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Operation 'Dragoon'

by Vernon Copeland

Contributed by 
Vernon Copeland
Location of story: 
South of France
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
A2992917
Contributed on: 
11 September 2004

HMLCG (L) 14 Involvement August 15th 1944

On Tuesday August 8th 1944 in company with other Landing Craft and Ships we left Naples and sailed for the Bay of Pozzuoli, to form up with Section 1A of convoy SS1. We stayed here until about 11.00 hours on August 9th, when we all got underway and headed out to sea. The weather was fine and the sea calm.

Once again our ‘Skipper’ Lt. Sam Armstrong DSC, RNVR, cleared lower decks and told us our destination this time was to be the South of France, and our role was to cover the landings at a point between St Tropez and St Maxime. We were to rendezvous at Ajaccio with more craft before sailing on to the South of France.

During the passage to Ajaccio the Guns crews continued the daily training programme and during one such session, damage to the Intensifier of Number 1 Gun was discovered, and this was irreparable on board. To add to our ‘Skippers’ problems the Camshaft on our Port engine snapped.

We were released from the convoy and made our own way to Maddalena for repairs, and arrived there late in the evening.

Repairs to the Intensifier were carried our satisfactory and Number 1 Gun was again operational. The repairs to the Camshaft proved to be impossible at Maddalena, and on Saturday August 12th at about 10.00 hours we sailed out and headed for Ajaccio. We arrived there at about 19.00 hours and dropped anchor.

One of the other Landing Craft had also problems with their Port engine, and it was arranged that the Camshaft from this would be transferred to LCG 14. No easy task, but two of the ERA’s attached to our Flotilla and our own Motor Mechanic worked endlessly to achieve the stripping down of one engine and rebuilding of ours in time for the Landings.

At about 18.00 hours on Sunday August 13th the convoy left Ajaccio and headed for the South of France. On passage we saw many other ships and landing craft that had no doubt left other ports and all converging on the Landing Area.

We arrived at the holding Transport Area off the coast at St Tropez at about 04.45 hours on Tuesday August 15th 1944. The sea was calm and the weather reasonable after a night of rain.

Our ‘Skipper’ had already informed us that our task in this operation was to support the Assault Troops on Read Beach, a point between St Tropez and St Maxime, in the Delta Attack Force Section.

At 06.30 hours in company with LCF 10 we stood by to take the first Assault Troops in, and at 06.50 hours we started to approach the beaches. The ‘Big Ships’ had been bombarding their pre-arranged targets ashore and some of their shells whistling overhead appeared to be too close for comfort. Ahead of us the LCT(R) had opened the proceedings and withdrawn. The Assault Troops hit the beaches dead on H-Hour, 08.00 hours. LCG 14 had taken up a position broadside to the beach at Point-des-Sardinaux, we had sailed over the enemy minefield to reach this point, and we stood by to give support fire when called for.

Our first shoot was at 08.10 hours when we were called upon to take out a house that was harboring German troops that had been machine-gunning our advancing troops.

The house was demolished after six rounds of H.E. shells. We were then called upon to demolish another house partly hidden by trees that was being used by the Germans to Mortar and Machine-Gun the beaches, this time we expelled eight round of H.E’s. No more activities was reported from either of these enemy positions.

The morning was now bright and sunny, the sea still calm and visibility was good. Apart from the early exchanges of fire we had little to do but watch the LCT’s and LST’s beach and unload. All the enemy gun positions around the landing areas had been destroyed and our troops were advancing rapidly. It was generally understood that the majority of the enemy in the South of France were of low caliber and did not relish the fight. One of my memories of this first morning was to watch a long column of German troops being marched off to a POW camp guarded by a couple of soldiers.

Although we had numerous alerts for enemy Air Raids, none materialized in our section. At about 17.00 hours on D-Day a signal was received that the duties of LCG’s and LCF’s were completed and that we should report to the Commander of the Support Craft for onward sailing.

We remained in the Return Convoy Area for two days, enjoying the delights of swimming in the waters off St Tropez, probably the first British ‘Tourists’ to popularize this part of South of France.

Our relaxation period ended at about 14.00 hours in Thursday August 17th, when with LCG 12 in tow we left the South of France to return to Ajaccio, arriving here at about 11.00 hours on Friday August 18th.

We remained in Ajaccio until Saturday September 2nd 1944, when we sailed out bound for Messina, Taranto, Brindisi, Barletta and Komiza (Isle of Vis) and the start of our adventures in Yugoslavia.

Harry Turley (M28)

I would wish to acknowledge the use of notes and reports of Lt; Sam Armstrong in writing this article.

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