Retreat from the Normandy Beaches

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by mrseagull, Oct 1, 2006.

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  1. Stories are told of the early British and Canadian landings on the Normandy Beaches in 1944 being accompanied by a quantity of inflatable or collabsible boats, together with a matching number of British Seagull outboard motors.

    These were to afford a sporting chance of withdrawal to the ships offshore should it all go terribly wrong, on the assumption than the Wehrmacht would have clobbered all the landing craft.

    I'm researching the history of the aforementioned outboards with a view to publishing a small book, and I've looked in all the obvious places. National Archive, Web, etc, etc, etc. All to no avail.

    The original story seems to have come from British Seagull themselves. I'd like to think it was true - but does anyone out there have any evidence to support the tale?

    Any reminiscences, any documents, photos?

    And furthermore - I'm after references and photos of these noisy, oily, underpowered and ugly little motors in any theatre.

    Anything you've got most gratefully received!
  2. I know some-one who had one of these engines.
    Apparently disposable and used wooden pistons.
    Will enquire more next time I see him
  3. I've never seen any mention of any such evacuation plan (they'd have needed to use the various landing craft for the numbers involved); these small boats were most likely intended for crossing the Orne river in the event that the bridges had been blown - one of the principle D Day objectives being for the RM and other units to link up with 6th Airborne who were on the eastern side of the river.
  4. I haven't heard of anything of rubber boats as an evacuation plan.

    It seems implausible on several grounds.

    1. Poor for morale. How does a set of rubber evacuation boats fit with the idea od D Day as a positive success. If D Day is going to be successful why burden assault craft woith evacuation boats instead of extra stuff to help to make the invasion succeed?

    2. Un necessary. Why use "emergency boats" which aren't sea worthy enough to cross the channel when there are thousands of assault craft that could be used for an embarkation?
  5. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Ahh I'd bet you have a Viking ancestor ;)
  6. Goatman

    Goatman LE Book Reviewer

    British Seagull as a brand were going well into the 1960's/early 70's.

    My school used to run a sailing camp on Barton Broad in Norfolk every year - the outboards we had were Seagulls......small, easily hoicked back and forth to the boats, smelly, with a petrol tank that held about a quart of juice ( on which the damn things seemed to run all day). Started ( when they could be arrsed) with a heroic pull on a bit of rope wound round the head of the motor.

    The 'Bosun' who looked after all the gear was a former Royal Marine Colour Sergeant called Don Morss - he knew his stuff.

    I suspect that they went out of business alongside most British motorcycle companies when the likes of Yamaha,Honda and Suzuki decided that small fourstrokes were their meat and drink.....

    In the recently aired 'Longest Day' US troops were portrayed going ashore on Omaha Beach carrying rubber boats ( and humping a Gemini everywhere is I'm told very much part of the SEAL training 'Hell Week' )

    This may be the source of the dit?

    Le Chevre
  7. The firm kept going for ages - the last one left the factory in 1996, almost identical to the ones you're referring to. The spares division is actually still in extistence. It wasn't until the late seventies that the cheap Japanese imports finally clobbered them

    I've seen the 'Longest Day', and I remember the scenes you describe. I don't think that's where the story came from - company brochures refer to the wartime production well before the film was made.

    I have been told by a gentleman whose father was one of the co-directors that after the war the factory was surprised by the number of orders for spares from far off places like the Greek islands. They kept meticulous records, and when the requests for bits and pieces came in complete with serial number they realised that the motors in question had been supplied to the military, used on some operation or other, and abandoned.

    You'd hardly use a motor as smokey and noisy as a Seagull for anything requiring stealth, but they were supplied all over the shop for general purposes...
  8. By the way, I do like your reference to a 'heroic' pull on the starter cord!

    Mind you, the US equipped its forces with a beast of a motor, more than one cylinder, very powerful, which also came equipped with a manual rope start. The operating manual depicts the starting procedure, involving a 'heroic' pull by half a section - all choreographed like synchronised swimmers.

    Must have been interesting under fire...