Monday, March 19, 2018

Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (12).

H.M.S. Quebec at Inveraray and More

"You take the high road, and I'll take the low road."
It's a long way to Inveraray. G. Harrison 2014


In the spring of 1942 the first Canadian volunteers in Combined Operations likely arrived by train in Tarbet (northwest Scotland), disembarked onto a busy platform, then hopped onto waiting lorries in order to travel the last several miles to H.M.S. Quebec on winding roads (above). There is no train to Inveraray to this day, only a newer, less-twisty highway (the high road, upper left above).

The train stops at Tarbet to this day. Photo 2014.

 Tarbet's solid platform awaits modern-day visitors. Photo 2014.
Have a car waiting. No rail line to Inveraray.

Once there, after being assigned to cabins, they began handling ALCs and LCMs on Loch Fyne.

Their former drill hall is now a reception centre at a caravan park and nearby stands a lovely memorial to the service of the many 1000s of servicemen and women (including Canadians) who passed through the gates at H.M.S. Quebec, the No. 1 Combined Training Centre (with a link in its name to Canadian military history). 

Below the Combined Ops insignia one reads the following:

Inveraray was No. 1
Combined Training Centre 1940 - 1945.

Its purpose was to train Navy, Army and R.A.F.
personnel in assaults and landings.

Several camps were situated
on the shores of Loch Fyne.

This was H.M.S. Quebec, the Navy Base.

During the war years many famous leaders visited 
including King George VI, Winston Churchill
Lord Louis Mountbatten and
King Haakon and Crown Prince Olav of Norway.

250,000 British, American, Canadians,
Free French, Polish and Norwegians all trained here.

 Missing is Reggio Di Calabria, Operation Baytown,
Invasion of Italy 1943 (in Editor's opinion).

Most of the photographs presented in this post relate to landing craft as seen on Loch Fyne near Inveraray, Scotland, and some veterans' stories related to that camp are also listed.

The last few focus on other training camps in the U.K.

Most of the photographs and captions that follow concerning landing crafts and training camps are located - with thousands of other useful topics and millions of photographs - at Search Our Collections at Imperial War Museum (IWM).

Please visit IWM at your leisure and if you locate more information about Combined Operations camps and landing craft training, please inform me in the comment section below.

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A29894. Join-up panorama of HMS QUEBEC, showing part of the training
pool reserve and pier. Photo Credit - Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM

A29896. Join-up panorama of HMS QUEBEC, showing part of the
training pool reserve and pier. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

Photo taken by G. Harrison in 2014

A29897. Part of the training pool reserve at QUEBEC.
Photo - Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Imperial War Museum.

Photo taken by G. Harrison in 2014

About his time at H.M.S. Quebec - Spring, 1942, before Dieppe raid) - my father recalls the following:

On H.M.S. Quebec one night, a bunch of us wild Canadians were there along with a lot of Limeys who had since joined in at the wet canteen. Every glass of beer we drank we tossed over our shoulder against the iron radiators so we found it best to have our backs to the wall.

On this particular night all the English guy could play on the piano was ‘Elmer’s Tune’ and we soon got sick, sick, sick of it.

O/D Linder from Kitchener poured a glass of beer up and down the keyboard and the fight was on. Out went the lights, tables flew, and we sailors sneaked out leaving the Englishmen to fight amongst themselves.

What a sorry lot in the morning. (Page 14, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Navy 'drill hall' remains at site of H.M.S. Quebec. Photo 2014.

But, in the morning, it was back to work.

A29898. Casting air valve seatings in the foundry at HMS QUEBEC.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Imperial War Museum.

A29900. The transporter which takes the landing craft from the water to
the beach at HMS QUEBEC, Inveraray. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

A29901. The wake from the Admiral's barge, a high speed launch,
in Loch Fyne. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Imperial War Museum

Before leaving Loch Fyne behind us in the wake, here is a short story about an experience of one fine young Canadian matelot, Al Kirby of Woodstock, Ontario, who had one pint too many after a sit down at H.M.S. Quebec's wet canteen in 1942. (As told by my father, Doug Harrison):

Nearby was the H.M.S. Chamois camp i.e., adjacent to Quebec, a short walk to the south). We moved there for a time and still used the same wet canteen. O/D Kirby of Woodstock, a very young man (possibly 17 or 18 years old), got quite drunk and on his way back to camp was challenged to show his ID card.

After he did so he went on to his barracks but then started to brood. “No 5 ft. 2 in. English guard is going to challenge me for my ID card,” he said. So, back he goes to pick a quarrel. Quite soon came an order: “You, you, and you. Take a stretcher down to the gate.” Who should come back but young Kirby, quite unconscious. The guard just slammed him over the head with the butt of his rifle.
(Page 15, "DAD, WELL DONE")

A29904. View of Nissen huts and the Castle at HMS JAMES COOK, Glen
Calach. (See map below for location) Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

Map as found at

A29905. View from the top of the castle of HMS JAMES COOK,
showing the living quarters etc. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

A29911. The cinema (left) and canteen at HMS BRONTOSAURUS,
Rothesay. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

A29915. South end view of the dockyard at Rosneath, with landing
craft moored. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Imperial War Museum.

A29916. The main workshops at HMS ROSNEATH.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

A29919. Section of B Huts at Rosneath.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

A29921. Rosneath Castle at HMS ROSNEATH.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

Is that 'old black garters' on his bicycle (above), leaving Rosneath and its lovely estate gardens behind him in a hurry? If so, it's for good reason.

Doug Harrison, Canadian in Combined Ops writes the following:

About leave. When I was in southern England I put in for Glasgow and received two extra days for travelling time. But I never really saw Glasgow. I went, paid off a grudge, and immediately put in for the return trip to London.

Do I have a reason for such odd behaviour? Yes.

One day at Rosneath camp in Scotland, we ratings were all fallen in ranks, when out comes black garters and he says, “Any one of you guys a fast runner?” I stepped one pace forward. “Okay, run over there,” says black garters, “get a wheel barrow, shovel, fork, hoe, and go with this man and clean up that big estate garden.”

What a hell of a shock and what a hell of a job. It had been left for years. I made up my mind then that I would get back at black garters, and I connived to do it while on a leave, and I damn well did.

About Rosneath camp. It was where many chaps came down with impetigo and they were put on Gentian violet, the colour of an elderberry stain.

O/S Art Bradfield, of Bradfield Monuments in Simcoe (Ontario), went to Dieppe in pajamas - under his uniform - the only man to go to Dieppe in pajamas, and he got out of bed in Rosneath to do it. (Page 38, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Art Bradfield, no longer in PJs, appears in above photo, post-Dieppe.
Photo Credit - Len Birkenes, Canadian in Combined Ops.

Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (11).

Unattributed Photos GH

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Articles: Italy, Sept. 28 - Oct.1, 1943 - Pt 10.

Allied Troops Italy, Supplied by 80th Canadian Flotilla of Landing Crafts

A19320. Taranto, 9 September 1943 (Operation Slapstick): View from
a landing craft, loaded with soldiers, as it approaches Taranto harbour, 
bringing reinforcements for the operation. 

Full Caption: British airborne troops approaching Taranto in a landing craft, during the invasion of Italy, 14 September 1943. Photo Credit - Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Official Photographer. Imperial War Museum (IWM).


Several Allied operations were in play during the invasion of Italy beginning in early September, 1943. Operation Baytown occurred at Reggio di Calabria on the toe of the boot; Operation Avalanche took place at Salerno northwest from the toe; Operation Slapstick (above photo) took place at Taranto near the heel of the boot; and another landing took place at Anzio, on Salerno's left. 

 Canadians in Combined Operations, members of the 80th Flotilla of Landing Crafts were in action at Reggio, landing Canadian troops and supplies for the first time, and - as mentioned earlier - lived where possible in Messina, Sicily and completed transporting duties for about 30 days in September and early October. On days off they water-skied, did a bit of sight-seeing, purchased or acquired the odd souvenir and scrounged for food and clothing as best they could.

As many readers already know, the war in Italy, e.g., even to reach and gain control of Rome, went on for many more months, well into 1944. To my knowledge, Canadians and their landing crafts left the scene in Messina during the first week of October 1943 before returning to England.

Some details concerning the second landings have already been provided in earlier posts, and more information is listed below as found in articles presented in The Winnipeg Tribune and other sources.

As well, along with actual veterans' stories and memoirs from the Mediterranean, several other news clippings and ads are displayed from The Tribune that provide "a sense of the times" in 1943.

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An editorial cartoon related to neutral countries appeared in the Sept. 28 issue of The Tribune:

A map shown in the same newspaper shows Allied advance, some near Salerno on the lower coast of italy. German troops dug in, defended yardage fiercely and a long and winter lay ahead:

According to the map below, the "soft underbelly of Europe" was slowly falling under Allied control.:

"Monty" was clever not to raise expectations about an early end to the war. Axis capitulation is many months away:

Though the photo below of an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) was taken during a training exercise, it reveals that crafts that could haul and disembark tanks onto a beach were growing in size.

Early in the war, PM Winston Churchill was aware of the need to build large crafts to carry tanks in support of troops once they were delivered to hostile shores. This from The Watery Maze:

Page 68, from a well-used book by Bernard Fergusson

I include the following light-hearted story because it has a connection to a Canadian story (offered below the clipping):

In late 1941 the first Canadians (already members of RCNVR) volunteered for the unknown after reading and hearing about a 'Volunteers Needed' bulletin found at HMCS Dockyard (near HMCS Stadacona and Wellington Barracks). Al Kirby of Woodstock, Ontario writes the following:

I was finishing my Seaman Torpedo Course in Halifax Dockyard, when I saw a notice asking for volunteers to go to England to train with the Royal Navy for hazardous duties on small craft. I immediately thought Motorized Torpedo Boats. Now that sounded very exciting to a 17 year old, so I reported to the Petty Officer and applied. Yes, I was qualified. I was single and warm. (From The Yardarm, an RCNA newsletter)

My father recalls that same notice in his memoirs:

One day we heard a mess deck buzz or rumour that the navy was looking for volunteers for special duties overseas, with nine days leave thrown in. Many from the Effingham Division, including myself, once again volunteered. The buzz was true and we went home on leave....

Dad also wrote that the Canadians volunteered for “the unknown.” They knew little more than “special duties overseas, hazardous duties on small craft, nine days leave thrown in.”

After the fall of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad in early
1943, the Russian Army was making more gains westward.

The Allies were making more gains in Italy, northward

The following is a lengthy story that has an unusual (and direct) connection to the Canadians in Combined Operations who are working - at this time - in Italy, shuttling supplies from Messina to Reggio. Within a few months my father and his mates would come in contact with "the sole survivor" W. A. Fisher, seen and mentioned below:

W. A. Fisher is mentioned again in these digital newspaper offerings (in the next collection, October 2 - 6, 1943), as well as in my father's memoirs. He writes the following:

Wm. Fisher, a stoker (not of Combined Ops but of R.C.N.V.R.), was stationed there. He had, I believe, an unequalled experience. He was on an Atlantic convoy run, on H.M.C.S. St. Croix, and one night in rough seas the St. Croix was sunk and he was the lone survivor. His life jacket had lights on and later he was picked up by the English ship H.M.S. Itchen. (Page 41, "DAD, WELL DONE")

My father's notes about Fisher do not end there. More will be added in connection to the next entry about Fisher's unusual story.

Link to an account of the story at The Naval Museum of Manitoba.

"E N O, ENO, when you're feeling low, ENO"

Lord Louis Mountbatten, formerly the Commander of Combined Operations, is now moving eastward as Supreme Commander of East Asian forces:

Canadian Women were serving on different fronts during WWII as were women in other Allied nations. Invaluable service was provided by WRNS, CWACs and more organizations. Below is a CRAF, I believe, similar perhaps to the British WRAFs. 

Doug Harrison, Canadian in Combined Ops at a Canadian canteen?

Germany's new battle line was drawing away from an earlier battle front near the Volga River and Stalingrad and moving west, toward Germany itself.

More news clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune to follow.

Please link to Articles: Italy, September 24-27, 1943 - Pt 9.

Unattributed Photos GH.