~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

WW2 land, sea and air forces of the Allied Nations planning, training and operating together as a unified force on amphibious raids and landings against the enemy.

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Hundreds of thousands of visits each year to 200  web pages & 4000 photos. The Website has been published & hosted by Geoff Slee since 2000.

Around 40 D-Day Stories by veterans of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines who served in or alongside Combined Operations

~ LANDING CRAFT TANK MARK 4 749 - LCT (4) 749 ~

LCT (4) 749 carrying adapted tanks for the clearance of obstacles from Gold Beach

HM Landing Craft Tank 749 - HMLCT(4) 749 was involved in the first assault wave onto Gold Beach on the morning of D-Day. It was part of the 28th LCT Flotilla, ‘D’ LCT Squadron. Its cargo included specially adapted tanks (known as Hobart's Funnies) for the clearance of beach obstacles in advance of troop landings.

[Photo; LCT(4), Landing Craft Tank 1319 (Mark 4). Similar to LCT 749. © IWM (A 27907).]

Steaming for Normandy

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Jack E Booker RNVR, continues.

The 28th Flotilla departed the Solent at 0730 hours on June 5th with an LCA(HR) (Landing Craft Assault-Hedgerow) in tow. These craft had been converted to allow them to give supporting mortar fire as the LCT made their approach.

It was rough crossing the Channel with a south west Force 5 wind producing bigger seas than might have been expected, although there may have been some choppiness from a strong gale for several days beforehand. During the early hours, the unmanned LCA, we had in tow, broke adrift as its towing belts tore away.

As dawn broke, we were at the head of a formidable armada, which stretched beyond the horizon astern of us. Only minesweepers and motor launches were ahead but they eventually turned away as we deployed line abreast, heading for the low French coastline ahead.

Meanwhile warships astern shelled the beaches with heavy and continuous salvos. The noise was horrendous, but hardest on the ears was the continuous scream of successive flights of rockets fired over our heads from LCT(R)s astern of us. Worryingly, some rockets, which had the explosive power of a 6 inch shell, fell short into the sea not far ahead of us.

[Photo; Sherman Crab Mk II flail tank, one of General Hobart's 'funnies' of 79th Armoured Division, during minesweeping tests in the UK, 27 April 1944. © IWM (H 38079).]

Our Cargo

Each of the craft carried six Churchill AVREs (Assault Vehicles Royal Engineers) plus two collapsible boats loaded with explosives. The task of the Royal Engineers was to clear beach obstacles that would impede the progress of the assault troops through the beach area. The AVREs were manned by men of the 82nd Assault Squadron, Royal Engineers.

The six Churchill tanks on my craft had been specially adapted for this task. Two were equipped with forward facing rotating chain flails to detonate mines on the beach, a third tank carried a huge bobbin of strengthened matting, which was laid down over soft sand as the tank drove across the beach, leaving behind a firm path for other vehicles and tanks to follow. The gun turret of the 4th tank had been replaced by a large folding girder bridge, which could be thrown forward over tank traps. The fifth tank was armed with a powerful Petard gun for knocking out beach emplacements. The shells discharged from a Petard were referred to as ‘Flying Dustbins’, such was their power. The last tank we carried was a Fascine, fitted with a huge round bundle of brushwood lashed tightly in a cylindrical bundle, which could be extended in front of the tank to fill a tank ditch. Collectively, these tank adaptations were affectionately known as 'Hobart's Funnies'.

The Landing

At 0725 hours on the morning of June 6th 1944, my craft touched down at Le Hamel on the extreme western limits of Gold beach. Six LCTs were present, being one half of the craft that formed the 28th Flotilla under the command of Flotilla Officer (FO), Lieutenant Commander, Arnold Nyberg RNVR. Our squadron was commanded by Lieutenant Commander E N Langley.

[Extract from the Admiralty's 'Green List' showing the disposition of LCT (4) 749 just prior to D-Day.]

We beached exactly at H-Hour alongside HMLCT 88 which carried Lieutenant Commander Nyberg. The remainder of our craft came in under shell and mortar fire. LCT 886 took a direct hit on the bridge, disabling her and she finished broadside to the beach, incapable of discharging her tanks. [HMLCT 886 is a recorded ‘War Loss’ (T Chapman).]

749 was hit several times by shell-fire, two of which shot away our starboard winch and wire. Nonetheless, our cargo was disembarked without serious problems, due largely to our anchor winch controller, Stoker Mountain. He stood by his winch, totally unprotected from bullets and shrapnel, slowly easing 749 up to the beach during the half hour or so it took to off-load our tanks. He was later awarded the DSM (Distinguished Service Medal) for his cool conduct under fire. There were no casualties amongst my crew but, sadly, a corporal of the Royal Engineers was killed in the tank hold.

We were unable to raise our door because the winch was broken. To avoid seawater pouring in, we proceeded stern first to a position about one mile off the beach, dropped our kedge anchor and hoisted two black balls to signify we were not under control. We rigged a spare kedge wire from the aft anchor winch to the forward door using pulleys and shackles. It took several hours but we managed to secure the door safely. Then we ‘spliced the mainbrace’, thanks to the Royal Engineers who had overlooked a full jar of rum as they took their supplies and equipment ashore.

While at anchor, we had a grandstand view of the landings in progress, as waves of follow-up craft landed in the area cleared by the Royal Engineers. We saw several of our AVRE tanks being hit and bursting into flames and their crews jumping out to save themselves. From accounts I've since read the damage was inflicted by a well concealed German 88mm gun, which was eventually destroyed by one of the Petard AVRE tanks.

Post D-Day

At about 1400 hours, we joined a homeward bound convoy of empty LCTs. Later that afternoon we pulled out of formation and with our Ensign at half-mast, we buried our dear soldier comrade at sea, in accordance with naval orders for Operation Overlord.

It took about ten days at Thorneycroft's yard in Portsmouth to repair our shell damage. One piece of good fortune arising from this was to attribute items previously lost or mislaid from the bosun's store as 'destroyed by shell fire'. When taking command of 749 from her previous commanding officer some three months earlier, there was insufficient time for a thorough handover. I signed for the whole craft with her contents largely unchecked.

We next sailed to Portland, which was the major port supplying the American beaches. Over the following six months, we visited those beaches around 35 times carrying American troops and equipment. On one trip we carried large field kitchens and on another, large 'washeries' for the clothes of US troops near the front line.

HMLCT 749 was paid off at Chatham Dockyard in January 1945. She had carried us safely through an eventful and, in retrospect, a fascinating period of our island's history. [August 14th 1996.]

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.

Supplementary Information.

Of the LCA(HR) craft mentioned in the opening paragraph of this page, Tony Chapman of the LST & Landing Craft Association writes; [The LCA (HR) mentioned here was part of the 591 Assault Flotilla under the overall command of Lieutenant Commander Wallace. The craft of 591 were divided into two groups, those with Wallace assigned to JIG sector, the western beaches of Gold beach. The remainder of the flotilla were assigned to KING sector, the eastern beaches, and under the command of Lieutenant Michael Irwin. Those under Irwin supported the LCT of the 34th Flotilla of ‘L’ LCT Squadron. (Tony Chapman).]

Acknowledgments

This account of HMLCT(4) 749 was written by her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Jack E Booker RNVR. It was transcribed by Tony Chapman Official Archivist Historian for the LST and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy) and further edited by Geoff Slee for website presentation, including the addition of photographs, maps etc.
 

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2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and, to mark the occasion, The D-Day Story is asking the British public to share their experiences from the largest invasion ever assembled. Whether it’s an account of the day from a veteran or a tale passed down by a relative, we’re keen to showcase never-before-heard stories for an exciting campaign to be launched later in the year.

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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.

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