Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Books: "No Price Too High" by Terry Copp

 No Price Too High: Canadians and the Second World War

By Terry Copp with Richard Nielsen

Training in England: The Black Watch carry out a landing exercise
at the Canadian Assault School at Bordon, Hampshire. Pg. 91
Photo Credit - LCMSDS**, Wilfrid Laurier University


Of course this entry or post begins with a photograph and caption that shines a light on Canadians and their involvement in exercises where landing crafts played a pivotal role. That's what my blog is about for the most part.

However, No Price Too High is not. That being said, there are a few references to the work of the RCN and RCNVR during WWII and many, many other entries that will inform the patient reader about the work and accomplishments of all branches of Canada's Armed Forces from 1939 - 1945. Excellent photographs abound as do personal stories, letters and significant details.

"Based on the acclaimed TELEVISION SERIES" (6-hours, 1995)

Click here to learn more about the 'No Price Too High' archive

The book is approx. 250 pages in length. Three video cassettes - if they can still be found - cover six hours. Of course, most know that no amount of book pages or video hours will tell the full tale of WWII, but the book makes a valiant effort to cover significant events re Canadians during the war.


 Please note: "SUGGESTED READING", beginning on Pg. 244, is extensive.
Along with extensive photographs, the book has much to recommend it

On page 8 I read: "...the book is intended to complement the films, not reproduce the script." I suspect a patient person would benefit from searching for the video series, perhaps at used book stores or eBay, etc., but I did not see anything re the TV program on YouTube. Happy hunting, I say.

As the Table of Contents reveals, readers are informed of topics from 'HITLER' to 'HIROSHIMA' with stops at various war fronts, including those that Canadians in Combined Operations were well familiar with, e.g., Dieppe, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy (beginning page 153). Missing, however, is a good recap re Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa in November, 1942, during which Canadians in Combined Operations and their landing craft flotillas were much-used and productive. 

"The Unknown Navy" (the Canadian Merchant Navy) is highlighted on page 107 but Canadians who volunteered for Combined Operations remain "The Almost Unknown Navy" as far as I can tell. 

[Note to Self: Makes me think that the 'No Price Too High' archive at Sir Wilfrid Laurier could use a copy of Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks, from the Canadian POV. Maybe a copy of my Dad's memoirs as well : ) ]

That being said, my bias is showing, because much information is provided re the majority of the Canadian Armed Forces, and details re the Dieppe raid and much more are very enlightening.

Interesting comments are made about U-boats and corvettes 
Photo Credit - National Archives of Canada

"Life in a U-boat is unnatural and unhealthy..." by Wolfgang Luth, page 58.

"It soon became apparent that only chance could bring a corvette into contact with a U-boat, and then the only useful weapon available was the ship itself, used as a ram." Page 59

"By 1941 Halifax was one of the most important ports in the world"
Photo Credit - DND/National Archives of Canada/PA112993

"The plan called for five assaults on a front of ten miles." Page 95
Photo Credit - National Archives of Canada/PA171080

"At Berneval on the left flank, the Commandos ran into a German coastal convoy and were badly scattered." (Page 95). For more information about this incident provided by Canadians in Combined Operations (and operating some of the troop-laden landing crafts), please turn to page 60 of St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945 Volume 1.

Below is a screen shot of the book cover of St. Nazaire to Singapore Volume 1:

This significant book, stories by Canadian veterans of Combined Operations, is
archived at the University of Alberta*. Inspired by Clayton Marks, London

Then, go to page 60. Below is a screen shot of the page revealing a photograph of the first Canadian killed during the Dieppe Raid, and an accompanying, unique story. 

It begins:

Sub LT Cliff D. Wallace, RCNVR was the first to be killed during the sea fight with a German Convoy on the way to Dieppe at 0300 hours. They were on the way to land 3 Commandos' main party at Berneval, Yellow 1 Beach of the Dieppe attack...

[*the archive at the University of Alberta has been known to be unavailable at times. Questions, comments and concerns can be addressed to GH at]

Please click here to view many other iconic photographs re Dieppe Raid
Photo - Canadian War Museum Collection/National Archives of Canada

As stated earlier, No Price Too High shares valuable information about the men and women involved in the many branches of service during the Second World War. I encourage readers to browse the shelves of local used book stores in order to find this enlightening book. 

Photo Credit - Department of National Defence/PL13456

Please click here for information about another recommended book, Writers On World War II: An Anthology (Part 2) by Mordecai Richler

** Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies

Unattributed Photos GH

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Passages: Writers on World War II (Part 2)

An Anthology, Edited and With a Forward

By Mordecai Richler, 1991

Illustration as found In Combined Operations,
by Londoner Clayton Marks (in photo below)


The book is over 30 years old now, but for those readers, researchers of WWII who want details regarding the experiences of various people on various fronts, one would do well to look for this book. The forward alone by Mordecai Richler is worth the price of admission.

A few excerpts, items I would call poignant passages, from a few of the 100 or so books highlighted in Writers On World War II, are provided below:

DIEPPE: Only Trivial Damage was Done

David Astor says that the affair
was definitely misrepresented in the press
and is now being misrepresented in the reports
to the PM and that the main facts were:

Something over 5,000 men were engaged,
of whom at least 2,000 were killed or prisoners.
It was not intended to stay on shore longer than
was actually done (i.e., dawn till about 4 p.m.),
but the idea was to destroy all the defenses of Dieppe,
and the attempt to do this was an utter failure.

In fact only comparatively trivial damage was done,
a few batteries of guns knocked out etc., and only
one of the 3 main parties really made its objective.
The others did not get far and many were
massacred on the beach by artillery fire. 

The defenses were formidable
and would have been difficult to deal with even if there
had been artillery support, as the guns were sunk in the face
of the cliff or under enormous concrete coverings. 

More tank-landing craft
were sunk than got ashore.
About 20 or 30 tanks were landed
but none were got off again.
The newspaper photos which showed tanks
apparently being brought back to England
were intentionally misleading.

The general impression was that
the Germans knew of the raid beforehand.
Almost as soon as it was begun they had
a man broadcasting a spurious "eye-witness" account
from somewhere further up the coast, and another man
broadcasting false orders in English.
On the other hand the Germans were
evidently surprised by the strength of the air support. 
Whereas normally they have kept their fighters 
on the ground so as to conserve their strength, 
they sent them into the air 
as soon as they heard that tanks were landing, 
and lost a number of planes variously estimated, 
but considered by some RAF officers 
to have been as high as 270. 

Owing to the British strength in the air 
the destroyers were able to lie outside Dieppe all day. 
One was sunk, but this was by a shore battery.
When a request came to
attack some objective on shore,
the destroyers formed in line
and raced inshore firing their forward guns
while the fighter planes supported them overhead.

David Astor considers that this definitely proves
that an invasion of Europe is impossible...
I can't help feeling that to get ashore at all
at such a strongly defended spot, without either
bomber support, artillery support except for the guns
of the destroyers (4.9 guns I suppose), or airborne troops, 
was a considerable achievement.

By George Orwell, Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, pages 304 - 305

"Al Kirby meets with other WW2 Combined Ops veterans"

Readers can link to a Canadian sailor's experience on his landing craft re the Dieppe Raid by clicking here - Memoirs re Combined Operations: DIEPPE by A. G. Kirby (Mr. Kirby appears in the above photo).

Another excerpt from Writers On World War II follows:


Dieppe, in retrospect, 
looks so recklessly hare-brained an enterprise that 
it is difficult to reconstruct the official state of mind 
which gave it birth and drove it forward.

Churchill himself in the planning stages 
expressed anxiety, and was confirmed in support for the
operation only by the insistence of General Sir Alan Brooke 
that "if it ever was intended to invade France it was essential 
to launch a preliminary offensive on a divisional scale."

Churchill was moved too by the need 
to offset in some way the recent loss of Tobruk,
to say nothing of his loss of face with Roosevelt and 
Stalin through his opposition to Operation Roundup.
And there were the raiding successes achieved by the Commandos 
- his "Tigers" - at Vaagso and the Lofoten Islands to lend reassurance...

Photo of text from Writers On World War II, page 306

And, to cap their case, the staff officers
of Combined Operations Head quarters invoked
the legendary fighting qualities 0f the Canadians,
who had broken the Hindenburg Line in September 1918...

But bravery was to count for nothing
on the morning of August 19th, 1942.
The Commandos, attacking up the high cliffs which march almost
to the mouth of the little river Arques on which Dieppe stands,
achieved their customary surprise
and silenced the flanking batteries.
But the battalions of Canadian infantry and the tanks
they had brought with them were stopped almost as soon
as they left their landing craft, sometimes before.

The Royal Regiment of Canada... was detailed
to land in the mouth of a narrow gully... defended by the
German 571st Regiment (who) had watched the approach
of the landing-craft and, as soon as the ramps went down, 
directed the desperate fire of outnumbered men
at the open mouths of the vessels...

The first few scraped through to the cliffs beyond.
The rest were barred by fire... and killed by machine guns firing
"in enfilade" - that is, at an angle to the Canadians' line of advance -
from under the wall. Twenty minutes later a second wave
of landing craft arrived, and soon after a third, carrying
a company of the Black Watch of Canada.
The landing-craft drew off behind them.
Fire implacably denied their advance.
By 8:30 a.m. every man on the beach
was dead or captive...

Out of 554 Royal Canadians who had disembarked,
94.5 per cent had become casualties; 227 had been killed.
Almost all were from the city of Toronto.

As found in Dieppe memoirs by Al Kirby, RCNVR, Combined Ops

...And, to crown the tragedy, at the last moment
the force commander landed his "floating reserve,"
Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal**, who were bracketed by concentrated
German artillery during their ten-minute run-in to the beaches, and
drenched with fire as they touched ground. The French Canadians
nevertheless stormed from their landing-craft. But shortly
they too had lost over a hundred men killed and were pinned
to the shingle, unable either to advance or retreat.

Photo of text from Writers On World War II, page 30

...But one lesson was drawn,
by the man best placed to perceive it and, as luck
would have it, subsequently to put it into practice.
Captain (later Vice-Admiral) John Hughes-Hallet
had acted both as Naval Adviser to the
Chief of Combined Operations, Lord Louis Mountbatten,
before the operations and as Naval Commander during it.
He had come back from the raid naturally impressed by
the importance of air cover - the RAF had brilliantly succeeded
in sparing the Canadians the crowning agony of air attack - 
and concerned by the need to add to the number and 
types of landing-craft, to rehearse their crews in a variety of
simulated beach assaults and to keep such a specialized force
in permanent existence. But he was above all determined
to ensure that no landing should ever again take place
without covering firepower sufficient not simply
to hinder the enemy from using his weapons
but to shock him into inaction, stun him into
insensibility or obliterate him in his positions.

"The Lesson of Greatest Importance,"
his report capitalized and italicized,
"is the need for overwhelming fire support,
including close support, during
the initial stages of attack."

By John Keegan, from Six Armies in Normandy,  pages 306 - 308

**Poignant details related to the "floating reserve," Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal, can be found in a volume of stories by Canadian Navy volunteers (RCNVR, Combined Operations). A letter by Lt. Robert McRae appears below:

Dieppe-August 19, 1942 by LT R.F.McRae

At dawn, in our R-boat,
with Lloyd Campbell, Richard Cavanagh and Robert Brown
and a unit of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal,
we were off the French coast which was invisible
behind a heavy smoke-screen and from which
there came the awful noises of war.

About 7:30 a.m. the flotilla got orders
to go in and land the troops. We quickly fanned up
in line abreast, went through the smoke-screen and saw
that we were headed toward a beach under huge cliffs
with the heads of the enemy looking down over the top
and pouring machine-gun fire into the boats.

"Landing crafts of troops taking part in Operation Jubilee, Dieppe, Aug.
19th, 1942. On left, a smoke screen conceals them from enemy fire."
Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada

Campbell, who was at the wheel, took a line 
of bullets across his thighs (and later, as a POW, 
lost his legs in successive amputations and 
died before Christmas from gangrene).
Cavanagh, who was standing next to him,
got it in the chest and died an hour later
when his lungs had filled up.
Brown, though hit in the stomach,
took over the wheel from Campbell.
I was the lucky one and received only
a piece of shrapnel in the ankle.

In the meantime, the engine had been blown up
and was on fire and the plywood hull of the boat
was well perforated, but we had enough
weight on to make it to the beach.

The troops scrambled ashore except for the Captain
who had been standing up forward with us, was badly
wounded and, I believe, dying. Some of the troops
never made it across the beach which was strewn
with their bodies, and those who did were easy targets
for grenades lobbed down from above.
There was no life in the boats on either side of us,
and it was, I think, because they could see that
I was busy with the wounded and that we were unarmed
so that the Germans on the top of the cliffs gave up
trying to finish us off.

Some hours later, it was evident that a surrender
had taken place when I saw a few German soldiers
walking along the beach with a medical orderly.
I jumped out of the boat to fetch him for the wounded
but our discussion was rudely interrupted by a corporal
with a machine-gun directing me in no uncertain terms
to a crevice on the cliff face, down which a rope 
had been lowered and up which I and a few surviving troops
had to hoist ourselves hand over hand. 
I did not see my crew again.
I spent the first year in handcuffs in a British Officers camp,
and there I stayed for the remainder of the war.

The last two weeks were spent with a long struggling
column of POWs being marched up to the Baltic
and regularly strafed by our own fighter craft.

I was reluctant to write this note about Dieppe
but I knew that I owed it to Lloyd Campbell,
Richard Cavanagh and Bob Brown.
I have visited Cavanagh's grave a couple of times
in the War Cemetery in Dieppe.
I do not know where Campbell is buried.
It will be somewhere in Germany.
Brown, I saw last January when he came
with some old shipmates to have lunch here.
I heard about his death when I got back
from Italy at the beginning of May.
The loss of Campbell's and Cavanagh's lives was,
as you can see, a complete waste.

-LT Bob McRae (retired), age 66

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, page 66

On somewhat of a less dramatic note, this post concludes with a few samples of lingo as heard in the Marine Corps:

"Boot camp is a profound shock to most recruits because the Corps begins its job of building men by destroying the identity they brought with them. Their heads are shaved. They are assigned numbers The DI is their god. He treat them with utter contempt..." 

And the new recruits had to learn a new language as well:

The Corps Had Its Own Language

Boots were required to learn it,
just as the inhabitants of an occupied country
must learn the conqueror's tongue.
A bar was a slopchute, a latrine was a head;
swamps were boondocks, and field boots, boondockers.
A rumor was scuttlebutt, because that was the name
for water fountains, where rumors were spread; 
a deception was a snow job, gossiping was shooting the breeze,
information was dope, news was the scoop
confirmed information was the word.
You said "Aye, aye, sir," not "Yes, sir."

The nape of the neck was the 
stacking swivel, after a rifle part.
An officer promoted from the ranks was a mustang.
Your company commander was the skipper.
You never went on leave; you were granted liberty,
usually in the form of a forty-eight or a seventy-two,
depending on the number of hours you could be absent.
If you didn't return by then, you were over the hill.
Coffee was Joe; a coffeepot, a Joe-pot.
Battle dress was dungarees.
A cleanup of barracks, no matter
how long it lasted, was a field day;
a necktie was a field scarf,
drummers and trumpeters were field musics.
Duffle bags, though indistinguishable
from those used by GIs, were seabags.
To be under hack meant to be under arrest.
To straighten up was to square away;
a tough fighter was a hard-charger; 
underwear was skivvies: manipulating
people was called working one's bolt.

Lad was a generic term of address for
any subordinate, regardless of age.
One of my people, a twenty-eight-year-old
Vermont school principal, was known, because of his
advanced age, as "Pop." An officer five years his junior
would summon him by snapping, "Over here, lad."

... There was even a word for anything
that defied description. It was gizmo.

By William Manchester, from The Raggedy Ass Marines, pages 228 - 229

In the Feb. 19, 1944 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune one will find - after reading about the Anzio Bridgehead - details re Canadian slang or 'the lingo' during WWII:

The articles articles above and much more can be found at Editor's Research: Canadians in Combined Ops Return Home (17)

Unattributed Photos GH 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Passages: Writers On World War II (Part 1)

So Many Good Books, So Little Time

Poignant Passages Abound

One of ten pages of excerpts from significant WWII texts
listed in the Table of Contents


James Jones, author of From Here To Eternity, is listed near the top and at the bottom of the page from the Table of Contents revealed above. 

From an excerpt I read the following:

James Jones was at Pearl Harbour, of course, and wrote of that day in his novel From Here To Eternity: "... a big tall thin red-headed boy who had not been there before was running down the street toward them, his red hair flapping in his self-induced breeze, and his knees coming up to his chin with every step. He looked like he was about to fall over backwards.

" 'Whats up, Red?' Warden hollered at him. 'Whats happening? Wait a minute! What's going on?'

"The red-headed boy went on running down the street concentratedly, his eyes glaring whitely wildly at them.

" 'The Japs is bombing Wheeler Field!' he hollered over his shoulder. 

'The Japs is bombing Wheeler Field! I seen the red circles on the wings!'

"The red-headed boy went on running... his eyes glaring whitely wildly..."
(Drawing by Gord Harrison)

Though James Jones is writing about events affecting members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Canadians in Combined Ops suffered through some 'somewhat similar' and miserable days of bombing, e.g., during the invasion of Sicily in July, 1943. (See Article: Joe Watson, RCNVR and Combined Operations, 1941 - 1945)

And in many other passages found within the hefty pages of Writers On World War II the misery and emotions and many details related to bombings, and as well subsequent comebacks and triumphs, are ably shared.

Below are a few excerpts and poignant passages from said text:

London's Organic Power (1940)

Parks suddenly closed because of time-bombs...
Those rendered homeless sat where they had been sent;
or, worse, with the obstinacy of animals retraced their steps
to look for what was no longer there.

Most of all the dead, from mortuaries, from under cataracts of
rubble, made their anonymous presence - not as today's dead
but as yesterday's living - felt through London. Uncounted,
they continued to move in shoals through the city day, pervading everything
to be seen or heard or felt with their torn-off senses,
drawing on this tomorrow they had expected - 
for death cannot be so sudden as all that.

Absent from the routine which had been life, 
they stamped upon that routine their absence - 
not knowing who the dead were you could not know
which might be the staircase somebody for the first time
was not mounting this morning, 
or at which street corner the newsvendor missed a face,
or which trains and buses in the homegoing rush
were this evening lighter by at least one passenger.

These unknown dead 
reproached those left living not by their death, which might
any night be shared, but by their unknownness,
which could not be mended now. 
Who had the right to mourn them,
not having cared that they had lived?
So, among the crowds still eating, drinking, working,
travelling, halting, there began to be an instinctive movement
to break down indifference while there was still time.

The wall between the living and the living became less solid
as the wall between the living and the dead thinned.

In that September transparency people became transparent,
only to be located by the just darker flicker of their hearts.
Strangers saying "Goodnight, good luck," to each other at street corners,
as the sky first blanched, then faded with evening, each hoped
not to die that night, still more not to die unknown.

By Elizabeth Bowen, from The Heat of the Day, pages 68 - 69

Hitler Came At Last

We drilled at first with broomsticks* owing to the dearth of rifles,
then an actual rifle appeared and was handed around the square,
though our platoon hadn't much time to learn its mechanism
before a runner came to attention in front of our sergeant saying:
"Please sar'nt, our sar'nt in No. 8 says could we have the rifle for a
dekko over there 'cause none of our blokes so much as seen one yet."

[*broomsticks were familiar to Canadian sailors during initial training in Combined Operations as well. "We were issued brooms for guard duty in some cases at HMS Northney (Hayling Island, southern England, early 1942) sometimes a rifle with no ammunition, and they were expecting a German invasion," writes my father in Navy memoirs.]

Doug Harrison, early recruit in RCNVR, Combined Operations,
HMS Northney (Hayling Island, southern England, early 1942)

Hitler Came At Last, continues:

.... Then one afternoon, when parades were over and the blokes
in our barrack hut were rattling their mess tins all ready for tea,
Hitler came at last. His coming was not heralded, as it should have been,
by sirens (it turned out afterward someone had forgotten to let these off),
and a series of dull detonations from the Artillery Camp across the valley
caused little stir, as things were always going off over there.

But this time the hum of an engine could be heard, the blokes
began their whistling and booming - to represent an explosion - 
then stopped abruptly, dropping their mess tins, as real whistles
and crumps from outside duplicated the sounds they'd made.

Through the window, from the hillside on which the Artillery Camp
was built, a tall brown flower of earth could be seen blossoming
while we watched: it expanded outwards like a firework in all directions
and afterwards many swore they had seen swastikas on the wings
of the lone raider that was now heading straight towards us.

A stick of bombs explode near landing crafts during invasion of Sicily
Found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1 (pg. 183), by David. J. Lewis

Luftwaffe attacks ships off the coast of Sicily. Imperial War Museum

Hitler Came At Last, continues:

There were no NCOs present, still less an officer; we dashed
to the side doorway, got jammed in the entrance, then threw ourselves
flat beneath a whitewashed wall outside as jerry zoomed over low,
chips of whitewash flew; and we heard for the first time in earnest
the DUH-DUH-DUH of the machine gun
that had been so often mimicked in jest...

...more bombs whistled down, one sounding like a direct hit;
and the Nazi plane returned, circling silver and so high above our heads
it could hardly be seen; voices from adjoining trenches shouted:
"Where the bleeding bloody officers?" and "Why'nt we got tin hats?"
while somebody shrilled hysterically: "Shut your row, he'll hear us.
he'll hear us I tell you, shut your bleeding row."

The Jerry pilot didn't hear them and soon ceased to hear anything at all,
for he flew away to be caught in the Bournemouth barrage
and shot down in flames so we were later told.

By Julian MacLaren-Ross, A Big Lake, pages 86 - 87

Some Canadian members of Combined Operations suffered their first air attack on their way from HMS Quebec (Combined Operations No. 1 Training camp, near Inveraray, Scotland) to the Bournemouth and Portsmouth area in southern England prior to the Dieppe Raid. One sailor tells this tale: 


We went from Irvine to H.M.S. Quebec, then to H.M.S. Niobe and
then aboard the oil tanker Ennerdale at Greenock in late April, 1942.
Our barges were loaded on the ship too, by use of booms and winches.
I do recall that before leaving Greenock one of the ship’s crew said to me,
“I wish we weren’t going on this trip, matey.” When I asked why he said,
“‘Cause we got a bloody basinful last time!” We got our basinful this time too.

During the trip down the west coast of England it seems we pulled into
an Irish seaport one night; however, farther down the coast of England
we headed south past Milford Haven, Wales, and all was serene.

We usually had a single or maybe two Spitfires for company. There were
eight ships in the convoy; we were the largest, the rest were trawlers. 
Of course, the Spitfires only stayed until early dusk,
then waggled their wings and headed home.

On June 22, 1942, my mother’s birthday, O/D Seaman Jack Rimmer
of Montreal and I were reminiscing on deck. We must remember
there was daylight saving time and war time, and to go by the sun setting 
one never knew what time it was. Jack and I were feeling just a little homesick
- not like at first - and it was a terribly hard feeling to describe then.

As we can see, Jack Rimmer survived the first bombing. He is now aboard
HMS Keren on his way to Operation HUSKY (Sicily), summer 1943

Provenance - Doug Harrison, RCNVR, Combined Ops

A TASTE OF DIEPPE, 1942 continues:

Our Spitfire waggled his wings and kissed us goodnight
though it was still quite light, and no sooner had he left when
‘action stations’ was blared out on the Klaxon horn.

Eight German JU 88s came from the east, took position in the sun and
attacked us from the stern. It was perhaps between eight and nine o’clock
because I had undressed and climbed into my hammock next to Stoker Fred Alston.
When the Klaxon went everybody hit the deck and tried to dress,
and being the largest ship, we knew we were in for it.

I got my socks on, put my sweater on backwards and got the suspenders
on my pants caught on the oil valves. I was hurrying like hell and nearly
strangled myself - scared to death. They needed extra gunners so Lloyd Campbell
of London, Ontario (later to die of wounds suffered at Dieppe) said, “Let me at him.”

The bombs came - and close. They really bounced us around.
The gun crew on the foc’sle of the ship was knocked clear off
the gun by the concussion and fell but were only bruised.

The attack was short and sweet but it seemed an eternity.
A near miss had buckled our plates and we lost all our drinking water.
I ventured out on deck immediately and picked up bomb shrapnel as big
as your fist. I noticed the deck was covered with mud from the sea bottom.
I kept the shrapnel as a souvenir along with many other items I had
but, alas, they were all lost in Egypt.

We arrived at Cowe (Isle of Wight) the next day
with everyone happy to be alive and still shaking.
It indeed had been a basinful.
Incidentally, two German 88s were shot down.
two planes shot down during the course of the war;
one at Dieppe and one at Sicily. Both were low flying bombers.
His weapon was a strip Lewis 303.

By Doug Harrison, "Dad, Well Done," pages 19 - 20

In the book Writers on World War II are words from an author who "went directly from Trinity College, Oxford, into the RAF." Excerpts from "his famous account of the Battle of Britain" follow:

I Knew He Was Mine

We ran into them at 18,000 feet,
twenty yellow-nosed Messerschmitt 109s, about 500 feet above us.
Our squadron strength was eight, and as they came down
on us we went into line astern and turned head on to them.
Brian Carbury, who was leading the section, dropped the nose
of his machine and I could almost feel the leading Nazi pilot
push forward on his stick to bring his guns to bear.

At the same moment Brian hauled hard back on his control stick
and led us over them in a steep climbing turn to the left.
In two vital seconds they lost their advantage.

I saw Brian let go a burst of fire at the leading plane,
saw the pilot put his machine into a half roll,
and knew he was mine. Automatically, I kicked
the rudder to the left to get him at right angles,
turned the gun-button to "Fire," and let go
in a four-second burst with full deflection.
He came right through my sights and I saw
the tracer from all eight guns thud home.
For a second he seemed to hang motionless; then a
jet of red flame shot upward and he spun out of sight.

For the next few minutes I was too busy
looking after myself to think of anything,
but when, after a short while, they turned
and made off over the Channel,
and we were ordered to our base,
my mind began to work again. 

It had happened.

My first emotion was one of satisfaction, satisfaction at a job adequately
done, at the final logical conclusion of months of specialized training.
And then I had a feeling of the essential rightness of it all.
He was dead and I was alive; it could so easily have been the
other way round; and that somehow would have been right too.
I realized in that moment just how lucky a fighter pilot is.
He has none of the personalized emotions of the soldier,
handed a rifle and bayonet and told to charge.
He does not even have to share the dangerous emotions
of the bomber pilot who night after night must experience
that childhood longing for smashing things.
The fighter pilot's emotions are those of a duelist - 
cool, precise, impersonal. He is privileged to kill well.
For if one must either kill or be killed, as now
one must, it should, I feel, be done with dignity.
Death should be given the setting it deserves; it should never
be a pettiness; and for the fighter pilot it never can be.

From this flight Broody Benson did not return...

.... Often there would be a telephone-call from some pilot to say that
he had made a forced landing at some other aerodrome, or in a field.

But the telephone wasn't always so welcome.
It would be a rescue squad announcing the number of a crashed machine;
then Uncle George would check it, and cross another name off the list.
At that time, the losing of pilots was somehow extremely impersonal;
nobody, I think, felt any great emotion - there simply wasn't time for it.

By Richard Hillary, The Last Enemy, pages 94 - 95

From a battle in the air we turn now to a famous battle - and the sinking of the Bismarck - upon cold, grey seas:

It Was Not a Pretty Sight

There she was at last,
the vessel that these past six days had filled our waking thoughts,
been the marrow of our lives. And, as the rain faded, what a ship!
Broad in the beam, with long raked bow and formidable superstructure,
two twin 15-inch gun turrets forward, two aft, symmetrical, massive, 
elegant, she was the largest, most handsome warship I, or any of us,
had ever seen, a tribute to the skills of German shipbuilding.
Now there came flashes from her guns and those of King George V.
The final battle had begun.

In all my life I doubt if I will remember
another hour as vividly as that one...
There was the somber blackness of Bismarck and the gray of the British ships,
the orange flashes of the guns, the brown of the cordite smoke,
shell splashes tall as houses, white as shrouds.
It was a lovely sight to begin with, wild, majestic as one of
our officers called it, almost too clean for the matter at hand...

And who was going to win? None of us had any illusions
about the devastating accuracy of Bismarck's gunfire. She had
sunk Hood with her fifth salvo, badly damaged Prince of Wales,
straddled Sheffield and killed some of her crew the evening before, and 
hit an attacking destroyer in the course of the previous pitch-black night.

But there were factors we had not reckoned with:
the sheer exhaustion of her crew who had been at action stations
for the past week, the knowledge as they waited through that long,
last dreadful night that the British Navy was on its way to exact
a terrible revenge, that they were virtually a sitting target.

The Bismarck: Photo Credit - ThoughtCo (Public Domain)

Rodney was straddled with an early salvo but not hit,
then with her firing divided, Bismarck's gunnery sharply fell off.
But that of Rodney and King George V steadily improved.
As they moved in ever closer, we observed hit after hit.
The hydraulic power that served the foremost turret
must have been knocked out early, for the two guns were
drooping downward at maximum depression, like dead flowers.
The back of the next turret was blown over the side and one
of its guns, like a giant finger, pointed drunkenly at the sky.
A gun barrel in one of the two after turrets had burst,
leaving it like the stub of a peeled banana...
Through holes in the superstructure and hull
we could see flames flickering in half a dozen places.
But still her flag flew: still, despite that fearful punishment,
she continued, though now fitfully, to fire.

It was not a pretty sight.
Bismarck was a menace that had to be destroyed, a dragon
that would have severed the arteries that kept Britain alive.
And yet to see her now, this beautiful ship, surrounded by
enemies on all sides, hopelessly outgunned and out maneuvered,
being slowly battered to a wreck, filled one with awe and pity...

By 10 a.m. the last of Bismarck's guns had fallen silent....
And then, as we looked at this silent, dead-weight shambles of a ship,
we saw for the first time what had previously existed only in our imagination,
the enemy in person, a little trickle of men in ones and twos,
running or hobbling towards the quarterdeck to escape from
the inferno that was raging forward; and as we watched
they began to jump into the sea.

By Ludovic Kennedy, from On My Way to the Club,  pages 155 - 156

Passages: Writers on World War II (Part 2) will soon follow.

Please click here to learn more about the book Writers on World War II: An Anthology

And please click here to read significant and poignant passages related to Canadian Sailors in Convoys

Unattributed Photos GH 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

March 2022: Photos From Along the Way

Top Ten, But Surely, More Will Soon Follow

Yes, I Know. Don't Call You Surely

St. Patrick's Day will be very pleasant, temperature-wise (See 03/17)

Daffodils push forth (sometimes fifth) one mm at a time


The weather in February and March was "all over the place." But then, so was I. So, who's complaining?

I went for daily walks (runs are on hold until pathway surfaces are reliable) and am glad I carried a camera... because it's pretty out there.


Questions and comments can be addressed to GH @

Please click here for more Photos From Along the Way.

Photos GH