Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 5 (3)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

D. Harrison, Al Kirby at Roseneath, Scotland before the Dieppe Raid

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.

Part 5 - Concerning the Dieppe Raid - Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942 

Al Kirby, from Woodstock, Ontario participated in the Dieppe raid and a lengthy account of his experience can be found in Clayton Mark's book Combined Operations, pages 38 - 62.

A brief excerpt is presented here:

The Dieppe Raid: August 19, 1942 - Part 6

"Troops coming ashore from a landing craft under a smoke screen during
Combined Operations training at Inveraray, Scotland, 9 October 1941. 
Photo credit to World War II Today

Wednesday Morning, August 19, 1942

Shortly after midnight, the moon had descended below the horizon and although the night was clear it was quite black. Suddenly, dead ahead of us, from the stern of R-84 came a flashing light, dot dash dash dot - - the Morse letter "P". S/Lt. Leach saw it the same time as I did and before I could say anything to him he warned me that that was the signal for refueling. "As soon as we receive the Executive signal," he said, "I want you to cut the power and come to a stop. We are going to refuel now so we will have to shut off our engine and lie to while we are doing it." While we were waiting, I asked if we could leave our engine idling while we fueled, as we were having trouble starting it and we may not be successful this time and have to be towed the rest of the way. He thought about it for a few seconds and then agreed.

Just when the signal light blinked dash dot dot dash - - the Morse for "X", I cut the throttle and we coasted to a stop. What a relief to cut that engine noise. A big cheer came up from all the Camerons as they began a major shift to relieve aching muscles and sore joints. Hop and I jumped onto the upper deck and cut loose the gas cans and began pouring them into the two fuel tanks at the stern. A small flickering light appeared from down inside the craft, as though someone was trying to light a cigarette. I shouted at the top of my voice, "For Christ sake, put that bloody light out, we're pouring gasoline up here and the fumes will be running right down inside the well. Do you want to die even before you hit the beach?" I said that still thinking that we were headed for an exercise, and quite unaware of our final destination.

"Part of the assault fleet gathered for Operation Jubilee"

As we emptied the cans, we threw them over the side hoping that they would sink. After fueling was completed, we could hear the engines of our accompanying craft starting and we all began to jockey about to keep our proper station. Hop took over the wheel to give me a break after more than four hours of watching that little blue light on R-84's stern. Gradually, R-84 began to put a little distance between us and Hop poured on the power and we were back to the grind. I went down inside and sat on the top of the engine casing beside a couple of soldiers, who were now wide awake and chatting with some of the others. "Anyone here from around Woodstock?" I said. "Woodstock, Woodstock," was the reply. "Where the hell is Woodstock?" "Southern Ontario," I answered. "Ontario, Ontario! Is that in Canada? Never heard of it." The fellow beside me leaned over and said quietly, "The Camerons were recruited in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, through Winnipeg." I couldn't resist the chance to counter so I shouted "Winnipeg, Winnipeg! Where the hell is Winnipeg? It must be somewhere beyond Sioux Lookout, but I hear there isn't anything beyond Sioux Lookout!" "Kill him, kill him," went up the shout, just as the Platoon Lieutenant called for silence and instructed everyone to listen while he went over the plan one more time. I listened intently as he continued.

"Now, we expect the beach to be heavily defended, so we have to get across about ten or twenty yards of stoney footing to reach a sea wall, our first cover, just as fast as possible. Taking cover behind this wall, we will organize our sections while No. 1 Platoon finds the breach in the wire along the top of the wall that has been left by the south Saskatchewans. It is essential that we go through that breach the very second that we find it because from that moment on, the breach will be a prime target for machine gun fire." As I listen to him trying to make himself heard over the noise of the engine, a chill begins to creep over me as I slowly absorb the fact that we really are about to land on enemy territory. And even worse, the south Saskatchewan Regiment will be landing ahead of us so the defences will be already in action by the time we hit the beach. My God, why couldn't we be first, then by the time the enemy are in action we may be back off the beach and out of range.

Because my mind is racing about with the possibilities suggested by what I have heard so far, I only hear part of what he said afterwards, but I am astounded when he mentions meeting with the Calgary tanks at Four Winds Farm, about four miles inland and then continuing on to attack an airport nine miles from the beach. I am convinced that this must be the second front, and there must be hundreds of landing craft coming in behind us. My mind swirls with the gravity of what I am hearing. Naturally, I am a little nervous about my own safety, but my overriding feeling is one that is much harder to describe. Transcending my fear is a feeling of betrayal at not being told about this by our own officer. Neither I nor any one of our group, would give up a chance to take part in a real operation against the enemy, no matter what the outcome may be, but I somehow feel cheated by Leach's refusal to let us in on any of the information, even at the last minute. I am certain that the Camerons knew about this before they loaded. After a few minutes of trying to rationalize everything in my mind, I turned to the soldier beside me and asked, "Where in the hell are we going anyway?" Somewhat startled he fired back, "Don't you know? You are supposed to be taking us there. If you don't know, how in the hell are you going to get us there?" "I don't need to know in order to get there. I'm just following the boat in front of me," I replied, "don't worry about that, soldier, we'll get you there, on time and in the right place, but I'm curious about where that is." "It's a coastal town called Deepy," he volunteered, "somewhere in France."

Shortly before 0400, the sky ahead of us suddenly lit up with a myriad of tracer paths knifing into the heavens. Though momentarily startled, we were more dismayed than surprised. We all realized that we were getting close to our target, as the Infantry briefing indicated a touch down time of 0500. Now it appeared that the enemy was awake and at action stations. Our hope of a surprise landing was dashed as we thought we were looking at German anti-aircraft fire in response to an R.A.F. bombing raid. A few minutes later the light on the stern of R-84 began to drift off to starboard and Hop had to adjust our course to 180 in order to keep her dead ahead. I turned to Leach and addressed him. "We've swung around to 180 Sir. Are we heading into Deepy now?" "That would be about right," he answered, "but the pronunciation is Dieppe, not Deepy." "Well you have to realize Sir," I countered with my best Canadian sarcasm, "in the absence of information we are operating completely on hear-say." His silence told me that he did not give a damn what I, or any other lower deck rating thought. I remained beside him in silence as our frail wooden hull continued to be bullied through the calm French waters of the Channel by our faithful Hall Scott. That five minute pyrotechnic display that we saw before 0400 was not repeated, and now, about 0500, the night was lifting and we could see R-84 completely and even beyond. We had now passed our touch down time, daylight was fast approaching and we could not yet see our target. Just then our course swung back to port and settled on 160. "If it's O.K. with you Sir,” I said to Leach, "I'll leave Hop on the wheel for the landing and I'll take care of the smoke generator and the bicycle." "As you wish," was the reply.

About 0515 we could just make out the coastline through the morning haze and it looked like cliffs, still no fire from the enemy, and we can't see any activity ashore. Then our Flotilla leader turned 90 degrees to starboard and we began to parallel the shoreline about one or two miles out. Now we could see flashes of artillery or mortar fire ashore but we were drawing no fire ourselves. Then, all our craft turned 90 degrees to port and we headed into the beach in line abreast. Just as I was climbing up onto the stern to ignite the smoke generator, all hell seemed to break loose, the water ahead of us began to erupt like a massive sea volcano as a rain of mortar fire descended upon the water in front of us. Smoke billowed from our generator and piled up behind us in great clouds that obscured everything in that direction. Plowing through the wall of mortar fire the noise was deafening, but more than that the concussion of each burst pressed on our ears as though we were being smitten with giant pillows. I looked down along the line of landing craft and so far no one seemed to have been hit yet. The Germans seemed to have our range now as the explosions were gushing water all around us. How they could be landing so close without hitting us was almost unbelievable. I am half soaked from the water cascading down on me as I crouch down behind the smoke generator. 

"Landing crafts of troops taking part in Operation Jubilee, Dieppe, Aug.
19th, 1942. On left, a smoke screen conceals them from enemy fire."
Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada

Looking over the top of the canvas cover, I see the Cameron Platoon Commander pointing off to his right. Looking in that direction, I am amazed at the sight of a piper standing up on the foc’sle of the second boat over, playing away as though he was alone in a field of heather in the rolling hills by Loch Lomond. Shortly before touching the beach the din is joined by the staccato chorus of a number of automatic weapons from the cliffs that spring from either side of the stoney beach in front of us. The roar, the crash, the rattle and smash have reached such a crescendo that it fairly blocks out my ability to appreciate what is taking place around me. Just as I feel the grinding of the hull on the beach, I step forward and undo the lashings on the bicycle on the canvas cover. As the last of the Infantry is jumping down to a dry landing on the stones, I shout to the closest man to take the bike. He looks at me for an instant in disbelief as I attempt to hand it to him, then, ignoring me, he turns and runs for the sea wall, scrambling for all he is worth, stumbling over the bodies of his dead and wounded comrades. I drop the bike in the stones, turn and run back toward the rear of the boat, shouting to Hop as I go, "all clear, all clear, get us to hell out of here Hop!"

As I crouch down behind the still smoking generator for shelter, I burn one of my hands on the hot side of it, as Hop backs off the beach, turns seaward and pours the power to old R-135. I am so glad to hear that engine bark that I am unable to feel any pain in my burned hand. Very shortly, we are buried in the smoke that we had laid down all the way in, and the thought strikes me that I am now on the wrong side of the smoke generator to receive any shelter from it. Jumping down into the now empty well deck, I notice light coming in through the starboard side where we took a burst of machine gun fire. Fortunately for us it caused us no serious damage and nothing was hit on the engine. Charging out through the smoke, we all prayed that we didn't hit anyone coming the other way as we couldn't see beyond our own bow. Good old Hop was clever enough to note our course coming in so that he was able to take us out to safety through the smoke and I thanked our lucky stars that these juicers make such great sailors.

We soon cleared the smoke and sailed out of range of the fire coming from ashore, then picking up the remainder of our Flotilla, we proceeded in line ahead, over to a destroyer and hove to along side of her. Everything looked just great, we have all of our boats and we are sure that we have put the Infantry where they belonged. I can't pick out McKenna's or Lantz's boat from here but I can count twelve boats, so they must be here. Our damage is minimal, with about twenty small holes in the starboard side from small arms fire, but looking around, it is apparent that some of the other boats are not so lucky. I can't get over my admiration for Hop and Grear for the way everything went. Even Leach begins to take on a semblance of humanity.

"Dieppe’s pebble beach and cliff immediately following
the raid. A scout car has been abandoned."
DND / National Archives of Canada

Editor's note:

There are two very good connections to London, Ontario, my current hometown, in Kirby's account of his Dieppe experience.

The first: Al Kirby's story is found in COMBINED OPERATIONS, a significant book written and compiled by Londoner Clayton Marks.

"Sharing WW2 memories, Mr. Kirby included"

The second connection is found in the opening paragraphs to Kirby's lengthy account:

- A Few Days Before the Raid

The shrill Bosuns' call broke the peace of a Saturday afternoon 'Make and Mend' as forcefully as the action bell on a destroyer, or the howl of the air raid alert in Picadilly Circus. "The following ratings report to the quarter deck on the double," it commanded, with the authority and rudeness, so characteristic of the Royal Navy of World War II. "Able Seaman Adlington, Able Seaman Bailey, Able Seaman Belontz... say again, Able Seaman Adlington, Able Seaman Bailey, Able Seaman Belontz, report to the quarter deck, on the double".

I lay on the lockers of our mess deck lazily passing the afternoon, when the Bosuns' call shook me back to reality. Adlington....Adlington....Christ that's me....well, not me, but since I'm standing by for Adlington I'd better get to the quarter deck to see what kind of a dirty job I'm being seen off for now.

 Halifax, 1941: "Addy" Addlington, fourth row back, third from left

 "Addy" Adlington (groom) and new wife Mary, married in Glasgow.
Best man is Chuck Rose, RCNVR and Comb. Ops, w Mary's sister.

As I draw myself to a standing position, I reach my cap off the top locker and jam it down onto my head, square across my eyebrows in true RCN fashion. Out the door of the mess and down two steps to the sidewalk, then turn to skirt two sides of the parade ground in the lovely, August, afternoon warmth, of sunny Hampshire. Of course, I knew better than to cut across the parade ground, for fear that a gunner's mate may be within five nautical miles of me committing such blasphemous conduct, and I would never get finished doing punishment number eleven. As I walked along, my mind wandered back through the last seven or so months: graduating from Torpedo School at Halifax in December, volunteering for 'hazardous work' in small craft with England's Royal Navy, the trip to England in a rust bucket of a troop ship named the 'Vollendam', training through the Spring in southern England and Scotland and now sitting here in barracks at Portsmouth, twiddling my thumbs. My God, what a war! When in the world are we ever going to look down the barrel of a gun and see a Kraut just asking for it.

Here I am, eighteen years old, a fine specimen of a sailor, in great physical shape, fully trained after one and a half years in the finest Navy in the world, and on my way to be given some joe job, like scrubbing the deck in the Wrens' heads. Just think....I could have been living it up in London this weekend if only I hadn't sold my weekend leave to my buddy, Allan Adlington. One pound is a lot of money, but isn't it just my luck that "Addy" would draw some crummy job and I would have to do it for him. As I turned in to the Quartermaster's office, just off the quarterdeck, I reported, "Able Seaman Kirby here." The Quartermaster looked at me with a puzzled expression, "A.B. what?" "Able Seaman Kirby," I replied, thinking what a bunch of dolts these juicers are. "Oh, I mean Able Seaman Adlington....that is....I'm standing by for Able Seaman Adlington while he is on weekend leave".

"Right, well now my son, nip back to the mess and get your attache case, pack whatever you need for a weekend stay and report to the R.P.O.'s office. Don't forget your shaving gear, but remember, no more than you can pack in your attache case. Got it? Right, now 'op to it my lad."

"Terrible action just days away" Photo from The Watery Maze

Editor's final note:

At the time of writing, Mr. and Mrs. "Addy" Adlington live in London, Ontario. I have visited with them a number of times and have always received a very warm welcome. I sometimes wonder if "Addy's" weekend leave included a dance with his future bride. 

Please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 5 (2)

Unattributed photos G. Harrison

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 5 (2)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

Some Dieppe Survivors - Canadians in Combined Operations
Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol.1, Page 80

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.


Part 5 - Concerning the Dieppe Raid - Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942 

"I missed going to Dieppe by just one day," my father said during an interview with a reporter from The Brantford Expositor in January 1944. In the newspaper article that followed I read that 'he had been on leave and returned to duty just as the Dieppe casualty lists were coming in. Seven of his combined operations colleagues failed to come back from that cross-Channel venture'. Some had been killed, others taken as prisoners of war.

No doubt the tragic results associated with the Dieppe Raid contributed to his feelings of anger at the time, and survivor guilt in later years.

Al Kirby of Woodstock, one of my father's close mates who participated in and returned from Dieppe on August 19, wrote one of the most comprehensive eye-witness accounts available, i.e., from the point-of-view of a member of the RCNVR and Combined Operations who had been aboard one of the landing craft used to deliver men and material to Dieppe's shore. The 24-page account appears in Combined Operations (1993) by Londoner Clayton Marks, and can also be found in Brereton Greenhous's official history, Dieppe, Dieppe, published by Canada's Department of National Defense (DND) in 1995.

It the book Combined Operations, Kirby's story is preceded by two entries, i.e., a shorter account of the raid by Clayton Marks, and the lists of the Combined Operations personnel and Naval forces (i.e., list of H.M. ships, landing craft and commanding officers) utilized during the raid.

C. Marks writes the following:

DIEPPE - August 19, 1942

It was deemed a failure right from the original plan of operation. The original code word for this landing was "Rutter". It was accepted by Combined Operations and the Home Forces Staffs on April 25, 1942 and the landing was to commence by the 8th of July, 1942. On July 7th the German Air Force flew over Yarmouth Roads and sank landing ships. This, and the bad weather, convinced Mountbatten to cancel the complete operation.

Mountbatten and Churchill had a plan to remount "Rutter" on August 19, 1942 under the code word "Jubilee" with all the same participating forces. The Chiefs-of-Staff were on the wane and Dieppe was desperately needed to restore Combined Operations quickly growing ambitions. Bomber Command could not and would not supply heavy, accurate air bombardment, but could guarantee only limited indiscriminate bombing. The Naval Sea Lord could not supply sea power in the form of battleships due to the recent loss of the battleships "Prince of Wales" and the "Revenge" at Singapore in December of 1941. This left only destroyer sea power of 4 inch guns that could not damage the wall of defense along the French coast. At 2130 on the night of August 18th the landing ships slipped their moorings and headed out to sea on a cloudless and warm evening. The fleet consisted of 237 ships of all sizes from large Infantry landing ships to the 74 LCP's unarmed and unarmoured carrying 6,100 of all ranks.

Many stories and acts of heroism have been told and will be retold over and over again. Officers and men of the British Army, Commandos, Royal Marines, American Rangers, Canadian Essex Scottish, Canadian Engineers, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, Hamilton Light Infantry, Fusiliers Mont Royal and the Royal Regiment of Canada, Black Watch, were all involved in this raid.

The perilous honour of the raid fell mainly to the Canadian Army and the Royal Navy, but members of the Naval team from Canada had a share. Training was not sufficiently advanced for the Canadians to operate as separate Flotillas when the Dieppe expedition sailed from Portsmouth, Shoreham and Newhaven on the night of August 18th; but among the British Landing Craft fifteen Canadian Officers and fifty-five Ratings were distributed.

Sub-Lieutenant C.D. Wallace was the first Canadian casualty. He was killed in the dark hours of the morning, when the Flotillas on the extreme left flank of the assault made the fatal encounter with a German convoy. Lt. J.E. Koyl, a Canadian who was to figure in many happier landings, was boat Officer of a Flotilla which included thirty-three Canadians. It left its parent ship, "Duke of Wellington", at 0334. As the craft neared the beach shortly after five, they came under heavy fire from shore. They managed to land their three platoons of the Canadian Black Watch near Puys; but as they were withdrawing the British Flotilla Officer was seriously wounded and Lt. Koyl took charge. Continuing seaward, he transferred the wounded Officer to a British destroyer, and about 1200 when the evacuation of the beach was ordered, led his craft in again through heavy fire from shore and attack from the air.* Before he could beach, however, he was ordered to turn back. German batteries were laying down a curtain of steel that made evacuation an impossibility.

Photo found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, Page 60

Meanwhile, Sub-Lieutenants A.A. Wedd and J.E. Boak, each in command of one of the landing craft (Personnel) which had sailed directly from England, came into shore with their Flotilla a little east of Dieppe harbour. Passing through smoke and into the fire from the German weapons of all calibres, they landed their troops and withdrew. They were sent in an hour or so later to Dieppe harbour itself; but were recalled almost immediately and re-routed to one of the beaches near Puys. As they reached the inner fringe of the smoke shrouding the beach, they came upon a group of Canadian soldiers crouching on a capsized landing craft just off shore, and pinned down by fire. Although the soldiers waved and shouted at them to steer away, the craft ran close alongside, heaved ropes across and managed to rescue three of the men. Then, as the fire from shore blazed up to new intensity, the Flotilla was ordered to turn back from the beach. It was not to go in again. Like all of the other Flotillas, it was to have the memory, most poignant for the Canadians, of having left behind many of the soldiers it had brought ashore.

Unhappy as the immediate results of Dieppe were, the performance of the Canadians in the landing craft had been worthy of their brothers in the Army; and some of them remained with the soldiers as prisoners.

Lt. R.F. McRae stated:

"On August 19, 1942, at dawn, in our R-Boat, with Lloyd Campbell, Richard Cavanagh, Robert Brown and a unit the Fusiliers Mont Royal, we were off the French coast which was invisible behind a heavy smoke screen and from which there came the awful noises of war. About 0730 the Flotilla got orders to go in and land the troops. We quickly formed up in line abreast, went through the smoke screen and saw that we were headed toward a beach under high cliffs with the heads of the enemy looking down over the top and pouring machine-gun fire into our boats. Campbell, who was at the wheel, took a line of bullets across his thighs (and later, as a P.O.W., lost his legs in successive amputations and died before Christmas from gangrene). Cavanagh, who was standing next to him, got it in the chest and died an hour later when his lungs had filled up. Brown, though hit in the stomach, took over the wheel from Campbell. I was the lucky one and received only a piece of shrapnel in the ankle.

In the meantime, the engine had been blown up and was on fire and the plywood hull of the boat was well perforated, but we had enough weight on to make it to the beach. The troops scrambled ashore except for their Captain who had been standing up forward with us and was badly wounded, and I believe, dying. Some of the troops never made it across the beach which was strewn with their bodies, and those who did were easy targets for grenades lobbed down from above. There was no life in the boats on either side of us, and it was, I think, because they could see that I was busy with the wounded and that we were unarmed so that the Germans on the top of the cliffs gave up trying to finish us off.

Some hours later, it was evident that a surrender had taken place when I saw a few German soldiers walking along the beach with a medical orderly. I jumped out of the boat to fetch the orderly for the wounded but our discussion was rudely interrupted by a Corporal with a machine-gun directing me, in no uncertain terms to a crevice in the cliff face, down which a rope had been lowered. A few surviving troops and myself were ordered to hoist ourselves up the rope, hand over hand. I did not see my crew again.

"The drawing of my experiences as a POW pianist"
St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol.1, Page 64
Provenance Bob McRae

I spent the first year as a P.O.W. in handcuffs in a British Army Officers camp and then was shifted to a British Naval Officers camp for the remainder of the war. The last two weeks were spent with a long straggling column of P.O.W.s being marched up to the Baltic and regularly being strafed by our own fighter aircraft.

The loss of Campbell and Cavanagh and later Brown**, as you can see, was a complete waste and unnecessary."

**POW McRae was later reunited with Robert Brown, who had - unbeknownst
to McRae - survived his wound. St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, Page 65

Clayton Marks continues:

Though there are still some who dispute the value of what was learned at Dieppe, they are not to be found among informed persons or among any who bore high responsibility in the later stages of the war, except for General Montgomery. There are others besides him who have criticized details of the raid, or the retention of Dieppe as the target after the original postponement. Mistakes were certainly made, and the Germans themselves were among their severest critics. They found fault with the rigidity of the plan, the frontal attack, the absence of parachutists, the failure to use bombers, the failure to land tanks at Quiberville. Fortunately they were confirmed in their belief that in our next landing we would go for a large port in the initial stages? and this erroneous conviction colored all their planning. They convinced themselves also that it was on the beaches that we would be most easily defeated, and they made their dispositions accordingly.

In fact we had learned that a frontal attack on a defended port was impracticable, and we never tried it again. A British General is on record as saying, not long afterwards, "Well, if we can't capture a port, we will have to take one with us". The Prime Minister had already and separately had the same idea.

In order that this grim experience should not be for nothing, a full and detailed report, with the lessons learned clearly deduced and codified, was compiled in C.O.H.Q.; printed, and given a wide circulation. No time was wasted in chewing the cud; it saw the light and was being closely studied in a very short space of time. Combined Operations, Pages 26 - 29

* re transferring wounded RN officer to a destroyer. The following newspaper article appeared on February 5, 1944 in The Free Press, London, Ontario.




“I saw my lieutenant, the flotilla officer, ‘get it’ because he did not know the meaning of fear. I saw ship’s gunners being strafed and standing to their guns. I can remember a Bren gunner standing in plain view of wicked cross fire, pouring all he had into the Jerries to cover his mates’ landing.” LS. Buryl McIntyre (right, in photo below), home on leave in Norwich with his friend LS. Douglas Harrison (left) told what he remembered of Dieppe where he was mentioned in dispatches for his work as coxswain of a landing barge.

“It was a dark night in August when we crossed the Channel toward Dieppe. Just at dawn we could discern the coast of France. Out of the dark sky and into the light outlining the coast came a plane diving on gun positions on shore, the guns in his wings and cannon in the nose twinkling much like a ‘Hallowe’en sparkler’. Then as he was just below treetop height, so it seemed, he pulled out and let his bombs go. He zoomed up and set off for home, ‘a job well done’.”

Buryl’s lieutenant was shot down just as they were touching the beach and coxswain Buryl took command of the barge. After landing the troops, he pushed away to find the nearest destroyer to get help for his officer. He picked his way through the maze of boats, all moving as quickly as they could to avoid the bombing and strafing of enemy planes. Another barge drew alongside and tied up to see if there was anything they could do. As it pulled away its tie rope became entangled in the propellor of Buryl’s barge, stopping the engine. Buryl dropped into the water, swam around to the stern of the tossing barge and slowly unwound the rope. Then they pushed on.

He finally got his officer aboard a destroyer and stood by nine hours, waiting and watching. Finally a senior officer commanded him to take his barge home to an English port seventy miles across the Channel from Dieppe. When the Dieppe honours were released Buryl McIntyre was mentioned in dispatches for coolness and courage in emergencies. Later he helped land the British First Army and supplies near Algiers and took part in the Allied landing in Sicily. During the invasion of Italy he was in a North African hospital.

ALC 269 leaving Newhaven, August 21, 1942. C. Sheeler, L. Birkenes 

ALC 269 returning to Southampton from Newhaven.
C. Sheeler and Joe Spencer (under the White Ensign), Aug. 21, 1942
Used with permission of Gary Spencer, collection of Joe Spencer

Please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 5 (1)

Unattributed Photos GH

Friday, June 24, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 5 (1)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

Canadian infantrymen disembark from landing craft during a training exercise
before the raid on Dieppe. England, August 1942. Photo - Canada at War

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.


Part 5 - Concerning the Dieppe Raid - Operation Rutter, July 1942 

Lt. Jake Koyl mentions in his files (as found in Combined Operations by Clayton Marks) that after about four months of training in southern England and Scotland the Canadians in Combined Ops were given an official and significant assignment: He writes:

The first operational call received was in early June when they sailed away from their base to take part in some operation, but this was cancelled and all were ordered to return to base.

Though Koyl does not mention the name of the operation, one can determine, by reading the stories and memoirs of a few Canadian officers and ratings, that their first assignment was Operation Rutter, the destination was Dieppe, and though the date had been set for July 8, 1942, it was cancelled one day earlier for various reasons - the chief of which relates to bombings by the German Luftwaffe - and later rescheduled for August 19.

About the lead-up to the first operation (Rutter), one can find a significant passage from a story written by an RCNVR officer, William Sinclair (found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: Vol. 1), as well as confirmation of certain events by young Canadian members of Combined Operations.

Mr. Sinclair not only describes initial training at HMS Northney (Combined Ops base on Hayling Island, Hampshire) and HMS Quebec on Loch Fyne (including his participation in exercises Schuyt I and II), he goes on to mention a memorable voyage from Scotland to southern England prior to the aborted operation related to Dieppe.

He writes:

Finally, about the end of April 1942, our craft - LCAs and LCMs - were embarked on two landing ships (Stern), the Iris and the Daffodil. We then sailed down Loch Fyne to Irvine, Ayrshire.

He goes on to say he and other Canadians camped at HMS Dundonald, and took part in Schuyt I and II, "the largest combined exercises up to that time," under the watchful eye of the King of England, the Prime Minister and Lord Mountbatten. After further training back at Inveraray the LCMs were again sent south to England, this time to the Solent (the body of waterways between Southampton and the Isle of Wight) and aboard the RFA Ennerdale and Daffodil.

About this trip on Ennerdale, Sinclair writes the following:

In company with the Daffodil we sailed for the Solent, and what looked like a forth-coming operation.* Our coastal convoy left the Clyde about the 10th of June, 1942.

About 10 PM (later in the trip, after passing Milford Haven, Wales, and Land's End), just as it was getting dark.... our convoy was attacked by some eight JU 88s. After a few close ones, two of the Jerries were shot down and we proceeded to Portsmouth where the Ennerdale went into dry dock for two weeks as some of her plates had sprung due to near misses. (St. Nazaire to Singapore, page 50)

*A footnote on the same page, written by David Lewis, the editor of St. Nazaire to Singapore: Vol. 1, adds:

Although we didn't know it, we had been attending functions related to Operation Rutter.... Rutter had been interrupted by Luftwaffe attacks on the naval troop carriers and the weather had been unacceptable, so that the operation was cancelled and run again as Operation Jubilee a few weeks later.

Others recall attacks by German Junkers, ending up in Portsmouth and later hearing about the cancellation of the early attempt to raid Dieppe.

Lloyd Evans (WW2 veteran of RCNVR and Comb. Ops) recalls the following in his memoirs:

We sailed from the Firth of Clyde on one of them (i.e., one of the oil tankers converted to carry landing craft), down through the Irish Sea, and somewhere near Lands End, our convoy was bombed.... my first night bombing at sea. I hastily donned my tin helmet which always gave me a headache but this time it seemed as light as a feather and caused no problem at all. One of the main anti-aircraft guns, on our foredeck, jammed, and a JU 88 came in real low to take advantage. Our gunners cleared the jam and shot him down before he could drop his bombs. We managed to get away in safety and ended up in Portsmouth....

Canadians in Combined Ops, possibly in Portsmouth, 1942
L-R; Don Linder, NA, NA, Doug Harrison (reclining), NA, Don Westbrook
Photo credit - From the collection of Lloyd Evans

....We had no clear idea why we were there. The situation was all the more confusing when a large flotilla of landing craft, loaded with soldiers and Commandos, set sail one evening and we remained in port. We could see the Commandos putting detonators in their hand grenades and blackening their faces as though they were preparing for action. The mystery deepened when they returned a few hours later. 

We found out that they had sailed for a raid on Dieppe, France, but returned when they found out the Germans were waiting for them. We could never figure out if our presence there was anything to do with the abortive Dieppe Raid and, if it was, why we were not part of it. We later set sail for Clyde Bank (i.e, Scotland). (Memoirs, page 10)

My father (D. Harrison; see above photograph) writes the following about the same events:

We went from Irvine to H.M.S. Quebec, then to H.M.S. Niobe and then aboard the oil tanker Ennerdale at Greenock in late spring, 1942. Our barges were loaded on the ship too, by use of booms and winches. I recall that before leaving Greenock one of the ship’s crew said to me, “I wish we weren’t going on this trip, matey.” When I asked why he said, “‘Cause we got a bloody basinful last time!” We got our basinful this time too.

During the trip down the west coast of England it seems we pulled into an Irish seaport one night; however, farther down the coast of England we headed south past Milford Haven, Wales, and all was serene.

We usually had a single or maybe two Spitfires for company. There were eight ships in the convoy; we were the largest, the rest were trawlers. Of course, the Spitfires only stayed until early dusk, then waggled their wings and headed home.

On June 22, 1942, my mother’s birthday, O/D Seaman Jack Rimmer of Montreal and I were reminiscing on deck. We must remember there was daylight saving time and war time, and to go by the sun setting one never knew what time it was. Jack and I were feeling just a little homesick - not like at first - and it was a terribly hard feeling to describe then.

Our Spitfire waggled his wings and kissed us goodnight though it was still quite light, and no sooner had he left when ‘action stations’ was blared out on the Klaxon horn.

Eight German JU 88s came from the east, took position in the sun and attacked us from the stern. It was perhaps between eight and nine o’clock because I had undressed and climbed into my hammock next to Stoker Fred Alston. When the Klaxon went everybody hit the deck and tried to dress, and being the largest ship, we knew we were in for it.

I got my socks on, put my sweater on backwards and got the suspenders on my pants caught on the oil valves. I was hurrying like hell and nearly strangled myself - scared to death. They needed extra gunners so Lloyd Campbell of London, Ontario said, “Let me at him.”

The bombs came - and close. They really bounced us around. The gun crew on the foc’sle of the ship was knocked clear off the gun by the concussion and fell but were only bruised.

The attack was short and sweet but it seemed an eternity. A near miss had buckled our plates and we lost all our drinking water. I ventured out on deck immediately and picked up bomb shrapnel as big as your fist. I noticed the deck was covered with mud from the sea bottom. I kept the shrapnel as a souvenir along with many other items I had but, alas, they were all lost in Egypt.

We arrived at Cowe (Isle of Wight) the next day with everyone happy to be alive and still shaking. It indeed had been a basinful. 

The next evening, June 23, 1942 there was terrific activity. Motor launches by the dozen headed out to see what was going on, and it turned out to be the aborted attempt on Dieppe. The next one on August 19, 1942 should have been aborted too.

More to follow.

Please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (4)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (4)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

Lord Mountbatten (on right) watching a landing exercise at the Combined
Operations Centre at Dundonald Camp (Army). Dundonald was adjacent to Camp
Auchengate (Navy). South of Irvine. Photo Credit - Histomil Historica

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.


Part 4 - Combined Operations Training in the UK

II - Initial Combined Ops Training in Scotland

A) Camp Auchengate (Navy), south of Irvine

Before going to the Combined Operations Centre south of Irvine (between Irvine and Troon), some if not all the Canadians spent time at HMS Chamois, south of and near HMS Quebec. In other memoirs I read that some (including my father) spent time at Rosneath. (U.S. troops are associated with Rosneath as well, I have learned). Moving about and facing changed schedules at short notice seems to have be a matter of course. That being said, my father's memories related to Irvine were strong and he returned to visit the area in the 1980s or 1990s.

About his experiences in Irvine he writes (in part):

Soon after (time at HMS Chamois), my group was sent up the Loch to Irvine and I shall always remember that town. We practiced running our ALC up the stern of the Iris and Daffodil, i.e., train ferries in peace time that carried whole trains across the channel between England and France. They were later to be used as ALC transports. Their sterns were nearly completely open, but with waves and a stiff wind blowing it was difficult to hit the opening. We practiced and practiced, and once in, winches were used and helped get barges onto tracks. One day I just could not make it. I had a Seaman named Jake Jacobs and he said, “Let me see her. I’ll put her in there.” He pulled the ALC back, poured the coal to her and crashed right into the stern of the Iris. There was Hell to pay.

Then we had to practice living on short rations, i.e., chocolate, hard tack and compost tea (tea, sugar and milk powder in what looked exactly like a sardine can). We received a small allowance, enough for three or four days, and slept aboard the ALC. It was tough going but we made it. When we went into Irvine the townspeople brought us cookies, tea and coffee. What wonderful people. When we left we took up a collection, a whole hatful, and gave it to the townspeople to do as they chose.

One time, Sub-Lt. Pennyfather rather meekly said to me, “Harrison, you look terribly thin and drawn. Here is ten bob, go get a good meal.” When I said, no sir, he said, “But I insist.” And I had a wonderful meal.

Officers outside their Nissan Hut, HMS Dundonald, Irvine
L-R: David Lewis, J. Boak, Davy Rodgers, Charlie Pennyfather, Jake Koyl
before Schuyts 1 and 2. Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1

After one of those long sojourns without much food, no shaving, etc., we came back into Irvine and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I loaded my attache case and started up a street in Irvine and met three girls. Two were sisters, Jean and Francis, and the third one we will call Thelma. I was a terrible sight and needed a bath and shave. I walked up to them boldly and said, “Pardon me girls. Could you tell me where I could get a shave and a bath?” They linked their arms in mine and said, “Sure can, Canada. Come with us.”

They took me to 22 Waterside St. in Irvine and I learned the sisters’ last name was Cricksmere. I bathed and shaved, was fed, and given a bed for many nights after a day of training. I corresponded with them after the war. They were English, living in Scotland, and their mum reminded me of my own mother. I know they fed me their own rations, even eggs.

There was also a son about 40 years old, and he and I used to battle Johnnie Walker every night. After a few we would ride the bus to Dragon (sic: Dreghorn) and get a couple of more because they were open longer. Moonlight Serenade and Sunlight Serenade were big hits at that time.

Main Street, Dreghorn is an easy bus ride from Irvine
Photo credit - Old Irvine on Facebook with Janice Clark

Actually, we were stationed at Auchengate camp outside Irvine at the time in bell tents and all washing facilities were outside. We never went ashore the regular way under inspection of an officer. O/D Art Bradfield, who was confined to barracks, inspected us, lifted the fence and said, “Be back on time you guys.” And we always were.

Bell Tent at Irvine: Don Westbrook, outside. Butler emerging.
Photo credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, page 44

Jake Jacobs was a lead swinger of the first water and said he would make it back to Canada before any of us, and you know, he did. He wangled it somehow and after Auchengate I never saw him again. And just to digress a bit, O/D Seaman Patty Neville used to pee the bed and wouldn’t sleep on the lower bunk, so O/D Don Linder of Kitchener had to sleep with raincoats over him.

Sometimes at Irvine I acted as seaman along with Gash Bailey under a Coxswain named Owen, who wasn’t very bright. One night we had an exercise landing (Schuyt 1), complete with soldiers against shore defences. Also, we had a stoker, Lank, who was below decks. My, it was rough and cold. The stoker took a pail to vomit in and Gash and I lashed ourselves down on ALC cowling.

We had an officer named Jake Koyl who was later to become our commander after Lieut. McRae was captured at Dieppe. During the exercise the soldiers became sick, oh so terribly sick. And what happens a long, long way from shore? We run aground.

Koyl says, “Okay, over you go Harrison and Bailey, and together we’ll rock her loose.” We were wearing big heavy duffle coats and sea boots but over we went. After we got her loose, however, Owen left us out there and headed for shore. We fought for high ground against the waves and, weighing nearly a ton, we took off our duffle coats, dropped into holes and had a wonderful time until Owen somehow found us toward morning. The good people at the pub near the place our ALCs docked took us in, gave us blankets, porridge, whiskey, and dried our clothes.*

Soon after that we were to get our baptism of fire. Our time of training had come to an end. How would it all show up? (From "DAD, WELL DONE" pages 15 - 17)

Doug Harrison (Norwich) and Al Kirby (Woodstock) in Scotland, 1942 - 43 

* My father writes about being stranded in the water, after rocking the ALC loose, in greater detail in an article in other books that deal with the experiences of Canadians in Combined Operations. In it he mentions the name of the family that helped revive him the morning - with porridge and whiskey - after the good soaking he received on the sandbars between Irvine and Troon. With that detail in hand, I was able to locate the pub near the place his landing craft had docked, likely in mid-spring, 1942.

I have also learned the officer Dad mentions, Jake Koyl, was in a great hurry to get to the eventual site of the significant training exercise known as Schuyt 1. It was held under the watchful eye of important dignitaries, i.e., King George VI, PM Winston Churchill, and C.O. Commander Lord Mountbatten. Koyl did not want to be late.

Officer Koyl recaps the first six months of Combined Operations training, undergone by his Canadian ratings, as follows in Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks:

In January, 1942 in (the Dutch liner) Volendam, fourteen Officers and ninety-six Ratings sailed from Canada for the U.K. knowing nothing of what lay ahead but looking forward to a rather exciting life. On arrival in the U.K. they began a course of training which lasted two months, most of this training being (aboard) LCAs, Landing Craft Assault, and LCMs, Landing Craft Mechanized. By the end of April they were split up into two operational Flotillas.

The first operational call received was in early June when they sailed away from their base to take part in some operation, but this was cancelled and all were ordered to return to base. These periods of suspense were most trying on the morale of all men as during these periods of waiting, sometimes lasting over two months, they were posted to routine camp duties.

The first opportunity for action came with the Dieppe raid. Though, not operating as Canadian units, Officers and men were intermingled with R.N. Flotillas and much valuable experience was gained. (Pages 173 - 174)

Though I find it difficult to attach specific training periods to specific places (even the sailors themselves had much trouble), the Canadians trained aboard various landing crafts in southern England and western Scotland for several months in early 1942 in preparation for their first significant raid.... at Dieppe, France.

"Our time of training had come to an end," said my father. "How would it all show up?"

More to follow.

Please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (3)

Unattributed Photos GH

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (3)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

Unidentified Canadian infantrymen taking part in a Combined Operations
training exercise, Inveraray, Scotland, 27 August 1943. Credit: Sgt. George
A. Game / Canada. DND/Library and Archives Canada / PA-132778

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.


Part 4 - Combined Operations Training in the UK

II - Initial Combined Ops Training in Scotland

A) H.M.S. Quebec, on Loch Fyne (south of Inveraray)

About his first training experiences in Scotland my father writes:

We were all in good shape and this was to be one of the more memorable camps, with our first actual work and introduction to landing barges.... there were lots of adventures, therefore many memories.

We trained on ALCs (assault landing crafts) which carried approximately 37 soldiers and a crew of four, i.e., Coxswain, two seamen and stoker. Some carried an officer.... ALCs were made of 3/16 inch plating, thick enough to stop a .303. (They) sat three rows of soldiers including two outside rows under 3/16th inch cowling, but the centre row was completely exposed. ("DAD, WELL DONE" page 12)

"The centre row (straddling a bench) was completely exposed"
Photo credit - Imperial War Museum

The young Canadians also trained on LCMs, or landing craft, mechanized. About them my father says the following:

LCMs carried soldiers or a truck, a Bren gun carrier, supplies, land mines, gasoline, etc. LCMs wouldn't stop a bullet.

More information about ALCs and LCMs can be found in the first few pages of a significant book produced in London, Ontario by Clayton Marks and his wife Jewel, entitled Combined Operations. (A descriptive section is also included about the use of Infantry Landing Ships in several major operations of World War II).

About the ALCs and LCMs Mr. Marks writes the following:


This craft is without a doubt the outstanding one of all Assault Craft. Extreme length 41 ft. 1 and 1/2 in. Beam extreme 10 ft. 2 in. The displacement light is 8 tons with a draft of 1 ft. 1 in. forward and 1 ft. 9 in. aft. Loaded 13 tons with draft forward 1 ft. 9 in., aft 2 ft. 3 in. Fully loaded maximum speed is 7 knots. Light maximum speed 10 knots. This craft is powered by two Ford V8 petrol engines. Its maximum carrying capacity is 35 fully equipped men, discharging them by means of a ramp. The L.C.A. at slow speeds is a most silent craft and capable of beaching without giving away their position due to noise. It is well covered with protective plating and can resist machine gun and small arms fire. This is the type of craft which was carried by the "Prince Henry" and "Prince David". These crafts were used in the landings at Dieppe, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, Greece and D-Day.

Troops taking part in a Combined Ops exercise in Inveraray, circa 1942
Photo Credit - IWM


These craft, designed to be carried and lowered from ships, used to rush ashore equipment required by the initial assault troops. Their length is 44 ft. 8 in. with a beam of 14 ft., their displacement light is 19 tons, loaded 35 tons. The L.C.M.s are equipped with twin Chrysler engines with a loaded speed of 7 and 1/2 knots. These are all steel built but do not afford much protection against enemy fire. These craft have done excellent work in invasions and are especially useful where larger craft cannot approach the beach. Great endurance is required by the crews as their task is one which often lasts several weeks with the minimum facilities for food or sleep.


A newer type of L.C.M. designed and built in the U.S.A. and used in great numbers by the R.N. They are designed to carry a load of 30 tons. Their length is 50 ft. and beam 14 ft. Their displacement light is 22 tons, loaded 52 tons. They are powered with twin Gray, Buda or superior Diesels, the first named having proved itself the most sturdy. The advantage of this Landing Craft is the fact that it is quite seaworthy and capable of cruising about 1,000 miles at a speed of 6 knots. The maximum speed of the Gray Diesels is 8 knots with a full load.

The LCM was a D-Day Workhorse
Photo Credit - Combined Operations, page 14

Construction and training related to landing craft took place on Canadian soil as well but these programs developed later in the war than they did in the UK. Some Canadians with experience in Combined Operations activities in Dieppe, North Africa, Sicily and Italy, including my father and several of his closest mates (from the afore-mentioned first Canadian draft of volunteers to go to southern England and Scotland for training in January 1942), were later involved in the Canadian programs established on Vancouver Island.

In Volume 2 of The Naval Service of Canada  (by G. N. Tucker, 1952) we learn the following:

(Early in 1942) the Joint Services Committee on the west coast was considering a more elaborate scheme involving combined army-navy Operations and the use of assault landing craft.

The scheme as finally worked out involved the use of a hundred wooden landing craft provided by the army, manned by the navy, and maintained by both services....

Early in 1943 the training in Canada of combined-Operations personnel for service in the European theatre of war had been given careful consideration.... combined-Operations activities were concentrated at Courtenay (and) Naval training later moved to the nearby naval camp at Comox Spit, formerly operated.... for musketry and seamanship training. This establishment became known as "Givenchy III." In February 1944 there were 51 landing craft on the west coast of which all but 8 were based on Comox. Page 232

LCM(W)s (i.e., wooden) were constructed in Vancouver in the early 1940s
Photo as found in Canada's War At Sea, Part III, Pg. 93

LCM(W) going through its paces near The Spit, Comox B.C. circa 1944
From St. Nazaire to Singapore Pg. 104: Photo - R. Berger 

Because the training on assault landing craft in Canada took place at a later date than Scotland, I will share more information about it later in the presentation, using my father's WW2 timeline as a guide.

At HMS Quebec, near Inveraray, Scotland, all former training experienced by young Canadians was put to the test in short order and much more was learned during the early months of 1942. In his memoirs my father writes:

We did much running up on beaches so soldiers could disembark and re-embark, always watching the tide if it was flowing in or going out. You could be easily left high and dry, or broach* too, if you weren’t constantly alert. We took long trips at night in close single formation, like ducks closed up close, because all you could see was the florescent waters churned up by propellors of an ALC or LCM ahead....

....We clambered up scrambling nets and Jacob’s ladders and became very proficient because we learned to just use our hands. We did this training  on a liner called the Ettrick, which we will hear more about later on. Her free board was high, i.e., the distance between the water line and hand rails, and we got so it took about three seconds to drop 25 - 30 feet on scrambling nets. ("DAD, WELL DONE" pages 12-13)

The Ettrick at Inveraray, Scotland. Photo credit - combinedops.com

*"You could be easily left high and dry, or broach too", said D. Harrison.
Canadian sailors handle anti-broaching lines months later in N. Africa as U.S.
troops disembark. Photo Credit - RN photographer F. A. Hudson

I think my father took to the training, and took it very seriously when need be, and could see and recall in his mind's eye various sights, sounds, smells and important skills related to his training many years after WW2 had ended.

At age 73, when providing responses to a Combined Operations questionnaire (later published in St. Nazaire to Singapore), he wrote the following about his training:

Tides, winds, currents, ropes, motors, oil, cold dark cramped quarters. We learnt in a hurry in CO and it stood us all in good stead for after the war. A strange foreign world and we made it work. The officers, like ourselves, must have seen the ratings growing as they gained experience. As Montgomery said about the Canadian soldiers, “It wasn’t a matter of how, just when.” ("DAD, WELL DONE" page 79) 

As well, while writing a chapter about his experiences related to the invasion of North Africa and his subsequent safe return to England, his mind went back to his training in Scotland. Though - quite naturally - many memories sprang to mind about going on an extended leave in the UK, he says, "I am going to leave my memories about hilarious occasions I enjoyed during leaves until last." He preferred instead to recall 'lessons learned' on beaches near Inveraray and Irvine. 

He writes the following:
The job of the seaman on an ALC or LCM is to let the bow door down and wind it up by means of a winch situated in the stern of the barge. This winch is divided so you can drop a kedge (anchor) possibly about 100 or so feet from shore depending on the tide. If it is going out you can unload and then put motors full astern, wind in the kedge and pull yourself off of breach.

The tide is very important and constantly watched. If it is going out (on the ebb) and you are slow, you can be left high and dry, and if so, you stay with the barge. If the tide is on the make (flowing in) you use the kedge to keep you from swinging sideways on breach. In this case your kedge would be out only a short ways. After much practice, however, the kedge can be forgotten and everything done by engines and helm. Each barge has two engines. ("DAD, WELL DONE" page 26)

His description of necessary boat-handling skills seems quite thorough and is very similar to that found in an authoritative book by Hilary St. George Saunders about a very well-known fighting force entitled THE GREEN BERET: The Story of the Commandos. On page 46 we read (in part) the following:

In the early stages of development through which the Commandos passed, each troop trained as far as possible with the naval officers and ratings who manned the craft which were to take both into action. They belonged for the most part to that great company of H.O.'s, as those who enlisted for the duration of 'hostilities only' were known throughout the Navy....

....The training was designed to deal with the problems of approaching a hostile shore, landing upon it, remaining off it at close call, and then re-embarking troops from it. Much of it, therefore, appeared highly unorthodox, and men who for years had regarded running a ship aground as the most perfect example of professional incapacity, spent days doing little else. How to beach, when to beach, how long to remain aground, how best to use a kedge for getting off, how to avoid stripping a propellor: these were among the problems they learned to master.

They needed no one to tell them that the tide never stood still. If it were running out, then the landing craft had to be continually eased down the beach towards deeper water, or she would become stranded. If the tide were coming in, she must drive with it up the beach, or a cross wind might catch her and put her bows about. 

'The business of keeping a ship beached but not stranded, or shuffling it on its belly up and down the shore, while it is being loaded or unloaded, possibly under fire, is no game for any but the trained,' was a comment of one of the instructors, and he spoke no more than the truth.

'The good thing about this job,' one of (the new sailors) was heard to say, 'is that we all know we are doing something that has never been done before.' Pages 46 - 47

Though my father does not say he trained with Commandos, it is very likely he trained with the American Rangers at camps near Inveraray and Irvine familiar to commando units, in preparation for the Dieppe Raid (aka Operation Rutter, July 7, 1942; Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942) and the invasion of North Africa, November 8, 1942.

Commandos warm up with OXO.
Were Canadians manning the landing craft offshore? Maybe so!
Photo - Fullarton Times, Scotland, Sept. 1942 

More to follow about Combined Operations training near Irvine (and elsewhere).

Please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (2)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Photographs: "The Spit" at Comox, Vancouver Island, BC

HMCS Givenchy III, The Spit: From the 1930s to 2016

Aerial shot of The Spit from 1930s. Photo credit - Comox Library

I visited HMCS Quadra recently, the Canadian Navy base formerly known as HMCS Givenchy III (as well as 'The Spit' and 'Cowards Cove' in my father's naval memoirs). It was a Combined Operations training ground during WW2, and while I was there I hoped to gain a better understanding of the context and setting of some of my father's photos from 1944 - 45.

I walked twice around as well as onto The Spit (I ignored a few of many DND "No Trespassing" signs) and talked with a local woman familiar with the location of the 1940s baseball diamond where the Navy Number 1 team practised their batting and ball-handling skills, at the time not far from government oyster beds and wood booms.

I came home with the knowledge there would have been several reasons why my father thought the area was like heaven on earth.

 My plane looks toward The Spit. Comox is to the right, Courtenay beyond it.

 Buildings (some WW2 era) used by HMCS Quadra (Sea Cadets) dot The Spit

 Three mates (D. Harrison, centre) relax, 1944. Town of Comox in background.

I relax on The Spit, similar location, i.e., opposite Comox, 72 years later

 My father, centre, enjoys time off near the end of The Spit

"Batter up!" Practice field with ball screen, rudimentary benches - on the Spit.
Bill Grycan stands behind Dad. Railroad tracks appear in background

 Navy No. 1 Team, likely at Lewis Park, Courtenay

No date on card. Credit - Ian Douglas, Vancouver Island Postcards

Please view photographs related to Canadians in Combined Ops on the East Coast, i.e., Halifax, NS. Link - Presentation: Photo Gallery (1)

Unattributed Photos by GH

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (2)

Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945

By G. A. Harrison

D. Harrison on sentry duty, HMS Northney. Circa January 1942

Introduction: The following post will be part of a Nov. 2016 presentation regarding my father's WW2 service with the RCNVR and Combined Operations organization.


Part 4 - Combined Operations Training in the UK

I - Initial Combined Ops Training in Southern England

How long the new Canadian recruits stayed at HMCS Niobe on the Clyde River is not known at this time but it sounds like for only a few days. Then they were sent packing to various Combined Ops training camps on Hayling Island on the southern coast of England.

My father Doug Harrison writes:

We spent little time at Niobe but entrained for Havant (editor - adjacent to Hayling Island) in southern England, to H.M.S. Northney 1, a barracks (formerly a summer resort) with a large building for eating and then cabins with four bedrooms. This was December, 1941 or January, 1942 and there was no heat at all in the brick cabins. The toilets all froze and split. But we made out. Our eating quarters were heated. ("DAD, WELL DONE", page 11)

Canadians (from SW Ontario) in Comb. Ops at HMS Northney, Hants, England
Circa January 1942.  From L - R: Allan Adlington (London), Joe Spencer (Toronto),
Chuck Rose (Chippawa), Doug Harrison (Norwich), Art Bradfield (Simcoe),
Don Linder (Kitchener), Joe Watson (Simcoe), J. Jacobs (unknown)
Photo - Credit - From the collection of Joe Spencer 

Lloyd Evans, another Canadian volunteer, writes:

After a few days at the Greenock base we were posted to HMS Northney III on Hayling Island near Portsmouth on the south coast of England. The purpose was training and it was there that we discovered we had 'volunteered' to operate Landing Craft for future raids and landings under the auspices of Combined Ops (Operations). (My Naval Chronicle, page 9)

The young sailors would soon learn that they would spend a good deal of time over the next two years travelling (often by train) to a cluster of Combined Operations establishments spread along the coastlines of SE England and NW Scotland. They would spend a few weeks or months here, another few weeks or months there, and in between training sessions they would participate in raids, e.g., Dieppe, and invasions, e.g., North Africa, Sicily, Italy.

45 locations are listed, 4 or 5 very familiar to Canadians in Comb. Ops

No. 29 - HMS Northney I, II, III, IV. Repair based Combined Ops
Pilotage Parties (C.O.P.P.) Depot. Combined Operations, page 7

Harrison and Evans briefly refer to duties performed while at their first camp. Unfortunately, no mention is made of landing craft exercises. But both do recall lonely nights on sentry duties.

Evans writes:

Some nights I stood guard duty at the end of a long pier as lookout for German raiding parties. In the lonely darkness of the night this inexperienced 18 year old discovered the power of the imagination! It seemed that the end of the watch would never come; I was gaining a sense of the terrible nature of modern warfare as I realized in my imaginings how easily they could be turned into brutal and bloody reality. (Ibid)

Harrison says:

I had the misfortune to break the toe next to my big toe on my left foot. I went to sick bay and someone applied mercurochrome, told me to carry out my usual duties and sent me away. Running, guard duty, anything, I toughed it out.... We were issued brooms for guard duty in some cases at Northney, sometimes a rifle with no ammunition, and they were expecting a German invasion. Rounds were made every night outside by officers to see if we were alert and we would holler like Hell, “Who goes there? Advance and be recognized.” When you hollered loud enough you woke everyone in camp, so sentry duty was not so lonesome for a few minutes. (Ibid)

I'm pretty sure my father was trying out a bit of a joke on the last line. My family calls it 'Harrison humour' and it takes some listeners a while to get the hang of it. Good luck.

Though my father goes on to say "there was no training here (at Hayling Island)", I have found a few lines elsewhere that suggest otherwise, from a young Canadian officer, Kendall 'Happy' Kidder. His story - Small Landing Craft Training - is available online thanks to work done by Geoff Slee, creator of 'Combined Operations Command' (website, Scotland), and various contributors, including the officer's wife, Jill Kidder.

I read:

Training bases for 'small' landing craft were set up at Hayling Island on the south coast of England and at Inveraray in Scotland. The first Canadian flotillas joined the RN in January of 1942. Kendall was posted to HMCS Niobe in Scotland on March 1, 1942. It was the main manning and pay depot for the Canadian Navy in the UK.... a gloomy brick building which had been a mental hospital and was locally known as the 'loony bin.'

As well I read:

The initial drafts from Canada arrived in Scotland and soon were shipped to Hayling Island east of Portsmouth for initial training in the smaller 'landing craft assault', LCA's, for about three weeks. Hayling Island had somewhat the same shape as Portsmouth so on occasions lights in the fields were dimly lit to appear much like Portsmouth to the German bomber pilots. This ruse gave Portsmouth some relief from the daily bombing the civilians suffered. Didn't please the farmers of Hayling Island much to become the target. [contributor Bob Crothers, RCNVR, Combined Ops].

Whether the Canadians participated in duties ("running, guard duty, anything," said my father) or small landing craft training, most agree that after a few weeks they heard an "all aboard" and north to Scotland they did go.

My father writes:

This was to be one of the more memorable camps, with our first actual work and introduction to landing barges.

More to follow.

More information about early training at Hayling Island can be found at an earlier post on this website - Training re Combined Operations, "Havant and Hayling Island"

As well, please link to Presentation: Dad's Navy Days Part 4 (1)

Unattributed Photo - G. Harrison