D-Day landing craft completes final journey to museum

RIDING high on a beach for the first time since June 1944 is one of the last survivors of D-Day, moved to her new home overnight.

Landing Craft (Tank) 7074 made her final journey by sea in the small hours, ready to be installed as the main attraction at the D-Day Story museum in Southsea, as a £5m restoration project nears completion.

The ship is the last of 800 similar vessels which delivered men, armour and material on to the shores of Normandy in June 1944, restored to how she appeared during that fateful summer in the same shed where sections of the UK’s new aircraft carriers were built.

It took two attempts to get the 59-metre long vessel, loaded on to a barge, from the naval base to her new home; summer storms thwarted the operation on Saturday night, but the seas and wind had calmed sufficiently for a second go at a beach landing, accomplished today at 3.50am.

From there it’s a road journey to the waterfront museum where she’ll take pride of place.

Restoration of the 300-tonne craft, carried out by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth City Council, was slowed by a couple of months by the pandemic and the move carried out in secret at night to prevent large crowds gathering to watch the spectacle.

Visitors to LCT 7074 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 World War 2 experienced including having two refurbished tanks on display on the ship’s deck.

Councillor Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development

“Just like D-Day itself, this move required intricate planning, as high tides had to align with clear weather and local road closures,” said Nick Hewitt, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

“The move involved placing the craft on a barge and traveling from Portsmouth Naval Base to a beach. She will then be transported by road to Southsea Common.

“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.”

Beyond delivering armour on to the beach at Normandy, LCT 7074 was used to bring German prisoners back to the UK in the immediate aftermath of D-Day.

After a chequered post-war career involving conversion into a floating clubhouse and nightclub, the ship was lying in private hands, semi-derelict and sunk at her moorings at East Float Dock, Birkenhead, until in 2014 she was successfully salvaged and moved to Portsmouth by The National Museum of the Royal Navy.

It teamed up with Portsmouth City Council to revamp the vessel to make it the centrepiece of the D-Day Story Museum. The public will be able to step aboard LCT 7074 this autumn.

“Visitors to LCT 7074 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 World War 2 experienced including having two refurbished tanks on display on the ship’s deck,” said Councillor Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development.

To share more about LCT 7074’s 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.

And despite a massive injection of lottery cash, the project still requires donation to complete the restoration – and maintain the vessel for future generations. They can be made via nmrn.org.uk/donate.