Saturday, February 24, 2018

Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (10).

Various Crafts and Camps: Isle of Wight to Irvine.

Don Westbrook (of Hamilton, Ontario) out front of a Bell Tent at Camp
Auchengate, near Irvine, 1942. Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 


The number of servicemen who received training on landing craft at Combined Operation Centres and the types of landing craft used grew rapidly as WW2 continued.

Thousands of men (hundreds from Canada) would well remember significant practise operations at various locations on U.K.'s coast. 

Canadians in Combined Operations have fortunately written a few stories about their adventures related to training before several real operations took place. In my father's stories I learn that his early training in 1942 took place first at HMS Northney near Portsmouth (southern England) before moving to north-west Scotland (HMS Quebec at Inveraray, then to Camp Auchengate south of Irvine) prior to the Dieppe raid and invasion of North Africa.

Canadians also trained on larger landing craft [LCI(L)s] near the Isle of Wight in 1944 in preparation for D-Day Normandy.

To read two entries that touch on training prior to Operation Neptune, and the event itself, please visit the following links:

Story: Normandy - Operation NEPTUNE Part 1

Story: Normandy - Operation NEPTUNE Part 2

[Editor's note: The online links to the University of Alberta (Edmonton), home of the texts St. Nazaire to Singapore (two volumes of Canadian veterans' stories re Combined Operations - mentioned in the above links) has been lost.]

Several photographs follow concerning landing crafts and training operations. A few related stories recalled by Canadian veterans in Combined Operations are also provided.

For more information about Landing Crafts and training exercises, please visit Search Our Collections at Imperial War Museum (IWM).

A23755. Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM's) in line ahead followed by two
Landing Craft Gun (Large) LCG(L). Photo Credit - Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

A23759. Quarter Bow view of a Landing Craft Flak (LCF), underway during
an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight. Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Photographer.

A23760. Landing Craft Rockets (LCR). Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Photographer,
Imperial War Museum, U.K..

A23762. Landing Barge Vehicles (LBV's). Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM

A23763. Various types of Landing Craft alongside in Southampton Docks before
or after an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight. Lt. E.E. Allen, IWMuseum.

The following three photos are used with the permission of Lloyd Evans, RCNVR and Combined Operations (1941 - 45):

 Landing Craft alongside in southern England docks, circa 1942.
Canadians Don Linder (left), Doug Harrison (centre, peeking out),
Don Westbrook (far right)

  Landing Craft alongside in southern England docks, circa 1942.

A23764. Various types of Landing Craft alongside in Southampton Docks. 
Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Official Photographer, IWM.

A23766. Mess deck scene on board a Landing Craft Gun (Large) (LCG(L)).
Spare guns crew while away time playing cards, reading and resting.
Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

A23771. Passing 4.7 inch projectiles through the hatch of a Landing Craft
Gun (Large) (LCG(L)) during an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight.
Note the crew wearing anti-flash clothing. Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

Related to the above projectiles, my father recalls the following story while aboard the Dutch liner Volendam on his way to Scotland from Canada in January 1942, prior to any training aboard landing craft:

Late at night I was on watch at our stern and saw a red plume of an explosion on our starboard quarter. In the morning the four-stacker was not to be seen. The next evening I heard cries for help, presumably from a life-raft or life-boat. Although I informed the officer of the watch, we were unable to stop and place ourselves in jeopardy as we only had the Firedrake with ASDIC (sonar) to get us through safely.

Navy mates Doug Harrison and Buryl McIntyre
stand outside Wellington Barracks, Halifax, 1941

After some days we spotted a light on our port stern quarter one night. It was the light of the conning tower of a German submarine. How she failed to detect us, or the Firedrake detect it, I will never know. I was gun layer and nearly fell off the gun (4.7 gauge). I informed the Bridge and the Captain said, “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. It could be one of ours.” But as it quickly submerged we did fire one round to buck up our courage. Navy memoirs, Page 8

A28990. Landing craft in the harbour at APPLEDORE.
Lt. J.E. Russell, RN photographer, IWM.

Heading with above photograph: HMS Appledore, Combined Operations Training Base. June 1, 1945. North Devon. Headquarters for the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Unit (LCOCU) to which the Navy Frogmen belong.

A29872. The parade ground at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, RN Photographer, IWM.

HMS Dundonald was located adjacent to the ocean 2 - 3 miles south of Irvine, Scotland. Navy boys were accommodated at Camp Auchengate farther south down the road or beach from Irvine, and north of Troon. I believe many ratings stayed in Bell Tents and officers stayed in Quonset huts.

Coxswain Joe Spencer (Toronto, Canada) at Irvine. 
Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 

Map displays the RAF and navy camps, landing strips, bogs, etc.
As found at Combined Operations Command by Geoff Slee

A29875. General view of the beach at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon, where many
Tank Landing Craft tests were carried out. German prisoners are working in the
foreground. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Admiralty Official Collection, IWM.

The next three photographs were taken by Editor while in Irvine, 2014. Looking north from Irvine's beach toward Troon.

Doug Harrison, RCNVR and Combined Operations 1941-45, recalls staying at Camp Auchengate and carrying out significant training exercises there on landing crafts.

We were stationed at Auchengate camp outside Irvine at the time in bell tents and all washing facilities were outside. We never went ashore the regular way under inspection of an officer. O/D Art Bradfield, who was confined to barracks, inspected us, lifted the fence and said, “Be back on time you guys.” And we always were. Navy memoirs, Page 17

Len Birkenes returning On Board at Irvine through a makeshift gangway.
Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 

Art Bradfield of Simcoe may have been confined to barracks as a result of an earlier incident in Inveraray. Doug Harrison writes:

Boy, but was it dark up there amongst the heather and the hills (in Inveraray).

As well, gambling in any form was not allowed in the navy for fear the losers might steal, but a friendly game of craps with pennies was going on one night when rounds were being made. O/S Bradfield of Simcoe, the winner, couldn’t sweep the pennies under his hat fast enough and was caught and severely punished. Navy memoirs, Page 12.

A29877. Seamanship class in progress at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon, with
(right background) REME units learning wire splicing from a naval instructor.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, RN Photographer, IWM.

A29880. The quarterdeck and main avenue at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

More photographs from Irvine and Inveraray, etc., will follow.

Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (9).

Friday, February 23, 2018

What a Difference a Day Makes!

Walkn in the Water, then Not!

The Mighty Thames hit 766Ft. above sea level on Wednesday.

On Thursday PM the water had dropped by 5 to 6 feet and the Terry Fox Pathway was open 'fer walkn' as far as I could see - which did not extend much beyond Wonderland Gardens.

The difference in water level is a significant 5ft. 6in.

The following photos are 'Before and After', i.e. alternating between Wet Wednesday and Thoggy Thursday:

After taking the next photo I noticed the fence around the dog park (right) is covered with debris. Some parts look like a solid wooden fence instead of chain link. Across the road to the left, the larger dog park is still a pond for the most part.

Was the pathway open all the way to Springbank Park? I didn't go far enough to find out.

Another couple was walking in the park's direction but there were a dozen hard-boiled eggs waiting for me back home.

 Potato salad doesn't make itself you know!

  Good walkn yesterday. Five and a half miles with some sunny skies!

Please link to Photos From Along The Way.

Photos GH.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Photos From Along The Way

Terry Fox Path, Port Bruce Pier and Beyond.

[Photo: 'Froggy day' whether you're coming or going]

Some days bright, some foggy, some on the path, some on the beach, some under Wonderland Road counting drops that make a good splash. Walkn.


 Another Steady Eddie

 Splish Splash

 Island in the Sun

 Five- and six-milers are the norm.

A good fitness habit is growing. And I don't hate
pushups anymore!

By the numbers:

Another good week. Holding steady with miles 'til running weather is here.

496 pushups, situps, deep knee bends, etc., in my fun and fitness routine.

"Charles, I ain't skinny and my ribs ain't showing. But...."

Please link to more Photos From Along The Way.

Photos GH.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Articles: Italy, September 15 - 17, 1943 - Pt 6.

Strong Stories about Salerno and One Great Lead.

MH6339. Salerno, 9 September 1943 (Operation Avalanche): German troops
in action during the Allied landings. Photo Credit -Selinger Franz Collection,
as found at Imperial War Museum (IWM) Archives.


The Allied landings during the invasion of Italy began on September 3, 1943 (Operation Baytown) at Reggio Di Calabria and records show troops and their supplies reached the mainland (from Messina, a trip of about seven miles) without much incident.

A second landing at Salerno beginning on September 9th, farther north along the coast, was achieved only after great cost to Allied forces.

Details concerning the second landings (Operation Avalanche), and more, are provided below as found in articles presented in The Winnipeg Tribune and other sources, e.g., Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks.

As well, several other news clippings are displayed here from The Tribune that provide context and details about other events happening at the same time in 1943:

In the September 15 issue of The Tribune an article appears concerning "the world-famous Hurricane fighter, flown by thousands of young Canadian pilots..."

The story may be of interest to some readers, especially those who are related to Bill Donnelly of Norwich, Ontario, a 'young Canadian pilot' who shared a grand evening meal with another resident of Norwich, i.e., my father, a member of RCNVR and Combined Operations.

The details below occurred during the invasion of Sicily, about two months earlier:

One morning in Sicily I woke up in my hammock in our cave (the hammock was slung between two lime-stone piers and above the lizards) and I saw Hurricane planes taking off just a short distance away. We now began working eight hours on and eight hours off. When we were pretty well unloaded I decided, on my eight hours off, to investigate the air strip and, behold, they were Canadians with Hurricane fighters. I arrived about supper time and explained who I was and was invited for a supper of tomatoes and bully beef... Not that again!

“I have no mess fanny or spoon,” I said, and the cook told me there were some fellows washing theirs up and to ask one of them for the loan of their mess fanny and spoon. So I walked over, tapped a man’s shoulder and asked if I could borrow his equipment. The man straightened up and said “sure” and it turned out to be Bill Donnelly from my own hometown of Norwich, Ontario.

I got my oppo, A/B Buryl McIntyre (also from Norwich) from the cave and did the vino ever run that night. Small world. So when we had had enough Bill crawled into his hole in the ground, covered himself with mosquito netting, and we headed back to the cave. Overhead, Beaufort night fighters were giving Jerry fighters and bombers hell. We felt the courage given us by the vino and slept quite soundly in our dank old cave ‘til morning rolled around again. (Page 34, "DAD, WELL DONE" by Doug Harrison)

Editor: Note the fish trophies below, a declaration the Allies are succeeding on three fronts.

Clayton Marks of London, Ontario writes the following about some of the action in and around Salerno during this time:

On the extreme left of the British front, the American Rangers and British Commandos, were having a rough time. The LCA's which were to have landed the Commando stores apparently found the fire too heavy for their liking, and withdrew without unloading. Objectives changed hands more than once, but were finally captured and handed over to the left flank British division. Out of a total strength of 738, more than half ware casualties. As the landing craft came ashore, all supplies were unloaded and stored, and the beach area was kept clear for incoming craft by the Indian Gurkhas and Italian prisoners.

In the American areas, south of the Sele River, the battle remained critical for several days. For some reason fewer close support craft were allotted to this part of the front, and all landings were made under heavy machine gun fire. Here again, the exits from the beaches were defective and the build-up caused many delays. American reports on Salerno are sternly self-critical. The scales of equipment taken ashore were far too generous; no labour was provided to unload the LCT's and the DUKW's. DUKW's were misappropriated and used as trucks instead of returning to the ships for more stores.

Many ships had been improperly loaded, with a lot of irrelevant and unauthorised items on top of the urgently required tactical ones, and at one stage there was a mass of unsorted material - petrol, ammunition, food, equipment - lying so thick on the beaches that landing craft could find nowhere to touch down. Eventually a thousand sailors were landed from the ships to clear the waterfront, and pontoons were rushed in to the sector to make piers. But for some time all landing of stores had to be suspended.

Although some of the troops had penetrated inland a mile or more by first light on the 9th, they were very weak; and when the Germans counter-attacked with tanks they had nothing with which to defend themselves. The first American tanks did not get ashore until 10 a.m. From 0800 onwards, regardless of the risk of mines, two American cruisers, the British monitor Abercrombie, and several destroyers, both British and American, were engaging enemy tanks from seaward. The American destroyer Bristol fired 860 rounds during the day, closing at one time to a range of 7500 yards.

On the 11th, the Germans produced a new and nasty weapon, the remote controlled bomb. These were released by aircraft flying at a great height, and steered on to the targets by electronic means. The first two fell within six minutes of each other: No. 1 missed the U.S. cruiser Philadelphia by only fifteen feet, and shook her from truck to keel and No. 2 scored a direct hit on the Savannah and set her on fire.

H.M.S. Uganda was hit a few hours later and severely damaged, though both she and the Savannah survived. During the next few days several ships were victims of the formidable new weapon, including the battleship Warspite. She had been shelling the shore batteries. She had just blown up an ammunition dump, and was moving contentedly to the north to shoot up another area, when three remote-controlled bombs came whistling down on her. Two were misses, but the third burst in one of her boiler rooms. In less than an hour her engine rooms were flooded and she was helpless. A hazardous tow of 300 miles brought her to Malta. It took five hours to get her through the Straits of Messina, due to the strong currents. (Page 103 - 104, Combined Operations)

The 'Propaganda Mill' may quickly remind today's readers of something
more ominous at work in Germany and beyond its borders. GH

Below, proof positive that Salerno was a close run affair!

In an earlier post the Butcher's Bill for Sicily was listed. Now a bill for materials:

The following article related to Canadian writers who landed at Reggio Calabria during Operation Baytown on September 3rd is of particular interest to this Editor. You will soon understand why.

A Canadian in Combined Operations, who was attached to the 80th Flotilla of landing craft that worked between Messina (Sicily) and Reggio (on the toe of the boot), wrote the following paragraph in a lengthy account about some of his adventures in September:

In this account I have purposely neglected to mention numerous escapades into Italy. On their days off the Ratings - and Officers, I must confess - did go on the scrounge and sight-seeing. The very tip of the toe of Italy is very similar to Sicily in many ways. Vineyards abound and the people were very friendly.

There was one expedition I do remember, when our maintenance staff took a reporter from the Montreal Star* on a trip. We landed at Scilla, looked over the town, including the local headquarters of the Fascista and came away with a tiny salute gun on the bow of our maintenance duty boat. We found the gun lying dejectedly on the slanting bridge deck of a partially sunken Messina-Reggio ferry boat. It was one of the many boats the Germans had used to escape across the Straits when they were pushed out of Sicily.

It will be many a day before that regular ferry service is resumed, the boats are sunk and Messina itself is a shambles of the first order. Not a single building in the city proper is intact. Everywhere one sees the ravages that modern war metes out to any unfortunate city that lies in its path. (By E. P. Murphy, as found on Page 101, Combined Operations)

*Editor: I bet if I can find stories written by the journalist (mentioned below) from The Star, I will find more information about the Canadians attached to Combined Ops during WW2.

Matt Halton of the CBC was mentioned above, as was his 'portable recording equipment' used on the beach. He was one of the first three writers to get stories back to Canada (about the landings). Mr. Halton's son David later wrote a book about his father's life and adventures during WW2, entitled Dispatches From The Front, and some information can be found about it here - Book: A Good Read, A Good Connection.

Cheeky! As found in Dispatches From The Front. M. Halton, far left

Please link to Articles: Italy, September 11 - 14, 1943 - Pt 5.

Unattributed Photos GH