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The G.M.C. 6x6 Two and a Half Ton D.U.K.W. 1942
D=1942 U=utility K=Front wheeled drive W= Two rear drive axles
From the world war two bloody beaches of Anzio, D-Day and countless Pacific amphibious DUKW campaigns, the revolutionary military vehicle, the GMC 6x6 two and a half ton DUKW became a legend forged in fire and war. Once the guns fell silent, the engines of the DUKW did not, as they found new waters, in a new role in a career that would bring them right to our doorsteps.
Unpublished archives now relate a fascinating story of courage and heroism on the coastline of Northern England, as the six wheeled amphibian, together with its crews of weather hardened Lifeguards, saved the lives of over 600 men, women and children over four decades. If that was not enough, the D.U.K.W. became a favourite with the public at large.
SHE IS STILL PLUNGING INTO THE WAVES TODAY
TAKE THEN A D.

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Back Cover Description

The G.M.C. 6x6 Two and a Half Ton D.U.K.W. 1942
D=1942 U=utility K=Front wheeled drive W= Two rear drive axles
From the world war two bloody beaches of Anzio, D-Day and countless Pacific amphibious DUKW campaigns, the revolutionary military vehicle, the GMC 6x6 two and a half ton DUKW became a legend forged in fire and war. Once the guns fell silent, the engines of the DUKW did not, as they found new waters, in a new role in a career that would bring them right to our doorsteps.
Unpublished archives now relate a fascinating story of courage and heroism on the coastline of Northern England, as the six wheeled amphibian, together with its crews of weather hardened Lifeguards, saved the lives of over 600 men, women and children over four decades. If that was not enough, the D.U.K.W. became a favourite with the public at large.
SHE IS STILL PLUNGING INTO THE WAVES TODAY
TAKE THEN A D.U.K.W. TO WATER!

Author's Book Dedication

To Mum, Dad my family and Smartie my old, white cat!

Story Keywords

war, england, d.u.w.k.s., d-day, pacific

Estimated Word Count

35000

Book Completion Date
Acknowledgements

This book would not have been possible without the
invaluable contribution of the following individuals and organisations.
The late Bill Doherty (deputy Chief Lifeguard Southport/ Sefton MBC 1966 to 1991/ Chief Lifeguard 1991 to 1997)
The Late Verdi Godwin (Chief Lifeguard Southport/ Sefton MBC 1958 to 1991)
Pat Doherty (widow of Bill Doherty)
The late Joseph Rankin RNR (shrimper, D.U.K.W. entrepreneur)
Rob Routledge (grandson of John Routledge.)
Chris Trees (master mechanic, Thompson and Doxey
Export and Sefton MBC)
Roger Cocker (Lifeguard Sefton MBC)
Tony Venturini (D.U.K.W. driver Southport/ Sefton MBC)
Darren Twist (Lifeguard Sefton MBC)
The late Phil King (Head of Leisure Services Southport/ Sefton)

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From the world war two bloody beaches of Anzio, D-Day and countless Pacific amphibious DUKW campaigns, the revolutionary military vehicle, the GMC 6x6 two and a half ton DUKW became a legend forged in fire and war.

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Contest Manuscript Details

CHAPTER ONE
THE TIME, THE PLACE

For the location of the following events we must travel to the North West coast of England, approximately 15 miles north of the historic and commercially busy city of Liverpool. This stretch of Britain’s coastline has been famous from the great days of commercial sailing, to fishing and shrimping. In the 1700s the local invention of the bathing machine heralded a new, and economically much loved individual, the leisure seeker! The fortunes of many of Britains’ small seaside towns was transformed by the holiday maker who still contributes much to local economies right up to this present day.
For as long as the Irish sea has lapped the once sandy beaches of our destination, the seemingly idyllic coastline had a darker reputation. Its placid waters can quickly be transformed by powerful South Westerly, storm shrouded winds. Beneath apparently friendly, flat, sandy beaches lie ship- wrecking sandbanks and the dangerous attention of hidden quick-sands! Countless are the lives which this combination of nature’s minefields has snatched, especially from the ranks of distressed vessels of all shapes and sizes together with individuals who were both local and strangers to this stretch of the South Lancashire coastline.
Enter then a lumbering six wheeled vehicle, fresh from far away encounters which tested to the limit the concept of a machine that could crawl out of the sea and then work equally well on land.
This is a saga of the sea never before related except from the very lips of those who were the leading actors in this drama. As if to mirror the very fears of Lawson Booth,no other record survives dedicated to those who, aboard their steel hulled D.U.K.W.s, served this community. They, however, truly followed in the wake of Lawson Booth’s Warriors of the Sea, and truly shared in the fortunes of that same, dangerous dedication.
It is now some tw0 or more decades since the last red and yellow painted D.U.W.K.s patrolled the beaches of Southport, Ainsdale and Birkdale. For those people who witnessed the deep rumbling engine, the whine of the tyres on sand, the rattling of the gearbox, those days are also in the past but unlike its predecessor the self-righting lifeboat, their legacy is still a very recent event. There are many for whom their first meeting with the six wheeled amphibian is more than a simple memory. There are over 600 holiday makers, fishermen, yacht crews, wind-surfers, would-be suicides and (yes animals), who have a much clearer memory of those servants of the sea. They are the ones who owe their lives to the rescue DUWKs and their vigilant crews. Their story it is my honour and privilege to tell to you. Let us then ‘Switch on the engine!’ engage the propeller! We enter the ocean of time, where this saga of the sea begins.

THE D.U.K.W. HAS TAKEN TO WATER!

CHAPTER TWO
THE UGLY DUCKLING GOES TO WAR

On the northern point of the Horn of Massachusetts, upon the Eastern seaboard of the United States, lies a small, though busy coastal town named Provincetown. Far away across the fierce Atlantic Ocean, many miles from the coast of Northern Britain, there was born a vehicle that would transcend international boundaries when it came to the business of rescuing human beings from the grip of dangerous seas.
1942: On the sandy, sloping beach of that small East coast American town-ship, lay a revolutionary machine the invention of which is the starting point of this story. The United States had just had a major wake-up call when its whole Pacific fleet was almost destroyed during a surprise attack by the carrier born aircraft of the Japanese Imperial Navy. For the first time in its short history, America’s coastline was under serious threat from a well-armed and fanatical enemy. The American Government, led by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, soon became aware that many military problems had to be surmounted before the US armed forces could turn the tide against those of the Japanese Imperial Empire.
This strange grey, half truck, half boat that stood in a yard just off the Provincetown beach was the proposed solution to some of those very pressing problems confronting the United States armed forces. The revolutionary amphibious vehicle’s operational future, however, was far from certain, and on that day in 1942 all indications were that the duck vehicle was heading for the scrap heap of history.
All had seemed to be going positively in the vehicle’s initial development. The military problem she was invented to solve was, for the Allied armies, a very important one. Where ever war was unleashed, infrastructure such as docks and landing facilities were high on the list of targets. Thus, as armies moved forward in need of a constant supply of materials, getting that support to the front-line Troops, without any docks, was one of the greatest hurdles to success for armies waging war on foreign soil.
Another equally pressing problem was the landing of troops on open beaches. Traditional landing vehicles, with their forward access, were very vulnerable when soldiers first left the vehicle directly into the combat zone. providing of course, the craft ever got to the beach. Sandbanks, hidden currents and war debris made the lumbering conventional landing craft far from an ideal tool for the success of an amphibious assault. Successful amphibious assaults would be essential for victory in both the European and Pacific Theatres of World War Two. To come up with a solution, the American Government created an organisation aptly entitled the Office of Scientific Research and Development, or O.S.R.D. for short. With radical problems needing equally radical answers, engineers and scientists were absorbed into the O.S.R.D. from all levels of both military and civilian occupations. To tackle what would seem a virtually impossible equation, (a vehicle that could carry both men and supplies on land and water), O.S.R.D. engaged the expertise of three highly qualified individuals to come up with such a solution. There was the gifted engineer Frank W. Spear and one of their own employees, Palmer Cosslet Putnam, had already had success with a project for a vehicle to combat landings in snow and heavy mud. This led to another brilliant semi amphibious vehicle the Weasel. The third candidate was, on the surface, a rather odd choice but, as things worked out, an even more inspired one. Rod Stevens was a gifted designer of ocean-going yachts. His company, Sparkman and Stevens, designed numerous award-winning vessels including the 1937 Ranger, winner of several international events for the United States. The design of this new craft, to solve military problems that seemed virtually unsolvable, was to be one of his greatest achievements.
At this moment in our story it would seem most suitable for me to review those factors concerning the origins behind the vehicles’ legendary title of D.U.K.W. Its pedigree was the GMC 6 by 6 standard military truck, the well-tried workhorse of the US army transport division. The GMC symbol for this vehicle was CCKW (C=1941 K=Conventional Front Wheel drive W=Two rear driving axles). Therefore, using GMCs standard system code names for its projects, this new craft became D-1942 U-utility (amphibious) K-front wheeled drive W-Two rear driving axles = D.U.K.W.
Putnam and Stevens wasted no time in designing and building a prototype vehicle. A mockup was constructed in the April of 1942, and 38 days later the first pilot model was rolled out. Support for the D.U.K.W. from the armed forces was lukewarm, with many top Generals doubtful as to its suitability. There were various demonstrations of the vehicles potential and three more pilot models were finished. Finally, the army decided they would order 2,000 vehicles following a very successful demonstration, however, further evaluations proved less able to circumvent the conventional thinking of the American Top Brass. The 2,000 D.U.K.W.s, new and unused were put into storage with a plan to eventually mothball them until the end of the war. It looked as if the fate of Stevens’ greatest achievement was signed and sealed.
A combination of two events now played a significant contribution in the D.U.K.W.’s chequered birth. The O.S.R.D. organisation mounted one last demonstration to try and show the military top brass the full potential of the amphibian. They chose the small east coast town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Stevens and Putnam attended the trials taking with them two prototype vehicles. Every possible effort was made to make the trial conditions as realistic as possible. Four days before the event, conditions in the designated area suddenly deteriorated with winds blowing at 60 knots causing huge breaking surf and driving rain. Off shore a Coast Guard Patrol boat ran into difficulties. The vessel struck a sandbank over a quarter of a mile from the shore and due to the extreme conditions, the crew were unable either to use their onboard rescue equipment or to swim to safety. The Coast Guard assembled surf boats and breeches buoys on the beach in an attempt to mount a rescue operation from the shore. Again, this proved unworkable. It was at that point the Coast Guard commander requested help from the O.S.R.D team.
From their base, a mile or so from this developing incident, the two prototype D.U.K.W.s were driven out, one of them crewed by Stephens and Putnam. What followed laid the foundations of a rescue service some eight years later in a town far from that small community of Provincetown. One of the two D.U.K.W.s was left on the shore as back up, while the one crewed by Putnam, and Stephens, accompanied by a Coast Guard officer, plunged into the tide. Rolling and pitching the vehicle’s GMC 6-cylinder engine battled against the massive waves.
Many times the onlookers on the beach saw the vessel disappear from sight only to emerge again, water pouring from its decks and bilge pumps. Stephens, with great skill, guided his creation to the Coast guard vessel, which was near to breaking up. The crew were exhausted from their ordeal, all hope of being rescued fading as rapidly as the boat beneath them. Then the D.U.K.W. appeared alongside with only minutes to spare and took all 7 members of the crew off and returned them safely to the beach. Altogether, the amphibian had taken less than half an hour to execute this rescue. As for the Coast Guard vessel, it was literally smashed to pieces, never to be seen again!
The D.U.K.W.’s credentials as a revolutionary and highly effective military vehicle were now assured, though within a very short time it was not for that talent that the future fame of the vehicle was to unveil. The D.U.K.W.’s exploit off the Provincetown beach did not go unnoticed by the press who were covering the story.
A local newspaper reporter was on the beach watching the incident unfold. He made sure that his story got to the major papers who were hungry for copy to give their readers tales to feed a wartime appetite for good news. The headlines read....
“AT CAPE COD AN ARMY TRUCK WENT TO SEA AND RESCUED THE CREW FROM A STRANDED NAVAL VESSEL”.
This publication found its way on to the desk of Secretary for War Stimson, who took it into the next meeting with the US president Franklin D Roosevelt. It was from that moment on, the D.U.K.W. had a powerful friend and champion in the White House.
Further tests were hurriedly arranged. This time they were well attended and the potential of this new revolutionary amphibious vehicle was finally recognised. Both Putnam and Stephens were to remain very much involved in the D.U.K.W. programme, and were to see it become one of the most successful inventions of the second World War; but as we shall see, for some, that was only the beginning of the story!

Provincetown
D.U.K.W. Production Figures
(From chassis No. 353 total production; 21,147)
Production:
The General Motors Yellow Truck and Coach Plant At Pontimac, Michigan, USA.
Countries supplied:
Britain: 2,000 units (lend/lease scheme)
Canada: 800 units
Russia: 586 units
Australia:535 units
IN SICILY NO LESS THAN 90% of all supplies came in by D.U.K.W. on the vital second and third days of the Allied invasion of Italy. In Normandy, during the opening phase of the \D-Day landings, no less than 40% of all over beach supplies were D.U.K.W.-borne for more than four months.
It is an observable fact that a stone dropped into a pool causes ripples outwards far beyond the point of its impact. So it was with the story of the birth of the D.U.K.W. at the small hamlet of Provincetown, Massachusetts, New England. 3,000 miles across the Atlantic those ripples were to be felt seven years later, on the North West Lancashire coastline.

CHAPTER THREE
AGELESS HEROES

The small seaside town of Southport, which in the time of this story was in Lancashire, was relocated after the boundary changes, into Sefton MBC, Merseyside. It lies on the North-West coast of England, besides the Irish Sea. Our small seaside town is situated between the mouths of the Mersey River and the River Ribble 18 miles North-West of Liverpool.
In the 1940s this Victorian maritime township was aptly Nicknamed “England’s Seaside Garden City”. By the end of that era in 1901 the town’s population was a mere 48,000 but by 2001 this had increased considerably to over 90,000 inhabitants.
The journey of the D.U.K.W. from its homeland in the United States really began when in 1925 Southport’s lifeboat station, standing on the newly finished Esplanade, closed its doors for the last time, bringing to an end an institution that had served that community faithfully since 1786. This building was to stand redundant for many years until in December 1988 the Southport Inshore Rescue Trust would house their inflatable craft in the same building.
The Southport lifeboat, The John Harling, was the last RNLI to see active service off this coast. The John Harling had a record of 20 years’ service prior to her retirement, and the vessels record of gallant rescues included the saving on some 63 individuals from the 13 wrecks she attended. But the combined forces of nature and man had influenced irreversibly this area of England’s coastlines. These changes to the natural order, can be traced directly to human activity included the buildup of sand that began to fill Southport’s South channel. This man-made change was a direct result of the extension of the Ribble Channel Revetment walls, built after the passing of the 1883 Ribble Navigation Bill. The dumping of sand and mud from the River Mersey, during the increased levels of dredging, was an added factor. Another factor was the diversion of the Crossens channel from the South Channel to the Pinfold Channel and land reclamation between Southport and Hesketh Bank, all manmade interventions to the nature of the coastline which stopped fresh water scouring the Channel of sand brought in by the tide.
These changes to the nature of the coastline affected every aspect of maritime life in the area. The fishing and shrimping industries after the 1920s declined rapidly, a decline which continues even to the present day. The end came too for the era of passenger steamships in the area, the end to Southport being a true port. The ships, operating from the end of Southport pier were both paddle and screw powered, and worked along the coast joining Southport to the Isle of Man, New Brighton, Llandudno, Bangor, Lytham, Preston, St. Annes and Blackpool. This service began in the summer of 1894, but in the August of 1923 the vessels PS Bickerstaffe and the Ribble Queen (owned by the Blackpool Passenger Co and the Ribble Passenger Transport Co) were the last ships to depart from the pier, the sand’s incursion severing finally Southport’s long link with the sea and sealing, probably for ever, the town’s history as a port.

Life-Boat J Harling (Sefton Libraries)
COXSWAIN: Richard Robinson
The John Harling, Southport’s last life-boat (1904-1925).
FACTFILE
LENGTH: 43 feet BEAM: 13 feet
TYPE: Watson Pulling Boat
POWER: Sail and/or 12 oars DETAILS:
Water ballast tanks/drop keel made of bronze. BUILDERS:
Thames Ironworks Co.
Towards the end of the John Harling’s service the silting up of the coastline meant that the lifeboat could only be launched two hours in every twenty-four. Eventually, orders came in 1924 from the local RNLI committee, to withdraw her from active service.
She was sold to the owners of the Marine Lake for £100.00. She ended her once heroic days as a launch, transporting visitors around the lake! A sad end to the Southport Lifeboat Service.

A Wreck Chrysoplis of Genoa (Sefton Libraries)
The 2,931 ton Italian ship The Chrysoplis of Genoa. 20th February 1918 she was the 10th wreck to which the John Harling was called. She was on transit to Liverpool from Genoa with a cargo of copper ore. She hit a huge natural obstacle called the Horsebank in thick fog. Later, despite efforts to save the ship, she then drifted further finally becoming stranded on Angry Brow before finishing up on Spencers’ and became a total wreck.

A Wreck Chrysoplis of Genoa (Sefton Libraries)