Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Story: 'A Good Life' by Eldred (Ed) Whelan

 A Canadian in Combined Ops Looks Back on His WWII Service

"I was one of 28 who volunteered under Cmdr. Mountbatten..."

Navy vets, WWII. L - R: Doug Harrison, Norwich; Ed Whelan, Guelph;
Arthur 'Gash' Bailey, London ONT. June 1988, Guelph
Photo from the collection of Doug Harrison


In earlier entries pertaining to photographs of WWII Navy veterans while attending Navy reunions I shared the above picture, and the ones that follow. Some information about some of the veterans of RCNVR and Combined Operations has been provided in the earlier entries and readers can click here to link to Photographs: Aging Navy Vets Reconnect at Reunions (2).

As well, recently, an important link to three rare and significant books full of veterans stories (re RCNVR and Canadians in Combined Operations) was provided and within readers will find submissions provided by the three veterans above and many, many more.

Excerpts of stories by/about Combined Operations veterans Harrison, Whelan and Bailey follow:

A Good Life by Ed Whelan, LT(E) i.e., Engineer, RCNVR

Preface: Honour is due to the oldest responder to the Questionnaire now entering his tenth decade. It is an honour to be able to print his letter which accompanied his Questionnaire. Since this letter Ed has suffered a slight stroke, and now lives at Oxford Lodge, 135 Oxford St., Guelph, Ontario.

The preface was written by David Lewis (above), seen here with
other veterans of Combined Ops in London ONT, mid-1990s

Back, L - R: Art ('Gash'), Clayton*, and David Lewis (David wrote and
collected stories for St. Nazaire to Singapore (two lengthy volumes)
Front L - R: Doug and Al (full names are w top photo)

(*Clayton Marks wrote Combined Operations which inspired Mr. Lewis to do some writing/collecting of his own).

The following is by Ed Whelan:

I will try to recall as much of my Combined Operation's experience as possible but you should know something of life previous.

Came to Canada at age ten years, an orphan of Dr. Barnardo Homes**, raised on a farm until seventeen years of age and became employed with a textile firm.

(**Doug Harrison's mother entered Canada as a child in the same manner).

During the depression of 1929/30 I worked four days a week, I was advised to take a course in Diesel engineering which I did by correspondence and attained an 80%-plus on this. I attended Hempill Diesel in Chicago for their practical course, concluding with a permit to operate Diesels up to 750 H.P.

It was with this permit that I applied to the Naval Branch at HMCS York, Toronto. There they said I had no place for my qualifications but would advise me later. I was informed to apply in May, 1941 to HMCS York and was taken in for basic training for a few weeks. On completion I was forwarded to HMCS Esquimalt, BC, to work on the boats which had been taken over by the navy.

(Editor's Note: The first drafts of sailors from HMCS Stadacona, Halifax, followed much the same path after volunteering for Combined Operations in late 1941. Once overseas in January, 1942, they were sent to Havant and Hayling Island on England's south coast, and soon thereafter to Inveraray and Irvine in Scotland for more training aboard various landing crafts, some commando training included. Their first action was the Dieppe raid, i.e. Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942, followed soon there after by Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, beginning in November, 1942. The invasions of Sicily and Italy followed in 1943.)

Ed Whelan continues:

I received my first Mention in Dispatches in May 1943 and the other one in August 1943. They were for recognition of the performance of our boats.

On returning to Halifax after leave, I was told by the naval authorities I would not be returning to England but that there was a mine sweeper down at the dock and they wanted an engineer. I was a Sub-Lieutenant in charge of machinery of HMCS Transcona (details re ship at Wikipedia) and stayed with her until I received word from my wife's doctor that I should resign my position which Captain G. put through, and was passed out June 20, 1945. I returned to my hometown in Orangeville. But on 9 July, 1945 my wife passed away.

I have wondered why you wished this information or is it just curiosity? I am now in my 91st year with degrading hearing and eyesight, living alone and not the best of health, living in a rented building for the past twenty-five years.

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 45, Vol. 1, page 17 (click here for access to Volume 1)
Art 'Gash' Bailey (left) and Ed Whelan, Oxford Lodge, Guelph, 1988

In Volume 2 of St. Nazaire to Singapore we find a few words from Art Bailey (aka 'Gash', a navy term for leftovers) another Canadian in Combined Ops. 

Mr. Bailey shares the following, as part of a response to the Canadian Combined Ops Questionnaire:

The above excerpt appears as found at St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 2, page 391. Click here for access to the online book. And click here to read a passage by Bob McRae re Dieppe and circumstances related to the death of Richard Cavanagh.

Photo as found at page 65, St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1

'Gash' finishes his brief recollection with the following:

Stop me if I am wrong, but when you (David Lewis, writer/editor re St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1 and 2were in Roseneath did you not have me out in front of a work party to show them how to swing a sledge hammer? We were irrigating the land for the prospective camp and damn the rock was hard. Would you believe that a couple of the guys accused me of showing off? And here I was trying to work off a hang over. 

Though David Lewis, in his preface to Ed Whelan's letter above, makes mention of Ed's Questionnaire, it does not appear along with Art Bailey's and those belonging to several others. If other excerpts belonging to Ed can be found, I will add them to this post.

Please link to an earlier entry, Story: Normandy - Operation NEPTUNE Part 2

Unattributed Photos GH

Friday, September 17, 2021

Photographs: From the Collection of Lloyd Evans (2)

 Lloyd Evans' Travels via RCNVR and Combined Ops

Ottawa, S. England, Scotland, N. Africa, Sicily and More

Able Bodied Seaman Ashley (A. K.) McDonald (above left) 
is featured in later photos. From Lloyd Evans' Photo File


Photographs taken and collected by Seaman Lloyd Evans (formerly of Ottawa and Markham ONT; now deceased) during World War II are a valuable asset as we attempt to learn more about the role and adventures of Canadians serving in Combined Operations. I have access to enough old black and whites - some seen here for the first time in Canada - to present 3 - 4 entries, accompanied by a few other related shots I have gathered over time.
Readers with related photographs are invited to contact me via the comment section or via email. I would be happy to add more photos and details to these posts:

Two of Lloyd's photos relate to training aboard landing crafts, likely off the southern coast of England, e.g., near Hayling Island (HMS Northney), or off the western coast of Scotland, e.g., at Irvine (RAF DundonaldCamp Auchengate) or Inveraray (HMS Quebec):

No names or details re location are provided but first sailor
on left could be Thibadeau, front row, first on right below

Photo taken at HMCS Stadacona,  Halifax, beside Wellington Barracks

During early training days, a story circulated about the trouble Thibadeau got himself into by mishandling a bottle of milk. Poor aiming ability? I hope he did better with the machine gun!

My father writes:

Training was very severe in Halifax. We were now known as Effingham Division under the good old White Ensign. Names for divisions were taken from old battleships of the Royal Navy. We went six weeks before being allowed to go ashore and that also was ruined by a seaman known only as Thibadeau. The division was really angry, Thibadeau dropped a pint of milk out of a window nearly hitting the Officer of the day making his evening rounds to see if everything was clean. Our leave was cancelled indefinitely.

We went to our Leading Seaman Instructor, L/Seaman Rose* (see next photo) but he said he couldn’t help us, but we probably wouldn’t be seen if we ourselves took a course of action. Into the cold showers went O/D Thibadeau, clothes and all, as if the barracks weren’t cold enough for him already. He was on good behaviour from then on and we soon got permission for a few hours leave every other night.

Page 6, "Dad, Well Done" 
Same landing craft, same day in my opinion, with steady hands on camera.
L - R: Chuck Rose (Chippawa), Admiral Dewey perhaps (above, front row)
and Lloyd Evans for certain. Type of gun? Keeping Luftwaffe at bay? 

We now see that Mr. Evans traded in his Lewis machine gun for a trumpet! Dates, names, locations are not provided:

Play on my friend. Play on.

I searched the photo below to see if Lloyd played in the brass section, but I had no luck. However, the photo comes by way of Seaman Don Westbrook's family and I know he was in the Effingham Division, the first group to volunteer for Combined Operations (He is in the front row, beside Admiral Dewey, in the large group photo above). Lloyd's division was the second draft from Canada to enter Combined Operations, and though their training schedule may have only been a month apart, I have found no large group photo with the two divisions together. That would be a historic find, for sure!

I cannot be sure but a few players in this band seem to be sailors
from the Effingham Division. Full photo in previous post.

That being said, by 'googling' "HMCS Stadacona bands" I located the next photo, and I think the first drummer on far left - under the band master's right elbow! - is Lloyd Evans. Apparently, he may have traded in those drums for a Lewis machine gun and later swapped that hot iron for brass!

Please click here to view Stadacona Bands RCN

Don Westbrook on his way out west to Combined Ops School, Jan. 1944
And that is another big story told on this site. Visit Comox, B.C.

Lloyd did not volunteer for service out west after his return to Canada in December, 1943, as did Don Westbrook (above), Chuck Rose, my father, and many more of their mates. Lloyd's memoirs reveal that he continued his service on the East Coast, e.g., at McNab's Island, and perhaps that is where the next two photos were taken:

Return to Canada

We sailed the following morning as one of the escorts for a large convey to St. Johns, Newfoundland. The journey itself was uneventful insofar as enemy action was concerned. However, one night when I was on lookout duty on the bridge, I spotted a merchant ship through a clearing in the fog. It was on a collision course with our ship! I called out urgently to the bridge Officer and we went full speed ahead. It was just a freak of the fog that I was able to see the ship when the stern lookouts could not and even more remarkable, since my duties did not include looking to the stern. I'll never know if I changed the lives of hundreds of people that night but I wouldn't like to replay the action to find out!

On another occasion, I stood lookout in the Crows Nest. This put me a lot closer to my maker, in more senses than one, than all the bombing raids I'd witnessed. I had not fully regained my strength since my time in hospital and was still very weak in the legs. I found the climb up the mast almost impossible to negotiate with all the heavy bulky clothes essential for the North Atlantic winter. My legs seemed to be paralysed and the whipping motion of the mast made it impossible for me to move up or down. For a moment, I considered whether to fall off when I was over the steel deck or over the water. Either way, there was only one possible outcome. Self preservation must have kicked in, because I finally made it to the top of the mast and into the relative safety of the Crows Nest. The view from up there was unbelievable. When the ship was at the top of a wave, I could see almost all the ninety or so ships in the convoy and the next minute I couldn’t see any. On another day, there was a submarine alert at the rear of the convoy and we were dispatched back at full speed but couldn’t find anything and we rejoined the convoy at our usual station.

A planned transfer at sea to a corvette that was proceeding to Halifax was abandoned, so we found ourselves at HMCS Avalon in St. Johns, where we stayed for a week. During this time, I was able to try the famous or infamous "Newfie screech" before catching HMT Lady Rodney for the overnight run to Halifax. I went on leave for a month at home in Ottawa and Detroit and then reported to HMCS Scotian, where I learned that our flotilla had already left for overseas duties. The authorities refused to allow us to rejoin them, even though it was our wish to do so. Our two convoys had probably crossed paths as we journeyed to Canada. It was January 1944.

I heard they were looking for people to work in the Harbour Craft Office. I applied and was accepted as crew on one of the many harbour craft. One day I was informed that our craft was going to Shelbourne for the summer. The prospect of working for the particular officer in charge didn't appeal to me, so I applied for a Coxswain's course at the Leadership School in the dockyard and was accepted. At the end of the course I was given the craft stationed at McNab's Island at the entrance to Halifax harbour. My job was to ferry supplies and personnel between McNab's Island and the dockyard. It was 24 hours on and 24 hours off as there were 2 crews.

One can read more of Lloyd's memoirs at the following link - Combined Operations Command by Geoff Slee, Scotland

Lloyd, first on left. The names of the CWACs and other sailor are
unfortunately not given. I would say "it's likely 1944." GH

My father's only photo w a CWAC is below. Wouldn't it be something if the CWAC w Dad was also one to greet Lloyd when he arrived back in Canada:

From collection of Doug Harrison, RCNVR, Comb. Ops 1941 - 45

Lloyd photographed a news article that was first published in The (Ottawa) Evening Citizen:

Details re this article are explored in an earlier, lengthy post on this site

As in the first entry in this series, I share a photo or two from Lloyd's visit of the Edinburgh castle (1942 or '43). And since I also have visited the castle (2014), I again share one or two that match up with Lloyd's, and will say here, "Some things change, some things stay the same!":

Admiral Dewey once again? I am not certain. And I am only 
guessing that the location is Edinburgh at this time.

The statue and stone base are the same, though - based on the
background buildings - the statue's location has changed

Colour photos - GH

Happy hunting for details re any change in location of Earl Haig

The phots follow re warships and fellas on board:

Card game on the go?

More Canadians in Combined Ops with a card game on the go.
Bill Eccles has got a pretty good hand! Pre-Normandy, 1944
From the collection of Bill's son, Reg Eccles, N. S.

Lloyd may have been friends with AB Seaman Ashley MacDonald, as well as first cousins, as both came from Ottawa at the time of enlistment. He had these six photos of Ashley, a young man who was declared missing "after the torpedoing  of the Canadian destroyer Athabaskan."

Sailor on the left is unidentified.

A. K. MacDonald is remembered at The Canadian Virtual War Memorial

More photographs from the L. Evan's collection to soon follow.

Questions and comments can be addressed to Editor at

Please link to Photographs: From Collection of Lloyd Evans (1) to view the first post related to this collection of WWII photographs.

Unattributed Photos GH

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Photographs: From the Collection of Lloyd Evans (1)

Lloyd Evans, Member of RCNVR and Combined Operations, 1941 - 45

Some Photos Without Names or Locations! Readers, "Help Wanted" 

Seven Canadians in Combined Ops stand easy. But where were they?*
Back row, L - R: Unknown, P. Bowers**, Lloyd Evans, Don Westbrook
Front L - R: Don Linder, Unknown, Doug Harrison w a smoke
From the collection of Lloyd Evans

*Editor's guess - a port in southern England, e.g., Southampton. Or, perhaps somewhere in The Med, e.g., in Gibraltar. [Help Wanted!]


I read the memoirs of Lloyd Evans at a tremendous, detailed website (Combined Operations Command) re members of Allied navies that volunteered (in most cases) for Combined Operations and therefore spent much of their time (in service during World War II) training or transporting the materials of war aboard various landing crafts in various theatres of war (e.g., Dieppe, N. Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy and more).

After reading Lloyd's memoirs I felt he must have crossed paths with my father (both were in RCNVR, trained in the many of the same locations, travelled aboard the same ships, were in certain war fronts at the same time, etc.) and - with the help of Geoff Slee, the creator of Combined Ops Command, I was able to connect with Mr. Evans (formerly of Markham, ONT) and then meet him at his home. 

We exchanged information in conversations and traded copies of his memoirs and my father's own. After seeing several photos of my father he said, "He looks familiar but I don't think I knew him." After Lloyd passed away his son Stephen sent me a rich photo file and I will share it here over the course of a few entries and will include some background or additional information when appropriate. And yes, Lloyd and Doug did cross paths and likely relaxed around a few of the same landing crafts in Southampton, or, was it Gibraltar?

Lloyd Evans as a young recruit in Sea Cadets, likely late-1930s in Ottawa:

As I remember Lloyd when we met in 2015 (approx.):

We exchanged books of memoirs, his and my father's;

Readers can link directly to Lloyd's memoirs here.

Readers can link to part of my father's memoirs here.

Photographs from Mr. Evans' collection follow, along with additional shots - that relate in some way - from my father's and from my own collection:

Many members of Lloyd's division volunteered for Combined Operations
Lloyd is in the top row, fifth from the left. P. Bowers** is fourth from left
Name of the division is not given. Date - late 1941 at HMCS Stadacona

The Effingham Division "almost to the man" volunteered for Combined Ops in
late 1941, the first Canadian draft to do so, also while at HMCS Stadacona
My father is front, third from left. From the collection of Joe Spencer

The two divisions appearing above may not have begun their training at HMCS Stadacona in Halifax at exactly the same time, but there was surely some overlap, especially once the divisions began their training aboard landing crafts in early 1942, in the UK. There are a few instances - in photographs I have examined - where I see members of one division with members of the other.

P. Bowers** stands beside Lloyd (on Lloyd's right side) in the first and second photographs, and in the next photo Bowers is seen with at least three members from the Effingham Division.

Back L - R: J. Dale, P. Bowers (from Lloyd's division), Joe Watson
(Effingham Division; above this photo, top row, second from right)
Front L - R: Chuck Rose (Effingham Div.; 3rd row from top, 1st on left),
Joe Spencer (not in the Effingham group shot for some reason; see below)
Photo from the collection of Joe Spencer; taken in Glasgow, 1943

Earlier group shot of Effingham Division, 1941 at HMCS Stadacona,
outside Wellington barracks. Back L - R: Joe Spencer, Chuck Rose, Art
Bradfield, Joe Watson, both of Simcoe, ONT. Photo - D. Harrison

Another example of members of the two earliest divisions mixing together is seen in Lloyd's early photos. Below we see two photos from his file of Richard Cavanaugh (killed in action at Dieppe, August 19, 1942), a member of the Effingham Division (full group shot, 3 photos above, second row from front, 2nd from left):

All aboard! Canadians often took the train while in the UK, e.g., from
Greenock, Scotland to Hayling Island (S. England) in January, 1942 

Out and about in Glasgow?

Lloyd Evans, date and location unknown. Sea Cadet uniform?

I am guessing a photo of a new friend beside the Clyde, in Glasgow.
Sailors enjoyed leave, dates and dances at The Locarno Club

Help wanted! Leith as seen from Edinburgh Castle?

From my photo files re Edinburgh Castle. Enough similarities to Lloyd's
previous photo for me to say we were standing near the same spot. GH

Canadian flotillas of landing crafts were placed aboard troop ships for
the trip around Africa in summer 1943, prior to Operation HUSKY, i.e.,
invasion of Sicily. A few sailors tell stories of buying monkeys enroute.

Eephus P. Murphy loved his new pet. Unfortunately, Canadian landing
crafts were bombed about every 2 hours during first 3 days of HUSKY.
It was no place for a wee pet. Click here for story - Monkey Mishap

Lloyd's memoirs mention a few details about his new pet as well

Canadians in Combined Ops were familiar with the iconic scenes below from Loch Fyne, Scotland, home of HMS Quebec, Combined Ops No. 1 training camp. Inveraray is 1 - 2 miles north of here:

A hospital ship. It's purpose in this area is unknown to me. Help wanted.

Lloyd Evans in Ottawa, date unknown. Possibly Dec. 1941, before heading
overseas, or Dec., 1943, after returning from two years service. I lean to '41

Location and date unknown and I make no guesses

One story has come my way about Canadians sailors having the chance to water ski while serving in the Mediterranean, after settling into routines in/near Messina during the invasion of Italy (i.e., Operation Baytown, beginning in early September, 1943). The sailors fashioned water skis from large wine barrels and were pulled by a U.S. MTB. Could this be Messina? It looks like Comox, B.C., but Lloyd did not serve there as far as his memoirs indicate. 

The next photo reveals wave action that was not ideal for water skiing:

Life at sea can be treacherous. "Hold onto the railing!"

So, here we are back at Southampton, Portsmouth or Gibraltar again (1942 - 43), near E Deck and a Fire Hydrant. If Lloyd took the picture, then he and my father were pretty close together again. 

L - R: Don Linder, Unknown behind him, P. Bowers, Doug (Dad) Harrison
(peeking out from behind Bowers), Unknown, Don Westbrook (Hamilton).

L - R: Don Westbrook, P. Bowers, Unknown

Here's one of P. Bowers, and not in Lloyd's collection:

Photo is a still (screen shot), taken from a video re invasion of Sicily,
1943. The 3 sailors to the right of Bowers (smoking) are Canadians.
Recognized by me from other photos, but no names available (yet)

The next three photos from Lloyd's files were most likely taken by Royal Canadian Navy photographers. I know that Gilbert A. Milne accompanied Canadian forces into The Med and to Normandy (his book entitled H.M.C.S.: One Photographer's Impressions... is filled w iconic shots re Canada at war), and many more did as well:

Photos comes w no name or date. Help Wanted.

This might be a peaceful training exercise on England's southern coast

Training exercise again?

A ship taking a torpedo?

Related to the invasion of Sicily or Italy, perhaps.

More photos from the collection of Lloyd Evans will appear shortly.

If you have WWII photos that seem to fit with the purpose/direction of this website, do not hesitate to contact the Editor (Gord H.) via email -

To view more photos of Canadian Navy vets, please visit Photographs: Aging Navy Vets Reconnect at Reunions (2)

Unattributed Photos GH