D-Day veterans welcomed aboard LCT 7074 in Southsea ahead of public opening tomorrow
'IT'S SOMETHING I never thought I would experience again' - emotional D-Day veterans were given a tour of the restored landing craft tank in Southsea ahead of its public opening.
Following a six-year project to transform the last remaining landing craft tank (LCT) in the world, the LCT 7074 is now ready to open its doors to visitors at its new home outside the D-Day Story museum on the seafront.
The LCT 7074 was used to transport tanks to France during Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944.
Waterlooville veteran Walter Taylor was the first D-Day survivor to go aboard the vessel today (Dec 11) following its complete restoration, which included the installation of two Sherman tanks on board.
The 96-year-old was a Sherman tank driver during D-Day. He said: 'It's marvellous. It's something I never thought I would experience again, coming back to the landing craft tank 76 years later. It means everything to me.
'It's amazing to be here - it could be this landing craft tank was the one I was one. It wasn't like this though – it was a bit muddier when we were on it.'
The LCT 7074 was decommissioned in 1948 and was then used as a nightclub in Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s. However, she fell into disrepair and sank into the Mersyside dock in 2010
Supported by a £4.7m grant from the National Lottery she was then restored at the Portsmouth Naval Base, managed by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth City Council.
Bill Silvester, who was a member of Royal Navy communications team that went ashore on D-Day, was also given a tour of the LCT 7074.
The 96-year-old from Southsea said: 'D-Day is something that is always in my head - it's something I'll never forget. I was only 20 then.'
Dorset resident James Rawe, 95, who was a crewman for the LCT 977 and LCT 1051 during D-Day, added: 'Seeing the LCT was interesting. This was a mark 3, I didn't serve in one of these - but it's all so long ago.’
The LCT 7074 will open to the public on Saturday, December 12 from 10am. Entry is included as part of admission to the D-Day Story.