Tuesday, June 29, 2021

moderne arte: let's go back to the '70s (5)

Submarine Scenarios Have Connections to the 1970s

Before There were Yellow Submarines, There was Seaweed

Some easy doodles create colourful chains of underwater weeds


My memories related to "serious doodling" go back to my days at the University of Western Ontario (beginning in 1968, and even earlier, to long high school classes. My attention wandered and the inside covers of my workbooks were decorated with this and that - none of it related to school assignments.

Easy doodles looked like maps, plant life of some kind, creatures from the lost lagoon and cartoon characters. Shakespeare or details related to world history didn't stand a chance.

Below are photos of this and that, some related to very moderne arte linked to ancient times at NDHS:

Somebody elses's art work, encountered during an afternoon walk

My first series of 20 line designs - like above - has come to an end... for now.
Visit 'moderne arte' parts 1- 4; link at bottom of this page

My first attempt at an ancient doodle immediately became seaweed

I picked a yellow submarine to enter the underwater landscape
We all live in one, do we not?

In the month of June, 2021, I completed three underwater scenes with black ballpoint pen, a $2 box of 6 magic markers, and an assortment of pencil crayons"

More 'moderne arte', with links to the 1960s*, will soon follow.

For more 'Moderne' items please link to moderne arte: let's go back to the '70s (4)

*based on one example I share, saved from the back of my high school English class workbook.

Photos GH

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Comox, BC: Some History - HMCS Givenchy III, 1940s (2)

 Canadians in Combined Ops Share Memories of Comox Spit 

Key Excerpts from St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1

Behind the LCM is the town of Comox, 1943 - 1945. The wooden craft
was likely launched from 'the spit', the nearby navy base

Beyond the small cove (at low tide) is Comox, 2014. The photographer was
standing near the entrance of HMCS Quadra, formerly Givenchy III. GH


The watery course that scores, perhaps hundreds of Canadian sailors followed during WWII ended up on a small navy base - situated on a short spit, about 1 - 2 kilometres in length - near Comox, Vancouver Island. Though the majority of Canadians may have started serving the RCN or RCNVR by enlisting at one of several well-known Navy establishments (e.g., at the HMCS Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, London, or Hamilton division, etc.), a relative handful celebrated VE-Day and perhaps the end of the war at the little-known base at Comox, HMCS Givenchy III.

There are several informative short stories, news columns or memoirs that relate to the roles, responsibilities and adventures of the members of the Canadian Navy - my father being but one - who served on 'the spit' during the second world war. Some of the details are shared below. 

First, an excerpt from a book purchased at the Canadian War Museum:

Early in 1942 the fear of Japanese landings on the sparsely-populated west coast of Canada led to the suggestion that Fisherman's reserve personnel should be trained in commando tactics and man ex-Japanese fishing vessels. At the same time the Joint Services Committee on the west coast was considering a more elaborate scheme involving combined army-navy Operations and the use of assault landing craft.

The scheme as finally worked out involved the use of a hundred wooden landing craft provided by the army, manned by the navy, and maintained by both services... operational bases were to be established at Prince Rupert... and at Hardy Bay, Alberni, Nanaimo, and Comox, on Vancouver Island. Basic naval training started at William Head near Esquimalt in July 1942. Combined-Operations training with the army was undertaken at their establishment at Courtenay on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, and began in October...

As found in Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, page 210

The excerpt continues:

Early in 1943 the army decided that bases for combined Operations on the west coast were no longer necessary as a defence measure. Meanwhile, however, the training in Canada of combined-Operations personnel for service in the European theatre of war had been given careful consideration, and as a result of these developments the entire policy was revised.

All operational bases were abandoned, and the entire combined-Operations activities were concentrated at Courtenay. Naval training later moved to the nearby naval camp at Comox Spit, formerly operated by HMCS "Naden" for musketry and seamanship training. This establishment became known as "Givenchy III." In February 1944 there were 51 landing craft on the west coast of which all but 8 were based on Comox. 

As found in Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History (Volume II - Activities on Shore During the Second World War) by G. N. Tucker, pages 231 - 232

The 'official history' as stated above sounds a little bit more official when details are confirmed by other writers, especially if there are among them a few writers who served at Navy bases on Vancouver Island, especially HMCS Givenchy III. And in a two-volume set of books filled with Navy veterans' stories (St. Nazaire to Singapore - The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945, assembled by David (RCNVR) and Catherine Lewis and Len Birkenes (RCNVR)) we find such writers/details/stories.

The set of books can be read online and I encourage readers to peruse the many stories at their leisure at a University of Calgary site - link to St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1

I share below photo images of relevant excerpts re Comox history found on pages 102 - 106 along with further explanatory details where possible:

There may have been some obvious similarities and differences between the earlier "home Combined Operations Training" and later "Mountbatten methods". I would say that I am chiefly familiar with the training undertaken by the Canadians who volunteered for the Combined Operations (British) organization beginning with the first drafts of sailors to go overseas from Canada in January, 1942. 

Many if not all of the members of the first draft (including my father), and many of those that followed soon thereafter (including the "officers and cox'ns" mentioned above) returned to Canada in early December 1943 after almost two full years overseas. Some of those sailors were placed or volunteered to serve at the spit in Comox beginning in January 1944.

And that being said, some of those Canadians took part in four operations (not recalled as "Canadian Combined Operations"): Operation Rutter (re Dieppe - cancelled), Operation Jubilee (Dieppe, April 19, 1942), Operation Torch (North Africa, Nov. 8, 1942), Operation Husky (Sicily, July 10, 1943), and Operation Baytown (Italy, toe of the boot, Sept. 3, 1943). "Three Canadian Combined Operations" may have been mentioned because, though Canadian sailors manned landing crafts at Dieppe, there may not have been designated Canadian flotillas of landing crafts as in later operations.

The first excerpt continues:

Bob Berger, mentioned in the last excerpt, penned the following informative entry. Bob started out in Canada and became familiar with Commando training (possibly) beginning as early as August 1942, about the time of the Dieppe raid.

It is perhaps interesting to note the similarities in the training sailors undertook whether in Canada or in overseas' camps. Those that had gone overseas in January 1942 also trained like commandos while learning how to handle landing crafts at Irvine and Inveraray, Scotland (not knowing that their first raid was but a few months away. Mr. Berger notes how his training changed once his "role changed" and he moved to Courtenay, then nearby Comox on Vancouver Island. His comments about new, Canadian-made Landing Crafts Mechanised (Wooden) or LCM (W)s are unique and confirm reports in a text mentioned here earlier in the post: 

Note the line above: "... one of the boys who had been over (i.e., overseas) in the 80th (flotilla of landing crafts) without a scratch got it in the arm that was on the gunwale ready to lower the ramp..."

Navy hammock belonged to W. N. Katana, Leading Stoker, of 80th Canadian
Flotilla; now at Navy Museum, Esquimalt B.C. Viewed by appointment only.
My father D. Harrison is listed in right hand column. He and Jim Malone (also
listed on hammock) appear in Navy baseball team photo that is shared below

Berger mentions camping in "a tent city in the city park" once he arrived in Courtenay. Below is a tent city (same one?) near Courtenay, 1942 - 44, approx:

Photo Credit - The Crows Nest, March 1958 issue

Photographs of landing crafts produced in Vancouver appear in an ad below:

The advertisement appears in Canada's War at Sea, by Stephen Leacock
and Leslie Roberts. Foreword by PM William Lyon Mackenzie King
Published in 1944. From collection of Gordon Douglas Harrison

Bob Berger also comments on Commando training and there is much still to learn in this department. Below is a photo with caption related to Canadian sailors:

Photo Credit - H.M.C.S.: One Photographer's Impression of the RCN
by Gilbert A. Milne, page 87

Bob Berger's excerpt continues:

Some of the sailors and officers have been highlighted in several places on the site. (Click here for more details about Commander Windeyer). 

Don Westbrook was from Hamilton and he trained in the summer of 1941 at Hamilton Division 1 (later HMCS Star) at the same time as other new recruits who ended up eventually in the 80th and 81st flotillas (e.g., Chuck Rose, Joe Watson, Art Warrick, Doug Harrison, Art Bradfield and many more. Ed Corbett's name appears on the hammock and his set of St. Nazaire to Singapore - The Canadian Amphibious War can be found at the Courtenay Museum and Archive. Related photos below:

Landing craft like ducks in a row at Comox. Heading to Tree Island?
Photo - Land of Plenty - History of Comox District

Members of (likely) 81st flotilla aboard HMS Keren, in the Atlantic, on the
way around Africa to get to Sicily, 1943. See Westbrook and Rimmer.

Don Westbrook got married while at Comox Navy base. "Party at
his place" likely refers to married quarters at HMCS Givenchy III

Photos from the collection of Doug Harrison

More history re Canadians in Combined Ops at Comox and Courtenay, shared by Bob Berger:

LCM(W)s parked in Courtenay Slough, beside Dyke Road to Comox. Page 104

Two memorial plaques related to Combined Operations and landing craft can be found in Courtenay, in Lewis Park (still home to lots of baseball) and near the slough - still home to many parked boats:

This last entry comes from page 105, St. Nazaire to Singapore Volume 1:

After "Shadow" Walsh's report, Bob Berger contributes two final photos, one of which I have in original form (e.g., a clean photo with names on the back:

From collection of Doug Harrison, RCNVR/Combined Operations 1941 - 45

Berger's final photo relates to VE Day at Comox and there may be 2 - 3 ball players (above team) in the group shot, e.g., Jim Ivison, Don Arney and Jim Malone:

A modern-day pier stands on 'the spit' providing great views of surroundings

For this view of HMCS Quadra I was near the top of a sturdy stairway

For more information about the Canadian link to Combined Operations, please link to Comox, BC: Some History - HMCS Givenchy III, 1940s (1)

Unattributed Photos GH

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Comox, BC: The Comox District Free Press 1944 (3)

The Combined Operations School is Small and Big News

Clippings From the Comox Free Press, April and May 1944

Combined Operations landings were practiced over and over in Comox area.
Troops disembark from LCM*. Photo Credit: "Six Years of War" page 114


The Combined Operations School (C.O.S.) on The Spit at HMCS Givenchy III (Navy base) was an active site during World War II, from the year 1943 to 1945. Canadian troops practiced invasion techniques and Canadian sailors - many of whom had gained experience on LCAs and LCMs* by training for and participating in the Dieppe raid and invasions of N. Africa, Sicily, and Italy (e.g., at Reggio and Salerno) - manned the landing crafts.

[*LCAs, Landing Craft Assault for troops; LCMs, Landing Craft Mechanised, for troops and all forms of supplies incl. loaded lorries, guns and ammunition, etc.]

Landing crafts manufactured and utilized for training on the West Coast of Canada likely prepared 1000s of infantrymen for D-Day Normandy. 

In The Naval Service of Canada Volume II by G. N. Tucker we read the following:

Early in 1943 the army decided that bases for combined Operations on the west coast were no longer necessary as a defence measure. Meanwhile, however, the training in Canada of combined-Operations personnel for service in the European theatre of war had been given careful consideration, and as a result of these developments the entire policy was revised.

All operational bases were abandoned, and the entire combined-Operations activities were concentrated at Courtenay. Naval training later moved to the nearby naval camp at Comox Spit, formerly operated by HMCS Naden for musketry and seamanship training. This establishment became known as Givenchy III. In February 1944 there were 51 landing craft on the west coast of which all but 8 were based on Comox (Spit). Page 232

The news clippings that follow from The Comox Free Press touch on some of the war- and sports-related activities (and more) that Canadians in Combined Ops would have been very familiar with during April and May, 1944, on Comox Spit. When possible or appropriate I will include other related materials from navy memoirs, texts, etc.

This article (from April 13, 1944) caught my eye because a few players on the Navy basketball team will later be seen on the Navy baseball team which included my father and several of his close mates: 

Mauro and Arny (above) are later listed on a Navy baseball team
The name (Norm) Bowen appears on a significant Navy artifact
(hammock) at CFB Esquimalt Naval Museum, HMCS Naden

Navy Hammock w members of Canada's 80th Landing Craft Flotilla

N. Bowen, Doug Harrison and Joe Malone were active in Sicily and Italy
(Operation Husky and Baytown, 1943), and on The Spit, 1944 (baseball)

Good prices at Overwaitea in Courtenay, April 13, 1944:

The following article tells us the size of the military unit that was "in training here" i.e., the Comox and Courtenay bases in April 1944:

The following picture has been shared in other posts on this site, i.e., of an LCM (likely Canadian-made), depositing troops "during Commando training at Comox" (during WWII). The majority of Canada's landing crafts were on the west coast, so training 1,000 men could be accommodated:

"Commando training at Comox during the Second World War"
Photo Credit - The Crow's Nest, March 1958 edition

On a day off, troops would look for some entertainment, perhaps at the Bickle Theatre, Courtenay:

The term 'combined operations' related to a technique re assault landings. It also related to an organization focused upon offensive measures during WWII (Combined Operations Head Quarters or COHQ was in London, UK. And there were Combined Ops training grounds scattered throughout England and Scotland, with the No. 1 C.O. training ground on Loch Fyne, just south of Inveraray Scotland. 

Below we see an ad (almost full page) that associates Combined Ops w Canadian wallets:

With 100s - 1,000s of Canadian troops in the area, along with scores of sailors who manned the landing crafts or LCMs during training exercises, certain classified ads began to appear (April 13, 1944): 

News clips from April 20 issue a warning re "the probability of... air raids":

Walter Winchell reflects ("in the London Daily Express") on Canada's contributions to the Allied war effort. I hope that I will be excused the customary copyright formalities in reproducing this article for the sake of better international relations:

I think this next article has something to do with an earlier game that featured a "depth charge attack" and subsequent brawl. Come on. Boys. Try to get along!

Appeals concerning the sale of Victory Bonds were made on a regular basis - throughout Canada - and the new Navy boys on The Comox Spit (who had arrived in January 1944, after two years of oversea's service) quickly learned the drill:

In the middle paragraph above we read of the actions in which many Canadians in Combined Ops participated before leaving Europe and arriving on The Spit. I.e., Operation Rutter and Jubilee (July 7 (cancelled), August 19, 1942 - Dieppe raid); Operation Torch (beginning Nov. 8, 1942 - invasion of North Africa); Operation Husky (beginning July 10, 1943 - invasion of Sicily); Operation Baytown (beginning Sept. 3, 1943 - invasion of Italy at Reggio, toe of the boot in Italy); and Operation Avalanche (beginning Sept. 9, 1943 - invasion of Italy at Salerno, shin of the boot (south of Naples) in Italy). 

Information re each of these operations can be found on this site. Check A - Z Directory in right hand margin for details. Questions or comments can be addressed to me in the Comment Section below, or email gordh7700@gmail.com

Summer is two months away (based on these news clippings from April 20, 1944) and the plans for a new baseball season are underway. The Navy has their eye on the Senior League:

Photos of Lewis Park, as found at You know you're
from the Comox Valley when... on Facebook

The article continues:

Constable Ed Corson and my father crossed paths on numerous occasions, mostly at or on the baseball diamond, but sometimes "in the line of (Ed's) duty":

My father writes:

I had a fight with a Police Constable named Carson (sic).

I was drunk and he asked me for my I.D. card. I took a punch at him, missed him by a pole length and he assisted me to the cruiser, he was very kind. He had a hammer lock on me so didn’t open the door, he just put me through the open back window. You know, that shoulder is still sore.

He took me to jail, but the cell was already packed with sailors and cleaning equipment, i.e., mops, brooms, etc. They lit the equipment on fire and smoke forced us all out. He didn’t like me because our team used to beat his team at ball. Big sissy. Poor loser.

From "Dad, Well Done" page 41

The article concludes:

The Comox District Free Press,  April 27, 1944

Upcoming big event, from the C.O.S. (Combined Operations School) point-of-view:

Editor: "It's clear I did not get the hang of cropping the microfilm properly"

With the same ad, April 27, 1944:

DON'T MISS IT! (I am pretty sure my father missed it!)

My father makes no mention of this event in his memoirs. I am sure he missed the 'combined operations attack on the beach' because he was getting married back in St. Thomas, Ontario at the same time, i.e., April 29th wedding day, and early May, 1944 honeymoon:

Clipping from Brantford newspaper says May 23, 1944. The wedding, however,
was in St. Thomas, and a newspaper archive states "wedding was on April 29"

The bride (left) and dad's sister (right) may have visited The Spit!

Walter Winchell sang Canada's praises earlier but he apparently missed a couple of items:

Clippings from April 27, 1944

More details follow related to the upcoming "Invasion Preview", April 27 issue. Not a bad show for 25 cents(!!):

The "invasion preview" was held on May 3 and the following two reports of the realistic event appeared in the next day's Comox District Free Press:

"For the Excited Crowd it was Realistic Enough!!"

"The Day was a Brilliant Success!!

Tragic news from May 4, 1944:

We end this day's report with news about the first Navy baseball team that would have included sailors who had returned from overseas' duties at the end of 1943. My father was very likely a part of the team but was still back in Ontario - making a tour around Niagara Falls with his new wife. I see a few familiar names mentioned when I read the Navy lineup, listed in last paragraph below:

News clip from May 4, 1944 issue of
The Comox District Free Press

Not all the names listed on the Navy team above appear in the following photo, but five are. My father is front and centre and seems pretty happy to be back to "regular duties and a lot of baseball":

No. 1 Navy Ball Team, 1944. Perhaps at Lewis Park

Names, nicknames and positions are listed above

Arney, Grycan, Malone, Rose, Ivison, Harrison (far right) appear above.
I think they're near the farthest end of Comox Spit (practice diamond?)

Photo Gallery - from a trip to the Comox District, including Courtenay:

The train ride from Toronto to Vancouver was worth every penny:

It's a long way to Vancouver Island, 2012

The Hornepayne train station, remembered by Navy veterans who entrained to the West Coast in 1944, does not look the same today:

My upper bunk on the train was very cozy; I slept like a rock:

I travelled by ferry from the city of Vancouver to Victoria:

The HMCS Vancouver was an awesome sight. I was not allowed to take photos of nuclear submarines nearby:

Maritime Museum was home to many RCNVR artifacts:

I met this old guy in downtown Victoria:

A rare building in Courtenay, home to many dances during WWII:

Impressive timbers inside Native Sons Hall:

The Riverside Hotel, down the street from the dance hall, burned to the ground in the 1960s:

Photo Credit: From the collection of H. Burns, Courtenay

Lewis Park, opposite my hostel in Courtenay:

Totem at the entrance to Lewis Park

The Comox Spit, a photogenic spot from many angles:

I'm in Comox; The Spit is on the distant horizon line

I'm zooming in toward The Spit

Parts of The Spit are flat, former home of old practice ball fields

I'm approaching the entrance of HMCS Quadra,  the modern navy base

Zooming in on some of the older and modern day buildings

I hiked around part of the base, did not trespass this time around:

Stone cairn in a waterfront park:

Some old guy was following me w a camera!

More impressive timbers in the 'Mariners Pavilion':

One last look from Comox to Courtenay before I head back to the hostel in Courtenay:

Vancouver Island is home to many satisfying  IPAs, new to me:

Nasty Habit is a Strong Beer, fortunately in a small bottle

More news clippings to follow from The Comox District Free Press from 1943 - 45.

Please link to Comox, BC: The Comox District Free Press 1943 - '44 (2)

Unattributed Photos GH