The Sea Cadet, No. 3, Vol. 3, November 1945

t.'(A j ^ S J .R.M. When a minor landing craft flotilla is not shore-based it is accommodated in a carrier ship, or Landing Ship, Infantry, called for short an L.S.I. These carrier ships vary a good deal in size and type. The biggest of them arc as much as 10,000 tons, and from that they downrange to cross-Channel steamers and those that ran, before the war, to Ireland and the Channel Islands. Some, even, in the past few years, have been built speci­ally for the job, but there are large numbers that have been converted from normal civilian service. Whatever their type, the life and routine carried out in them remain much the same, and for a minor landing craft flotilla it is the most satisfactory routine of all. Before most of the original L.S.Is. could be put to their new use, a num­ber of alterations had to be made to them, both internally and on the super­structure. They were to become troop­ships, but troopships of a specialized type. Unlike their sisters engaged in carrying men to and from the Middle East and other theatres of war as pas­sengers to be landed in the normal way, they had the more hazardous job of carrying specially trained troops and their equipment into an assault, drop­ping them a few miles ofl a beach to be run ashore in landing craft. The main alterations were made above decks. First of all, the ship’s boats had to begot rid of to make way on the davits for the landing craft, which were to be­come ship’s boats in their place. That usually meant strengthening the davits and hoisting gear, or replacing it alto­gether by new materials, for the weight of such craft as an L.C.A. is consider­able by comparison with a wooden lifeboat and the craft would often have to be lowered from the ship filled with fully equipped troops, carrying their arms and stores into action. Then there was the question of accommodation. It had to be split into three sections. First of all, there are the ship’s company’s quarters. Those can often remain untouched but the rest of the cabin and mess-deck space has to be divided between the crews who man the landing craft and the troops who are being carried. The troops usually get the worst of the deal, since they are merely travellers, some­times for a few hours, sometimes for a few days. Theirs is a one-way journey, and after it the ship will probably see them more.no The main consideration is getting them to their destination and putting them ashore. They have the largest section of space, but they arc the largest party, and have to put up with crowding and inconvenience while they are on board. The flotilla’s quarters are usually comfortable enough, although natur­ally they vary to some extent from ship to ship. The crews become virtually part of the ship’s company, if the ship is serving under the White Ensign, and as they are usually Royal Marines nowadays, they assume some of the functions of a ship’s detachment, while remaining a self-contained unit, living in the ship for the purpose of manning their craft. They are subject to the normal routine and discipline of the ship, modified to meet the requirements of their job. There are large numbers of carriers, however, which are under the Red Ensign, and in these the flotilla is com­pletely free of all duty and service routine other than its own. It is housed in its own quarters, a little island of Service personnel amongst the Mer­chant Navy, and provided it observes the reasonable requirements of the cap­tain of the ship, it has no interference. It is a pleasant life. Except when on cxercisc oran operation, the craft are hoisted at the davits. In that position, all work on them is easy. Any defects in hull or bottom are visible and usually accessible and the crews can man and work in them in avery short space of time. Supervision is easy, too. When craft are shore-based they are usually moored to buoys in a stream, and to superintend work in them it is neces­sary to cruise from one to the other, a business which requires the services of a crew and a craft continually and wastes time and effort. Time is wasted, too, in ferrying the crews to and from their craft. Not so in a carrier. Everything is self-con­ tained, and by walking round the deck it is possible, in avery few minutes, to see every craft and find out what those on board are doing. By this means, effort can be co-ordinated and main­tained. Moreover, there is not the danger of sinking which sometimes occurs when craft arc moored in a stream, nor the need for pumping and baling parties and constant watches in bad weather. The only thing necessary in a ship is a periodical inspection to make sure that the craft are properly secured at the davit heads. There are times when the routine gets a trifle monotonous. The ship may not be needed for troop carrying for a time, and then she may lie in port, or at a buoy then life is very quiet, around of maintenance work interspersed with exercising and routine training but there are other periods, too, when life is busy and there is scarcely time to look round. Until the actual time of the operation, however, the troops who are being carried have the busiest time. They have plenty to do from the moment they come on board. First of all, they must togo their mess decks, where they will live and sleep. Those mess decks will probably be far down in the ship, and getting to know one from another and how to get back to it are constant headaches to anyone not used to living in ships. Then there are lectures and instructions, both on ship’s life and routine, and on the coming operation. These are fol­lowed by practices, for nothing must go wrong when the time comes. These practices take the form of getting dressed and equipped in almost complete darkness and then finding one’s way on deck to one’s boat, not singly as an individual, but as a mem­ber of a unit. It is imperative that a complete boat-load shall arrive at its craft in one body, so that it can be checked and accounted for without doubt or delay. When the real thing comes there must be no hitches, for everything works to a strict timetable. The only answer is to practise, forming into single file behind the officer or N.C.O. in command, who leads the way very slowly along the marked-out route to the craft, several decks above. Only by moving very slowly is it pos­sible to ensure that no one is lost or left behind in the procession. Whilst the troops are carrying out their preparations, the crews and main­tenance parties arc busy bringing their craft into complete readiness for the assault. When they are lowered away and run into the beach, they run plenty of risks, for they are small and frail in face of anything more than small-arms fire. They maybe sunk or disabled. There must be no risk of unnecessary breakdowns as well. So, perhaps after days of preparation followed by only a few hours of in­tense effort, the troops are put ashore, and the craft, or what are left of them, comeback to the half-empty ship, and are hoisted and carried back to port, perhaps to pickup more troops, per­haps forrest and refit. 67
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