Future of sole surviving D-Day landing craft secure

LCT 7074 during service in the Second World War. Image: The National Museum of the Royal Navy

Plans to land a 200ft long D-Day landing craft tank (LCT) on Southsea beach towards the end of the 75thanniversary year of the commemorations are secure.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s bid to conserve and move LCT 7074 has been backed by a £4.7million National Lottery grant, awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

LCT 7074 is the sole surviving Landing Craft (Tank) from D-Day.  She is one of more than 800 LCTs that took part in Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, each capable of carrying 10 tanks or other heavy armoured vehicles into battle. Of this fleet, fewer than 10 are believed to survive, including LCT 7074, which is understood to be the only vessel of this kind left in Britain.

£916,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund enabled The National Museum of the Royal Navy to rescue her from East Float Dock, Birkenhead where she was sunk and semi-derelict following a chequered post-war career involving conversation to a floating nightclub. Having moved her back to Portsmouth, she will now take pride of place outside the D-Day Story at Southsea and be open to visitors at the new museum.

The project “Resurrecting a D-Day Hero” is a partnership between the National Museum and Portsmouth City Council and secures a sustainable future for this exceptional survivor. The project will create opportunities in Portsmouth and beyond, train apprentices and volunteers, and create a unique venue.

D-Day veterans and LCT 7074 at rear. Image: The National Museum of the Royal Navy

LCT 7074 is in HM Naval Base, Portsmouth and the National Museum and Portsmouth City Council owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Naval Base Commander and BAE for storing and protecting her.  She will make the short sea journey to Southsea and “ land” on the beach in a move reminiscent of her original purpose. She will move into position alongside the D-Day Story and open to visitors in 2020.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, Director General at The National Museum of the Royal Navy said: “LCT 7074 is a unique time capsule, of enormous importance to the history of D-Day, and Operation Neptune, that vastly complex plan to mount the largest amphibious operation the world has ever seen.

“They were huge seagoing craft, built crudely and quickly, everyday workhorses that were unrecognised for their effort. Few survived beyond 1945. Now thanks to National Lottery players, we can pay our respects to her and ensure many thousands of visitors have a chance to go onboard.

“This project presents one of the last opportunities to collect these testimonies as the events of June 1944 pass from living memory, and share them with families, historians, students and visitors to D-Day Story and the 4.5 million annual visitors to Southsea common.”

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “D-Day remains the largest ever seaborne invasion. Now National Lottery investment will ensure LCT 7074’s unique story within that monumental moment in UK and world history will preserved, understood and shared with future generations.” 

Commodore Jim Higham, Naval Base Commander said: “The Royal Navy is very proud of its heritage and understands the vital role it plays in explaining the roles of today’s exciting and expanding capability.  We are thrilled to be  able to support both The National Museum of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth City Council  in storing LCT 7074 safely and congratulate the Heritage Lottery Fund  in securing the future of such an important artefact; a mainstay of the amphibious operation on the beaches of Normandy and a vital part of the colossal endeavour  to free occupied Europe.”

Cllr Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture Leisure and Sport at Portsmouth City Council said: “LCT 7074 conveys the scale and magnitude of the D-Day landings.  This is the last surviving LCT of the 800 which took part in the Normandy Landings, it’s a veteran of the campaign and a pivotal element in the accounts of those who embarked on the allied liberation.  We’re thrilled that LCT 7074 will be conserved and ultimately displayed at The D-Day Story to enhance the experience and understanding of D-Day for future generations.”

The project not only brings Portsmouth and the National Museum closer together but  also secures a sustainable, publicly accessible future for three related heritage collections held by National Museum and the D-Day Story:

  • The LST (Landing Ship Tank) and Landing Craft Association Archive is a comprehensive collection of some 500 veterans’ memoirs, plus supporting information including photographs held by the D-Day Story.
  • Two Second World War Sherman and Churchill tanks held by the D-Day Story and presently in store with very limited public access will be restored and be relocated on the craft.
  • The National Museum’s Instow Collection of c10,000 plans, trials reports and photographs of amphibious craft and technical equipment emanating from the Combined Operations Experimental Establishment base at Instow after 1942.