Ernest Crisp joined the Royal Marines in 1942 at the age of 17. During World War Two he was involved in the D-Day landings, providing firing cover for the Canadian troops landing at Juno Beach, and the Battle of Walcharen. He went on to win his green beret and later served in Malaya and Malta before leaving the Marines in 1953. Ernest, now 92, is a member of SSAFA’s Southend Veterans Club.
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It's nice to come to the veterans’ club and meet lots of different people.
Ernest said: “I joined up when I was 17. I went up to Romford intending to join the Navy and the Chief Petty Officer asked me what I wanted to be. I said I wanted to be a deck hand but they only had openings for stokers. He told me to go and speak to the marines!
“When I arrived at the barracks in Chatham it must have been about 4pm. They served up some lunch and it was dried up heart - I had never eaten heart in my life before!”
After training Ernest spent time in Portsmouth and Poole where he worked on the Landing Craft Support (Large) vessels.
“The first operation I did on those ships was the D-Day landings. We sailed from Poole. Fortunately the beach we were allocated did not have particularly heavy firing on it. On our craft we had a tank gun so we gave the Canadians support but we didn’t actually land ourselves.”
Ernest sailed from Poole to Ostend later in 1944, and went on to the Walcharen Islands.
“That was pretty rough,” he recalled. “We were assisting the Commandos landing there. There were ship wrecks all around us. Each support craft had a photograph of the section of the beach that the air force had taken and we were allocated that bit. We used to sail along firing at the Germans and on the way back we were picking up crew from the ships that had been sunk and taking them back to HMS Warspite, a destroyer that had a doctor. We did that all day long.”
Back in England, Ernest stayed on the LSC until the end of the war in Europe.
“After that we were due to go out to Japan but in the meantime they dropped the atom bomb so we didn’t have to go,” he said.
Ernest was demobbed in 1946 and married wife Elsie but he missed military life and soon decided to rejoin the Royal Marines. He went on to serve in Malaya and was later posted to Malta where Elsie was able to join him.
“I was in the detachment that was due to take the King down to Australia in HMS Vanguard. We did three tours round the Med training for it and then he died so we didn’t go. In the end they sent me down to do the Commando course.”
Ernest and Elsie had four daughters and he now has 15 great grandchildren. He is a regular at SSAFA’s Southend Veterans’ Club which offers the area’s ex-servicemen and women a weekly opportunity to get together for lunch and a chat.
He said: “I’m not as mobile as I used to be so it’s nice to come to the veterans’ club and meet lots of different people. Otherwise you just end up sitting at home flicking through the channels on the television.”