On Monday 28th September 2015, D-Day veterans and members of the press were welcomed into a ship hall at HM Naval Base in Portsmouth for an opportunity to see the LCT 7074, the last tank-carrying Second World War landing craft in the UK and one of the last in the world.
The LCT 7074, herself a veteran of the D-Day landings campaign, was raised from Liverpool Docks last year, in 2014, by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, before being transported by sea to Portsmouth Naval Base.
The visit on Monday 28th September was perhaps the final chance to see the vessel before the National Museum of the Royal Navy embark on an assessment of her conservation needs.
Her transportation to Portsmouth’s Naval Base was made possible through a £916,149 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund — a contribution which has helped to save a priceless example of Second World War and naval heritage.
More than 800 LCT craft took part in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6th June 1944. Each of the vessels is capable of carrying ten tanks or other heavy armoured vehicles into battle.
Operation Neptune was the naval dimension of Overlord: the largest amphibious operation in history, which saw more than 7,000 ships and craft of all sizes landing over 160,000 soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. Of this fleet, fewer than ten are believed to survive, the 7074 included.
“We’re standing in front of LCT 7074,” Director of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Dominic Tweddle, told Team Locals, “and she looks like nothing on God’s earth — she’s really very ugly, and looks dreadful!
“But [she] played a hugely important role in D-Day. These were the ships that brought the tanks ashore. She landed nine tanks on D-Day, plus supporting equipment, and from then on was supporting landings both in the British sector and in the American sector.
“Without these rather ugly ships, D-Day would never have been delivered successfully. She’s the last of her type. Of the 800 of these, she is the only survivor.
“I think people will want to see it because the D-Day story is so resonant still. It’s an incredible story of bravery and daring and sheer cheek and luck.”
When we asked Dominic about where and how the vessel will be put on display, he explained: “She’s big, and she’s heavy, and therefore them are some technical problems — opportunities, perhaps you should say! — about what we can do with her. But our preferred solution is that she goes on show at the D-Day Museum because that museum tells the big story and it would be great to have this veteran of D-Day alongside the museum for visitors to see.”
Team Locals also spoke to a D-Day veteran by the name of John, himself from Portsmouth, who said: “I think the younger people of today [have] got to know what happened all those years ago, and when they see craft like this they realise what it was like to go across the channel in one of these and land on the beach under fire.”