Thursday, February 18, 2016

Context for Combined Ops, "Some Successes in Early 1942"

The following is a recent post from one of my other blogs entitled '1000 Men, 1000 Stories', Canadians in Combined Operations, WW2. 

British Commandos and Canadian Airmen in the News

As found in the Jan. 4, 1942 issue of The Halifax Herald

Early news in 1942, a couple of weeks before the first Canadians in Combined Operations ventured overseas to the U.K., contained some positive notes which may have brought good cheer to our fresh-faced young sailors.

"What are we getting ourselves in for?" they would have asked. They'd get some answers before the month was out, and some would eventually train in much the same manner as early Commando units.


Capture Nazis In New Raid On Lofoten Islands

London, Jan. 1 --(CP)-- A British flotilla and a raiding force of Commandos, free Norwegians and Poles came back unscratched today from a brief and practically unopposed sojourn on the German-occupied Lofoten Islands off Norway's coast.

Caption: These cablephotos, presented exclusively by The Halifax Herald and The Halifax Mail, show the destruction of the important German convoy base at Vaagso in German-occupied Norway. (Above) Flames and smoke shoot skyward from an oil factory set aflame by British soldiers who destroyed the base Dec. 27.

Second Landing

It was the second foray into these islands by the tough, black-clad Commando corps which has struck from the sea at german strongholds from the North Cape to the shores of northern Africa, and it appeared to have overlapped or else followed immediately upon last week's Commando stabs at the Norwegian island of Vaagso, hundreds of miles south of the Lofotens.

This time, the Admiralty disclosed today, there were no casualties at all among the British force and the invading warships even were able to use one harbor as a fueling base.

 Caption: Evacuation of British wounded to invasion barge.

Caption: British soldiers with a group of Nazi prisoners whose leader is seen carrying a white flag. (Acme photos)

More news: As found in the Jan. 8, 1942 issue of The Halifax Herald


Navy And R.A.F. Raid Enemy Base In Norway

London, Jan. 7 --(CP)-- Canadians flying Blenheim bombers rigged as long distance fighters took part in a naval and aerial raid on Hellefjord on the Norwegian west coast Tuesday, while other bombers pounded at targets in Germany, occupied France and on the Netherlands coast. A joint naval and Royal Air Force communique described the Hellefjord foray, the purpose of which was to intercept enemy shipping....

Off the town of Floro one enemy supply ship of medium weight was sunk, and two trawlers alongside a canning factory also were sent to the bottom. Firing was restricted to avoid damage to the town in the low visibility, but a german canning factory was damaged by shells. Despite snow and rain squalls, fighters provided air protection in relays while bombers attaked the airdrome at Sola, near Stavanger. Ships and planes all returned safely.

The raid was about 30 miles south of Vaasgo Island where on Dec. 27 a Commando force landed and destroyed eight enemy ships, oil tanks, ammunition stores and an industrial plant.

Two-Way Escort

Fliers of the Canadian squadron of the Coastal Command, led by their New Zealand squadron leader, provided the two-way aerial escort for the ships. They encountered only one enemy aircraft, a bomber. The squadron leader turned on it and it jettisoned its bomb load and fled.

"We saw the ships well on their way across to Norway and left them when it got dark," one Canadian Blenheim pilot said. "The senior naval officer signalled: 'Thanks for your co-operation,' and we picked them up again in the morning when they were on their way home."

Canadians Take Part

Three British bombers were missing from attacks during the last 24 hours on Brest and Cherbourg in France, and (on) German shipping off the Netherlands and Norway. Canadian bomber crews joined with the R.A.F. - one of the navigators was PO. L.G. Burgoyne of Mahone May, Nova Scotia - in the attack on Cherbourg, and the returning airmen told of multi-coloured fires (green, yellow, red) started in that great port. 

Big Wellingtons were used by the Canadians as they plunged through cloud formations to hit at their objectives. Anti-aircraft was reported to be light although there was some display of searchlights. 

More news related to Commandos: As found in the Jan. 14, 1942 issue of The Halifax Herald

Ottawa, Jan. 13 --(CP)-- From the bridge of a British naval craft the Flight Commander of a squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force men directed their operations in the recent commando raid on German occupied Norway, a statement from R.C.A.F. headquarters said today. Adding a few hitherto unknown details to the story of the attack, the statement said the Commander, (Sqdn. Ldr. E.H. McHardy, RAF) used the ship's bridge as a control tower and kept the aircraft operating in harmony with the naval forces and the hand-picked troops detailed to effect the landing. He was able to observe the whole operation and direct the long range fighter planes by radio telephone.

In the forefront of the opening attack were PO. E.W. Pearce of Winnipeg, Sgt. Pilot J.T. McCutcheon of Montreal and Sgt. W.H. Cleaver of Toronto, an air gunner. They came to grips with defending German ME 109s, and Pearce nearly had a head-on collision with a German who flew straight at him. Both Pearce and McCutcheon engaged in dog-fights with the enemy and their guns had telling effect. One fight broke off as Pearce appeared on the scene while McCutcheon and an ME 109 were manoeuvering for position. The German beat a retreat.

"It was curious to be approaching the Norwegian coast at a snail's pace instead of flying into it," Sqdn. Ldr. McHardy observed afterward. "The Hampden bombers woke the place up. Immediately on our arrival the whole area became a mass of smoke and flames as the guns from ships and shore began to fire. A Messerschmitt dived on us and we ducked behind the bridge. But radio instructions quickly brought the Blenheims on his tail. Then the Beaufighters joined the battle. During the day they shot down four Heinkel 111s."

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The following information about the above-mentioned Commando raid, including photographs, is found at 404 SQUADRON R.C.A.F., a website dedicated to a specific, well-decorated group of Canadian fliers.

S/L EH McHardy, DFC is front row, 6th from left. 
P/O. E.W. Pearce (Pierce) is back, 4th from left.

Vaagso Raids

On 24 December, W/C Woodruff led the squadron down to Wick in preparation for escorting a raid on Norway. The Vaagso raid was a commando assault on Vaagso Island, south of Stadtlandet, Norway. The Vaagso operation was actually a diversionary raid in support of the assault on the Lofoten Islands. The primary raid actually failed due to the commander of the operation not having air cover. The Vaagso raid, led by R/Admiral Burrough in HMS Kenya, was successful with the landing party achieving their objectives and 16,000 tons of enemy shipping sunk.

This large operation involved detachments of 404, 248 and 236 Squadrons. Two squadron aircraft flew as part of the event with P/O Pearce and Sgt McCutcheon, Cleaver and Cruickshanks, on fighter patrol for the convoy. 'The work of the fighters was directed by radio from the bridge of one of the naval vessels by S/L EH McHardy, DFC, a New Zealand officer commanding one of the flights of 404 Squadron. McCutcheon in 'B' Z6181 along with Cleaver and Cruickshanks were on a six-hour flight when they intercepted and engaged two enemy Me.109s. After they closed, the enemy aircraft broke off and fled. Smoke was observed coming from the engine of one, which was losing height steadily as it drew away. A claim for one probable and one possible was made.

Gowler's diary entry for 25 December, "Band in attendance at dinner time. Had a very good dinner today including beer, cigarettes and four chocolate bars. Had different officers autograph the back of my menu card. After dinner we took some snaps of some of our lads from our hut and then went for a walk down along the seashore. We found a mine today on the beach." Such was Christmas during the war.

        Sgt. W.H. Cleaver of Toronto (right), an air gunner

F/L JT McCutcheon of Montreal

Link to Context for Combined Ops, "Happy New Year 1942"

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