Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationOperation Neptune
 The D-Day Landings in Normandy

The original D-Day landing map at HMS Dryad
"D-Day map at HMS Dryad"

The Map Room in Southwick House HMS Dryad, Hampshire, displays the actual map used during the D-Day landings in Normandy and shows the positions of Allied Forces on 6 June 1944.

Neptune was the assault phase of Operation Overlord, the plan for the liberation of north-west Europe. The Naval Historical Branch published a 39 page booklet,  on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings which can be viewed online or downloaded which will answer most questions about it but the following additional sources may also be helpful if you had a family member who  served in one of the V & W Class destroyers which were part of the vast invasion fleet which escorted the landing craft carrying the troops and tanks to the five landing beaches. The stories of the men who served in these V & Ws are told on this website.

Landing Craft

The success of the D-Day landings was made possible by the development of specialist landing craft to deliver the infantry, tanks and other equiment to the landing beaches:


     LCA        Landing Craft Assault
     LCT        Landing Craft Tank Mk4
     LCT-R    Landing Craft Tank – Rocket
     Rhino    Ponton Rhino


    LCVP     Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel Higgins
     LCI        Landing Craft Infantry
     LCM     Landing Craft Mechanized
     LST       Landing Ship Tank Mk2

The Landing Beaches

Admiral Kirk led the American sector (Western Task Force):
Force U (for Utah) positioned in Plymouth,
Force O (for Omaha) positioned in Portland.

The British-French-Canadian sector (Eastern Task Force) was the responsability of Admiral Vian:
Force S (for Sword) positioned at Portsmouth,
Force G (for Gold) positioned at Southampton,
Force J (for Juno) positioned at the Isle of Wight.

A large gathering area codenamed “Z”, nicknamed “Piccadilly Circus”,  was located 30 kilometers south-east of the Isle of Wight; the allied armada then split into five convoys heading for their respective landing beaches through five channels previously opened by minesweepers.

The Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Troops did not land at Arromanches on D-Day to leave the coast clear for the Mulberry Harbour to be put in place, free of debris. The port was meant to be temporary, but served for five months. The Arromanches Mulberry Harbour became known as Port Winston, after Winston Churchill, who was closely involved in its conception. A staggering 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies arrived via Port Winston.

The failure of the raid on Dieppe in 1942 led to the developmet of two Mulberry Harbours described by 

"Mulberry A, was constructed off Saint-Laurent at Omaha Beach in the American sector, and Mulberry B was built off Arromanches at Gold Beach in the British sector. Each harbour, when fully operational, had the capacity to move 7,000 tons of vehicles and supplies per day from ship to shore."

Mulberry A off Omaha Beach was not securely anchored and badly damasged by a storm on 19 June but both remained in use until the Scheldt was cleared and Antwerp docks, the largest in Europe, could reopen in November

Map showing Landing Beaches for D Day Landings in Normany 1944
The position of the five landing beaches in the Bay of the Seine between the Cotentin peninsula in the west and Le Havre on the right bank of the Seine in the east
The map is from Operation Neptune: the Normandy Invasion published by the Navy Historical Branch (NHB) in 2014

The escorts for the convoys

"1,212 Allied warships, 4,125 amphibious craft, 735 ancillary craft and 864 merchant ships were allocated to Operation Neptune, in addition to 200 naval aircraft" From: Operation Neptune: the Normandy Invasion (Naval Historical Branch).

This list of the V & W Class destroyers which took part in the Normandy landings was compiled by Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret) from his Godfather's personal printed copy of the Seniority List of the officers commanding warships as part of Operation Neptune. This 13 page document lists every officer and second in order of rank and seniority from Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay to sub lieutenants  in the RNVR in order of seniority (date of appointment) and could be used to determine who would take over when the Senior Officer or his ship was put out of action. The "notes" alongside each ship are based on their entries in plus references to the D-Day landings on the entries for the ships on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association. There are not many of these and I am hoping that I shall receive further contributions from the families of the officers and men of the twenty V & W Class destroyers listed on this page. Click on this link for a guide to the Normandy invasion convoys.

For a vivid description,
from an American perspective, of unfolding events as they happened read Stephen Ambrose's D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Battle for the Normandy Beaches (Simon and Schuster, 1994).

HMS CAMPBELL (Cdr Ernest Colin Coats, DSO, DSC)

Alllocated for Convoy escort from Thames to beach head area as Escort Group 113 with HM Destroyer Vivacious for escort of military convoys during build up phase.
3 June joined escort for Convoy S13 with HM Trawlers Northern Gem and Hugh Walpole. Convoy comprised 4 Landing Ships and 4 Rhino craft.
4 June passage to Spithead.
5 June escorted Convoy S13 through swept channel. After arrival in Sword area returned to Sheerness. Continued Neptune escort duties.
Vivacious joined Group on 8 June escorting Convoy ETM33,  See her movements thereafter.

HMS KEPPEL (Cdr Ismay James Tyson RNR)
29 May took passage to Milford Haven to form Escort Group 136 with French Corvette Roselys, and HM Trawlers Grimsby Town and Cambridgeshire.
3 June Group and HM Trawlers Grassholm and Neave escorted Convoy EBC1 from Milford Haven to Solent. Convoy comprised 23 coasters and an Ammunition Supply Ship.
5 June arrived in Solent.
6 June sailed from Solent as escort for Convoy EWC1A and took passage through swept channel to Western US Task Force Area.
7 June detached on arrival and returned to Milford Haven for deployment with Group to escort further convoys to beach head.

HMS MACKAY (Capt Jocelyn Stuart Cambridge Salter OBE, DSC)
3 June joined HM Destroyer Southdown, HM Corvettes Potentilla and Vervain to form Escort Group 102 with 2 Motor Launches.
5 June Passage to Thames Estuary to meet Convoy ETM2 (comprising 25 MT ships and four others taking Pre-Loaded British Build-up Division to Eastern Task Force Area).
6 June Escorted convoy with Group and HM Corvettes Poppy and Statice to Spithead.
7 June Passage with convoy through swept channel to beach head. On arrival took passage to return to Thames Estuary for deployment with Group for escort of Build-up convoys

HMS MONTROSE (Cdr Guy Neville Rolfe DSC)
At the beginning of June Montrose  joined HM Destroyer Whitshed and HM Corvettes Borage, Loosestrife and HM Motor Launch 119 to form Escort Group 104 of Force L. Montrose and the Group left Harwich on 5th June, and escorted follow-on convoys to the Eastern (British) operating area from 6 June. On D-Day as she escorted Convoy ETL1, comprising 12 LST and 27 LCT taking the 7th Armoured Division, the “Desert Rats” to their landing beach, HMS Montrose was saluted by Lt Angus Graham, the Marquess of Graham, RNVR, heir to the Duke of Montrose and CO of HMS Ludlow playing the bagpipes on her bridge. The Group returned to Harwich after arrival off the beach head.
        On 7th June she deployed with group for escorting the Build-up convoys. Her stern was damaged in collision with the cargo ship Empire Heywood off Harwich on 7th July. Montrose suffered more serious damage on 19 July when she collided with the landing ship LST430 (Lt.Cdr.William Hall Laws._RD._RNR) and was docked at Immingham for repair. Montrose did not re-enter service and was placed in Category C Reserve on 2 November 1944. Montrose was allocated by BISCO to Hughes Bolckow Ltd for disposal on 31 January 1946 and scrapped at Blyth in Northumberland.

HMS VANQUISHER (Lt Cdr Frederick Meares Osborne DSC RANVR)
Escort Group 106, augmented by two additional Corvettes and HM Trawlers Caldy and Gweal, sailed from Milford Haven on 3rd June to escort Convoy EBM3 (Bristol Channel to France), comprising 11 empty Motor Transport ships, from the Irish sea to load in south coast ports. Group sailed on 7 June for passage through the swept channel, arriving in the Western (US) Task Force Area for discharge on 8th. From 10 June escorted build-up convoys from Falmouth.

HMS VERSATILE (Lt  Gilbert Charles Potter DSC)
Deployed with Force J
Sailed from the Solent on 4th June with a Motor Launch to join Convoy J14 on passage to Juno Beach, which comprised: HM Landing Ship (Infantry) Royal Ulsterman, 12 Landing Craft (Infantry) Large, 24 Landing Craft Tank, 2 Landing Craft (Flak), one Landing Craft (Rocket), and one US Navy Coast Guard Vessel.
On 6 June arrived at lowering position for Juno Beach at H Hour minus 30 minutes.
On 7 June embarked Rear Admiral W G Tennant (Mulberry/Pluto) for visit to witness sinking of blockships in Sword Beach area.
8 June deployed at Portland for escort of daily EPL2 Series convoys of Landing Ships (Tank) to the Western (US) Task Force Area.

(Lt.Cdr. Vernon Dudley Ravenscroft, RN)
In January 1944 she joined the 6th British Escort Group in North Western Approaches until she was nominated for the D-Day landings in Normandy with Western Task Force O. On 6 June she supported the landings by US troops on "Bloody Omaha", sailing right up to the beaches with her sister V & W HMS Vidette to give the beleaguered army close support, knocking out artillery emplacements, machine gun pillboxes and Germen infantry emplacements.

HMS WHITSHED (Lt. Tom Peter Baillie-Grohman, DSC)
At the beginning of June Whitshed joined Escort Group 104, comprising HM Destroyer Montrose, and HM Corvettes Borage and Loosestrife, at Southend.
On 5th June the Group left Harwich escorting Convoy ETL.1, comprising 12 Landing Ships, Tank and 27 Landing Craft, Tank to the Eastern Task Force Area. After arrival in area on 6th June the Group returned to Southend for escorting the Build-Up convoys

HMS VIDETTE (A/Lt.Cdr. George Stephen Woolley, RNVR)
May 1944 saw Vidette operating in the English Channel as part of Operation Neptune, the naval component of the Normandy landings. This included deployment to Milford Haven for the escort of Build-Up Phase convoys to the Western Task Force area.

HMS VIMY (Lt.Cdr. John Neil Kelly Knight, RN)
28 May escorted HM Motor Launch 10 for last minelay off Britanny before landings.
Deployed with Build Up Force B for escort of military convoys to Western (US) Task Force area from embarkation ports.
7th June escorted Convoy EMB3, detaching on arriving off beachhead on 8 June.
On release from Neptune deployed for coastal convoy defence in Channel and South Western Approaches

HMS VIVACIOUS (Lt Frank Denison Cole)
June: Escort Group 103 in Force L, with HM Destroyer Campbell, HM Corvettes Clover and Pennywort and Motor Launches of Light Coastal Forces.
On 8 June escorted Convoy ETM3, comprising 14 Motor Transport ships from the Thames to the Solent, with the Group supplemented by HM Corvettes Poppy and Statice.
On 9 June, passage with Group from Solent to Eastern Task Force area with Convoys ETM33 and ETM3W, returning to the Nore on completion. Continued convoy escort duty with Group from Thames to beach head.

HMS VOLUNTEER (Lt Cdr R.N.R. James E. R. Wilford, RN)
21 May in action against E Boats of 9th German MTB Flotilla with HM Destroyer Haldon and French Destroyer La Combattante off Hastings.
Joined HM Canadian Corvette Summerside, HM Trawlers Ruby, Kingston Andalusite and Ellesmere to form Escort Group 144 of Force B at Milford Haven.
4 June escorted Convoy ECB2 (32 Motor Transport Coasters and 5 Oil Tankers) from the Bristol Channel to the Solent, arriving 6 June. On 7th June passage through the swept channel to the
Western (US) Task Force area with convoy. Detached on arrival and returned to Milford Haven for escort of Build Up phase convoys from the Bristol Channel.

HMS WALKER (Lt.Cdr. Arthur Nichol Rowell, RN)
Walker was part of Escort Group 137 escorting troops ships and landing craft during Operation Neptune. She took no part in the initial assault on D-Day but was part of the escort for Military Convoy E2B2Z which reinforced American troops on Utah and Omaha Beaches in the Western sector on 8 June. Lt James Glossop RN recalled some amusing incidents and there is a 63 pp typescript memoir by  JW Somers in the Imperial War Museum's ms collection.

HMS WALPOLE (Lt George Clement Crowley DSC)
Escort Group 133, with HM Corvette Orchis and two Motor Launches from Light Coastal Forces
Sailed from Southend on 3rd June, escorting Convoy ETC1 (6 AA Ships and an Ammunition Supply Ship), returning to Southend when Neptune landing postponed.
On 5 June escorted ETC1 to the Solent, coming under fire from shore batteries when in Dover Straits. Returned to Southend, to start a daily cycle of ETC convoys to the beach head on 6 June.
t George Clement Crowley DSC, the last CO of HMS Walpole, describes his memories of the Normandy landings

HMS WANDERER (Lt. Cdr. Reginald Fife Whinney, RN)l
Between 4 and 6 June    
Escort Group 105 (Wanderer, HMS Tavy, HMS Dianella and HMS Geranium) and the Royal Canadian Navy corvettes Summerside, Woodstock and Regina escorted Convoy EBM2, composed of 30 motor transport ships and five others, from the Bristol Channel to the Western Task Force unloading area off Omaha Beach, arriving on D-day plus one.L

HMS WATCHMAN (Lt Cdr Earnest Michael Thorpe DSO)
May - June    
Escort Group 138 with HM Canadian Corvette Lindsay, HM Trawlers Scalpay and Ganilly.
On 6 June Watchman and Group escorted Convoy EBC3, comprising 11 Stores Coasters, three empty MT Ships, two Armament Stores Carriers and a Water Tanker from Milford Haven to the Solent.
On 8 June Group passage through swept channel to Western Task Force area as escort for MT Ships, Armament Carriers and Water Carrier. Attack by E Boats during passage driven off. On arrival detached from convoy and returned to Milford Haven. Continued escort of Build-Up convoys to the beach head.

HMS WESTCOTT (Lt Cdr Hedworth Lambton, RN)
3 June sailed from Clyde as escort for HM Battleship Rodney.
5 June Passage from Solent through the swept channel with HMS Rodney and escorted her during bombardments in support of the assault on 6 June.
7 June developed defect in boilers and returned to Solent for repair. On completion deployed on interception patrol and convoy defence off beach head.
"Stormy" Fairweather briefly describes Westcott's part in the Normandy landings between stories of her time escorting Arctic Convoys in 1944.

HMS WHITEHALL (Lt Cdr Patrick James Cowell DSC)
1 - 27 June    
Escort Group 139 with HM Corvette Rhododendron, HM Trawlers Skoma and Ulva.On 3rd June Group escorted Convoy EBC1, comprising pre-loaded Stores Coasters from Milford Haven to the Solent, arriving 5 June.
On 7 June Group escorted Convoy EBC 1 to the Western (US) Task Force area, returning to Milford Haven on completion.
Whitehall continued escort of EBC Convoys from Milford Haven until release from Neptune on 27 June.

HMS WINDSOR (Lt Lionel Robert Patrick Lawford)
May - June     
Escort Group 132 with HM Corvette Starwort and two Motor Launches of Coastal Forces. Later augmented by HM Corvette Buttercup.
On 4 June Group escorted Convoy ETC2Y from the Thames Estuary to the Solent (convoy comprised 13 Coasters with pre-loaded transport for the British Build-up Division, five Water Carriers and ten Oil Tankers).
On 7 June Group escorted convoy through the Swept Channel to the Eastern Task Force area Discharge position. On completion Group returned to the Nore to commence cycle of Build-up convoys

HMS WRESTLER (Lt. Reginald William Beecroft Lacon, DSC, RN)

"HMS Wrestler, escort to Group 313, spent the night rounding up stragglers and guiding stray groups into the correct channels. At 0645 hours on D Day she was mined. "She was proceeding at speed and was one cable to the eastward of Channel 7" according to the report of Commander Force ‘J’ who also states" The commander had appreciated that the importance of the punctual arrival of these groups outweighed the risk to his ship by operating in unswept waters".
From the entry for Juno Beach on

On 6 June 1944, HMS Wrestler was mined off Juno Beach and declared a constructive total loss, being sold off on 20 July as scrap.

The D-Day veterans who served in V & W Class Destroyers

My interest in V & W Class Destroyers was based on  my father's wartime service in HMS Venomous which led to my publishing two new editions of Bob Moore's book A Hard Fought Ship: the story of HMS Venomous in 2010 and 2017 (both out of print) and the decision to record the memories of the men who served in all the V & Ws on the website of the V & W Destroyer Association to ensure they would not be forgotten when all the veterans had "crossed the bar". The veterans served in many other ships and some of them did far more on D-Day than escort the Landing Craft which took the troops and their equipment to the landing beaches in Normandy.

HMS Venomous had been refitted as an air target ship for Barracuda torpedo bombers and played no part in Operation Neptune but her charismatic 1st Lieutenant, Angus"Bloody" Mackenzie who brought the troops back from Boulogne and Dunkirk in her glory days of 1940 and commanded HMS Vimiera when she detonated a mine and sunk in the Thames estuary with heavy loss of life in 1941 was CO of CO of HMS Undaunted during Operation Neptune. Sydney Compston, Bosuns Mate in HMS Venomous in 1940-1, joined the RN Commandos and on 6 June was wounded on Sword Beach and awarded the DSM. Leslie Mortimer was one of more than 500 men rescued  by HMS Venomous when the destroyer depot ship HMS Hecla was torpedoed and sank off the coast of Morocco on the night of 11 - 12 November 1942. In June 1944 Les Mortimer was a crew member of HM Landing Ship Tank 703 which made fourteen landings on the Normandy beaches.

The men who served in sister ships of HMS Venomous also played a prominent part in the D-Day Landings. Peter Scott was a telegraphist with Combined Operations during the D-Day landings. He spent six weeks on Gold Beach communicating between the beach master and his ship, HMS Albrighton and described his time on Gold Beach on Reels 5 and 6 of an interview in the Sound Collection at the IWM in London which can be listened to online.

On the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014 France’s President François Hollande pledged to honour all British veterans who served in France during the Second World War. As a result all the veteran members of the V & W Destroyer Association whose ships escorted Landing Craft to the Normandy beaches in June 1944 were appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur "in recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the liberation of France during the second world war" - but most did not set foot ashore.

There are places that command History,
Today they are places to walk - or cycle?

The ferry terminal for Brittany Ferries service from Portsmouth to Caen in Normandy is at Ouistreham at the mouth of the Canal de Caen

D-Day Beaches
D-Day Photo 1
D-Day Beaches
Statue at Omaha? D Day Beaches
Mulberry Harbour ast Arromanches

The D-Day landing beaches photographed by Paula Coleman on a cycling holiday with Yorkshire Bikeliner in July 2022

When the veterans leave, there will remain to us only these places
to remind us what occurred there, on that day in June 1944.

Thev only surviving LCT
The only surviving Landing Craft Tank, LCT-7074
Bayeaux Tapestry

Read about controversial French plans for a "D-Day Land" theme park in Normandy

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