~ HMS Thruster - Landing Ship Tank ~
Background to her design and construction and Operational
HM LST Thruster was a
large landing ship, not unlike a modern RoRo (roll on roll off ) ferry, except
she only had a bow ramp for embarking and disembarking vehicles and she had a
Thruster was built by Harland
and Wolf, Belfast, Northern Ireland and launched on September 24th, 1942,
being commissioned in the Royal Navy on January 28th, 1943. She later took part
in the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France.
These rare photographs are of the ship, her crew, the actions she was involved in and the ships she encountered on her travels.
In early June, 1940, 330,000
servicemen from the Allied Expeditionary Force were evacuated from
the beaches of Dunkirk. It would take 4 years to reorganise, retrain and
re-equip land, sea and air forces to work together as a unified force in what
would be the largest amphibious invasion in history.
There would be no friendly ports
to deliver the hundreds of thousands of men and all their equipment and supplies. All
ports would be very
heavily defended by the enemy and primed for demolition to prevent them falling
into Allied hands. A new approach to offensive operations against the enemy was required, which was
breathtaking in its scale and complexity.
An invading force of overwhelming
strength would come from the sea with the objective of securing a
beachhead on enemy occupied
waves of 'follow on' and 'build up' forces would then land to maintain the
Allied advance inland. Ships, craft and
barges, capable of landing directly onto unimproved beaches in less populated
areas, would be required on a scale never seen before or since. This was the
main task given to what became the Combined Operations Command working in close
cooperation with the Chiefs of Staff.
the 4 years from Dunkirk to D Day, the Command would also pursue other strategies designed to harass
the enemy along the entire Atlantic coast from Norway to southern France, using
special units that became known as the Commandos, as well as taking the fight to
the enemy in large scale landings in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and the wider Mediterranean.
Traditional warships needed deep water in which to operate,
so new vessels would be designed and manufactured
in their thousands to meet the perceived needs.
As invasion plans and training programmes
developed, the composition and requirements of the
invading force became clearer. Many specialised types of landing craft were
designed, built and modified, which collectively would deliver the invading
force and their transport, tanks, equipment, munitions and supplies onto the beaches,
while others would provide fighting support during the initial assault phase and
provide maintenance, medical,
repair facilities etc. afterwards.
By the time of the Normandy landings in June 1944, the range
of landing craft designed to meet the needs of a fighting force of several hundred thousand
troops, as well as those for small scale, clandestine Commando surveillance and
offensive operations, was in place. In broad
terms they served the following
for transporting troops, their equipment, supplies and ammunition to the landing
beaches from southern England (in the case of Normandy) or from larger supply
ships anchored off the beaches and then to re-supply them over the longer term with food, water, fuel,
replacement vehicles and equipment, ammunition and general supplies. These
ranged in size from Landing Ship Tank (LSTs) of over 200 feet in length to
Amphibians of around 30 feet in length.
[Photo; Loading at Naples.]
fitted out for offensive and defensive operations with rockets, mortars, smoke,
anti-aircraft guns and heavy calibre guns.
craft which provided services such as radar, communications and
intelligence gathering, large scale catering, hospitals and repair services for
vehicles, vessels and equipment,
Light Raiding Craft, the most famous of which
were the canoes used by the Cockleshell Heroes.
With few exceptions, they had flat bottoms to allow
them to operate in shallow waters near and on the beaches. This made the smaller
of these craft quite difficult to manoeuvre
and control in choppy seas, strong winds and tidal races; and the ride was far from smooth, as
the sentiments expressed in this "tongue in cheek" ditty,
This is my story
This is my song
I've been in Combined Ops
A little too long
Give Me the Nelson,
The Rodney, Renown
These flat-bottomed bastards
Are getting me down!
How Landing Craft Were Named
was the generic term to describe all these shallow draft
vessels. This was followed by a broad category of vessel, such as
Ships, Craft and Barges and then by the purpose of the vessel, such
as assault, personnel, tank and rocket. Where there were special
features or the size was worthy of acknowledgement in the title, these were added in brackets, such as
(large), (small) or (ramped). Furthermore,
where variants or 'Marks' were produced, these were acknowledged by a figure in a bracket.
Thus names such as: Landing Craft Infantry (Large) or LCI (L); Landing Craft Mechanised, Mark III or LCM (3);
Landing Craft Flak or LCF; Landing Barge Kitchen or LBK; Landing Craft Assault
or LCA and Landing Ship Tank or LST emerged. Each vessel was followed by a
unique number for identification purposes.