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

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 

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