Burma 1945: Z Craft Beach Arty Battery

Burma: A “Z” Craft lighter, likely of No 4 IWT Group, beached on the Arakan Peninsula at Myebon. Note that it is loaded with a section of at least four Ordnance 25-pounder (3.45-inch or 88mm caliber) QF field guns used to fire on the Japanese lines, reportedly less than 6 miles away, 13-18 January 1945. This was likely on the run-up to the Battle of Hill 170 in support of No. 3 Commando. Also, note the sandbags, ready ammo, packs, and drums.

Z lighters, simple shallow-draft ramped vessels similar to LCM/LCUs designed and built by the Royal Engineers Inland Water Transport section, were typically ship to shore connectors. They were 135-feet long (excluding the ramp) with a 30-foot beam and a 2-to-4-foot sloping draft. They had a deck “the size of a tennis court,” accommodations for a crew of 8-10, and a speed on a pair of light diesels of 8-10 knots.

Z craft via Royal Engineers Journal. They flew a blue RE ensign, emblazoned with a Sapper thunderbolt. 

Although mainly used in the Mediterranean by the Royal Engineers, some made it to the Far East by 1945

An interesting background story, from British Army vet Stuart Alexander, that could be of this very craft, operating during the Arakan campaign:

I was on a Z-craft Lighter which took part in two landings on the West Coast of Burma, one 35 miles between the Japanese front line. We sailed in at H+180 at Kangaw and fixed our guns which were attached to the deck of the lighten. We moved forward periodically and tied up to trees in the jungle swanps. This lasted for about nineteen days until we were landed on an island very much behind Japanese and although the guns were silent there were registered on a Japanese Fery crossing. This was putting a deception over as we invaded an LCM further south.

A great article on Z-craft and their use is in the June 1965 edition of the Royal Engineers Journal (pdf here) including this specific section about them carrying 25-pounders in Burma:

Although a dated concept, it is not too far out of the box to envision LCM/LCUs of today doing the same type of work with an embarked section of HIMARS or 155mm howitzers. Could be handy in a littoral. 

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