LCT 7074 to be focal point of The National Museum of the Royal Navy’s affiliate, Portsmouth’s D-Day Museum, thanks to £4.7m from The National Lottery.
For the first time ever, an original Landing Craft Tank (LCT) will be on display at the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth. This has been made possible thanks to an investment of nearly £5m from The National Lottery and has been planned to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the landings in two years’ time.
The D-Day Museum is an affiliate of The National Museum of the Royal Navy, which is managing the project. Due to reopen in 2018 following a complete refurbishment, the D-Day Museum offers a much more in-depth narrative on the events that took place in ‘Operation Overlord’ on 6 June 1944 and looks specifically at the Royal Navy and how its crews coped on that day. More than 800 LCTs, with the capacity to carry 10 tanks or equivalent armoured vehicles, were involved in the naval element of ‘Overlord’, ‘Operation Neptune’. The largest amphibious operation in history, it involved 7,000 ships and craft disgorging 160,000 soldiers on the beaches of Normandy.
LCT 7074, first acquired by the National Museum of the Royal Navy in 2014, thanks to £916,149 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, is believed to be one of only 10 survivors from this extraordinary armada. As she arrived at Gold Beach, near midnight on D-Day 6th June, she carried one Cromwell of 22 Armoured Brigade HQ, two Shermans, and seven Stuart light tanks of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment, and all their crew.
Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), said: “The importance of the Normandy landings is very well understood, but as the years pass it becomes harder for people to appreciate just how much technological innovation they demanded. Without the development of the Landing Craft Tank earlier in the Second World War, it is difficult to see how D-Day – a hugely ambitious amphibious operation – could have succeeded.
“Now, once LCT 7074 has been restored to her original appearance, thanks to the National Lottery, the stories of those she carried on ‘Operation Neptune’ can be brought vividly to life. It’s fitting that National Lottery money is enabling the National Museum of the Royal Navy to work with surviving veterans to record and share their memories of this genuinely historic operation in time for the 75th anniversary in 2019.”
Nick Hewitt, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at The National Museum of the Royal Navy, said:
“We are incredibly grateful to The National Lottery for its support in securing a sustainable future for this exceptional survivor, completing the conservation that began with salvage in 2014, and showcasing her outside and alongside the new D-Day Museum, our project partner.
“This puts 7074 in the city’s heart, engaging a potential 4.5 million annual users of Southsea Common with the story of the ship and her people; it puts her D-Day story – which uniquely links sea and land – in context for museum visitors and ensures she survives for future generations.”
The restoration process will see LCT 7074 taken apart and re-assembled so it can be properly catalogued. Conservation work will be undertaken on its hull, superstructure and interior spaces, which weigh in at 350 tons. The D-Day Museum’s two tanks will also go through a similar process and be displayed on the tank deck of the LCT. Helping expert conservators with this work will be 40 volunteer and two apprentices.
Cllr Linda Symes, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport AT Portsmouth City Council said: “This is great news for the D-Day museum, which is due to reopen following its transformation next year. Having this landing craft on display will help to bring the personal stories of D-Day to life in the new exhibition and we’re grateful to the National Lottery for making this possible.”
A range of activities, including community roadshows and pop-up museums, will help create interest in this new display and its significance to the Second World War. The transcript of the D-Day diary of Sub-Lieutenant John Baggott, who commanded 7074 aged just 20, will also be on display along with narratives and photographs of other D-Day veterans.