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Stafford, R.S.E., Py/Off., 1944

Photo : Derek Wombwell

Photo: Brian Chandler

British Pathe Film still showing LCT Mk IV LCT 859

Queen Sector Sword Beach

Landing Craft Mark IV.

On Chatham Naval Memorial is the name of C/MX 116403 Petty Officer Motor Mechanic Robert Swinney Elliott Stafford, serving with the Royal Navy who died 06/06/1944.

In Blyth Cemetery is a family headstone which reads:

Main panel
In loving memory of
my dear husband
B.B.N. Stafford
died 5th Nov. 1946
aged 55 years.
and our son
C. Petty Officer
R.S.E. Stafford
lost in the Battle
of Normandy
6th June 1944
aged 23 years.
Buried at sea.

Left hand side
Janet A.
dear wife of
B.B.N. Stafford
died 4th Feb.
aged 74 years.

He was the son of Bolton Bird Naiden Stafford and Janet Anderson Stafford, of Blyth, Northumberland.

Robert Swinney Elliott Stafford was born on the 18th July 1920, the eldest son of four children to Bolton Bird Naiden Stafford, [born 28th May 1891, at Cowpen Quay, Blyth died 11th May 1946], and his wife Janet Anderson nee Elliott, [born 12th June 1891, died 4th February 1966]. They were married in June 1912.

Bolton Bird Naiden Stafford was educated at the Plessey Road First school and was admitted on the 1st June 1900, then leaving on the 23rd August 1901 for the National School. He was one of 16 children to Bolton Stafford, [born 4th June 1857, died 2nd November 1939], and his first wife Elizabeth Wright, born 1857, died 1899. They were married in Tynemouth in September 1876. In 1881 they were residing at 4 Church Street, Blyth, already with three children. In 1891 they now had another three additional children, still residing at the same address as 1881. Bolton, was an engine man on a steamer. In 1939 he was a Tugboat Master in Blyth Harbour and was now widowed. He was residing at 77 Percy Street, Blyth Northumberland, in 1939 with Mary E. Stafford, born 11th January 1877, a Hilda Watts, (nee Stafford), born 23rd June 1889, a tailoress, Thomas T. Stafford, born 28th May 1897 and a Isabel S. Appleford, (Diwer), born 16th May 1909, a Civil Service Shorthand Typist

Bolton Bird Naiden Stafford and his wife Janet Anderson, [nee Elliott], were married in June 1912, and they had 4 children, Robert Swinney Elliott Stafford, Norman Stafford, born 9th June 1925, died 1st January 1999, Leonard Stafford born 17th November 1929 and Mary Jane Stafford born 1912, died 22nd May 1989.

In 1939, Robert Stafford was a Farm Carter living with his parents and his brothers at 20 Twentyfifth Avenue, Blyth, Northumberland. Also in the same household was a Elizabeth Fox, born 20th November 1914. Norman was a Rivet Catcher at a Shipyard, Leonard was still at school.

3rd Infantry Division recorded the loss of 683 men on D-Day; 8th Infantry Brigade recorded 367 casualties, 9th Infantry Brigade losses are not available for D-Day but are recorded as slight, 185th Infantry Brigade lost 232 men, and the divisional machine-gun battalion lost 36 men. The Commandos lost 18 men killed and 30 wounded on the beaches alone.

The 7th Royal Artillery Regiment supported the 185th Infantry Brigade, the 33rd Field Regiment supported the 9th Brigade and 76th Field Regiment supported the 8th Brigade, which were units of the British 3rd (Iron) Infantry Division.

The Intermedeiate Group (185th Infantry Brigade) sailed from Newhaven at 1215 hours, and the reserve group (9th Infantry Group), sailed from Spithead at 1900 hours.

At 06 50 hours, the seventy two guns of the Division's artillery on 18 LCT's opened fire at a range of 10,000 yards aimed at the foreshore. 6.500 shells were fired in just over 30 minutes before the LCT's turned away to await their arranged landing times.

On D-Day, 6th June 1944, Sword Beach, LCT 859 suffered a fatality, Robert died of his wounds. 7th Field Regiment Royal Artillery were assigned to 6 other LCT's and a OP Motor Launch. They were in Group 4B and were planned to touch down at H Hour + 195 minutes. They were carrying 8 M 7s (Priest's)* 105mm Self propelled guns, and 16 Towed 25-pdrs.

Hi Michel, thanks for that further info, I was aware of the fatality. Bob Stafford was my granddads best friend on board 859. He was devastated when he died. The story, as handed down to me, was that the LCT landed relatively unscathed, disembarked all personnel, vehicles, and equipment, but hit a mine when backing off the beach. Petty Officer Stafford had his upper body through the engine room hatch talking to my granddad who was at the helm when they hit the mine. The blast knocked out the engine, steering and blew a hole in the engine room floor and caused terrible injuries to the engineer's lower body. He lived for a few minutes before dying in Stan's arms. Until finding this thread, however, I didn't know which beach he landed on.
Source : Phil Mills ww2.talk.com

As far as LCT 859 and Stan Pilling during the D-Day landings at SWORD (Queen White beach is concerned I know that Stan was the coxswain and that [LCT], 859 was transporting the 9th (Irish) Field Battery which was part of [the] 7th Field Regiment Royal Artillery. They landed and unloaded their troops and vehicles okay but hit a mine backing off. At which point my grandfather's best friend (Robert Stafford) was killed. The only two crew members I have been able to confirm thus far are:

BROWN, William Chalmers, Temporary Lieutenant R.N.V.R (skipper)STAFFORD, Robert S, Petty Officer Motor Mechanic, C/MX 116403, DOW.
Source : Phil Mills Combined Operations.

LCT 859 was a Landing Craft Mark IV, [this mark of landing Craft was the first to have the tank deck above the Waterline, the previous Mark I to III's were below the waterline], its Landing Table Index Number was LCT 331. LCT 859 was in 32 LCT Flotilla. It was commanded by Temporary Lieutenant William Chalmers BROWN R.N.V.R., Seniority from the 7th August 1943.

* After July 1944 the 105mm Priests SP artillery were replaced by 25pdr Sextons.

The 7th Field Artillery Regiment consisted of the 9th 16th and 17/43rd Field Batteries.

Additional research indicates as well as described above, that also at about 0805 hours, Group 7, H Hour plus 45, thirteen more LCTs started to unload on Queen Red and Queen White. Three were carrying the tanks of 'C' Squadron 13/18 Hussars and the remainder the 6 pounder anti tank guns and 3 inch mortars of the assault infantry Battalions, a medium machine-gun company of the Middlesex and the priority vehicles of the 8th Brigade. The tanks moved off through an exit on Queen White.

One LCT was hit by a mine and several others hit by shell and mortar fire, the disembarkation took about an hour to complete. Nine craft were damaged and the naval casualties were five killed and three wounded

The Admiralty War Diary for the 15th June 1944 states that she [L.C.T. 859], has "been returned to U.K. for repair", which must have been successful as she is not recorded as having been lost.

Robert was Mentioned in Despatches.

Robert Swinney Elliott Stafford is remembered in Blyth on B42.23 and on our List of Ships' crews.

Naval History D Day losses
Combined Operations
Loading LCT lists D Day
Combined Operations
The CWGC entry for Petty Officer Stafford

3rd British Division War Diary

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk