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D-Day veteran Frank’s duty is done after 98 remarkable years

26 July 2022

Sand from the Normandy beach where he put troops ashore on D-Day was placed on the coffin in the last act of Frank Baugh’s remarkable life.

The former landing craft signaller was laid to rest in his native Yorkshire, severing another living link with our greatest generation and the dwindling band of brothers who experienced the hell of June 6 1944.

There were seven Standard Bearers in attendance with Able Seaman Elliott Holt from HMS Collingwood – Frank’s alma mater – leading the coffin party, carrying the White Ensign from Sword Beach into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Doncaster.

Frank’s friend, Warrant Officer 1 Baz Firth from the RN Leadership Academy, read a tribute from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key as well as the eulogy.

“I am immensely saddened that in Frank’s passing we have lost the last sailor to see the White Ensign flown by the Beachmaster on Sword Beach, a remarkable link to our Royal Navy amphibious heritage,” the First Sea Lord said.

“The men and women of today’s Royal Navy treasure the bonds they have with those who served in World War 2 and Frank’s remarkable longevity was testament to a life well-lived serving his country.”

Frank Baugh worked in the coal industry before joining the Royal Navy in June 1942. He was trained at HMS Collingwood and after exams was assigned to the Combined Operations Division and Landing Craft (Infantry).

He was sent to America to collect LCI(L)380 and sail it back to the UK ahead of the Normandy landings. At 150 feet long and 25 feet across and with a flat bottom, it bobbed around the Atlantic like a cork in a bucket.

On D-Day that same vessel carried 200 men of II Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry from Newhaven to Sword Beach at Ouistreham, landing on Queen Red Sector at 7.25am.

As it approached the beach, it received a direct hit which set fire to the No 2 troop space and also holed the craft on the water line.

While badly injured soldiers remained on the craft, their comrades stormed ashore via LCI(L)380’s side ramps.

Under heavy machine gun fire they landed in about four feet of rough water. If they fell down and went under, the weight of equipment they were carrying made it impossible for them to get up without help.

To overcome this the craft’s skipper sent Frank to take a message to the officer at the bow of the craft, instructing him to put two ropes across to the shore that the soldiers could use to help them stand and get safely ashore. Frank said that he did so and made the journey to the bow and back to the bridge “faster than Usain Bolt”!

I am immensely saddened that in Frank’s passing we have lost the last sailor to see the White Ensign flown by the Beachmaster on Sword Beach, a remarkable link to our Royal Navy amphibious heritage.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key

Frank spoke of his abiding memories of D-Day being the thunderous noise and even more so the sight of the bodies of young men rolling in the surf, lads whom he had been speaking with only minutes before. He considered himself lucky, many were not.

After about four hours stranded on the beach, its crew were able to undertake temporary repairs and get the vessel floated off the beach, limping back to Newhaven where the craft was hoisted out of the water for repairs.

Patched up overnight, LCI(L)380 was Normandy-bound again on June 7 with a fresh batch of soldiers embarked – a shuttle run repeated throughout the campaign.

An active member of Sheffield’s Normandy Veterans group, Frank made a number of return visits to Normandy in later life, including delivering a speech at Bayeux Military Cemetery on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in front of The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prime Minister Theresa May and many other dignitaries.

And he was there last October to see the newly-completed British Normandy Memorial at Ver sur Mer; the 98-year-old was appointed as an ambassador for the monument and raised more than £20,000 towards its completion.

Baz said the visit was among the most moving episodes in Frank’s long life.

“He said that although he had seen many photos and videos of the memorial, the reality of its sheer beauty and scale simply took his breath away,” he said. “He said that we had done the boys proud, and we know that he had done them proud too.”

Post-war, Frank returned to the Coal Board and eventually became the Director of Purchasing and Stores.

He married his wartime sweetheart, Pat, in 1947 and they had a long and happy 65 years together. He leaves behind two daughters, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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