If ever the expression "Spunky" had been fully earned, it was by
our speakerPaddy Creighton who gave us a hilarious account of
his RNVR service in landing craft during WW 2.
Having joined the Royal Navy, he yielded to the temptation of volunteering for a special job, but this turned out. to be a 3-months hard training course in the dead of winter in Scotland. As a temporary Sub-Lieutenant he was transferred to landing craft LCG, which he described as very long biscuit boxes with two engines giving 7 knots. But they had almost no draught, making them very clumsy to maneuver in rough seas, and it was even suggested they should be run like sailing boats for good effect.
The LCG had been simply welded together, given small armament and practically no comforts for the sailors who had to make do with oil lamps, (if they were good enough for Nelson, they are good enough for you!). Via Gibraltar they sailed to the Med. and dropped anchor in Bizerta, where they were neither expected nor welcome, and had to forage for themselves.
Paddy took part in the invasion of Sicily where the LCG flotilla landed on the wrong beach in total darkness, but then found the right one. According to him they were not doing much after that, except an episode when a rude US destroyer captain insisted they follow and support him with their fire power. That was asking much, when they snailed behind the destroyer with his 30 knots. At one stage his LCG was short of water and a US vessel obliged; however it was discovered afterwards that they had been supplied with fresh aviation fuel, and so were forced to return to North Africa to have the tanks cleaned.
Paddy went back to England and Scotland to join a LCT squadron commanded by a no-nonsense Captain RN. During a squadron exercise the captain insisted on his LCTs sailing in a two-by-two formation then break into line and run up to the beach at full power. Paddy's crusty old captain refused to follow orders despite the captain threatening dire consequences, and so the squadron minus one rushed the beach which as it turned out did not exist because it was high tide, and one of the unfortunates even rammed its bow up a solid sea wall.
Next D-day approached, and Paddy, promoted to captain of his LCT,
studied a series of photographs of the coast of France supplied
by a daring Spitfire-special pilot, to mark his beaching place,
then loaded tanks, half-tracks and soldiers, plus rolls of coconut
matting for the tanks to reach dry land safely. He left his
harbour, followed the tiny blue pilot light of the ship ahead,
and beached on time, in the right spot and unloaded his cargo.
More delivery trips followed, and then it was back to England,
where the LCT went into dock, and Paddy was sent to Salerno to
take command of a "luxurious" US landing craft, and in the company
of another 11 boats sailed to the Far East.
He experienced the full horror and hardship of the Burma campaign with Japanese snipers, extensive mangrove swamps full of snakes, mud, poisonous bugs and other assorted perils, serving the 14th Army, and was eventually withdrawn to Calcutta.
July 1945 came, the war in Europe was over, the war against the Japanese almost won, discipline declined, sailors and soldiers just wanted to go home. In August Paddy and his brother officers were asked to return to England, and so they just abandoned their craft in the river and left. He arrived in Durban and managed to talk his way out of the Navy and to Cape Town where, we sincerely hope, he lived happily ever after.
Paddy, thank you from all of us who were privileged to listen to your heartwarming sailor's yarn and for an entertaining evening.
10 August 2000
14 September 2000
12 October 2000
9 November 2000
18 January 2001
John Mahncke, (Vice-Chairman/Scribe), (021) 797 5167