Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Recommended Reading - "Dad, Well Done"

My Dad's Navy Memoirs

[Dad would say, "Those smiles won't last much longer"]

My father, as member of Combined Operations, trained on Assault Landing Craft (ALCs) in several locations in southern England and Scotland during WW2. The Number 1 Training Centre for Combined Operations (CO) was at HMS Quebec, 2 miles SW of Inveraray, Scotland, and, along with a memorial dedicated to the men in CO, I discovered a few WW2 vintage cement ramps placed along the waterfront at Loch Fyne. I learned they'd been commonly used by ALCs and other small craft.

In his memoirs my father wrote the following:

     Thence to HMS Quebec barracks in Ayrshire, Scotland.
     We were all in good shape and this was to be one of the
     more memorable camps, with our first actual work (upon)
     and introduction to landing barges. We trained on ALCs
     which carried approximately 37 soldiers and a crew of four,
     i.e., Coxswain, two seaman and stoker. Some had an officer.

As a seaman, one of his jobs had been to crawl along the canvas covers on each side of the landing craft and rinse out messy helmets handed to him by seasick soldiers. Mnay soldiers saw their excitement and smiles - related to their new experience - disappear after but a few seconds.

["HMS Quebec is now a caravan park but WW2 buildings, ramps remain"]

For readers interested in WW2 books related to RCNVR and Combined Operations, good information is found in "Dad, Well Done", and (among several others) two mentioned yesterday entitled Hostilities Only and Assault Landing Craft by Brian Lavery.

It was in the second book I found for the first time a very clear photo of landing craft on North African beaches (specifically at Beach Z, Arzeu) during the November 8, 1942 invasion. And, here's the thing. If the mother ship in the background is the Derwentdale, then I will be 100% certain the lone seaman with his back to the camera (just left of center) is my father.

I am already 95% certain my father is caught here looking the other way - maybe for the first time (he sure liked the camera). And he looks tired. Maybe this was taken during his first almost-four-day-long shift.

He writes:

     (Once) the bulldozer was unloaded the shuttle service began.
     For 'ship to shore' service we were loaded with five gallon jerry
     cans of gasoline. I worked 92 hours straight and I ate nothing
     except some grapefruit juice I stole. 

"Well done, Dad," I say.

Link to more Recommended Reading

Photos from Assault Landing Craft and GH

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