Friday, December 2, 2016

Books re Combined Operations - READY, AYE, READY


An Illustrated History of the Royal Canadian Navy

By Jack MacBeth

I came across a reference to this book in the rare, historical text, i.e., St. Nazaire to Singapore: Canada's Amphibious War 1941 -1945 (Volume 2) (about and by Canadians in Combined Operations). The reference was part of the introduction to a story entitled The Craft of Landing.

The aforementioned story appears in the book by Jack MacBeth along with many other stories and illustrations that may be of interest to readers searching for more information about the history of Canada's Royal Navy, including details concerning Canada's Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, the ships upon which Canadians served during WW2, excellent stories and illustrations (including rare paintings and drawings) about Canadian crews on corvettes and other ships, and a few details about the Canadians who served in Combined Operations.

I found my copy on AbeBooks for a decent price and enjoy having it, and others will feel the same. The paintings, illustrations and sketches are excellent and provide a point of view experienced by the 1000 members of Combined Ops at various times in their storied careers. Bold and broken ships are on view and captivating stories by and about our sailors are presented.

A sampling of details and captions that Canadians in Combined Ops could easily identify with in various situations:

Macbeth writes, "As D-Day approached, more than 100 RCN ships joined the massive invasion armada clogging harbours and anchorages all along England's south coast." Among the RCN ships one would see minesweepers, destroyers, corvettes and more, including about 30 LCI(L)s, i.e., Landing Craft, Infantry (Large). Crews were made up of almost 10,000 officers and ratings. Prince David and Prince Henry - two of our country's largest warships (formerly ocean going liners transformed to LCI(L)s) - were included in the armada. Page 126

Please link to the story The Craft of Landing found on Page 130.

Canadian Beach Commandos help unload landing craft on the
beaches of Normandy during the build-up following the D-Day assault. 
Photo - Canadian Forces Photographic Unit. Page 131 

The hard-luck ship HMCS St. Croix limps into Halifax in December 1941,
damaged by a hurricane. Photo - Maritime Museum of BC. Page 146

About the above photograph Jack Macbeth writes that the St. Croix was one of several WWI U.S. destroyers passed along to the Canadian Navy by the British Navy.

"Less than two years later, on September 20, 1943, she was torpedoed and sunk by U-305 south of Iceland." 

He reports that 81 men were saved by Itchen, an RN frigate, but all perished - save one - when Itchen was sent to the bottom two days later.

My father, Doug Harrison, writes about meeting the lone survivor while they served at Givenchy III (a Combined Operations training centre) on Vancouver Island, sometime between January 1944 and the summer of 1945.

He says, "Wm. Fischer, a stoker (not of combined ops but of R.C.N.V.R.), was stationed there (i.e., at Givenchy III). 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 (i.e., of the St, Croix, after Fischer's rescue by the Itchen and its subsequent loss). His life jacket had lights on and later he was picked up by the English ship H.M.S. Itchen. It in turn was torpedoed and Fischer was one of three survivors. They took him and his wife on saving bond tours, etc., but when he was asked to go to sea again, he said he would go to cells first. With an experience like that I would have too. He was lucky to be alive." ( From Navy Memoirs, D. Harrison)

Note: Other tellings of the tale of the two ships and William Fischer's astonishing survival can be found at The Virtual Museum and at For Posterity's Sake.

A sampling of photos, sketches and paintings one may not find elsewhere:

Members of the small assault landing craft carried on Prince David,
LCI(L). Combined Ops insignia appears faintly on two sleeves.
Photo - Maritime Museum of British Columbia. Page 66

Assault landing craft coming alongside HMCS Prince Henry during
preparations for Operation DRAGON in the Bay of Naples, August 1944.
Photo - G.A. Milne, National Archives Canada. Page 132

LCI(L) 115, one of 24 landing craft of this type loaned to
Canada by the US Navy expressly for use in the invasion of Normandy.
Photo - Collection of Ken Macpherson, Port Hope, ONT. Page 133

'Special Attraction': Sketch by G.S. Bagley.
Photo - Canadian War Museum. Page 83

 'Examination Officer Boarding Merchant Ship' by Donald C. Mackay.
Photo - Canadian War Museum. Page 26

I selected the above painting as an example of the fine work found in AYE, READY, AYE because just about every man piloting or travelling aboard a small landing craft would have felt dwarfed by the larger ships in their vicinity.


Please link to Books re Combined Ops - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (3)

Unattributed Photos GH

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Audio: Robert Stirling Recalls a Wet, D-Day Landing

We Finally Landed, They Dropped the Ramp Down

by Robert Stirling, Army

HMCS LCI(L)-118 of the 262nd Flotilla disembarking troops in NAN sector
of Juno Beach, Summer 1944. Photo - Robert Garand, The Memory Project

Introduction: One will find hundreds of audio files related to the experiences of men and women associated with many branches of Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian organizations (e.g., Red Cross, CWAC, etc.) at The Memory Project. Most audio files are accompanied by authentic WW2 photos and a written transcript.

Please link to the audio file that recalls the memories of Robert Stirling during the D-Day Normandy landings.

His story, which gives readers a vivid sense of what Canadians in Combined Operations would have witnessed on June 6, 1944, begins as follows:

"Just before D-Day, they moved everybody in the big tents. There was about eight guys to each tent, four on each side."

The men were surrounded by barbed wire and not allowed to leave the area for a few days unless given special permission and all that stuff. Meanwhile, there amassed in the surrounding towns in southern England all manner of trucks filled with the materials of war.

"All the ships that were involved in the D-Day landing were lined up all over the place. It was unbelievable," says Stirling.

He witnesses not only the build up of men and materials on dry land but also sees the departure and landings of ALCs. Soon, it is his turn to travel across the English Channel and disembark on Normandy's shores, likely from an LCI(L). We read the following from his audio transcript:

"And we finally landed, they dropped the ramp down; and I went to go out and I caught my heel on the last big lug at the end of the ramp and fell over backwards."

His task of keeping his Bren Gun [light machine gun] high and dry was made very difficult. Coils of the rope sailors were tugging - to anchor the landing craft - keep grabbing his arm and throwing him under the water. This happened repeatedly, making for a memorable day, for certain.

"Yeah, I finally got up," he says.

More details follow on the audio file.

Eye-witness accounts like the above may give readers an appreciation for the vastness of the D-Day enterprise.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (3)



Deputy Director, Historical Section, General Staff

Personnel of No. 3232 Servicing Commando relax by their vehicles in Sicily,
while awaiting the order to proceed across the Straits of Messina for the invasion
of Southern Italy (Operation BAYTOWN). Photo Credit - WW2Today

In the 876 page, comprehensive history of the Canadian Army one will find mention of the Canadian landing craft flotillas that were on hand - for a month or more at a time - during the 1943 invasions of Sicily (beginning in early July) and Italy (September).

I have listed some pertinent passages below from pages 202 - 204 that relate to Canadians in Combined Operations during Operation BAYTOWN - ferrying troops and materials of war from Messina Sicily to Reggio in Italy - but will not say I have found them all. For those who like reading or scanning lengthy texts, I wish you "good hunting."


Operation BAYTOWN - Italy

The Assault Across the Strait, 3 September 1943

We read, "As darkness fell on the evening of 2 September the assaulting battalions of the 13th Corps came down from the hills behind Mili Marina, and formed up in their appointed groups along the beaches. The weather, in contrast to the rude welcome it had given the Allied invaders of Sicily, was ideal."

Just before 12AM - on calm, moonlit seas - the Landing Craft, Assault (LCAs) arrived and settled into a long line near the shore. Troops soon began to board the craft and at about 0230 hours the force moved away from the beaches, in formation, and readied themselves for the trip (seven miles) to the Italian mainland. Meanwhile, at about the same time Landing Craft, Infantry (LCIs), with the Royal 22e Regiment aboard, left Catania's harbour and travelled north along Sicily's coast meet the rest of the Canadian brigade.

The text says, "When the sixteen L.C.As. assigned to carry the Canadian assault companies drew in to the Mili Marina beach, four L.C.Ms.† came with them, to embark the follow-up companies who were scheduled to land on "Fox" beach five minutes after the leading troops."

(† Landing Craft Mechanized. The "Mark III" type - L.C.M. (3) - used by the Canadians in "Baytown" was a 50-foot ramped craft, built to carry 24 tons,- and capable of landing a vehicle or stores in shallow water.)

The troops that boarded the LCMs heard familiar sounding voices coming from their crews - likely for the first time - because they were made up of Canadian sailors.

We read, "The 80th L.C.M. Flotilla, commanded by Lieutenant J. E. Koyl, R.C.N.V.R., had been detailed to provide part of the transport ferry for the 3rd Brigade - an all too rare example of operational partnership between the two Canadian services." Another half dozen crafts belonging to this Canadian Flotilla arrived later to transport a second wave of troops and materials.

Lt. Koyl and Canadians in Combined Ops. See names below.

Photo Credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore by D. Lewis., C. Lewis, L. Birkenes

Lt. Koyl's vessels and crews participated admirably in the September 3rd invasion of Italy, and afterwards - for 32 days - performed the demanding task of transporting all the necessary materials of war from Sicily to the Italian mainland. Let the record show that another Canadian Flotilla, i.e., the 81st, had worked with the 80th in transporting troops and materials of war during Operation HUSKY (the invasion of Sicily, two months earlier). However, the 81st Flotilla was not used during Operation BAYTOWN because its craft - made up of an older model - had smaller, less powerful engines than those used by the 80th Flotilla (which used Mark IIIs, U.S. made, with diesel engines).

The Canadians were aware that sounds coming from so many engines in their small fleet alarmingly broke the stillness of the night as they made their way across the Strait of Messina. However, at 0330 hours a barrage from mighty guns placed on the shores of Sicily and from warships filled their eardrums. What a barrage it was, from over 500 medium and field guns of the 30th Corps.

British artillery bombards the Italian mainland from Messina in Sicily
prior to the initial landings at Reggio. Photo Credit - WW2Today

Besides fire from very large guns, e.g., short range 25-pounders and the devastating 15-inch guns aboard three monitors, there were two-pounders attached to LCSs (landing craft, support) of different types which followed behind or beside the assault flotillas. When front-running LCAs were about 1,000 yards from Italy's shore, powerful fire from 800 five-inch rockets from LCT(R)s (rocket craft) blasted over their heads.

The text says, "All in all the Allied cannonade was a remarkable display of power against defences which Intelligence had shown to be decidedly weak. The objectives were now obscured by dense clouds of dust and smoke, which the early morning off-shore breezes carried out into the path of the approaching craft."

At midnight
on September 3, 1943
our Canadian landing craft flotilla,
loaded once again with war machinery,
left the beaches near Messina, Sicily and
crossed the Messina Strait to
Reggio Calabria in Italy.
The invasion of Italy
was underway.

There was no resistance.
The air force had done a complete job
and there wasn’t a whole building standing
and the railroad yards were ripped to shreds.
"DAD, WELL DONE" by D. Harrison,
80th Flotilla, RCNVR, Combined Ops

We read, "There was some confusion as the assault craft deployed for the final run into shore; and in the Canadian, as in other sectors, landings generally were not made at the prearranged places," due to clouds of dust and smoke, and tidal currents in the Messina Strait.

As Canadian units landed the West Nova Scotias suffered some difficulties with some L.C.As going astray. However, these changes to plans had no terrible ill-effect "for the enemy offered no opposition, and the Canadians landed on empty beaches from which even the expected mines and wire were missing."

At about 0500 hours the Principal Beach Master with the Canadian flotilla sent his L.C.As for the short run in to the beaches. At about 0600 hours General Simonds' Headquarters received this signal: "Success at Fox Green Amber at 0526 hrs".

Brigadier Penhale landed his third infantry battalion and the rest of his brigade reserve shortly thereafter. He landed at "Fox Amber" beach at 0630 hours, "having crossed the Strait in Lieutenant Koyl's own L.C.M."
Please link to Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (2)

Unattributed Photos GH

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (2)



Deputy Director, Historical Section, General Staff

Highlanders assist with the unloading, while the beach group
engineer prepare roads off the beach. Photo credit - Wikipedia

In the 876 page, comprehensive history of the Canadian Army one will find mention of the Canadian landing craft flotillas that were on hand - for a month or more at a time - during the 1943 invasions of Sicily (beginning in early July) and Italy (September).

I have listed some pertinent passages below that relate to Canadians in Combined Operations during Operation HUSKY in Sicily but will not say I have found them all. For those who like reading or scanning lengthy texts, I wish you "good hunting."


Canadian troops land south of Pachino. Canadian LCA and LCM Flotillas land
British troops between Pachino and Avola. Map from Combined Operations

Concerning Early Allied Successes, Not Without Cost. Pages 75 - 78
We read, "The success which attended the Canadian landings had been matched along the whole of the invasion front. Assaults made by the other formations of the Eighth Army had met very little opposition."

Pachino and the eastern section of the peninsula was soon occupied by Allied forces - e.g., 51st Highland Division and the 231st Brigade - without great difficulty. Avola and Cassibile came under control of the 13th Corps by 10 AM while the Fifth Division marched toward Syracuse. The text says, "It entered that important port the same evening at nine o'clock to take it undamaged."

We read, "The United States Seventh Army had landed against little initial opposition - although in rougher surf conditions on the more exposed western beaches - and had speedily taken all its D Day objectives." Axis planes strafed and bombed the beaches and transport areas and in the Canadian drop-off zone six fighters wracked up Canadian casualties. 

That being said, we read, "The airborne attacks in the sectors of both the Eastern and Western Task Forces had not achieved the success that crowned the seaborne assaults."

A good deal of information is recorded concerning Allied troops being dropped from transport aircraft and gliders that departed from Tunisia on July 9 1943. This night operation suffered dire consequences due to poor navigating by young pilots, high winds and strong enemy resistance.

Later Allied air-drops suffered serious losses as well at the hands of Allied guns because a clear safety corridor for troop-carrying aircraft was not well-coordinated between services.

A signal came through,
“Do not fire on low flying aircraft,
they are ours and towing gliders.”
What, in the dark?

Next morning.
as we slowly moved in,
we saw gliders everywhere.

I saw them sticking out of the water,
crashed on land and in the vineyards.
In my twenty-seven days there
I did not see a glider intact.

Page 31, "DAD, WELL DONE"
By D. Harrison, Combined Ops
On Pio Pico, with Canada's LCMs  

In the 'OFFICIAL HISTORY, OF THE CANADIAN ARMY' we read, "Of the 134 gliders carrying the British 1st Airlanding Brigade, fifty came down in the sea, and only twelve landed in the intended dropping zone."

That being said, small groups of airborne troops succeeded at their goals and attacked other enemy strongpoints. A commander of German airborne attacks said - while a POW in 1945 - "the Allied airborne operation in Sicily was decisive." It had stopped the Hermann Göring Armoured Division from controlling the beaches and pushing early Allied forces back into the sea.

The text reports that the opening salvo of Operation HUSKY received good success, in part,  because the Allied Armies, were well supported by naval and air forces. We read, "Skilful planning and effective co-ordination of all the fighting services had brought to a hostile shore the greatest seaborne force ever embarked, and the culminating assault was a model for future combined operations."

Allied naval bombardment proved effective in limiting the effectiveness of Axis coastal batteries, and Allied air strikes - after troops had landed - reduced the number of Axis strafing and bombing sorties sharply. We read, "The navies (and consequently the armies) owed a great debt to the air for the effectiveness of the protection offered them throughout the operation."

The Royal Canadian Navy also played a significant role in the battle for control of Sicily. Canadians in Combined Operations, well-schooled in the skills of piloting various landing craft, worked long hours under very stressful and dangerous conditions.

We read, "In the convoy which brought the 231st Infantry Brigade from the Middle East to assault the beaches on the 30th Corps' right flank, two of the three flotillas of assault landing craft carried aboard the transports were Canadian - the 55th and the 61st Flotillas." They transported assault troops and reinforcements to 'Bark East' beaches for 12 hours, and safely landed two-thirds of the Malta Brigade before their convoy departed early in the PM.

As well, the 80th and 81st Canadian Flotillas of larger landing crafts (LCMs - Landing Craft, Mechanized*) ferried all necessary supplies ashore for a lengthy period.

(*The "Mark III" type (L.C.M. (3)) used by the Canadians in "Baytown" as well, was a 50-foot ramped craft, built to carry 24 tons, and capable of landing a vehicle or stores in shallow water.)

The text says, "Commencing early on D Day, the 80th and 81st Flotillas, whose job was the transfer of vehicle's and stores from ship to shore, served for 26 days along the Sicilian coast between Avola and Syracuse until maintenance of the Eighth Army over the beaches came to an end on 5 August."

The four flotillas were piloted and managed by about 400 Canadian sailors (most were members of RCNVR who had also volunteered for the Combined Operations organization), and it is known that about 250 more worked aboard other RN support craft.

The text reports that the Allied landings were accompanied in many locations by "complete tactical surprise," a good deal of it related to severe weather conditions - coastal garrisons therefore "relaxed their vigil" - and poor communication services. We also read, "But although the Italian defence formations might thus blame the weather for the manner of their surprise, their subsequent lack of resistance, as we have seen, amply bore out the pre-invasion Allied estimates of their low morale and poor fighting qualities."

Some members of the Canadian assault force encountered deadly resistance. 

The other two landing craft
were in the same pass as ourselves
but I noted with a thrill of pride that
I seemed to be the first to have reached shore.

I stumbled on through the shallows
until I saw little spurts of sand racing
down the beach in my direction.

Automatically I dropped on my belly
and a big roller picked me up and carried me, helpless
to resist, toward the stitching machine-gun bullets,
dropping me just short of that deadly pattern....

Two of the landing craft
had already backed off the bar
and were hightailing it away.
Our own was still immobile,
and in a moment I saw why.

She was empty except for her crew...
and one small khaki figure standing stiffly
at attention in the gaping bow opening.

Suddenly he began to move,
marching up the ramp,
rifle at the slope, free arm swinging
level with his shoulders.
Tiny Sully was coming off that sardine can
as if on ceremonial parade at Aldershot...
except that his eyes were screwed tight shut.

A cluster of mortar bombs shrilled
out of the pellucid sky, and the waters
into which Tiny had plunged boiled upward
with visceral thunder. 

Tiny Sully had gone from us...
marching blindly to Valhalla.

Page 64 - 65, And No Birds Sang
by Farley Mowat

Please link to more Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (1)

Unattributed Photos GH

Friday, November 25, 2016

Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (1)



Deputy Director, Historical Section, General Staff

Men of 2nd Seaforth Highlanders embarking onto landing craft at Sousse
en route for Sicily, 5 July 1943. Photo Credit - WW2 Today

In the 876 page, comprehensive history of the Canadian Army one will find mention of the Canadian landing craft flotillas that were on hand - for a month or more at a time - during the 1943 invasions of Sicily (beginning in early July) and Italy (September).

I have listed some pertinent passages below that relate to Canadians in Combined Operations during Operation HUSKY in Sicily but will not say I have found them all. For those who like reading or scanning lengthy texts, I wish you "good hunting."


Related to Canadians In Combined Operations:

We read, "The naval role in the general plan of "Husky" was threefold: to ensure the safe and timely arrival of the assault forces at their beaches; to cover their disembarkation; and to support and maintain them after landing and throughout the subsequent operations."

As well, Admiral Cunningham divided the naval forces he had at his disposal to the Eastern and Western Task Forces, and used battleships to cover landings in the region of the invasion. Page 63

We read, "Causing considerable concern to the Canadian planners were two false beaches or sandbars which lay submerged along Costa dell' Ambra some distance offshore (of Sicily)."

 LCAs, LCMs, etc., could stall on the sandbars, and any troops that disembarked would find it very difficult to wade ashore or drive vehicles onto dry land. The text says, "A submarine reconnaissance made on the night of 25-26 June confirmed this fear by revealing the presence of a sandbar eighty yards off "Roger" beach 600 yards long and twenty yards wide, covered by only eighteen inches of water."

Between sandbar and beach a soldier could drop as much as nine feet. We read, "A similar underwater obstacle lay off "Sugar" beach, although shoreward the intervening water was not more than five feet deep."

General Simonds planned to steer around such difficulties by using particular amphibious craft. The text says, "On receiving this confirmation - which came to him aboard Hilary on 7 July - he issued orders that three of the assault companies of the 1st Canadian Brigade should land in L.C.Ts. (Landing Craft, Tank) carrying DUKWs, which could swim ashore should the landing craft run aground on the sandbars." Page 65 - 66

* * * * *

Then we touched down - 
but not upon the beach.
Instead, we struck an uncharted sandbar
lying a hundred yards offshore.

And we hit it only seconds before
a salvo of 6-inch shells
from one of the cruisers
whomped into the beach
directly in front of us.

Wumpety-wump-wump-wump, they roared.

Shell fragments whanged against the boat
while Seven Platoon and its intrepid leader
sprawled on their collective belly.

Had that shoal not existed
we would have been obliterated
by the salvo from our own guns -
and probably no one would
ever have been the wiser.

Nevertheless, the bar was not
an unmitigated blessing.

Page 62, And No Birds Sang
by Farley Mowat

* * * * *

re The Canadian Landings and the Capture of the First Objectives

We read, "D Day was forty-eight minutes old when the 1st Canadian Division headquarters ship, H.M.S. Hilary, dropped anchor seven miles off the coast of Sicily."

For 90 minutes before that, bombers had "softened up" any resistance at Pachino airfield. Defenders sent up flares and gunfire, visible to Allied attackers as they prepared for disembarkation. The text says, "By the time the big transports carrying the assault brigades had slowed to a stop, the landing craft aboard were loaded with troops and ready to be lowered."

Considerable skill was demanded for a successful landing. An earlier sharp gale and subsequent rough seas had actually threatened postponement of the landings. We read, "But the risks of attempting to defer the precisely timed and closely co-ordinated operation until more favourable conditions were considered greater than the hazards of proceeding with the invasion as planned, even in the heavy weather."

Conditions improved as the time of landing approached. Gradually, beaching of the assault craft successfully appeared less dangerous than previously feared; but heavy swells still made the initial launch of small craft from the tossing transports a tough job. The text says, "At ten minutes past one the LCAs* carrying the first flight of Commando troops of the Special Service Brigade made the forty-foot descent into the sea. (* Landing Craft, Assault, a 40-foot ramped craft, affording protection against rifle and machine-gun fire, with a carrying capacity of 40 men including a crew of four) Pages 67 - 68 

We read that due to faulty navigation, "the craft carrying the Seaforth (Highlanders) ran some distance off their course and actually landed the battalion to the right of the (Princess) Patricias" rather than the left. However, the heavy swell they encountered ended up aiding the attackers, because the hard-rolling surf carried landing craft over sandbars that had earlier caused planners much grief.

The text says, "Both units met with practically negligible opposition. As the craft approached the shore they came under desultory small-arms fire, which ceased as the assaulting troops reached the beach." Troops easily cut and blew up the few wire obstacles once on shore and disposed of a few bewildered Italian machine-gunners without much difficulty. Page 68

On Page 70 we read, "Each L.C.T. carried seven DUKWs, and as the large craft grounded on the sandbar the amphibians swam off to the beach laden with troops."

Also, though assault troops of two regiments landed about where their plans indicated, one of the Hastings' reserve companies, from H.M.S. Derbyshire, landed 5000 yards off their mark and onto the heels of the Commandos. However, there were no serious consequences and soon thereafter the battalion rejoined as one, having lost two to machine-gun fire. (and 3 wounded). The text says, "But this incident and the earlier confusion which marked the launching of the assault flights serve to emphasize the difficulties attending large-scale amphibious operations carried out in the darkness." Had Allied troops faced larger numbers of serious enemy forces there surely would have been far graver consequences. Page 70

More to follow related to Canadians landing in Sicily during Operation HUSKY.

Please link to more Books re Combined Operations - DIEPPE, DIEPPE by  Greehous

Unattributed Photos by GH

Monday, November 21, 2016

Context re Combined Ops: H. Jones, on Reina Del Pacifico

Herbert Jones, Aboard the Reina Del Pacifico

Photo credit - Paul Heaps at Wirral Globe, Liverpool UK

During the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, many Canadians in Combined Operations piloted landing craft that delivered troops and materials of war to shore from a variety of troop ships, part of the largest armada of all time (at least, up to that point in history). Some Canadians, including my father, completed 'ship to shore' duties off the coast of a small town, Arzeu (east of Oran), and transported American troops and their supplies from the Reina Del Pacifico, and other ships as well. Later, they became more familiar with the Reina Del as a hospital ship, and as a place to rest and recuperate, e.g., from exhaustion.

US troops from the liner REINA DEL PACIFICO climb aboard ALCs 
(assault landing craft) manned by Canadians during Operation 'Torch', the
Allied landings in North Africa, Nov. 8 1942. Photo credit - IWM

Recently I was sent a newspaper article (written by Craig Manning of the Wirral Globe, Liverpool, UK) about WW2 veteran Herbert Jones, who served aboard the Reina Del Pacifico as a Defensively-Equipped Merchant Seaman. The article, published May 13, 2013 and partially seen above, was sent me by Mr. Jones' grandson Mark Pountney after he had read a piece about the Reina Del on this blogsite/archive.

These types of connections - paths crossing - between Canadian and British seamen and other forces, surely occurred numerous times throughout the war, i.e., aboard ships, at pubs while on leave, at shared mess or dance halls, on battlefields, etc., do remind us that men and women from many nations served together with one purpose for a significant time. These incidental, tangible links should not be forgotten.

Mr. Manning's article begins:

     A Wirral war veteran who served in the Battle of the Atlantic
     has recalled his experiences ahead of the conflict's 70th anniversary
     commemoration. Herbert Jones, 93, was granted Freedom of the
     City of Liverpool in recognition of his bravery.

One reads that Mr. Jones, a member of The Atlantic Convoy Assoc., served aboard the Reina Del Pacifico (or "Queen of the Pacific") during "four major maritime actions", i.e., the invasions of Norway, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He recalls his biggest battle, 1943:

     "We were on our way in a convoy of eight ships to the
     Mediterranean to try to get vital supplies into Malta."

The convoy was attacked by the Luftwaffe (64 planes in all, and five were brought down).

     "The next morning I'd just come off watch and was having a shower
     when the alarm went again. There were 34 planes this time. We won 3 - 0."

Not only did Mr. Jones serve upon the Reina Del, a ship familiar to and much appreciated by Canadians in Combined Operations, but saw action in many of the same places as those Canadian boys. i.e., North Africa, Sicily and Italy. As well, that he got caught off guard by German planes is reminiscent of Canadians, in convoy aboard the Ennerdale, getting struck from behind by German aircraft on their way to southern England prior to the raid on Dieppe.

About that attack my father wrote:

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 (later to die of wounds suffered at Dieppe) 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.

Click here to read more about Operation RUTTER and the lead up to the Dieppe raid.

Mark Pountney also informed me that Herbert Jones passed away over two years ago (as of Nov. 2016).

Please link to Context for Combined Ops: F. Gillard, BBC News

Unattributed Photos GH

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A - Z DIRECTORY. Start Here

A - Z DIRECTORY for "1000 Men, 1000 Stories"


Gordon Douglas (Doug) Harrison (left), RCNVR, Combined Operations 1941 - 45
Gordon Arthur Harrison (Doug's older son), Editor of '1000 Men, 1000 Stories'

This BLOG is subdivided under many headings (audio, articles, books, stories, videos, etc.) and there are several entries already attached to each heading. Because the number of headings and entries are growing steadily I will convert the blogsite to a website in the next year or so, for the sake of permanency, stability and convenience for readers. Until then, readers may find that using the 'click on HEADINGS' column (right margin) and this A - Z Directory the easiest and swiftest ways to negotiate the site for information desired. Happy hunting.

Articles related to Combined Operations


     The Invasion of Italy and Christmas in Canada

     Malta’s Role in the Sicilian Campaign, July 1943

Audio Files related to Combined Operations

     Robert Stirling Recalls a Wet, D-Day Landing

     Lysle Sweeting, Coxswain on an LCM

     George McLean - RCN, Combined Operations

     W. K. Newell, Canadian Beach Commando Unit

     George Richmond, Navy and Combined Operations

     C. W. Robinson, "We Had to Crawl Back"

     Carvil J. Ritcey, "Our Worst Engagement"

     Ronnie Taylor, Navy, Utah Beach, D-Day 1944

     Edward Rushbrook, Combined Ops, D-Day, June 1944

     William Kennedy, Normandy. On LCI(L) 301, 1944

     Richard Norris, On LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry) in 1944

     Norm Bowen, "Smoke pots, throwing them off like crazy"

     Al Kirby, DIEPPE. "We didn't think much about the danger"

Books for Sale re Combined Operations

     "DAD, WELL DONE" by Gordon Douglas Harrison

     Combined Operations by Clayton Marks, London

Books Related to Combined Operations

     THE CANADIANS IN (SICILY and) ITALY 1943-1945 Volume II
     DIEPPE, DIEPPE by Brereton Greehous

     Drop Zone Sicily: Allied Airborne Strike, July 1943 by William B. Breuer

     Operation Husky: The Canadian Invasion of Sicily, by Mark Zuehlke

     The Campaign for North Africa by Jack Coggins, 1980

     SAILOR REMEMBER by William H. Pugsley

     Land of Plenty: A History of the Comox District

     Lloyd Evans - My Naval Chronicle: A WWII Landing Craft Volunteer

     The Watery Maze by Bernard Fergusson

     "DAD, WELL DONE": Naval Memoirs of L/Seaman Coxswain D. Harrison

     Link to Combined Operations Command (300 books)

     St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945

     Combined Operations by Clayton Marks

     Assault Landing Craft by Brian Lavery

Commandos Related to Combined Operations

     W. K. Newell, Canadian Beach Commando Unit

     The WW II Exploits of Peter Alfred Neuman, Canadian Commando

Comox and its Connection to Combined Operations

     Dad's Navy Days, 1941 - 1945 by G. A. Harrison

     Memoirs re Combined Ops, "Peter Neuman - Boy Soldier" Part 2

Context Related to Canadians in Combined Operations

     Herbert Jones, Aboard the Reina Del Pacifico

     Frank Gillard, B.B.C. War Correspondent, WW2

     Connections from The Memory Project

     Back to North America for Christmas and Repair

     Small News Clips Set Some Tone in Early 1942

     British Commandos and Canadian Airmen in the News

     "Which Way Is The Wind Really Blowing?"

     Lessons of War Learned While Recruits Are Still Fresh

     Canadian Corvettes Help Beat Off Plane and More

     Quietly Dressed and Weather-Beaten Men

     Beware, to All Who Dare Cross the Sea

     Canadian Airmen Help Hammer a U-boat Source

     Early Days for Canadians in Combined Operations, 1942

     Newspapers Create a Buzz While Men Train in RCNVR

Dedication to Canadians in Combined Operations

     1000 Men, 1000 Stories - Dedication

Dieppe Raid and Combined Operations

     Dieppe Raid: August 19, 1942 : A Memoir in Eight Parts

     Why Dieppe? Canada in the Second World War

Italy - Involvement of Canadians in Combined Operations