LCS(L) gunboats

Discussion in 'War at Sea' started by Warlord, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

    Nemo

    Just had a look through this database - All UK, British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 searching for 1st Sep 1943 and there are some but none that fit the bill, e.g there are several Marines killed in Italy, (Canniguro, Cannizarro etc)

    TD
     
  2. nemo120

    nemo120 Member

    There is an IWM film reel about Combined Operations where a basic illustration of the LCS(L) mk1 appears at around the 3 minute mark, referenced as a Heavy Support Craft.
    The reel also mentions that the craft is still in construction and the film is dated 1941.
    Hopefully this link should work:

    IWM Film - Record

    Nemo
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2017
  3. gaz

    gaz Member

    hi, ive just joined this site and have found it has info on the lcs gunboats , my mothers partner of 30 years will be 95 next month and served on board the lcs 257 on the d day landings and had his medal from the french government " .
    im trying to get together a history type of picture for him and wondered if anyone has some good pictures of the lcs 257.and maybe a list of names that were on board with him !
    he struggles to talk about that day but has told me some parts and it must have been terrifying for all those young men . i am trying to get him to let me tell people how it was for him and as time goes by he seems to be warming to the idea,
    anyway , thanks for peoples effort in making all this available .
    gaz
     
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  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

    nemo120 likes this.
  5. Hi gaz,

    The last two images at the end of my above post here:
    LCS(L) gunboats

    are two rather low quality prints of the same photo of LCS(L)(2) 257, shot at the exact same spot as IWM FL 5827:
    [​IMG]
    LCS (L) 256. © IWM (FL 5827)
    IWM Non Commercial Licence

    so I suppose it is also available at the IWM, although not on their website. So I would suggest that you contact them about it.

    Michel
     
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  6. gaz

    gaz Member

    thanks michel.
    his health is fading and i just want to get this together for him before its too late,
     
  7. gaz

    gaz Member

    thankyou, i know he has lots of memories and some are horrific ,
    its such a shame as he had his medals stolen years ago and now all he has is this one from the french ,
    as i said " im trying to get his permission to tell people about his role on that day and who he is ect.
    i can say that he played a big role in spotting a german human torpedo early on that morning , it was submerged apart from the domed lookout part of it ,saving countless lives had it got to the bigger ships maybe , this german was shot by a marine on board and the torpedo sank .
    also under heavy fire one of the guns on the boat jammed and it was him that un jammed it as it could have exploded.
    i just hope he will let me tell people as this should be remembered , .
    thanks again
    gaz
     
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  8. nemo120

    nemo120 Member

    Hi gaz

    Recently I've been trying to find some info about the LCS(L) and their time in Normandy, as my great uncle was a Royal Marine Lewis Gunner aboard the LCS(L) and was killed during the infatuate raid on LCS(L) 256.
    In Kenneth Edwards "Operation Neptune" there is a whole chapter on the SSEF (Squadron Support Eastern Flank.) which the LCS(L) were part of. (Chapter XII "Holding the Eastern Flank")
    There actually happens to be an account in the book of an incident involving a torpedo, and I only just saw your posts but luckily the book arrived today! so I'll post the transcript and relevant parts involving the LCS(L) and some background to the formation of the SSEF.
    Sorry I had to type it as I can't scan the pages at the moment, which is something I'm working on.


    "By the third week in June 1944 the whole of the eastern coast of the Cotentin peninsula was in American hands and the capture of Cherboug could be regarded as imminent. There thus remained no threat to the western end of the anchorages off the Normandy beaches, although danger from seaward could not be considered as eliminated so long as U-boats and other vessels could use Brest. The eastern end of the anchorages off the beaches was, in contrast, still extremely vulnerable. The enemy was still in force in the Franceville-Houlgate area east the River Orne; the the anchorage and "Gooseberry" shelter harbours in the SWORD area was overlooked by Houlgate and other batteries; and the proximity of La Havre provided a persistent threat of sea attack. Moreover, intellgience had suggested that the Germans were likely to make use of unorthodox weapons such as midget submaines and one-man torpedoes. These they could only use against the eastern end of the anchorage...."

    "....The new force for the protection of the eastern end of the ancorage was called the "Support Squadron Eastern Flank". It was formed on 23 June, from the support squadrons of all three of the British Assault Forces. These were no longer required in areas farther to the westward as the army had by that time advanced out of the range of their guns. The SSEF it was called for short was formed under the command of Commander K.A. Sellar, RN. It had the dual role of protecting the eastern flank of the ancorage and of bombarding German forces east of the ORne. It consisted of 76 craft in addition to the HQ Ship HMS Locust. These craft were mostly LCG's (Landing craft Gun), LCF (landing craft flak), LCS's (Landing Craft, Support) and motor launches, and they were manned by a total of 240 officers and 3200 men.
    The story off the SSEF is one of great gallantry and of tremendous endurance and keenness over a long period of constant vigilance and activity of very real hardship. As Commander Sellar said in one of his reports: "The Squadron lived and had its being and operated in a heavily mined area, and were ultimately the only inhabitants of this rea, as all the other ships were removed as a result of enemy shelling and mining. Four major attacks were made by night by the enemy, using new weapons. Although losses were suffered, these attacks were decisively beaten."

    The book then describes how the LCG's and LCF's formed a "trout line" which was a line of patrols each night running 6 miles north of Ouistreham.

    "It was on the nights of 5-6 July and 7-8 July that the Germans launched their first attacks with human torpedoes. Their attacks came somewhat as a surprise and they succeeded in inflicting fairly heavy casualties. It was estimated that 27 of these weapons were launched on the night of 5-6 July; of these only four were destroyed for certain, and two British minesweepers were sunk.
    Two nights later on that of 7-8 July came the second attack. It was estimated that 31 human torpedoes were launched for this attack and that 12 of them were certainly destroyed with 3 "probables" and seven "possibles." Some of these losses were due to Fleet Air Arm Seafires and Spitfires of the Royal Air Force. Our losses through this agency on that night was one minesweeper sunk, while the old light-cruiser Dragon was hit and seriously damaged. THis cruiser had been turned over to the Polish Navy and was still serving under her old name......"



    ".....On 9 July came the first report of sighting a midget submarine as opposed to a human torpedo but these craft never proved a menace off the Normandy beaches.
    The so called "human torpedo" was known by the Germans as the "mother and baby". It consisted of two components. The upper component, which normally travelled awash at a speed of 5-6 knots was the shell of an old torpedo from which the bulkheads had been removed. In the centre of this upper component was a cockpit with a transparent perspex dome. The pilot of the craft sat in the cockpit, protected by the dome and controlling the entire weapon. In addition to joy-stick like control, he had an appliance which released the lower component and set it going under its own power. This lower component was, in its essentials and ordinary torpedo."

    The book then describes the use of decoys and "extraordinary looking objects sighted in the water!" and "dummy torpedo domes with the head and shoulders of a man painted inside. These were apparently dropped to confuse the defence and draw their fire while the real human torpedoes hoped to creep through the patrol lines."

    "one of the most dangerous of the German devices was a very long range circling torpedo. This weapon was about 8 feet long and rather less than 2 feet in diameter. It had a speed of between 6 and 9 knots and could travel at this speed for up to ten hours. Moreover, its mechanism could be adjusted so that after it had run straight for distance required to take it into the anchorage it would start to run in circles as if in search of a victim; and if it "ran down" without hitting a ship it became a very lethal form of mine...."


    "On the night of 2-3 August the Germans attacked with yet another unorthodox weapon. This was the explosive motor boat. At the time virtually nothing was known of these craft, but gradually a fairly comprehensive idea of their characteristics and capabilities was built up from observation, the interrogation of prisoners and from the gallantry of a Lieutenant RNVR who boarded one of them and was able to make a brief but invaluable inspection of the craft...... "

    Around the bow there was a trigger, and the boat detonated on contact with a ship whilst others had a delay fuse, sank and then exploded.
    "......The determined and concerted attack on 2-3 August did not come as a surprise. Nor thanks to intelligence was the German use of some form of explosive boats altogether unexpected....."
    ".....At two o'clock on the morning of 3 August the old light cruiser Durban, which had been scuttled to form the easternmost of the blockships forming the breakwater of No.5 Gooseberry shelter harbour, was torpedoed. About fifty minutes later the "Hunt" class destroyer Quorn, on patrol to the northward was torpedoed and later sank. Ten minutes later a LCG and a motor launch at the northern end of the "Trout line" engaged a human torpedo, but without definitive results. Nine minutes later at 3:10 AM HMS Duff was narrowly missed by a torpedo and at 3:25 AM the mine-sweeping trawler Gairsay was torpedoed and sank."

    More to come soon, sorry if not all of the information is relevant and that there is an awful lot, but I've posted most of the events related to the SSEF so hopefully nothing is missed.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
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  9. nemo120

    nemo120 Member

    Continuing from before :

    "Things were not going well. All this activity was taking place at the extreme northern limit of the "Trout Line" and was apparently due to human torpedoes. It seemed that these having failed to get through the "Trout Line" made their direct approach to the anchorage on their last attack, were this time trying to skirt the northern end of the "Trout Line" and so work round into the anchorage.
    At 3:50 AM however the picture suddenly changed, and it then appeared that the human torpedo attack to the northward was in the nature of a feint designed to cause gaps in the centre of the "Trout Line" or divert the attention of the ships in this line so that the main attack would have a better chance of breaking through into the anchorage.
    At 3:50 AM an aircraft dropped a red and green flare to the eastward of the "Trout Line." This was obviously a mark and the signal for the main attack to be launched. At 4 AM an explosive motor boat was sunk in the Trout Line by an LCG. This was the first appearance of one of these weapons. For the next two and a quarter hours successive waves of explosive motor boats attacked and tried to break through the Trout Line. As commander Sellar said in hist report : "A furious battle was waged. When the enemy retired he left 32 explosive motor boats certainty sunk, 2 probably sunk and 1 possibly sunk. The Trout Line had lost only one craft - LCG 764, which had sunk one explosive motor boat before being hit by two others. Any explosive motor boats that managed to penetrate the Trout Line were set on and destroyed by the motor launches". One group of these explosive motor boats tried to work round the northern end of the Trout Line but they were intercepted by HMS Gateshead and ML 185 and four were immediately sunk.
    Just after the attack with explosive motor boats developed, some E-Boats came into action with our light coastal forces to the eastward. This was apparently a diversion but it proved an expensive one for the Germans for without achieving anything they lost one E-boat sunk and a second seriously damaged. Our light coastal forces also probably destroyed one explosive motor boat to the eastward of the Trout Line. A group of four other motor torpedo boats which had been sheltering in the Gooseberry harbour were ordered out in support and they did magnificent work in sinking five human torpedoes and taking all five of their pilots prisoner. The human torpedoes held off during the main attack by explosive motor boats. Then, they started attacking, at 6:10 AM, and kept up their attacks until 7:30 AM - an action which cost the Germans 21 human torpedoes certainly destroyed, three probably destroyed, and a further 11 "possibles".
    The Germans had suffered a most discouraging and costly defeat, which must seriously have shaken their confidence in their new weapons. Commander Sellar reported on this action : "It is considered that the results of what is believed to be the first major attack on an anchorage with these weapons must be somewhat depressing to the enemy and reflects satisfactorily on the vigilance and efficiency of the defenders. It is true, however that we are becoming used to novel forms and shapes which behave in a whimsical, though dangerous, manner". The explosive motor boats were promptly christened "Weasels" by those who had destroyed so many of these viscous vermin. An interesting point came to light as a result of the interrogation of prisoners taken from these craft. The men who manned them had apparently been told that their main function was to act as rescue boats for the pilots of the human torpedoes but that they were to attack any ship if they saw one. Perhaps this was a bit of propaganda designed to induce them to try to get through the Trout Line. There were 3 attempts on that night to capture "samples" of the German weapons so that they could be examined in order to determine their weak points and help in the task of producing the best antidote to them. The "Hunt" class destroyer Blencathra captured a human torpedo intact but the self destruction charge blew it to pieces just as it was being hoisted on board. The other two attempts at capture were concerned with explosive motor boats, and both were characterised by great gallantry and devotion to duty."

    These attempts were by ML 131 and 146.

    ".... On the night of 9-10 August the Germans tried again. It was not so determined or so varied an attack but it cost the enemy an even higher percentage of loss. It was estimated that the Germans sent just over 30 explosive motor boats on this attack. Of these 29 were certaintly sunk while one probably was also claimed, and six prisoners were taken while there were no casualties to our forces. The Germans showed a very definite reluctance to face the fire of the craft on the Trout Line and had obviously not recovered from the hammering they had received a week earlier.
    On This occasion also the Germans failed to achieve surprise. It was a calm, fine night with a nearly full moon, and in the hours before the attack there had been some sporadic shelling of the No.5 Gooseberry harbour which had proved to be more of a nuisance than a menace. Shortly after 11:30 PM of that night a light was seen to the eastward of the Trout Line, and all craft were promptly warned to be "on their toes".
    The attack did not materialise until after 3:30 AM but then it led to about an hour and a half of furious activity. As an example of the this activity one cannot do better than quote the log of LCF 1, remembering that she was but one of many craft engaged. The log reads:
    03:35 - Weasel engaged and sunk by starboard after Oerlikon.
    03:45 - Weasel engaged and sunk by No 1 4-inch.
    04:00 - Weasel engaged and sunk No 2 4-inch.
    04:10 - Weasel damaged and sunk. Probably damaged by Oerlikon fire.
    04:35 - Weasel engaged by Oerlikon assisted by ML 195 and sunk.
    05:05 - Cease fire......"


    "... The report of Motor Torpedo boat 714 reads: "The first was sighted to starboard and engaged by gunfire at 3:49 and seen to blow up. The second was engaged to port and left on fire and well alight. The third was engaged to starboard and was seen to blow up after being on fire for a few seconds. The fourth was closed for some 3-4 minutes at full speed. This one set on fire and blew up. engagements lasted until 4:18. The ranges on firing varied between 50 and 200 yards. No survivors were picked up." In the whole of this attack only one explosive motor boat penetrated the Trout Line, and this one was promptly chased by a motor launch and suitably dealt with."

    "On only one occasion after 9 August did the enemy try to break through into the British Assault Area anchorages with his infernal machines. This was on the night of 18th August. The attack was on only a moderate scale and was somewhat half-hearted, although it caused some amusement because it was directed chiefly against the sunken block ships of the "Gooseberry" shelter harbour. In this attack the poor old French battleship Courbet was torpedoed yet again. She was one of the block ships in the breakwater of no 5 Gooseberry Harbour. Resting on the bottom she did not draw very much water than she would have done in full fighting trim and she used to fly an immense tricolour and a big Croix de Lorraine flag. The courbet seemed to become something of an obsession with the Germans. She was torpedoed, shelled and bombed but continued to remain what she was - a very efficient block ship. On 8 July after the first attack with human torpedoes the Germans triumphantly broadcast a claim that she had been seriously damaged and driven ashore with all her guns silenced! It must be admitted that the German illusion that the Courbet was a rich prize was deliberately fostered by the craft of the SSEF, which frequently carried out indirect bombardments of German positions form behind the Courbet and under cover of smoke so that the Germans might well have thought that it was the old french battleship which was causing them so much trouble. Smoke cover was very greatly used in the eastern flank area, because this was so closely overlooked by German batteries east of the River orne, most notably that at Houlgate. "

    The next part in the book may possibly be the event that your mothers partner recounts.
    Although in the book, the author refers to the LCS(L) as "Landing Craft Support Light" - this must be some sort of error as it should be "Landing Craft Support Large", and at first i thought that the author was trying to refer to the smaller LCS(M) - (Landing Craft Support Medium) or perhaps the lighter armed, smaller LCS(L) - the mk1 variant.
    However, as the author describes LCS(L)251 (A mk2) as a Landing Craft Support Light this must simply be an error and I think that this refers to LCS( Large) of both variants mk1 and mk2.


    "During the abortive attack on 18 August a complete human torpedo unit was captured and brought to the shore. This feat was completed by LCS(L) (Landing Craft Support Light) 251, Commanded by Sub-Lieutenant Dean, RNVR, in the face of considerable difficulty. The human torpedo was sighted at a quarter to seven in the morning at a range of 400 yards. The LCS at once altered course to close the human torpedo and opened fire but the enemy craft took violent avoiding action and was seen to submerge completely for short period. Sub- Lieutenant Dean therefore gave the order to cease fire, but he continued to close the human torpedo. When the LCS(L) was within 80 yardsof the human torpedo fire was opened with machine guns at the perspex dome. Although some shots ricocheted off this, others pierced the it and killed the pilot. Thereupon the human torpedo stopped. The first-Lieutenant and one seaman of LCS(L) 251 went away in the dinghy and went alongside the German contrivance - a ticklish business for they did not know whether or not it would explode at any moment. however, they succeeded in securing a tow line to the stern of the human torpedo and the LCS(L) began to tow it stern first.
    Ten minutes later it was observed that the human torpedo was apparently losing buoyancy and settling deeper in the water, and when LCS(L) 251 stopped her engines the German craft sank so that it was suspended below the stern of the LCS(L) by the two line. Fortunately this held. It was brought to the crafts winch and hove up so that the human torpedo broke surface stern first. With great difficulty and care the crew of the LCS(L) succeeded in passing wires round the body of the human torpedo and hove in on these until it rested half out of water, lying horizontally alongside the British Craft.
    This work had to be tackled carefully and gingerly observing that a very dangerous and lethal weapon was being dealt with and in the circumstances it is hardly surprising that the operation took four hours to complete. Moreover the whole operation had to be done under a smoke screen laid by another craft, for if the Germans manning the shore batteries had seen what was going on they would certainly have opened fire with every available gun to prevent the capture intact of one of their cherished "secret weapons." Even when the human torpedo was properly slung and secured LCS(L) 251 had to be towed to the anchorage by LCS(L) 260 for it was found that if LCS(L) 251 went ahead on her engines the human torpedo bumped heavily against her side - a singularly unpleasant sensation with a "live" torpedo!"

    Still more to come soon.
     
  10. nemo120

    nemo120 Member





    The following part of the book also describes LCS(L) as Landing Craft Support Light instead of Large, but most likely this is referring to the Landing Craft Support Large:

    "If more attention has been paid in this account to the defensive role of the craft of the SSEF than to their offensive work in bombarding the enemy positions on the flank of the British Assault Area it is because the former were more full of incident of a novel and exciting nature. Nevertheless, the bombardments carried out were of utmost value to the British troops and particularly to the Royal Marine Commando troops who were holding the Franceville area immediately to the east of the mouth of the River Orne.

    Day after day and week after week the craft of the SSEF carried out bombardments. These were of three distinct types. Every day two LCG's carried out harassing fire on the German positions and lines of communication in the Franceville area. There was always opposition to this fire, usually by 88m and 105mm anti-tank guns, although there was a certain amount of heavier shelling from the batteries to the eastward. Other LCGs carried out numerous indirect bombardments of enemy positions. These were do

    ne in response to a request for fire support from the troops ashore and were controlled by Forward Observation Officers, Bombardment attached to the military, who said on several occasions that they were of great value on the exposed eastern flank. Nearly all of these indirect bombardments were carried out under cover of smoke screens, and many of them fro behind the old french battleship blockship Courbet.

    In addition to these types of bombardment, the LCS's (Landing Craft support, Light) were almost continously engaged during daylight hours in "beating up" the coast between Franceville and Cabourg. This was perhaps the most dangerous form of bombarding carried out by the force for it entailed these little craft working close in off the enemy occupied coast and virtually under the guns of established coast defence batteries, and smoke frequently had to be resorted to. At one time or another all the craft engaged on this duty suffered casualties and damage, yet it is on record that the jobs were tackled with "considerable enthusiasm". Of the effect on the enemy of these bombardments by craft of the SSEF, there is no doubt. After the Franceville-Houlgate area had finally been occupied by our troops, German prisoners testified to its actuary and to its effect on German defensive arrangements. Among other things they admitted that these bombardments completely denied to them the one man road which formed their main line of communication with the forces holding the Franceville area.

    Of the success of the craft of the SSEF against the German infernal machines which tried to break through the anchorage of the British Assault Area there was forthcoming even more dramatic testimony after the country east of the Orne had been liberated. It was found that the German human torpedoes had been launched from a little village called Villers. A frenchwoman of that village stated that one one night the Germans had launched and sent out 93 human torpedoes and only 18 of that number had come back. The pilots of these 18 were, she said, extremely frightened and needed much brandy to restore them..."

    "By September 1944 Havre had fallen, as well as the nearer batteries overlooking SWORD area. No longer was there ever-present danger on that exposed flank from all the enemy could do with orthodox weapons and unorthodox "horrors". The SSEF was no longer needed in that area and on 11 September it left the troubled waters in which it had performed so tirelessly and so well since 24 June. It had levied a toll upon the enemy which had proved crippling to his plans with his new weapons, and it had rendered invaluable service to the military forces along the Orne flank. These things it had not done without loss to itself. It had lost four craft, 2 LCGs had been mined and sunk. One LCG had been sunk by an explosive motor boat and once LCF had been torpedoed and sunk. A great many other craft had suffered damage. The cost in personnel had been 8 officers nad 57 men killed or missing and 3 officers and 112 men wounded."
     
  11. gaz

    gaz Member

    fantastic info , , thankyou.
    i have some of this and the rest has filled in some gaps but i need to get my facts tidied up ,
    whats so frustrating is there seems to be nothing or next to nothing of lcs 257 .on that day but im aware that records were lost or destroyed , it could be that his account may be the only one left .
    i am going to see him this week and show him what you have sent and hope he starts to open up a little more ,
    when he opens up "its every now and then and very short as he gets upset " from what i can make out from my mother is that he lost a close friend on board that day ..
    his mind is still very sharp for a 95 year old with no mental health issues .
    anyway , thanks everyone and im a bit further in my quest to give him something about that day and the role he played " something to hang on his wall ..
    i only found out recently about the theft of his medals
    , nothing fantastic but meant the world to him , he did report it and i am going to this local police station to see if they still have record of it as it was over 15 years ago " ive been told that there may be a way to get new medals for him , does anyone know if ive been told right regarding this ?
    gaz
     
  12. nemo120

    nemo120 Member

    Hi gaz

    Regarding the stolen medals I think this link should help:
    Apply for a veterans badge or a medal: Replace a badge or medal - GOV.UK
    Any of his experiences would be very valuable if he feels able to open up, there isn't allot of information relating to the LCS(L) in Normandy so you are right, his account could be one of very few left. So far in my research I have found a few accounts of the walcheren raid in November 1944 belonging to crew members of different craft variants in the SSEF but nothing of an LCS(L) crew member from any point during the war.
    Nemo
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
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  13. gaz

    gaz Member

    hi and thanks .
    i will tell him about the fact there may not be any account from crew of the lcs gunboats and he may be the only person on the lcs gunboats left to let people know what that day was like for them.
    its strange and sad really as they were right at the front of it all , it must have been terrifying
    when he applied for his medal from the french he listed his role that day as .!.

    ESCORTING LEADING INVASION FORCES.
    WHEN NEAR BEACH TO BOMBARD DESIGNATED TARGET.
    AFTERWARDS POLICING CONVOY.
    this is all he put on the form in 2015 .

    could there be a list that survives of the crew members names ?

    thanks again .
    have a good day

    gaz
     
  14. gaz

    gaz Member

    hi everyone .
    i must apologise for an error , my mothers partner was on the lcs 251 and not the 257 ,
    he was involved in the capture of the human torpedo and was one of the crew that spotted it.
    i spoke with him yesterday and he has given me permission to give his name ect .
    his name is frederick ronald chapman .
    he was a coxswian on the lcs 251 on d day .
    he said he steered the boat and said it was very noisey and he still doesnt think anyone would want to hear his storey on that day " which is a shame as he was only a young 21 year old and so very very brave ,
    he has very old fashioned handwriting and i thought the 1 was a 7 .
    he is going to start to write down what he can about that day , im so glad he is going to do this as it may help put some ghosts to sleep for him .
    he has told me that the lcs was the first one made and him and the crew were told to go to westminster bridge befor d day " where lord mountbatten came aboard to inspect it as he was very proud of these new boats .
    i am trying to see if he can give dates ect
     
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