Landing Craft Headquarters Ship

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Battle Honours

Normandy 1944
Malaya 1945

 

Specifications

Builder: Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newark, New Jersey  United States

Displacement:
216 t. (light)
234 t. (landing)
 389 t. (loaded)

Length: 156 ft 5.5 in

Beam: 23 ft 3 in

Draught:
Light, 3' ft 1½ in mean
Landing,  2 ft' 8 in forward, 4 ft 10 in aft
Loaded, 5 ft 4 in forward, 5 ft 11 in aft

Armament:
Four single 20mm Oerlikon guns, mounted in tubs, one bow mounted, one mounted centrally on top of the superstructure aft of wheelhouse, one each port and starboard aft of superstructure.

Propulsion:

Two General Motors Quad units (4 General Motors 6051 series 71 Diesel engines per unit), driving twin variable pitch propellers, 2,320shp, 1 Quad unit per shaft.

Speed: 16 Knots

Cargo Capacity:
9 officers and 200 troops or 75 tons cargo - reduced by 50 troops after conversion.

Crew complement:
(LCI) 3 officers, 17 ratings
(LCH) 3 officers, 23 ratings

Commanding Officers:
Not known


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H.M.L.C.H. 168

 

LCH 168, after conversion but still wearing the pennant LcI(L) 168 C. September 1943. Photo: NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive

 

Early history

Ordered and delivered as a Landing Craft Infantry (Large) for the US Navy she was built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newark, New Jersey. She was ordered on June 3rd 1942 and her keel was laid down August 26th 1942 as s hull number 321. She was launched on October 22nd 1942. She was transferred to the Royal Navy under the lend-lease agreement at Staten Island, New York, and commissioned on November 13th 1942 as HMLCI(L) 168.

After a short work up and shake-down in the New York area she sailed for Norfolk Navy Yard, arriving at pier #3 on November 28th for repairs and alterations. This entailed the installation of plastic armour and sounding equipment, the fitting of sponsons and flareplates, repairs to hull, electrical system and main engines; she also received a replacement winch and pinace. Before leaving Norfolk she was degaussed and calibrated at the Sewalls Point Magnetic Range, and visited the US Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Juliens Creek, Virginia, to embark small arms and gun ammunition.

On December 12th 1942 she sailed for Bermuda as part of the second flight of completed LCI(L)s, in company with sister ships LSI(L) 98, 100, 164, 165, 166, 167, 239, escorted by the tugs HMRT LARIAT & USS SCIOTA, arriving at Bermuda ten days later. The flight sailed for Gibraltar on the 29th, LCI(L) 7 (a straggler from the first flight) and the Rescue Tug HMRT DESTINY joined the group to make the crossing.

She was in action during the Invasion of Sicily, July 10th 1943 putting ashore men from the 51st Highland Division.



Conversion to a Headquarters Ship

On release from operations in the Mediterranean in the summer of 1943 she returned to the UK and was taken in hand be the Chatham Naval Dockyard for a refit and conversion into an LCH, Landing Craft Headquarters.  The conversion involved turning the troop decks into operations rooms and wireless offices and the installation of command and control and communications equipment; 6 x Army No. 22 Radio sets; 6 X CDG, B28 receivers; 1 X CDF, B29 receiver. Echo Sounding type 763; 8 type visual signals (lanterns and torches); Type 970 Radar for navigation and control of assault craft; Outfit QH (Gee Hyperbolic Radio Navaid) 1 x TCS Transmitter. A tripod foremast was added to mount the additional aerials. Addition single cabins were installed to accommodate assault force staff officers when embarked. When completed her troop carrying capacity was reduced by 50.

 

Operation NEPTUNE

On June 1 1944 she was part of the massing assault forces of Operation NEPTUNE, the seaborne invasion of Normandy. LCH 168 was one of five Landing Craft Headquarters ships in assault force ‘J’, assaulting Juno Beach. Task Force J comprised of troops of the 3rd (Canadian) Division (7th, 8th and 9th Canadian Brigades), plus 48 (RM) Commando, 2nd Canadian Army Brigade. The lowering point for the Landings Ships was seven miles offshore. Juno beach was divided in to three sectors “Love”, “Mike” and “Nan”. “Love” was not an assault sector; this was reserved for off loading equipment and stores. The other two were wide enough to land two brigades side by side. Due to heavy seas, the landing was delayed by ten minutes; the Canadian 7th Brigade landed at Courseulles-sur-Mer, “Mike sector” west of Courseulles-sur-Mer at 07:45 and the 8th Brigade, “Nan Sector” between Courseulles-sur-Mer and Saint-Aubin-sur-mer at 07:55.

LCH 168 carried Cmdr. Jonas DSC RN., Deputy Senior Officer Assault Group J.1, landing on sector “MIKE Red”; LCH 98 D.S.O.A.G. Assault Group J.3 “NAN Green” sector, Commander Struben RN; LCH 239 D.S.O.A.G. Assault Group J.2 “NAN White” sector, commander R.E.D. Ryder VC RN: LCH 167 D.S.O.A.G. Assault Group J.4 “NAN Red” sector, Lt. commander Artuthnot RN; a fifth, unidentified LCH carried the Principle Ferry Craft Control Officer, commander Brunton, responsible for Motor Transport, Stores & personnel. There is no mention of an LCh allocated for “MIKE Green” - from 7th Brigade two assault companies of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, one assault company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, and one squadron of the 1st Hussars were to land on "MIKE Red" and also on "MIKE Green", while the Regina Rifle Regiment, supported by a second squadron of the 1st Hussars, landed on "NAN Green" sector with the objective of subduing German forces in Courseulles-sur-Mer. 8th Brigade landed in “NAN White” & “NAN Red” sectors with the objective of subduing German forces in Bernières-sur-mer and Saint-Aubin-sur-mer.

By the end of D-Day 3,200 vehicles and 2,500 tons of materiel have been landed on the Canadian beaches. Losses are 946 killed, wounded and missing out of a total of 15,000 men engaged.
 

Allocated to the East Indies Fleet

At the end of 1944 LCH 168 was allocated for service with the East Indies Fleet and sailed for India In early January 1945. After the D-Day landings plans were made to relocate large numbers of Major Landing Craft from the UK to the Eastern theatre under the code name ‘APPIAN’. Convoys of craft, referred to as ‘Flights’, sailed for India and Ceylon calling at Gibraltar, Port Said, Aden, and Bombay; the first Flight, ‘A’ sailed on November 15th 1944. It is not clear which flight she sailed with or when she arrived in India.

On reaching India she was initially based at the Cochin Landing Craft Base, HMS CHINKARA. Ho information is available about her activities until she was allocated to participate in operation ZIPPER in September 1945.

Operation ZIPPER

After the Japanese surrender plans to accept the surrender of Singapore were out into action, originally this was part of Operation ZIPPER but political constraints meant that no landing could take place until after the signing of surrender in Tokyo on September 2nd, 1945. The delays meant that all plans were now to change; thus, the reoccupation of Malaya would take place in three phases. Phase one would be the recapture of Penang Island (Operation JURIST). Phase two would be the recapture of Singapore (Operation TIDERACE) by the 5th Indian Division and phase three would be borne assault of North West Malaya in the Port Dickson, Port Swettenham area with landings near Morib with the 25th Indian Division and the 37th brigade of the 23rd Indian Division; this was a modified ZIPPER, carried out as planned and rehearsed, bit the covering air and sea bombardment had been cancelled. The forces participating in these three operations were escorted by the Battleships NELSON, flying the flag of Admiral Walker, and RICHELIEU, the cruisers NIGERIA, CLEOPATRA, and CEYLON, with air cover from the 21st Aircraft Carrier Squadron, ROYALIST (Commodore Oliver) and the escort carriers HUNTER, STALKER, ARCHER, KHEDIVE, EMPEROR and PURSUER, and fifteen destroyers,.

At 1200 hours on August 28th HM Ships NELSON, CEYLON, ATTACKER, HUNTER, TARTAR, PETARD, VOLAGE, PRINCESS BEATRIX and QUEEN EMMA arrived off Penang Island for Operation JURIST.

On September 1st the C-in-C East Indies Fleet, Admiral Sir Arthur Power transferred from CLEOPATRA to NELSON at George Town, the official surrender of Japanese forces on Penang Island was signed on the 2nd. At 08:00 the following day 400 Royal Marines under the command of Lt. Col. G B Grant were landed from the LSIs PRINCESS BEATRIX and QUEEN EMMA. This was Force Roma, formed in July from the Marine Detachments aboard NELSON, CEYLON, NIGERIA and PHOEBE, At 0500 hours on the 8th NELSON in company with the light cruisers CEYLON and NIGERIA, escorted by destroyers NUBIAN, PALADIN and RELENTLESS sailed from George Town to cover the ZIPPER assault convoys on route to their assembly point off Port Swettenham: they were to be joined by the escort carriers EMPEROR, HUNTER, KHEDIVE, and STALKER to provide air cover for the landings.

LCH 101 , 168 & 248 in company with LCI(L)s 115, 121, 127, 136, 183, 217, 256, 266, 277, 305, 311, sailed from Mandapam, India on August 31st in assault convoy JMD1C for Operation ZIPPER. Other convoys had sailed from Bombay and from Cochin, from Madras and Vizagapatam, from Calcutta and Chittagong and Rangoon. The ZIPPER assault convoys converged on the Malayan coast off Port Swettenham. Once assembled at first light on September 9th the ships of the assault convoys formed into two assault groups’ code named W 1 & W 2. As for DRACULA Senior Officer' Assault Group W1 was aboard HMS NITH and that of W2 aboard HMS WAVENEY. On reaching the lowering point off Morib the Assault Group Senior Officers transferred to the LCHs, It is not clear which Landing Craft Headquarters were used by which assault group. The landings were not a success, numerous factors and mistakes made by the need to revise the plans several times resulted in stranded vehicles and ships; the beach survey was wrong, the sand was not suitable for heavy machinery which bogged down and blocked the beaches. The assault was actual an hour lite in its execution, Force W was operating on Ceylon time, not Burma time so the expected high tide had in fact ebbed. On September 12th a new beach was opened farther south, at Cape Rachado, where the 23rd Division landed without any of the difficulties met at Morib. By the time the beaches were closed, Morib on 25th and Cape Rachado on 28th September, 63,838 troops, 7,337 vehicles and 25,671 tons of stores had been landed over them.

HMS NELSON and much of the covering forces sailed for Singapore later on the 9th once the beach head had been establish, arriving there at 0830 hours on the 10th. Operation TIDERACE forces had arrived in Singapore on September 4th 1945, meeting no opposition. By 1800, the Japanese had surrendered their forces on the island to Lieutenant-General Sir Philip Christison aboard HMS SUSSEX. The formal surrender was finalised on September 12th at Singapore City Hall. Over 90 vessels were present in Keppel Harbour and Singapore Roads at the time of the surrender. It is unclear where LCH 168 went after her release from ZIPPER operations.


Post War

Since LCHs could accommodate individual personnel they were employed transporting officers and medical teams up and down the coasts of India and Burma. In December some of the LCI(L) flotillas sailed to Cochin, others to Singapore, where many of the ships were decommissioned and the crews paid off.

LCH 168 was returned to U.S. custody on March 14th 1946 (probably at Manila) and struck from the U.S. Naval Register April 17th 1946. She was sold by the State Department, on February 13th 1948, fate unknown




Primary information sources


Additional sources
NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive LCH-168 entry
www.uboat.net index of British and American LCI(L)
navypedia.org RN AMPHIBIOUS SHIPS AND CRAFT
D-Day : The assault Allied Landing Craft and Ships  LCH specifications
Combined Operations Staff Notebook (1945)  Accessed July 2015
War Diaries: Found on www.fold3.com
US Naval Ammunition Depot, St. Juliens Creek, Virginia,
U.S. Naval operating Base, Norfolk.
U.S. Naval operating Base, Bermuda.
U.S. Navy Yard, New York.
Admiralty War Diaries - various dates

 

Last modified: 02 August 2016