Fighter Detection Tender 217 & Cpl Charles Ted Parfitt

Cpl Ted Parfitt's War (RCAF)

From Canada to D-Day and back to Canada.


FDT 217 & Exercise Tiger

The Slapton Sands debacle.


The following is an excerpt from a survivors memory, courtesy of



In the confusion of the action and darkness it was impossible to be certain what was happening. The British ship FDT217 (Fighter Direction Tender) had sailed out of Portland to provide radar and communications cover under operational conditions. It was one of three FDTs that would provide stalwart service off Normandy two months later. However in the early hours of the 28th FDT217 received a signal to "Make port all haste" which they did successfully ... but elsewhere the scale of the debacle only became apparent in the hours following the action. LSTs 507 and 531 had been sunk with the loss of 202 and 424 respectively - a total of 626 out of a total US Army and US Navy complement of 943. LST 289 was damaged with the loss of 13 and LST 511 was hit by fire from LST 496 resulting in 18 wounded.


Cpl Charles "Ted" Parfitt RCAF, rear left as viewed


Robert Stalker center rear row.

Many letters were written by Ted to Norah Leggatt while she was at Sennen Cove. Ted seen here rear left, was a member of the crew of Fighter Detection Tender FDT 217. He was just off shore on FDT217 when the tragic loss of so many Americans took place on Exercise Tiger at Slapton Sands. FDT 217 narrowly missed the encounter being signaled to "make port with all haste". I will as time goes forward publish letters. It is also amazing to read letters from July 1944, where Ted talks having just returned (after D-Day) Certainly not something that you expect to be able to read. You would normally expext that all had moved forward inland but then Ted was on a ship FDT217. Fighter control having been handed over to ground forces, so the FDT's returned home.


I have been most fortunate to be in contact with his Son and Daughter whom I am sending copies of all of their fathers letters to Norah. FDT217 was also the prime controler on the D-Day invasion, being located as close as four miles off from Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.


I have consent from the site owner of

to copy some of the information to this site for which I thank and acknowledge the research he has undertaken.



Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. Winston S Churchill 4th June 1940 to the House of Commons.

D-Day from the deck of FDT 217

Watching HMS Rodney fire inshore


Please take the time to visit the following site.

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RAF Trimingham on the Easr Coast. Some of Ted's letters to Norah were addressed from here. Part of his service time in


RAF Trimingham

There is a great deal more to go on this page and indeed all the others as time permits.

A letter from Ted aboard FDT 217


D-Day cometh! Written eight weeks prior to the invaision. Training, Trials and Leaks.


Just one of the many letters written by Charles "Ted" Parfitt.


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RAF Trimingham

Disembarkation at Slapton Sands

Exercise Tiger April 1944

Charles "Ted" Parfitt 1940's and on the left Ted with daughter Marie at a wedding. Note Ted sports the Combined Operations badge on his Blazer.

Photographs courtesy of Marie.





Ted Parfitt's fellow Canadian wrote the following account which I found online about GCI Radars (Neptune/Overlord). I came across a small account written by Cpl (CAN R106371) Robert M Stalker, seen above in photo with Ted Parfitt. At that time Robert was an LAC. He states…

“I was serving as a radar technician at CHL Station Sennen in Cornwall and ordered to report to RAF Experimental Station at Farnborough. No mention was made that we would be part of an invasion force. We were simply told that we would be assigned to Tank Landing Ships fitted with radar equipment. From Farnborough we went to Glasgow where three LST ships were being converted to FDT’s. I was assigned to FDT 217. After final fitment and testing with aircraft we sailed to Cowes, Isle of Wight, the equipment operated continuously, except for short periods when we carried out daily maintainace. "D-Day" finally arrived and the evening before we were told that we would be off the coast of Normandy on the British sector before daybreak. We maintained radio silence until a certain time in the morning. From then on the equipment operated contuously. The lengthy trial invaision exercises paid off, as we never had to use the back up radar. We experienced some heavy bombing but fortunatly no direct hits. One bomb exploded so close that the ship jumped about four feet out of the water. The alarm sounded for everyone to abandon ship positions, however it was soon determined that the ship had not been damaged.Fortunatly the radar was still servicable and apparantly less bothered by the bombs than we were."



Extract courtesy


Fighter Direction Tenders


GCI Radars (Neptune/Overlord)


Ground controlled interception radars in operation Neptune / Overlord. The Allied Invasion of France, June 1944.





This accounts starts by introducing the organisation that made it all possible – the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE). TRE started as a small group of scientists within the Bawdsey research Group under the British Air Ministry Research Group and was located at Orfordness, Suffolk, England. Here they worked on the development of a Chain Home (CH) radar which later was to be credited for the survival of the United Kingdom in the 1940- Battle of Britain. They were relocated to the Isle of Purbeck at Worth Matravers, Dorset, in May 1940. In fear of a *’Bruneval style raid on Dorset, TRE and its supporting Telecommunications Flying Unit (TFU) at RAF Station Hurn, moved on 25th May, 1942, to Malvern and Defford respectively. From here TRE responded successfully to the many questions “can you do it and when can we have it?” One of the many concerns of those planning the inevitable invasion of the Continent was the need of forward warning and control radar. This equipment must be in a position prior to the beach landings of Allied forces – thus the concept evolved of installing suitable radar equipment on floating vessels in the Channel. These vessels became knows as Fighter Direction Tenders (FDTs).


The two Ground Controlled Interception (GCI) radar systems installed on the FDTs were developed by TRE – Air Ministry Experimental Station (AMES) Type 11 and Type 15. The Type 15 radar antenna was developed at Worth Matravers and built at Christchurch in December 1940. The AMES Type 11 system was developed by TRE following the Bruneval raid. It had many similarities to the sophisticated German “Wurzburg” radar system, parts of which were captured during the raid.


This section covers the development of FDTs and their use n the invasion of the Continent. Reports are also included on the GCI Radar Convoys that landed on the assault beaches to assume the duties carried out by the FDTs. TRE was also active in many other inter-related areas of radar systems development in support of the “D-Day” invasion. The following come to mind: the OBOE navigational system for improved bombing accuracy used extensively to soften enemy defences in the landing areas; the continuing development in the field of radio countermeasures (electronic warfare) through the use of counter and counter-counter measures to stay one step ahead of the enemy’s systems; the mobile radar systems which would follow the battle line once established on the Continent; and the mobile, personal and aircraft beacons used primarily for photo-recce over-flights. In their development it was necessary to ensure that final products were compatible with those used by other Allied forces.


The FDTs in addition to all other applications of radar equipment, had one thin in common – a good percentage of the radar officers and technicians were members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, attached to the Royal Air Force as Radio Direction Finding (RDF) personnel. Their input is included in the following paragraphs.


*On 27th February 1942 a British raid at Bruneval on the Cherbourg peninsula captured apparatus from a German Wurzburg radar installation and brought it to Worth Matravers for study by TRE.



Fighter Direction Tenders (FDT)


Fitment and Testing of Fighter Direction Tenders


The concept of using ground radar installations on floating vessels was initially tested during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. An RAF mobile GCI unit was temporarily mounted on Landing Ship Tank (LST) 305 fro use in the Mediterranean Theatre. Results were so successful that the AOC-in-C Fighter Command recommended that similar vessels be converted and equipp3d for landings in Europe. Fighter Command had originally recommended the conversion of four LST’s to be used by Combined Operations. At a meeting with the Admiralty in November, 1943, it was decided that only thre4e vessels were to be equipped to perform interception and raid reporting functions, under the code name “Becky”. Specifications were prepared and by the middle of February 1944 conversion of the three LSTs had been completed.


The LSTs selected for FDT conversion were part of the 112 made available to the Royal Navy during World War 11 under the US lend-lease programme. They were built in USA for use in assault landings on enemy beaches and were originally designed to carry eighteen 30-ton tanks or 27 three ton trucks and 8 jeeps or 177 troops. Upon conversion to the FDT role, the LST would have a displacement of 3700 tons and a length of 328 feet, comparable in size to a Naval cruiser. The vessel would carry a Naval crew of 8 officers and 92 ratings in addition to 19 Air Force officers and 157 airmen.


The conversion of the three LSTs wad carried out by John Brown’s Shipyard on the Clyde in Scotland. The work included welding shut the bow unloading doors and covering the hatches with armoured plate. Three hundred tons of pig iron were secured to the main deck to slow roll action of the vessel. A new deck was laid over the vehicle cargo space to contain the operational accommodation for the Filter Room, Communications Office, Cypher Office, Air Control Room and Radar Receiving Room. A Direction Finding Office was provided forward for the installation of Naval D/F equipment. Space was provided at the aft end of the tank deck for the Transmitter Room, Transceiver Rooms, Aircraft D/F, Radio Counter-Measures Office and W/T Storeroom. A Bridge Visual Direction position and a bridge Plot House were constructed above the deck.


Two GCI radar systems were installed on each FDT – a Type 15 GCI forward and a Type 11 GCI amidships. The radar aerials were 30 ft above water level which limited the accuracy of aircraft height readings The Type 11 radar on 520 Mc/s were provided as an alternative if the 200 Mc/s band was seriously jammed. Mk111 IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) was installed to provide identification only when Air Movements Liaison Section information did not provide the answer. The IFF was normally left switched off. Airborne Interception (AI) Beacons were installed on the FDTs to aid the control of night fighters. Each FDT carried 1.5 meter Mark IV and 10 centimetre Mark VIII A1 Beacons. Finally, many channels of VHF/R/T and W/T were installed to provide the essential communications.


Sea trials were carried out in the Ailsa Craig area which included radar calibration and communications tests. It was necessary to raise the Type 11 antenna to eliminate a 20 degree “blind” area either side of the bow. Otherwise the tests were generally acceptable.


During April 19454 exercises took place off the Humber coast with No 12 Fighter Group Sector. These included the use of *”window” (known as “chaff” by the US Forces). Exercises were continued in May 1944 with No 11 Fighter Group Sector and Naval Authorities in the Portsmouth and Portland areas. By the end of May the FDTs were ready for action and they sailed from Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, to join the Assault Task Forces at 2200 hours on 5th June 1944.


*Window – metallic strips cut to a half wavelength of the enemy’s detecting radar systems. Dispersed from an aircraft, the radar return would simulate a large formation of aircraft.



Fighter Direction Tenders in the Assault


During the assault and until GCI facilities became established ashore, the control of fighters operating in the assault area and the main shipping area would be exercised from the three FDTs.


FDT 216


Off the American beaches (Omaha and Utah) in the Western half of the assault area for the control of those British and American fighters detailed to operate therein


FDT 217


Off the British beaches (Sword, Juno and Gold) in the Eastern half of the assault area for the control of those British and American fighters detailed to operate therein


FDT 13


In the main shipping route for the control of those fighters detailed to operate in that area.


FDT 217 acted as the co-ordinating vessel to order reinforcements, if necessary, depending upon which part of the assault area was being attached. As dawn broke, the beaches were being bombed by RAF aircraft and the Allied cruisers and destroyers commenced shelling. All three FDTs commenced radar watch at H-hour (07.25 hours) on 06 June and were immediately in contact with the fighter aircraft providing air defence to the armada.

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