Restored D-Day tank landing craft opens to public

The last remaining tank landing craft of its kind which played a crucial role in D-Day is opening to the public after being renovated from a barnacle-covered wreck.

The Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 7074 spent many years rusting and submerged in Birkenhead Dock before it was rescued and restored to its original state which saw it used to deliver troops and tanks to the Normandy beaches.

The vessel, restored with a £4.7 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is now being opened to visitors for the first time after being installed outside the D-Day Story museum in Southsea, Hampshire.

Veteran Wally Beall walks around the craft
Veteran Wally Beall walks around the craft

Nick Hewitt, head of collections and exhibitions at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), said: “When she was rescued by the museum, she was rusty, unloved and covered in barnacles, having spent many years submerged at Birkenhead Dock. But now she is transformed.

“The restoration of LCT 7074 has been a long and arduous project for the team at NMRN, but to see her outside the D-Day Story and to know that so many visitors will be able to experience her first-hand is a fantastic feeling.”

Mick Jennings, 95, was a Royal Navy crewmen on a different landing craft, LCT 795, which carried American troops from Dartmouth to Utah Beach on D-Day.

Veteran James Rawe on board the vessel
Veteran James Rawe on board the vessel

He said: “We couldn’t have landed in France just with troops on foot, and LCTs were very important to carry tanks and other vehicles that could deal with the enemy tanks.

“It is a very good idea to open LCT 7074 to the public, so people can visit and get an idea what conditions were like.

“I was only 18 years old, and most of the crew were 23 or under. The living quarters were next to the engine room so it was noisy, and sleeping in a hammock was uncomfortable, but when you’re young you can tolerate these things.”

LCT 7074, which was the last surviving example of more than 800 tank-carrying landing craft which served on D-Day on June 6 1944, became a floating clubhouse and nightclub from the 1960s to 1980s before falling into disrepair.

Veteran Bill Silvester is shown around the craft
Veteran Bill Silvester is shown around the craft

It was retrieved from Birkenhead Dock in 2014 and brought to Portsmouth Naval Base, where most of the renovation work took place.

The work included new internal and external paint, a fully restored funnel, electrical works and the fitting of replica guns and rocket launchers.

The project has also recreated the bridge, wheelhouse and the crew’s living spaces so visitors can get an impression of life on board the landing craft.

Steve Pitt, cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development at Portsmouth City Council, said: “It is a huge honour to hold another piece of history in Portsmouth, to preserve, inspire and educate visitors about D-Day and the important part our city played in this historic event.”