Gun craft tragedy 1943 site, Freshwater West
In April 1943 many bodies were washed ashore at Freshwater Bay after the loss of three military vessels in the same storm. The deaths of 85 members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines would have been avoided had two of the vessels been granted shelter earlier.
In 1943 the Allies were preparing for an invasion of mainland Europe. Various support vessels were designed, including the Landing Craft Gun (LCG). This was designed to fire on enemy positions as the forces approached the shore, then to land men and equipment and thereafter form a static gun position.
LCG 15 and LCG 16 were built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast. They were to be delivered to Falmouth by 79 sailors and Royal Marines. Approaching Pembrokeshire, the shallow vessels – not designed for rough seas – ran into a storm. For reasons which were never explained, the authorities at Fishguard refused to allow the LCGs to shelter in the harbour there. The vessels had to press on to Milford Haven but began sinking as they passed St Ann’s Head. Lifeboats could not help. LCG 15 sank in darkness on 25 April, with no survivors.
An old fisheries protection vessel, HMS Rosemary, came to the aid of LCG 16 and dispatched six crew members in the ship’s lifeboat. All six occupants drowned after the boat was overturned. Later LCG 16 also sank, again with all hands lost.
Some of the bodies were never found, and the site of the vessels’ sinking was declared a war grave. Thirteen of the bodies washed ashore could not be identified. They were buried at Milford Haven cemetery as unknown sailors from LCG 15, LCG 16 or HMS Dinosaur, the training establishment in Scotland where many of the victims were based.
A memorial to the men who died that night can be found a short distance up the hill from Freshwater West beach. Researcher Steven John has placed details of the men on his website here.
With his kind permission, we have summarised the details for easy reading on mobile screens. To see the summaries, choose one of the vessels below.