In the planning of the Normandy invasion, a specific allocation of craft and shipping was made for the Assault and Follow-up Forces. There was an exact allotment of personnel and equipment to each craft, which was detailed in Landing Tables. Each craft-load was given a serial number by which it was identified in the Landing Tables and in the Loading Tables that were compiled from them.
The advance parties of No. 4 RAF Beach Squadron, numbering 17 men, sailed with Force ‘G’ to land First Tide (in Serials 2183, 2190, 2468, 2564, 2818 and 2916). However, most of the Squadron sailed with Force ‘L’ to land Second Tide (in Serials 3525, 3527, 3528. 3539, 3540, 3542, 3543 and 3759).
Here we are going focus on just one of the many ’serials’ in the Assault and Follow-up landings.
John Fenton in Serial 3539
John Fenton was a Cypher Sergeant with the Signals Section of 4 Beach Squadron. He later described his voyage to the GOLD area of the Normandy beaches, in writing and in a radio interview broadcast in 1981 and again in 1984.
Among the sand dunes of a river estuary – we were at Felixstowe, someone said – on a warm summer’s evening, Army pay officers at trestle tables gave us the first confirmation of our destination. We lined up, handed over whatever English Treasury notes we had, and received in exchange crisp, newly-printed French franc notes. So, it was France!
The loading of Landing Craft seemed interminable. Vehicles and tanks had to be reversed up the steep, narrow ramps so that later they could drive straight off. Recovery vehicles stood by to help the unfortunate. Occasionally, less skilled drivers would be replaced temporarily by the more adept. Securing chains had to be fixed, and when each Landing Craft had its full load of vehicles, the personnel were taken on board. At 10 pm on 2nd June, I boarded an LCT, numbered 3539…..
At around 06.00 Hours, the Marching Party from Serial 3539 met up with the 3-ton truck (from Serial 3540) carrying their equipment. They set up their signals post and communication was established with C.H.Q. Portsmouth at 10.10 Hours.
More about Serial 3539
Serial 3539 was carried in an LCT Mk III from Felixstowe. It was loaded with 11 vehicles and 75 men. 41 men were foot passengers (in Marching Parties) and 34 were with the vehicles (Vehicle Parties). 29 of the men and seven of the vehicles were RAF, while 3 vehicles and 46 men belonged to Army units.
There were seven 3-ton trucks with various types of signals bodies, belonging to units of the RAF’s 83 Group Main HQ and the Group Control Centre, plus a 3-ton truck and Jeep belonging to the Commander, Royal Engineers, 104 Beach Sub-Area. There was also a heavy artillery tractor towing an RAF Type 14 Radar Trailer belonging to an Anti-Aircraft unit of the Army.
The marching parties included 11 men who were troops of the Commander, RASC, 104 Beach Sub-Area, and 11 men belonging to 90 Field Company, 10 Beach Group. The RAF marching party of ten were from 4 Beach Squadron and were mostly from the HQ Signals Section.
Serial 3539 was scheduled to land in the JIG Sector at H+19½ hours, which would be 02.55 Hours on 7th June.