• Si Biggs

Cpl George Tandy - Gold Beach - 'The Human Rudder'


Corporal George Ernest Tandy Ch. X 110723 was 19 years old when as a crewman on LCA 786 he swung down from the davits of Landing Ship Infantry (Large) (LSI(L)) Empire Halberd to load infantry destined for Gold Beach during Operation Neptune, the naval and amphibious assault phase of Operation Overlord on the 6th June 1944.


His LCA was one of 18 on LSI(L) HMS Empire Halberd of 539 Assault Flotilla which consisted of

LCA's 282, 350, 358, 367, 393, 502, 510, 543, 591, 786, 907, 909, 1112, 1136, 1153, 1154, 1155, 1156


As the LCA was being handled on or under the 'falls' the davit hook fouled and damaged the helm, and so the LCA had no way of steering via the coxswains position.


Cpl Tandy hung himself over the stern and immersing his feet into the cold water he used his left foot to operate the port rudder as throttle commands were managed from the small cockpit, he did this for the 7 mile run into Gold beach and the return leg back to the LSI.


For his actions that day he was awarded the DSM, and in 1984 he was an honoured guest when 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines was formed, the name chosen to remember his gallant actions and those of RM Landing Craft crews from the Second World War.



Below is an account for the BBC's WW2 People's War by George Tandy's son [1]


Landing on Gold Beach by Kevin Tandy


My late father, Cpl. George Tandy RM on D-Day, was Coxswain of LCA 786, 539 Assault Flotilla.

When his boat was being launched the steering wheel was accidentally torn off. Knowing the importance of getting his troops ashore, he climbed over the stern of his craft and steered the boat in rough seas to Gold Beach by pushing the rudder with his boot and instructing his mate on the use of the throttle, arriving only seconds late.


Corporal C E Tandy, RM, with members of the crew who took part in the perilous trip. Holding the steering wheel and parts torn from the landing craft are, left to right: Marine C Poyntz, of Thorton Heath, London; Corporal G E Tandy, RM, of Charlton, London; Marine T Mair, of Stranraer; and Marine K Nightingale, of Malden, Bedfordshire.

When he returned for more troops he was ordered back onboard SS Empire Halberd to warm up. He told me that he was so cold that the tepid water they put him in felt scalding.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts and was also told that he would be awarded the Croix de Guerre 2nd class by the French, although this was never received by him.


Corporal C E Tandy, RM, in the position he took up as the LCA left for the beach. © IWM A 24146

Later on he was greatly flattered by being guest of honour at the inauguration of the new 539 Assault Squadron recognised as being a missing asset after the Falklands conflict.

When Dad passed away after a long gruelling illness he was cremated locally, but we were requested to take his ashes to Stonehouse barracks in Plymouth. We were taken out on a modern day LCA, then transferred onto a LCT(?) (probably LCU) where the RM Padre said a few words over Dad's ashes and we then put Dad back to the place where he always said he should be at the end of his days.

17,500 Royal Marines took part in the invasion of Normandy, 2/3 of all LCA's were manned by Royal Marines. Explore more here www.RoyalMarinesHistory.com

Below is an account for the BBC's WW2 People's War by 19 year old Marine E Williams, PLY/X107182, 539 Flotilla, on L.C.A.602 [2]


D-Day: Preparations and Landings: A Royal Marine on an LSI


I was a young lad of nineteen years when I left my reserved occupation at the local steelworks to join the Royal Marines. After initial training and various jobs we ended up on a R.N.A.S. base at Donibristle near the Forth Bridge in Scotland from where we were given a 10 week crash course on diesel and petrol engines whilst another group did seamanship.it was a very basic holiday camp.


After that we started training in real earnest, we were allocated LCA's with a 3 man crew. stoker, deckhand and coxswain. I was a stoker, later known as a motorman. I had a very small engine room with 2 Ford V8 engines and a small hatch with a door to the troops quarters. We were based on LSI's. The smallest I was on was the Maid of Orleans, a cross channel paddle steamer. It carried 6 L.C.A's. It had beautiful cabins and a merchant crew.The cook was nearly 7 feet tall and after our first meal. roast beef with all the trimmings and apple pie he arrived on the mess deck very upset because we hadn't asked for seconds, so although we were all full we had to have more pie.


We were on exercises all the time and were always cold and wet.We left the Maid after 4 weeks and went aboard a brand new larger ship The Empire Halberd straight from America.It carried 18 landing craft and 1000 troops.

Landing Craft Assault returning to the EMPIRE HALBERD (LSI) after landing their troops on to the beaches during pre-invasion fleet exercises in the English Channel, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight area. Photo Credit - Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Official Photographer. IWM A23103).


We had a good merchant crew but they were a bit militant, when we went on an exercise, if we could not get back to the ship before 5.00pm due to bad weather etc. they would not pick our craft out of the water because they were not paid overtime, so we spent a few miserable nights ashore in schoolrooms or village halls with no food laid on.


Christmas morning 1943 at Invergordon we had to look for a craft that had broken loose during the night. We set off with just our crew and an officer. It was a nice morning, very cold and bright, when we found the craft several miles away.The officer took our deckhand to help him man the craft and left me and the coxswain to return against the tide. The sea cut up rough and we started to get swamped. I opened my bulkhead door and what a sight met my eyes, the corporal had taken his trousers and underpants off and was furiously bailing out. I had to laugh but we were in great danger.He said it was warmer without pants as they were wet through. I helped all I could to bail out and we managed to get back to our ship. We just hooked up ready to be pulled out of the water when our petrol ran out. we had our Christmas 3 hours late, with an extra tot of rum.


One day we set sail for another exercise and we thought we were going a long way.Eventually we sailed into Southampton and embarked our troops, all geordies, plus a pile of bicycles. We did not guess it was the real thing until we anchored near the Isle of Wight and the ship was sealed, then the troops started playing cards with French money.


We were delayed 24 hours but eventually set sail on the night of 5th June. We were briefed on where we were to land, we were Force G and were to land on Gold beach, King,Red. We assembled 2/3rds of the way across the channel and after breakfast at 3.30 am we loaded our troops and were lowered away in pitch darkness. One of the craft got the davit hook caught in his steering, so one of the crew, Corporal Tandy, steered the craft with one leg on either side of the rudder, this feat earned him the nickname 'the human rudder'.

Troops from 47 Royal Marine Commando disembarking from LCA 431 at Jig Green Sector on Gold beach landing from six LCAs of 508 Assault Flotilla and eight LCAs of 502 Assault Flotilla.

We were travelling to the beach for what seemed a lifetime, I kept looking out but it was dark and very rough. After a while there was a terrific noise, every ship in the ocean opened fire at once, it was about 5.30 am. Every time a shell went over us, the craft lifted up, I got a running commentary from the coxswain via the voice-pipe. The huge battleships such as Warspite and Ramillies had some powerful guns.


All the troops were suffering from seasickness and itching for dry land and to be rid of our bucking craft. We landed on our beach around 7.30am. We had our rifles and fighting order in case we got stuck on the beach but we managed to get off O.K and headed for the troopships to load up with more men and then back to the beach. We got a great cheer from the big ships crews when we passed them going back to our ship, it made our day. We buried a number of dead at sea on our way back to Southampton to load up with reinforcements and American troops and made several more trips to the beaches before getting blown up by a mine off Lands End in early July.


I came home on leave in July 1944 and got married on the 22nd so it is also our Golden, our honeymoon was cut short when I had to sail to America and the Pacific with Admiral Nimitz 7th Fleet. Despite my years at sea I still cannot swim a stroke.


More related 'Dits' here;

539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines - A Genesis by Ewen Southby-Tailyour

539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines

The LCA (Landing Craft Assault) - Norway to Aden


WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar


[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/72/a2844272.shtml

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/97/a2431397.shtml


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