Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Links to Resources: A Focus on Sicily and Italy, 1943 (2)

 Happy Hunting. I Look for One Photo and Find Several More

Some of These May Not Be New Links, Just New To Me

Husky. Men of the Highland Division wade ashore from landing craft during
the landings in Sicily, 10 July 1943. Wackett, Frederick (Sergeant) 
© Imperial War Museum (IWM), NA 4193


While putting together entries or posts related to Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily beginning July 10, 1943, I experienced again the discovery of 'something else' while looking for 'something.'

Soon, after I found my way to 3 or 4 very appropriate and helpful links related to specific subject matter, I had collected the online addresses to other 'very appropriate and helpful links' that I could use later.

I will share some of my findings below:

The Imperial War Museum

I've been there, done that. I've visited the Imperial War Museum in London, England and, as well, I've looked at more than a few of their online photographs re WWII. Reportedly over 11,000,000 and still growing.

The photo above - NA 4193 - can be found by clicking on The Allied Invasion of Sicily, July - August 1943. By clicking on the word 'Search' beside the 'Donate' button and above the 'Become a Member' button one will activate a Search box. Type the number NA 4192 and you will be directed to the two photos below in the same set by the same photographer.

Men of the Highland Division may have travelled to GEORGE Sector,
as did my Dad. Photographer - Sgt. Wackett No. 2 Army Film and Photo

Click your return button, return to the original page, add NA 4191 to the search box, and later add NA 4194 to see if the set is small to medium to large in size. It depends on how active the photographer was on that day. In so doing one will likely be introduced to other related sets and an hour will go by very quickly as different sets under different headings are explored. Oh, and there is a photo labelled NA 4191 that comes with a caption, code number, creator and more related materials one can explore as well. Soon a day goes by and you haven't left the Imperial War Museum, maybe even your house.

The phone rings. Your boss is wondering where you are. You're still in Sicily.

Men of the Highland Division wading ashore from the landing craft.
(Photographer) Sgt. Wackett (Undefined) © IWM NA 4191

Click on (Photographer) Sgt. F. Wackett to see if he took other photos related to Sicily or another topic in which you are now interested. And click on No. 2 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit to see if that takes you anywhere. 

It happens that Sgt. Frederick Wackett was busy throughout the war, making his boss happy with multiple new headings and sets of photos, e.g., THE BRITISH ARMY IN SICILY, 1943:

A British Universal Carrier Mark I comes ashore during the invasion of Sicily
on 10 July 1943. Photographer Wackett, Frederick (Sergeant) © IWM NA 4183

I should find some interesting photos from NA 4182 to NA 4187 as listed
above. The 51st Highland Div. landed south of Syracusa, Sicily and my
father served there with the 80th Flotilla of Canadian Landing Crafts. 

So I took a trip to NA 4182, and that could be my father, far right. I have his WWII helmet and it looks exactly like the one in the photo below. 

THE CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 1943. Sgt. Wackett. NA 4182, IWM

Readers are now invited to try to find other photos in the same set, i.e., NA 4183 - 4187. Difficulties? Email me at gordh7700@gmail.com to ask for more details, if needed.

By clicking on Sgt. F. Wackett's name, as earlier suggested, I found another heading and a large set of photos that relate to the role of Canadians in Combined Operations, some of whom (including my father) spent three months in the Mediterranean, from July 10 - early October, 1943. Note: Operation BAYTOWN, the invasion of Italy at the toe of the boot began September 3, and my father experienced the rare privilege of transporting Canadian troops in Canadian landing crafts for the first time on D-Day Italy.

Next is another photograph by Sgt. F. Wackett from Sicily under a new heading, i.e., Invasion of Sicily. As I said, he was pretty busy, as were many other British, Canadian and American photographers. One could lose a second day at work quite easily!

Invasion of Sicily. Ammunition and supplies being unloaded from a L.C.T.
Photo Credit - Sgt. Wackett. NA 4200, IWM

From another photographer, Sgt. Lupson (Undefined) of 8.No. 2 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit, we have the next photo, also from the seemingly endless trove at the Imperial War Museum. One's hunting would never end:

Invasion of Sicily. Original wartime caption: An amphibious vehicle
comes ashore. Sgt. Lupson, NA 4318, IWM

"Canadians in the Italian Campaign, 1943 - 45"

On another front, readers will find good quality photographs and captions that relate to the Canadian role in Combined Operations at a site entitled "Canadians in the Italian Campaign, 1943 - 1945" by Harold A. Skaarup, creator of many Military History Books.

Mr. Skaarup starts off with a painting by Charles Comfort, Canadian artist, and author of Artist at War:

"Canadian Armour Passing Through Ortona"
Canadian War Museum (CN 12245)

Skaarup continues by sharing many photographs with clear captions and some commentary related to Canadian troops in Italy, post September 3, 1943, D-Day Italy. (Photos and captions re the invasion of Sicily, beginning about two months earlier, will be shared later in his very good lineup of shots from Library and Archives Canada).

Some examples follow, from Italy:

Two Canadian soldiers cautiously rounding the corner of a ruined building
in Ortona, Italy, 1944. Photo at Library and Archives Canada (LAC),
MIKAN No. 3724217)

Commentary by Mr. Skaarup:

A total of 92,257 Canadians served in Italy. Of these, 5,399 lost their lives and 19,486 were wounded. A further 1002 became prisoners of war and 365 died from “causes other than war. (Terry Copp)

Canada’s longest Second World War army campaign was in Italy. Canadians fought alongside soldiers serving with the Allied forces of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, New Zealand and Poland, against the combined Axis forces of Germany and Italy.

Canadian troops played a vital role in the 20-month Mediterranean campaign which led to the liberation of Italy during the Second World War. In fact, this campaign was the first large-scale land operation in which the Canadian Army stationed in Great Britain took part.

FYI. Approx. 950 - 1,000 Canadian Navy boys who "manned the barges," e.g., LCAs, LCMs, LCI(L)s (Landing Craft, Assault, Landing Craft, Mechanised, Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) respectively) as members of RCNVR and Combined Operations were also awarded The Italy Star: 

WWII Medals, Gordon Douglas Harrison, Sept. 6, 1920 - Feb. 6, 2003
Leading Seaman Coxswain, discharged Sept. 5, 1945 at HMCS Star, Hamilton

Click here to read Doug's memoirs re Sicily and Italy (Chapter 7) 

Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3524569

Commentary re above photo:

Canadian Public Relations No. 2 staff with Italian personnel and jeeps. Sicily, Italy, July 1943. Likely British jeeps, according to the hood numbers (Canadian generally had a C in front of the M), Sicily, Italy, July 1943. This is one of two photos taken at the same location with most of the same personnel. The camera roll is by CFPU photographer Lt. Dwight Dolan* and these two jeeps are probably from Canadian Public Relations No.2. This is the second of the two photos. You can see the shadow of the photographer in the uncropped version of both photos (Rolleiflex square format). But the picture taker changes in each photo. The two Italians in the photos appear to have Italian "Regia Aeronautica" (Italian Royal air force) cap badges. They might be Italian PoWs turned into guides for the Public Relations group, or simply PoWs about to be turned in. (Glenn Warner)

Seaforth Highlanders on the March, en route to a Brigade Inspection
by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Militello, Sicily, 20 Aug 1943.
Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4485882

*re another CFPU (Canadian Film and Photo Unit) photographers. The next two photographs in the same reel, by Terry Rowe, Canadian Army Film Unit (CAFU) are attached below, #23125 and #23126, Album 62. No captions were found for some reason on an Archive spreadsheet, but both photos include Monty w troops at Militello, Sicily. More details re Canadian Film and Photo Unit will follow shortly.

The following photos organized by Mr. Skaarup relate to the invasion of Sicily in July 1943:

The Royal 22e Regiment landing on the beach at Reggio di Calabria on the
morning of 3 September 1943. The 80th and 81st Landing Craft Mechanized
Flotillas*, RCN, transported the R22eR across the straits of Messina departing
from Catania's port. LCMs are pictured in the photo. (David Patterson)
Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-177114

*the 80th Flotilla, including my father, served in Sicily from July 10 - August 7; from there they were sent to Malta for rest, recuperation (my dad had dysentery, made is own way to Hill 100 Hospital in Valetta) and to repair landing crafts for Operation BAYTOWN, invasion of Italy beginning Sept. 3, 1943. In July the 80th and 81st were kept very busy:

A half-track and 6-pdr anti-tank gun coming ashore from landing craft at
Reggio, 3 September 1943. Imperial War Museum (IWM), NA 6204

Out of curiosity I googled the above photo, found the name of the photographer and googled his IWM profile. That led me to the next photo and more:

General view of one of the invasion beaches, with Italian prisoners being
made to remove barbed-wire in the foreground, 9 July 1943. Photo by
Loughlin, G. (Lieutenant) This looks very much like GEORGE Beach
at Fontane Bianche, home to the 80th Flotilla for about 4 weeks
© IWM NA 4635

Photos and details continue from Canadians in the Italian Campaign by H. Skaarup:

The landing in Pachino, Sicily, July 10th, 1943.
Library and Archives Canada Photo, PA-166751.

Details re the landings followed:

Just after dawn on 10 July, the assault (preceded by airborne landings) went in. Canadian troops went ashore near Pachino close to the southern tip of Sicily and formed the left flank of the five British landings that spread along more than 60 kilometres of shoreline. Three more beachheads were established by the Americans over another 60 kilometres of the Sicilian coast. In taking Sicily, the Allies aimed, as well, to trap the German and Italian armies and prevent their retreat across the Strait of Messina into Italy.

On 11 July, the Canadians were delayed, not as much by enemy opposition than by thousands of Italian troops wanting to surrender. The Canadians followed an inland route that guarded the British Eighth Army’s left flank up the eastern coastline toward Catania and the ultimate objective of the Strait of Messina, which divides Sicily from the Italian mainland.

With the Italian army’s rapid collapse, several German divisions hurriedly established a series of defensive lines. Canadian troops encountered such a line on 15 July near Grammichele. Enemy anti-tank guns knocked out one tank, three carriers, and several trucks before the Canadians rallied and carried the town. Having inflicted 25 Canadian casualties, the Germans withdrew. 
(Details re source of the above information was not provided).

Mr. Skaarup's collection of photos and written details under the heading "Canadians in the Italian Campaign, 1943 - 45" continues at great length and I recommend it for the information re Sicily and Italy alone. That being said, I recall that it was on Skaarup's website that I found details re the numbers of Canadian Landing Craft at D-Day Sicily or Normandy, with identification numbers listed. I'm sure a trip to the site's extensive Articles Page will jog my memory re which article the information was in. Or maybe it was in one of his many books!

I share this last photo from "Canadians in the Italian Campaign, 1943 - 45" because I visited a good friend in Santa Teresa di Riva this past September while searching for the cattle cave in which members of the 80th Flotilla of Landing Crafts spent most of July, 1943, 80 years ago:

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry troops sleeping on beach at dawn
with a landing ship tank (LST) in the background awaiting transport to Italy, Sept.
4, 1943, near Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa di Riva is a small town and commune in
the Metropolitan City of Messina, Sicily, southern Italy, located 15km north of
Taormina. (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4002439)

Though I have mentioned this site once or twice already I feel it's worth another look. The presentations on the Home Page change every once in awhile and yesterday a Canadian WWII photographer was featured, very timely I thought, because I'd featured one of Joe Dolan's photos a day or two earlier. And while sharing photos above from H. Skaarup's extensive website I came across a familiar photo and knew I'd recently looked at and shared the next two photos in the same reel from July23, 1943 approx., re Canadian troops marching toward a small town where they would be greeted by Gen. B. Montgomery.

When one visits the CFPU website you may find time passes quickly again while searching for more details about several topics listed. And if you like photos as much as I do you can gain access to 110 albums of black and whites (1000s of good quality, medium resolution shots) taken by Canadian WWII photographers. On creator Dale Gervais' Home Page one can see his 'mugshot' at the top of the right hand column, and if you look down the same column past the headings 'About Me' and 'Donate' you will find a link to Canadian Army Numericals at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Tap on the section and follow the instructions to go to LAC, where a link to each of the 110 albums (and many more different items) is provided.

The quality of photos in the albums is not as good as samples seen on H. Skaarup's page re "Canadians in the Italian Campaign" but I have not yet found my way to that treasure trove. That being said, you'll find that copies from the albums are still good. Samples below:

E.g., from Skaarup's collection, as posted above in this post:

Another caption w the same photo appears below, from CFPU, Album 64

Below are screen shots from CFPU's Album 64:

Personnel of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade landing at Reggio
di Calabria, Italy, September 3, 1943. Photograph No. 23925 

Landing of Canadian troops, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, 3 September, 1943
Photograph No. 23926

Landing of Canadian troops, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, 3 September, 1943
Photograph No. 23927

About the landings my father wrote the following:

At midnight on September 3, 1943 our Canadian landing craft flotilla, loaded once again with war machinery, left the beaches near Messina, Sicily and crossed the Messina Strait to Reggio Calabria in Italy. The invasion of Italy was underway.

It was no different touching down on the Italian beach at Reggio di Calabria at around midnight, September 3, 1943 than on previous invasions. Naturally we felt our way slowly to our landing place. Everything was strangely quiet and we Canadian sailors were quite tense, expecting to be fired upon, but we touched down safely, discharged our cargo and left as orderly and quietly as possible.

In the morning light on our second trip to Italy across seven miles of the Messina Straits we saw how the Allied artillery barrage across the straits had levelled every conceivable thing; not a thing moved, the devastation was unbelievable and from day one we had no problems; it was easy come, easy go from Sicily to Italy
. (From, "Dad, Well Done," my father's navy memoirs)

More photos from Album 64 follow:

"Landing in the early hours. Italian captain of garrison surrenders with
all his men to Capt. G. A. Coderre of the Royal 22e Regt."
Photograph No. 23928, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, Sept. 3, 1943

Pictures of landing in the early hours of Sept. 3, 1943. No. Three
Canadian Infantry Brigade (C.I.B.). Italian captain of garrison surrenders
with all his men to Capt. Coderre (Sherbrooke, Quebec) of the Royal 22e
Regiment. Reggio, Italy, Sept. 3, 1943. Photograph No. 23926
Above photos taken by W. Stirton, CFPU

Another photo album (#61, July 1943) is full of pictures of Canadian infantry travelling north (generally) through Sicily:

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry patrol walking up main street.
Photograph No. 22205, Agira, Italy, July 1943

As well, Album 64 (September, 1943) has several photo re to landing beaches in Italy, and if I can find the clearer images from some file at Library and Archives Canada I bet I'll see my father at work. So, I'll keep on digging but I enjoy the access to all 110 albums taken by CFPU. I encourage readers to check them out, and connect with me for a copy of the "captions spreadsheet." Email gordh7700@gmail.com.

The Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada 

The Canadian War Museum in our nation's capital city is worth the time and effort to visit. Displays change year by year if not sooner, architecturally the building is definitely worth exploring, in my humble opinion, and their collection of WWII materials (books, displays, etc.) is extensive. I also enjoyed browsing the used books in their library and must admit to finding/buying a few treasures for very low price. The best treasure was meeting a volunteer who was not only a WWII Navy and Combined Operations veteran, but was also a friend of my father's and recalled a lovely visit to my parent's home in Norwich, Ontario.

Nelson Langevin, RCNVR and Combined Operations 1941 - 1945
"I recall sitting under a huge maple tree behind your house, Gordon."

Nelson and Gord Harrison at Canadian War Museum, 2014. Nelson wears
his WWII medals and sports a tie with Combined Ops insignia. 

Poppies in a nearby field? No, they grow in the long grass
atop the War Museum.

Atop the museum one can see a bit of the Parliament Buildings

Recently I found a few links to news articles and 1 or 2 photos re the Canadian role in The Sicilian and Italian Campaigns, 1943-1945. A link to news articles is provided and two - related to RCNVR and Combined Ops - are shared below:

As found in the Toronto Globe and Mail, July 17, 1943

About the two RCN flotillas that "returned to port" as mentioned in the first paragraph above. They would be the 55th and 61st Canadian Flotillas of LCAs (Landing Craft, Assault) that carried troops (U.K.) ashore on the eastern coast, north of Pachino and Ross Munro, the correspondent who penned the first article. The two flotillas are listed on the map below:

Canadian troops landed south and west of Pachino, lower right corner of Sicily.
Canadian Navy in Combined Ops (55th, 61st) landed Monty's Eighth Army
between Cape Passero and Syracuse, returned to port (N. Africa) shortly there-
after; Canada's  80th and 81st Flotillas of LCMs (Landing Craft, Mechanised)
landed all materials of war for Monty's 8th through July and into August,
1943, recuperated on Malta during the rest of August, then returned to
Sicily to prepare for the invasion of Italy, Sept. 3, '43

From The Hamilton Spectator July 14, 1943

Several other articles are featured from both English and French newspapers, along with the occasional photograph. I haven't found the route to a photo archive, so "Help is Wanted."

The ruins of Regalbuto: Tanks of the Three Rivers Regiment in the town which
was so hotly disputed in August, 1943. Canadian Military Photograph

Not only is information provided about the operations re Sicily and Italy, but links are shared at the Canadian War Museum site to information related to a wide variety of other WWII operations, from the invasion of Poland, 1939, to the Dieppe Raid, 1942, and the liberation of the Netherlands, etc.

Happy hunting, I say!

More to follow re links to resources with a 'focus on Sicily and Italy in the near future.

If you happen to come across a good online site that directly or indirectly relates to the actions of Canadians in Combined Operations, please drop me a line @ gordh7700@gmail.com

Please link to Links to Resources: A Focus on Sicily and Italy, 1943 (1)

Unattributed Photos GH

No comments: