~ LCV(P) 1228 of 805 FLOTILLA ~
LCV(P) 1228 [Landing Craft
Vehicle (Personnel)] was a relatively small flat bottomed boat whose main
function in WW2 was to deliver assault troops onto enemy held shores.
Collectively there were many hundreds of these craft but, even so, they
were just a small blip in the great sweep of events beginning June 6th
1944 in which over 7,500 craft of every conceivable description took part.
This is an account of the short, sharp life and brutal end of LCV(P) 1228
and her crew.
LCV(P) 1228 was built in the
closing months of 1943 at one of the hundreds of small boatyards around
Britain's coastline. She was accepted and, sometime in February 1944,
taken into service with the newly formed 805 Flotilla working out of
Itchener in Chichester harbour.
After several months of
intensive training and full scale Channel exercises, 805 Flotilla, then
comprising sixteen craft, joined four other such flotillas, collectively
known as B Squadron, and moved to their operational base at Exbury on the
Beaulieu River in May 1944. Following a couple of weeks 'shaking down' the
final phase ended with the Squadron sailing from Exbury into the Solent
and joining the great Armada at 22.00 hrs on June 5th.
LCV(P)s were crewed by 1
coxswain, 1 stoker/driver and 1 signals/deckhand. It was 36 feet long and
10 ft 6 inches in beam with an un-laden weight of around 8 tons (11.5 tons
laden). It was constructed mainly of half inch plywood with an outer
shield of half inch steel plating to protect the freeboard. It had a very
shallow draught of 3 feet astern and 18 inches forward The power
came from a 235 bhp diesel engine with a range of 102 miles. Its armament
comprised 2 x .303 calibre Lewis machine guns.
Unlike other similar sized
assault craft, LCV(P)s did not use a mother ship for transport to the area
of conflict. Wherever they were required to go they went, through rough
and smooth but always under their own power. The distance to be covered
from the Beaulieu River to Le Hamel in Normandy was in the order of 90 sea
miles. With a top speed of nine knots it was obvious that it would
be impossible to transport 36 fully laden armed men across the English
Channel, consequently the planners decided that each craft would carry an
essential commodity - 100 (200?) five gallon jerry cans of petrol.
easterly through the darkness of the Solent aswarm with shipping, the
squadron eventually made contact with their main group Force "G" (Gold
Beach) three miles north of the Nab Tower. At
approximately 0200 hrs on June 6th they weighed anchor, pointed their
landing ramps south and headed into the great unknown. The hopes, fears
and thoughts of the 3 man crew of LCV(P) 1228 soon gave way to the more
immediate task of survival. Heading out into the open sea the various
cross currents and force 4/5 south westerly stacked up a continuous run of
short, sharp vicious waves that sent the flat bottomed craft slipping and
sliding uncontrollably through an unremitting series of troughs and
crests. As each succeeding wave slapped hard into the landing ramp the
relentless wind exploded the grey green-water into thousands of ice cold
stinging needles of spray that wept the boat from stem to stern.
Throughout the long
seemingly endless journey, continually fighting the elements to stay
afloat, there was one comforting thought for the soaking wet,
freezing cold coxswain and his two comrades - the realisation that the
continuous roar of unseen aircraft was from the Allied air forces. The
thought of marauding Messerschmitts firing squirts of incendiary cannon
shells into their highly volatile cargo was a stomach churning fear.
After roughly 8 hours of
relentless battering they finally homed in on their target. Running their
craft through the battleships, cruisers and destroyers (busily plastering
targets inland) they skirted round the inshore rocket and flak ships and
headed for their own particular area of complete and utter chaos - Jig
Sector of Gold Beach.
the multitude of German beach obstacles, damaged and sunken landing craft,
submerged DD Tanks (floating tanks that didn't make it to the beach) and
the ghastly debris of the initial assault, 1228's landing ramp finally
touched sand. As the pounding surf swung the stern around it was only the
expertise of the crew that prevented the craft from 'broaching to' and
becoming the ultimate liability on any beach - stuck fast on a falling
tide. Quickly unloading and summarily dismissed with the departing oath
"Get off my bloody beach!" from the overworked beach-master, 1228 kedged
off and headed for open water.
Standing a few miles
offshore and loaded to the gunwales with thousands of troops, were half a
dozen Empire Class liberty ships. The High Command, anxious to get as many
men ashore as possible were using all available small craft. Alongside one
of the troop ships the coxswain of 1228 fought frantically to prevent his
craft from smashing into the ship's side as it lifted and dropped 20 to 30
feet every few seconds. Heavily armed troops climbed down the scrambling
nets suffering many injuries as they tried to embark into the heaving
landing craft. Wet through and in many cases violently sick the troops had
to endure an horrendous 2 to 3 mile journey before staggering onto French
Throughout the afternoon and
evening the surviving craft of 805 Flotilla kept up a continuous shuttle
from ship to shore. Only the onset of darkness brought the frantic day to
Thankfully retiring away
from the beaches 1228 and other craft from 805 Squadron dropped anchor or
tied up alongside the larger craft and waited for the next phase to begin.
Years of frustration at the lack of opportunity to strike back at the
German forces was dramatically relieved as the first of many air raid
alerts sounded. Every man jack of the Allied Forces pointed his firearm
skywards and blasted off.
Any enemy pilot flying
towards the anchorage must have had serious misgivings about approaching
that great curtain of red hot steel soaring upwards from the dark ocean.
And yet there were many intrepid airman of the Luftwaffe prepared to risk
all as they flew their fighter bombers into the attack swooping across the
maze of shipping to bomb and strafe.
So it was that chance,
fate, right place wrong time, or purely and simply bloody bad luck that
the remaining craft of 805 Flotilla opted to spend the hours of darkness
clustered like chicks around the mother hen - HMS Bulolo. She was
the HQ ship for the Gold Beach assault and had on board plenty of top
brass and executive personnel. However, it was just one of thousands of
possible targets to the incoming German pilots who were anxious to attack
and get away (hit and run attacks).
With an ear splitting roar
the Messershmitts streaked across the anchorage. A mixture of high
explosives and anti-personnel (AP) and phosphorous bombs smacked hard into
Bololo with devastating effect. Shards of red hot metal ricocheted off
the ship mingling with the AP bombs hurtling across the water to create
havoc amongst the landing craft.
Under the spluttering light
from the ships on fire and some emergency lighting the stern of 1228
reared out of the turbulent water, its brilliant capital "G" pointing to
the heavens and the heavy steel landing ramps forcing the bow deep below
the murky waters.
A little more than 24 hours
after proudly taking the salute from the Captain and staff of HMS
Mastodon, lined up on the Exbury jetty and having subsequently
survived an horrendous Channel crossing and countless journeys ferrying
troops and supplies onto the hostile beaches, the smashed and battered
hulk of 1228 was towed away and beached along with hundreds of other small
landing craft to form one of the many ships' graveyards along the Normandy
The planners estimated a
casualty rate of around 30% for the first day. Thankfully overall losses
were below that figure but for 1228 two of the three
crew were killed. Throughout naval history the role of large vessels has
been well documented but there are countless untold stories of the men in
the little ships from old time fire ships, cutting out, dispatch, fetch
and carry, maintenance and even kitchen barges. The list is endless. The
LCV(P) Flotillas were, arguably, the smallest craft to make passage across
the 90 miles to Normandy and they earned the right to take their place in
the records of these great historical events. They were the "nuts and
bolts" of Operation Neptune but absolutely vital to its successful
Robert Purdom did not escape
the bombing raid unscathed. He sustained an injury to an eye resulting in
its loss and a shrapnel injury to his shoulder. He was transferred to a
hospital ship where he stayed until he returned home some days or weeks
later. Like many who witnessed the unimaginable in war, he never talked
much about his experiences preferring to put it behind him as best he
could. His grandson Scott said of his grandfather "he was a very humble
and funny man who never complained about his injuries and told me lots of
funny stories." He crossed the bar, suddenly, on the 7th June 2009 almost
65 years to the hour after the horrific events described here.
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This account of LCV(P) 1228
was written by Mr Ray Knapp ex Royal Marine Corporal (Coxswain) for his
friend and comrade Robert S Purdom who served as Coxswain on the craft and
was the only survivor from the 3 man crew.