1st Battle of Heligoland


British vs German Navy,
28 August 1914

The first major naval battle of ww1

helgoland Heligoland in the North Sea is a geological oddity, a block of harsh red cliffs laid in the North Sea. Successively Danish, English, and German, she locked the bay of the same name. Located on the west side of Denmark next to the mouth of the Elbe and 70 km from the coast this spot included two islands, the smallest of which was a simple dune.

Ships anchored in Wilhelmhaven and Bremerhaven crossed its path at any outlet in North Sea. In addition, if the island had so far been mainly a stop for sailors and popular holiday resort thanks to its microclimate, Tirpitz soon contemplated its naval base potential and started to built two large piers and military installations.

From the start of the war, British submersible watched moves and regular patrols of destroyers and light cruisers in the area. Commodore Roger Keyes, who commanded the force of British submersibles, formulated a plan that involved the Harwich Fleet commanded by Admiral Tyrwhitt.

Initial Plans

cdre-roger_keyes_1915 < Commodore Roger Keyes. The plan was to attract the bulk of the enemy light forces off the coast of Heligoland by a submersible curtain split into two groups, one of which was to play the role of decoy, and attract the enemy ships onto Harwich Fleet and the other to prevent reinforcements. It was planned a another force composed of heavier vessels (battle cruisers and armoured cruisers) within reach in case of massive reinforcements from Bremerhaven or even the Grand Fleet.

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Heligoland battle and ships involved (Postcard)

But the staff at that time had other things in mind and provisionally dismissed the Keyes plan. The latter resurfaced when W.Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty and explained his views. Cheerful, boiling Churchill then requested a meeting and confered with Tyrwhitt, the Prince of Battenberg (1st Lord of the Sea), Sturdee (Chief of Staff of the Admiralty) and Hamilton (2nd Lord of the Sea). Sturdee opposed any mobilization of the Grand Fleet in support, but agreed to provide coverage of the operation with five cruisers, battleships of the force C and the two battle cruisers of the Force K.

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The Island of Helgoland circa 1890-1900

Keyes’ submarines are deployed

Both Keyes’s submersible groups were composed of E4, E5, E9 placed north and south of Heligoland to prevent the Germans reach to coast, while another line consisting of E6, E7 and E8 was sent 74 km from there to attract Germans to the west force. Finally the D2 and D8 were placed at the mouth of the Ems to intercept any reinforcements. The day was to be scheduled for 28 August. However John Jellicoe, the commander of the Grand Fleet was only informed of this in very vague terms, on the 26, just when Keyes was sailing his submarine force.

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Submarine HMS E4

Cruisers are committed

The latter finally offered the assistance of the Grand Fleet, worrying an exit so close to German coasts. Sturdee objected again, but nonetheless allowed to detach some battle cruisers, which could be quickly in the area. A force comprising the first squadron of battle cruisers under David Beatty and a squadron of light cruisers under Commodore Goodenough was established. But Keyes and Tyrwhitt had at that time almost reached their positions and were then could not be contacted. So they ignored this support force. Thus the unexpected meeting just before dawn on the Force of Harwich and Goodenough nearly turned to confrontation before the watchmen confirmed that they were friendly vessels !

SMS Frauenlob
SMS Frauenlob, Gazelle class

German order of battle

From their side, the Germans had sent a force of nine modern destroyers from the first flotilla of torpedo boats, 46 km west of the island. 22 km of the island was also posted the Third Division of minesweepers. In support, were the light cruisers SMS Hela, Ariadne, Frauenlob and Stettin, while the Mainz was still in the mouth of the Ems, and 7 other light cruisers were anchored at Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbuttel. No heavier ship was available. The Harwich force commanded by Tyrwhitt included no less than 31 destroyers led by light cruisers Arethusa and Fearless. In support, C Force counted five armoured cruisers, and Force K had six light cruisers and battle cruisers HMS Invincible and New Zealand.

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Heligoland Fortifications

grman_rear-admiral-maass < German Rear Admiral Maass At the first light of dawn, the German destroyer E9 spotted the G194, and at 5:26, torpedoed, but missed the latter while is was proceeding at full steam for ramming. The German ship immediately signaled her position, and other destroyers of the flotilla aimed at full speed for this sector.

Tyrwhitt’s destroyers at the vanguard

Then Tyrwhitt Forces arrived with vanguard, Laurel and 3 other class “L” destroyers. The latter spotted the G194 at 6:50, and was pitted against Admiral Leberecht Maas, who hoisted his mark on the Cöln, the first to see the enemy. He echoed the new commander in chief of the defense of the bay of Heligoland, Rear-Admiral Franz Hipper. The latter, thinking it was just an isolated squadron of four destroyers, only authorized the departure as Stettin and Frauenlob in immediate reinforcement.

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HMS Loyal, 1913

Tyrwhitt on his side feared for his too advanced destroyers, and unable to recall them, was obliged to sail at full speed to assist them. This is when the first flotilla of destroyers arrived. These spotted the cruisers and destroyers which did not joined the battle, preferring to retreat to the shelter battery of Heligoland. Detached, the first flotilla led by Fearless made its way north. The Third flotilla led by Arethusa, having mauled the S13 and V1, reached the second German line, composed of frail minesweepers.

But at 7:57, the British watchers signaled the presence of two enemy cruisers: These were the SMS Frauenlob and Stettin. The 3rd fleet veered towards these ships, while the first in gunnery reach engaged combat. Soon the Fearless hit the Stettin, which came to support the destroyers veering towards the island. However, the Fearless was ordered to continue north of the island. Arethusa, meanwhile, heavily engaged the Frauenlob.

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HMS destroyer Laurel

The ordeal of HMS Arethusa

However because of the concentration of German Fire, the Arethusa was also hit several times, with its machinery damaged, flooded, its engine and transmission out of order, but especially its two main guns knocked off, the others quickly following. The Frauenlob on her side and conceded 10 impacts. But the British cruiser situation worsened with the arrival of the SMS Stettin, recently “released” from its duel with the Fearless, pulling northeast. At 8:30, the Arethusa, too badly damaged, broke off the fight and headed due west, with the Frauenlob on its tail.

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SMS V187 destroyer at Heligoland

Meanwhile, a chase ensued between Keyes aboard HMS Lurcher and light cruisers of Goodenough, each thinking the other was the enemy, because of lack of communication. This confusion ended at 9:50. Goodenough then decided to detach the Lowestoft and Nottingham of the first squadron of cruisers. These crossed the path of V187, which was hit and pursued by several destroyers led by HMS Goshawk. The German destroyer was sunk at 9:10 am and survivors rescued.

Maass’ cruisers arrives

Just when these operations were underway, while two whaleboats were at sea, destroyers had to depart hastily when watchmen signaled the Stettin. The few English sailors left in their boats and German sailors were surprised when the submersible E4 surface. There was not enough room to collect them all, and only English sailors and three prisoners boarded while the remaining Germans were given compass, food, and the direction of Heligoland. Around 8:55, the Fearless and Arethusa were traveling southwest in concert.

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HMS Arethusa light cruiser

The Hela and Ariadne, warned, were too far from the action and returned to their patrols, while the Strassburg, Mainz and Cöln had sailed towards the island and were now racing towards combat. Confusion still raged on when at 9:30, HMS Southampton of the Goodenough squadron was torpedoed unsuccessfully by the E6 which took her for a German cruiser. The latter in turn took her to a German submarine and started a ramming maneuver.

Meanwhile, Tyrwhitt was trying to reform his squadron lost in the fog, which then began to rise. That’s when the Germans cruisers catch on. SMS Strassburg began shell the slow retreating, wounded Arethusa, despite and active defense from destroyers led by HMS Fearless. SMS Strassburg break off down, but the Cöln in turn started to pound the hapless Arethusa. Once again, she was saved by the bold defense of the British destroyers. In turn the Strassburg also tried to finish off te British Cruiser. Under pressure, Tyrwhitt demanded urgent intervention of David Beatty. The latter complied and came in support despite the presence of mines in the area at 11:35. Regarding the strength of Harwich, the battle raged between the English destroyers and the cruiser when the SMS Mainz arrived in turn. At 11:50 Goodenough’s squadron was reported by the Germans watchmen and the three cruisers changed course.

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Sinking of the Mainz at Heligoland

Cruisers vs destroyers

The Mainz had its rudder jammed by a lucky shot from the Fearless. She continued to drive on course by modulating the speed of its two screws, but was violently attacked by destroyers Laurel, Liberty and Laertes. The latter has been badly hit in return. The British cruisers then in turn pounded her until she was evacuated by her crew. She will sink in 40 minutes at 24:50. Meanwhile, Cöln and Strassburg took advantage of this diversion to re-attack the Arethusa (almost defenseless), its destroyers being dispersed.

Beatty’s battle cruisers to the rescue

It was then David Beatty’s turn to arrive timely with his battle cruisers. They opened fire from a distance, surprising the Germans cruisers that at last break the fight and change course. The distance dwindled rapidly during this maneuver, so the Cöln was quickly hit. Ariadne then arises, attempted a diversion by taking fire. A bold more, but she was immediately hit at close range by both the Lion and the Princess Royal, and quickly set ablase. The Strassburg took advantage of the confusion, still cruising between the two lines, and managed to escape, but the Cöln was spotted by the watchmen of the Lion, and at 13:25, the German cruiser, unable to fire back because of its shorter gunnery range, was sunk.

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SMS Ariadne, light cruiser path on the final phase of the battle

Aftermath

At 14:00 it was all over. SMS Strassburg had escaped his pursuers, and the bulk of British forces has being folded. The latter deplored 36 victims while HMS Arethusa and three destroyers had to undergo lengthy repairs. But on their side the Germans deplored 1200 casualties or missing and prisoners, and had lost 3 cruisers and a destroyer. This battle showed firstly the serious shortcomings of the defense of the bay of Heligoland, since the German system had proved too light and that the attacks lacked coordination, reinforcements arrived too slowly. But on the other side the British showed a critical lack of communication of coordination between the different forces involved, which nearly ended in disaster. This does detract from the success of Beatty who will reap the greatest credit of this victory in the newspapers…

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Cruiser SMS Mainz

Gallery

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Second phase of the Battle

battle_of_heligoland_bight_1914_final_phase_map
Last phase of the Battle

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SMS Mainz sinking

Video

Links and Sources

The Battle of Heligoland bight on wikipedia
The Battle of Heligoland bight on British-Battles
The Battle of Heligoland bight on naval-history.net

Landing Ship Tank

USA (1942-45)
About 1051 ships

Armour Straight to the beaches: LSTs

For this first crossover article with our sister website, tanks encyclopedia, meet the ships that really allowed to carry allied armoured divisions straight to the beach of Italy, France, or many Pacific Islands. Without these, and because of devastated, fortified or absent harbours, tanks would have to wait long after the troops have landed before any infrastructure was ready for them. Those troops then would have been deprived of a very essential tool in modern warfare, impending heavy losses or to be pushed back to the sea.

An introduction: Heavy Landing ships in history

Beach landing operations were nothing new in the XXth century: In the Greek classical and Roman eras, Polybius, Thucydides, Livy, Demosthene and Diodorus all described the Hippagoges, ships tailored to carry horses. In the late Roman era were mentioned the “Thýra-Khelandions”. We already know the Byzantines introduced the “Greek Fire”, a heavy napalm thrower/flamethrower. They also used heavy galleys tailored to carry cavalry (A. Jal, Archeologie Navale, 1840). What we don’t know however were the details of their use or configuration. Did the horses were stored above the rowers ?. Did the horses disembarked directly from frontal hinged doors as it supposed to sound ? Any case, this kind of ship was again described as the “nef huissière” in the Crusades (Hippagines Naves). These ships rigged the latin way (with triangular sails) and had rear doors to left the horse enter. But they probably required wooden ramps to allow the horse to disembark, or from side doors on wharves. This was the norm in conventional landings, after the infantry effectively beach landed on small rowing boats and already secured a solid foothold, up to the Crimean war.

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WW1 British X-Type landing craft

However, already in 1879 for the landing in Pisagua, the Government of Chile ordered to built flat-bottomed landing craft called Chalanas. These had all the attributes of modern landing crafts and were large enough to a sizable infantry, landing some 1,800 men in less than two hours. In WW1, at Gallipoli, it was back to the usual, improvised methods with infantry landing from rowing ships. Horses and a few vehicles arrive much later when a wharf was constructed. In some occasions, troops that were leaving a ship via side doors were moaned down by Turkish shore defenses.

Landing ships of the the Great War

Only in February 1915 was placed an order for a purposely-designed landing craft. No less than 200 ‘X’ Lighters with a spoon-shaped bow were built. Their first tour of duty was in the Aegean coast of the Gallipoli peninsula. With their drop down frontal ramp they landed the entire IX Corps (Commander Edward Unwin) at Suvla Bay, 6 August 1915, removing the Turkish Garrison. Known as the ‘Beetles’, these 135 tonnes ships carried 500 men each, and where 105’6” long, 21′ wide, and 7’6” deep (32.2 m × 6.4 m × 2.3 m), all with bulletproof sides. Their heavy oil engines gave them 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph).

Interwar Prototypes

For tanks, there were already projects to land British heavy tanks from pontoons at the 3rd battle of Ypres in late 1917. In the interwar, prospects were renewed, at least in the British Navy to carry and land medium tanks. Exercises took place, in which a prototype designed by J. Samuel White of Cowes, was first tested in 1926. This relatively small craft was boxy in appearance, 16 tons, with a flat bow and stern. It was propelled by a a crude waterjet fed by a centrifugal pump driven by a Hotchkiss petrol engine. Eventually three were operated in 1930.

Landing-Ship-Family
US Landing Ship/Caft family

Early Wartime Landing Ships

Back in USA, both the USN and USMC studied the concept of advanced base force, which officially evolved into the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) in 1933. Fleet Landing Exercises took place in 1939 in which Andrew Higgins’s boats for the first time shown their capabilities. The final design was given a ramp, was named LCVP, and mass production started right away. But these crafts were infantry-carrying ones. A slightly larger variant called the LCPR could carry a jeep. But for larger hardware, converted cargos became the norm, including those mass-built to replace the losses in the Atlantic (Liberty ships among others). In the meantime larger infantry-carrying ships like the LSI appeared, and the first vehicles-carrying ones. The first were the Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) series devised two years earlier, and operated by the Royal Navy.

LSTillus
Wartime LST description

The LST concept

The real incentive began when Prime Minister Winston Churchill demanded an amphibious vessel capable of landing at least three 36-ton heavy tanks directly onto a beach in 1940. It was to be seaworthy and capable of a 10 day cruise in high seas, be inexpensive and simple to maintain. Naval architect Sir Roland Baker essentially designed what became the LCT Mark I, a 372 tonnes ships launched by Hawthorn Leslie in November 1940. It was followed by three series, until the larger Mark 4, tested in combat in the disastrous Allied raid on Dieppe in 1942, the experience of which was closely followed by the personal in charge of the design of an equivalent for US service.

LCT202
British LCT 202.

After December 1941 indeed, the Bureau of Ships was put in charge to design plans for a ship which integrated advices from K.C. Barnaby of Thornycroft which worked on previous LCTs. Also the British evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 was another motivation to study such designs. Early 1942, the first design was the LCT Mark 5, a 117-foot (36 m) craft, and it was possible to carry and ship it to combat in three separate water-tight sections, on board cargo ships of even an LST. The Landing Ship, Tank however was a much larger design which can carry and extensive payload for amphibious operations. The real challenge was to go from the known working beahaviour of a nimble landing craft, to such behemoth capable to deliver entire armoured battalions. The LST was a true game changer as it was not carried from a mothership but capable of ocean-going, shore-to-shore landings, almost from the training camp to the frontline.

Royal_Navy_HMS_Bachaquero_at_Bone_1942
HMS Bachaquero at Bone, 1942

Development of the LST

The fist true LST was British, the HMS Boxer class (Boxer, Bruiser, and Thruster, ordered in March 1941). It was capable to deliver 13 Churchill heavy infantry tanks, 27 vehicles and nearly 200 men, all across the ocean at a speed of 18 knots. However as it could not have shallow draught each of the three ships (March 1941) were given a very long ramp, stowed behind the bow doors. In November 1941, a British delegation paid a visit to the US United States Navy’s Bureau of Ships for future shared development and also passed their experience to the new design. The latter, called The LST(2) integrated among other ideas from Sir Rowland Baker’s experience with LCTs, and the design was eventually authorized by the Congress in the acts of 6 February 1942, 26 May 1943, and 17 December 1943 as the same time as an enormous shipbuilding programme, unprecedented in US History. The keel of the first LST was laid down on 10 June 1942 at Newport News. Standardization came in October, and twenty-three were in service by the end of the year. From then on indeed, a staggering quantity would be built until the end of the war, at breakneck speed, so much so that the admiralty did not even bother to give them proper names. They received identification numbers like all other landing crafts in service…

LCT-LST-blueprint
LCT-LST blueprint

Design Development of the LST(2)

Initial specification asked sufficient inner buoyancy even when the tank deck was flooded. Top speed was 10 knots as designed, with the same load as the HMS Boxer but drawing only 3 feet forward when beaching. These very large landing ships (at least until the modern assault ships built in the 1960s) were nevertheless challenging for engineers. They had to retain qualities of long cruise ocean-going cargo ships, while being able to not only land hardware on the beach, but also retreat by themselves at sea to take another load, performing vital and relentless rotations from shore-to-shore all along the ongoing amphibious operations. For a start, a flat-bottom ship was a nuisance at sea, especially with a shallow drought. In bad weather, if the excessive roll and pitch was not enough to have everyone on board sea sick to death, the stress on the hull would have gone far enough to break it apart. The problem was eventually solved by John C. Niedermair of the Bureau of Ships.

He basically sketched out the basic design that was to be standardized, which integrated an ingeniously large ballast system, filled for ocean cruise, and pumped out for beaching operations. The second ace in his sleeve was the equally ingenious, massive anchor and mechanical winch system which allowed the ship to pull itself off the beach, ensuring another rotation. At that time, the US were not at war yet and the design was submitted to the British Admiralty on 5 November 1941, immediately accepted. An order came in response for 200 “LST (2)” or Mark 2 to be built through Lend-Lease. Of course one month later, the USA went at war, and this altered and accelerated the process that followed.

Tank_landing_ship_technical_diagram_1959
LST cutaway ad technical overview

Indeed in January 1942 the initial LST 280 feet (85 m) plan was modified as the Bureau of Ships asked for a 290 feets ship, and before the end of the month settled on a 328 feet (100 m) ship, that has to be given also a 50-foot (15 m) beam. These generous dimensions were not only motivated by payload concerns but also to ride higher in the water. Their carrying capacity was nevertheless taken to 2,100-ton (1,900 t) and the larger width allowed to design a more generous bow door opening and ramp of 14 feet (4.3 m), large enough to accommodate all allied vehicles in service. The larger size also imposed thicker plates, 0.375 inches (9 mm) on the bridge, but not hardened, which did not constituted a true protection against shell splinters. The bow under plates were one inch thick to absorb beaching stress. A scale model was produced and tested at the David Taylor Model Basin in Washington, D.C.

Design Specifications

In addition of the ballasts, anchor and winch systems, many other details were worked out, like the ventilation of the tank space, which provided enough draft to allow all tanks to start and warm their engine before landing. A small elevator was also provided to store additional vehicles and payloads on the upper deck. In April 1942 a mock-up well-deck was built and tested for three monthes in real conditions with tanks supplied by Fort Knox (at this location). First beaching test was performed at Quonset, Rhode Island, in early 1943.

LST-761
LST-761

Production

Standardization came in October 1942, although production was well underway already. What was particular in that case it that production plans commenced even before testing were completed, or even scheduled. Coordination between the Bureau of Ships and shipbuilders was performed on the flow by the Material Coordinating Agency, allowing flexibility and revisions during the initial production phases. The programme indeed had received the utmost urgency. The keel of an aircraft carrier was even removed to make room for the first LST. The flat-bottom of the ship allowed to built it along inland waterways, near the steel fabrication yards and supplies. Empty hulls were then often shipped and the operations surveyed by a “Ferry Command” to the coastal yards for completion and fitting-out of the equipments. Remarkably enough, of the 1,051 LSTs built during the war, 670 were supplied by five “cornfield shipyards” in the Middle West ! These were Neville Island, and the American Bridge Company in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Co. in Evansville, Indiana, Chicago Bridge and Iron’s shipyard in Seneca, Illinois.

LST-532
LST-532

Production simplifications were ongoing constantly to provide faster paces in welding and assembling, so much so, that from the initial four monthes in 1943 the production was reduced down to two monthes. But in between, operational experience had a return and imposed substantial modifications. From LST-491, the elevator was replaced by a hinged ramp lowered to the main deck, placed just before the the bow ramp, allowing much faster rolling operations and landing. From the LST-542 class was added a navigation bridge, water distillation plant, removal of the tank deck ventilator from the main deck and strengthening of the main in order to carry a LCT, an upgrade in armor and the addition of a 3 in caliber gun. They had two General Motors 12-567 diesel engines, two shafts, twin rudders and a Speed of 12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h). When submerged, the main bay could accomodate 2 to 6 LCVPs. Eventually 1,051 has been actually constructed, 113 LSTs were transferred to Britain, and four found their way later in the Greek navy (see later).

LST-786
LST 786

British LSTs

Although this would be the object of a separated article, some 80 LST Mk.3 (40 cancelled) were built in the UK (35) and Canada (26). They served with marines as diverses after the war as the Royal Australian Navy, Hellenic Navy, Royal Netherlands Navy, Indian Navy. Propulsion was assumed by an Admiralty pattern 3-drum water-tube type boilers (225 pounds psqi). Main engines were 4-cylinder triple expansion, 4-crank type, balanced on the Yarrow-Tweedy-Slick system. Thy developed 2,750 hp (2,050 kW) total. In addition there were the three initial massive ships, 116 m long, 4800 tonnes Maracaibo class. These signaled themselves by their double hinged ramp of 100 ft (30 m) span and could carry 18 × 30 ton tanks or 22 × 25 ton tanks or 33 × 3-ton trucks. The Boxer class was even larger at 120 m and 5400-5900 tonnes.

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A Crusader tank landing from LCT-124

The LST in action

Unfortunately despite their merits (Winston Churchill would claim later that these workhorses “won the war” for the allies), the LST were not so quite vulnerable despite been quickly nicknamed both the sailors and soldiers “Large Slow Target” or “Large Stationary Target” from their acronym. Their combat debut took place in the Solomon Islands in June 1943 (and not Operation Torch as generally thought were converted ships and LCTs were present). They participated in the invasions of Sicily (Operation Husky), Italy (Baytown, Avalanche), Normandy (Overlord), Southern France (Anvil Dragoon) in the European Theater and proved invaluable in the whole island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific. They had been instrumental in the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

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LSTs in Normandy, june 1944

Even with such production however, they were never enough of these ships for the Mediterranean theater or to assume the logistics of amphibious operations in Italy, but after the landings in Normandy, the situation gradually improved. LSTs suffered losses in several occasions, notably a devastating ammunition supply mishandling that cost a chain explosion. These ships could nevertheless absorb punishment and survive, possibly because of their reinforced structure. One survived a collision with a Liberty Ship.

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LSTs at Iwo Jima, with mount Suribachi behind

Only 26 were lost due to enemy action, 13 more because of bad weather, reef, or accidents. Better still, of the grand total, if many had been mothballed, other scrapped or tested in a nuclear explosion, the majority served yet again in the Korean war, proving themselves at the landing in Inchon, and were later modernized, to served in the Vietnam war (at last named after Counties and Parrishes), despite their age. Also as a side note, LST were not the largest amphibious ships built in WW2: The LSVs of 6000 tonnes with an aft ramp to carry DUKWs, LVTs, LCVPs or LVTs depending of the operations (6 built, 1942-43) or the twenty-five, 4030/7400 tonnes LSDs (landing ships docks) which carried beaching crafts, pioneering the modern assault ships.

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LST launching a LVTP-5

WW2 Veterans saved the last LST

In the US, the last was sold for scrap in 1984. But those which served under foreign flags has been maintained in service for some well until the early 1990s. One of these, the Greek L144 in 1994 was one of four LSTs scheduled for replacement. A group of US Veterans deploring the absence of a surviving ww2-era LST battled for years with red tape and sent a delegation to evaluate the ships. One (with the best-looking state) was chosen, anchored in Suda bay in Crete. It was repaired and restored, then undergone a perilous trip across the Mediterranean (yet with more repairs en route as one engine broke up), and then across the Atlantic and Mexican gulf to Mobile, Alabama, where it stands today in its original LST-325 ww2 state in working order, available for visits.

Conversions

In total 83 ships were converted as auxiliaries or special-purpose vessels.
-ARL (Landing craft repair ships): Bow ramp and doors removed and sealed, derricks, booms and winches added to haul damaged landing craft on board for repairs. Auxiliary power and electrical workshops were also provided.

USS_LST-776_with_Brodie_system_front_view_during_testing_1943
LST 776 with Brodie system

-LSTH (Landing Hospital ships): 36 converted. They brought no less than 41,035 wounded men back across the English Channel from Normandy by D-Day+114 (28 September 1944).

-Ammunition Supply Ships: Some were given extra cranes and handling gear, used only for ammunition supply for capital ships.

Improvized aircaft carriers: The USS LST-906 launched a L-4 Grasshopper from a prepared flight deck. While additional L-4s were stowed alongside the deck. Later in the war, USS LST-16, USS LST-337, USS LST-386, USS LST-525, LST-776, and USS LST-906 were all converted to launch planes only but USS LST-393 and USS LST-776 were fitted with the Brodie System for planes take off and landings.

FTD (Fighter Direction Tenders): Three converted in British service. they had AMES Type 11 and Type 15 fighter control radar to provide coverage and coordination on the D-Day landing areas (Despite Luftwaffe incursions were quite reduced). HMS FDT 216 covered Omaha and Utah beaches, HMS FDT 217 Sword, Juno, and Gold, and HMS FDT 13 covered the channel. They resulted nonetheless to the destruction of 76 enemy aircraft total.

Also some ships were converted as MTB tenders, aircraft engine or landing craft repair ships, battle damage repair ships, floating store and depot ships, salvage craft tenders.

Axis LSTs

It should be noted that the Japanese also devised their own LST for their operations, the T101 class delivered from 1943 to 1945. They have been planned by the Navy Technical Department (Kampon) after studying intelligence reports on the LCTs dueing operation Torch. The first No.101 was laid down in November 1943. 103 were planned, and 69 completed (49 for the Navy, 20 for the Army) and 41 lost in action. They have about the same characteristics with a well deck but were lighter at 950 tonnes and 80.50 m (264 ft 1 in) long overall.

Four_Japanese_No101-class_landing_ships
Japanese T101 type LSTs

The Germans also developed their own large landing ship, the Marinefährprahm (MFP), “naval ferry barge” in 1940, originally planned to participate in Operation Sea Lion (The British Invasion). Instead, these relatively smaller ships (220-239t, 47.04-49.84m long) has been mostly used in the Mediterranean theater, and in Norway, for auxiliary duties. Some has been specialized as FLAK-ships, support ships and gunboats, referred to by the allies as the “Flak Lighter” or “F-lighter”. No less than 700 has been cranked up. They had a covered bridge and could carry light vehicles and about 200 men, but not tanks in the basic version. The A1 however was modified to carry captured and modified KV-1/K-2 tanks bound to invade Malta. The derived Italian Motozattera (MZ) planned for the same operation were modified to carry up to three M13/40 medium tanks and 100 fully equipped infantrymen. Probably the most amazing tank landing ship ever imagined was the German Transport Hydrofoil VS-8, but that’s another story…

Links

The LST series class on wikipedia
Full list of LSTs
Various liveries
3d model
Interesting paint scheme
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1922-1946.

Standard 1944 LST specifications

Dimensions 99,90 x 15 x 1.02-4.29 m (328′ x 50′ x 3′-14′)
Displacement 1780 t standard – 3880 t FL
Crew 108-125
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 TE 3 cyl., 12 boilers, 9775 cv. 19,3 knots max
Speed 22 knots (40.7 km/h; 25.3 mph)
Range 7,000 nmi (12,960 km; 8,060 mi) at 14 knots (25.9 km/h; 16.1 mph)
Armament 1 × 3′ (76 mm), 6 × 40 mm, 6 × 20 mm, 2 × 0.5′ (12.7 mm), 4 × 0.3′ (7.62 mm)
Payload 60 tonnes above deck, 2000 tonnes or 20 tanks & 200 men
Armor 9.5 mm (0.37′) deck

Video: LST documentary

Gallery

sherman-lst-NAF
Sherman M4A1 landing off an LST in beaches of Anzio during the amphibious attack on German forces in Italy dubbed Operation Shingle – 22 January 1944

Canadian-Sherman_off_LST_Sicily
LST landing a Canadian Sherman tank in Sicily, 1943

LST-942_underway_in_late_1944
LST-942 underway in late 1944

dday-gray-2014-LST
Camouflaged USS LST 393 at Muskegon in 2014 that Veterans wanted to repaint grey for 71st D-Day anniversary. The ship operated in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, England, Wales, Ireland and France, and was credited with carrying 9,135 soldiers and 3,248 vehicles.

LST-898
LST-598

LST-inoperation
LST in operations

LST-528-Thule1952
LST-528 at Thule in 1952

LST-594
LST-594

LST-738-burning
LST-738 burning after being hit by Japanese artillery

Graham_County_LST-1176-PuertoRico-1964
Modernized LST-1176 Graham County at Puerto Rico, 1964