UK Amphibious and Port Operations Since 1945

Much like the FRES series that I consolidated and updated into a single article I am working on the same for the Ship to Shore Logistics series. As part of the update and refresh exercise will be a much wider remit, looking at the overall amphibious capability in addition to the logistics elements.

I believe, much like the British Army’s parachute and air assault capability, the Royal Navy amphibious capability is a bit of a sacred cow that has been better insulated against reductions than others.

With this in mind, I want an accurate picture of post war amphibious and sea logistics operations.

The table below shows my first stab, showing the year, location, nature and scale of the operation, especially whether a port has been required.

[table id=5 /]

It doe snot show special forces operations, operations where the Royal Marines have deployed entirely by land based air (not from ships). The scale column shows small, medium and large, or, company, commando and brigade scale (or less) respectively.

Amphibious is a traditional amphibious assault, a raid is a smaller scale operations with a short time bound objective, the port column denotes where that operation has required port enablement and facilities and finally, littoral operations is used to indicate an operation where the littoral has been the focus for security or counter terrorism.

Between us, can we get an accurate picture?

Have I missed anything, got anything wrong?

Please put your corrections and updates in comments


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Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 24, 2014 10:51 pm

Sorry TD, this has all the hallmarks of a desired answer looking for a question to validate it. I may be missing something in your definition of amphibious assault vs raid vs port, but I’m reasonably sure Corporate didn’t need a port for the success of the operation, irrespective of whether 17 P&M were there or not. Fairly sure there was an amphibious aspect to Hyperion (and in 2006?) in lebanon as well, although whether it aligns with your definition or not is probably the key.

You might as well list all the operations where we’ve really needed air defence, armour, artillery, AEW, etc etc over the last 60 years. It would probably suggest that they’re sacred cows as well.

Tony Clatworthy
Tony Clatworthy
October 24, 2014 11:30 pm

I think it important that assets should be taken into consideration. As an example the Tank Landing Ships in the Gulf with a Sqn of Tanks and 19 assault Sqn RM. HMS Striker/HMS Messina. Many such assets were in positions world wide and formed part of the history of amphibious warfare.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
October 25, 2014 12:05 am


We’ve used (I don’t claim needed) armour in about a dozen operations since 1945, from Brigade sized to Division sized.

I think I’m largely with you in being a supporter of amphibiosity. I’d much rather we could do that than Carrier Strike.

October 25, 2014 12:55 am

RT, unfortunately these things tend to come in packages. Unless you can supply air cover from land, any amphibious force without aircraft to protect them has a high likelihood of being nibbled to death by planes. A carrier just lets you pack your airfield with your LPD in a single task force.

October 25, 2014 2:58 am

If you are going to include a landlocked country like Afg, then you should also include the sea logistics from 1945 to the present moving equipment to and from Germany! Not forgetting all the various colonies that were supported by troopships in the 1940s and 50s. Not forgetting the sterling work of the RASC and RCT with their RPLs, etc in assorted spots as well as the use of boats operated by assorted infantry battalions in various places from time to time. Come to that what about RE’s amphibious rigs? (for god’s sake don’t tell RM that infantry, RASC, etc can operate boats, it will undermine the poor dears’ morale)

Michael Burt
Michael Burt
October 25, 2014 4:29 am

When I was in the RFA in the 70s. there was a regular run of LSLs supporting the British Army in Northern Ireland. We would sail from Liverpool to Belfast with full loads either way. We would remain in Belfast for about 8 hours before sailing, about 12 in Liverpool. We would stand down at weekends ib Liverpool for maintenance, etc.

October 25, 2014 5:31 am

I like the scoping of this. If memory serves at all correctly “The Future of…” series
– covered littoral ops mainly from the navy point of view
– the army series did not quite make it to parachute/ air assault/ (and SF) even though that was intended in the initial structure.

Budget shares would also interest me. The RM is a line item (without proper allocations for the supporting army/ JHF bits) and something like 5-7% of ship operating costs have been quoted here as supporting amphibiosity (not being a single purpose asset by any means).

Then taking in the jointness angle for real. RT will love the comparison of the fully costed Carrier Strike vs. amphibiosity. After all, from the SDSR communications we know that a bde is costed at £1 bn/ yr (?). That did not say what kind of bde (because the hair-brained idea of only one type was alive then… that probably being the reason; or accountants lacking sharp pencils?).

October 25, 2014 9:33 am

There is no doubt that an amphibious capability is useful and desirable. The question lies in what amount of investment and equipment we place into it, would we be better off investing in Absalon type vessels for the RM to conduct raids and work in the littorals (with an uplift in CV90/LCU/raider type boats in conjunction) and use STUFT to follow the Absalon types on the once in a decade larger ampib landing? current support roles carried out by the amphibs could be done using COTS OSV’s?

October 25, 2014 10:22 am

Am I right in assuming we stil use the rule that we require 3x the number of troops to attack a position compared to those that defend it? If so can we assume our traditional amphibious capability isn’t going to be used independently against anyone who’s very capable.

October 25, 2014 11:25 am

Mark, 3x in dug in areas, 5x in urban/fortified areas. Hence the Marine’s need to hit where there is no body around, which is actually easier than most people think, not many countries can afford to man and fortify their entire coastline, and as MH370 demonstrated, radar coverage can sometimes be patchy too.

Rocket Banana
October 25, 2014 2:20 pm

“…hit where there is no body around…”

Which is why it is important to be able to manoeuvre quicker than the enemy’s road-going stuff. An 18-knot LPD/LPH just isn’t really good enough… however, a 150kt Merlin (or 250kt MV22), well, that’s a different story :-)

If an air dropped company can’t take a port with the kind of air power CVF can deliver then I wonder if there is any point in a horizontally inserted battalion on slow, vulnerable LCUs especially with GMLRS, guided artillery and the Hellfires and Brimstones of this world.

October 25, 2014 3:04 pm

The Landing Ship Tank class was used extensively during WW2 with over a 1000 built and used in all theatres of operation and some are still in use today as ro ro ferries and whose descendants are used all over world.They are still used by some navies but seem to have fallen out of favour with ourselves. These are not small vessels and at around an overall length 100m and with a 15m beam and beaching draft 1.2m. The original LST could carry a 1,900t or so load of tanks and vehicles as well as soldiers. To transit the Oceans they had a large ballast system which was flooded to give stability and pumped out prior to beaching.The US last built some in the sixties and seventies but don’t use them anymore selling them to other navies and keeping just 2 in lay up but these where even larger at 160m long by 21m wide and displace 8500t so basically Daring class destroyer sized.
In WW2 and on the Inchon landings in Korea they proved invaluable to getting MBT and other vehicles straight onto the shore en-mass as it where. The ones used at Inchon were crewed in some cases by Japanese civilians who were the owners as the US had sold almost all of them and had non in theatre when McArthur came up with his plan. The US commandeered them and their crews from the inter island ferry companies using them in Japan. Such vessels I could see delivering several squadrons of heavy armour straight onto the shore and hundreds of troops be they Marines or Army. The vessels mounted with various defensive missile/gun systems with them to provide Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missile cover right up to the shore line not over the horizon 20 miles away. Combined with Heli Bourne landing further inland who would be rapidly reinforced by heavy armour not days later (if ever?)
Granted again it would have to be pretty much an unopposed landing or it would get pretty banged up but it is a warship and we are not a Saudi type ‘don’t scratch the paintwork’ Military.

October 25, 2014 5:51 pm

Two to add maybe TD:-
“October 1953 in response to unrest in British Guiana provoked by an extreme left-wing party,the training carrier Implacable transported an army battalion to help restore order.”
1967 “May-June: the Chinese ‘cultural revolution’ led to border incidents and riots in Hong
Kong. Bulwark and 40 Commando RM deployed to reinforce the garrison; they
conducted a very public amphibious landing as a demonstration and then stood by ready
to restore order if required; they were withdrawn when the situation stabilised.”
It contains many many references where amphibious forces and aircraft carriers are deployed as a show of force and to provide immediate evacuations of British Citizens to trouble hotspots all over the planet. Perhaps even more vital now with much of the worlds population migrating to the large coastal cities so that now more than 80% of the worlds population live within 100 miles of the sea.

October 26, 2014 7:50 am

This is an example of what the Chinese are using to follow their amphibs.This is the sort of capability I think we should be investing in, there are a few European nations in NATO that can field amphibs but none that could sustain or deliver follow on forces to this level.

I will also add:

The clocks have gone back!? damn you BST damn you to hell!!!!

October 26, 2014 11:18 am

The list is not comprehensive as recent memory remembers much smaller but more recent operations like Somalia which I had already forgotten about and Mali which you had left off but we provided some logistic support to France.

It will build to a useful model to look at various issues if other people here contribute.

In terms of comments already arriving about but we need armour or we need carrier based air. It is a collective issue of what we think the armed forces a for:

In the 19th century we went off around the world and fought weaker powers and tried hard to get other local powers to do lots of the fighting, I.e. Indian Army.
In first half of 20th centuary we had 2 totally enormous existential conflicts and then spent the next 50 years planning for but managing avoiding another one with the Soviets.

Since then we are back at 19th centuary intervention in failed states, and other peoples civil wars. The bad guy do not have an Air Force, etc etc.

In terms of state v state conflict we are faced with roughly 3 types of states, 1 is Sierra Leone etc there are lots of Pacific or Caribean Islands or African States we could if there was a reason intervene without much significant risk from the states official armed forces.

There is then a group of states which do have significant armed forces but often not adequate resources to sustain them in the long term and certainly not the ability to deploy them overseas. But they are often our allies or we are providing logistic support I.e. BAe in Saudi the likelihood of intervention is in the context of post revolution or civil war where presumably the states Armed forces will be weaker.

There are then a group of states where our ability to intervene unilaterally has long since gone but unfortunately they are the ones we tend to measure ourselves against. China, Russia, India, the idea that we are able to land on the Chinese coast and March to Beijing is a joke, but it tends to be what the people playing fantasy armed forces are planning for.

October 26, 2014 7:28 pm

The WW2 LST was a follow on logistics ship not an assault ship. Assaulting beaches was the work of LCA and LCT (and early amphibious vehicles). In fact one of the LST’s main roles was carrying LCT in theater in preparation for the next operation. The LCT was just pushed off the LST’s weather deck; there is a feature film about D-Day that uses some WD footage of the evolution. Splosh.

All good fun.

October 26, 2014 7:39 pm

The health and safety crowd would have kittens if that was proposed today !
As I mentioned it would have to be unopposed landing or it would be pretty banged up.
But landing a decent number of armour straight onto a landing zone without waiting for port facilities to be secured and made safe or built from scratch could make a lot of difference to beleaguered heli borne troops , shades of the Arnhem assaults when the tanks couldn’t get there in time leaving lightly armed infantry at the mercy of enemy heavy armour.

October 26, 2014 7:46 pm

x, good point. It might be ideal as an assault craft in the present day, but their concept of ops in WWII does not involve assault beaching. Back to current day, should it? It would solve a fair fraction of logistics problems if you simply rammed the fully stocked ship onto the beach. Alexandrian solution to a Gordian knot problem.

October 26, 2014 7:58 pm

“Alexandrian solution to a Gordian knot problem”
It worked and he was named the future King of Asia and he went on to conquer much of it.
Few Generals have reached his ability to time the moment when to strike with cavalry or armour in modern parlance.

October 26, 2014 9:09 pm

Haiti, port required, are you sure? I haven’t seen any photographs of Largs Bay alongside in Haiti.

October 27, 2014 1:04 pm

Libya; there were vessels of interest being tracked, potential boardings planned. Some vessels seeking to enter ports submitted manifests and received a “yay” or a “nay” accordingly, all broadly in the interests of security. I think that counts as “littoral” using your definition above.

October 27, 2014 6:10 pm

@ monkey

Beaching a ship is a not a trivial evolution. The Greeks, Turks, South Koreans, and Russians all like LST. The US seem to be scared of ships getting sunk which is odd considering the amount of firepower they could bring to bare not only on the targeted AOA but also on diversionary targets and in support of feints. Back in the day the RN and the Army on exercise would regularly beach LST/LCT with little thought. Today in peace time for (proper) ships it would probably mean a docking and a hull inspection.

@ Observer

Beaching drastically reduce the time it takes to unload cargo by a factor of about 7 which does mean ships would actually be exposed to less danger. I suppose it a question of balance. The UK are probably better off with Bays; lots of capacity and a steel beach (traded against LC) for those apparently odd times when a port isn’t available. The days of the Really Large Corps operating a good number of LCT are long gone. I think as the situation worsens on the southern shore of the Med’ we might find more smaller amphibs’ useful. That is if we can find enough Clankies to keep the oily bits a whirring and the Sandscratchers can find time between their social media obligations and bagging off with lesser ranks to do boring stuff like steer the ship.

October 27, 2014 6:41 pm

Excuse me X, but are you related in any way to x?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
October 27, 2014 8:11 pm

@WiseApe…seems a little bigger to me…I think he may have been working out. :-)


October 31, 2014 6:23 pm

@ WiseApe

Yes I am me.

I am just passing through this site is normally blocked on my router but I am fiddling about with Tor at the mo’ so I have a window to post.

Then I shall slip away back beneath the waves of the cyber sea……

Happy Hop Tu Naa to all.