It's February 1943 and officials on the coast of Devon, England, are awaiting the arrival of Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 326. The vessel had set sail from Troon, Scotland, some days previously slowly heading south towards its final destination. But those waiting for it to dock would be waiting forever: LCT 326 vanished en route and no one had a clue what happened to it for nearly eight decades.
LCT 326 had a simple mission on the day it left for Devon. The specialized vehicle, designed to carry tanks and deliver them to shore, was part of a transit cruise from Troon. The flotilla made slow progress, perhaps a precaution because of the“heavy weather” that day, as described in an article by The Guardian newspaper published in May 2020.
Lost at sea
But careful traveling didn’t save the LCT 326 from its mysterious fate. Somewhere along the way, the vessel disappeared with all 14 crew members on board. Of course, people had their theories as to what had happened. But it would take 77 years for experts to uncover the truth of what had become of the landing craft tank.
The question of tanks
Some years previously, the extended evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940 had thrown a problem into sharp relief. Namely, during the retreat the troops had to leave behind otherwise good equipment because they hadn’t possessed a vessel that could bridge the impassable gap between the land and the sea. Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself was moved to ask: when would the military be able to transport tanks for overseas battles?
A bridge to shore
At first, the British forces modified a trio of shallow-draft tankers so that they had a hinged door at the bottom. This would open so that soldiers could unfurl a 68-foot ramp, which would provide the bridge they needed to drive tanks to and from shore. The temporary design wasn’t the best solution, but the idea was precisely what Churchill had in mind.