Sunday, January 31, 2016

Carry On Gang 4, "Wet and Woolly"

Busy Pathways on Sunday

"Nice woollen kilt is all one needs on a mild winter's day"

On Saturday, Don and I passed through Harris Park, at first heading north towards Blackfriars Bridge. We met a dog named 'Fox' and noticed the river was running high. After we crossed the bridge we headed south for home, knowing full well we had halfway to go and still half of the world's problems left to solve. That being said, it is amazing how many good solutions we came up with by the time we reached our front porches in Wortley Village. All was well with the world.

"Carry On Walk #4 was a long one"

On Sunday I tackled an eight-miler on my own and reached my turnabout spot near Springbank dam before the rain came down. Fortunately, I was dressed for wet weather and made it home - in under three hours - without having to swim. Front crawl is not my strong suit. Neither is colour-co-ordination but I still hold it in high regard.

By the numbers for the day:

8 miles in under three hours

estimated speed - 3.16 miles per hour (19 minutes per mile)

one blister for the first time (related to my choice of socks, I bet)

Photos from along the way:

 "This fellow has a smooth shuffle. One day that could be me"

 "Lots of folks outside today"

"My turnabout point, just short of Springbank dam"

Photos GH

Friday, January 29, 2016

Short Story re Combined Ops, "N. Africa and Reina Del Pacifico"

Below is but one of the many WW2 stories, facts and details I am sharing at my new blog entitled '1000 Men 1000 Stories: Canadians in Combined Operations, WW2' at Stop by anytime.

Operation TORCH and Life Aboard Reina Del Pacifico

By Doug Harrison, RCNVR and Combined Operations

Operation TORCH: American troops land at Arzeu, near Oran, Nov., 1942
Photo credit - Imperial War Museum (IWM)

Reina Del Pacifico Served Well in War Years

[This newspaper column was first published in The Norwich Gazette, circa 1992]

This is the story of a large passenger liner converted to a troop ship called the Reina Del Pacifico which carried 200 Canadian sailors and other personnel back to Liverpool, England after the invasion of North Africa, which started November 8th, 1942.

Buryl McIntyre and I were among the 200 sailors who had worked on our landing craft ferrying troops and army supplies ashore night and day for about a week at a little town south of Oran named Arzew.

During the invasion the Reina Del had acted as a hospital ship which we Canadian sailors could go aboard when tired. We were given excellent food, excellent rum, help to tumble into a hammock where we remained horizontal for many hours. The Reina Del served as a passenger liner again for many years after the war but unfortunately burned about 1970.

Approximately Nov. 14th, 1942 the dark green, two funnel Reina Del lay at anchor at Arzew, and those two funnels were active enough to indicate steam was being brewed in the engine rooms, and she was as anxious as the sailors to head for home. Our landing craft one by one manoeuvred to the gang-plank on the port side of the Reina Del and Canadian sailors waiting for the proper swell of the wave jumped to gang-plank and hurried up the steps and went aboard through the large cargo door. Each one was checked off by name by a Canadian officer standing inside the cargo door, complete with clipboard. The landing craft were now manned by English sailors returning at a later date.

Reina Del Pacifico - Link to Photo Credit

As my turn came to jump aboard the gang-plank, my eye spotted a large unexploded shell imbedded in the side of the ship not far from the officer’s head. I was very tired but not that tired, and inquired of the officer about the unexploded shell and he replied that the Captain had the shell examined and it was a dud. “I sure hope he is right because my mother will miss me, Mr. Wedd,” I said.

Mr. Wedd was dog-tired too and in no mood for an argument. “Your mother will miss you a lot more if you’re not aboard on the next swell, Harrison, because we are leaving. Do you hear me?” He added a bit more which wouldn’t be printed and his ultimatum enabled me to time the swell of the next wave perfectly and I jumped to the gang-planks, and though tired, I found new energy at the cargo door and was soon amidships. The shell never exploded but it was sand-bagged and roped off.

It wasn’t long before the clank of the anchor cable could be heard in the hawse pipe. The anchors stowed, the gang-plank came on board and we were underway and in a few hours steaming at 27 knots (about 33 mph) we were safely inside the submarine nets at Gibraltar. In those few hours we organized bridge and crib tournaments.

The scene at Gibraltar was one of carnage, war at its worst. Nearby were destroyers which had been mauled by bomb and torpedoes, with gaping holes in their sides and deck plating, and some of the large guns were bent and pointed at bizarre angles. Miraculously they floated with pride and here and there steam came from the odd funnel. We thought of what the crews had been through and the fire and heat that had buckled the plates, how anyone could have survived. But Malta had to be fed.

Aboard the Reina Del at Gibraltar the Captain advised us to sleep up top under cover at night and those Canadian sailors who were not taking part in the tournaments became look-outs as we sailed west into the Atlantic alone. Naval tradition prevailed aboard the ship and at 11 o’clock each morning we were given a tot of navy rum which we didn’t have to drink under the watchful eye of some Chief Petty Officer. Buryl McIntyre and I were partners at bridge; we received good cards and placed second in the tournament; there being no main prize it was agreed that whichever team won the rubber of bridge also won their opponents’ tot of rum. Buryl and I slept quite well most nights, but with one eye open and one arm through our Mae West life jackets. Each ship has its own peculiar quirks and sounds; it is the unusual sound that brings sailors awake.

The Captain wished to miss the Bay of Biscay and as we skirted the western edge heading north we ran into a severe electrical storm. Standing well inboard under cover we witnessed the worst electrical display of our lives. Also, it seemed to rain so hard it pounded the sea flat. The ship retained good speed throughout and reached Liverpool safely in about four days.

Liverpool, such a friendly city, has welcomed sailors for centuries and we went ashore soon after our arrival to a seaman’s home, a large, warm, clean barrack-like building with good food, showers, and cots with white sheets and pillow cases. Heaven! Soon mail arrived and I can still see myself and my friends discarding our boots and stretching out on the cots to read the latest from home. Everything went quiet until someone shouted, “Hey guys, get a load of this!”

“Pipe down!” The old familiar phrase. “Read it to us later!”

We shared our parcels with anyone who may have missed out and showed new photos all around. Although we had shore leave, many chose to stay where we were, get some rest, and write some letters home. We did not see the Reina Del Pacifico again. One evening she slipped quietly away, but I for one have never forgotten her, our home for a few short days.

*   *   *   *   * 

The following story, from Doug Harrison's Navy memoirs, again mentions activity related to Operation TORCH and times aboard the Reina Del Pacifico.

What a Sight to Behold

My group went through much more training at H.M.S. Quebec and then we entrained for Liverpool. Prominent pub was The Crown in Wallasey. We left Greenock in October, 1942 with our LCMs aboard a ship called Derwentdale, sister ship to Ennerdale. She was an oil tanker and the food was short and the mess decks where we ate were full of eighteen inch oil pipes. The 80th and 81st flotillas, as we are now called, were split between the Derwentdale and Ennerdale in convoy, and little did we know we were bound for North Africa.

I became an A/B Seaman (Able-bodied) on this trip and passed my exams classed very good. The food aboard was porridge and kippers for break-fast, portioned out with a scale. We would plead for just one more kipper from the English Chief Petty Officer, and when he gave it to us we chucked it all over the side because the kippers were unfit to eat.

We had American soldiers aboard and an Italian in our mess who had been a cook before the war. He drew our daily rations and prepared the meal (dinner) and had it cooked in the ship’s galley. He had the ability to make a little food go a long way and saved us from starvation. Supper I can’t remember, but I know the bread was moldy and if the ship’s crew hadn’t handed us out bread we would have been worse off. We used to semaphore with flags to the Ennerdale to see how they were eating; they were eating steak. One of the crew cheered us up and said, “Never mind, boys. There will be more food going back. There won’t be as many of us left after the invasion.” Cheerful fellow. However, we returned aboard another ship to England, the Reina Del Pacifico, a passenger liner, and we nicknamed the Derwentdale the H.M.S. Starvation.

In the convoy close to us was a converted merchant ship which was now an air craft carrier. They had a relatively short deck for taking off, and one day when they were practicing taking off and landing a Swordfish aircraft failed to get up enough speed and rolled off the stern and, along with the pilot, disappeared immediately. No effort was made to search, we just kept on.

One November morning the huge convoy, perhaps 500 ships, entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar. It was a nice sun-shiny day... what a sight to behold.

Troops climb into landing craft, manned by Canadians, from Reina Del 
Pacifico during landings in North Africa, Nov. 1942. Photo credit - IWM 

On November 11, 1942 the Derwentdale dropped anchor off Arzew in North Africa and different ships were distributed at different intervals along the vast coast. My LCM had the leading officer aboard, another seaman besides me, along with a stoker and Coxswain. At around midnight over the sides went the LCMs, ours with a bulldozer and heavy mesh wire, and about 500 feet from shore we ran aground. When morning came we were still there, as big as life and all alone, while everyone else was working like bees.

There was little or no resistance, only snipers, and I kept behind the bulldozer blade when they opened up at us. We were towed off eventually and landed in another spot, and 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 for some grapefruit juice I stole. 

Doug Harrison (centre) watches as troops and ammunition come ashore on LCAs at
Arzeu in Algeria during Operation 'Torch', November 1942. Photo credit - IWM 

Our Coxswain was L/S Jack Dean of Toronto and our officer was Lt. McDonald RNR. After the 92 hours my officer said, “Well done. An excellent job, Harrison. Go to Reina Del Pacifico and rest.” But first the Americans brought in a half track (they found out snipers were in a train station) and shelled the building to the ground level. No more snipers. I then had to climb hand over hand up a large hawser (braided rope) to reach the hand rail of Reina Del Pacifico and here my weakness showed itself.

I got to the hand rail completely exhausted and couldn’t let one hand go to grab the rail or I would have fallen forty feet into an LCM bobbing below. I managed to nod my head at a cook in a Petty Officer’s uniform and he hauled me in. My throat was so dry I only managed to say, “Thanks, you saved my life.”

The Reina was a ship purposely for fellows like me who were tired out, and I was fed everything good, given a big tot of rum and placed in a hammock. I slept the clock around twice - 24 hours - then went back to work. In seven days I went back aboard the Reina Del and headed for Gibraltar to regroup for the trip back to England. During the trip I noticed the ship carried an unexploded three inch shell in her side all the way back to England.

Just outside Gibraltar, Ettrick was torpedoed in her side and sank, and one rating from Ingersoll, Ontario was among those killed. She took four hours to sink and many were saved. We arrived in England without trouble. Our ship was fast, could do about 22 knots per hour, a knot being one mile and a fifth per hour. (I am going to leave my memories about hilarious occasions during leaves I enjoyed until last.)

Please link to Short Story re "North Africa, S. S. Clan MacTaggart"

Carry On Gang 2, "My Favourite Colour is Plaid"

On the Road Again and Again

I think the 'Carry On' theme for my next walking/fun-and-fitness routine is fitting because I'm going to have to make a good effort for a long time while making The GREAT Canadian Comeback. I should be carrying on until the first week of April at the rate I'm going. Beyond that... we'll just wait and see.

Old sayings like 'nothing comes easy', 'if you want cheap you can have cheap', 'go slow and enjoy the view' and 'I look pretty good in plaid, eh' all spring to mind while I'm out there walking my way to better fitness.

"I do look pretty good in plaid, eh?"

More photos from along the way:

Link here to Keep Going 60, "I Hit My Target"

Photos GH

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Short Story re St. Nazaire, "Code name CHARIOT, 1942"

My blog about 'Canadians in Combined Operations, WW2' continues with a short story about an Allied attack on St. Nazaire. Objective: To knock out a dry dock that was large enough to service and repair Germany's largest battleship, Tirpitz.

Mission accomplished, but not without cost.

St. Nazaire - Code name CHARIOT, March 28, 1942

By John O'Rourke, LT, RCNVR

Combined Operations Memorial Plaque, HMS Quebec, Inveraray Scotland

The list of battle honours

St. Nazaire - CHARIOT

March 27 - 28, 1942: St. Nazaire was hailed as "The Greatest Raid of All" by G. E. Lucas Phillips... The death toll amounted to 169... five Victoria Crosses (were awarded), two of them posthumous... the aims were achieved completely by the loss to the Germans of the only Atlantic dock that could accommodate their largest and most powerful battleship, the Tirpitz, and a number of submarine facilities. At least four Canadians participated...

The British fleet consisted of three destroyers... the third was HMS Campbeltown... her funnels were cut down to give her the appearance of a German subchaser. She would ram the gates of the super dock built for the super passenger liner Normandie. Operational Headquarters was to be MGB 314 and to this were added one MTB and 17 MLs... This flotilla sailed from Falmouth, Cornwall, with the Hunts towing the MLs for the 500 mile journey. They were not detected as they rounded the Brest promontory and entered the Bay of Biscay and then the estuary of the Loire River...

Caption (in part): MGB 314, which lead the attack into St. Nazaire harbour.
The foc'sle Pom Pom is where AB Savage (was killed and ) won his VC. Only three
of the 18 craft made it back to England. Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 36

MGB 314 lead the little armada. It was followed by the Campbelton. The MLs formed up in two lines ahead flanking them... The MLs (wooden) were laden with Commandos and extra gasoline tanks. An RAF raid provided some sky-borne distraction and the naval force was not recognized by the shore batteries of the Germans. Then a challenge rang out. A fake reply was answered back by a German speaking RN signaller. It was five minutes after that that the ruse was seen through and a hellish din lit up the night to which all the vessels of the invading force responded by hauling down a german flag and hoisting the White Ensign and firing at every light point in the night... 

The Captain of the Campbelton pressed on at full speed and rammed the gates of the great dry dock at twenty knots... The Campbelton had been filled forward with four and a quarter tons of depth charge explosives. The fuses were lit which would explode the charge the following afternoon...

Photo and caption as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol 1 Pg. 35

David J. Lewis, the Editor of St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol 1, adds the following note (in part) at the end of O'Rourke's story: To continue the story in St. Nazaire, it became obvious that Campbelton evoked a great interest amongst the Germans of high and low rank. Hundreds visited and many were on board when she blew up the following afternoon...

Please read the full account and final thoughts by Canadians John O'Rourke and David Lewis at St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, pages 37 - 38.

Unattributed photos by GH

KEEP GOING 60 "I Hit My Target"

Steady Eddie Wins the Day!

 "Don'tcha love them blue shwade shoes?"

On Tuesday of this week I walked part way to UWWO (University of Wild Western Ontario) and all of the way home, recording a time of about 1HR 25 MIN on the hoof.

"Big Star for Steady Eddie"

And yesterday friend Don and I walked downtown (discovered there are no London Knights' tickets available for Friday's game vs Erie Otters!), then back via a meandering route, total time 1HR 20 MIN.

Don keeps a different type of tally, but in my book I recorded KG60, "YES", with a big star. Not because I wore my lovely red runners and matching pork pie hat, but because I set a goal back on November 26 to KEEP ON GOING out the door regularly for 60 more walks, and yesterday I crossed Number 60 off the list.

By the numbers: That's 60 walks in 63 days, for a Get Out the Door Score of 95.2%. Why, if I'd scored 95.2% when I attended UWWO back in the '60s I'd be a rocket scientist right now, eating canapes and flying my private Concorde to Havana to pick up a big fat cigar.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

"Another goal is to hit 27/31, or 27 walks in 31 days
in January. Easy-kapeasy. I hit that goal today."

So, what's next? All I can say is, the GREAT Canadian Comeback continues.

Stay tuned.

Link to Keep Going 58, "Colour Co-ordination"

Photos GH

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Keep Going 58, "Colour-Co-ordination!"

"Walking is as Easy as..."

"Slapping on a colour-co-ordinated outfit"

My goal for January was to walk 27 days out of 31. At the moment I am on course to hit 30 out of 31. I don't like taking days off, even in cold weather (at a minimum this winter), and getting out the door is as easy as slipping into a high-tech, colourful outfit, i.e., blue jeans and a warm coat.

Yesterday Don and I walked under bright skies. You wouldn't know it because I switched photos to black and white in order to promote artsy-fartsiness and show off my long legs.

Some time this week I will reach the end of the line for Goal 2 - Keep Going for 60 more walks. A new goal and outfit are definitely coming up.

Valu Village, here I come!

Link to Keep Going 54

Photos GH

Friday, January 22, 2016

Keep Going 54 & Next Goal Ideas

"Sign Up for a Fall Marathon?"

"This September photo of Harris Park pathway still motivates me"

Scenes like the above make me feel like I want to be out there too, in a healthy atmosphere, covering a few miles as part of my daily routine. And since starting The GREAT Canadian Comeback in late September I've done just that with excellent regularity, sometimes solo, most of the time with a good walking mate.

Photos record my progress related to goals that are within my limits:

 "On Sept. 28 I began The Comeback with MM1,
a 1-HR. walk including 3 Miles and a few Mountains

 "I missed a few days but the habit started growing on me"

 "I'm only 5'5" tall but have very long legs"

"After I finished MM50 on Nov. 25 I challenged
myself to Keep Going for 60 longer walks"

"Yesterday Don and I past through Harris Park, and 
exitted via the steep hill behind Eldon House. Whew!"

I think I will likely hit KG60 before the end of January 2016, so my mind now turns toward the next goal. What should I do to continue a good fun and fitness routine and how can I tweak it in order to improve performance in some way? Should I sign up for a fall marathon and add a huge motivational component to The GREAT Canadian Comeback? Should I just Keep Going but add a short jog once per week? Hmmmmm.

 "Hey, I have a new workout area in my study"

Here's what I know after some careful thought and number crunching:

Overall, I have completed 104 substantial walks in 116 days. That's a 'Got out the Door' (GOTD) Score of 89.7%. Pretty darn high. If I had that kind of average at university I'd be a brain surgeon right now and having lunch every Friday in Paris. "Garcon, more croissants, if you please."

In December, however, I walked 29 days out of 31. That's a GOTD Score of 93.5%.

And in January, to date, my GOTD Score is 95.2% (20 out of 21).

(BTW. Don just called. We're on for 12:30 today).

It looks like I can develop and maintain a pretty good 'fun and fitness' routine. However, though I have not weighed myself or completed any strength training tests, I don't think my overall fitness has improved a great deal. Why, I don't think I could run two blocks without telling myself to stop and go lie down. And I still eat everything in sight without much thought about how my nutritional habits affect my fitness, weight, energy level, etc. Oh, I'm a bad one for chocolate and cookies.

To sign up for a marathon, even a 5K road race, would be a foolish mistake. My next goal has to be like the last one (because I'm doing so well with GOTD) but with a bit more oomph. I know that doesn't sound very scientific but I feel that if I tweak things just a bit for the next two months, good things will follow.

I conclude the following:

I will pledge to complete 60 more healthy walks again. (Goal KG2).

I will try to develop the habit of stretching on my new foam mats a few times per week for about 10 - 15 minutes at a time.

I will try to develop the habit of lifting a few weights a few times per week for about 10 - 15 minutes at a time.

I will try to ride my exercise bike once or twice per week (after supper) to supplement the walking.

I will sign up for a lecture or two related to nutrition, as recommended by my family doctor. Why, I have the presentation/discussion schedule - with handy-dandy phone number - around here somewhere.

There, I feel better already, taking the long road back, one step forward at a time. And at this time I reserve the right to tweak things a bit over the next few days.

KG2 (1 - 60), coming soon to a theater near you!

"Maybe I'll see you out there?"

Link to Keep Going 52

Photos GH

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Keep Going 52 "Red Long-johns"

"Sure, It's Cold Out There"

"After a walk of 1HR, 20 MIN I head straight home"

When temperatures dip below freezing and even my thickest blue jeans don't keep out the cold, I don my trusty red long-johns and head into the wind. That way, on the way home, the wind is at my back and any uphills feel easier on tired legs.

"My Walkin' Buddy is back from warmer climes"

I've noticed that some ducks have a trick up their sleeves as well during very cold days. They gather in groups on the south side of the Thames River (in Greenway Park), close to the outtake pipe from the pollution plant. Duck l'Orange anyone? Anyone? Eeeuuuwww. (Hey, it's a living).

One more photo from 'along the way', adjacent to the aforementioned plant:

KG60 will be reached within the next two weeks and I'll then plan another exciting walking goal with fun and fitness in mind. Happy days!

Link to Keep Going 50

Photos by GH

Monday, January 18, 2016

Keep Going 50 "Cold Weather for Walkin'"

Throwin' a Change Up

Thursday, Friday, Saturday (KG47 - 49) - good and far

I walked to UWO on Thursday and it felt all up hill due to the warm weather and slushy sidewalks. On Friday I took the bus to the university and walked home in one hour. Much easier on the downhill, I must say. And Saturday I walked all over the place, including to a Knights game.

Cold weather turned me back home to my bicycle

On Sunday, after a 15-minute walk toward Greenway Park, I turned back. Too cold for the clothes I was wearing. Once home I hopped onto my exercise bike with a good book. Not a bad change up, I say.

KG50 out of 60 = 83.3% of the way for Goal 2. I think when warmer weather returns I will be plenty ready for shuffling* along to Buffalo.

Photos from along the way:

St. George's Anglican, Wharncliffe, on way home from UWO

Link to Keep Going 46

*shuffling is like jogging, but slower

Photos GH

Avocado 23 "Tall and Healthy"

A New Leaf on the Way?

Healthy leaves

Instant gratification is something I have grown used to over the years. A quick cup of coffee first thing in the morning always tastes so good, eh.

"Come on, come on!"

I feel the baby avocado plant is tall and healthy but it sure is taking its time sprouting the next new leaf!

Link to Avocado 22

Photos GH

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Avocado 22 - "A Pinch to Grow an Inch"

A Potted Avocado

"I think I have a healthy plant"

Instructions found online suggest - if the stem is at a certain height - I pot the avocado pit and pinch back the top tier of leaves - to promote bushiness. I did both recently and hope that I will soon see new branches branch and bushes bush.

"Pinch, pinch. I'm in the bushiness business now"

And we wait.

Link to Avocado 21

Photos GH