Merchantmen at Normandy
Next year marks the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Roy V. Martin aims to present a more complete picture of the contribution that merchant seaman made to Operation Neptune, from the planning and build-up to the successful operation. By 1943 the merchant fleets were hauling enormous amounts of cargo and delivering new ships from the United States and Canada. These included thirteen US built Landing Ships, which joined the converted ferries to provide over half of the seventy seven ships of this type.
The Admiralty assembled a large tug fleet. The officers were mostly merchantmen who had joined the Royal Naval Reserve and the seamen were employed under their own section of the T124 scheme. In addition to their normal task of assisting casualties this fleet and many Red Ensign tugs were needed to deliver the two Mulberry Harbours. The essential salvage ships will, of course, not be forgotten.
American and British merchantmen each manned half of the 224 ocean going cargo ships that each carried the same combination of fuel, ammunition, stores and troops. Five hundred smaller coasters delivered materiel to the beaches, where they were constantly open to attack. Tiny Dutch schuyts took their American cargoes up river to the small port of Isigny.
Buoys, moorings, cables and the PLUTO line were laid. Petrol, water, coal and victuals were delivered: as were redundant ships to form the outer breakwaters. Hospital Carriers and Depot ships were manned.
The writer welcomes contributions to the story, all that are used will be acknowledged.
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