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WWII landing craft veteran from St Thomas dies at 88

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

By Mike Byrne

Veteran Fred Drury

Veteran Fred Drury

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ROYAL Marine veteran Fred Drury who survived a wartime landing craft sinking, has died aged 88.

Fred, from St Thomas, was a Royal Marines' sergeant and one of the crew of HMLCF 15 engaged in their own particular kind of D-Day operation — the invasion of the Island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Italy in June 1944.

The letters HMLCF stand for His Majesty's Landing Craft Flack.

The craft was heavily armed with 20mm Orlikon guns and 40mm pom-poms to fight off enemy aircraft attacking the fleet of landing craft.

Sadly, at 2am on June 18, 1944, as the invasion vessels headed for Elba in Operation Brassard, LCF 15 hit a drifting German mine and sank.

She was manned by 52 Royal Marines and 22 Royal Navy men. Twenty-two of the crew were killed.

The survivors, Fred among them, were picked up two hours later by a British motor torpedo boat and landed at different places in Italy for 'recuperation'.

Fred, who was an enthusiastic member of the Exeter White Ensign Club,was posted to LCF 15 when she was first commissioned at Greenock, Scotland, and then kitted out for the tropics at Appledore before joining a convoy of 300 landing craft heading for the Mediterranean Sea. He and his crew had known each other since training days at the Royal Marines Infantry Training Centre, Lympstone, in 1942, and after the sinking formed their own association, the RM HMLCF 15 Survivors Association, to keep in touch.

Fred, originally from Hull, settled in Exeter after the war because he had married a local girl, Gladys Vinnicombe.

He had planned to join the police in Hull and in 1946 took what was intended to be a temporary job with bus firm Devon General in Exeter, but stayed with them for 40 years.

Sadly, Gladys died some years ago. She and Fred brought up two daughters.

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