Run-In Shoot by RA in Overlord Assault

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by CommanderChuff, Jul 15, 2009.

  1. Welcome to the forum Phil!

    In addition to this thread you may want to read, if not done already, the superb SWORD thread by Mike which will give you the big picture:

    LCT 859 sustained a fatal casualty on D Day:
    LCT.859, Normandy invasion, operation Overlord
    STAFFORD, Robert S, Petty Officer Motor Mechanic, C/MX 116403, DOW

    Her Commanding Officer was Tempy. Lt. W. E. BROWN R.N.V.R.

    The Admiralty War Diary for 15 June 1944 states that she has "been returned to U.K. for repair", which must have been successful as she is not recorded as having been lost.

  2. woody59

    woody59 Member

    I think it was actually LCT 859 this was the Penant number

  3. Phil Mills

    Phil Mills New Member

    hi Michel, thanks for that further info, I was aware of the fatality. Bob Stafford was my granddads best friend on board 859. He was devastated when he died. The story, as handed down to me, was that the LCT landed relatively unscathed, disembarked all personnel, vehicles, and equipment, but hit a mine when backing off the beach. Petty Officer Stafford had his upper body through the engine room hatch talking to my granddad who was at the helm when they hit the mine. The blast knocked out the engine, steering and blew a hole in the engine room floor and caused terrible injuries to the engineer's lower body. He lived for a few minutes before dying in Stan's arms. Until finding this thread, however, I didn't know which beach he landed on.

    I didn't know the skipper's name either, so thank you very much for that gem. I'd like to track down the rest of the crew.

    Re LCT 859. If the boat was salvaged and repaired in England. When and where was that photo taken of the beached and broken backed 859 in your note above ? That's quite intriguing.

    Also, are we certain that the story of LCT 331 and the 9th Irish Field Battery is actually the story of LCT 859 (mistaken identity due to Landing Table Index Number) ? If so, that's a great spot by you Michel, and means that the magnificent David Rowland's painting, recording this historic event has an error in it. Not an error that RA may be bothered by, but a misidentification of the naval vessel involved. And one of great interest to me.

    There was an LCT331 commissioned and in service at this time. Was it at D-day and at Sword Beach ? Could it have been carrying the RA in question ? Is there an embarkation record anywhere ? Do the Naval War Diaries hold such information ?

    Small detail to some, but important for me in research my granddad's experiences. To know for sure which units he was ferrying across the channel would be good to confirm.

    Cheers again
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I'll be in Normandy but I don't think will get close to Sword beach. The YOs branch will be there.,

    There are going to be two RA ceremonies. At the Hermanville 3rd Div Arty memorial on the 5th and at Ver Sur Mer 50th Div Arty memorial on the 7th.
  5. Phil,

    Thank you for the account of Bob Stafford's demise. This must have been a terrible ordeal for your grandfather to go through.

    No location was given for the photo of 859 with her back broken on the beach, but the absence of other craft or ships, or even blockships, in the background except the two MT ships, probably means it was shot at some beach in the UK where she would have been beached awaiting repairs. This was customray because of the crowded conditions of the ports before and after the invasion. No harbour master wanted any ailing landing craft into his realm, especially one in danger of sinking.

    The film clip does not show any evidence of a broken back, on the contrary she sits quite straight on the sand, so we may assume this happened during the towing back to the UK.

    Yes, I'm afraid we are certain that what is called LCT 331 is actually LCT 859. It is very frequent that Army personnel remember the LTIN but not the craft hull number, because the LTIN was the only number they were given, and the only one to appear in their paperwork (embarkation papers, operation orders, loading tables etc.). So it was quite natural that Army personnel would refer to their craft using the LTIN, whereas the Navy, of course, would use the hull number. The Army at the time usually knew very well that they were not talking about the hull number, so it was not necessary, although still often done, to add the word "Serial" or "loading number" when mentioning "LCT 331" for example, but other people were not always aware of that, hence the frequent confusion.

    There were actually two LCT hull number 331 in service at the time, and both were present on D Day: one was a Mark III LCT, whereas all LCT which carried the three Field Regiments of 3 British Infantry Division to SWORD Area were Mark IVs. As a matter of fact LCT(3) 331 had been converted into an LCT( R ) by D Day, so could not have carried any armoured vehicle at all! As for the other existing LCT 331, a US built Mark V, she was also in Normandy on D Day under the White Ensign but at OMAHA and renamed LCT 2331 with a '2' added to her original number like all LCT V in British service.

    To get an idea of LCT 859's load on D Day, you may refer to the Landing Table First Tide here:
    bearing in mind that this does not always give the actual loading on D Day. In this particular case, it appears that LCT 859 (331) was carrying 'A' Troop, not 'F' Troop as listed in the Landing Table, from various accounts including this one:
    Otherwise the planned loading was virtually identical for all six LCT carrying 7 Fd Regt.

    The War Diary of 7 Fd Regt RA might include more up to date loading data in its Appendices, but most of theses were usually destroyed or lost after the event.

    So it does look like Roger's (woody59) father was on board your grandfather's craft on D Day.

    Finally, the actual full name of 859's Commanding Officer appears to be Temporary Lieutenant William Chalmers BROWN R.N.V.R., seniority 7 Aug 43. The initials "W.E." I read in a document must have been a typing mistake.

  6. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    Obviously SP Bofors did not belong to Fd Regts. Only tracked vehicles were allowed over the beaches for the first 8 hours, the obvious concern was wheeled vehicles getting bogged and blocking the beach exits. The Priests (not sure about the Sextons) towed a Porpoise sledge carrying additional ammo. The Priests were only ever a temporary measure until sufficient Sextons were built although a few lingered on for the duration, but in non-divisional regts. UK did no produce 105mm ammo and it was an unnecessary logistic complication for divisional artillery.

    Obviously the run-in fire plan was not an accurate affair, merely 'beach drenching fire'. Firing stopped when the guns were about 1000-2000 yards offshore and their landing craft went out to sea again so that in the actual landing the guns were an hour or so after the infantry. The Coventry clock basically enabled the guns to reduce range in a controlled manner as they approached the beaches. Interestingly the Canadians referred to it as the 'Vickers Clock'.

    I'm not sure the OP identification of guns is correct, for example the RCA History refers to 19 Regt RCA as firing 105mm shells. It also refers to Priests in 14 Fd Regt RCA in the beachhead. Furthermore it also refers to all four regts assigned to 3 Cdn Div as converting to M-7s (ie Priests) in October/November 1943. This makes sense from a training point of view, and the fact that Sextons didn't become available until mid 44 or thereabouts. I've always understood that all the SP regts at D-Day had Priests, and most converted to Sexton in about July.
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    There was a logic to the temporary issue of Priests. The British army envisaged Sextons being used to support armoured formations, specifically for the Field Artillery Regiments in direct support of the Armoured Brigades in the Armoured Divisions, with some spare under Army control.

    The RA had no plans for the field artillery of infantry divisions to be equipped with SP guns.. These were always to be re-issued with towed 25 pdr eqpt at the end of the lodgement phase As you say, the only reason the Assault divisions were equipped with SP guns was to provide fire support on D Day itself. The RA had mixed views over the merits of SP guns, coloured by the experience of the Birch gun and exposure to a range of less than mechanically reliable British AFVs. Even in the 1980s RSA taught that the advantage of a towed gun was that another prime mover could tow into action if it broke down.

    The fire plan template for supporting an assault brigade with SP guns mounted on LCT was developed in early 1943 using M7 Priests, the only SP field gun available at this time. Having obtained the Priests from the USA Lease Lend and trained nine regiments of field artillery to use them it made sense to keep them.

    I don't think that 19 RCA were equipped with Priests either. my nots have them as equipped with Sexton as the "Corps " level SP unit or originally established as the SP artillery Regiment to support 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. This may have arisen from a change of mind about whether each Armoured Brigade should have its own integral SP Artillery Regiment as had evolved from North Africa, or whether they ,were more like Tank brigades assigned to a formation for a specific operation and worked with the tactical parties of whichever AGRA unit was temporarily assigned to the, The war diaries of 4 RHA contain some indignant whinging about the injustice of their treatment. How as a Regular RHA Regiment they were being unjustly treated by being equipped with towed guns and denied a permanent affiliation to "Their " 4th Armoured Brigade, which they had belonged ot in North Africa. This is a perennial tussle about whether Gunner regiments belong with the supported arm or centralised Its still under way with the plans for the next bout of musical chairs around Salisbury plain with the PFI contractors the only real winners.
  8. The Landing Tables for JUNO do list all of 12, 13, 14 and 19 Fd Regts SP RCA as being equipped with M7, just like the Regts on SWORD. However, being dated April 1944, changes might have occured prior to D Day.

    On the other hand, 90 and 147 Fd Regts SP RA on GOLD are given as equipped with 25 pdr SP and 86 Fd Regt with 25 Pdr SP (RAM).

  9. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    19 Fd Regt RCA was an Army Fd Regt assigned to 3 Cdn Div for D-Day. It had M7 on D-Day and still had them on 8 May 1945, as did 11 Fd Regt RCA, the other army fd regt. This is from the regimental history 'The Gunners of Canada' Vol 2 by Col GWL Nicholson, I suggest familiarisation with this excellent work, the maps are also excellent and the RA history could learn from it (but Vol 2 is 760 pages).

    As I quoted in my previous post, the Cdn regts converted from towed 25-pr to M7 in Oct/Nov 43, I suspect the UK regts did likewise - there were significant differences in manning and the change from towed to SP was not a trivial matter, IIRC from the file in TNA the Sextons didn't start reaching UK until May 44. The Landing Tables are probably wrong, from a loading point of view the difference between M7 and Sexton was academic.

    Actually the reason for SPs on D-Day was not fire support per se, it was the unambiguous policy of 'tracked vehicles only' during the landings, the concern was getting off the beaches and the very real possibility of wheeled vehicles bogging and blocking the exits.
  10. The Landing Tables seem to have been correct on all counts on this particular point, as photographic and other evidence suggests:

    86 Fd Regt RA:

    90 Fd Regt RA (for the description, because the film on this page has nothing to do with it!):

    147 Fd Regt RA:

    Here's an interview which mentions the "re- equipment with Sextons at Brandon" prior to the Invasion (Reel 1 from 23:20) and describes the Run-In Shoot (from 23:50):

  11. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Do you have any further details about the RA ceremony on June 5 at the Hermanville 3rd Division RA memorial - what time will it start?
  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Can you watch the films on the IWM website? Do I need a certain software?


  13. Only some of the films are viewable online. If you get a box with the IWM logo, it is not. Otherwise you need Adobe FlashPlayer enabled in your browser. For me it works in Firefox, but not in IE (probably because I'm using an old version). If FlashPlayer is not enabled, all you'll get is a black box :(.

  14. guppy

    guppy Member

    Gentlemen, numérisation0065.jpg numérisation0066.jpg numérisation0067.jpg I have just found this website and read with interest the various messages regarding the Run in shoot on the morning of 6 th June . My father Capt Harry Wood was a battery commander E Troop 465 Bty 90th Field regiment and often spoke of them firing their guns on the run in shoot to Gold Beach. I have attached a part of the original map he used to range the guns on the run in ( this same map can be seen in the museum at Arromanches) . Also attached three pages of the War Diary giving a brief description of the movements during the critical 6th and 7th of june with the corresponding map references that can be followed on the map. I trust that these are of interest and hope that the thumbnails are readable.
    All the best

    Attached Files:

    CL1 likes this.
  15. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Guppy welcome and thank you for posting
  16. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    The first report by 2 ORS after landing was into the effectiveness of the RM Artillery on DDay. The short answer was 'not very'. They were so chaotic Centaurs were landed on the wrong beaches and some went back to UK on their landing craft! They weren't helped by suffering significant losses to their observation officers.

    Re previous post, to be pedantic 'ranging' was not undertaken in the run-in fireplan. Ranging from a moving platform was well beyond the technology of the time! At that time 'ranging' is what became 'adjustment' in 1965 with the introduction of ABCA procedures. In effect the guns were using map shooting (ie predicted fire in post 1965 terms) at a continuously changing range. It may sound the same to those with a sparse knowledge of gunnery but is actually very different.
  17. guppy

    guppy Member

    Thank you for the correction and clarification on my use of "ranging" which was my "laymans" assumption! I may also have over-promoted my father .. he was most probably a troop commander...certainly not a battery commander ...however I do remember the conversation of roughly thirty years ago when he described the run in shoot to gold beach from the landing craft as being " not very easy in the choppy seas"
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Just a little.... ;)

    One aspect of the artillery techniques used on the run in shoot was the convergence with naval techniques to solve the problems of firing from a moving gun position.

    According to ORS 1 "SP Artillery on D Day," 13 Canadian Field Regiment's opening shots in D Day were "troop smoke salvos at 9,700, 10,000 10,300 and 10,600 yards. Rounds at 10,000 yards landed on shore at H-35 " This wasn't a normal field artillery fire procedure, but is a ladder salvo fired by a field artillery regiment pretending to be a warship to find the range for FFE.
  19. mapshooter

    mapshooter Senior Member

    Actually, if you dig a little deeper I think you'll find that ladder was a recognised technique although not widely used. IIRC it appears in either a RATM or RA Note.

    2 ORS Report No 1 only covers the Canadians. Some of the other CA regts also fired an HE ranging salvo or two before starting the run-in and fire for effect, mostly up to 100 rds per gun. Interestingly the report states that the HE fire wasn't notably effective because the need to correctly position the fall of shot relative to the German fighting bunkers was critical and there was a low probability of success with the technique being used.
  20. CommanderChuff

    CommanderChuff Senior Member

    There was a recent programme on channel 4 or 5 which showed how a team of marine surveyors have mapped the entire seabed profile of the Normandy beaches, producing, amoung other things, images of 50 objects and a 3D virtual film of Mulberry B for the son of its architect Major Allan Beckett, Royal Engineers.

    The film featured many original clips of the landings, some of which I hadn't seen before, and one sequence showed two American gun crews firing towed artillery over the back of their lorries from an LCT. The impression was that it wasn't a pre-planned shoot, but they had gone to the trouble of unhitching the guns and then turning them around to face forward, and just loosed off a number of shots.

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