- Contributed by
- Dave Thacker
- People in story:
- Leonard Stanley Thacker
- Location of story:
- Anzio, Italy
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 October 2005
View from Thruster: Anzio port, January 1944.
This story is submitted to the People's War Website by David Thacker, a volunteer from BBC Radio Northampton, on behalf of his Mother, Isabella, wife of the late Len Thacker, and has been added to the site with her permission. She fully understands and accepts the site's terms and conditions.
Firstly, continued here are Len's words written in a W/T Operator's Log book, about the Anzio Operation (Shingle)in 1944. He is believed to have written this soon after the war's end:
"The whole port of Anzio was reported clear of enemy at about 10.am. The affair had completely taken the Germans by surprise. By tea-time, we were instructed to enter Anzio port to unload. We were second ship in. As we approached, German guns began shelling the harbour. Several houses blew up. It was a tiny harbour, and hardly room for us to squeeze in alongside the jetty. The town seemed empty and was badly damaged, obviously by the previous night’s RAF blasting and naval bombardment.
As we unloaded we were being shelled all the time, and they were big guns doing it. Several; shells came far too close, a horrible shrieking noise as they came in and exploded, with loud crashes in the buildings and jetty nearby. One landed on the jetty ten yards away. It shook the ship up. When we’d finished unloading, it was dark, and to get out of the tiny port, strewn with wrecks and probably mined was going to be a difficult task. But we managed it and moved out to join up with a convoy for Naples. Even this didn’t seem too safe, for there were numerous reports of Elizabeth-boats and we had hardly any escort. But our luck was still holding and we safely reached Naples.
We loaded up again and sailed once more for Anzio. It was getting dusk as we neared the area, and an air attack started lasting about two and a half hours. Early in the attack a plane came in low at us and dropped a torpedo. We moved hard over, and it missed by about 40 yards. We believed we destroyed the plane. In this long raid Jerry’s main target was three hospital ships, which lay some way out, with lights on and plainly marked. We heard their radio calls asking for help. Hospital ship Leinster was on fire and still being bombed. St Andrew said she was being continuously bombed and was badly shaken. Then came the worst part, the St David was sunk and the other two still bombed as they tried to pick up survivors, some of whom were nurses and wounded.
Throughout the night there were scattered attacks and a big raid at dawn in which several bombs were very close to us. Then we entered harbour and unloaded our equipment. Apparently the raids on the Hospital ships had caused a tight situation ashore, and we were told to take 200 wounded to Naples. There was another raid as they were brought on board and laid on the steel decks. They were British and American soldiers and a few German. One of these claimed to be the pilot who sank the St David. Another was a kid who’d only been in the army about five months. He was about 15. His machine gun post had been captured; the Americans bayoneted the entire crew but hadn’t the heart to kill him because he looked so young. He was severely wounded in the legs. The smell of blood and death seemed everywhere. Some of the wounded were terribly mauled.
All the time we were in the Anzio area, the AA Cruiser Uslter Queen was fighter director ship, and she was very good. She always got the warning out before aircraft got near and often gave their presence when they were 50 miles away.
Then we headed back at full speed to Nisida near Naples. On the way we passed the destroyer Jervis who was moving slowly along, her bows blown off. Also the Palomares being towed, her stern right under water."
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