Like a DUKW to water!

No it’s not a typo – we’re talking amphibious vehicles here! Visitors to Thorpe St Andrew will have probably noticed the ex military amphibious vehicles which are moored opposite the green, but it’s not the first time such craft have been brought to the Norfolk Broads.

Last week, I received a fabulous set of photographs from Vaughan Ashby which were taken on the River Yare at Thorpe St Andrew in 1973. These will make their way onto the 1970s gallery pages on Broadland Memories when I’m next updating that section, but I just had to share them on here, along with the story of that visit. Vaughan recalls:

DUKW entering the water at Thorpe in 1973

I served in No 17 Port Regiment, Royal Corps of Transport and we had all sorts of ships and vehicles to play with. I actually commanded the last troop of DUKW’s in the British Army. They were disbanded by Earl Mountbatten, at our regiment in Southampton, in 1974. Earlier, I went to see the Colonel and asked him if we should do a KAPE tour of the East Anglian coast and the Broads. (KAPE means keep the Army in the public eye). He amazed me by saying “good idea Vaughan – organise it and do it.” Which bears out the old Forces saying – “never volunteer!” So we arrived at Ipswich with an LCT (landing craft tank) which was easily big enough to take 6 DUKWs in her hold, an RPL (ramped powered lighter) and two diesel workboats which were also high powered fire fighters. The LCT would open her bow doors and we could then drive the DUKW’s out into the harbour, full of schoolkids, drive around and then climb back into the ship, which was our showpiece in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Yarmouth and Kings Lynn. She could not come up the Yare as she was too long to turn round in Norwich, so the RPL and the workboats came up by river while we drove up from Yarmouth and took the water at the old Stephen Fields slip just by the bridge in Thorpe, which was as close as we could get to Norwich and get in the water. (A DUKW draws 4ft 6″ when afloat) The DUKW’s also visited Wroxham Broad (via the public beach) and Potter Heigham.

Whilst these photos were being taken. two other DUKWs were at Cromer, where, full of schoolchildren, they charged down the beach into the sea like lifeboats and went about a half mile off shore, where the kids were winched up into Whirlwind helicopters from Coltishall and brought back to the beach. Can you imagine that being allowed now? Wherever we went, the Army Careers office in Norwich had organised visits from schools all over East Anglia to come and have rides on the boats with us and it turned out to be a big success.

One of the DUKW’s entering the water at Thorpe St Andrew in 1973.

Alongside Hearts Cruisers – in the background you can see the MGB Morning Flight which was brought to Thorpe by Commander Ashby after the war to become the family’s home.

Approaching the Boat & Bottle public house at Thorpe St Andrew – it has since been renamed the Rushcutters of course!

My thanks as always to Vaughan for the wonderful photographs and memories and for allowing me to share them here.

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