Probus hears from an Old Sea Salt

Brian Nagle (right) with Probus Vice President Alan Porter

Bryan Nagle, although Manchester born and bred has lived in Sherborne St John for many years as he had worked for Wycombe District Council as Chief Officer Environmental Health. His badminton and tennis days are now behind him but golf and being a member of the Jane Austen Society keep him and his wife Sheila busy in their retirement years. Since 1998 Bryan has been a member of the Probus Club of Basingstoke the social organisation for retired professional and business managers to which august body of men he gave an illustrated talk of his war time service in the Royal Navy.

Moving to the south he trained for thirteen months as an Electrical Engineering Rating at the Grand Hotel in Lyndhurst followed by operational service encompassing both the European and the Far East theatres of war. However the specific topic of his presentation was about his research that has uncovered the apparent lack of public recognition in this country, but not in the USA, of the major role played by the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) in both Europe and the Pacific. Bryan was Petty Officer (Electrical) in charge of the generation and distribution on two LST vessels and he has great affection for the unsung heroes that played such an important role during the hostilities of WW2.

“Operation Dynamo” the evacuation from Dunkirk of the British Expeditionary Force between 27 May and 4 June 1940 that involved many privately owned small boats also clearly demonstrated to the Admiralty the need for ocean going ships in any future amphibious operations. Something considerably more substantial was needed than the landing craft so often depicted in war films. It highlighted the need to have ships capable of delivering substantial number of tanks, vehicles and troops direct to the shore and therefore had to have a shallow draught. In recognition of this and as an interim measure, three 4000 to 4800 tons tankers which had been built with shallow draughts to pass over restrictive sand bars in Venezuela were converted with new bow doors and loading ramps. These, then, became the first tank landing ships, the name being later altered into LST (Landing Ship, Tank). They proved their worth in the 1942 invasion of Algeria but their blunt bow made for inadequate speed and a sleeker hull design was sought. Both the Royal and the US Navies jointly designed the Mk 2 version which had to carry from 13 Churchill tanks up to thirty 3 ton tanks below deck, 15 lorries above plus up to 200 troops. Some could carry the landing crafts mentioned earlier. Vessels were also designed to become hospital ships and command centres fitted with radar and wireless. Production started in the USA where inland iron foundries on navigable rivers could quickly be converted into production. At the height of production one could be built in two months.

In total 1150 LSTs were built, some 80 in the UK and Canada for use in future European and Pacific invasions. The British built versions were slightly larger, of hot riveted hull design making them capable of withstanding gale force weather, whereas some of the US welded hull design were known to have failed in heavy conditions. A shared important feature of both types, the brainchild of British designer, Sir Rowland Baker, was the provision of floodable side wall buoyancy tanks. This allowed for effective trimming of the ship with the bow needing a draught only about four feet of water which enabled the beach approach to be made at speed ready to get the bow doors open and ramp down.

The Normandy landings, starting on D Day 6 June 1944, was the largest seaborne invasion in history and involved 311 LSTs with only three being lost. Most then spent the next three months, doing 50 round trips carrying tanks, supplies and troops outbound and wounded troops and German POWs on the return. Both General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke who lived during and post war in Hartley Wintney and is buried there) agreed that the LST was an essential element in the overall success of “Operation Overlord”, the code name for the Normandy campaign which had to be won to turn the tide of the war in the Allies’ favour. There was no Plan B!

HMS Bachaquero at Bone
LST Loading UK
LST Anzio.

Goodbye Eric Marks

Eric Marks
Eric Ernest Marks 12 December 1923 – 16 April 2015

Friday 24 April was the funeral of one of our longest members, Eric Marks, at St Mary’s Parish church in Old Basing.

A crowded church saw Eric’s son Richard give the eulogy that was a history of his life and times at Blacklands farm where in later years Eric, who by now was not permitted to drive on the roads, used an old Land Rover Discovery around the farm and occasionally had to be rescued having got the vehicle into difficulties. Eric’s other son, Stephen, gave the Bible reading from the 1st book of Corinthians that included the lines

“Death has been swallowed up in victory”
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sons, together with their families, lit candles in memory of Eric.

The Probus Club was represented by President David Tivey and past presidents Paul Flint and Tony Atchison with his wife Lesley.

Probus Bids Farewell to Ron Davis

Ron Davis
Ron Davis 18 January 1926 – 13 March, 2015

Ron was born and lived in Wiltshire until he was six years old when the family moved to Farleigh Wallop, Basingstoke where his father took up employment on the Portsmouth Estate.

After attending school in Cliddesden until he was 14, he took employment with J.T. Thorneycroft prior to beginning an apprenticeship in engineering and studying at Basingstoke Technical College for the National Certificate of Mechanical Engineering. This was interrupted by two years in the Royal Corps of Signals as a radio and telecommunications technician serving in the Middle East, Egypt and Palestine. After demobilisation he returned to Thorneycroft and completed his apprenticeship.

In 1952 he moved on to work for A.W.R.E., Aldermaston as a Technical Officer and retired from that establishment in 1991 as Senior Professional and Technical Officer. His work there included planning and attending atomic weapons tests on Christmas Island.

Ron was a devoted family man who married twice and had his six children with his first wife, subsequently marrying Doreen. He was a keen Freemason holding several high offices. He tried his hand at golf and lawn bowls and took pleasure in driving particularly to Scotland where he and Doreen enjoyed hill walking. Both were also keen gardeners and he was also involved with the local squadron of the Air Training Corps and the Conservative Club – demonstrating his energy, drive, initiative and determination to make a contribution to the community .

Ron joined Probus in 2001 and found several friends he had known for many years. He was a popular and active member of the club and both he and Doreen regularly enjoyed the outings organised by the club. Unfortunately the illness from which he suffered meant that for many months recently he had been unable to take part in any of the club’s lunches, meetings or activities.

A gentleman whose company one could not help but enjoy, Ron will be greatly missed by those fortunate to have known him.