Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dad's Navy Days - D-Day North Africa

Details in B & W

["Norwich boys. Doug Harrison, left. Buryl McIntyre, right"]

If I study some of my Dad's black and white photos from WW2 long enough - and dig - I sometimes come up with interesting discoveries. Take the one above.

Details: 1941. Halifax. On the grounds of HMCS Stadacona (a Naval base my dad mentions in his WW2 memoirs). Outside Wellington barracks, Mess A (Mess B was a separate building for officers, and it still remains). Some of the details are written on the photo or in Dad's memoirs and some I discovered the hard way, e.g., after motorcycling to Halifax twice and digging deeper.

Side Bar: I can tell Dad is standing outside Mess A because of the round arch over the entrance. Mess B does not (and did not) have the same type of entrance according to many photos housed in a museum file on the grounds of HMCS Stadacona. Details, details.

 ["Wellington Barracks, Mess B (Officers), at HMCS Stadacona, Halifax"]

 ["Mess B has no curved arches over any doorways"]

["Mess A is now gone. Replaced by new quarters and Tim Hortons. Ugh"]

Yesterday I posted a rare photo (from Assault Landing Craft) of men in landing crafts on the beaches outside of Arzeu, North Africa. D-Day. November, 1942. At that time I said I was 95% sure the man in the dark navy uniform is my father.

["I am now 96% certain the man in Navy blue is my father"] 

In his memoirs he writes:

     On November 11, 1942 the Derwentdale dropped anchor off
     Arzew (sic) in North Africa... Our Coxswain was LS (Leading
     Seaman) Jack Dean of Toronto and our officer was Lt. McDonald
     RNR (Royal Navy Reserve). After the 92 hours (an afore-
     mentioned first shift) my officer said, Well done. An excellent
     job, Harrison. Go to Reina Del Pacific and rest."

His memoirs do not provide, of course, enough information to positively identify the sailor as my dad, so yesterday I checked with my sibs. One sister agreed, 100%, that the man is our dad. She mentioned many similarities, including the way he wore his hat. Another saw similarities in the side profile of the face. But three sibs also raised some questions about his stature, the ring on his right hand, the shape of his hand.

["Many details appear here to lead me on a fruitful search"]

The man seems too lean, said one. I replied that Dad's Navy records reveal he weighed under 130 pounds at entry. Did Dad wear a ring on his right hand? I don't know, but I did for many years, during my teens and twenties. And so on.

However, like any good detective I will follow the crumbs. I will look for a picture of the Derwentdale and compare it with the ship in the photo. I will look for links to the other members of Combined Operations aboard the landing craft. I will search for the roll of film that has the above photo upon it.

But thanks to what one sister said about his hat, I now stand at 96%. I mean, look at that jaunty angle!

["Dad didn't want to mess with his wavy red hair"]

Oh yeah, Dad was 'cock of the walk', all right.

Link to Recommended Reading

Photos GH

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