Zombies Hit the News, Harrison and Rose Hit the Ball, V-E Day!
News Clippings - Comox District Free Press, Oct. 1944 - May 1945
Sailors visited Tree Island w friends via landing crafts 1944 and '45
Photo Credit - Michael Foort, Vancouver Island Postcards, No. 91Introduction:
My father said in memoirs that he trained zombies on navy cutters, completed a lot of 'regular duties' and played a lot of baseball while at HMCS Givenchy III
(described as home to a Combined Operations School by the Comox newspaper) from Jan. 1944 - summer 1945. He describes efforts to make rowing practice/training a bit of fun for new sailors, says he learned a good deal from good baseball coaches (e.g., George Hobson, later to become mayor of Courtenay), and he shares a few details about celebrations related to V-E Day ('Victory in Europe'), early May 1945.
The Comox newspaper also shared information about many events that related in some way to a good-sized group of navy boys (RCNVR, and volunteers for Combined Operations) who served at the navy base on "The Spit" after two years of service overseas related to the Dieppe Raid and operations re the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. A good deal of information about those events can be found on this blog/website by visiting 'Dieppe, North Africa' etc., as found via "click on Headings" in right hand margin.
Questions and comments re the activities of Canadians in Combined Ops can be addressed to me in the comment section at the bottom of each post, or by email at email@example.com
Some of the news clippings arranged below will be accompanied by additional details from navy memoirs or other sources. The following is from Oct. 12, 1944:
Regarding the point mentioned above (#2) that those who served overseas should not be asked to serve in Japan, I read in my father's memoirs that during the time he and mates were getting ready to return to Ontario after V-E Day, someone did raise the question about Canadian sailors going to Japan. Doug Harrison writes that soon after the war in Europe ended "we went to H.M.C.S. Naden (in Esquimalt, next door to Victoria, BC) with none of us volunteering for the Japanese theatre of war, although we were all asked by a recruiting officer." (Page 43, "Dad, Well Done")
Sillence Studio burned down at a later date but many of their photographs
can still be accessed (and bought) at the Courtenay Museum/Archive
Besides training zombies, playing baseball and doing regular duties, it seems the sailors were involved in bond drives:
November 2, 1944, Comox Free Press
Chuck Rose appears in many baseball and personal photos with my father Doug Harrison. They remained friends for many years after the war ended. Below we read that Chuck was a pretty good bowler:
February 1, 1945. Winter time sports, Comox Free Press
Doug and Chuck at a Navy Reunion, year unknown
While Doug and Chuck had a bit of fun on Vancouver Island, thousands of Canadian soldiers were involved in a tough slog in Italy. A cartoon by Bing, 1944, follows:
More cartoons by and information about Bing Coughlin can be found at "Progress is Fine
More details about the Navy bowling team:
Chuck Rose is no longer in "The Big Seven". The Navy is now represented by Jim Malone, another ball player connected to Chuck and Doug... and other sailors that have appeared in previous photos:
My father, fourth in back row is flanked by Chuck Rose (left)
and Jim Malone (right). Photo - Powell River, BC, 1944 - 45
The Navy No. 1 baseball team was well-coached by George Hobson. George's wedding is reported below and the wedding picture appears in the previous post
Men serving overseas loved getting letters from home. If you're thinking about writing - and you really should - here's a bit of good advice:
News from overseas hits hard at times:
News about a new road between Courtenay and Comox does not hold much historical value re WWII but it was likely well-travelled by sailors from HMCS Givenchy III when they wanted to get to the Riverside Hotel for a pint, the Bickle Theatre for a movie and Native Sons Hall for a dance. Yes, the sailors could travel on landing craft right to the heart of Courtenay (e.g., to Courtenay Slough, adjacent to Simms Park at present, a short walk to the main entertainment centre; maps to follow)... and they did so on many occasions
Get your wallets ready, another bond drive is around the corner!
From The Comox District Free Press, April 19, 1945
I was delighted to find this piece naming Doug Harrison and Chuck Rose at the centre of action, i.e., they helped the Navy baseball team that "severely whipped the Circle F Cardinals. It was only an exhibition game but I bet the boys remembered that game for awhile!
"Heavy hitting" Doug Harrison and Chuck Rose,
one week before V-E Day - May 3, 1945
From May 10, 1945 - The Comox District Free PressMy father adds the following re V-E Day in memoirs:Then one day, the day we had been waiting for came -- V.E. day -- and what a celebration. They poured beer in my hair, there was no routine, but nothing untoward happened.
The fellows were just so glad, that it gave us time to think back and count our blessings. No, I cannot recall anything unusual happening to write about. It had a sobering effect on most of us who had been in Combined Operations under the White Ensign. Page 42 - 43 "Dad, Well Done"
Wait just a minute. Truth be told, my Dad scribbled out a few words in his notes about the day. It's worth a second look : )
"Everything went mad, and uncontrolled"
: Oh, I see!!
But I won't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me, Dad.
Photo Gallery - A few odds and ends from Vancouver Island
A map given to me by my host. The STAR is the location of my AirBnB lodgings; M is the Courtenay Museum (copies of WW2 newspapers, photographs) ; LIB is the Courtenay Library (microfiche newspapers); P is a Combined Ops plaque in Simms Park; darkened lines - lots of hiking/biking trails in the region:
Emails I sent home during my second trip reveal a few details about the available resources I had access to in various locations. They remind me that there are still a few stones left unturned so chances are I will be thinking of another trip to the west coast and the spit in the not-so-distant future:
"Whatever happens, I will have... rewarding times." And that was true.
I scattered some of my father's ashes near the end of The Spit.
On a 2012 trip to Halifax I threw some ashes into the Atlantic
I addressed Legion members and high school students re Combined Ops
on different days as well as collected information about the same
"but will likely be microfiche get daily" ?? What the heck does that mean?
I did spend a couple of days scanning microfiche as I recall : )
Paddling to and from the Spit was a breeze, the weather was gorgeous.
However, I never did get to Tree Island; it was too far for this old guy.
And what about those sharks??!!*
Dave Kelly and Terry Smith greeted me and helped answer
a few questions re the Spit, baseball diamond and more
Tree Island : ) Excellent postcard from a thrift store opposite Courtenay Library
*There were no sharks near the Spit (!!) when I was there and the waters around Tree Island seem pretty calm as well.
Another postcard from the thrift store in Courtenay:
A year earlier I'd visited London; came home with no postcards. I stayed
east of Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge...
My AirBnB was near Southwark St., south of Thames R., and I walked to
Tower Bridge, The Tower, and HMS Belfast (depicted on the river above).
I biked safely on Comox Rd., scenic route to Goose Spit, formerly known
as Dyke Rd. I suspect. I cycled as far as Kye Bay (east of airport)
Canadian sailors would have loved plying the waters of Comox Harbour
in Canadian-made landing crafts during World War II. "It was heaven."
There is definitely more to learn about the Canadians in Combined Ops who served at HMCS Givenchy III during the Second World War. I will share more items from my Courtenay/Comox files in the future.
For more information from the Comox newspaper (1944 - 45), please link to The Comox District Free Press (5).
Unattributed Photos GH