~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

WW2 land, sea and air forces of the Allied Nations planning, training and operating together as a unified force on amphibious raids and landings against the enemy.

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Hundreds of thousands of visits each year to 200  web pages & 4000 photos. The Website has been published & hosted by Geoff Slee since 2000.

Support the restoration of LCT 7074 to her former wartime glory and read of the role of landing craft in  40 D-Day Stories.   

~ LANDING CRAFT VEHICLE (PERSONNEL) 1228 ~

805 Build Up Flotilla

Background

LCV(P) 1228, (Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel), was a small flat bottomed vessel, whose primary function in WW2 was to deliver a few armed vehicles or 30+ fully armed troops onto unimproved, enemy held beaches. There were many hundreds of these craft involved in Operation Neptune, the amphibious phase of Operation Overlord.

This is an account of the short life and brutal end of LCV(P) 1228 and her crew.

[Photo; A Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel). IWM (A 24664).]

LCV(P) 1228 was built in the closing months of 1943 at one of hundreds of small boatyards around Britain's coastline. She was received by the navy in February 1944 and taken into service with the newly formed 805 Flotilla, working out of Itchener in Chichester harbour.

After several months of intensive training, including full scale exercises in the English Channel, 805 Flotilla, then comprising sixteen craft, joined four other similar flotillas collectively known as B Squadron. In May, 1944, as D-Day approached, they moved to their operational base at Exbury on the Beaulieu River. There, they undertook a couple of weeks 'shaking down' exercises, after which the Squadron sailed into the Solent to join the great Armada at 22.00 hrs on June 5th.

LCV(P) 1228's crew comprised 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 and up to11.5 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 and was powered by a 235 bhp diesel engine with a range of 102 miles. Its armament comprised 2 x .303 calibre Lewis machine guns.

[An extract from the Admiralty's 'Green List' showing the disposition of the 805 Build Up Flotilla.]

Unlike many other similar sized assault craft, such as the Landing Craft Assault (LCA), LCV(P)s were not transported to the landing beaches on mother ships. They made their own way under their own power. The distance to be covered from the Beaulieu River to Le Hamel in Normandy was around 90 nautical miles. With a  top speed of 9 knots, transporting 36 fully armed troops across that distance was untenable, particularly in rough conditions. The planners decided instead, that each craft would carry 100 (200?) five gallon jerry cans of petrol to supply the tanks and lorries in support of the advancing troops.

Channel Crossing

For a while, the Flotilla ran an easterly course through the darkness of the Solent, making 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 and headed south towards Normandy. By this time, paratroops and the seaborne initial assault troops were well on their way to Normandy.

Any anxiety or trepidation the 3 man crew of LCV(P) 1228 felt soon gave way to the more pressing concern of survival. As they headed out into the open sea, cross currents and force 4/5 south westerly winds created troubled waters of short, sharp waves. They caused the flat bottomed craft to slip and slide 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 swept over the boat from stem to stern. There was no cover for the crew.

It was a long night fighting the elements to stay afloat. The crew of 3 were soaking wet and chilled to the bone but the continuous roar of unseen Allied aircraft overhead provided some comfort to them. They were particularly vulnerable to squirts of incendiary cannon shells from the Luftwaffe, because of their their highly volatile cargo. The very thought induced a stomach churning fear.

After about 9 hours, they arrived off Gold beach in line with the plan. On the run in, they passed battleships, cruisers and destroyers firing salvos to predetermined targets on and around the landing beaches while, inshore, rocket and flak ships joined the melee. The LCV(P)s continued on their approach to Jig Sector of Gold Beach. It was a scene of utter chaos.

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 a serious liability on the beach - stuck fast on a falling tide. Quickly unloading and being summarily dismissed by an overworked beach master, who invited them to "Get off my bloody beach!", 1228 kedged off and headed for open water.

Standing a few miles offshore were half a dozen Empire Class liberty ships, loaded to the gunwales with thousands of troops. The High Command, anxious to get the men ashore, ordered the LCVPs to assist in this. 1288 drew alongside one of the troop ships as the coxswain frantically tried to prevent his craft from smashing into the ship's side. The swell was lifting and dropping the craft 20 to 30 feet every few seconds.

[Photo; Lieutenant Commander J C Haans Hamilton, RNVR, and Major Clayton, Royal Engineers, studying one of the obstacles with attached mines at low tides. IWM (A 23991).]

Fully armed troops proceeded to climb down the scrambling nets over the side of the troop carrying ship, many suffering injuries as they tried to embark the heaving landing craft. Wet through and in many cases violently sick, the troops then endured a horrendously uncomfortable 3 mile journey to the landing beach. Throughout the afternoon and evening, the surviving craft of 805 Flotilla maintained a continuous shuttle service from ship to shore. Only the onset of darkness brought the frantic day to an end.

1228 and the other surviving craft of 805 Squadron dropped anchor or tied up alongside the larger craft and tried to rest, while they 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! It must have been a formidable, intimidating sight for Luftwaffe fighter/bomber pilots, as they risked all to bomb and strafe the beachheads and shipping.

The craft of 805 Flotilla opted to spend the hours of darkness clustered around HMS Bulolo, like chicks around the mother hen. Bulolo was the HQ ship for the Gold Beach assault and, as such, carried more than her fair share of senior officers from the 3 services and executive personnel. It was not unreasonable to take some comfort from the thousands of targets available to the incoming Luftwaffe pilots, who employed hit and run tactics. With an ear splitting roar, several Messershmitts streaked across the anchorage. A lethal cocktail of high explosives, anti-personnel (AP) and phosphorous bombs, smacked hard into Bulolo with devastating effect. Shards of red hot metal ricocheted off the ship, while AP bombs hurtled towards the landing craft creating havoc.

Under the flickering light from the ships on fire and some emergency lighting, the stern of 1228 was seen to rear out of the turbulent water, its brilliant capital "G" pointing skywards, while the heavy steel landing ramps forced its 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, having subsequently survived the arduous Channel crossing, having safely delivered their volatile cans of petrol and countless troops and supplies to the landing beaches, the smashed and battered hulk of 1228 was, unceremoniously, towed away. She was beached to join hundreds of other small landing craft in 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 LCV(P) 1228, the losses were of a different magnitude. Two of the three crew were killed. Throughout naval history, the role of large naval vessels in battle has been well documented but there are countless untold stories of the thousands of little ships of many types, which remain to be told. The LCV(P) Flotillas were, arguably, the smallest craft to make the 90 mile passage to Normandy under their own power. Their valuable contribution to the greatest amphibious invasion force in history deserves to be remembered.

Survivor, Robert Purdom, did not escape the bombing raid unscathed. He lost his sight in one eye and sustained a shrapnel wound to his shoulder. He was transferred to a hospital ship and later back home to the UK for further care. Like many who witnessed the unimaginable in war, he never talked much about his experiences, although the painful memories would no doubt be difficult to expunge. 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.
 

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