Charles Jones

I joined LCT 649 on 27 October 1943, at Lamlash on the Isle of Arran, as the 1st Lieutenant, after being commissioned earlier as a Midshipman RNVR. LCT 649 was built in a Scottish shipyard in the summer of 1943, commissioned and sailed to Troon on the Clyde to form, together with eleven similar craft, the 40th Flotilla.

We knew that OVERLORD was imminent when conferences were called for commanding officers to attend. Charts and navigational aids were issued, together with a photographic view of the Normandy coast from the Orne to the base of the Cherbourg peninsula, a set of tide tables and a chronological order in which SWORD beach would be attacked. The 40th carried the armoured regiment of the intermediate brigade behind the assault force.

We sailed on the evening of 5 June for a point south of the Isle of Wight, marked famously as Z Buoy. There we all turned south in the darkness towards Normandy, through cleared minefields marked by dimly lit buoys. Some COs were high on bezedrineto to ensure that they stayed awake and alert. My 20th birthday – 6 June 1944 – arrived in style.

The approach to the landing sector at Lion-sur-Mer was littered with casualties, craft and personnel. We were lucky to avoid obstacles on the beach, both going in and withdrawing, but others in our flotilla were not so fortunate. We returned empty to Newhaven at top speed, reloaded and set sail immediately and independently to the same destination.

Arriving at the beach on D + 1, we were warned off as the area was deemed still hostile, so we moved along to where the Mulberry Harbour was being assembled at Arromanches. There we unloaded and were ready to return to the UK, but instead we were instructed to begin unloading merchant ships offshore, because so many craft earmarked for this job had been wrecked. We learned later that the 40th Flotilla had ceased to exist and we had become independent of any command.

We continued to unload merchant ships for the next five months, weathering storms and minor assaults at sea. Finally we returned to the UK, leaking like a sieve, to be dispatched to the London Docks for a complete overhaul, only to be met by flying bombs and rockets! From there we returned to Southampton and began shuttling cargoes to the beaches. On at least one occasion we brought German prisoners back to the UK.

In the spring of 1945 we were ordered to join several LCTs at Arromanches to unload the cargo from a US merchant ship, and it was while we were there that news came through of the German surrender.