~ 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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~ HM LST THRUSTER ~

His Majesty's Landing Ship Tank Thruster in photographs and the background to her design and construction

HM LST Thruster was a large landing ship, not unlike a modern RoRo (roll on roll off ) ferry, except she only had a bow ramp for embarking and disembarking vehicles and she had a flat bottom.

Thruster was built by Harland and Wolf, Belfast, Northern Ireland and launched on September 24th, 1942, being commissioned in the Royal Navy on January 28th, 1943. She later took part in the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France.

These rare photographs are of the ship, her crew, the actions she was involved in and the ships she encountered on her travels.

Background

In early June, 1940, 330,000 servicemen from the Allied Expeditionary Force were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. It would take 4 years to reorganise, retrain and re-equip land, sea and air forces to work together as a unified force in what would be the largest amphibious invasion in history.

There would be no friendly ports to deliver the hundreds of thousands of men and all their equipment and supplies. All ports would be very heavily defended by the enemy and primed for demolition to prevent them falling into Allied hands. A new approach to offensive operations against the enemy was required, which was breathtaking in its scale and complexity.

An invading force of overwhelming strength would come from the sea with the objective of securing a beachhead on enemy occupied territory. Successive waves of 'follow on' and 'build up' forces would then land to maintain the Allied advance inland. Ships, craft and barges, capable of landing directly onto unimproved beaches in less populated areas, would be required on a scale never seen before or since. This was the main task given to what became the Combined Operations Command working in close cooperation with the Chiefs of Staff.

During the 4 years from Dunkirk to D Day, the Command would also pursue other strategies designed to harass the enemy along the entire Atlantic coast from Norway to southern France, using special units that became known as the Commandos, as well as taking the fight to the enemy in large scale landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the wider Mediterranean.

Traditional warships needed deep water in which to operate, so new vessels would be designed and manufactured in their thousands to meet the perceived needs.

As invasion plans and training programmes developed, the composition and requirements of the invading force became clearer. Many specialised types of landing craft were designed, built and modified, which collectively would deliver the invading force and their transport, tanks, equipment, munitions and supplies onto the beaches, while others would provide fighting support during the initial assault phase and provide maintenance, medical, repair facilities etc. afterwards.

By the time of the Normandy landings in June 1944, the range of landing craft designed to meet the needs of a fighting force of several hundred thousand troops, as well as those for small scale, clandestine Commando surveillance and offensive operations, was in place. In broad terms they served the following purposes;

  •  Ferries for transporting troops, their equipment, supplies and ammunition to the landing beaches from southern England (in the case of Normandy) or from larger supply ships anchored off the beaches and then to re-supply them over the longer term with food, water, fuel, replacement vehicles and equipment, ammunition and general supplies. These landing craft ranged in size from Landing Ship Tank (LSTs) of over 200 feet in length to Amphibians of around 30 feet in length.

[Photo; Loading at Naples.]

  •  Fighting craft fitted out for offensive and defensive operations with rockets, mortars, smoke, anti-aircraft guns and heavy calibre guns.

  •  Ancillary craft which provided services such as radar, communications and intelligence gathering, large scale catering, hospitals and repair services for vehicles, vessels and equipment,

  •  Light Raiding Craft, the most famous of which were the canoes used by the Cockleshell Heroes.

With few exceptions, they had flat bottoms to allow them to operate in shallow waters near and on the beaches. This made the smaller of these craft quite difficult to manoeuvre and control in choppy seas, strong winds and tidal races; and the ride was far from smooth, as the sentiments expressed in this "tongue in cheek" ditty, attests.

This is my story
This is my song
I've been in Combined Ops
A little too long

Give Me the Nelson,
The Rodney, Renown
These flat-bottomed bastards
Are getting me down!

How Landing Craft Were Named

Landing was the generic term to describe all these shallow draft vessels. This was followed by a broad category of vessel, such as Ships, Craft and Barges and then by the purpose of the vessel, such as assault, personnel, tank and rocket. Where there were special features or the size was worthy of acknowledgement in the title, these were added in brackets, such as (large), (small) or (ramped). Furthermore, where variants or 'Marks' were produced, these were acknowledged by a figure in a bracket.

Thus names such as: Landing Craft Infantry (Large) or LCI (L); Landing Craft Mechanised, Mark III or LCM (3); Landing Craft Flak or LCF; Landing Barge Kitchen or LBK; Landing Craft Assault or LCA and Landing Ship Tank or LST emerged. Each vessel was followed by a unique number for identification purposes.

The Ship
 

 HM LST Thruster, Malta  HM LST Thruster, Piraeus Harbour Nov 1944 Freetown, S. Africa, from Y gun deck  A view astern with an LST in the wake LCP being lowered away at Piraeus


The Crew
 

Class W8 HMS Royal Arthur Skegness, 8/41. Len Thacker 4th from left rear rank. The crew of HM LST Thruster 4th February 1945  (L-R) John Lodge, Len Thacker & Den Cruthley Jock Broom, Ken Hollings, Eric Taylor & Dick Beatley Freetown 1942.  Len Thacker, Jack Leathersich & Algy Hobber Ginger Birkenshaw with HM LST Thruster at Naples
Ginger Birkenshaw and Albert Taylor (L-R) Frank Moss, Harry Reeve, Len Hacker & Jack Pyle May 5th 1944 Eric Taylor  Eric Taylor  Dick Beatley, Ginger Birkenshaw, Albert Taylor & Dick Anderton  Dick Anderton.
 Len Thacker  Len Thacker, May 5th 1944 in Malta.  Norman Roberts at the 10 inch Aldis lamp Porto Vecchio Norm Roberts with Aldis Lamp. Naples  Signalman Norman Roberts keeping lookout Flag deck tea party Albert, Frank, Len Hacker & Coops
Awnings rigged at Bombay Under The White Ensign Hary Dunn and Harry Reid Len Hacker & Tich Meddings Durban 1942 December 31st 1943 Malta. Len Thacker On the beach at Porto Vecchio June 1944 At Rest Camp Dec 1944


The Action
 

 Naples Jan 1944 American troops  bound for Anzio Anzio Jan 1944 Anzio Jan 1944 Anzio Jan 1944 during a raid Anzio Jan 1944. Fires on the beach  Anzio Jan 1944 near misses on LST
Approaching Salonika HM LST Bruiser at Green Beach S France Aug 1944. Op Dragoon HM LST Bruiser beaching at St  Raphael 8/44. Operation Dragoon  D Day S. France 8/44. Operation Dragoon HM LST Bruiser at Malta HM LST  Bruiser off Corsica 
 
HM LST Bruiser at Malta French Creek Malta Operation Dragoon San Raphael S. France 8/44  Salonika  Salonika  


Other Ships
 

Town Class Cruiser HMS Birmingham Town Class Light Cruiser HMS Sheffield B Class Destroyer HMS Boreas King George V Class Battleship HMS Anson HMS Birmingham at Simonstown  USS Marblehead alongside HMS Glasgow At Simonstown
 F Class Destroyer HMS Faulknor -  escort to Anzio Leander Class Frigate Minerva at Porto Vecchio Town Class Cruiser HMS Newcastle  Omaha Class Light Cruiser USS Marblehead  Light Cruiser USS Marblehead at Simonstown Battle Cruiser HMS Renown 1942


Miscellaneous
 

       
Vesuvius in Eruption Entrance to Casbah Tunis July 1944        

Correspondence
 

I thought you might be interested to know that HMS Thruster was, at one time, earmarked for conversion to a Fighter Direction Ship. Fighter Direction Ships were designed to perform a similar role to the Fighter Direction Tenders but were based on different vessels. FDTs were converted Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) while FDSs were conversions (1943) of HMS Ulster Queen and HMS Palomares. They were merchantmen originally classed as auxiliary AA Ships for convoy escort duties. They were later joined by HMS Stuart Prince

In mid 1944, as the focus of the amphibious aspects of WW2 moved from the west to the far east, the Admiralty decided that long range Fighter Direction Ships with a speed of 16 knots, and capable of operating with assault escort carriers, were required for assault operations in the Pacific. Three LSTs Mk1s, HMLSTs Boxer, Bruiser and Thruster, were identified as suitable for conversion but only H.M.S. Boxer was completed. However, she never saw action in the far east since Japan surrendered as the vessel entered the Suez Canal.

Phill Jones

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.

Visit our Index page where you'll find links to numerous pages on Landing Craft and major landings.

Acknowledgments

These rare photographs of HMS Thruster were kindly supplied by Matthew Harte, grandson of the photographer, the late Len Thacker, who served on the ship. They came our way through the good offices of Tony Chapman, Archivist/Historian of the LST and Landing Craft Association.
 

News & Information

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Events and Places to Visit

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge.

To everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event or place of interest, click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page (click on icon above) about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Submit your D-Day Story

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 its an account of the day from a veteran or a tale passed down by a relative, were keen to showcase never-before-heard stories for an exciting campaign to be launched later in the year.

https://theddaystory.com/discover/about-us/tell-us-your-d-day-story/

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

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.

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

 

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee has recorded interviews with veterans from any conflicts. These  films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

 

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