The aim of recounting this part of my recent sojourn is to highlight the existence of what I suspect is a relatively unknown British military capability. Post war within the Royal Army Service Corps (later the Royal Corps of Transport|) there existed an amphibious unit. I would like to draw your attention to 2 websites:
This will give you a very comprehensive insight into the unit, deployments, camp etc. I won’t repeat it all here but let those interested navigate their own way.
And this one:
I’ve tried to contact both sites but with no luck; I have to assume they won’t mind my using some of the images.
First the mighty LVTP 5:
I had no idea whatsoever that this equipment was ever in British Army service; I have however, seen an image of the LVTP 5 amongst a Suez (1956) deployment but cannot find the picture at the moment so am unable to discern if there was more than the one vehicle in use (by comparing the registrations). I suspect that there was just the one on trials. In any event it all enthused me sufficiently to purchase the AFV Club kit with a view to finishing one in British livery. In a pale grey with British registration and RASC markings it should look very different.
This of course is a more widely known piece of kit and its use in British service is well documented; some deployed to Christmas Island to assist in the development of the infrastructure required for Op Grapple, the British nuclear weapon programme undertaken in 1957/58. There are many pictures within the 2 sites - quite a few in colour - and again, I’ll let those interested discover them for themselves. Needless to say, I’m now thinking of adding the Italeri kit to my stash(!)
And even a LARC, or at least I suspect an early version (note the position of the headlights):
Now, what has all this to do with my holiday? Well, not much save that armed with the knowledge that the unit had been based at Fremington, we set out to visit the site; whilst the unit had long been disbanded I thought that the barracks might still be there, albeit possibly derelict. It was only some 20 minutes drive from Northam (near Bideford) where we were staying, so off we set. Huge disappointment in that the site had been completely built over by a new housing estate! In its heyday it would have been this:
(Pic filched from one of the 2 websites)
Built by the US forces in 1943 as a hospital if you haven’t tackled the sites yet. Not shown is the proximity to the River Taw estuary, which of course is what made it so suitable for an amphibious unit (and indeed the offloading of casualties from ships during WW2). However, by driving around the new estate, with some evocatively named streets such as “Barracks Road” and “Company Close” or similar, I chanced upon 2 buildings from the era still in use:
Which, if I sort of closed my eyes and squinted a bit, sort of helped capture the atmosphere!
We then drove down to the quay where there was a café and had a coffee; whilst peering out to sea I again tried to imagine the roar of engines and an LVTP 5, but squint as I might, there’s only so much that imagination can achieve.
I appreciate that this may not be of that much interest unless you’re into modelling British Army vehicles; whilst I knew about the DUKWS, certainly the use of LVTP 5 and the LARC were a surprise to me. Of course, there may well be someone on Armorama who knows all about it - which truly would be Sod’s Law(!)