Born and raised in Chorley, Frank Woods was 5 years into a 7 year Apprenticeship at Iddon Brothers in Leyland when he volunteered to join the Royal Navy in October 1939. His application was refused as his job was considered to be of vital importance to the war effort. After a few years working on torpedoes and engines up and down the country, Frank volunteered again and joined the Royal Navy in the Spring of 1943.
Frank first started speaking with us in the early part of 2014. The 70th anniversary of D-Day was in view and he was keen to return to Normandy to be part of the commemoration and celebration. At this time Frank was 95, one of the oldest on our list of veterans. Clearly, it would be difficult for him to manage the trip on his own, without the support of others. Alongside that, he shared our opinion that his enjoyment would be much better amongst a large group of other Normandy Veterans – together again for this milestone anniversary. With each telephone call we got to know Frank a little better and in due course we were pleased to be able to confirm a place for Frank and his wife, Elizabeth.
The Millin-Montgomery Remembrance Voyage featured a tribute to the US Army losses suffered in Operation Tiger at Slapton Sands. We were aware that Frank was engaged in that training exercise and included his name in some of the published references. His service in the rocket version of Landing Craft Tanks LCT (R), was unique in the group and provided some remarkable stories of his contribution to the D-Day Landings as well as later service at Walcheren.
The LCT(R) was an LCT modified to carry a large set of launchers for the British RP-3 “60 pounds” rockets mounted on the covered-over tank deck. The full set of launchers was in excess of 1000, with 5000 more kept below for re-loading. The firepower was formidable, claimed at the time to be equivalent to 80 light cruisers or 200 destroyers.
The method of operation was to anchor off the landing beach, aimed towards the shore. The distance to the shore was then measured by radar, with elevation of launchers set accordingly. The crew would move below for safety and the mass rocket launch was then set off electrically. The launch could comprise the entire set or individual ranks of rockets. A full reload was very labour intensive and sometimes it would be necessary to borrow a working party from a nearby larger ship to assist in the process.
Here Frank tells his own wartime story. This is faithfully reproduced from his own writing:
Check back to read Frank’s story in full soon!
Whilst in Normandy in June 2014, aside from a general enjoyment of the whole event, Frank particularly enjoyed the group’s surprise Royal encounter!
On 5th June the D-Day Revisited group met with HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. This took place at the side of the Orne River, alongside three WW2 gunboats, one of which was the MTB-102 which had been so fittingly included during the last stage of the Millin-Montgomery Voyage. When speaking with Prince Charles, Frank recalled that shortly after the war ended he had met the Princes grandfather, the late King George VI. This was on the occasion of being awarded his DSM. Prince Charles was interested in this recollection and commented that he remembered his grandfather quite well, and in fact still missed him.
Frank & Elizabeth both thoroughly enjoyed returning to France amongst so many other Normandy Veterans and later that Summer they also joined D-Day Revisited on our first visit to the Goodwood Revival which they told us was a marvellous weekend away.