Les Puttee was only 19 years when he joined the Royal Navy in 1941, born in Woolwich London, a young cockney lad from a family with limited means, and having left school at fourteen, he was often seen selling flowers at the local cemetery on a Sunday, or selling horse manure off the streets to local market gardeners, so that he and his family of three sisters and two brothers and could earn an extra couple of bob.
After joining the Royal Navy Les did the usual basic training and passed through several ships until joining the newly formed Combined Operations force. his keen eye for accurate gunnery, and gaining his crossed rifles to boot, meant he was soon awarded leading Seaman rank "Quarter Master Gunner". While serving aboard a ship tied up alongside at Chatham, Les fell in the Duty Watch one evening ...as the names were being called, and as that the various 'duties' were being issued out, a familiar voice came from the second Rank "Here Leader" behold Les had his father in the "duty watch", and as an Able Seaman, Les was his Boss that night and as a consequence, my grandfather was posted to the North of Scotland the following day.
Les now a Leading Hand in Combined Ops, completed crew training for LCT's a few months before the big one in early 1944 and as the coxswain of LCT 1086 he would crew the vessel in one of the first waves into Omaha. Crews of the invasion fleet never knew their destinations right up until congregating at "Piccadilly Circus" the night of June 5th having already been on alert for nearly a week and one 'cancelled" trip already, the Poms were keen get it done.
Les recalls how in dim light of dawn that day the young soldiers of the" Big Red 1`they had onboard that first trip, with their Comanche "hairdos" and "warpaint" were quite a source of amusement for the crew of the landing Craft. The first landing was hell, but on the second trip after another load of troops had been seconded from an LST waiting a couple of miles off shore, was when the crew of the floundering "1086" copped it. An HE shell ( an 88mm Les thought), hit the 10 ton ramp and removed it totally from the vessel in a mighty explosion! They lost three crew in that incident, looking for the bodies under fire was very stressful he tells, and with great sadness the fate of their "Jimmy the One" was never determined, his body was never recovered. Well it was "make into the Beach" and 'scrap" the craft or return home best way they could it took only a couple of seconds, and quick glance of the mayhem further inshore they turned the 'craft" around and at an ungainly 4 or 5 knots returned across the channel backwards!
Two weeks survivors leave was very welcome after the shell-shocked trips into "Bloody Omaha", and Les returned home to the "Ol dart" and a welcoming "What the bloody heck you doin'ere then"...
That very evening in the twilight another "doodlebug" raid hit SE London, the docks being only a short distance away, but that didn't stop downing a couple of tasty ales at the "Percy", that was until an almighty explosion devastated the river end of the street. After trying to get a brief glimpse of the huge pile of rubble, and being fended off by the wardens, Les knew this was no "doodlebug". A huge crater now occupied the space of what was previously four houses. this was something much bigger, they of course didn't realise it then, but this was the nasty work of the new "V2".
Les decided the next morning, that after having his living away allowance" confiscated his mum (grandma), that it was safer back down at the channel, and on the beaches of Normandy, 'cos at least you knew where the bloody enemy was going to come from down there"
Les made several more trips in the coming weeks, and after the front was going well there, he was posted to Combined Operations, Far East, and spent a more 'pleasant " time transporting Commonwealth troops and dining on the new taste of "Jipatti".
Les passed away from Cancer aged 76 in 2000, God Bless you Les. Sleep in Peace!
Ron , Carole and Barry.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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