D-Day 70: tank wrecks highlight link to Solent

One of the submerged tanks. Picture: Alison Mayor.
One of the submerged tanks. Picture: Alison Mayor.
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TANKS and bulldozers resting at the bottom of the English Channel are a reminder of D-Day’s connections to home soil, the curator of the D-Day Museum has said.

The vehicles - two tanks and two bulldozers, known as the Neptune Wrecks - were destined to take part in the Juno beach landing, but after engine trouble the vessel carrying them was forced to turn back and then capsized just south of Selsey Bill.

It was on the evening of June 5, 1944, while on passage to Normandy, Royal Navy landing craft LCT(A) 2428 suffered a mechanical breakdown shortly after leaving the Solent.

It was carrying a cargo of two Centaur CS IV tanks and two Caterpillar D7 armoured bulldozers.

A spokesman for the Maritime Archaeology Trust said: ‘LCT(A) 2428 was taken in tow by rescue tug HMS Jaunty, but on the morning of June 6 it capsized and lost its heavy cargo.

‘The vessel, now floating upside down in the Channel, posed a potential hazard to other vessels in the invasion fleet and HMS Jaunty had little choice but to fire upon it until it sank. Luckily none of the crew of LCT(A) 2428 were lost.

‘The way in which LCT(A) 2428 sank has created two underwater sites of archaeological importance just south of Selsey Bill, that remain today.’

Andrew Whitmarsh, curator of the D-Day Museum in Southsea, said: ‘It is good to remind people that there are D-Day connections in this country.

‘They are another aspect of the story of D-Day, because generally you think of D-Day in connection with things happening in Normandy.

‘Tanks like Centaurs were important to help the troops to deal with the heavy weapons of German defences.

‘The bulldozers were useful because there were so many obstacles the Germans had put on the beaches.’

Southsea Sub-Aqua Club carried out archaeological investigation and historical research and were able to identify the tanks and their relationship to the landing craft.

It has become a popular site among diving clubs, and The Diving Club, based in Reading, sent a team of 12 down to look at the wreck in August last year.

Roger Selwyn and his wife Clare were among those who dived down to marvel at the Neptune Wrecks.

Mr Selwyn said: ‘It is quite a shallow dive, I think it was about 15 metres or so. We did quite a long dive because it was really, really enjoyable.

‘The wrecks are very populated with life now. They have become a habitat for things you find on the sea bed.’