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Royal Marines WWII Landing Craft Crews - Europe

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

Unit/ Formation: Landing Craft Units

Location: Great Britain

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1943

Date/s: July 1943

Of the hundreds of landing craft sent against the beaches of Normandy on D Day, at least two-thirds of the great fleet of L.C.A. that carried the assault waves of infantry to the beaches were manned by Marines, there were also Flotillas landing US Troops on Utah beaches, including RM crewed craft supporting the Rangers at Point de Hoc with fire support.

They negotiated the bristling obstacles, mines, stakes and other impedimenta with which the enemy defended the beaches with remarkable success and, generally speaking, comparatively light casualties, though many craft were blown up while retracting after landing their first waves.

Among the first men actually to set foot on the beaches on D-Day were the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units. Half of these were Marines of the R.M. Engineer Commando. They accomplished a difficult and dangerous job with great expedition, clearing the beaches for the later flights of landing craft.

Behind the L.C.A. came the " build-up " squadrons of small craft, all of which were Marine-manned. Many of these made the Channel crossing under their own steam, a perilous undertaking in such frail craft in the weather conditions which prevailed. For weeks, these craft, L.C.M., L.C.V. (P) and other types worked a ferry service off the beach in the worst possible weather and the utmost discomfort. [1]

Officers and crews for minor landing craft were initially drawn from the RN, after 1st April 1943 the recruitment policy changed in favour of the Royal Marines. Under these arrangements, marine officers did a preliminary 9 week course 6 at HMS Eastney and 3 weeks in craft at HMS Northney (Hayling Island). From there they were appointed to HMS Helder or HMS Effingham for 6 week courses in training with their crews. [2]

The first 4 weeks were essentially on naval aspects and the remaining 2 in working with units. During this phase, flotillas of small landing craft were formed and allocated to Combined Operations bases, where further training of formed flotillas was undertaken. Pending allocation to Force Commanders, formed flotillas could be attached to Combined Training Centres for work with units.

In July 1943 Royal Marines from the Mobile Naval Bases Defence Organization and other shore units were drafted into the pool to crew the expanding numbers of landing craft being gathered in England for the Normandy invasion.

By 1944, 500 Royal Marine officers and 12,500 Marines had become landing craft crew.

Men were trained at various bases around Great Britain;

In the spring of 1942 work began to establish a Combined Operations Landing Craft base in Shoreham, Sussex. In May 1942, the construction of 11 purpose-built embarkation hards to serve landing craft and ships that would support Commando operations on the European coast was ordered. These 11 were all constructed in the Portsmouth Command area (between Portland and Newhaven) and completed by July of that year.


The base at Shoreham was commissioned as an independent command with the ship's name LIZARD on October 7th 1942. The base provided training facilities for men of the Royal Marines and Royal Navy in seamanship and survival skills to prepare them for their hazardous duties as landing craft crews. Crews participated in regular exercises, usually up the coast to LIZARD's sister Landing Craft Base, HMS NEWT in Newhaven.

Landing Craft Assault (LCAs) going ashore from H.M.C.S. PRINCE HENRY during a D-Day training exercise

While LIZARD handled many hundreds of landing craft over its three years as an operational naval base the first units that can be traced as being attached to the base for training are the 902 & 803LCV(P) Flotillas, Royal Marines. Both were formed at Dartmouth in 1942, the 803rd arrived at Shoreham in 1943, having formed as the 434th LCA [Landing Craft Assault] Flotilla but becoming the 803 LCV(P) Flotilla when they reached Shoreham. They received new landing craft, transferred from the Royal Navy, collecting them from their berths in the Portslade Basin. This unit was to remain at Shoreham until the spring of 1944 when it moved to Hayling Island, Hampshire to prepare for D-Day operations. LCVPs had a crew of four, three Marines and one RN stoker; most flotillas of smaller landing craft were composed of 16 vessels.

By January 1944 the base was very busy with as many as 94 craft in residence; the base was now home to elements of Force “J” working up for the Normandy landing on Juno Beach: these included 3 of the 5 flotillas of "A" (L.C.V. (P)) Build Up Squadron, 802, 803 and 804 flotillas (the H.Q. and 800, 801, were at HMS NEWT at Newhaven). Also present were "D" (L.C.M.) Build Up Squadron, comprising of the 600th and 601st Build Up Flotillas and their H.Q. (these were later absorbed into “F” Build Up Squadron). Also present were the 707th (L.C.P. (L)) Assault Flotilla and the 35th Landing Barge (Supply and Repair) Flotilla.

The 600th & 601st Build Up Flotillas operated 16 L.C.M. each; the 802nd, 803rd & 804th Build Up Flotillas operated 16 L.C.V.(P) each; the 707th Assault Flotilla operated 12 L.C.P. (L); the 35th L. B. (Supply and Repair) Flotilla operated 19 specialist Landing barges - 6 L.B. (Engineering)., 10 L.B.(Oil). & 2 L.B.(Water), most detached to bases along the south coast.

[Royal Navy Research Archive - HMS Lizard]

HMS Cricket

‘HMS Cricket’ in Burseldon on the River Hamble was a training base for the flotilla of landing craft taking men, tanks and supplies across the channel from Warsash and Hamble.

HMS Cricket was commissioned on 15 July 1943. Initially it was a “Royal Marine Landing Craft Crew Training Base”. The base was later used to assemble troops and landing craft in the build-up to D-day. From 23 May 1944, during the final preparations for D-Day, the base was completely sealed.

Stan Blacker;

The local rector arrived in the camp and there was a parade. We all attended and knelt in the main road coming into the camp, the rector stood on a box and gave a short speech “God teach us not to show cowardice, God give us the strength to face the enemy” and the Lords Prayer.
“The whole unit was called to attention and formed columns, the CO took his place and we marched through the camp down to the river and to the Landing Craft and set sail for the Normandy beaches and D-day had begun.”

It was decided to close HMS Cricket after the end of the Second World War, a decision taken on 1 March 1946. The last arrivals were on 20 May 1946 and Cricket was probably decommissioned on 15 July 1946, three years after commissioning.

Its many buildings were subsequently used for temporary post-war accommodation for the civilian population of Southampton. Manor Farm Country Park now occupies this site.

[More on HMS Cricket Here; The Corn Poppy Blog]

814 HM Landing Craft Vehicle (Personnel) Flotilla, (814 LCV (P)), took part in the D-Day landings. Royal Marine, Roy Nelson, was on board LCV (P) 1155, one of 16 identical craft hoisted aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) for the journey across the English Channel to the beaches of Normandy. [3]

7 of the 16 craft in the flotilla were recorded as war losses and two Royal Marines from the flotilla were killed.

George Pargeter was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal). A rhino barge was being loaded with ammunition from a supply ship, when it received a direct hit and caught fire, putting the ship at great risk. George and his crew secured a line to the barge and towed it away from the side of the ship, averting a possible disaster - a selfless action that put the lives of George and his crew at great risk.

East of Utah beach was the formidable cliff face of Pointe du Hoc, atop which, intelligence sources believed, were heavy enemy guns. In the D-Day plan, Pointe du hoc was within the Omaha area but its heavy guns could range over incoming craft and troops making for both Omaha and Utah beaches. It was essential to silence these guns.

The task was assigned to the men of the US 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Colonel James Rudder. Royal Marine, John Lambourne was present serving with the LCS(M) (Landing Craft Support (Medium) 102 of 901 Flotilla. He and his crew were assigned to the troopship Prince Leopold, which carried the LCAs of the Royal Navy’s 504 Flotilla.

LCS(M) 102 was also present in support as LCAs carrying the Rangers made their way to the beach. Lambourne watched in awe as the Rangers attained the beach and began scaling the cliff by way of grappling hooks fired from their LCAs. The memory of the bravery he witnessed remained forever with him. [4]

LCS(M) 102 and 101 are listed as sunk 1.11.1944 probably as a part of Force T during Operation Infatuate.

The Landing Craft Support medium (LCS(M)). Armament for the medium support craft consisted of 2 x Vickers machine guns and 4 inch mortar firing smoke shells.

LCS(M) LC Support (Medium) These craft provided fire support and smoke cover for assault flotillas, and had been manned by seamen crews with a small RM detachment of gunners, until they were taken over by all– RM crews. The LCS(Medium), of which both Mark 2s and 3s were in action on 6 June 1944 off Normandy, with twin–.5 machine guns, a 4–in smoke mortar (later firing an HE bomb) and smoke generators. The following RM LCS(M) Flotillas have been identified: 901 and 903–6, and there is one reference to No. 902 as an RM Flotilla of 1945.

By 1945, personnel priorities had changed once more. Marines of landing craft flotillas were formed into two infantry brigades 116 & 117 to address the manpower shortage in ending the war in Germany.

Other references;

[5] RM Museum Major Landing Craft of WW2

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