Thursday, December 15, 2016

Books: Combined Operations, 1940 - 1942

Combined Operations, 1940 - 1942

Prepared for the Combined Operations Command
By The Ministry of Information, London, UK

Front Cover: First Published 1943

Though I recommend this rare book highly I find it unusual in a couple of ways: It was published in 1943, two years before the biggest chapters of Combined Operations unfolded, i.e., before the conclusion of WW2. It was initially sold for 'one shilling net' but distributed 'second hand' by the Post Office, free of charge*. And it was 'prepared for (i.e., on behalf of) the Combined Operations Command by the Ministry of Information'.

Propaganda? Perhaps, but in the best sense of the word. I think it was produced during WW2 and (after its purchase) distributed at no cost in order to inform and encourage the British public about the War Offices's early attempts to attack Germany on European soil. 'Offense is underway' it proclaims, though initially as small but daring raids.

True? I say, very much so, as it records the beginnings of the Combined Operations organization, its initial raids into Norway and France before major invasions (e.g., into North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France) could take place. Details and photographs therein are also found in later texts, e.g., related to Commando raids upon (e.g.) Lofoten Islands, St. Nazaire and Dieppe.

On page 37 we learn that before members of RCNVR were involved in training for, and participation in, the raid at Dieppe, "a small force of Canadian troops (a company of Royal Canadian Engineers, detachments of the Edmonton Regiment, the Saskatoon Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals).... had formed part of an expedition which was organised to attack Trondhjem in April 1940 (but never sailed). The military forces had spent some time at a Combined Operations training Centre in Scotland, becoming familiar with various landing craft and learning the technique of making a landing on beaches held by the enemy."

Small forces, often made up of Commandos and members of all three forces, travelled great distances with spare resources, and their adventures are recounted, in such places as Egypt, Tobruk (Libya), Crete, Syria. We read of a raid on Rommel's house (Libya), another on military and economic targets at South Vaagso and Maaloy Island in Norway (see 'Shooting it out in the streets', Page 59), a successful raid on German radio-location equipment at the village of Bruneval in Northern France (Pages 65 - 70), and much more before encountering significant, first-hand accounts related to the well-known raids at St. Nazaire in March 1942 and Dieppe, August 1942.

Photos From Along the Way:

 Table of Contents, in part

Training familiar to some members of Combined Operations
Crossing mined rivers on toggle-rope bridges. Page 16

Invasion Rehearsal: Men engaged in combined operations must
learn to land powerful armaments on defended shores. A Bofors
A.A. gun is hauled aboard a tank landing craft. Page 16

 Attack! Attack! Attack! A Royal Marines' storming party leaps ashore 
from its landing craft under cover of a smoke screen. Inveraray. Page 16

 Jerry won't use that lot: Commando troops, having overpowered the German
garrison on the Lofotens, watch oil burning on the sea at Stamsund. Page 16

"The flames and flashes that belong to a raid"
Yaagso seen from Maaloy. Page 64

Highly recommended. Can be purchased at AbeBooks for under $10 Canadian.

*From Page 2: "There are many men and women in the Forces who would welcome a chance of reading this book; if you hand it in at any Post Office, it will go to them." 

Please link to READY, AYE, READY- An Illustrated History of the Royal Canadian Navy

Unattributed Photos GH

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