Q. about research on Logistics D-Day / Normandy

Discussion in 'General' started by Old Git, Apr 30, 2021.

  1. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Just wondering if there's anyone here who specialises in Logistics of shipping stores from UK to NWE?

    In every other area of endeavour there always seems to be a series of pamphlets, newletters etc. which carry little snippets of info on new discoveries, new or interesting ways of doing things. Several branches, like the RE, used corps specific MTP's as a way of disseminating info, as well as the Chief Engineers Letters etc.

    I was wondering if there was anything similar covering logistics, especially of port loading. I'm especially interested in those little snippets where the might talk about how to maximise space when shipping stores, i.e. never ship a truck empty, that sort of thing; the wheezes and dodges of the Dock Loading Laddies.

    Is anyone aware of any discussion documents at TNA that might cover these kind of nuts and bolts area of Logistics?
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Combined Ops published a series of pamphlets that were mostly organised by arm/service. A split set of these is being sold off on Ebay at the moment but the RASC one went last week.

    Movement Control may be another angle?
    Old Git likes this.
  3. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member


    It's a subject in its self. A team at the MOWT prepared standard loading plans for the larger merchant ships. It was a peacetime art to get a ship completely full and down to her marks, while keeping her stable at all times. Funnily enough, the Normandy shipments were more straightforward than the peacetime ones as loading and discharge was only at a single port. What they did learn early in the war was to have each ship carry all that the troops needed, rather than have one ship carry just one material; then if a ship were lost the troops would still have a complete supply. I will try to get some more info to send later, and I seem to remember that this subject has come up before?

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  4. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    There could be no question of having all of the troops and supplies close to their loading site; to do so would have caused bottlenecks and left the concentrations even more vulnerable to attack by the enemy. There was also the problem of alerting the German reconnaissance aircraft. So, troops and supplies were hidden, as much as possible, often far from the loading ports until needed. These ‘dumps’ were all over southern England, as much as sixty miles inland, and troops and their vehicles were hidden in woods and on common land.

    Similarly, too many loaded ships lying at anchor would attract unwanted attention; but it was essential that sufficient materiel be preloaded to meet all the requirements of the assault phase. Almost 300 ships had been selected as Mechanised Transport ships (elsewhere named Motor Transport or Military Transport ships). As previously stated the primary function of many was to carry 480 men and 120 vehicles. Other cargoes included petrol, spares, and rations. These ships came, in equal numbers, from the Americans and the British. Bulk oil tankers were also employed to ship petrol and water.

    Staff at the Ministry of War Transport and its US equivalent drew up plans for cargo stowage on the MT vessels, so that each ship would have similar combinations of cargo for the assault phase. They were aided by the fact that a large proportion of the cargo ships were of similar size and layout, with 10,000 tons deadweight (carrying capacity). The loss of a ship, or ships, would not leave the forces on the Far Shore short of any one commodity and ships could be discharged on arrival. This became known as ‘balanced loading’. The idea being that the ships that survived a particularly hazardous journey, such as the ones to besieged Malta, would bring at least a percentage of all the desperately needed supplies. Balanced loading had then been used for landings in the Mediterranean. One source says that that idea was the result of bitter experience in the Norwegian campaign of 1940, where our troops were enduring almost continual attack from the air. In one instance, desperately needed anti-aircraft guns were delivered, but the ship carrying the ammunition had been sunk.

    Balanced loading was not an option for those tasked with loading the coasters. Coasters were small ships that normally traded around the coasts of the UK and, in peacetime, from the Elbe to Brest. They were as varied as the trades they were designed for and the particular requirements of their owners. In size, they varied from 200 to 2,000 tons deadweight. In all, nearly 500 were made available for the operation. Of these 184 were allocated to the Americans, who chartered a number of Dutch schuyts as well. These little Dutch ships were used to making their way into the smallest of ports at high tide, often sitting on the bottom as the ports dried out. This made them most useful in landing cargoes at the smaller Normandy ports. Even they were initially far from keen on beaching on a shelving sand shore, with rock outcrops, especially under gunfire! This was soon overcome and most of the coasters beached where they could be discharged into DUKWs. The first 69 coasters arrived at Seine Bay on the afternoon of D-Day.

    Loading the coasters was governed by the amount of cargo they could carry, with the additional requirement that the most needed cargo should to be stowed last, near the top of the hold from where it could be removed first. So if a ship had a cargo that would take three days to discharge, the cargo required to be in France on day one would be the last to be loaded in the UK. Though the cargo for day three loading was not always alongside when the ship arrived. Also, the desire of the various supply services to maximize the use of available tonnage sometimes led to ships being overloaded and less than essential cargo being delivered. One example was a shipment that included razor blades and grass seed!

    Two organisations were set up to reduce possible delays to a minimum. One was the ‘Build-up and Control Organisation’ (BUCO), and the other the ‘Turn-round Control Organisation’ (TURCO). TURCO’s task was to control the routeing of ships to and from ports where berths and cargoes were waiting, combine the ships into convoys, and clear ships that had discharged from the beachhead as soon as possible. BUCO matched military needs with available shipping.

    Admiral Ramsay insisted on three principles: The most immediate was to land the maximum military force and the maximum amount of stores and equipment in the first three days. The next was the ‘Build-up’ after D+3, with a regular schedule of daily convoys from each of the loading ports, avoiding alternating peaks and troughs in the arrival of materiel. The third concerned the operation of the various classes of landing craft; where possible these were to use the same port and berth for each visit. A repeating three-day timetable was to be kept to.

    Every ship was to carry an identifying number on each side of the bridge or centre castle, with space below to indicate which convoy she belonged to on that particular trip. For example, the cargo ship Empire Farmer, MT51, left the Thames in convoy ETM7, the seventh MT convoy in the series from England, Thames. The ETA at Sword Beach was 13 June. On her return, the ship would have been in a convoy with the first letter F, for France, and the second letter the destination, say W for the Solent (Isle of Wight). Some photographs of ships show them flying the signal letter M, followed by pennants showing their MT number.

    Landing tables for the LCAs that were on the LSIs were prepared in March. These documented those ranks that were to be on each numbered LCA. ‘TRUX’ has listed the modified tables for Sword on: http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/38764-sword-beach/page-3?hl=sword, and subsequent pages. Elsewhere on the site, he has provided detailed information for the other British and Canadian beaches. He is now (April 2017), posting data for Omaha.
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  5. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    WO 229 may also provide some grist for your mill OG: WO 229/76/1 for instance has around 250 pages iro the Continental Movements and Shipping Committee.

    Although mostly catalogued at item level, these are only downloadable at piece level e.g. WO 229/76, which are generally very large files and, as these were digitised from microfilm, can be pretty mixed quality wise.
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  6. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Thanks for that, something to get my teeth into and the fact that they're mostly all digitised means I can do it all from home. Double Bonus!!!
  7. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Roy Martin and Idler, thanks so much for the replies, brilliant info and gives me a place to start. Thank you. As Archimedes said, "give me a place to stand and I'll move the earth". Thank you, gentlemen, for the lever!
  8. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member


    Glad to help

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