Thursday, June 30, 2022

Turtle Tours: Photos From Beside the Thames River (1)

Red-eared Sliders, Common Map, and Spiny Soft-shell

The egret fishes the Thames River in London, ONT
Beside it is a trail I can follow, camera in hand


The number of photographs I take per week has decreased lately because I am transitioning from frequent walker to frequent runner (to prepare for two half-marathons in the fall). However, I still walk once or twice per week along the Thames River in London, Ontario, and my eyes are growing accustomed to spotting various types of turtles found along the river banks, often sun-bathing or stretching their legs.

Here are a few photos from along the way, depicting the setting and three or four types of local turtles (some prefer to be called tortoises as well). 

Walkers can access the shores of the Thames on the west side 
of the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP), two locations

The walkway ends under Oxford Street

Lotsa turtles hang out on the right side of the river near Blackfriars Bridge

I see the occasional fish, above, and fisherman, below

The 'turtle tour' begins:

I think it's a Common Map turtle or Northern Map

Spiny Soft-Shell is thinking about hitting the road. 

Two seconds later this one was gone!

Common Map turtle, from opposite side of the river

An endangered spiny soft-shell turtle... er, tortoise

More to follow.

Please click here to view May 2022: Photos From Along The Way (1)

Photos by GH

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Research: Post-Dieppe, Aug. 26-31, 1942 (Pt 3)

Canadian War Correspondent Ross Munro re Dieppe,

Interviews with Canadians in Combined Operations

Who said, "Slowest Hell?" Let me dig a bit! (More details to follow)
Photo: As found in The Winnipeg Tribune, Pg. 1, Aug. 28, 1942


The news clips that follow run the gamut, from headlines to editorials to movie ads to an article/interview (by Ross Munro, see above headline) with a solid connection to Canadians involved in Combined Operations, including my father, Leading Seaman and Coxswain D. Harrison, 1941 - 45. And "Slowest Hell" has a link to Combined Ops. My father didn't say it, but I think his friend did.

The clippings are from the Friday, Aug. 28, 1942 issue of the online version of The Winnipeg Tribune, made available by the University of Manitoba. I tip my hat westward! And I encourage readers to visit the U. of Man. website and peruse their vast collection (years' and years' worth) of Canadian news.

Forty-plus clips follow - and some rare photos - that provide context and details related to Canada's role in WWII:

The battle for Stalingrad is often described as one of the main reasons Germany lost the war. Both sides lost hundreds of thousands of men in vicious combat but it was Germany who was ultimately stretched 'over-thin.'

Ross Munro accompanied Canadian troops in landing crafts at Dieppe; he interviewed "officers and ratings (sailors of various ratings, i.e., ordinary seamen (OS), able-bodied (AB) and leading seamen (LS), etc.) of the Dominion's expanding naval force manning the landing craft." He mentions in the second paragraph a few rare details about the first Canadians in Combined Ops, i.e., how many participated in the Dieppe Raid and how long they had been training (e.g., at Hayling IslandInveraray and Irvine) prior to the raid.

Lt. David Lewis (RCNVR, Combined Operations) was not the only Canadian navy officer available to talk to Ross Munro about his role and experience at Dieppe. Sub. Lt. Boak and Sinclair are heard from as well, later in the article. However, not only is Lewis an able spokesperson when interviewed after the raid, he was an able writer, compiler and editor of a rare collection of RCNVR veterans' stories after the war. 

 My dad D. Harrison (left) and other navy veterans provide much support
to Lewis' collection. Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, page 333

Readers are encouraged to visit an online site courtesy of the University of Alberta that shares David Lewis' two-volume set of significant Canadian navy stories, compiled with the help of Catherine (Kit) Lewis and Len Birkenes (RCNVR, Combined Operations). 

Munro's interview with Lewis continues:

Sub. Lt. J. E. Boak not only appears in a photograph with Lt. David Lewis and other officers but is mentioned in a lengthy RCN monthly report re the Dieppe Raid that appears in Volume 1 of St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945,  pages 56 - 59. A timely excerpt appears below:

In recording an action such as the Dieppe Raid, it is not possible to cite a particular
experience as typical of the landing craft officers. However, the description obtained from Sub-Lieutenant J. E. Boak, RCNVR of Victoria, B.C., gives a particularly good idea of what the personnel manning landing craft underwent. Sub-Lieutenant Boak served as Boat Officer in the boat of the Flotilla Officer of the 2nd Flotillas of LCP(L)'s which, with Nos. 6 and 7 Flotillas, constituted "B" group. This group was destined for Green Beach, at Pourville, west of Dieppe, and carried the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Gostling...

As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, page 44

The flotillas cleared Newhaven Harbour between 2130-2200 on 18th August and made
towards Dieppe, guided by a motor launch. Then near the French coast an engagement was seen to port and the flotillas took avoiding action. As a result the landing, timed for 0540 was delayed about 20 minutes. An LCA flotilla landed troops on Green Beach about half an hour before "B" group arrived with the Camerons.

The three flotillas of "B" group - 27 craft - proceeded in formation of division disposed abeam. The ML left then and the flotillas deployed into line abreast to approach the beach.

Off the beach there was considerable smoke and as the vessels passed through this they came under fire from the shore, including fire from heavy guns. The troops were successfully landed and the flotillas pulled off shore into the smoke, joining a concentration of ships off Dieppe.

As a second operation, and probably with fresh assault parties including Canadian stokers assigned special duties, these flotillas had been ordered to enter Dieppe Harbour, report to the gunboat Locust and carry out work assigned by it. After some delay they started into the harbour. For an hour or hour and a half the flotillas waited off Dieppe, then reached orders to "Evacuate Yellow Beach", this being at the Eastern or Berneval end of the theatre of operations.

Smoke was heavy as the craft moved towards the beach and it was difficult to determine
locations. They moved inshore, found they were in the wrong spot and moved out again. Returning towards the shore through the smoke at what they believed to be Yellow Beach they found a group of Canadian soldiers, believed to be of the Royal Regiment of Canada, standing on a "raft''. (This "raft'' was a capsized landing craft). Apparently in an attempt to keep down fire from the shore these men were waving various white garments. The soldiers motioned the vessels to keep away, warning them of the danger. Nevertheless the craft closed in, coming under terrific fire, including that of heavy guns, mortars and machine-guns. Two craft came alongside the raft, and sailors shouted to the men to jump. Four soldiers managed to grab ropes hanging from Sub-Lieutenant Boak's craft. Two were immediately hauled aboard, the third was dragged for a considerable distance before it was possible to get him aboard, and the fourth dropped off.

The remainder of the men on the raft were picked up by another LCP(L). While this was being done two of the crew were killed and the Commanding Officer wounded. One of the ratings killed was a Canadian, AB McKenna**. He was firing at the cliffs with a Tommy-gun when he was shot through the chest. He said," I am afraid I'm hit, sir", spun around and fell dead.

The flotillas then pulled off seaward as rapidly as possible, still under very heavy fire. One of the officers* remarked afterwards, ''We went like hell, but it was the slowest hell I remember."

Page 58, RCN Monthly Report, No. 10, October, 1942

*Again, the identity of the officer 'going like the slowest hell' is not provided.

**More information about AB (Able Bodied Seaman) (Joe) McKenna can be find on this site.

War Correspondent Ross Munro's article continues to its conclusion:

From collection of D. Harrison. D. Lewis sports the beard, right

Links to some of the articles and books that the men above and other Canadian Navy veterans produced can be found at Photographs: Aging Navy Vets Reconnect at Reunions, Parts 1 - 3

In a two-volume set of books produced by David Lewis, with the support of his wife Catherine (Kit) and navy man Len Birkenes, one can read about an RCNVR officer who "also helped land Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal at the main beach at Dieppe" as mentioned at the conclusion of Munro's fine article.

An excerpt from a rare entry of prose written by Lt. Robert McRae (taken POW on the beaches at Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942) follows:

Dieppe: The Landing, by Robert McRae, LT, RCNVR .

Toronto made me, Dieppe undid me;
26, RCNVR, ordinary seaman to lieutenant
by '42, RN destroyers and mine-sweepers
in the North Sea, then from May the same year
hitched up to a new RCN flotilla
learning Combined Operations, 100 men, 15 sub-lieutenants
working our butts off up in Scotland making landings
in anything that floated - then in August ordered to Southampton
where persuasive talkers wanting men and boats
for a mystery job took us in hook, line and sinker,
our officers and men sprinkled through the fleet,
not going in as a unit, the price to be paid
for a chance at some close-in action ....

On to late afternoon, August 18th,
when the officers of our flotillas of landing-craft
were briefed at Lancing College... 
At the briefing we learned that it was the FMR,
the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, that we were putting on the beach before Dieppe,
a proud French Canadian regiment commanded by Colonel Menard,
and that we'd use R-boats, which we'd trained on,
small, fast little boats made of plywood with no armour,
crew of three and an officer, carrying twelve to fifteen soldiers...

After dinner we were driven to our boats in Shoreham harbour,
where I found my three-man crew already in the boat,
having been separately briefed. They seemed-quite subdued,
but cheered up a little when we moved from the harbour at sunset
and began the night-long passage in line astern
through a swept enemy minefield
to the Channel's other side. The sea was very calm
with no light from the moon. About 3 AM we made out quite plainly
illuminations of a naval action just over the horizon,
with gun flashes, tracer bullets and explosions.
Much later I learned that a German coastal convoy had been surprised,
but at the time I had no idea what it was all about.

At Dawn we seemed to be near the French coast,
but it was mostly invisible behind a heavy smoke-screen.
The sounds of war just beyond us were unlike anything
I'd ever heard before - particularly the frightful whine
of mortar shells. Our flotillas of R-boats stood about in the outskirts
of the thick smoke-screen until about 7.30 AM,
when, as the reserves, we got orders to go in, land our troops
(again, I only discovered much later, this was action to reinforce failure
on the seafront of the town, contrary to all rules of war
that I'd ever heard of). So as quickly as possible we formed up in line
abreast and went through the smoke-screen.

Coming out on the other side with a full view now of the coast,
we found we were fatally headed toward the beach under the steep cliffs,
to the right side of the town instead of the town front,
with the ominous heads of the enemy clearly visible
lined along the top of the cliffs. And now they began to pour
machine-gun fire down into the boats. In our craft, Campbell,
who was at the wheel, received a line of bullets across his thighs

(later as a POW he lost his legs to amputations
and died before Christmas from gangrene).
Cavanagh, standing beside him, was shot in the chest,
and died an hour later thrashing in torment while his lungs filled up.
My third crewman, Brown, took something in the stomach
that damaged him for the rest of his life. But although wounded,
he took over Campbell's place at the wheel,
and for this action received a gallantry award
after the war. As it was my place to stand behind the man at the wheel,
Campbell had stopped the machine-gun bullets
I might otherwise have received....

St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, pages 61 - 62

LT Robert McRae with a foot wound being marched off to POW camp
after Dieppe - Aug 19, 1942. Source: German Cine Services
(GH - I think McRae is fourth back in left column)
St. Nazaire to Singapore, Volume 1, page 65

A happy 1989 Reunion of two shipmates at Dieppe. Stoker R.W. Brown (L) was
stoking LT McRae's LCP(L) 45 when her engine was destroyed by enemy fire
McRae is back rt. Those with caps on are Doug Harrison (L) and Art Bailey.
Brown sadly has passed on since. The Germans separated officers and
men in prison to the disadvantage of the men. (GH - Doug is my Dad)
St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, pg. 65

Readers can read more from the two-volume set by clicking here - St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War by Lewis, Lewis and Birkenes.
News clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune now continue:

Some Dieppe raiders were "getting back to Britain," but many, many others were not:

"We're all in this together," says a Newfoundland lad:

I am aware there are many good books written about the miracle of Dunkirk. I will soon find out if the book below is one of them:

Low cost! Given to me by the owner of a nearby Little Free Library

I assume the Fox Movie reels re "Allied Commandos Raid France" are about the Dieppe Raid, held 9 days earlier. Good news travels fast, some say. Bad news even faster?!

Canadian Paramount News shares "Allied Attack on Dieppe" shortly after the raid, though the newsreel may be impossible or very hard to find! Help Wanted!

The Ottawa Citizen (see below) can be found on microfiche at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. I have looked at a few issues and some very significant articles re Canadians in Combined Ops can be found on this site:

Please link to Articles: Canadian Flotilla of Landing Craft in Italy (Parts 1 - 4) to see items from The Ottawa Citizen.

An earlier article about the above-mentioned Canadian soldier can be found in the previous post, and a link is provided at bottom of page.

Some exceptional, informative maps are regularly provided in The Tribune:

Opinions related to Lt.-Gen. Bernard Montgomery are mixed; I wasn't there so I'll keep my thoughts to myself:

How much were soldiers, sailors, and airmen paid during World War II? Some details are provided below:

The brief article below inspired me to try to locate more information about the men and women who "shot the war". Example, Lt. Frank Royal "was aboard a big landing craft" ("with the raiding force")....

Perhaps Lt. Royal's film is archived somewhere in Canada. Help Wanted. Please click here for a few online avenues that may help someone find more details re 'a man who was there':

More news clippings to follow from various war fronts, all from a great newspaper in central Canada. (I'll soon be back to UWO to check their microfiche cache, 1,000s of news reels to peruse)!

Please click here to view Part 2 of the same series, i.e., Research: Post-Dieppe August 26-31 (2)

Unattributed Photos GH