Thursday, March 29, 2018

Run Prep 1.

Time to Get Off My Duff.

[Photo: Four lads hold a steady pace in Gibbons Park]

A steady six-miler on Sunday marked the end of the "Hold Steady" series of winter-time walks. Now I will concentrate on preparing for two races - a 10K and a half-marathon.

All local paths are now clear of snow and ice. Time to run.

The Plan: Start nice and easy and work my way toward slow, steady and svelte. Underline the svelte.

 Sunday - Hold Steady #125! Monday - Run Prep #1 @ 7 miles.

Lots of walk/runs - in the 4 - 6 mile range - are on the menu.

Photos from along the way:

 Good habits - 1,000 sit-ups and push-ups coming up tomorrow.

Long road ahead for run prep.

Please link to Hold Steady 16.

Photos GH

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Editor's Column: As Published in Norwich Gazette (5)

[Photo: Editor is on the long and winding road to Inveraray, Scotland]


I recently made an agreement to write 24 columns for the Norwich Gazette, my father's hometown newspaper. In the 1990s he wrote for his favourite weekly upon a variety of subjects, but the most significant columns, in my opinion, were about his time with RCNVR and Combined Operations during World War 2.

I will attempt to share many details related to his training in Canada and the U.K. and subsequent involvement in significant raids and invasions under the able direction of the Combined Operations organization. I will try to tell as complete a story as possible related to the adventures he experienced between embarking on them (June 1941) and disembarking ( September 5, 1945).

Column 5 follows, as published in The Norwich Gazette.

Lovely Scenery and Good Training in Scotland

The small, charming town of Inveraray sits on the shore of Loch Fyne, a lovely, narrow, long stretch of water - longer even than Loch Long - about 90 scenic minutes by car northwest of Glasgow, Scotland.

Loch Fyne possesses many isolated, shallow beaches, and beside them many large camps were built during WWII where sailors and soldiers could practice and master many necessary assault skills outside the range of German bombers.

The main goal of the largest establishment, i.e., Combined Operations No. 1 Training Centre (called H.M.S. Quebec, situated near Inveraray), was to train servicemen how to use various “craft for landing assault troops, supplies, ammunition and weaponry onto heavily defended enemy occupied beaches.”

A fitting memorial re Combined Ops stands on the 'repurposed site'

I explored the repurposed site in 2014 (it is now a trailer park) and learned that “250,000 Allied personnel passed through the centre from 1940 - 44... up to 15,000 were billeted in the area at any one time.” (

Canadian seamen arrived at H.M.S. Quebec in jam-packed lorries in late March 1942, and momentarily puzzled over the name - linked to Canadian military history. It was the busiest of camps, however, and with the Dieppe Raid and invasion of North Africa only months away, a cadre of strict instructors wasted no time putting my father and mates through their paces in small, flat-bottomed vessels that could run or slide up onto a shore in 8 inches of water when empty.

“We did much running up onto beaches,” Doug writes in memoirs, “so soldiers could disembark and re-embark, always watching the tide if it was flowing in or going out. You could be easily left high and dry, or broach too (turn sideways), if you weren’t constantly alert. We took long trips at night in close single formation, like ducks lined up close, because all you could see was the florescent waters churned up by propellors of an ALC or LCM ahead (i.e., Assault Landing Craft or Landing Craft Mechanized, respectively).”

The Canadian sailors transported so many different regiments and commando units on the lochs that there were too many to remember. Most of our boys, however, took to the new training and terminology related to different landing craft like the aforementioned ducks to water.

Port, starboard, fore, aft - got it. High, low, flood, ebb, neap tide - check. Kedges, winches, cables, anti-broaching lines - check. Breakfast 0600 - yipes!

One detail my father noticed seemed troublesome. He says, “ALCs carried three rows of soldiers - two outside rows, (with) a center row completely exposed. LCMs carried soldiers or a truck, Bren gun carrier, mines, gasoline, etc. ALCs were made of 3/16th inch plating, thick enough to stop a bullet. But LCMs wouldn’t.”

Servicemen 'kick the tires' on an LCM at H.M.S. Quebec
Photo Credit - Imperial War Museum

Though many of the crafts used at H.M.S. Quebec - later at Dieppe - were made almost solely of plywood, the good training did produce good results.

Canadians could clamber up and down scrambling nets and Jacob’s ladders very proficiently (“because we learned to use only our hands”) aboard the Ettrick, a liner anchored offshore downtown Inveraray.

“We got so it took about three seconds to drop 30 feet from the hand rails to the water line on the scrambling nets,” says Doug.

Canadians trained "aboard the Ettrick, a liner anchored offshore Inveraray"
Photo Credit - As found at

Hard work in beautiful surroundings toughened the sailors in memorable ways. The nearby hills caught many eyes and 30 years after the war’s end one veteran said, “I will always remember getting up in the morning to see the sun shining through the mist onto the purple heather. I made an excursion one day and actually rolled in it - to my delight.”

About that first trip to Scotland one could say, so far so good. So far.

2014: A view of Loch Fyne at former site of H.M.S. Quebec

More to follow.

To see more scenes from Inveraray please link to Photographs: Landing Craft at Inveraray

Please link to Editor's Column: As Published in Norwich Gazette (4).

Unattributed Photos GH

Hold Steady 16.

Photos, By the Mile.

[Seasons in transition on London pathways]

Throughout the winter months I generally walked north to Gibbons Park (above) and Baldwin Flats, or west to the Terry Fox Pathway. I had a goal in mind - run enough to hold my stamina at 6 miles - but poor footing got in the way.

Paths have been clearer recently, so I see runners more frequently, and I will soon be one of them.

That being said, I was able to hold my mileage steady - from November to March, about 30 miles per week - and when I ran 2 times in March, I easily covered six miles at a slow and steady pace. (Steady Eddie is alive and well).

And my fitness routine (incl. stretching, sit ups, push ups, a few weights) is a very steady habit and Charles Atlas will soon be able to retire.

Photos from along the way:

 Blackfriars Bridge is still in the shop for polishing

 95% of winter white has retreated to the North Pole

 My second favourite bridge on my walking route

 16 push ups, 16 sit ups, 16 of this, 16 of that! 1,000 - coming soon!

 My winter goals - a very good success rate

 Good walk/run on Sunday, the 18th.

 Steady Eddie miles of March.

New Spring goals are coming up.

More to follow.

Please link to Hold Steady 15.

Photos GH.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Articles: Italy, September 24-27, 1943 - Pt 9.

Canadian Troops Push North; Navy Boys Sight See.

Jack Trevor* (RCNVR, Combined Operations). In Sicily and Italy, 1943.
Photo Credit - From the collection of Joe Spencer, Brighton ONT.


Canadians in Combined Operations lived where possible in Messina, Sicily and delivered troops and their supplies (the materials of war) to the toe of Italy's boot for about 30 days in September and early October in 1943.

On days off they water-skied, did a bit of sight-seeing, purchased or acquired the odd souvenir and scrounged for food and clothing as best they could.

(*Jack Trevor, above photo) certainly appears to require meat on his bones and fresh clothes. Canadians in Combined Ops transported war supplies but were short on most goods for their own day-to-day needs).

As already mentioned, about one week after the initial landings in Italy (Sept. 3, 1943 - Operation Baytown) another Allied landing took place at Salerno (Operation Avalanche), farther north along the Italian coast. It was fiercely opposed by German forces. Success was eventually achieved in establishing a solid beachhead but only after great cost to Allied forces.

As many readers already know, the war in Italy, e.g., even to reach and gain control of Rome, went on for many more months, well into 1944. To my knowledge, Canadians in Combined Ops (members of the 80th Flotilla of Landing Crafts) left the scene in Messina during the first week of October 1943 and returned to England, but not one second before their important role was finished.

Some details concerning the second landings have already been provided in earlier posts, and more information is listed below as found in articles presented in The Winnipeg Tribune and other sources.

As well, along with actual veterans' stories and memoirs from that front, several other news clippings and ads are displayed from The Tribune that provide "a sense of the times" in 1943.

*   *   *   *   *

My father, a member of RCNVR and Combined Operations, was surely reminded of home between shifts on Landing Crafts, Mechanised (LCMs), when - somewhere near his Messina accommodations - he spotted some chickens. With the thought of chicken on the menu he recalls this tale from 1943:

We weren’t too busy and the officers (who ate separately but had the same food as us) were growing tired of the diet, the same as we were, even though they had a Sicilian cook and we didn’t. An officer by the name of Wedd asked me if I knew where there were some chickens or something. I said, “Chickens, yes.”

When he said, “How be we put on some sneakers and gaffle them,” I said right then, “Okay by me. Tonight at dark we’ll go, but I get a portion for my part of the deal.”

He agreed and later we got every chicken in the coop, rung their necks, and then took them to the house and had the Sicilian cook prepare them. I got a couple of drum sticks out the window.

Next morning, the Sicilian cook came in as mad as hell. Someone had stolen his chickens. Little did he know at the time he cooked them that they were his own because his wife looked after them. 
(Page 36, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Dad at home in Norwich. He loved his chickens. Circa 1990.

Al 'Addy' Adlington of London, Ontario (RCNVR, Combined Operations) met and married a lovely Scottish bride while overseas. Al was injured during Operation Husky (invasion of Sicily). Mary travelled to Canada aboard the Ile de France.

Chuck Rose (left) with Al and Mary Adlington (w Mary's sister), Glasgow.
Photo from the collection of the Adlingtons, London Ontario.

The photo below is significant in that Canadian troops are being transported by members of the Canadian Navy.

One reads about the process of rationing by citizens on many fronts, so that Allied troops could be as fully supplied as possible:

On days off the Canadians in Combined Ops only travelled short distances compared to the above adventure. For example, the trip from Messina in Sicily to Reggio in Italy is about 7 miles.

Doug Harrison recalls the following in memoirs:

We had some days off and we travelled, did some sight seeing, e.g., visiting German graves. We met Sicilian prisoners walking home disconsolately, stopped them, and took sidearms from any officer. We saw oxen still being used as draft animals when we were there.

Sometimes we went to Italy and to Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory depot (AMGOT). (They later changed that name because in Italian it meant shi-!)

While a couple of ratings kept the man in charge of all the revolvers busy, we picked out a lot of dandies. If he caught us we were ready. We had chits made out, i.e., “Please supply this rating with sidearms,” signed Captain P.T. Gear or Captain B.M. Lever, after the Breech Mechanism Lever on a large gun. 
(Page 36, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Another member of Combined Ops recalls a similar if not the same incident re the guns:

Three of us decided to do a little sightseeing when the other crew were on duty on our craft. We visited Reggia di Calabria and called in on a police station with a letter requisitioning any guns we wanted.

Under the occupation rules and regulations locals had to turn in any weapons they held. To make the letter look authentic we stamped it with an official looking mark...the stamp having been made out of a potato. As we suspected the local police couldn’t read English and they fell for it.

Most of the weapons looked like antiques from the Boer war but I managed to get a lovely little Baretta ladies gun that I later sold to an American sailor in Gibraltar. (Page 33, My Naval Chronicle by Lloyd Evans)

FYI - Lloyd's memoirs appear at a Combined Operations website created and maintained by a hale, hearty and tireless Scotsman, Geoff Slee. I say readers should visit the site regularly to be truly informed about the extend of operations associated with Comb. Ops.

Please link to Combined Operations Command.

Charles Sellick and Jim Ivison, two other Canadian in Combined Ops, bear proof in the next photo that they may have done a bit of travelling in Italy to collect a souvenir or two... or six, as in six-shooters:

Charley Sellick (left) and Jim Ivison, Sicily 1943
From the collection of Joe Spencer.

Jim Ivison soon left the Mediterranean theatre of war with other members of the 80th Flotilla and, after arriving back in Canada in December, re-volunteered for service with Combined Operations and was sent to Givenchy III (Comb. Ops training camp at Comox on Vancouver Island, B.C.) with several other sailors, including my father in January 1944.

Jim had a talent for baseball and played on the No. 1 Navy team at Comox and appears in the following photographs:

Jim sits on fender (front right). My father sits behind him (far right).
Photo from the collection of Doug Harrison.

Jim sits back left. Joe Spencer, front right.

A few hundred members of Combined Operations were not too far behind the veterans mentioned above, as far as returning to Canada was concerned.

More Combined Ops. veterans' tales and clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune will follow.

Please link to Articles: Italy, September 22-23, 1943 - Pt 8.

Unattributed Photos GH