A campaign has been launched to restore the last surviving D-Day landing craft used to ferry some of the 160,000 soldiers on to the beaches of Normandy during the largest seaborne invasion in military history.
The landing craft tank LCT 7074, which took part in Operation Neptune, played a key part in the decisive victory that allowed Allied forces to free European nations from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.
However, the landing craft tank suffered an inglorious fate following the Second World War after she was decommissioned in 1948, later being converted into a floating nightclub, before she fell into disrepair and left semi-submerged, rotting in water.
She was rescued from further deterioration when she was salvaged in 2014. Work has since been done to stop her crumbling into historical oblivion.
Now the National Museum of the Royal Navy has launched a crowdfunding campaign to secure the final £25,000 needed to complete the restoration of the 200-foot craft in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.
She will be displayed alongside the museum’s affiliate, the D-Day Story, in Southsea, Portsmouth.
The crowdfunding bid comes not long after a £4.7 million National Lottery grant to kick-start the repairs.
'It ended up as a disco in Merseyside'
Paul Elgood, the museum’s head of fundraising, told presenter Natasha Reneaux, at Forces Radio BFBS Aldershot, how the public could get involved in the bid to save the “totally unique” craft that is now a key piece in the history of British and European freedom.
He said, in an interview with Forces Radio BFBS, that the crowdfunding campaign would allow the public to help secure the future of the landing craft.
“It played a major role on D-Day, one of the nation’s most historic events, and this craft was there and made a major contribution to the success of the operation.
“After that it had a chequered life, ending up actually as a disco in Merseyside.”
Mr Elgood told Natasha how the National Museum of the Royal Navy later saved the craft and took it down to Portsmouth where it will be restored and eventually put back on public display.
Natasha reports how the landing craft spent ten years at the bottom of the River Mersey and how it took one million pounds to raise her from the river bed and clear out the mountains of mud that had accumulated over the years, before she was taken to Portsmouth.
Operation Neptune was the naval element of the Allied invasion, part of D-Day’s Operation Overlord, with Royal Navy plans under the command of Admiral Bertram Ramsey, whose skills of command had already been demonstrated in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.
The naval invasion of northern France in 1944 was a vast undertaking, involving some 7,000 ships and craft to launch the forces of 160,000 soldiers on to Normandy’s beaches.
She may not have had the grand names of the Royal Navy’s distinguished battleships, destroyers and fleet of warships, but LCT 7074’s part in the invasion was no less significant, allowing the ground forces to launch their assault on enemy lines.
'Difficult to see how D-Day would have succeeded without landing crafts'
Sir Peter Luff, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund has said that, as each year passes, it becomes harder for people to appreciate how much technological innovation the Normandy landings demanded, with landing craft tanks like LCT 7074 a crucial part of that story.
To emphasise the importance of keeping the history of LCT 7074 alive, he has said that it would be difficult to see how D-Day could have succeeded without the development of such landing craft.
LCT 7074 was among the many that would have arrived at Gold Beach, one of five beaches targeted for the invasion, around midnight on June 6, 1944, carrying soldiers and tanks.
Nick Hewitt, head of exhibitions and collections at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said: “At dawn, on the morning of D-Day, 6 June 1944, 800 landing craft approached the Normandy landing beaches.
“What ensued was the largest seaborne invasion in history and it was landing craft, including LCT 7074, that delivered tanks, troops and essential equipment to the beaches.
“LCT 7074 is the last of these vital workhorses known to have actually participated in the D-Day landings.
“This makes her totally unique and a key piece in history. She will add considerably to the story of D-Day.”