D-Day Hero – Last surviving landing craft completes its final journey by sea

Today (24th August 2020) D-Day survivor LCT 7074 has finally made the impressive journey from Portsmouth Naval Base to her new home on Southsea where she will be the newest addition to the D-Day Story museum. The move, in an echo of D-Day itself, experienced a series of delays with the first attempt aborted the previous night due to high winds. However, improved conditions enabled her to land at Southsea Beach at 3.50am. This one-of-a-kind ship is the last surviving example of 800 tank carrying landing craft that served at D-Day. She has now been restored to her former glory in a joint collaboration by the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) and Portsmouth City Council alongside a £4.7million grant provided by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For the past few months LCT’s incredible transformation has taken place at Portsmouth Naval Base in the enormous ship fabrication hall in which the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers were built. Yesterday the 59-metre long, 300-ton ship took to the sea one last time in a highly complex and successful move. Nick Hewitt, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Museum of the Royal Navy said ‘Just like D-Day itself, this move required intricate planning, as high tides had to align with clear weather and local road closures. The move involved placing LCT on a barge and traveling from Portsmouth Naval Base to a local beach. She will then be transported by road to Southsea Common.”

This ambitious move was originally planned for June but was delayed due to the Coronavirus crisis. Addressing some of the difficulties of the delay Nick says “Delaying the project was a difficult decision but essential to ensure the safety of the teams working on her. Unfortunately this delay has resulted in additional costs to the project and we now find ourselves having to raise an additional £75K to help us plug the COVID-19 gap.”

The Coronavirus crisis has also impacted the move in other ways, Nick explains that “unfortunately due to Covid 19 we had to keep the details of the move as secret as possible from the public as we did not want big crowds to gather.”

Talking about the failed attempt the night before, Nick says “We were hugely disappointed when we weren’t able to complete the move the first time. We have been restricted to very small windows of opportunity when the tides are right, but we also rely on calm winds and we have experienced unseasonably high wind speeds. We really hoped that the predicted reduction in wind would give us good enough conditions to land her, but it simply wasn’t safe to do so.”

Cllr Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development comments that “The move was a great success and we are so pleased that LCT is now in her final position outside the D-Day Story in Southsea. The ship is a great addition to our current offering and is a fitting tribute to all those who served at D-Day.”

When the ship opens to the public in the autumn, visitors will have the chance to step on board this D-Day hero. Councillor Pitt explains ‘ Visitors to LCT will be able to experience D-Day like never before, they will get to step on board this historic landing craft and get a taste of what the troops in the Second World War experienced including having two refurbished tanks on display on the ship’s deck.’

In order to share more about LCT 7074’s remarkable restoration, the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the D-Day story will be publishing a series of blogs exploring the conservation of the ship over the course of the coming months. For anyone wishing to support the LCT 7074 project donations can be made via nmrn.org.uk/donate.

The project continues to provide virtual talks in relation to the project. For more information please contact The D-Day Story theddaystory.com.

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