A real stand-out with LCT 7074 for ‘D-Day Story is, well, the way she stands out! The strikingly beautiful structure sheltering the ship is visible all around and along the front at Southsea, its wave-form white roof beckoning visitors. You can guess with a fair degree of likelihood that the first reaction of most who come to Southsea and spot the canopy from afar must be “What on earth…?” More than that, the LCT is there to see and walk round 360⁰, every day and night, rain or shine. She’s open to visitors during museum hours – but always there to bear witness. “Let me speak proudly” says the King before Agincourt, in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’. “We are but warriors for the working day.” So, too, was LCT 7074; and the story of her working day continues at ‘D-Day Story’.
Key to the success of Southsea’s ‘D-Day Story’ is its focus on people. At the museum, time and again, you are brought from the big strategic picture – though that’s also fully there – to human stories. Most often, of the kind of people you might well meet at any time even today, in a coffee shop, on a train, or at work. This, says museum chief Ross Fairbrother (picture), is at the heart of what ‘D-Day Story’ does. And it’s right there on board LCT 7074, too: from a multi-faceted audio-visual display covering all aspects of the ship and her life, to voices of sailors chaffing each other, to a precious picture of his wife in 7074’s first Captain’s tiny cabin. You’re right there with these people, and they with you; reminders of what we owe this great generation.
One of the finishing touches was another sweeping structure – the ramp leading up the tank ramp of LCT 7074, lowered every day to let visitors in to see ship and tanks, and closed off at night. Essential to do that because the ship would be a bit of a beacon for the mischievous and destructive if it were not protected. Indeed a display on the canopy’s supporting arches along the starboard side of the ship has been modified, with images featuring Maritime Films UK’s specialist photographer David Botwinik removed – because some over-enterprising locals had been using the pictures’ frames to climb on board out of hours. A real pity as David’s pictures, as always, are superb. But not lost, because they can be found across several pages of the brochure for visitors to the ship and the museum.
The LCT 7074 display at D-Day Story’ in Southsea is about more than the ship herself. What immediately takes the eye is the superb canopy over her, designed by Pritchard Architecture of Portsmouth. They came up with a wave-form sweeping over the ship – echoing the seas 7074 rode as she headed for the D-Day beaches. Only more friendly and certainly more beautiful. Stretching a “fabric sail membrane” over the cantilevered support system arching over ship and dock was a step-by-step business. Anyone who’s done anything similar around the house will understand what a ticklish process this was, with the building team moving across on cherry pickers beneath the new roof. One slip, one tear, and the work could be set back by months. But Ascia Construction made sure that didn’t happen. Not a nick or bulge to be seen.
Of course Landing Craft Tank 7074, at the D-Day Story Museum in Southsea, would be a bit Hamlet without the prince if she didn’t have tanks on board her. And sure enough here comes one of them. Shown in the picture is a Sherman ‘Grizzly’ – a Canadian version of the tank that was the mainstay of the D-Day landings, and of the Allies advance to victory after June 1944. This tank survives in large part because it was used for training, but she’s now doing duty as a memorial to all who served in Shermans during World War II – and to the ships like LCT 7074, which delivered them onto the Normandy beaches. This tank actually stood outside ‘D-Day Story’ before the arrival of the LCT, and has been reconditioned and re-badged to represent her D-Day sister, carried by 7074.
That shuffle was captured brilliantly in time-lapse by our stills and time-lapse specialist David Botwinik. David, who hails from New Jersey, has a great love of ships. He’s proved that over and over, not least by serving as a volunteer on the Gazela, a barquentine preserved in Philadelphia. David worked with us on LCT 7074 of course, as well as on our HMS ‘Victory’, and the WWII Fairmile RML 497 films, among others – producing stunning work loved by our clients. Look out for him in our films – he always appears somewhere in shot, just like Alfred Hitchcock did! But sad to relate, we no longer have him here to work with us – he’s moved back to the USA with his wife Gretchen, two of the nicest people you could meet. We’re plotting to lure him back for future projects.
Just as LCT 7074 had to land on sideways – juggling tide level and beach just right, to come to rest safely ready to slip onto Southsea’s Clarence Promenade in safety – so too on arrival at ‘D-Day Story’ did she have to move laterally into her new berth. Not so much a shuffle really – more a super-smooth slide. The distinguished 80-year old lady must have thought “This is some billet!”, all snug and tiddly (as sailors say) under the beautiful wave-form canopy over her – on its own a major new landmark for Southsea and the county of Hampshire beyond. Visible from afar, the canopy is already provoking “What the blazes is that?” reactions from visitors. And then more visits. One of the experts moving her so successfully put it this way: “This will be Southsea and Portsmouth’s London Eye!” Spot on.
You know those ads you see offering you drones at knock-down prices, easy to fly, great pictures etc. Hmmm. It’s not so much the drone itself as the person operating it that makes the difference – just as any top photographer will tell you, you don’t need mega-expensive kit to take great pictures: you can take superb shots with a disposable camera from Boots, if you use your eyes. Well, Maritime Films UK were lucky enough to secure the services of Matt Wild for our drone work. NB you also have to be licensed to do this properly, and you need to check with the local authority too – especially if you are flying over people. Matt handled all that and produced superb work. Go to https://www.maritimefilmsuk.tv/films/d-day-delivered-the-story-of-landing-craft-tank-7074-3-revelation/ to see what he delivered. Breath-taking. See much more of Matt’s superb work at http://www.altivision.co.uk/our-work.html
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.