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~ 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.

Background Channel Crossing The Landings The Aftermath Further Reading Acknowledgments

Background

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.

Channel Crossing

Running 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 Landings

Avoiding 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 soil.

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 an end.

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 coast.

The Aftermath

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 outcome.

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.

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.

Acknowledgments

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.

 

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 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?

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