the bottom of our landing craft caused
by an underwater object was repaired at Milford Haven. Thereafter, we became
part of the ferry service back and forth between England and France. We worked
out of Portland ferrying troops and tanks to the
Mulberry Harbour and other areas until the
harbour at Le Havre was liberated in September 1944. It was a place where we
could go ashore but the town itself was in a terrible state following allied
bombing and shelling.
We continued working between England and Le Havre until the early part of
1945. We had minor bumps and scrapes during that period but remained operational
The Demise of HMLCT
The end came for HMLCT 795 on February 15th 1945. Whether the incident took
place on the night of the 15th or during the early morning hours of
that day escapes my memory. I do recall that we were returning during the hours
of darkness from Le Havre with the craft in our convoy sailing in line astern.
I was on the mess-deck when there was an almighty crash and the stern
bulkhead buckled. We had run on to rocks and the craft immediately astern had
run into us. HMLCT 795 lost power as water entered the fuel tanks and the
generator shorted out causing sparks to fly out of the funnel. We lashed 795 to
another craft and obtained power for lighting from their generator. In this way
we limped back to Portland Harbour where 795 was formally written off thirteen
days later. Her crew, including myself, were paid off and individually were
drafted to new posts. Suddenly I lost all contact with my then shipmates and
sadly I've failed to locate any of them since.
The craft that ran into us that night I have since discovered was HMLCT 1127.
She too was a veteran of the Normandy landings as part of the Royal Navy’s 59th
LCT Flotilla of Q LCT Squadron which formed part of Force B Follow-Up. On June 6th
1944 LCT 1127 was under the command of Sub. Lieutenant Fred Clements RNVR.
I was sent to Glasgow to join the Mk3 ‘Star’ HMLCT 7124 which was being made
ready and 'tropicalised' for service in the Far East. In the event I missed her
sailing since I was sick in Mearskirk Hospital at the time. Later, albeit
briefly, I joined the crew of LCG(L) 811 at
HMS Vansittart in Bristol whose guns were manned by men of the Royal
Marines. From 811 I went to
HMS Turtle at Poole in Dorset for training on rocket firing LCTs. While
there the news came through that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki which brought the war to an end.
My time in the Royal Navy was coming to an end. I was drafted to Plymouth to
act as skeleton crew or 'Care and Maintenance Party' looking after a number of
empty landing craft that were moored in the river there. Finally, I was sent to
the Demobilisation Centre in Scotland for release in Class A on June 11th
I have always been pro-American and have an affinity with the country for
family reasons. My uncle emigrated there and became a naturalised citizen, later
fighting with the US Army during World War One. I felt sorry for the American
lads I met. They were all so far from home with all its comforts and security.
They told us about their country and their families. So many of them never to
return to their homeland.
AB 'Ma' Leat.
LCT 795's Signalman or
'Bunts' as he would have been known manning one of her 20mm Oerlikon
Cox and Motor Mechanic on Oerlikon.
Cox, Lofty and Motor Mechanic on Oerlikon.
Fishing in Scotland.
Gordy (Geordie from NE England?) outside ramp door winch.
GI Indian Joe.
LCT 795's Stoker referred to as 'Scouse'
Author on tank deck.
Bathing in Brixham Harbour.
Motor Mechanic, GI Joe & Taffy in working party.
LCGL 811 - author on gun barrel.
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I believe my late father, Graham Robert Taylor (Bob), was on the 795's sister
ship which beached on D Day. He told me about this incident many years ago and
it's great to see the story has been archived for all to read. He had an
eventful war having been torpedoed in the Mediterranean in a flotilla returning
from north Africa. He and six others survived and were picked up some seven
hours later one of whom was was named Lou
Boozey from the Teddington/Twickenham area.
Father was immensely grateful to his rescuers for the clothes he and his mates
were given even if he looked like a ragamuffin with bits of Navy, Army and Air
force uniforms! When they arrived in Poole Harbour there was a lot of drinking
and they all ended up in the Fireman’s hut on the harbour for the night very
much worse for wear! After what they had been through, in the morning they were
allowed to get on with the job in hand without reprimand.
love to know if the ship my father was torpedoed in was the HMLCT 996. My father
later reported to his skipper that he had heard a ticking sound before the ship
blew up and was absolutely convinced it was a limpet mine, but the skipper put
the noise down to the generators on another ship.
This account of HMLCT 795 was prepared from the notes of RN Wireman Michael Jennings D/MX574620.
These notes were transcribed by Tony Chapman, archivist/historian for the LST
and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy) and further edited by Geoff Slee for