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June 2024

American soldiers in the O-C sausage camp at Threemilestone in May 1944

D-Day was coming. The invasion would be soon. Everyone knew that, even the Germans, but no one knew when or where. In Cornwall the signs that something was building began in early April. On Wednesday 5th April 1944 most of Cornwall became a restricted zone. No one was allowed to visit into the restricted area. The line ran from Mawgan Porth on the north coast to Lezant near Launceston.

Sealed postbox

For those people who lived in one of the 12 sausage camps in Cornwall you needed a certificate of residence. No one else was allowed in. All the post boxes were sealed – no one could post a letter. The military mail still operated under strict censorship for a few weeks more.

People noted and commented on the increase in bombing raids flying to and from France. Many of the bombers flew back over Cornwall with a number having to make emergency landings on Cornish airfields, and several crashing into the fields and moors.

On Saturday 6th May what was to prove the final exercise took place along the south coast of England involving British, Canadian and American troops. Operation Fabius saw them land over five days on shorelines stretching from Littlehampton in Sussex to Slapton Sands in Devon. The Cornish living on the south coast saw the convoys of LSTs sail eastwards for the South Devon training area, and then return a few days later.

Sausage Camp O-F on the old A390 at Chacewater

From Wednesday 17th May units started moving from their camps and barracks into the marshalling areas. The sausage camps were filling up. Most were designed to house between 1800 and 2000 men at a time. Here the troops received some detail on their planned movement towards embarkation, though assault plans were rarely revealed until they were safely aboard. The troops collected their rations and personal ammunition, had a last hot meal, had a final medical check, haircut and got a new razor, some sweets and cigarettes, wrote their will if not already done and scrawled a few lines home for their loved ones. They were given 200 Allied Francs invasion currency. Vehicles destined for the far shore were given a final service and enough fuel for the first 48 hours and driven through a water filled pit to test their waterproofing.

On Wednesday 31st May the convoys of vehicles began moving towards the embarkation hards. If the vehicles heading for embarkation were stationary for more than 10 minutes they had to deploy their camouflage. On the Roseland the responsibility for making sure each establishment on the route was camouflaged and that the convoys carried out their instructions fell to the 604th Engineer Camouflage Battalion who were based at Probus.

MP directs traffic at what is now the county hall & Sainsbury's roundabout in Truro

The routes to the embarkation hards were planned in advance and strictly controlled. MPs stood at traffic control points directing and monitoring the flow of traffic while each convoy had a control jeep driving at its head. On the A3078 (the road down to St Mawes) a large lay-by had been constructed between Trenona and Treburthes farms. This was the Traffic Holding Point. If things were moving slowly ahead the traffic was held here to prevent logjams and chaos on the approaches to the embarkation hards. On many of these routes American bulldozers had pushed the hedges back creating large verges where the convoys could stop and deploy their camouflage if necessary.

Torpoint marching past bombsite to embark at the ferry slipway

The lorries carrying the infantry would drop them about a mile or so from the hard. Only vehicles destined for the far shore would be allowed down the embarkation roads and onto the hard itself. I had the privilege on Saturday 1st June of meeting a 98 year old lady who as a teenager had stood in the front garden of her farmhouse at Trewithian and with her siblings had waved to the American troops going past. She said some troops were laughing, some were in tears. Lots of them, however, threw chocolate and candy to the children as they passed. “We children did rather well out of D-Day,” she smiled but added, “None of us knew what was to shortly befall those brave young men.” Ann Roberts (her married name) was a small girl living between Mabe and Treverva. As the troops drove by her mother gave Ann and her sister a bucket of apples to place in the outstretched hands of a few of the troops. In Torpoint the troops had to march down through the bombed streets to embark using the ferry slipway. The empty troop transports then made their way back through the one way system to go back into the sausage camps to collect another load. The tanks, jeeps, trucks, guns & DUKWs heading to Normandy make their way down the embarkation roads where the Hardmaster directs their loading onto their designated LST.

Turnaware D Day Embarkation June 1944

At Tolverne and Turnaware they complete their embarkation on 1st and 2nd June within the designated 48 hours. At Polgwidden Cove (now known as Trebah) they spilled over into a third day. Nine LSTs loaded at Tolverne over those two days. Some recent history books have claimed a tenth but records show LST 386 loaded at Deptford.

Trebah loading armoured car on ramp

Marching round the corner onto the embarkation road down to the hard near Helford Passage June 1944

It’s difficult when visiting the peaceful tranquillity of the hards on the Lynher, Fal or the Helford these days to imagine the busy scene that was happening there 80 years ago, but let me conclude this blog article with four accounts of people who were at Tolverne on either 1st or 2nd June 1944, stories I was able to share at the ceremony held there this week at the Roseland’s D-Day 80 commemorations.

DUKWs of the 56th Signals Battalion ready to depart for Tolverne. The location is Tresawls Road in Truro which was the start point for the O-C Sausage Camp

Imagine you are one of the men of the 56th Signals Battalion who had come from the sausage camp at Threemilestone, leaving at 0730 hours on 1st June, driving through Truro & out to Probus, then down past Tregony & onto the Roseland. You arrive at Tolverne and load your DUKW communication vehicles on LST 54 which was commanded by Robert L Bunting Jnr. After a false start on June 4th, you set sail on the 5th and approach the Easy Red sector of Omaha beach, but although LST 54 sets afloat your DUKWs from the ship 10 miles from shore, due to heavy enemy fire neither DUKWs or LST made a landing. You are withdrawn to a safer distance while LSTs with tanks were rammed into the beach for the tanks to help sort out the chaos on the sands. You are supposed to provide the communication link between the shore and incoming ships. After 3½ hours the two DUKWs make it ashore & operate their radios under heavy enemy fire. One DUKW is knocked out for the next 15 hours the one remaining DUKW provides the vital link between shore and ships. Sgt Lelland R Raborn, leader of this invasion outfit, & 15 men of his team receive the Silver Star for gallantry. It is around 1000 hours on June 7th LST 54 finally gets its call to approach the beach for unloading.

Major Francis N Mangold was in charge of the first group from 104th Medical Battalion who had been based in Bodmin to leave their N sausage camp at 2330 hours on June 1st. they travelled in a truck convoy & got to Tolverne at 0445 hours on June 2nd. They embarked on LST 497 commanded by Lt B W Robb. They reached the coast of France at 1600 hours on June 6th. Due to the beach still being under artillery fire they didn’t land until 2000 hours on 8th June. They spent 2 days travelling inland, reunited with other 104th units who had travelled on other LSTs & set up an Ambulance Relay Post at Longueville.

Walking wounded on LST 393 June 13 1944

Roy Leighton Wall of Detroit was known as Bud to his friends. He was part of the crew of LST 393 & kept a diary of his life on board as an orderly who worked in the sick bay. Earlier in May the ship had done firing exercises in Gerran Bay. His ship came into Falmouth & loaded at Tolverne although he mentions neither by name.

May 31st – Our ship is restricted now. No liberty.

June 2nd - Pulled out of Plymouth with 7 or 8 other LSTs and sailed for this smaller port. Looks as tho D Day is not far off. Worked in sick bay and read half of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – very good.

June 4th – Had a stretcher drill this morning – last before the real thing. Given lectures & quick reviews of what we’re to do in evacuating. We’re to pull out for France sometime today.

June 5th – Pulled out this evening. Next stop France. Had General Quarters at sunset. Our convoy is all LSTs – over 50 of them.

June 6th – Slept all morning. Hundreds of planes have been passing overhead.

June 7th – Pulled within 3000 yards of beachhead. Hundreds of ships in sight & beach is filled with vehicles. Received casualties before sundown. Took on 277 casualties.

June 8th – After patients all aboard had to tend to them. I did this all day for 24 hours. Most patients were parachute & glider troops. I never worked harder in my life as I did today.

June 9 – Arrived Portland to unload casualties. Almost 48 hours without sleep.

Finally, Donald Arthur Loos was born on 25th January 1927 in Buffalo, Erie County, New York State. He joined the US navy & was a Seaman 2nd class. He served on LST 307 under Lt James Brette Markham. On 1st June his LST loaded here at Tolverne, then took a tug & its causeway in tow in the Carrick Roads. At 0510 on 5th June sailed from Carrick Roads, having done that 24 hours earlier but then returned due to the postponement of D-day.

On June 7th LST 307 anchored off Vierville off Omaha & cast off the causeway & tug. At 1128 hours on 8th June she beached on Easy Red Beach at Omaha. She unloaded her army vehicles onto Rhino ferries for the rest of the day.

She then returned to Victoria Docks on the Thames to load more vehicles and troops from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. She then headed for the British Sword beach where on 15th June she was instructed to land on Queen Red Beach. She commenced unloading at 1050 hours. At 1120 hours LST 307 was struck by a 105 mm shell in the port side of the ward room killing 6 men outright and injuring 14, one of whom was Donald. A few hours later he succumbed to his injuries and died. He was aged 17. He is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville sur Mer. Such were those who sailed from our Cornish hards.

For boys like him, who paid the ultimate price for our freedom & for the liberation of Europe, that is why in 2024 we have remembered their embarkation & their sacrifice.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

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Jul 01

In this special D-Day Commemoration year, another superb piece of history written-up by you, Phil.

Thank you so much.

Richard Austen

6 days ago
Replying to

Thanks Richard for your kind words.

All those who served 80 years ago are worthy of our commemoration and of having their story told.

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