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~ D DAY ON HMLCT 2331 ~ 

UK & USA FORCES TOGETHER

Two accounts of HMLCT 2331's passage to Normandy on D-Day are presented here... one from the perspective of crew member, signalman Mike Crumpton and the other from the perspective of a passenger, USA Army Lt. George Worth commanding the 1st Platoon of Company B of 238 Engineer Combat Battalion.

Background The Crew & Craft Working Up The Real Thing D Day D Day + 1
Trials & Tribulations Forgotten Navy Misc Memories Final Journey Skip to US Army Acknowledgments

Background

 Royal Navy Signalman Mike Crumpton's Account. The planned order of beaching on Utah shows seven British Mk5 LCT assigned with the USA 238 Engineer Combat Battalion (238 ECB). The craft being….2056 and 2057 with the men of Company A, 2477 and 2304 with the men of Company B and 2011, 2074 and 2302 with the men of Company C. We now know that LCT 2331 was also present.

In the original plan LCT 2331 is recorded as ‘spare’…showing that she was available if required. At some point, for reasons unknown, she was brought into play. Had 2331 not been assigned with the men of 238 ECB it is likely she would have travelled to Normandy light, or indeed empty, to take troops on to the beach from the infantry landing ships stood off Utah sector.

Part 1 the Royal Navy account comprises the recollections of former Signalman Mike Crumpton D/JX 613350 who served with the Mark 5 HMLCT 2331 from April 1st – July 21st 1944. They are not heroic memories of great events... more a gritty and realistic account of the experiences of the crew of a landing craft as they prepared for, and took part in, the D Day landings as part of the 104th Flotilla of 'O' LCT Squadron.

Part 2 the US Army account comprises the recollections of Lieutenant George Worth of the US Army who was officer in charge of the 1st Platoon, Company B, 238 Engineer Combat Battalion (238 ECB) who were carried to Utah beach by 2331 on D Day.

The Crew & Craft

In the beginning, I trained at HMS Royal Arthur (Butlins Holiday Camp at Skegness, Lincolnshire, England) as a Fleet Signalman. After brief service elsewhere I was drafted from the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport to the Combined Operations Centre at Westcliff near Southend on Sea in Essex and then to Appledore in Devon where I joined the crew of HMLCT 2331 as a signalman.

It was April 1st 1944. Up to this time it appeared that the powers that be felt that tank landing craft, or LCTs, did not warrant the addition of a fully trained signalman amongst their crews. Previously, insofar as communications were concerned,  LCTs had been equipped with a small aldis lamp, a diminutive flag box and a megaphone. Presumably they had managed with a shared knowledge of morse code and a loud voice! In retrospect the addition of a ‘Bunting Tosser’ (Signalman) such as myself to the craft's crew, was perhaps an early pointer to the ‘Grand Plan’ (invasion of Europe) about which we knew little or nothing.

I was in my 18th year and the youngest member of the crew.  The crew amounted to 13 men including our commanding officer Sub Lieutenant Oakley. The second in command was George Boulton a 19 year old RNVR Midshipman. With the passage of time I can only recall the nicknames of others amongst the crew.

Life aboard any tank landing craft was somewhat primitive and the MK5 LCT was the smallest of them all. The accommodation was extremely crude by modern standards... eleven men crammed into a small living space along with the galley stove, various vertical stanchions, bunk space and a long bench from which meals were eaten. There was no heating apart from the galley stove. Given the close confinement aboard and without any form of air ducting, the LCTs stank from a blend of diesel oil, crude oil, stale salt water and of course, unwashed humanity. There was one lavatory or ‘heads’ in the forward starboard side (right) locker space adjoining the main ramp. This space also housed spare cable, rope and paint and such like.

The two officers shared a minute cabin space equivalent to the size of two wardrobes and this separated by the thinnest of steel partitions…..so much of what was said aboard could be heard by the officers. Our crew comprised the Coxswain, whose rating was that of Leading Seaman, a Petty Officer Motor Mechanic…referred to as Mac or Mickey Mouse….two anti-aircraft gunners who manned the two single 20mm Oerlikon guns sited on the quarter deck to port and starboard side of the bridge, two Stoker/Mechanics and two Able Seaman plus, of course, myself.

Given I was the last member to join the crew there was no available bunk space for me... I had to sling my hammock between the two stanchions supporting the wheelhouse and bridge deck. Considering all of the above, combined with the effect of rough seas and nervousness on the part of unseasoned and untested ‘matelots,’ the effect can be well imagined! There was no provision for the storing of food which arrived aboard every day or so and consisted largely of bread, margarine, potatoes (spuds), tinned tomatoes, soya sausages and every now and then, as a real treat….a jar of jam or pickle.

The cook was an Able Seaman who volunteered for the task because it excused him from almost all other duties. His lack of real motivation for the job was matched by his cooking ability and he, like the rest of us aboard, was one of the great unwashed. The only washing facility aboard was the galley sink which was usually coated with thick grease and residue of previously eaten meals.

The American built Mk5 LCTs, of which 2331 was one of many, were the smallest of the tank landing craft and likely the most uncomfortable. Access to the wheelhouse was by way of a short ladder leading up from the mess-deck. In addition to the wheel, it contained the throttle controls and helm indicator. The only compass, an old fashioned magnetic type, was housed in a binnacle on the bridge. The Coxswain at his station on the wheel could see very little ahead since his line of sight was through very narrow slits in the wheelhouse bulkheads.

LCT 2331’s armour plating consisted of concrete pebble-filled slim steel boxes bolted to the wheelhouse structure. It's difficult to imagine anything more lethal if hit under fire... a ‘make do’ addition I suspect when the craft arrived in England from America. [Photo above; US LCT(A) 2008 was the same type of landing craft as the 2331. When the photo was taken she was loaded with reinforcements moving toward the beaches of Normandy on 7 June 1944. Note the missing bow ramp. She lost it on the beach the day before. In the centre of the photo is a British LCR and various supply ships in the background. US Army Signal Corps photo provided courtesy of Navsource. For more information on 2008 click here.].

Working Up

The whole of April and May of 1944 were spent on handling exercises on Woolacoombe Beach, Croyde Bay and Braunton Sands in all weather and tides. On every exercise we carried American troops usually taken aboard from Instow but also Bideford.

Throughout that two month period of ‘working-up’ we young lads saw the exercises as an end in themselves. We had no knowledge at that time of what was just weeks ahead of us….D-Day the 6th of June 1944. It was an adventure and our main preoccupation was food, beer and the next ‘run ashore’ in hot pursuit of the non-existent girls! The trip to Bideford was something special since the local Women's Institute (WI) provided baked beans on toast or a bacon sandwich. ….absolute luxury!

In retrospect there were many signs of what lay ahead for us if we’d had the brains to read them. As an example one man from each craft of the 104th LCT Flotilla of O LCT Squadron was chosen to attend a full morning's instruction on baking bread! None of us thought that this had any connection with a planned amphibious assault landing in France. Following our baking instruction each craft received a delivery of flour and yeast but the flour was a damp solid mess within a day or so…planners!

This was towards the end of May 1944. At around the same time a contingent of American Sea Bee Engineers arrived and proceeded to weld Mulock extension ramps to 2331’s bow door. When manually lifted and dropped over the forward door edge they provided a small ‘step’ which was designed to prevent tank tracks jamming in the drop from the surface of the ramp to the sand. They were not a great success as you will read later. Once again we failed to recognise the significance of the ramp extensions. However, a feeling that something was afoot gradually dawned on us but even so we received no word from official sources.

The crew of 2331 in common with most landing craft crews were a scruffy bunch…..unwashed, unshaven and for the most part not nice to be around if you had a sensitive sense of smell! We were not highly rated by those recruited to the Royal Navy through traditional channels. We were recruited for a particular purpose to fill the thousands of new jobs in anticipation of the invasion of Europe. We were for the most part considered the lowest of the low... the poor relation.

Rumour and speculation was rife. We heard that US Navy vessels had been involved in some sort of tragedy whilst on a training exercise. There is now little doubt that the source of the rumour was Operation Tiger off Slapton Sands in Devon when US Navy LSTs were sunk with the loss of many hundreds of lives following an attack by German E boats. The other rumour or ‘Buzz’ that circulated at the same time was that concerning the capture of an LCT by an E boat in Torbay. The craft had sustained mechanical problems and had become detached from her flotilla during an exercise. She had been instructed to anchor whilst repairs were carried out and thereafter to proceed back to port independently.

With night time a mist covered the area. A crew member was on Anchor Watch when an E boat, with engines shut down, glided alongside and in moments its crew boarded the LCT. One crew member who showed fight was shot during the incident but the inevitable outcome was that the LCT was towed back to France.. her crew being prisoners in their own ship! Although just a rumour I am inclined to believe it. I had later experiences with E boats in October 1944 when I was serving with LCG(M) 103…but that, as they say, is another story.

It must have been the last week in May with our flotilla berthed in Appledore when barbed wire barriers suddenly appeared overnight. With them came Military Police and patrolling armed sentries. All shore leave was cancelled and we were confined to ship….all mail and communication with shore came to an abrupt end. We soon discovered that if there was a need for anyone to go ashore they were accompanied by a Royal Navy officer who was armed to the teeth. The penny was dropping when we realised that this was not going to be an exercise.

The Real Thing

Following several days of feverish activity our flotilla departed from Appledore to much cheering and flag waving from the local inhabitants many of whom we had gotten to know. Perhaps they knew more than we did. Appledore was a tiny place and had not seen the vast assembly of ships such as those that had gathered in Weymouth, Dartmouth and Plymouth. By comparison with them we were a small force but no doubt impressive to the locals. This was likely June 2nd and we were bound, I believed, for Brixham, at an un-laden speed of some 7 knots. Allowing for the uncertain wind, weather and tides it is doubtful if we would have reached Brixham on the same day given the distance by sea is some 250 miles.

I recall being told by our second in command Midshipman George Boulton "There’s Brixham over there." The harbour had a narrow entrance and would have become pretty congested had we all moved in so we anchored off. I now believe that we were simply stooging around in the queue to enter Torquay where the landing craft ‘Hards’ had been built to allow loading. Over the years I've become convinced that it was Torquay and not Brixham….the actual place name was never mentioned in my hearing. The duration of the trip and estimated distance travelled tend to support the view that it was Torquay. I'm certain it was not Plymouth given that I knew that particular harbour very well.

Eventually, most likely on June 4, we joined a queue of craft at the slipway and took aboard our contingent of troops and trucks together with their crews (Company B 238 Engineer Combat Battalion (238 ECB. The recollections of two of their officers are added at the end of this nautical account. My station when at sea was on the bridge with our officers. In such a confined space I was aware of everything that was discussed and became the main source of information for the remainder of our crew. 2331 was ordered to take up position off shore in company with another column of LCTs. Sub Lieutenant Oakley at a specified time opened his sealed orders to discover what his vessel had to do.  I have no recollection of the arrival of the sealed orders. Most likely they were given to him after we had cleared the slipway after loading. In addition to the sealed orders there was an accompanying roll of charts.

I distinctly remember Sub Lieutenant Oakley saying to Midshipman George Boulton "Right, time to open orders Mid." Our commanding officer went below leaving our Midshipman to open the roll of charts which he allowed me to see. One sight of them confused me! They appeared to be a mass of lines and figures and the only name that has remained in my memory is that of Port en Bessin which appeared to be heavily emphasized. Sub Lieutenant Oakley then reappeared with leaflets which were distributed amongst the crew. This was the now famous message from General Eisenhower telling us that we were about to embark on a great crusade. One line in particular doubtless gave all those reading it food for thought and was in fact a bit of a stomach churner. Your enemy is well-armed, battle hardened and will fight savagely.’ For me, and likely many others, it put the damper on things.

The state of the sea on June 4th was choppy and increasing. Many of the truck crews and soldiers aboard were  violently sea-sick, doubtlessly apprehensive, nervous and frightened which did not improve their situation. There was no shelter on the open tank deck and the men on it were soon soaked to the skin with the effects of spray and vomit. We were bound (as we now know) for Utah beach and we had the longest passage of the entire invasion force. The men we had aboard appeared poorly set up with rations and water.

The truck crews were not allowed to shelter within their trucks for fear of 2331 being swamped and sunk. Consequently they remained exposed to the elements for a period of two full day after which they were to go ashore and start fighting the enemy. To a man the crew of 2331 felt sorry for them but could do nothing to improve their situation. As night fell on June 4th we were totally unaware of the armada of ships around us and the immense and dangerous task that lay before us.

Our immediate concern was to follow the tiny blue stern light of the craft ahead of us which was not easy with the rising sea conditions and the close presence of other craft that we could not even see. It must have been around midnight when an American PT Boat came alongside with a loud-hailer and informed us that the whole fleet had been ordered to turn-about and return to their port of departure. How this was accomplished I do not know, but turn we did and eventually anchored somewhere south of the Isle of Wight.

We remained there until the early morning of June 5th with a very rough sea developing. The condition of the truck and army personnel aboard was by then worse than ever. To add to the general gloom and apprehension news filtered through that during the night several craft had foundered and men had been lost. With our truck crews in great distress we took the worst of them below to our mess-deck where we did what we could for them but in truth it was very little. Their officers stayed in Sub Lieutenant Oakley’s cabin for the greater part of the time by my recall.

D Day

Having set off again on the 5th, the remainder of the passage to Normandy proved to be uneventful until we hove in sight of the coastline. There was a vast belt of smoke obscuring most of what was visible to us and numerous British and American warships, some of which were engaging the enemy defences. Minesweepers were everywhere and on the way in we narrowly missed a towed Paravane sweep (towed mine clearing sweep). Amongst the many ships was the old 15" (gun) monitor Roberts and several US Navy battleships which had provided the initial bombardment to soften up the beach defences. As far as the eye could see the sea was full of ships.

During the next hour my recall is confused by a kaleidoscope of images and impressions. Within such an overwhelming experience it is difficult to recall a precise sequence of events. Likely amid all the noise and activity we were all in something akin to a state of shock as we watched momentous things happening all around. We felt more like a spectator than an active participant... your inner self became detached with the overwhelming feelings of   excitement and fear. It became too much for the mind to accept! I vividly remember the senior American officer appearing on the bridge to join Sub Lieutenant Oakley and myself...  Sub Lieutenant Oakley with two revolvers strapped around his waist.

We crew members wore our anti-flash gear as we went in on the second wave to assault Utah beach. The craft that had gone before were already beginning to withdraw as we made our approach. The truck engines were revving up in readiness for disembarkation. Midshipman George Boulton and two other crew members were at their station in the bow awaiting their signal to lower the ramp. From my elevated position I was staring down from the bridge... much as someone sitting in a box watching a show at a theatre.

Our ramp was already half lowered before we beached on to firm sand and was soon fully deployed. The Germans it seemed were now fully awake after the initial surprise assault. Mortar bombs were incoming and beginning to find the range of the craft at the waters edge. I watched the troops spreading out across the beach and saw many jerk and fall after a near burst. Given the noise I doubt anyone heard me screaming from the bridge at the fallen troops. "Get up you daft buggers... get up and run!" Sadly some of the men were killed instantly or died where they lay.

The first troops ashore had by this time broken through the beach defences having eliminated the defenders and were pushing inland. Some stubborn pockets of resistance remained and these confronted our troops at close range. The resistance met on Utah beach has I believe been overlooked by history especially so in the case of the later arriving waves. As 2331 approached the beach I recall a number of crews from first wave craft shouting encouragement apparently having experienced few problems at the point of beaching. We were not so lucky.

We let go our kedge anchor about a hundred yards or so before hitting the beach. This was standard procedure. As our first truck disembarked down the ramp the craft to our starboard frantically began semaphoring us. I stood and began to signal a response when Sub Lieutenant Oakley grabbed my arm and pulled me down again saying…keep your bloody head down son. I had however managed to make out that we were in the wrong position on the beach...  not just the 2331, but the whole flotilla!

Whether or not we were out of position was at that moment of little consequence since it was far too late to correct any errors. We now know the landing on Utah was too far to the south east from the intended touch down point. We followed in the wake of others who had gone before us assuming, in the absence of information to the contrary, that we were on target. It's likely that the control craft in the first wave had been driven off course owing to the strength of the tides. Given the carnage that took place on Omaha beach farther to the east the landing on Utah met with light opposition, nevertheless, it was certainly hot enough for us!

Considering the suffering of the truck crews over the preceding few days the trucks disembarked in good order. We believed that ‘we were getting away with it when the last truck off swerved on the ramp and jammed it’s tracks in the ‘step’ described earlier. Despite frantic efforts it refused to move and the longer we remained in that position the greater the risk to vessel and crew alike since we were being targetted by a multiple barrelled mortar from a range of some 500 yards. The bombs at times were dropping and exploding within a few feet of us but fortunately none found their mark. The effect of a mortar blast when hitting an object of substance is devastating, but in wet sand the blast is nullified. The mortars that fell in the sea around us made a loud ‘plop’ but did not explode. However if 2331 remained in that position it would not be long before she was hit.

The landing craft that had beached to port and starboard of us quickly withdrew and we felt exposed and vulnerable. After a period of what seemed hours, but which was likely only minutes, a tank came to the aid of our stalled truck and took it under tow and pulled it clear.

Mortar bombs were still falling in the general area of 2331 and then a salvo fell within what seemed only inches away. They had found our range and position and Sub Lieutenant Oakley immediately ordered "Emergency full astern. Haul in Kedge anchor." We came unstuck rather slowly and he realised there was a danger of fouling the screws on the Kedge anchor cable so he ordered the cable to be cut. A large axe was stowed aft near the Kedge winch for just this eventuality. It took two of our crew almost five minutes to sever the inch thick cable before it finally parted, giving off a sound similar to a whiplash. With the cable severed we moved astern and then turned. Finally 2331 was clear of the mortars but with no means of anchoring.

In retrospect it appears that having discharged our initial load on to the beach there was no coherent plan of further action so we stood off Utah beach for quite some time awaiting new instructions. Eventually a PT Boat came alongside and by way of a megaphone ordered 2331 "Proceed with all haste to Sword area." Sub Lieutenant Oakley shouted back "We’ve lost our anchor." The response was terse "Get there and report to LCH (Landing Craft Headquarters) for further orders."

I cannot recall the time we set off. Our map indicated that Sword was some forty miles or more. At a speed of 6-7 knots, and in view of the confusion of shipping between Utah and Sword beach, the journey eastwards would take some considerable time. The journey is indelibly printed in my mind. We were cruising at what I suppose was half a mile off shore and the whole of Omaha beach was covered by a great pall of smoke through which we could just make out the sterns of LSTs (Landing Ship, Tanks) and the occasional flashes of shell bursts. What we could not see was the carnage that had befallen the infantry who had gone ashore there. Given the smoke and the weight of shipping it appeared to us that confusion reigned. After a fraught passage we arrived in the Sword area at Lion sur Mer during the mid-afternoon of D-Day.

Sub Lieutenant Oakley remained silent for most of the time. I think the loss of the anchor had annoyed him. He was a grand chap, God bless him, but excitable. My understanding was that he had completed a crash course in handling landing craft the previous winter in Scotland. All his training had been in the company of others and apart from entering and leaving harbour it had simply been a case of " Follow my Leader."

As 2331 moved eastwards along the Normandy coast, without any other craft to keep us company, Sub Lieutenant Oakley decided we would make better time by heading out further from the coast, thus avoiding what appeared to be an ever growing mass of shipping. This we did and the journey eastwards to Sword area continued. On arrival in the Sword area he found a suitable landing position and turned inshore. There appeared to be a singular lack of activity with very few vessels in sight and there was no sign of the headquarters craft we were supposed to report to. Without a Kedge anchor we approached the beach on a fast falling tide.

The beach was a mass of unidentifiable wreckage left high and dry. Amongst it could be seen the dead, elsewhere were body parts, torsos, limbs and other remains half buried in the sand. Strangely, I found myself quite unmoved by the sights around us perhaps not being able to comprehend the enormity of what had taken place to bring about such carnage. It was eerily quiet and there was not another living soul in sight on that beach. Sub Lieutenant Oakley was at something of a loss and unaccompanied he went ashore to make contact with anyone who might be able to confirm our exact location. This he did leaving Midshipman George Boulton in command of LCT 2331.

He strode off up the beach towards the dunes in his sea-boots, his two revolvers still strapped around his waist. He soon disappeared leaving the rest of us feeling somewhat nervous to say the least. After what may have been half an hour he returned having made contact with an infantry unit, by this time 2331 was stranded high and dry on the beach as the tide receded. We were, it transpired, on the extreme eastern flank of Sword beach where the British 3rd Infantry Division's hold on the area was somewhat tenuous at that time according to the army unit he had located. Worryingly, a large pocket of Germans were not far away to the east of us... too close for comfort.!

We had little option other than to wait for the incoming tide to lift us off and get out to sea again. We needed to find someone in authority who could issue us with instructions. Thankfully, the night passed without incident and I have no recollection of us being approached or fired upon by anyone. Some years after the war while on business in London I met an ex-German officer. On D-Day he had commanded a small column of motorised infantry which had broken through to Sword beach area on the night of D-Day. The unit did not survive long, some being killed and others being taken prisoner, amongst whom was the German officer. During our meeting in London I remember him saying "You were lucky. Had we had tanks it would have been a different story."

D Day + 1

On the morning of June 7th we got off the beach on the incoming tide and returned seawards eventually managing to locate the headquarters craft. We were ordered to berth alongside a large freighter and take off trucks by way of the ship's Derricks. This was a tricky operation at the best of times but in the swell, with 2331 veering and yawing, it proved to be quite  hazardous. In addition none of us had experienced this form of loading before using heavy gauge steel nets slung to the fore and rear of the truck.

I gained the impression that it was possibly the first time the freighter's crew had off-loaded trucks in such a manner. As we pulled away the next truck was already suspended in mid-air swinging from the Derrick awaiting the next LCT to come alongside. As we watched the truck, net and cables plunged into the sea from the height of a house. I dread to think what the consequences might have been had an LCT been in position to receive the truck.

Later that day two German bombers suddenly appeared out of low cloud and dropped several bombs a few hundred yards away from our position. The resulting towers of water appeared to reach the sky but the bombs failed to hit anything. The two planes, Dorniers I believe, were quickly shot down in the intense anti-aircraft fire from the ships in the area and the Bofors sited on the beach. I recall us unsuccessfully trying to recover one of the plane's wheels as it later floated by... it would have made a nice trophy of war!

On another occasion we tried to retrieve the body of a British airman wearing a life-jacket but when we attempted to pull him inboard by way of a boat-hook to our horror his body disintegrated. I've often wondered who he was and where he was from.

Trials & Tribulations

On the days following D-Day we were constantly ferrying troops, trucks, mechanised transport and stores to the beaches at either Lion sur Mer or Luc sur Mer. Sword beach was still being fired on by Mobile German 88mm guns sited east of the Caen Canal. The guns were a menace to both the men on the beach and the shipping milling around Sword beach. Our heavy ships and artillery appeared quite incapable of finding the particular German battery. At times the incoming shells were very accurate, consisting of both air-bursts and impact shells.

During one such event at Lion sur Mer the 88mm guns were ranging on a small coaster beached about a hundred yards away from our position. All personnel in the vicinity were ordered away from the area for fear of the coaster being hit. We later learned it was carrying tons of ammunition. The immediate beach area was totally evacuated and our crew went ashore and made our way off the beach. With numerous others we took shelter for the night in the cellars of some ruined houses. The Germans failed to hit the ammunition ship and the following morning, when things had quietened down, we returned to 2331.

On another occasion we chanced upon a wrecked Mk5 LCT(A) close by on Sword beach. She must have received a terrifying reception when she landed with the first assault wave on the morning of D-Day. I cannot recall the craft number (possibly the 2191. See LCT page for more information on 2191- Ed) but I went aboard and climbed up into the bridge. It had the appearance of a charnel house, covered as it was in dried, congealed blood. There I found the body of a dead officer wearing a blood soaked duffel coat, his face and upper body covered by a small signal flag. The man was most likely the craft's commanding officer. If there had been other casualties they had likely been taken off the craft by the men of the Pioneer Corps to whom fell the task of retrieving the dead for burial.

It was about this time that we managed to acquire another Kedge anchor from the wreck of a Mk3 LCT. These craft usually carried a spare Kedge anchor on the stern and with the help of Royal Engineers we lifted the anchor from the vessel and dragged it along the beach at low tide to 2331. Then it was all hands to set to and splice the remaining cable and make good the repair which we then had to shackle and make fast. Since losing our anchor we had secured alongside other craft but with the result of  fraying and shredding our mooring lines.

We were all involved in turn to effect the difficult repair to the steel cable. We could only work for a few minutes before our fingers felt the strain. Eventually a six inch back splice was welded and working with the many strands of high tension steel wire was over... to the great relief of us all. By then it was late afternoon and the incoming tide was rapidly approaching astern. A German battery opened fire, possibly quite at random, and several shells straddled 2331. The nearest within a few yards peppering the side of our craft with shrapnel. Fortunately for us, we were sheltering on the opposite side but even so panic set in.

Several of the crew, myself included, made for shelter on the beach. An irate Sub Lieutenant Oakley quickly summoned us back and told us, in no uncertain terms, what he thought of our rapid exodus! To be the target of high explosive shells is the most petrifying experiences imaginable. Some of us may have appeared outwardly calm but virtually all of us were shaking and trembling uncontrollably while making feeble jokes about the situation we were in to keep our morale up.

The days following blurred into one continuous round of loading vehicles, troops, petrol, ammunition, railway tracks and all manner of cargo from the ships stood off the beaches... then running them to the beach for off-loading before beginning again. Such was the tedium that all sense of time was effectively lost. When not engaged on these routine ferrying duties to and from Sword beach we sometimes moved to the westwards to work on Juno and Gold beaches. Later, following the ‘great storm’ of June 19th-22nd   which wreaked so much havoc on the Mulberry Harbours we moved further westwards still…..to Omaha beach.

While stationed on Omaha sector we watched temporary mass graves being dug and filled with blanket wrapped corpses of American infantry who had been lost. The scale and image of those mass graves remains with me to this day. I imagine the greater part of these men now rest in the American cemetery at St Laurent.

The Forgotten Navy

We were fast running short of food and resorted to army ‘compo’ rations of dried biscuits and literally whatever we could scrounge from the merchant ships stood off the beaches. Our clothing was by this time in a vile state and we once more earned the description of the great unwashed. One day Sub Lieutenant Oakley sent myself and our 'cook' to forage for food in the numerous wrecked landing craft that were strewn across the beach. We walked up the beach to a dirt road and began moving westwards in the direction of several such craft. We approached one landing craft although out of command it still had several crew aboard. They gave us some cans of Canadian beer they had begged from Canadian infantry as they passed through. This being so we guessed that 2331 must have been working JUNO sector the main landing beach for the Canadians. On another wreck we found some stale bread and a few onions. Placing our finds in a sandbag we made our way back to the 2331.

We hadn't gone far when a gun brandishing military police sergeant pulled up alongside us. A provost sergeant remained sitting in the jeep giving instructions that we were to be searched in order to discover our identities. We were both in a deplorable state, wearing filthy tattered overalls, unwashed, stinking, missing our uniform caps and without our helmets. We no doubt appeared as much like Royal Navy sailors as green cheese and it was no surprise when we were ordered into the jeep with the revolver still pointing in our direction.

We were driven a short distance westward to a largely undamaged house where we were detained until an officer could confirm our identities. Pending this we were detained in the back garden which had barbed wire around its perimeter. We shared the garden with what appeared to be German officers in various types of uniform. Curiously one of these men appeared to be from Mongolia. There were also several French men who looked far more hostile than the Germans! Eventually Midshipman George Boulton arrived to confirm our identities and we were released. As we left I asked the sergeant to return our Canadian beer to which the replied ‘What beer would that be then son?’

Our experiences with the 2331 were typical of all landing craft crews who served in Normandy with the Mk5 LCTs. In retrospect it seems to me that we were forgotten! Our sister craft, the larger Mk3 and Mk4 LCT, travelled back and forth continuously between England and France. They at least, amid the hard work of ferrying, had the opportunity to re-provision while we scavenged and begged to survive. During our time in Normandy until 2331 was written off, we never once returned to England.

By early July my parents made urgent enquiries of the Royal Navy seeking information about my whereabouts and where at that time LCT 2331 was assigned. A reply was received stating that the then present whereabouts of 2331 and her crew remained unknown together with a hint that we were missing. I believe that the Royal Navy had no idea where their Mk5 LCT 'vagrants' were on a daily or even a weekly basis. There appeared to be no central control since we were directed here, there and everywhere by numerous beach-masters throughout the whole period. I doubt that in the confusion and fog of war that they took much notice of our pennant number 2331 as they issued us with instructions... hardly surprising therefore that as far as the Royal Navy were concerned we were missing!

Miscellaneous Memories

With the passage of time since the events of that summer, exact times and locations of routine events elude me but I still recall the more prominent incidents with some clarity. One such being the occasion when 2331, together with other craft, were gathered to form a protective screen around the battleship HMS Rodney (or was it HMS Nelson?) during the intense bombardment of Caen. This was to give the big ship protection from explosive motor boats. Apparently we landing craft and crews were deemed expendable! The massive broadsides discharged from the 16 inch guns immediately above us were awesome even allowing for the fact that we were battened down.

By the end of June both 2331 and its crew were in a sorry state. All her mooring lines were worn out, the portside vent cowl from the engine room was missing and in general terms she was a battered and rusty mess. All our clothes and footwear were in tatters, ruined by the combined effects of oil and salt water. We were without doubt  filthy, unwashed and unshaven. We were not to experience a shower or a bath until we finally made it home.

When the ‘Great Storm’ struck the Normandy coast we were off Omaha beach assisting an American army unit. We put out to sea beyond the tidal reach and made fast to our newly acquired anchor. We managed to ride out the storm quite well considering the damage sustained by so many other landing craft during that three day period. The resulting wreckage of sunken craft and many others washed up on the beaches was beyond belief. In many cases the latter joined wrecks strewn on the beaches since the morning of D-Day.

Following the storm we spent some considerable time beach-combing to find some item of food or fresh clothing. My reward for a lot of effort was a pair of jeans and a white baseball cap covered in oil and salt. These items were the sum total of my discoveries…….little of practical use ever came to light.

When we were ferrying to and from the American beaches an amazing array of items passed through our hands by way of broken or poor packaging. I recall seeing pyjamas, Purple Heart medals and Colt 45 revolvers amongst a vast array of other items. I often wondered who the Purple Hearts were for, whether for those who had already been awarded them for some gallant action or for those still to display bravery in the face of the enemy.

When we were not ferrying we were beach-combing or souvenir hunting to see what we could find. I recall one excursion when three of us wandered off into a forbidden area on the eastern fringes of Sword beach ‘Achtung Minen’ signs being everywhere.

The whole of the dune area to the rear of the coastal track was a virtual rabbit-warren of tunnels, machine gun emplacements and gun pits. We explored one particular bunker below ground and it appeared that the Germans either left in a hurry or were taken prisoner. There were no signs of violence having taken place, plates of food were on the table where they had been left, various uniforms were scattered about together with rifles and an infantryman's pack of Zeiss binoculars and a magnificent officers great-coat complete with shoulder rank stars and faced with green cloth lapels.

In another gun emplacement we discovered a heavy machine-gun ready for firing on a fixed line which led to a nearby trench. There were potato-masher grenades by the dozen scattered everywhere but no sign of death or destruction. All the souvenirs I personally collected, which included the great-coat and binoculars were destined not to reach England’s shores.

HMLCT 2331's Final Journey

In mid-July when 2331 was dried out on level sand a pronounced dent was found about halfway along and beneath the tank deck. A naval engineer officer inspected the fault and ruled that 2331 was no longer fit for service and should be taken under tow and returned home. In essence that was the end of our time in Normandy. It was in the morning of July 21st that we rendezvoused with a US Army tug which took us in tow together with two other veteran craft in a similar state of disrepair.

The tow-lines were soon set up with 2331 the ‘tail end Charlie.' We set off at about ten in the morning with the tug making some 10-12 knots. We were getting the full effect of the swinging and yawing of the craft ahead combined with the repeated wrench of the tow-wire alternating between taut and slack as we hit each successive tidal swell, which was running high that morning.

We had one man at the wheel but without engine power he could do little to control 2331’s movements. At around mid-day when well away from the Normandy coast the tank deck began to develop a pronounced hump. Such was the bulge that it was difficult to reach the forward end of the tank deck. Lieutenant Oakley optimistically believed that 2331 would survive the journey home but others, including myself and Midshipman George Boulton, did not share that view. I signalled the craft ahead by aldis lamp (we had no radio communications) asking them to relay a message to the tug requesting they heave-to because we were in difficulty.

Unfortunately my signal was ignored by the craft ahead and our situation suddenly became much more serious - 2331’s back was breaking as the deck began to shear at the side. The hump was by this time so marked in the centre of the tank deck that it was virtually impossible to move forward. It was then the dreaded warning came - "Slip tow and abandon ship." The hull of 2331 was literally opening and closing like a book turned face down, being first lifted and then dropped. Only the deck plating was holding the two ends of the craft together!

Lieutenant Oakley ordered "Make for the ramp well, the fore-end should float the longest." Midshipman George Boulton jumped off the quarter deck on to the tank deck and broke his ankle while the rest of us made our way ‘up the hill’ on the tank deck and slid down on our backsides into the well of the ramp door. We all huddled together and oft times falling over each other as the 2331 wallowed in the sea.  From our position we could see nothing of the sea so had no way of knowing if the tug or the other vessels were aware of our plight.

Some crew members managed to scramble up to the small winch decks above the ramp and saw the craft that had been ahead of us in the distance. Much to our relief after half an hour or so the tug had returned and launched an oared whaler. Its crew drew near, threw us a line and made fast. 2331 was just about holding herself together at this point and as we were preparing to abandon ship, and to his eternal credit in my view, I heard Sub Lieutenant Oakley shout out "Take him first…he’s the youngest" as he pointed at me…….my joy was unconfined.

Thus we were picked up, soaking wet, filthy, but alive. The tug then made her way back to the other two craft which had managed to stay together. The tug took up the tow once again and later transferred us to a larger homeward bound LCT which then returned to the abandoned 2331 and lay off presumably to warn other shipping of what had become a hazard to other shipping.

After some time a destroyer appeared. We assumed she had been summoned by radio from the tug. Within moments she commenced firing at 2331. After two hits the stern sank like a stone, the fore-end meantime remaining afloat. The destroyer continued firing until the remaining section of 2331 sank. We were all upset at losing her and I recall Sub Lieutenant Oakley shedding a tear as she disappeared below the waves. The MK5 LCT 2331 had been my home for nearly four months. It was only a short period in my life but it registers in my mind as years... so many experiences, images, feelings and emotions compressed in time.



US Army Lt George Worth's Account. These are the excerpts from the diary of Lt. George Worth commanding the 1st Platoon of Company B of 238 Engineer Combat Battalion aboard LCT 2331 of the 104th Flotilla of O Squadron assigned to Utah beach. They were first published in 'Fighting Fascism in Europe' (Fordham Press 2003) by David Cane, son of the late Lt Lawrence Cane (Officer in Charge of 582 Dump Truck Company). Permission to reproduce these extracts has been obtained from Lt Worth's son Ricky.

Introduction Briefings for D Day Prelude to Normandy Passage to Normandy Further Reading Acknowledgments

Introduction

George Worth writes with great affection and concern for his men. Not all of them named in this account survived. During the months following D-Day 238 ECB took part in 'Operation Cobra' the breakout from Normandy, the crossings of the Seine the Rhine and the Ruhr, the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes and finally the liberation of the Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camp at Nordhausen. (Photo: Lt George Worth's First Platoon, Company B, 238th Engineer Combat Battalion, in Eisleben, Germany, May 1945.

[Appearing in the photo are... Front Row: Sgt George K. Waits, Minor Hill, Tenn.; Sgt. Donald W. Ray, Edmond, Okla; Lt. George A. Worth, Valdosta, Ga.; S/Sgt. John J. Kochan, Nanticoke, Pa.; Sgt. Ryland T. Wells, Danville, Va.; Sgt. Jessie R. Winkles, Sharpsburg, Ga.

Second Row: Cpl. Maxwell A. Rush, Bradley Beach, N. J.; Cpl. Ferlin H. Moore, Indian Valley, Va.; Alexander Buckus, Mineral Point, Pa.; Cpl. …es J. Clifford, Johnson City, N.Y.; Sgt. Mitchell Gunter, Point Peter, Ga.; Pfc. Walter T. Smith, …dsville, N. C.; Pfc. Daniel T. Ardis, Atmore, Ala.

Third Row: Pfc. Harry W. Haver, Clevelnad, Ohio; Pfc. Royce, C. Maxwell, Winston Salem, N. C.; Pfc. Thomas E. Owens, Porterdale, Ga.; Pfc. Devron G. …es, Martin, Tenn.; Pfc. Willie, H. McGraw, Concord, N. C.; Pfc. Jimmie J. Wallace, Sparta, Tenn.; Pfc. Everlyn B. White, Salem, Va.; Pfc. Edward Long, …ns, Mich.

Fourth Row: Pvt. Nesbit C. Wilson, Spencer, N. C.; Pfc. Harlan E. King, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Pfc. …el D. Minix, Prestonburg, Ky.; Cpl. William E. …d, McMinnvill, Tenn.; Pfc. Michael D. Pistaki, Portland, Me.; Pfc. Edward A. Beatty, Jr., Baltimore, Md.; Pfc. Robert W. Clifton, Stoneville, N. C.; Pfc. George, S. Berkner, Baden, Pa.; Cpl. Patrick H. …eman, Fort Myers, Fla.

Fifth Row: Pfc. Michael M. Esler, Joliet, Ill,; Pfc. Clarence A. Vadino, Verga, N. J.; Pfc. Chester …ingfellow, Holdenville, Okla.; Cpl. Dallas E. …lton, Unionville, Tenn.; Pvt. Ralph C. Throckmorton, Salem, N. C.; Pvt. William B. Loper, Tampa, Fla.; Cpl. George T. Long, Sharon, Pa.; Pfc. Thomas Richardson, Lomnaconing, Md.; Pfc. Oscar B. Berenson, Bridgeport, Conn.]

Briefings For D Day

The moment we had trained for months was at last at hand. Our Commanding Officer, Captain Edward J. Blumenstein, of New Jersey, stood before Company B, 238th Engineer Combat Regiment in the briefing tent, somewhere in England, and said: "Well men, this is the real thing!" The slight tightening around my heart was reflected in the many expressions seen on the faces of the men around me. The easy going farmer from Georgia, the ex-coal miner from Pennsylvania, the tall, lanky Texan, the 'hill billy' from Tennessee, the snappy Brooklyn boy... all were taking it in without more than a murmur. There were many emotions shown from their faces - relief, apprehension, worry and gladness.

Honest sweat lay like raindrops on their foreheads. A few sat with eyes gazing unseeing at their shoes, hands held between their knees. All listened intently to the few remarks pertaining to the job ahead for our particular unit. Company "B", our company, was to build the TX, a new Army bridge for crossing swampy ground. Company "C" was to clear the Assembly area of mines. Company "A" was to assist in demolition work on whatever was ordered by the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. David G. MacMillan, of Alabama. Each of us felt that our Company was carrying the load of the Campaign.

Meeting of Craft Commanders

Those four words were to become nightmarish for the Junior Officers of the Battalion. All platoon commanders were assigned a craft load, 60 to 70 men and 6-11 vehicles. He was responsible for supervising the mess, administration  and security regulations from the day of the briefing until the craft was fully loaded in England and emptied on the shores of France.

Nothing was sacred to the Group Commander, Lt. Col Rogers as he called meetings of craft commanders two, three or even four times a day. Relaxation, a movie, meals were shattered by runners bringing new times for these meetings. Seemingly, every possible detail was covered, some needless, some essential. My craft, an LCT, was to be loaded with 58 men from our battalion, 8 men from a coloured trucking company and four men from a heavy steel treadway bridge company. 1st Lt. Lawrence Cane, of Connecticut [sic], was the only other officer aboard my craft... a small statured, bespectacled, quick-witted Yankee. Lt Cane had fought two years in Spain on the Loyalist side and knew the Nazi from what he was really cooked up to be. We immediately became cronies and the bull flew thick and fast between us. He told me that he wanted to be with his wife, an expectant mother once more, and that he loved her. He would spend his fourth wedding anniversary, June 16, in France. (Photo; Lt Lawrence Cane, Assistant S-2 (Intelligence Officer), 238 Engineer Combat Battalion in the Ardennes, Belguim, Dec1944 during the Battle of the Bulge).

Prelude to Normandy aboard HMLCT 2331

Loading

We departed from the marshalling area at 1005 on 1 June 1944 and convoyed in trucks to the embarking yards at Torquay, England. My throat was sore from yelling at my men by the time the craft was finally fully loaded and the ramp door pulled up in place. Each man now had a life preserver, two vomit bags, and assault gas mask, his M-1 Garand or M-1 Carbine, a steel helmet and combat pack, all worn over gas resistant impregnated clothing, which he wore 24 hours a day. In the belt around his waist he has 80 rounds of ammunition, 80 rounds of death for the Germans was his wish. Eleven combat loaded vehicles were lashed to the deck of our Landing Craft Tank/Truck LCT 2331, an American made boat launched 12 October 1943. Her all British crew was commanded by Sub. Lt. J. F. Oakley, RNVR, a genial Cockney from  London. His second in command, Midshipman George Boulton, was a 19 year old, who was sweating out his first ring. 

Today we suffered our first casualty. The craft had to be beached for the repair of a hole in one of her tanks. It was dried out. I unloaded the men on the beach for callisthenics. While playing tackle football with a steel helmet, Pvt. Louis L. Powell dislocated his right shoulder in a fall. The intense pain was not relieved when I gave him a shot of morphine so I summoned a doctor from a nearby field hospital, Capt. F. V. Edwards, who recommended he be removed from the ship. Powell certainly hated to leave the gang. Missing the big show hurt him as much as the injury.  My last words to him as the ambulance pulled away were: "I'll get an extra Jerry for you Powell." Powell answered in his slow drawling voice: "Thank you suh, I'll shore appreciate it."

Life Aboard LCT 2331

At the moment, I am standing on the small 6' by 10' uncovered bridge of the craft. Below and before me are the men and material at my command. There is a mixed feeling of hope, dread, sorrow and pride inside me as I look at my men. T/4 Jesse R. Winkles, from Carrol County, Georgia, my carpenter and proud father of a new born boy he has never seen, is sitting on top of one of the overloaded trucks, looking through field glasses at the shore line of Brixham Harbour, where we are anchored waiting for other ships to join us. A good God fearing man he will do more than his share in the coming fight. Pvt. William C. Agnew, Jr., a little man from Mississippi with the driest sense of humour I've ever encountered, is busy cleaning and oiling his rifle. Pvt. Richard E. Hoefert, Alton, Illinois, the newest member of my platoon, is sitting on the pontoon bridge material talking with Agnew. Hoefert is the platoon radio operator and I believe him to be excellent non-com material. T/5 James E. Thompson, a huge, tough, well-liked and respected Texan, who is in charge of the truck drivers, is busy pasting a 12" letter "N" on the windshields of all our vehicles.  The "N" will assist the beach M.P.s in guiding our vehicles to the initial battalion assembly area. Pvt. Michael M. Esler, my Joliet, Illinois assistant Jeep driver, is practicing semaphore with Sgt Donald W. Ray of Mineo, Oklahoma, my quiet dependable 2nd squad leader. Pvt. John E. Tyminiski, Queensbury, N. Y., a quick-tempered, competent Polish lad with 6 years of service under his belt, is my demolition expert in the platoon. I've often wished that the quirk which possesses Tyminiski, and causes him to remain a private would make itself known, so that I could help him fight it off. Also on board are the eight coloured men from the dump truck company. 

I'm now watching the glowing white eyeballs of Cpl. Leon W. Davis, from Erie, Pa., as he lies on his back covered with blankets, looking at the barrage balloons hovering protectively over the harbour. PFC George S. Berkner, Eleanor, Pa., a deeply religious man whom I've never heard utter one swear word in nine months, is standing on the deck, a Life magazine under one arm and his canteen cup under the other. The letters from Berkner to his family and many friends which I censor are an inspiration to me in his pride of being a man of God. Private Kireakos A. McRoyal, of Sarasota, Florida, better known as "the Greek" is adjusting the blasted life preserver, which is continually falling around his hips, contrary to safety regulations. 

The men who built the LCT never had to make a voyage on one, I'll bet. Every square foot of the deck space is covered by vehicles. The men are swarming under, on, and over the trucks like mighty ants. They will sleep where they are swarming. I pray that no rain will fall tonight or during the voyage. Our ration is the new Army 10-in-1, a delicious, well planned, balanced diet that is contained in a box 8" x 15" x 24", enough for 10 men for 3 meals for 1 day. They will be eaten cold except for a few staples, beans, cereal, bacon, and coffee, which will be served hot by S/Sgt. Norman R. Roberts of Florida, the mess Sgt. for the voyage. Give my men something to eat and clothes to wear, and they will get along.

The Harbour

Around our anchored boat are dozens of similar boats, huge Landing Ship Tanks, and many small surface boats. Just a small drop in the bucket full that will assault the Madman's Lair on "D" Day. In sight are 49 of the huge, white balloons which prohibits sneak strafing attacks by night fighter planes. The most protecting and glorious sight of all is the American Flag flying from the mast of every craft in the harbour. One of the men is now whistling the Star Spangled Banner. Oh, Merciful God, make us worthy of our heritage as we go one day nearer the day of destiny, "D" Day.

Waiting

Three hours ago, the skipper received notice to leave the harbour at 1730. At the time I was talking to the men assembled in the tiny, cramped bow of the LCT. I was handed a piece of paper by the skipper and immediately told the men: "We will be on our way to France at 1730."  Never will I forget the look of happiness that greeted my words. The men are actually wanting to get into the scrap!

At the moment, I can see all types of small craft pulling out of the harbour. Men are clustered along the rails, on top of trucks, peering at the activity around them with naked eyes and field glasses. My men are unusually calm. The majority are eating their evening ration. S/Sgt. John. J. Kochan, my efficient, well liked and respected Platoon Sgt., is reclining bareheaded atop a truck reading a book while Cpl. Thompson and PFC Marian E. King, also of Texas, and the pals are jabbing away at each other.

Passage to Normandy

Under Way

With the words: "Stand by, mid-ships" from the skipper, Lt. Oakley, down the voice pipe at exactly 1807, we are underway to our great test. Only 5 powerful motor torpedo boats are left in the harbour. I just waved "so-long" to Lt. Edgar G. Wilson of North Carolina, the Commander of the 2nd Platoon, as his craft passed by. "Good luck, Ed."
 

Lt. Oakley, with four ratings, is standing at attention on the port bow as we leave the harbour entrance. The examination vessel is being passed, the crew stands at ease, the skipper is giving commands, and we are just another boat loaded with yanks bound for battle. The waters are filled with ships of war. As I look astern at the little English village, I see, perhaps for the last time, the rows of neat stone houses, green hedge-rowed field and circling sea gulls feasting on the refuse of departing ships. God Save The King.

On the Open Sea

An unforgettable sight of countless ships, strung along for miles, evenly spaced, is now before me. The foamy wake of the American manned LCT 525 ahead of us reminds me of the sudsy top of a mug of beer from Izzy's Log Cabin, down at Valdosta, Georgia, my hometown. A teetotaller, I've nevertheless seen many a glass of suds go down the hatch. We are now approaching a priceless marker to the Navy, a swept channel marker denoting a mine free path through the troubled waters of the English Channel from Lands End to Dover. S/Sgt. Herman S. Crawley, Washington, D.C., is having his curly hair cut by T/5 Clarence O. Johnson, of Dallas, Texas. These coloured boys are good soldiers and do a good job with their trucks.

Every mothers heart would be gladdened if they could stand beside me on the bridge of this craft, observing the casual, carefree, happy manner my men have assumed. I thank God I am not their enemy. Pvt. Albert L. Rael, New Mexico, is rechecking his life preserver. A quiet, easy going lad, Rael will probably never rise higher than PFC, but he will still be a soldier that any state could be proud to claim as her own son.

The sea is getting rougher and the flat bottomed LCT is starting to pitch and jounce with the waves. The sea sick preventative pills, passed out on sailing by Pvt. Frank Quatramani, New York City, my Italian First Aid man, may yet come in handy. Mountains behind the shore line bring back memories of the torturous cold of McComb Reservation in Plattsburg, New York and Elkins, West Virginia, where we spent many hard days of training in preparation for the job ahead.

Wireman Jack Robertson of Scotland, a signalman off duty, is clad in a thin white shirt, trousers, and a jaunty hat, and has his pre-chewed gum stuck behind his right ear for future use. He is looking ahead at history being made. These English lads amaze me with their acceptance of every pittance granted them with a calm, unsmiling face. As I look forward and aft of this English flagged vessel, I see Old Glory snapping in the breeze, shouting the spirit of America to me.

Our Skipper, binoculars hanging from his wind-tanned neck, keeps a piercing crow-footed eye on the ships about us. LCT 2074, commanded by a red bearded, hard eyed and handsome Australian, is leading our craft at present.  Every confidence is felt that the Skipper will beach us on the coast of France in a manner satisfactory to all. On the horizon are hundreds of ships wearing flags of the world's most powerful navies. Our craft is wearing a new ensign which the Skipper hoisted with the exclamation "I'd reserved this for peace, but this is too blooming good a chance to miss."

The wind is getting colder. I'm afraid the boys won't sleep very warm tonight. Lt. Cane, four Staff Sergeants and myself are taking turns about standing watch with the Naval Watch on duty, just in case something might happen before beaching. In the last few hours, I have watched a miracle of navigation as scores of LCTs have come out of harbours along the southeast coast England, joined our convoy, which now stretches far beyond eye-sight, and become part of our big family. How welcome is that beautiful flotilla of destroyers that hover protectively about the convoys!! Gone are the balloons of yesterday. The English coast is still in sight. The sun is setting radiantly behind the hills. Land will be gone in the morning. Next stop: France.

While writing this I am in the Captain's cabin, a tiny cubicle 10' x 10', set directly over the pounding diesel engines.  The skipper is catching a few minutes needed relaxation on the bunk behind me before his all night stay on the cold bridge. The hammering of the anchor chained in its bed behind the craft sounds like an angry bull kicking in the side of his pen. Lt. Cane is on watch now so I can relax for awhile, if relaxation is possible with thoughts running in my mind.  The automatic blackout switch which throws the entire cabin and mess deck into darkness when the door to the main deck is opened causes a little irritation trying to write. War!! (Photo; Lt Cane in Eisleben, Germany, May 1945).

I've often wondered about the thoughts of a man bound for his first battle. Now I know. Surprisingly few thoughts of home, loved ones, old times or friends have entered my mind thus far. The preparation, briefing, study of maps and aerial photographs, feeding the men, thinking of their individual problems and possible reactions and gazing wide-eyed at the night around us has occupied my mind. Of course, a memory or two of my personal life slips in occasionally. I wonder what the kids of Valdosta, Georgia are doing tonight. Most of all, I worry about my mother. God, give her the strength to carry on when she hears the invasion news. Pvt. Daniel T. Ardis, Atmore, Alabama, who never learned to read or write is thinking of his mom too for he asked me this evening to write her for him if any harm came. I was honoured by his request and confidence.

The skipper has gone to the bridge for the night and I am alone, pad on my knee, pencil in hand, trying to write an article that will probably never be published. A cup of coffee was just brought to me by the ship's mess man. Darn nice of these English men. Their cup of tea or coffee must be had, regardless of the situation. I wonder what I can write that would be of interest. My untrained mind can't make up subjects. A New Testament and prayer book is at my elbow. Tomorrow, God permitting, we shall have a religious service aboard on deck led by Pvt. Berkner. When I suggested that he arrange a short program his kind eyes seemed to fill with tears of gratitude and renewed confidence that God did exist... even in the heart of his cursing, hell raising platoon leader. Yes, Berkner, we need Him more than ever before.

The First Officer has entered, red faced from the wind, with a cup of cocoa and a butter sandwich, hoping to get some rest before the skipper calls for him to return to the bridge. I read this diary to him for comment.  He stated "It's jolly good, hope you get it back, for it will make good reading after the war." I feel flattered and very glad that I started this "on the scene" story.  Mr. T. C. Merchant of Madison, Florida, the man who used to pay me by the inch for articles for his paper, would get a big kick out of watching me scribble away.

I have just returned to the noisy cabin from the deck where a beautiful bright moon is shining. Oh the memory of moonlight and courtships in Florida and Georgia. The skipper is cursing the Australian ahead of us for weaving aimlessly back and forth across the bow of our craft. His polite remarks about the man ahead are quite different from the sound cussing out I would hand a fellow for such doings. The ghostly silhouettes of surrounding boats means a tiresome night for the skipper and watch. The men are asleep under their blankets, trusting their lives and future to the competent mind and hands and the minor role the two American Officers are playing. Twelve o'clock, midnight now, so I shall try to get a little sleepy-eye, as called by Pvt. Joe S. Harrell, Mitchel County, Georgia, in his letters to his wife, nicknamed "breadburner." My prayer for Divine protection.

Sunday Together

Sleep was fitful and unrestful last night. The hammering anchor often startled me. Seasickness has affected half the men. I am too ill to leave the small cabin. The hour of history has been set for 0630 tomorrow, June 5th. All men are eating their rations and preparing to leave their home of 4 days for the first venture on enemy shores.

Monday Afloat

The patrol craft just announced that D-Day has been postponed until Tuesday morning. Mixed emotions greeted the announcement. Our craft has started a long circling movement to delay approaching the beach. Planes overhead give us assurance of reaching "home in France."

Tuesday, D-Day

The thunderous roar of naval gun fire from the mighty battle ships supporting the invasion awakened us. The most inspiring sight greeted my eyes on mounting the bridge. Ships of all description covered the ocean like a blanket.

Lt. Worth's diary ends here. Shortly thereafter, Lt. Oakley gave the order to prepare to go ashore; he was taking them in to the Beach. LCT 2331 reached Utah Beach sometime between H+20 min and H+40 min.

USLCT(A)2008 is the same class and type as LCT 2331. On arrival in England 2008 was assigned to the Royal Navy under Lease-Lend. On November 21st 1943 she was at Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England where 19 year old leading motor mechanic Thomas Harding C/KX 143840 fell overboard and was tragically drowned. He rests in Kings Lynn cemetery close by. Prior to the invasion of Normandy 2008 was transferred back to the US Navy under Lease-Lend in reverse. On June 6th 1944 she was under the command of Ensign Ray Cluster USN as part of the Commander Gunfire Support Group. She was assigned to the western flank of Fox Green sector of Omaha beach with tanks of Company C of the US Army's 741st Tank Battalion and was due to land at H hour. The photo was taken on June 7th 1944 minus her bow ramp lost on the Normandy beaches the day before. A new ramp was fitted after delivering the troops seen in the photo. She remained in service until the 'Great Storm' of June 19th-22nd 1944 when she sustained severe damage and was stranded on the beaches.

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Acknowledgments

Two accounts of HMLCT 2331's passage to Normandy on D-Day. The first part was transcribed from the writings of Signalman Mike Crumpton by Tony Chapman, Archivist/Historian for the LST and Landing Craft Association who retains copyright. Copyright for the 2nd part comprising the diaries and notes of Lieutenant George Worth, is held by his son Ricky Worth. In both cases the texts were edited for presentation on the Combined Operations website by Geoff Slee.

 

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Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page 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.

Restoration of Geoffrey Appleyard's  Memorial 

Click on the image if you'd like to contribute to the improvement of the memorial to Geoffrey Appleyard, DSO, MC and Bar, through the purchase of a limited edition print of a book about him. Geoffrey achieved so much in service with No 7 Commando, No 62 Commando, the Small Scale Raiding Force and the Second SAS Regiment. He was posted Missing in Action in July 1943, aged 26.

www.bramleywarmemorial.com/major-geoffrey-appleyard-book-now-available-for-purchase/

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.

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

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.

 

Print too small or large?

Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

 

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