Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Training for Combined Operations: "The Schuyts Were the Biggest Exercises Thus Far"

Training Prior to Dieppe Involving Canadians in Combined Ops

Exercise Schuyt 1 at Irvine Did Involve 'Surprises For Us Too"

H11177. A landing craft containing a Valentine tank being launched down the
slipway of a landing ship during combined operations training on Loch Fyne
in Scotland, 27 June 1941. Photo - Major W.G. Horton, War Office, IWM.
(Similar training took place at Irvine as well, Canadian Navy vets tell us...
and the ship may be HMS Iris or Daffodil, Landing Ships-Stern Chute)


While sharing photographs and related information about the Canadians who volunteered for Combined Operations in a series of posts entitled Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations" (meaning the book by Londoner Clayton Marks; parts 1 - 3 so far; link to Part 1), I came across a couple of related stories in a fine book I was referencing, i.e., St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War, Volume 1.

Volume 1 and Volume 2 were compiled by David and Catherine Lewis and Len Birkenes, both men members of RCNVR and Combined Ops. The volumes, inspired by an earlier book, i.e., Combined Operations by C. Marks, contain many significant Navy veterans' stories and much writing and photos by David Lewis himself.

Five significant books were produced by four of the Canadian men above
More information about David Lewis and other authors here

Back, L - R: 'Gash', Clayton, and David Lewis (David wrote and collected
stories for St. Nazaire to Singapore (two lengthy volumes)
Front L - R: Doug and Al (full names are w top photo)

The next four photos relate to St. Nazaire to Singapore:

Readers who peruse Volume 1 using the link provided earlier will learn that the Dieppe Raid was the earliest actions in which a relatively large group of Canadian sailors were used to man landing crafts on enemy-controlled beaches. The raid at St. Nazaire ( read "The Greatest Raid of All" by Lucas Phillips, CE), a few months earlier in 1942 (March 27 - 28), employed only a few Canadians and is breifly documented in Lewis and Birkenes' book.

What follows from Volume 1 is a story by David Lewis related to early training, just prior to the Dieppe Raid, at HMS Quebec, near Inveraray, and at HMS Dundonald, near Irvine, Scotland:

Photo as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, page 41

After completing our initial training in Combined Operations boats at Hayling Island, HMS Northney, we entrained for Scotland and took the MacBrayne’s paddle-wheeled steamers from Wemyss Bay for the tourist trip to HMS Quebec at Inveraray.

Particularly for the first and second flotillas but also for the third and fourth later, there were time intervals between basic training and the more serious exercises leading up to major raids and invasions. Of these the largest exercises were Schuyt 1 and Schuyt 2. The name picked was that of a class of agreeable small Dutch vessels carrying cargo about the peace time European coast and river ways. A number had escaped the Nazis and now worked the British Coastlines.

Before these exercises there was a pleasantly relaxed time at Quebec with light duties due to recurrent breakdowns and shortages of boats. The elastic discipline of Combined Ops kept the men together at Inveraray. We waited to learn rope tricks and cliff climbing, the threatened characteristics of Commando activity, but found they were not in our job description after all. So Quebec turned out to be a lot less demanding than we had expected. In fact quite the contrary.*

[* Editor's Note: David Lewis was an Officer. Ordinary ratings would likely disagree with this assessment.]

Lewis continues:

Time was on our hands. Some of us went to have tea with the high-pitch-voiced Duke of Argyle. Some used Mill's bombs to fish his salmon streams, and climbed his mountains and explored his deer park land. The light casualties amongst his sheep were suspect. Some of us had leave with all the pleasant, exciting, and educating experiences of days in the British Isles.

But then we were called together. For a while we had our own ships to carry our landing craft about. They were strange creations indeed. HMS Iris and Daffodil were called Landing Ships-Stern Chute.

LCM being hauled up the slipway on HMS Iris. Photo: Royal Navy,
Imperial War Museum. (Compare with top photo of this post)

They were old Harwich-to-the-Hook of Holland ferries, each fitted out to carry rail cars. They are recorded as being armed with four six-pounders, five Oerlikons and five ancient Lewis guns to protect themselves and their precious cargoes.*

[*Lewis adds: This may have been to terrorize the enemy as I don't remember seeing any guns myself being mounted aboard in our time or later on. Reference: Allied Landing Craft of World War Two, Naval Institute Papers, Annapolis, MD., Fourth Printing, 1989. This book is the completest of all on the subject, factually and pictorially. Thanks to Clayton Marks who found it.]

For awhile they seemed as if they might be our vessels. They could carry thirteen LCAs
mounted on trollies - two per craft. The craft were picked up in the stern chute and hauled up onto the main deck and then, by a complicated switching system, made snug on three tracks on the covered deck. They took us to Irvine for the Schuyts.

Photo as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, Page 50

The main excitement was launching the crafts by pushing them to the chute one by one and watching them race down the track and plunge into the sea, splashing up a great wall of water. Very spectacular but we couldn't quite crowd out of our minds the possibility that the LCAs would just keep on going down to Davy Jone’s Locker, though it never happened to us. I dread to think what would have happened if we had to launch in rough weather.

Our LCAs were then moored in Irvine Harbour on the Ayrshire coast. We were housed in Nissen huts and tents at HMS Dundonald. The pubs of the harbour were well used*. 

[*Editor's Note: Though David Lewis was their Officer, ordinary ratings would likely not disagree with this assessment.]

Lewis continues:

Our camp was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Some enterprising matelots (sailors) found them penetrable, as recorded in one of our photos of the time. Len Birkenes and others went forth and back through the fence to enjoy Scottish hospitality.

Len Birkenes returning on Board at Irvine through a makeshift 
gangway. Photo: St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, Page 44

The Schuyts were the biggest exercises thus far manned by Combined Operations. In conception and organization they were planting the seed that matured on D-Day. The exercise troops were loaded from the mainland and great excitement was present since the beaches would be attended by dignitaries including King George Vl, Winston Churchill and our new chief, Lord Louis Mountbatten. They had assembled to witness The Shape of Things to Come.

Doug Harrison's account begins in the middle of the first dark night. We planned to surprise the enemy and of course there were some surprises for us too.

Pages 41 - 42

My father Doug Harrison's account follows:


It was so damn dark. “Keep closed up!” I can still hear Andy Wedd’s voice to this day. (I am glad I saw him shortly before his death.)

At the night exercise the time of arrival was midnight. The crew was Koyl, Art Bailey, Stoker Lank and his pail (Willard Lank was always chewing kelp), and myself, with a full complement of English soldiers. Believe me, these fellows were sick soldiers. Bailey and I lashed ourselves down as best we could and emptied the helmets as the soldiers handed them up. Destination or landing, I don’t remember. Troon (Scotland)? I can remember two perimeter lights vaguely in the distance.

We were perhaps headed south and it was rough (all of this is true). Our craft ran aground on a sand bar. Koyl ordered everybody - Bailey and I and himself - overboard to look or tread for deeper water. First we tried rocking the craft in conjunction with the motors. No luck. Wandering in sea boots, underwear, duffel coats, I fell into deeper water (which wasn’t too cold fortunately) and hollered, “Over here, sir!”

So we worked our asses off to free the ALC and we were successful. The soldiers helped to rock the craft. Koyl’s fuming, “We are going to be late!” And he is flotilla commander. Bailey and Koyl were able to get aboard. I wasn’t and they drove off and left me out in the water.

I was scared, But I felt I knew Mr. Koyl. I discarded all my clothing but uniform pants and underwear, found a sandbar and waited it out. They made their landing eventually but.... How is he going to find me (this is unbelievable)? I thrashed my arms, swam on my back for short stints to maintain circulation and after an eternity I saw an Aldis lamp blinking.

Motors were cut, then revved up, then cut. Koyl had a fair idea perhaps but I don’t know how he knew where to locate me. Eventually our voices came reasonably close together. I was caught in the light of the Aldis lamp and picked up after one and a half or two hours waiting. My hands were all wrinkled. I felt all in.

When we returned to Irvine (a few miles north of Troon), Koyl, Bailey and I hurried to a local pub (now known as the Harbour Light). We were given hot porridge, rum and our clothes were taken to be dried and we were wrapped in blankets. All of this help came from ladies. It was late afternoon before we left the pub - Royal Sovereign or King George?

I was a very lucky fellow. In the darkness Koyl and Bailey took awhile before they missed me. I didn’t really know what went amiss but the fact that the landing had to be made on time was uppermost in Koyl’s mind.

St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, Page 46

Full caption with photo: The Public House, the King’s Arms, where the Skinner
family revived Doug Harrison and the rest of Jack Koyl’s boat crew. They used
hot drinks, hot porridge and hot blankets. Pub’s name has been changed,
perhaps in honour of the occasion to “The Harbour Light."

Editor’s Note: I believe the photo and caption above were added to my father's story by David Lewis, creator of St. Nazaire to Singapore Vol. 1, to help clarify the name of the Scottish pub. 

I add this note for the same purpose: I visited Irvine, Scotland in October, 2014 and visited both the long-standing Harbour Lights (formerly known as the Victoria Hotel) and King's Arms Hotel. The Harbour Lights was formerly owned by John and Mary Burns, and the King's Arms Hotel, owned in 2014 by the Scott family, was formerly owned by the Skinners, a family both mentioned by David Lewis and my father (in another story) as the ones who helped out the tired ALC crew. So, of all the names tossed about, the King's Arms Hotel is definitely a good fit, but its name was never changed "in honour of the occasion." So, a bit of mystery remains re where Dad was served rum, porridge, etc.

More about the Dieppe Raid has been listed under click on Headings in right margin.

Also related to Dieppe, please link to Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations" (Part 3).

Please note, Part 4 of the above series will follow on this site shortly.

Please email Editor with questions or comments at gordh7700@gmail.com

Unattributed Photos GH 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations" (Pt 3)

 Canadians Knew Landing Crafts Inside-out and Backwards

The Training Took Them to Dieppe, North Africa and More

A wartime photograph of a drawing of a landing craft, personnel (large) or LCPL,
three views mounted on card, and a landing craft, mechanised or LCM, two views
mounted on card. One of a series of photographic reproductions of D. Moira
Cruickshank's landing craft: Photo Credit - The D-Day Story


In the unique text by Clayton Marks (RCNVR, Combined Ops) his Table of Contents reveals he covers a wide variety of events and operations in which Canadians were involved, particularly as their actions related to the use of various landing crafts.

The contents continue on a 2nd page, and conclude with
In Memoriam - "We Will Remember", Page 218

The first group of photos shared below relate to one of the landing crafts put to use during the Dieppe Raid, August 19, 1942 - and a few months later during the invasion of North Africa - so the two sections of text that follow from Infantry Landing Ships (see Table of Contents above), beginning on Page 15, provide a bit of background information:

DIEPPE - Operation Jubilee

The Dieppe raid, which took place on the 19th of August, 1942, had originally been planned to be staged six weeks earlier but, while waiting off the Isle of Wight for weather conditions to improve, "Prinses Josephine Charlotte" and "Prinses Astrid" were both hit by bombs during a sudden air attack on the 7th of July. The former vessel was so badly damaged in her engine room that she was unable to take part in the postponed operation. However, two new LSI(H)'s - the railway steamers "Duke of York", renamed "Duke of Wellington", and "Invicta" - had been commissioned on May 30th and June 3rd respectively and were now able to join "Prinses Astrid" and her sisters "Prince Leopold" and "Prince Charles" in this controversial enterprise. The "Glengyle", the only one of the three "Glen" ships not undergoing repair at that time, also took part in the raid, in which she was accompanied by "Prins Albert""Queen Emma" and "Princess Beatrix". The latter ship had some of her davits wrecked and her side and structure damaged in a collision with "Invicta" but, nevertheless, all the LSI's returned to base immediately after lowering their craft ten miles off the French coast.

NORTH AFRICA - Operation Torch

One of the few areas where a major Anglo-American amphibious operation could successfully be mounted in 1942 was Vichy-French north-west Africa. Accordingly, late on the evening of October 26th, the LSI(H) "Ulster Monarch" weighed anchor in the Clyde as part of a convoy of fifty ships which, next day, formed into ten columns for the voyage out into the Atlantic, destined for the Straits of Gibraltar, on a wide semi-circular course about 1,000 miles west of Spain. Approaching the Mediterranean, the convoy divided into two parts with sixteen LSI's routed to Oran and the remaining eleven to Algiers. Both sections were scheduled to reach their assault positions early on the morning of November 8th, simultaneously with the arrival off the Atlantic coast of Morocco of ninety-four units of an American task force, which had sailed direct from the U.S.A. (Combined Operations, pages 16 - 17)

Two pages of photos follow the above text (all but one previously shared) in order to, in part, introduce readers to infantry landing ships, LCAs and LCMs. The photo not shared from C. Marks' book connects us to The Dieppe Raid. It follows along with Marks' offering of a map re the raid:

LCP885 as found on page 24

"The Raid on Dieppe" as found on page 25

Related photos of LCPs from other sources follow:

Landing Craft, Personnel (Large) (LCPL) prior to the Dieppe Raid
St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War, page 53

LCPs and LCI(L) crossing the English Channel on the way to Dieppe.
At 0347, August 19, Canada's first losses were recorded. Details, page 60
St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War, page 54

A training exercise involving several LCPs at HMS Quebec; smoke screens
hide the familiar landscape surrounding Loch Fyne. Imperial War Museum

A11230 A naval motor-launch seen with four of the landing craft personnel
(large) used during the Combined Operations daylight raid on Dieppe. The
landing craft are numbered (left - right) LCP (L) 85, LCP (L) 41, number
not visible and R 145. Lt. L. Pelman, Royal Navy official photographer,
Admiralty Official Collection, Imperial War Museum (IWM)

H14597 Troops coming ashore from a landing craft under a smoke screen
during Combined Operations training at Inveraray, Scotland. "Mad Jack"
Churchill can be seen holding a sword. Capt. W.T. Lockeyear (IWM)

Drawings by D. Moira Cruickshank (WNRS) were used as instructional aids for new members of Combined Operations (e.g., Canadians in February - March, 1942) in training camps like HMS Northney (1 - 4) on Hayling Island:

The following notes accompanied the drawings:

A wartime photograph of a drawing of a landing craft, personnel (large) or LCPL, three views mounted on card, and a landing craft, mechanised or LCM, two views mounted on card. One of a series of photographic reproductions of D. Moira Cruickshank's landing craft, which were circulated for Royal Navy training during the Second World War. It is part of the papers of D. Moira Cruickshank relating to her service in the WNRS (Women's Royal Naval Service or Wrens) during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1944 she was based at H.M.S. Northney, Hayling Island, on drawing duties. She made drawings of different landing craft types, which were the photographed and widely circulated throughout the Royal Navy for training purposes. H.M.S. Northney was a shore base at a pre-war holiday camp, at which sailors received initial training on landing craft. Later in the war she served at Lyneham, where she painted murals in the officers's mess, and did posters about educational and vocational training.

Enlargement of the above LCPL:

A wartime photograph of a drawing of a landing craft, personnel (ramped)
or LCPR, three views mounted on card. One of a series of photographic
reproductions of Moira Cruickshank's landing craft. The D-Day Story

Immediately following the map entitled "The Raid on Dieppe" on page 25 of Combined Operations, presented earlier, Clayton provides a succinct three-page account of the August 19, 1942 raid along with many of the names of the reportedly 70 sailors and officers. I have added a few photographs - most of which Mr. Marks would not have had access to in the early 1990s:


August, 19, 1942

It was deemed a failure right from the original plan of operation. The original code word for this landing was "Rutter". It was accepted by Combined Operations and the Home Forces Staffs on April 25, 1942 and the landing was to commence by the 8th of July, 1942. On July 7th the German Air Force flew over Yarmouth Roads and sank landing ships. This, and the bad weather, convinced Mountbatten to cancel the complete operation.

Mountbatten and Churchill had a plan to remount "Rutter" on August 19, 1942 under the code word "Jubilee" with all the same participating forces. The Chiefs-of-Staff were on the wane and Dieppe was desperately needed to restore Combined Operations quickly growing ambitions. Bomber Command could not and would not supply heavy, accurate air bombardment, but could guarantee only limited indiscriminate bombing. The Naval Sea Lord could not supply sea power in the form of battleships due to the recent loss of the battleships "Prince of Wales" and the "Revenge" at Singapore in December of 1941. This left only destroyer sea power of 4-inch guns that could not damage the wall of defense along the French coast. At 2130 on the night of August 18th the landing ships slipped their moorings and headed out to sea on a cloudless and warm evening. The fleet consisted of 237 ships of all sizes from large Infantry landing ships to the 74 LCP's unarmed and unarmoured carrying 6,100 of all ranks.

A11233 Light naval craft covering the landing during the Combined Operations
daylight raid on Dieppe. MGB 321 is in the foreground whilst submarine chaser
Q 014 can be seen in the middle distance. Lt. L. Pelman, Royal Navy official
photographer, Admiralty Official Collection, Imperial War Museum (IWM)

H22612 The Dieppe shoreline viewed from a landing craft as it approached;
fires are burning visibly in the hinterland as a result of the naval and aerial
bombardment. Captain W.T. Lockeyear, War Office official photographer,
War Office Second World War OFFICIAL COLLECTION (IWM)

The story continues:

Many stories and acts of heroism have been told and will be retold over and over again. Officers and men of the British Army, Commandos, Royal Marines, American Rangers, Canadian Essex Scottish, Canadian Engineers, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, Hamilton Light Infantry, Fusiliers Mont Royal and the Royal Regiment of Canada, Black Watch, were all involved in this raid.

The perilous honour of the raid fell mainly to the Canadian Army and the Royal Navy, but members of the Naval team from Canada had a share. Training was not sufficiently advanced for the Canadians to operate as separate Flotillas when the Dieppe expedition sailed from Portsmouth, Shoreham and Newhaven on the night of August 18th; but among the British Landing Craft fifteen Canadian Officers and fifty-five Ratings were distributed.

Sub-Lieutenant C.D. Wallace was the first Canadian casualty. He was killed in the dark hours of the morning, when the Flotillas on the extreme left flank of the assault made the fatal encounter with a German convoy.

Photo and details as found in St. Nazaire to Singapore:
The Canadian Amphibious War, Volume 1, Page 60

The story continues:

Lt. J. E. Koyl, a Canadian who was to figure in many happier landings, was boat Officer of a Flotilla which included thirty-three Canadians. It left its parent ship, "Duke of Wellington", at 0334. As the craft neared the beach shortly after five, they came under heavy fire from shore.
They managed to land their three platoons of the Canadian Black Watch near Puys; but as they were withdrawing the British Flotilla Officer was seriously wounded and Lt. Koyl took charge. Continuing seaward, he transferred the wounded Officer to a British destroyer, and about 1200 when the evacuation of the beach was ordered, led his craft in again through heavy fire from shore and attack from the air. Before he could beach, however, he was ordered to turn back. German batteries were laying down a curtain of steel that made evacuation an impossibility.

[Editor's Note: Don Westbrook, a friend of my father, operated a landing craft during the raid under Koyl's command. Mr. Westbrook's son Gary (he and I met when we were children and later in life as adults) said the following in a phone conversation a few years ago: My father drove the landing craft back to a larger ship and yelled, "Don't send anymore men in; you're sending them to their death."]

Meanwhile, Sub-Lieutenants A. A. Wedd and J. E. Boak, each in command of one of the landing craft (Personnel) which had sailed directly from England, came into shore with their Flotilla a little east of Dieppe harbour. Passing through smoke and into the fire from the German weapons of all calibres, they landed their troops and withdrew. They were sent in an hour or so later to Dieppe harbour itself; but were recalled almost immediately and re-routed to one of the beaches near Puys.

Photo: Wikipedia2 A German MG34 medium machine gun emplacement
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-291-1213-34 / Müller, Karl / CC-BY-SA 3.0

As they reached the inner fringe of the smoke shrouding the beach, they came upon a group of Canadian soldiers crouching on a capsized landing craft just off shore, and pinned down by fire. Although the soldiers waved and shouted at them to steer away, the craft ran close alongside, heaved ropes across and managed to rescue three of the men. Then, as the fire from shore blazed up to new intensity, the Flotilla was ordered to turn back from the beach. It was not to go in again. Like all of the other Flotillas, it was to have the memory, most poignant for the Canadians, of having left behind many of the soldiers it had brought ashore.

Unhappy as the immediate results of Dieppe were, the performance of the Canadians in the landing craft had been worthy of their brothers in the Army; and some of them remained with the soldiers as prisoners.

Lt. R.F. McRae stated:

"On August 19, 1942, at dawn, in our R-Boat, with Lloyd Campbell, Richard Cavanaugh, Robert Brown and a unit the Fusiliers Mont Royal, we were off the French coast which was invisible behind a heavy smoke screen and from which there came the awful noises of war. About 0730 the Flotilla got orders to go in and land the troops. We quickly formed up in line abreast, went through the smoke screen and saw that we were headed toward a beach under high cliffs with the heads of the enemy looking down over the top and pouring machine-gun fire into our boats. Campbell, who was at the wheel, took a line of bullets across his thighs (and later, as a P.O.W., lost his legs in successive amputations and died before Christmas from gangrene). Cavanaugh, who was standing next to him, got it in the chest and died an hour later when his lungs had filled up. Brown, though hit in the stomach, took over the wheel from Campbell. I was the lucky one and received only a piece of shrapnel in the ankle."

Robert (Bob) McRae writes, "the drawing of my experiences as a POW pianist."
Provenance Bob McRae: Found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, Page 64

McRae's story continues:

"In the meantime, the engine had been blown up and was on fire and the plywood hull of the boat was well perforated, but we had enough weight on to make it to the beach. The troops scrambled ashore except for their Captain who had been standing up forward with us and was badly wounded, and I believe, dying. Some of the troops never made it across the beach which was strewn with their bodies, and those who did were easy targets for grenades lobbed down from above. There was no life in the boats on either side of us, and it was, I think, because they could see that I was busy with the wounded and that we were unarmed so that the Germans on the top of the cliffs gave up trying to finish us off.

"Some hours later, it was evident that a surrender had taken place when I saw a few German soldiers walking along the beach with a medical orderly. I jumped out of the boat to fetch the orderly for the wounded but our discussion was rudely interrupted by a Corporal with a machine-gun directing me, in no uncertain terms to a crevice in the cliff face, down which a rope had been lowered. A few surviving troops and myself were ordered to hoist ourselves up the rope, hand over hand. I did not see my crew again.

"I spent the first year as a P.O.W. in handcuffs in a British Army Officers camp and then was shifted to a British Naval Officers camp for the remainder of the war. The last two weeks were spent with a long straggling column of P.O.W.s being marched up to the Baltic and regularly being strafed by our own fighter aircraft.

The loss of Campbell and Cavanaugh and later Brown*, as you can see, was a complete waste and unnecessary."

R. Cavanaugh. Perhaps taken in the fall 1941, during initial training in Ottawa,
and before being transferred to HMCS Stadacona for further training.
Photo from the collection of Lloyd Evans, RCNVR, Combined Ops

R. Cavanaugh, Ottawa. Perhaps going back to HMCS Stadacona, January,
1942, after 9 days leave, having volunteered for Combined Operations.
Photo from the collection of Lloyd Evans, RCNVR, Combined Ops

Lloyd George Campbell, of London Ontario
Provenance - Kathryn Rollins

Lloyd's sister was Madeline Rollins who was married to John
Rollins. Provenance - Kathryn Rollins, John's grand-daughter

[*Editor: Robert Brown survived the war, returned to Canada, participated in navy reunions with mates - including Lt. R. F. McRae of Toronto - and is buried at the Six Nations Reserve, Brantford, Ontario.]

WWII veterans of RCNVR and Combined Operations reconnect at
the Woodstock Navy Club in August 1988. Photo from D. Harrison
L - R: Al Kirby, Robert Brown, Norm Bowen, Doug Harrison

Clayton's account continues:

Though there are still some who dispute the value of what was learned at Dieppe, they are not to be found among informed persons or among any who bore high responsibility in the later stages of the war, except for General Montgomery. There are others besides him who have criticized details of the raid, or the retention of Dieppe as the target after the original postponement. Mistakes were certainly made, and the Germans themselves were among their severest critics. They found fault with the rigidity of the plan, the frontal attack, the absence of parachutists, the failure to use bombers, the failure to land tanks at Quiberville. Fortunately they were confirmed in their belief that in our next landing we would go for a large port in the initial stages; and this erroneous conviction colored all their planning. They convinced themselves also that it was on the beaches that we would be most easily defeated, and they made their dispositions accordingly.

In fact we had learned that a frontal attack on a defended port was impracticable, and we never tried it again. A British General is on record as saying, not long afterwards, "Well, if we can't capture a port, we will have to take one with us". The Prime Minister had already and separately had the same idea.

In order that this grim experience should not be for nothing, a full and detailed report, with the lessons learned clearly deduced and codified, was compiled in C.O.H.Q.; printed, and given a wide circulation. No time was wasted in chewing the cud; it saw the light and was being closely studied in a very short space of time.

Combined Operations by C. Marks, pages 26 - 29

After Clayton concluded his account he listed the Combined Ops personnel who came from Canada. My father is not listed; he was on leave and writes, "I missed Dieppe by one day." 

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, page 80

More photographs from Combined Operations by Clayton Marks of London, Ontario - and related photos and details - will soon follow.

Please click here to to view Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations", Part 2

Unattributed Photos GH

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations", (Part 2)

Landing Crafts: "Don't Call 'Em Boats" Say Members of Combined Ops

Canadians Were Trained on Hayling Island, Inveraray, Irvine...

Drawing by Moira Cruickshank, WRNS 1942 - 1945


The book Combined Operations  by Londoner Clayton Marks (RCNVR, Combined Operations 1942 - 45) recounts information about the role of Canadians in Combined Ops, events or operations they trained for and participated in from 1942 'til the end of World War II, capers re a motorbike and piano, oddities of navy language and more. But after scanning the first dozen pages it is clear to readers they - just like the 950 - 1,000 Canadian sailors who volunteered for Comb. Ops. (beginning with 100 in late 1941) - will not get far without knowledge of landing crafts. 

[One of the many articles on this site that mention the service of Canadians in Combined Ops begins with the title "Don't Call 'Em Boats!"]

The first photograph of a landing craft in Clayton's book appears on page 14, a few pages after an important history lesson re the Combined Operations organization (and Canada's connection to it) has been provided. I list it here:


After the evacuation of Dunkerque, Combined Operations began to take on a definite plan under the leadership of Sir Roger Keyes. It was indeed the raising of the Burning Brand; the signal proclaiming that the Allied Forces were at last prepared to rally to the offensive.

In October of 1941, Winston Churchill relieved Sir Roger Keyes of all duties as Chief of Combined Operations and appointed Comm. Louis Mountbatten as Chief of Combined Operations, with the direct order to start a program of raids of ever increasing intensity so as to keep the enemy coastline on the alert from the North Cape to the Bay of Biscay. But he stated that the main objective must be the re-invasion of France. "You must create the machine which will make it possible to beat Hitler and his associates on land. You must select and build bases from which the assault will be launched, and create training centres at which the soldiers and seamen can be trained in amphibious assault. I want you to bring in the Air Force as well and create a proper inter-service organization to produce the technique of modern assault. I want you to select the area in which you feel the final assault should take place and start bending all your energies towards getting ready for that great day. Finally, at the present, all other Headquarters in Britain are on the defensive. Your Headquarters are created to be on the offensive. "

With this new appointment and the constant pressure from Stalin and Roosevelt to start a second front, all disagreements between Sir Roger Keyes and all the other Chiefs of Staff ceased and all powers of Combined Operations were conceded to Mountbatten with the full backing of the Prime Minister.

Even while the threat of invasion still hung heavy over Britain, the earliest moves had begun. They were at first hardly discernible from necessary measures of defense. Light British ships had occasionally shelled the French coast, or attempted to break up the Channel and Biscay convoys which supplied German garrisons. Small British commando parties had descended by night on German-held ports to take prisoners, gain information and do what damage they could. By the end of 1941 these first efforts had lost some of their sporadic quality. Seamen and soldiers had begun to work out specialized landing techniques together, and were assembling into the nucleus of what would eventually become an amphibious raiding force.

This nucleus was at first entirely British; but it soon began to absorb a few of the first Canadians trained in England.

LCM D-Day Workhorse as found in Combined Operations, page 14

Clayton's report continues:

In late 1941 and early 1942, the Canadian contribution to Combined Operations was increased to fifty Officers and three hundred Ratings, who had volunteered for a specially hazardous duty with the Royal Navy. The first and second Flotillas sailed from Halifax on the "Queen of Bermuda" in November of 1941, which ran aground outside Halifax Harbour. After new sailing orders had been made, they sailed once more on the "Volendam" in December of 1941. They were shepherded to the United Kingdom by the versatile K.S. MacLachlan who, as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army, held the position of Deputy Minister for the Naval Service. Now "dipped" at his own urgent request to the rank of Lieutenant- Commander R.C.N.V.R., MacLachlan was to have the work of ironing out administrative problems for his charges and was to serve on British Combined Operations staffs in several theatres.

This group was then followed by the third and fourth Flotillas on the "Cameronia" in February of 1942 and again followed by the fifth and sixth Flotillas on the "Batory" in May of 1942. Other Officers and Ratings were added as required later, in 1942 and 1943 aboard the "Queen Elizabeth". For the invasions of Sicily and Italy, France and Greece and D-Day, the "Prince Henry" and the "Prince David" were added.

The newly arriving Canadians, together with some already in Britain, were to make up the personnel of the six landing craft Flotillas. They entered upon their first training at "H.M.S. Northney", the Combined Operations base which was now established on Hayling Island, east of Southampton. From there they moved on to more advanced Flotilla training in conjunction with Army personnel at another base, "H.M.S. Quebec", at Inveraray, Scotland.

LCI(L)s, i.e., Landing Craft Infantry (Large) in a training exercise.
S. England. Photo as found on Page 23, Combined Operations
Clayton's report continues:

Already the Combined Operations force, now being built up under Lord Louis Mountbatten, was a colorful body. Methods of training were, of necessity, as fluid and unconventional as the situations with which the men would have to deal. Each cross-Channel raid - and there were many of them - brought new experience and demands for the revision of tactics, equipment and technique. "Haven't you heard? It's all been changed" - the most familiar greeting in the force - had become a byword and a slogan tacked up in its Headquarters even by the time the first Canadian draft arrived.

However unconventional, the standard of discipline and the requirements as to fitness and adaptability were very high. The first Canadian draft, and the drafts which succeeded it, soon began to take on the character of the parent organization. Canadians took part with British commando forces m some of the small, nameless raids, each of which provided its lurid adventures, brought back its quota of information and is now forgotten. There were some of our men in the important raids on Bruneval and St. Nazaire, but even by the time of the Dieppe raid in August of 1942 the Canadian Naval contribution to Combined Operations was small but vital. Among those were Lt. J.E. O'Rourke and Lt. D. H. Botly and other Canadians who were at St. Nazaire and Dieppe.

As the Dieppe operation entered the planning stage, high level discussion was beginning to centre about landings in North Africa. North Africa itself was a preliminary to the great descent upon the coast of France, and Dieppe was the forerunner of both. Experience had to be gained in the large-scale integration of air, sea and ground forces. The enormous difficulties of a landing from sea in the face of heavy shore defenses had to be measured in detail. Much could be planned and provided for in advance, but only an actual trial by fire could prove the worth and expose the shortcomings of training, equipment and tactics devised by large staffs through months of study. Meanwhile, the pressure for a second front was tremendous from Moscow to Washington, an understandable but impracticable answer to a political and emotional need for "something to be done".

Combined Operations, pages 4 - 6

Several pages of information is provided re LCI(L)s - a larger and later style of landing craft for transporting infantry - in Mr. Marks' book, perhaps because he trained upon them after he arrived in the UK from Canada at a later date than some of the earlier volunteers to Combined Operations.

Please note, as the war progressed in what could be considered an amphibious war (men and all materials of war had to be transported across water to foreign shores, in ships of all types and sizes, but especially by various landing crafts), a variety of absolutely necessary styles of crafts were gradually designed in larger and more efficient sizes, e.g., from the earliest LCAs and LCMs (Landing Craft, Assault capable of handling 30 - 40 men; Landing Craft, Mechanised capable of carrying more men along with more equipment and vehicles, etc., respectively) to the later LCI(L)s, LCTs, and LSTs, etc. (Landing Craft Infantry, Large capable of carrying 100+ men and many machines; Landing Craft, Tanks capable of carrying many tanks and/or 100s of men; Landing Ship, Tanks capable of carrying even more tanks and infantry).

Mr. Marks may have participated in training runs for LCI(L)s along the southern coast of England prior to D-Day Normandy, i.e., in events with names such as  Operation Beaver or Yukon (certainly with a Canadian ring to them!) along the southern coast of England, as depicted below:

Help Wanted - Does this look like the coastline near Devon?

An iconic photo of LCI(L) 299 by Gilbert A. Milne, RCN Photographer
In H.M.C.S.: One Photographer's Impressions...WWII, Pg. 100 -101 

LCI(L) 299 crossing English Channel with Invasion Fleet, D-day, June 6 '44
Photo G. A. Milne / DND/RCN Photo, From collection of Frank Tucker
Courtesy of Joe Phelan: Found at for posteritys sake

HMC LCI(L)-299 Canadian Stormont Dundas Glengarry Highlanders of the
Ninth Brigade, Third Infantry Division move ashore on Nan White Sector of
Juno Beach in Normandy (Bernieres-Sur-Mer) on 6 June 1944.

Before taking part in D-Day Normandy and earlier operations in LCI(L)s, Canadians in Combined Ops were introduced to the much smaller (and "small vessels make small targets," said my father) LCAs and LCMs as early as January or February 1942 at training camps HMS Northney (1 - 4) on Hayling Island (near Havant on the south coast of England). Some were shown drawings of the crafts by Moira Cruickshank (see below) and some recall practice landings on the actual crafts.

Drawings by M. Cruickshank (and more details) - click here The D-Day Story

More details about Canadian sailors at HMS Northney (1 - 4) can be found on a short video here. 

 Below, readers can see LCMs and LCAs used in Sicily, July, 1943:

As found in Combined Operations by Clayton Marks, pg. 24

Earlier in Clayton's well-detailed book we read information about these D-Day workhorses:


This craft is without a doubt the outstanding one of all Assault Craft. Extreme length 41 ft. 1.5 in. Beam (width) extreme 10 ft. 2 in. The displacement light is 8 tons with a draft of 1 ft. 1 in. forward and 1 ft. 9 in. aft. Loaded 13 tons with draft forward 1 ft. 9 in., aft 2 ft. 3 in. Fully loaded maximum speed is 7 knots. Light maximum speed 10 knots. This Craft is powered by two Ford V8 petrol engines. Its maximum carrying capacity is 35 fully equipped men, discharging them by means of a ramp. The L.C.A. at slow speeds is a most silent Craft and capable of beaching without giving away their position due to noise. It is well covered with protective plating and can resist machine gun and small arms fire. This is the type of Craft which was carried by the "Prince Henry" and "Prince David". These Crafts were used in the landings at Dieppe, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, Greece and D-Day (i.e., Normandy).


These Craft, designed to be carried and lowered from ships, used to rush ashore equipment required by the initial assault troops. Their length is 44 ft. 8 in. with a beam of 14 ft.; their displacement light is 19 tons, loaded 35 tons. The L.C.M.s are equipped with twin Chrysler engines with a loaded speed of 7.5 knots. These are all steel built but do not afford much protection against enemy fire. These Craft have done excellent work in invasions and are especially useful where larger Craft cannot approach the beach. Great endurance is required by the crews as their task is one which often lasts several weeks with the minimum facilities for food or sleep.

[Editor's Note: The LCM is the craft most familiar with many Canadian sailors, including my father.]


A newer type of L.C.M. designed and built in the U.S.A. and used in great numbers by the R.N. They are designed to carry a load of 30 tons. Their length is 50 ft. and beam 14 ft. Their displacement light is 22 tons, loaded 52 tons. They are powered with twin Gray, Buda or superior Diesels, the first named having proved itself the most sturdy. The advantage of this Landing Craft is the fact that it is quite seaworthy and capable of cruising about 1,000 miles at a speed of 6 knots. The maximum speed of the Gray Diesels is 8 knots with a full load.

Combined Operations, page 13

Below readers will find a few supplementary photos concerning landing crafts and their landing zones used in Sicily, beginning on July 10,1943:

From They Left the Back Door Open by Lionel Shapiro

From They Left the Back Door Open by Lionel Shapiro
(The above two photos face pages 14 - 15)

From They Left the Back Door Open by Lionel Shapiro
(Facing page 30)

LCAs and LCMs were often seen working together; LCAs with troops, LCMs with their supplies. My father and mates landed near Avola (see below, west of GREEN and AMBER Beaches) in LCMs beginning on July 10, 1943, at JIG Beaches (see below). Other Canadian flotillas of landing craft also landed at GEORGE and HOW Beaches. Email me at gordh7700@gmail.com for more details or with any questions or comments:

Photo Credit - Canadians at Arms

U.S. troops led ashore from an LCA by Canadian D. Harrison (right), Nov. 1942

Caption: Early morning exercise off the Ayrshire Coast. LCA load of soldiers
sailing past the Princess Iris, our Landing Ship Stern Chute. The LCMs precede
in line ahead of us. Photo: David J. Lewis, as found in St. Nazaire 
to Singapore, The Canadian Amphibious War, Vol. 1, page 53

Other small crafts, some called 'Higgins boats', or R-boats, or LCPs (Landing
Craft, Personnel) were used in various capacities, many made of plywood.
Caption: No. 3 Commandos train on the Isle of Wight. They were critical of
travelling in plywood boats but didn't seem to mind sitting under 16 gallon
cans of petrol ready to go up over their heads. Photo: David J. Lewis. Link -

for more information about Higgins boats

Canadian-made wooden boats were also used during World War II, at least on the west coast of Canada, e.g., for training purposes at HMCS Givenchy III at Comox, Vancouver Island:

This photo and the next one below were taken by Robert Berger, RCNVR, and
are found on page 104, in the same textbook as mentioned above w previous
photo. Comox is in the background, to the left side of the small bay.

This photo was taken in Courtenay, about 1 - 2 miles from Comox.
The LCM (Wooden) is parked in the Courtenay Slough, 1944 - 45

A memorial plaque re the Courtenay Slough can be found near the entrance to Simms Millennium Park, just east of the downtown in Courtenay, B.C.:

The bronze plaque is visible on the ground, right of red bushes. GH

The next three photos are from Combined Operations by Clayton Marks, page 24:

LCMs, the workhorse, in service carrying troops and supplies, Sicily

The last two photos are from the large collection found at Imperial War Museum (IWM), UK:

LCM in foreground with LCA about to pass its bow. Photo IWM

LCI(L) on the left, an LCT (Tank) on the right, near the beach in Sicily, 1943

Please link to Photographs: Canadians in "Combined Operations", Part 1

To see more photographs with a strong connection to Canadians in Combined Operations, readers are also encouraged to link to the following post: Photographs: Aging Vets Reconnect at Reunions, Parts 1 - 3

More to follow from Combined Operations by C. Marks, and other Canadian resources.

Unattributed Photos GH