Eric in 1942 aged 18
Eric Glennon was born on 21st January 1924, in Manchester and his early career was working for the Transport Department in Manchester, where he found, as the War progressed that he was being reqired to step into the roles of other workers as they went into the services. He volunteered to join up in 1942, at 18 years old, because he wanted to serve in the Navy, and as a volunteer he had the option of selecting which branch of the Services. He trained at HMS Raleigh, one of the Navy’s premier training establishments at Torpoint, Cornwall as an Ordinary Seaman and because of his civilian role was placed as a mechanic. He was sent on a six month training course in London to become a motor mechanic, enjoying the experience of living in London. The irony of the course was that he was trained to use petrol engines and then placed on Tank Landing Craft, which had diesel engines and required a further ‘update’ course (but not the same type of diesel engine) hence Eric did what most had to do during the war – he learned (by practice) the hard way, without major incidents occurring!
Eric was based at Southampton and undertook intensive training from January 1943 until D-Day, handling 105 mm self-propelled guns and practising landings. When he transferred base to Portsmouth, and saw naval craft as far as the eye could see in the port area, he knew that they were close to getting the real job done.
The Normandy Campaign
The Landing Craft that Eric was in (LCT 575) was loaded with Royal Canadian Artillery soldiers, Five 105 mm Self-Propelled guns and one Sherman Tank and the Craft set out on the evening of 4th June, but had to turn back because of the atrocious weather conditions when they were at Nab Tower about 10 miles out of port. (Nab Tower is the only remaining tower of 14 that were intended to be built as anti-submarine devices in World War 1. It is situated 4 miles east of the Isle of Wright in the Solent.) Eric recalls that the Canadians were glad because they were all seasick and graphically describes the conditions for those men who were pitched around in a flat bottomed boat travelling at 5 – 6 knots in very rough conditions. However, there was no respite for the troops, as the boat continued moving around in port, and the following evening (June 5th), in only slightly less rough conditions, they set out again for France.
They landed on Juno Beach at 8.05 am on 6th June, 3 minutes after the scheduled time that the Infantry were required to land. The craft was captained by ‘The Mad New Zealander’ as he was nick-named by the crew, who declared that he was going to go as far up the beach as possible.
The captain declared that we were going to give the troops a dry landing and I was in the engine room and wondered why we had the signal ‘full speed ahead’ when we were coming into landing and should have gone slow ahead. But anyway I gave him full speed and we landed so violently that I was thrown from one end of the engine room to the other and we (the craft) broke our back. I don’t know what happened to those men in the body of the ship.
The slightly late arrival on Juno Beach meant that the main fighting had moved on from the beachhead, hence the scene that greeted us was a lot of dead and wounded (from the Regina Rifles and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles) on the beach and because we were stuck there they put wounded men on our craft. We were there about 10 hours and the ambulances wouldn’t take these casualties because they said they had to go to the front troops, so we eventually got them on to an LST (Landing Ship, Tank). The trouble was we had lashed them onto stretchers & we had to haul them up, banging against the side of the boat. It was terrible, and some of them were very badly wounded. We had no dressings and we had to use our towels as dressing. There was one German First Aid man there (who had been captured) and I remember him going to one of the Canadians and being told where to go! The Canadian had a bad wound – his stomach was open – but he wouldn’t allow the German to treat him, so I had to put towels over his wound and we put him on a stretcher, but I don’t think he would have lasted long.
The only action we saw on the beach when we were over there was one Junkers 88 (German aircraft recognised by Eric because he was particularly interested in aircraft) came over very low and dropped bombs and fired a machine gun. Our stoker was carrying one of the wounded to an LST to try & get him on and he saw the bullets and he ran back to our craft with this bloke on his back. So he never got to the LST, but both survived – they didn’t get hit. In fact that was the only German aircraft we saw. There were thousands of others – British, U.S. but no other German aircraft.
The Flotilla Leader arranged for us to be pushed off by two bulldozers at high tide, at about 6 pm. Because we had broken our back, they told the skipper to beach and get the crew on an LST to go back to port, but he volunteered to carry on (there was no doubt he was mad, but he was a nice bloke). We carried on & eventually as we got back to the Isle of Wright a Cruiser passed us, and the wash completely broke the boat’s back and we had to get two tugs to tow us in. They repaired us, but in Portsmouth I went to hospital with tonsillitis and only rejoined the craft when they came back after having made about two or three further journeys, ferrying infantry & vehicles. We were then involved taking a lot of equipment to Cherbourg and when Le Harve fell we were the first landing craft into Le Harve. The weather was bad then, and we couldn’t get out of port again for three or four days.
It was then that Eric recalled encountering the Americans, and being given food supplies from the American base (white bread and butter from a diary in New Jersey); the British gave an allocation of £1.32 per man per week for ‘foraging’ supplies and the American generosity meant that Eric was able to save money that week. There is affection for them as fighting colleagues, there was no formality and they cut the ‘procedures’ that were part of the British services. He recalls an incident when Americans were held in port at Portsmouth by bad weather awaiting transportation to Le Harve & the 2 lavatories on board became blocked up. He reported this to an American sergeant, who ordered a private to clean them. The retort was “I ain’t cleaning no shithouses!” and the sergeant responded by pulling out his revolver and holding it to the private’s head. The toilets were cleaned and restored to working order. Eric chuckled as he reflected that in England the man would have been put on a charge; the Americans had a more direct way of dealing with things. Soon after, Eric joined LCT 1084 and continued ferrying across the Channel.
Eric’s involvement with the logistics of the Normandy Campaign ended as the war arena moved on into Belgium & Holland. In early 1945 LCT 1084 was transferred to the French Navy. The British crew were given medicals, prior to posting in Burma, and it was here that Eric was found to have a perforated eardrum and therefore unfit for further active service and was placed on land duty.
When he left the Navy he trained as a plumber and qualified with City & Guilds qualification to work for North West Gas (later British Gas) as a plumber fitter. By the early 1950s he qualified to become an instructor, and in 1974 he became Service Training Officer until his retirement in 1985. However, he continued to do ‘odd bits’ until he was in his late 80s.