- Contributed by
- London Borough of Newham Public
- People in story:
- Richard Blyth
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 October 2003
As told by Richard Blyth
THEATRE: North West Europe
DATE: 1 November 1944
LOCATION: Islands of South West Netherlands
The Support Squadron Eastern Flank (SSEF) Force sailed from England on the 27th October 1944 to Ostend. SSEF consisted of 6 LGG(L)s and 2 LCG (M)s, 6 LCFs, 6 LCSs and five rocket craft, a force of 25 craft, there was also a small fleet of other landing craft including LC1s and LCTs would take the commandos, second wave troops and amphibious vehicles, SSEF sailed from Ostend at 3.25am.
In the early hours of November 1st 1944 Royal Marine commandos attacked at Westhopple in Holland as part of the Operation Infatuate to secure the Port of Antwerp to supply the Allies, the port was required as so rapidly advanced through Northern France and Belgium that supplying them was a problem.
The assault by the SSEF had to be made in broad daylight at 9.15am, the weather was terrible, the planes were grounded that were going to support us. Warspite, Erebus and Roberts with their big guns were firing at the gun emplacements ashore but could not see the results. The spotter plane for them was also grounded owing to the bad weather. The SSEF plan was to split in two equal escort groups, one going south of the gap and one going north. The LCG(L)s were ordered to engage the Westkapette Battery and went in firing. As they passed a certain point some of the German guns opened fire to be joined later by the big guns at the Westkapette main fort. The enemy firing was heavy and very close, big shells being hurtled back in reply to our 4-7 guns. Four LCT(R)S fired their 6” rockets at the beach head in batches. Each craft carried on its deck 1080 6” rockets, four craft like that could and did a lot of damage.
Now it was crisis time in one of the most bitter and gallant battles of the war, as the first landing craft carrying the commandos headed for the gap in the Dyke the enemy batteries put up a devastating hail of fire. The two groups of SSEF craft were ordered closer in to draw away this fire by engaging the enemy guns at point blank range. LCG(M)102 beached down on the south side of the gap and engaged her target pillbox with her 3” guns and was immediately caught in a rain of shells at close range. Soon she had been hit several times and was on fire. Her crew got the fire under control but she was hit again and again, she was broken and burning on the beach. There were no survivors.
In the northern group LCG(L)1 went in with her guns blazing independently and closed to 600 yards in spite of being hit three times by shells. Now she got hit several more times and then came the big one, a shell hit the bridge – there was a tremendous explosion. Our skipper, Lieutenant Ballard RNR, was wounded. The shell took the compass from his hand before it exploded then another shell blasted away the compass pedestal and voicepipe. All the officers were now wounded and the craft came to a stop with two dead and twenty wounded. The survivors were rescued by LCS510.
LCG(L)17 tried to take LCG(L)1 in tow, but the stricken craft sank. The skipper of LCG(L)17 Lt. Scammell received wounds coming to the assistance o LCG(L)1 of which he died.
Out of the twenty-five craft in the SSEF a total of nine craft was lost and nine other so badly damaged. Of the crews, 172 officers and men killed and 200 wounded. Medals awarded:
4 DSC (BAR)
1 DSC (2nd BAR)
And many others mentioned in dispatches.
This item is just a very small part of a gallant action by all who took part in this operation. If only it could do justice to all of the personnel involved but it seems such a puny effort on my part. There is so much that should have been written about Walcheren but as you say to anyone, how can you describe a craft that doesn’t have a name, is flat bottomed, chugs along at about 10 knots, the regular navy regards them as kipper boxes. One RN officer went so far as to say,” I would not take one outside the harbour.”
But the officers and men were second to none, we upheld the Royal Navy tradition for guts and tenacity. More should be written about Walcheren before the last of us cross the Bar.
R Blyth LCG(L)1
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.