9th LCT Flotilla - A Tragedy at Sea
The Lost Flotilla
In mid October 1944, the terrible fate of the 9th LCT
(Landing Craft Tank) Flotilla was sealed as its craft sailed beyond Lands
End in the tow of merchant ships. The flotilla was part of Convoy OS92/KMS66 bound for the
Mediterranean, en route to the Far East. There had been warnings of bad
weather but there were safeguards to protect the craft in these circumstances. However, despite this,
over 50 men were lost as 6 craft foundered. How did the tragedy happen and was it
[Photo; Telegraphist John Shipston who was lost in
OS92/KMS66. Seen here with his wife Pam in September 1944 shortly before he was
drafted to LCT 494 of the 9th LCT Flotilla.]
This page is especially dedicated to the memory of Telegraphist,
John Shipston of LCT 494 and to all the men of the 9th LCT Flotilla, who perished
with him. There is a casualty list on this page.
After the D-Day landings, the need for
landing craft shifted to the Far East. The Japanese occupied many
Pacific islands, which required
large numbers of seaborne troops to dislodge them. The process of transferring landing craft
from Europe to the Far East, after D-Day, was code named "Appian". In
anticipation of the transfer of landing craft, the first Appian committee was
convened in February 1944.
Mk3 LCTs had a range of 1,900 miles, fully loaded, at a
speed of some 10 knots or 2,700 miles at 9 knots. However, to reduce wear and tear on the engines, it was decided to
tow them behind large merchant ships travelling in convoy from the UK to
Gibraltar . They
would then proceed, under their own power, to Malta and Alexandria and then, under
tow again, to Bombay via Aden. The minutes of the first Appian meeting advised that no towing
should take place between October and March. This was to avoid the
winter storms in the Biscay area and the monsoon season in the Indian Ocean.
Middle East Combined Training Centre, on Egypt's
Little Bitter Lake, played an important role in receiving "Appian" craft
from the UK and preparing them for the onward journey to the Far East.]
Such a long journey was not without risk
so sea trials were carried out in
both calm and rough conditions. Their aim was to assess the towing characteristics of the
various landing craft types. In the case of the Mk3 LCTs, whose tank decks
were below the waterline, towing was restricted to wind speeds of up to force 4
on the Beaufort scale, described as a moderate breeze. The Mk4s were approved in
winds of up to Force 6 (strong breeze). There was an additional proviso that
were not to be towed into
a heavy head sea, as water ingress would overwhelm the pumps. In any
conditions, outside these parameters, they should hove to in good time and turn to run before the wind.
Furthermore, in bad weather, only one LCT was to be towed by a merchant vessel
while an oiler (oil tanker), a repair ship and a minimum of
3 tugs were to take up position at the rear of the convoy.
[Photo; Tug towing LCT's during the trials. © IWM (A 24634).]
In the summer and autumn of 1944, landing craft were prepared, or tropicalised,
for Far East operations. The 9th LCT Flotilla, along with half of
the 70th Flotilla, with new crews and refurbished craft, would be the
first to set out with operational crews, base staff, spares, guns, ammunition and
stores - a total of 18 LCTs in the tow of merchant convoy KMS66. A week or
so later, the other half of the 70th, plus the 71st flotilla, along
with stragglers from the first convoy, were to go as part of KMS67.
A "contract" with the Merchant Navy was drawn
up to deal with insurance, liabilities and operational matters. It was expected that both convoy
Commodores and merchant vessel Captains, would cooperate in this project to tow
the LCTs. The Commodore, or Escort Commander, had the authority to abort the
towing, if the weather was deemed to be too severe. The LCT skippers could act independently to slip the tow in an emergency, otherwise, they
were to await orders from the Commodore or Escort Commander.
command of the convoy was Commodore J Ratsey RNR in the SS Mantola. The
convoy comprised 35 merchant vessels with 9 LCTs
under tow and 3 submarines. Convoy Escort B23, led by Lt Com. Newey RNVR,
comprised 1 sloop, HMS Fowey and 2 corvettes, HMS Allington Castle
and HMS Knaresborough Castle.
deep depression moving westward across the Atlantic held the promise of
extremely severe weather, typical of the the
time of year. The submarine threat was greatly diminished, so
enabling the convoy to sail south through the Irish Sea towards the SW Approaches.
The LCT skippers received their convoy sailing instructions, which included
authority to slip the tow if in trouble and to proceed independently or make for
a safe harbour. To this end, they were given navigational details of UK and
neutral ports en route.
The convoy had four sections sailing from different locations;
the Clyde Section
departed at 19.45 on Saturday 14 October 1944. After a slight delay due to bad
weather. LCT 480 was attached to The City of Lyons, LCTs 488 & 489 were
attached to Samfoyle and LCTs 491 and 7015 were attached to Fort Finlay. A 6th
LCT, believed to be carrying the flotilla officer, fouled her tow and had to
return to port,
Section joined the convoy on Sunday
15th October at 09.10 along with 3 submarines, Thrasher, Trident and
Section joined the convoy on Monday
16th October at 07.45. Their escorts carried signalmen
for the Clyde towing ships but bad weather
conditions prevented their transfer. From LCTs 7022 & 7023 were attached to Ocean Vanity and LCTs 494 & 7014 were attached to Nairnbank,
the Milford Haven
Section joined the convoy at 11.50
on the same day.
The convoy was now complete with the 5
merchant ships towing the 9 LCTs at the rear of the columns. Responsibility for the 9th LCT Flotilla passed
to Senior Officer Lt J Murts in LCT 494. Ominously, LCT 488 reported problems but intimated she would be able to continue if the weather did not
[Photo courtesy of Daniel Lovell;
LCT 474 was a first series Mk3 LCT built during 1941-1942 as were LCTs 480, 488, 489, 491, 494 mentioned in this page. The remaining MK3 LCTs
in the convoy, 7014, 7015, 7022 and 7023, were second series Mk3s built between
1943-1944 and referred to as 'Stars' to distinguish them from their sister MK3
surviving craft of this type, LCT 7074, is undergoing restoration in
Portsmouth (2016 - 2020).
- Sequence of events
On Tuesday 17th October, weather conditions rapidly deteriorated.
The Commodore asked Senior Officer Murts, in LCT 494, how
"his children" were doing. His ominous response indicated that his LCTs were beginning to labour
in the worsening
weather. Visual signalling was practically impossible as the convoy
scattered. While most ships had TBS radios, they were not very effective in
the storm conditions so communications amongst the craft were compromised. Over the next 10 hours, in increasingly hazardous
conditions, the following events ensued;
1020 - SO escort group advises that towing ships
should heave to. Commodore gave the order for all towing merchant ships to
1050 - Nairnbank reported that he had lost contact with LCT 494. HMS Allington
Castle was ordered to assist in rescue operations.
1112 - Signal sent to Admiralty and C in C. WA reporting that weather conditions
had worsened to whole gale proportions and requesting extra escort
1235 - LCT 7022 reported holed, making water and about to abandon ship.
1251 - Another signal sent to Admiralty and C in C. WA.
1340 - SS City of Lyons reported LCT 480 was foundering and about to abandon
1355 - LCT 494 loudly requesting assistance.
1420 - LCT488 with escort HMS Knaresborough Castle standing by had
turned to run before the wind towards Milford Haven. All RN escorts and
merchant ships in the area were alerted to look for LCTs and assist with
1559 - LCT 480 reporting to be about to abandon ship.
1625 - HMS Tobago and
Zanzibar under orders from C in C. WA to assist in
rescue were approaching vicinity.
1629 - LCT 7014 in the tow of Nainbank reporting in distress and wanting to
abandon ship. At 1645 Nairnbank reporting that he was slipping the tow of
one of the LCTs to save the other ( 494 or 7014?)
1715 - City of Lyons reporting LCT 480 full of water and sinking.
Signal from commodore that LCT 489 has broken adrift from Samfoyle.
SO escort group in touch with SO B2 escort that the latter in touch with LCT 7014.
This escort group were looking after convoy ON 260 from Southend to Halifax,
Nova Scotia which was sailing astern. HMS Kingcup and Blankney
to assist with rescue by NOIC (Naval Officer in Charge) Milford Haven. Also
assisting were HMS Manners, HMS Highlander and HMS Drury.
By this time, all the LCTs, badly pounded by the mountainous seas in the force
9 gale conditions, were filling with water and sinking. Water was pouring into
the tank spaces over the coamings (raised frames around hatchways to prevent
water ingress) and the canvas cover protection overhead was ripped apart by the
ferocity of the wind and waves. Pumps, if working at all, were unable to
clear the water. Some LCTs were holed and letting in the sea. The masts and
aerials were ripped away from the aft housing, letting water into the crew
quarters and engine room. Some of the LCTs had stores, gun parts and caravans on
board, which had broken loose and were rolling around the deck, causing a
further hazard to the crews. Water was also penetrating ruptured fuel pipes, causing
engines to fail. It was proving difficult for the towing vessels to slip the tow,
or to rescue the LCT crews, as they too were being tossed about in the storm. In some cases, their cargoes were shifting, making it hazardous on deck for their
2007 - Allington Castle had rescued the crew of LCT 480 and had sunk the craft.
They then carried out search for LCT 489.
0047 - Kingcup reported that LCT 7022 and 7023 were damaged, still in tow of
Ocean Vanity, and could hold out until daylight. Position 50.26N, 9.34W
0445 - Allington Castle had rescued crew from LCT 491 and sunk the craft.
0800 - Situation was that LCTs 489, 494, 7015 and submarine Trident unaccounted
for, and the convoy badly scattered.
0958 - LCT 488 had sunk and Knaresborough Castle had picked up all the survivors.
C in C WA ordered all LCT crews to be removed to avoid further loss of
1435 - Allington Castle rejoined convoy with 38 survivors onboard.
1539 - Submarine
1549 - Sunderland and Liberator aircraft sighted sweeping for LCTs and survivors.
1800 - Kingcup had rescued all the crews of LCT 7022 and 7023
- Some time during the day, the crew of LCT 7014 were picked up by rescue
ship Dundee which was part of convoy ON260. The tow on LCT 7014 had parted
early on the 18th but they managed to start the engines and keep going.
Engines failed around noon due to water in fuel pipes and the craft
wallowed beam to sea until about 21.55 when it sank.
2400 - At the end of this day, LCTs 489, 494 and 7015
were still unaccounted for.
Weather had improved during the day but was now deteriorating again.
- The convoy was still scattered and merchant ships
Lagarto and City of
Lyons had sustained damage and were returning to port. Air and sea
searches continued for the missing LCTs including frigates Drury, Goodall,
Bullen and Anguilla. Most of the convoy regrouped and finally reached
Gibraltar on 25th October without any LCTs.
In total, 55 men died but well over 100 were saved. LCT 489 did not founder
and was, apparently, part of the 9th LCT Flotilla, which operated out
of Cochin during 1945. With her were LCTs 7022 and 7023 as far as can be
Flotilla KMS 66 was not alone in the storm. An American convoy, NY119, from New York to
Falmouth comprising tugs, tankers and floating barges had spent 30 days crossing
the Atlantic via the Azores. It, too, was badly smashed up in the storm in the same area. Many
ships were lost and 19 men were drowned. The storm was described as the worst
recorded since the war started, with winds at 60mph and mountainous seas.
Former torpedo man, Raymond Mace and fellow torpedo man, Charlie Wheeler, were
aboard the Castle Class corvette, Knaresborough Castle, on escort duty
that fateful night. They recall that bad storms were not uncommon down the west coast
of southern England but this one was most severe with mountainous seas.
"One minute our ship plunged down, burying the forecastle under the sea and the
next it rose on a peak with the propeller thrashing out of the water. Despite
its size, our ship of over 1000 tons was tossed around like a cork. We were
that if any high waves caught us on the beam we would capsize.
l - r; Raymond Mace and fellow torpedo man, Charlie Wheeler.]
If we had such concerns, it's difficult to
imagine what the sailors on the flat bottomed LCTs were thinking. The LCTs were
half our weight and were not designed for stormy weather in open seas. At the
height of the storm, as the LCTs began to succumb to the elements, the sailors
faced an impossible dilemma as they realised that their chances of survival were rapidly
diminishing... to stay on board or to jump into the raging sea.
Acting Lt Commander Marchant, of the
Knaresborough Castle, tried everything possible to rescue the
crew of LCT 488 which had sunk. Costain gun lines were fired in the hope of
pulling any survivors across on carley floats and we attempted to launch our
lifeboat, which was damaged in the process. When the lifeboat began to sink, we
set about the
rescue of the life boat crew. Scrambling nets were secured over
the side, as we tried to pick up one solitary member of the crew of 488 and our
own. We recovered them all, although two sustained injuries. By then, all our
lifesaving gear was gone and there was nothing more we could do. The LCT officer,
who was saved, had clung to a table and managed to get alongside the scrambling
nets. A rope was secured around him and he was hauled aboard.
The landing craft had been adapted and
strengthened for their
tropical destination, as described elsewhere on this webpage, no doubt in
stormy weather on their long journey under tow.
On return to Ardrossan, we spent 2/3 months in
dock, presumably for repairs. Perhaps we had sustained damage when approaching
the LCT, although there were rumours that the engines had moved out of alignment
in the storm."
Having read this webpage, everything matches
up with the recollection of my friend Albert St Pier of Romford and myself.
[Photo; Albert St Piers who also served on the
Admiralty Board of Inquiry
An Admiralty Board of Inquiry was convened in Gibraltar.
verbal and written reports from the senior officers of the three escort ships, as
well as some of the surviving LCT officers and crews. They considered the
division of responsibilities, agreeing with the Board that the LCTs,
attached to merchant ships, were part of the convoy and consequently their safety
was the responsibility of the Commodore. The Senior Officer, Escort Group, was
responsible for convoy protection from enemy action and could only advise on
matters relating to the LCTs.
Broadly the Board’s findings were as follows:-
That the towing vessels and LCTs should have been heaved to much sooner; at
least by nightfall on Tues 17th, before the worst of the damage was
sustained and then turned to run together before the wind to a safe harbour, with
an escort in tow. For this delay the Commodore was deemed responsible.
They also concluded, that when bad weather was expected, only passage crew should be on board,
that no unnecessary gear be carried, that the tank space should be properly
decked or plated to stop water ingress and that only one craft be towed. It was
also considered that the number of escorts for this type and size of convoy was
far too small. The Board commended the escort ships, particularly HMS
Allington Castle, for the fine handling of rescue operations in mountainous
Those from the RN, giving evidence at the enquiry, were: Acting Lt
Commander George Edward Newey, RNR of HMS Fowey; Acting Lt
Commander Philip Almond Read, RNR, HMS Allington Castle; Acting Lt
Commander John Frederick Marchant, RNR, HMS Knaresborough Castle; Sub
Lieutenant Keith Whitfield Steele, RNVR, LCT 488; Leading Seaman Donald King, C/JX
354628, LCT 488; Lieutenant William Colin Gray, RNVR, LCT 491; Sub
Lieutenant Leonard Arthur, RNVR, LCT 491; Sub Lieutenant George Rennell
Sample, RNVR, LCT 480; Midshipman Robert Reay, RNVR, LCT 480; Leading
Seaman Kenneth Rodgers, D/SSX 36506, LCT 480 and Motor Mechanic William Sloan, C/MX
501539, LCT 480.
The Commodores Report
The Commodore’s convoy report stated that he was expecting 14 LCTs to be
towed as an experiment but only 9 sailed. He did not know of the missing 5 but
assumed that they had problems with the tow lines. Every effort was made to care
for and nurse the LCTs keeping convoy speed below 6 knots by revs and 3.5 knots
through the water. At the Liverpool conference, the LCT skippers had been given
discretionary powers to slip the tow if necessary and that towing merchant ships
would render all possible assistance.
After clearing St Georges Channel, the weather worsened and
Commodore signalled Senior Officer Murts in LCT 494 (171050A) "How are your children
making out? What sort of weather are you making of it?" The reply came back "We
are managing but making very heavy weather of it". On the morning of the 18th,
after consultation with the senior officer of the escort group, it was agreed that
the escort group could not cope with the LCTs in distress and, at the same time, protect the convoy from enemy action. The Commodore suggested that C in C
Western Approaches be made aware of the worsening situation and, in view of
small number of escort ships and potential prolonged rescue efforts, requested
the dispatch of additional escort support. The senior officer of the escort
groups had, in fact, already taken these steps and the Commodore believed that
this action got prompt rescue assistance.
The Commodore ordered each towing merchant ship skipper to send a report to
the Admiralty via NCSO (Naval Control Service Officer).
The Liverpool Inquiry
An inquiry also took place in Liverpool on 20th October and,
although no direct mention was made of the disastrous KMS66, all towing was
stopped and towing LCTs in convoys never happened again, potentially
avoiding further loss of life. Thereafter, LCT modifications were improved to
enable them to withstand rough seas on long voyages. Many were conveyed on board
larger ships as deck cargo. Those that did make the passage were routed to
Falmouth, where they waited for good weather before proceeding through SW
Approaches and Biscay area.
Reports from Towing Vessels
Report from Nairnbank states that on
18/10/44 at 0845, LCT 494 tow wire
parted in position 35 degrees. 172 miles from L. Stood by to render assistance.
Low visibility. Last sighted proceeding under own fire. Fate unknown.
Report from Fort Finlay states that LCT 7015 and LCT 491 believed slipped tow
at 035 degrees. 170 miles from L. at 1500/18. Proceeded in company with LCT 494
heading 270 degrees. Did not signal me. Fate unknown.
Report from City of Lyons states that LCT 489 broke lug at 034 degrees 198
miles from L at 1730. Craft reported able to make port.
On 21/10/44 Lands End radio broadcasts to LCT 7015 (call sign BYMK), LCT 489
(call sign MZXJ) and LCT 494 (call sign MZXM). No response.
[Photo; Pam Shipston, widow of John Shipston with her son Bryan and grandson John on
Horseguards Parade, Remembrance Day 2008.]
Extract from War Diary - Western
LCT 489 returned to Falmouth under own power. LCT 7022/7023 brought into
Falmouth after being abandoned. LCT 494 and 7015 were not accounted for and
their loss must be presumed.
On 22/10/44, LCT 7022 and LCT 7023 were re-crewed and towed into Falmouth. The
search for missing LCTs continued until 23/10/44.
Wednesday, 18 October 1944
BARNES, Douglas, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX
LCT 480 (foundered, stress of weather, Lands End,
ship loss, 18th-19th October)
HOWARD, Edward G, Able Seaman, P/JX 387399,
MPK / HOWARD, Roy W, Stoker 1c, D/KX 158239, MPK / MCCOLL, James, Act/Able Seaman, D/JX 227963,
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th October)
BAYFORD, Charles, Leading Motor Mechanic, C/MX
125979, MPK / BERRY, John D G, Stoker 1c, C/KX 140548, MPK / BUSUTTIL, John J, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX
408048, MPK / DICKINSON, Ronald V, Act/Leading Stoker, P/KX
146595, MPK / DONALDSON, Andrew, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX
409670, MPK / EAGER, Leonard A C, Ty/Act/Leading Seaman, C/JX
351717, MPK / ELLINGWORTH, Peter, Ty/Midshipman, RNVR, MPK / FITZSIMON, Barry S, Act/Leading Seaman, P/JX
327463, MPK / FRASER, Alistair, Wireman, D/MX 615703, MPK / GILMOUR, Roland J, Ty/Act/Sub Lieutenant,
RNZNVR, MPK / HARTLEY, Edward C, Ordinary Seaman, D/JX
421185, MPK / JAMES, Arthur S, Stoker 1c, D/KX 163293, MPK / KILLINGBACK, Kenneth, Ordinary Seaman, D/JX
640249, MPK / MCCUNNELL, William H, Wireman, D/MX 658129,
MPK / MURTS, John, Ty/Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK / SHIPSTON, John, Telegraphist, C/JX 343262,
MPK / SMITH, George, Able Seaman, C/JX 351355, MPK.
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th October)
DAWSON, Leslie, Leading Stoker, P/KX 116656,
MPK / DIXON, Edward G, Stoker 2c, P/KX 526160, MPK / FAIRHEAD, Alan H G, Telegraphist, C/JX
677000, killed / FARRELL, James, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR, MPK / FIRTH, Parker, Leading Seaman, P/JX 231331,
MPK / HOLT, Jack W, Able Seaman, P/JX 416613, MPK
/ PRATT, Donald W, Stoker 1c, P/KX 162280, MPK /
James, Able Seaman, C/JX 188625, MPK /
WESTCOTT, Robert C, Motor Mechanic, C/MX
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th October)
CONDICK, Dennis H, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR,
killed / CONNOLLY, John, Ordnance Artificer 4c, D/MX
90406, MPK / GERNER, Christian A, Act/Leading Stoker, P/KX
127662, MPK / GLEADALL, Horace, Stoker 1c, P/KX 140446, MPK / HAIGH, Geoffrey J, Able Seaman, D/JX 362563,
MPK / HANNAN, George, Telegraphist, C/JX 579916,
MPK / HARDAKER, Kenneth, Leading Motor Mechanic, C/MX
691177, MPK / HAVELOCK, Leonard, Able Seaman, C/JX 372400,
MPK / HAYWARD, Humphrey M, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR,
MPK / JONES, Park K, Act/Petty Officer, P/JX
159796, MPK / KELYNACK, William, Ty/Act/Sub Lieutenant,
RNVR, MPK / LORIMER, James W, Stoker 1c, P/KX 525156, MPK / ORAM, Bertram W J, Able Seaman, P/JX 325605,
MPK / POWELL, Rhys W, Wireman, D/MX 619718, MPK / SINGER, Leslie C, Able Seaman, P/JX 383916,
MPK / TAYLOR, John M, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 397191,
MPK / TONGE, Peter, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 542284,
MPK / WARRINGTON, Clement S, Able Seaman, P/JX
ARCHIBALD, James, Act/Able Seaman, D/JX
Thursday, 19 October 1944
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss,18th-19th)
ARMSTEAD, Stanley, Leading Wireman, D/MX
510022, MPK / BELL, Peter G, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNZNVR, MPK / COCKBILL, Alfred C, Wireman, D/MX 630047, MPK
/ GLADMAN, Reginald J, Telegraphist, C/JX
616299, MPK / LONG, Martin, Petty Officer Motor Mechanic,
C/MX 126648, MPK / THOMAS, Arthur P P, Ty/Sub Lieutenant, RNVR,
(foundered, stress of weather, Lands End, ship loss, 18th-19th)
EDWARDS, Charles J, Able Seaman, P/JX 328647,
James Regan, C/JX 188625, LCT 7014.
A brother of my late grandmother, nee Lily Regan, was killed on LCT
7014 and is listed above. His death was an
enormous shock to the family. We still have messages of condolence from
Buckingham Palace and his Commanding Officer which are attached together
with a photo of James. He was born in December 1922, lived in Liverpool
and married Esther May. They had no children. Colin Mutch
Sub Lieutenant Arthur Paul Phillips-Thomas RNVR. Missing Presumed
Killed. Arthur was my father’s brother. I had never heard or seen
him referred to as Arthur until I read his name on this web page. He was
always known as Paul within the family.
Paul was born on October 3rd 1916, the
first child of John and Catherine Phillips-Thomas and subsequently older
brother to Frank. The family lived in NW London where he grew up and then
worked for an insurance company. It was in Hampstead Garden Suburb that he
married his beloved Margaret on 1st Nov 1941. [See photos
courtesy of Jane Porter.] Remarkably for wartime, she travelled to
Greenock in the Clyde estuary to wave goodbye to Paul when the 9th
LCT flotilla sailed on the 14th Oct 1944. She remembered how
few of Paul’s comrades had loved ones there to witness their departure.
Paul was on LCT 488 and the chilling account of
the tragedy about to unfold is recorded above. His family always believed
that he had died as a result of enemy action in the Bay of Biscay. Perhaps
the real story was withheld to prevent loss of morale. It was in the mid
1990s that, in conversation with Paul’s cousin, John Clifford Hughes, who
was also in the Royal Navy and survived the war, that we became aware that
Paul possibly died in home waters.
My grandmother, Paul’s mother, always thought that
the accompanying ships to Paul’s convoy had instructions not to stop, or
search for, survivors, which she found excruciatingly difficult to deal
with. I wish she had known the truth, that everything possible was done to
rescue the men.
Margaret married again and she, and her new
family, always kept in close touch with our family. When she died
recently, at the age of 94, papers were found which led us to this website
and finally to the truth of what happened to Paul.
Leading Seaman Barry Symons FitzSimon P/JX 327463 was lost in HMLCT
494 October 18th 1944. Sadly his relatives have no photographs of Barry as
he was at the time he was lost. All that remains is the image (right) taken
in 1919 showing him as a very young boy with his parents. Barry was the
son of Richard Granville Grenfell Symons FitzSimon and his wife Lillian
Alberta FitzSimon nee Vickery. It is thought that Barry was born during
1918-1919 making him around 26 years of age at the time of his death. When
Barry’s niece read this webpage she was horrified to discover the manner
of his death and indeed the loss of so many others and asks the question
many have asked both then and now.........why
were they not turned back? Please contact us if you have a wartime photo
of Barry; there's a family who would be thrilled to have a copy.
Dennis Henry Condick R.N.V.R. Following his death while serving in, and
having command of HMLCT 7015 on October 18th 1944, Sub. Lt. Dennis Condick’s parents had a
Silver loving cup engraved in memory of Dennis and his crew who perished in the
storm in the vicinity of the Bay of Biscay along with other men of the 9th
Dennis recently donated the cup to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, Hampshire and the photo opposite shows Dr. Richard Noyce after
officially accepting the cup on behalf of the museum. Dr. Noyce read this page
about ‘The Lost Flotilla’ which, we understand, was instrumental in the museum's
decision to accept the cup. He would welcome contact with families who lost
relatives in the storm and also any additional information about the men lost
together with any photographs of them. More generally any items with a clearly
demonstrable provenance to the tragedy that befell the 9th LCT
Flotilla would also be of great interest to the museum.
The museum is about to expand into new quarters in the near
future and has plans to include a special display area dedicated to the part
played by the landing craft of the Second World War and the men of the Royal Navy
who manned them. [Contributed by Archivist/Historian Tony Chapman of the LST and
Landing Craft Association. 30 May 2010.]
Petty Officer Motor Mechanic Martin Long HMLCT 488.
Photo of Martin Long seemingly taken during his early days in the Royal Navy.
Martin was born on January 11th 1923 and was the son of Suzannah and
William Long of Preston, Lancashire, England. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as
an Ordinary Seaman on June 30th 1942 later becoming Petty Officer Motor
Mechanic... the rank he held on October 19th 1944 when he met his
death while serving on the Mk3 HMLCT 488 of the 9th LCT Flotilla.
Prior to joining the Royal Navy he had been employed as a telephone operator in
his home town of Preston.
Service Record. 30th June 1942, HMS GLENDOWER - Training establishment
in Pwllheli; 26th August 1942 HMS VICTORY - Portsmouth Depot; 26th
September 1942: HMS SHRAPNEL (Bournemouth); 27th March 1943: HMS
VICTORY - Portsmouth Depot; 3rd April 1943, HMS PEMBROKE - Chatham
Depot; 17th July 1943, HMS DINOSAUR - Base in Troon; 1st September 1943,
HMLCT 488 - landing craft serving with the Combined Operations Unit.
AB Leonard Havelock
who was lost in LCT 7015 left five children behind, three daughters and two
sons. His loss devastated his family causing repercussions that still
reverberate through to the present day. His relatives both then and now
consider him a hero and rightly so as were they all. Following his death his
wife along with the children emigrated to Canada in the hope of making a better
life for them all.
[Photos; Leonard Havelock
in uniform and third from left front row in the group photo during happier
times with his workmates and Commemorative Scroll.]
Members of Leonard's
family who knew him back then recall him being a very good man... a gentleman,
in the true sense of the word, a hard working man who was strong, compassionate,
loving and brave.
Telegraphist Alan Fairhead HMLCT 7014. Alan’s parents were horrified when the events that
brought about his loss and indeed the loss of so many other men of the 9th
LCT Flotilla became known. They were appalled that apparent disregard appeared
to have been shown for the safety of the men within the convoy given the known
weather conditions prevailing at the time; neither could they understand why the
convoy was allowed to continue instead of being ordered to turn about and run
Such was their intense anger with the Royal
Navy and the powers that be in general that they refused to allow Alan to be
buried within a recognised Commonwealth War Grave, electing instead to have him
buried in a civil plot at Beccles Church in Suffolk. Alan was laid to rest on
Friday November 3rd 1944, his funeral conducted by the Reverend
Harold Birch, the coffin draped with the Union Jack. Alan’s headstone carries
the words ‘Died in Action’.
Commonwealth War Grave Commission staff
inspect the grave periodically and within recent times a tree has been removed
that was beginning to crack the surface of the headstone. The damaged headstone
was then repaired.
Stoker 2nd Class
Edward George Dixon of HMLCT 7014 - Aug 19th 1925 to Oct 18th 1944.
Edward Dixon, the
son of Albert and Dorothy Dixon of Ramsgate, Kent, was just 19 years of age when
he met his death while serving in the Mk3 HMLCT 7014 of the 9th LCT
Flotilla on October 18th 1944. His body, as nearly all those lost
with the flotilla during the storm, was never recovered.
Edwards brother passed away earlier this year (2011) and it had
always been his wish that his ashes should be scattered as close as possible to
where Edward and HMLCT 7014 were lost.
Archivist/Historian Tony Chapman was contacted and asked if it was at all
possible to plot a location for HMLCT 7014 in order that his final
wishes could be carried out. Tony
spoke to contacts at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard to ask if they could
assist.....the family have now been given a possible or near location point for
the stricken HMLCT 7014. Family members are hoping, by some means or other, to
place themselves in that same location sometime this year, when, hopefully, the
two brothers who were always close and who became parted by war 67 years ago
will be reunited and close again, but this time...for eternity.
Stoker Donald W Pratt
was lost in HMLCT 7014 of the 9th LCT Flotilla on
October 18th 1944.
He was born on May 15th 1923 and attended Lowestoft St.Johns mixed school and then
Notley Road school. The manner of Donald's loss has only just become known
to family members following their reading of this webpage. Donald was the son of William James Pratt and Ivy Susannah Pratt of
Craft "State of Readiness"
Records (Extracts from Royal Navy ‘Green
The information below pertains to some of the vessels of the ill fated 9 LCT
Flotilla. It was obtained from the Royal Navy's ‘green list’ (UK. PRO reference
ADM210) and records, on a weekly basis, the location, condition and assignments of
all ‘minor vessels’ including landing craft. The condition of the vessels is
recorded by annotating the vessel number with a letter corresponding to a
defined state of readiness as set out below.
A – Craft structurally and mechanically fit for operational use
regardless of type and not undergoing repairs which will require more than 72
hours to complete.
B – Craft structurally and mechanically fit for non-operational use
regardless of type and not undergoing repairs, which will require more than 72
hours to complete.
C – Craft awaiting or undergoing repair work, which will require
more than 72 hours to complete.
D – Craft damaged or cannibalised beyond economic repair.
E – Craft or barge awaiting repairs.
The condition of vessels is often supplemented by additional notation, which
corresponds to ‘standard’ notes also defined in the document e.g. ‘awaiting
refit for tropical operations’ or ‘engine removed’.
19th June 1944
- 488 is reported as being part of the
‘pooled reserve’ at Glasgow, not attached to any flotilla and in condition
B. Also part of the pooled reserve were HMLCTs 29 and 479 (Mark 1) and 1054
- 488 as being assigned to 62 LCT flotilla,
still ‘pooled reserve’, with LCTs 478, 479, 490, 7019 (Mk 3) and 865, 1054,
1173 and 1319 (Mk 4). All craft are at Troon (Scotland) with the exception
of 1319 (on passage to Troon) and 834 at Lamlash (Scotland).
- 62 flotilla comprises 479, 488, 7020, 7021
(Mk 3) and 865, 1054, 1173 and 1319 (Mk 4) still based at Troon. 478, 490
and 7019 (Mk 3) have been transferred to 60 LCT flotilla at Lamlash, still
as pooled reserve.
- 488 transferred to 60 flotilla at Lamlash
and 490 transferred to 62 flotilla at Troon.
- 60 flotilla at Lamlash comprises 6 Mk3
LCTs: 478, 479, 488, 490, 7019 and 7021. 62 flotilla at Troon comprises 480,
489, 491, 7014, 7020 (Mk 3) and 865, 1055, 1139, 1319 (Mk 4).
- 1054 (Mk 4) has joined 60 flotilla at Lamlash. All vessels are noted as being in condition A. 62 flotilla at
Troon now comprises 480, 489, 491, 7014, 7022 and 7023 all Mk 3.
- 60 flotilla at Lamlash comprises 9 Mk 3
LCTs: 478, 479, 480, 488, 489, 490, 491, 7019, 7021 and 2 Mk 4 LCTs: 1054
and 1055. Interestingly 7014, 7022 and 7023 (all condition A) have now been
assigned to 9 LCT flotilla, ‘D LCT squadron’ and are on passage to Belfast.
7th, 14th and 21st
August - Reports indicate that the flotillas
remained fairly static with 60 flotilla in Lamlash and 7014, 7022 and 7023
with 9 flotilla in Belfast.
- 488 is part of 9 flotilla, ‘D LCT
squadron’ which has moved to Port Glasgow, and this appears to remain fairly
static until the end of September.
- 9 flotilla, ‘D LCT squadron’ is complete
with 12 Mk 3 LCTs, although spread over 4 local bases. 478 is at Glasgow
undergoing topical refit (C1). 480 is tropical refitting at Irvine. 488, 489
and 491 are at Port Glasgow in condition B. 492, 493, 494 and 7015 are at
Troon in condition C and 7014, 7022 and 7023 are at Troon tropical
refitting. LCT 490 is at Ayr tropical refitting but is not assigned to a
- The works are still being carried out but
478 (Glasgow) and 492 (Lamlash) are reported condition A. 480, 488, 489,
491, 493, 494, 7015, 7022 and 7023 are at Troon in condition C or C1. 7014
is in condition C1 at Irvine.
- 9 of the 12 LCTs are in condition A and
are ‘on passage to India in tow’. 494 is in condition A ‘on passage to
Milford Haven’, presumably in an attempt to catch up with the remainder
of the flotilla. 478 and 493 are condition C at Troon. Presumably works
to 478 and 493 were incomplete and they could not sail with the rest of the
Tropical refitting was
denoted by the addition of a capital T
to the above notations, although this appears to have started on the report of
23rd October 1944 and is, therefore, outside the concern of this
particular paper. The additional ‘T’ notation is defined as ‘major landing craft
that have completed preparation for tropical service’. It is interesting to
note, however, that several of the landing craft that were on the west coast of
Scotland on the 23rd of October 1944 (478, 492 and 493) were reported
to be in condition ‘TA’.
The ‘tropical refit’ apparently included modifications to
strengthen the vessels for the long voyage under tow and briefly comprised
reinforcing the welding to the ramp door (possibly welding the doors shut) and
watertight doors between the ramp and the tank deck (closing these also?). The
front compartment formed was filled with empty 45-gallon drums held in position
by welded 4-inch steel straps. In an attempt to deflect sea and spray a double
weight canvas cover was lashed across the front part of the tank deck.
A cork based insulating material was spread over the wardroom
and mess deck bulkheads but in the rush to join the convoy now assembling
insufficient time was allowed for the insulation to dry and at time of sailing
the bulkheads were running with water.
The usual crew for a Mk 3 LCT comprised 2 Officers and 10
Other Ranks but for the long voyage under tow each vessel carried at least 3
extra crew members. LCT 488 carried a total crew of 3 Officers and 16 Other
Sub Lieutenant K. W. Steele RNVR. (Royal Navy Volunteer
Reserve); Sub Lieutenant A. P. H. Thomas RNVR; Sub Lieutenant P. G. Bell RNZNVR;
R. Gladman Tel. (Telegrapher); S. Armstead L/Seaman. (Leading Seaman); A.
Cockbill W’Man. (Wireman - ships electrician); E. Howard O/S. (Ordinary Stoker;
R. Howard Stoker 2. (Stoker 2nd Class); M. Long L/MM (PO). (Petty
Officer Motor Mechanic); J. McCall AB. (Able Seaman); D. King L/Seaman. (Leading
Seaman); G. Killoran (Stoker); J. C. Barbour (Stoker); Abbott AB. (Able Seaman);
J. R. Monogles AB. (Able Seaman); T. Brady AB. (Able Seaman); W. Jackson AB.
(Able Seaman); J. Woods O/Signalman. (Ordinary Signalman); J. O. Bailey SBA.
(Sick Berth Attendant).
Accommodation for the additional crew members was provided by
loading a wooden caravan in the tank hold of the vessel. From other sources (eg
'War of the Landing Craft') the caravans and cargo carried caused many problems
with pump-fouling during the loss of the craft.
On this website there are around 50
accounts of landing craft
training and operations and
landing craft training establishments.
are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined
Operations Books' page. They, or any other books you know about, can be
purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner
link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of thousands of book shops
world-wide. Just 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.
The war of the Landing Craft by Lund
and Ludlam. It covers the convoy in chapter 14 'caught in the great gale' and
gives some further insights into the use of landing craft in WW2. English Library
number 45003039 3. Copies are available on the ABE website - just click on the
books icon above and copy and paste the title into their search banner.
These reports are available from the National Archive ADM
217/48 and others
Report by Sub. Lieutenant K. W. Steele (surviving Officer of
HMLCT 488) to L/Cmdr J. F. Marchant (Commanding Officer of HMS Knaresborough
Castle) after his rescue from HMLCT 488.
Report by Lt. Commander J. F. Marchant
(Commanding Officer H.M.S. Knaresborough Castle) on the loss of H.M. L.C.T. 488.
Report by G. E. Newey, Senior Officer, B.23 Escort
Group. Admiralty file ADM 217/48.
Report by R. A. Read, Commanding Officer H.M.S. Allington Castle.
Prior to the tragedy that befell the 9th LCT
Flotilla, it had seen considerable service in the Mediterranean. In June of 1943
the flotilla comprised the British Mk3 LCTs 329, 330, 344, 356, 358, 384, 385,
386, 387, 388, 389 and 404. Each craft no doubt has its own story to tell, but,
as far as is known, nothing about them has been published. LCTs 329 and 358 were
lost during 1943. Most if not all the craft of the 9th LCT Flotilla took part
in the landings on Sicily (Operation Husky, 9/10th July) they departed from
Malta to land at Augusta and Siracusa. Confirmation of the part played by the
flotilla at Salerno and Anzio is currently being reviewed.
No reference to the 9th LCT Flotilla during the
summer of 1944 has been found so we can reasonably speculate that it was in the
process of being reformed with the very craft that sailed in the ill-fated
convoy. In December 1944, two months after the tragedy, the 9th LCT
Flotilla made ready for its departure from Falmouth to the Far East... a journey
of some six months according to Telegraphist Arthur Fairchild who served in LCT
489. Other craft recorded assigned at that time, and based in Cochin, India were
441, 451, 462, 466, 478, 493, 7016, 7022, 7023 and 7024.
Of those lost, Telegraphist John Shipston off
HMLCT 494 is buried at Pornic in Western France, Ordnance Artificer John
Connolly off HMLCT 7015 is buried at Servel on the Cotes-d’Armor, France and
Telegraphist Alan Fairhead, off HMLCT 7014, rests within Beccles Cemetery,
[Photo taken in a Gloucester school in 1937. Seated,
second from left middle row, is Dennis Condick. In October 1944 at the rank of
Sub. Lieutenant he commanded the MK3 'Star' LCT 7015 which was lost with
all hands in Convoy OS92/KMS66.]
It may be reasonable to assume that Alan
Fairhead was brought back to England by the Convoy Rescue Ship Dundee which is
recorded picking up the survivors from LCT 7014. What his condition might have
been at that time will likely never be known, possibly he was barely alive and
died on passage home. Had he been retrieved from the sea and ‘discharged
dead’ at the scene he would likely have been buried at sea.
This may well be what happened with Sub.
Lieutenant Dennis Condick who commanded HMLCT 7015, he, like Alan, off HMLCT
7014, is recorded ‘Killed’ and not ‘Missing Presumed Killed’ as indeed are the
other men of the 9th LCT Flotilla who were lost. The exceptions being
John Connolly and John Shipston who were recovered at a later date. Rescue Ship
Dundee is recorded picking up eleven survivors during her war service, it is
possible that all eleven were off the stricken HMLCT 7014.
I am keen to make contact with anyone who sailed in any craft
assigned to the 9th LCT Flotilla or indeed their families. So far, in addition
to Bryan Shipston, I've been in touch with a relative of Dennis Condick (lost in
LCT 7015), the brother of Telegraphist Alan Fairhead (lost in LCT 7014)
and a relative of Leading Wireman (Electrician) Stanley Armstead (lost in LCT
contact us by clicking on the e-mail icon. Many thanks!
Old Richian (school), Alan O Watkins
provided remarkable additional information about the photo in April
I can add a little bit
more to the information relating to Dennis Condick. He was a friend of
my late parents, Frank and Pat Watkins. Dennis, like Dad, was a pupil at
Sir Thomas Rich’s Grammar School in Gloucester (where the soccer photo
was taken). He was a keen all-round sportsman, and is remembered each
year with the presentation to the outstanding cricketer in the school of
the Condick Bat, with which he hit a century. Also in the photo (2nd
row, extreme right) is Bill Hook, now 93, who as W G Hook, was England
fullback in 1951 and 1952, appearing against Scotland, Wales and South
Africa. He also attempted to teach me how to kick but still remains a
friend! Dennis is commemorated on the school’s war memorial, which was
transferred to Longlevens when the school in the city centre was
replaced in the 1960s.
I came on your
website by chance whilst researching my father-in-law’s wartime
stories. My father in law, Trevor JONES, was a Leading Telegraphist on
board LCT 462 that departed Falmouth on 16th Feb 1945 in a
Flotilla heading to Malaya. According to his diary written en route,
they suffered a Force 9 Gale in the Bay of Biscay in which several
craft were damaged or sunk.
They had repairs in
Gibraltar 23-26 Feb, visited Malta 2 – 7 March, Port Said / Suez 12
Mar – 17 Apr, Aden 23 – 28 Apr, Cochin 10 May, 17 May Collided with
MFV LCT 913, On ‘Irvin’ to Columbo 23 May, 20 Jul on LOA Carmel back
to Bombay, returned to Columbo, 17 Aug went to Trincomalee, 22 Aug
joined LCT 317 (engine failed) and the LCT 248, 9 & 11 Sep made 2
landings in Malaya, 12 Sep – 25 Oct long stay at Port Dickson, 1 Nov –
10 Jan Singapore on LCI (L) 183, 21 Dec – 9 Jan Rempang (a POW Camp
for Japanese) on LCI (L) 114.
He then made his
way back to UK on Prince Albert arriving 5 March 1946, being Demobbed
at Roseneath on 16th March. I wonder if this fills in any
missing information for your website.
[Thanks Peter. These 'Appian'
transfers of landing craft to the Far East continued until the 2nd
World War drew to a close in the late summer of 1945. The reference to
Suez in your text probably refers to HMS Saunders on the Bitter Lakes,
which was the naval component of the
Middle East Combined Training Centre, Geoff.]
It was quite by accident that I came across the website re. the above,
and noted your wish to trace any relatives of the flotilla personnel
Well, I am the nephew of Midshipman Peter Ellingworth, MBK on 18-19th
Oct `44 with LCT 494.
I knew my late father`s younger brother was lost at sea during the war
at but not of the circumstances - the war as far as my parents were
concerned was very much regarded on a need to know basis and "was best
left were it was" : my father was a veteran of N. Africa, Tunisia,
Sicily, Italy & Greece, and had shell-shock as it was known as then on
his return, his sister who died recently (emigrated to Australia in
1967) was a nurse in Burma, suffering health after effects for the
rest of her life (jaundice, Beri Beri) and my late mother had memories
of the Blitz.
His death at only nineteen had a profound effect on my
sister in particular and grandmother as you can imagine, especially as
my grandfather (on my father`s side) died a relatively young man just
as WW2 started, because of suffering on-going after effects of WW1.
It is only recently I have been able to bring myself to obtain my
father`s army record as the surviving next of kin and as said only
yesterday found the Lost Flotilla site.
Any relatives of veterans
of the 'Lost Flotilla,' in particular the crew of LCT 494, are welcome
to contact me.
account of the tragic story of the 9th LCT Flotilla
in Convoy OS92/KMS66 was transcribed by Archivist / Historian Tony Chapman
of the LST and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy) and Bryan Shipston, son of
John Shipston who died when LCT 494 foundered off Lands End. It was further
edited by Geoff Slee for website presentation with the addition of photographs