Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Memoirs re Combined Operations - A. G. Kirby, Dieppe

The Dieppe Raid: August 19, 1942 - Part 1

D. Harrison (L) with Al Kirby, in Scotland

The following story by Mr. A. Kirby (formerly of Woodstock, Ontario) is found in COMBINED OPERATIONS, a significant book written and compiled by Londoner Clayton Marks.

"Sharing WW2 memories, Mr. Kirby included"


A. G. Kirby - RCN - 4230 

- A Few Days Before the Raid

The shrill Bosuns' call broke the peace of a Saturday afternoon 'Make and Mend' as forcefully as the action bell on a destroyer, or the howl of the air raid alert in Picadilly Circus. "The following ratings report to the quarter deck on the double," it commanded, with the authority and rudeness, so characteristic of the Royal Navy of World War II. "Able Seaman Adlington, Able Seaman Bailey, Able Seaman Belontz... say again, Able Seaman Adlington, Able Seaman Bailey, Able Seaman Belontz, report to the quarter deck, on the double".

I lay on the lockers of our mess deck lazily passing the afternoon, when the Bosuns' call shook me back to reality. Adlington....Adlington....Christ that's me....well, not me, but since I'm standing by for Adlington I'd better get to the quarter deck to see what kind of a dirty job I'm being seen off for now.

 Halifax, 1941: "Addy" Addlington, fourth row back, third from left

 Four WW2 Vets reunite, including Art (Gash) Bailey, far right

 "Addy" Adlington* (groom) and new wife Mary, married in Glasgow.
Best man is Chuck Rose, RCNVR and Comb. Ops, w Mary's sister.

As I draw myself to a standing position, I reach my cap off the top locker and jam it down onto my head, square across my eyebrows in true RCN fashion. Out the door of the mess and down two steps to the sidewalk, then turn to skirt two sides of the parade ground in the lovely, August, afternoon warmth, of sunny Hampshire. Of course, I knew better than to cut across the parade ground, for fear that a gunner's mate may be within five nautical miles of me committing such blasphemous conduct, and I would never get finished doing punishment number eleven. As I walked along, my mind wandered back through the last seven or so months: graduating from Torpedo School at Halifax in December, volunteering for 'hazardous work' in small craft with England's Royal Navy, the trip to England in a rust bucket of a troop ship named the 'Vollendam', training through the Spring in southern England and Scotland and now sitting here in barracks at Portsmouth, twiddling my thumbs. My God, what a war! When in the world are we ever going to look down the barrel of a gun and see a Kraut just asking for it.

Here I am, eighteen years old, a fine specimen of a sailor, in great physical shape, fully trained after one and a half years in the finest Navy in the world, and on my way to be given some joe job, like scrubbing the deck in the Wrens' heads. Just think....I could have been living it up in London this weekend if only I hadn't sold my weekend leave to my buddy, Allan Adlington. One pound is a lot of money, but isn't it just my luck that "Addy" would draw some crummy job and I would have to do it for him. As I turned in to the Quartermaster's office, just off the quarterdeck, I reported, "Able Seaman Kirby here." The Quartermaster looked at me with a puzzled expression, "A.B. what?" "Able Seaman Kirby," I replied, thinking what a bunch of dolts these juicers are. "Oh, I mean Able Seaman Adlington....that is....I'm standing by for Able Seaman Adlington while he is on weekend leave".

"Right, well now my son, nip back to the mess and get your attache case, pack whatever you need for a weekend stay and report to the R.P.O.'s office. Don't forget your shaving gear, but remember, no more than you can pack in your attache case. Got it? Right, now 'op to it my lad."

As I turned to leave the office, I was met at the door by Lantz and McKenna. A.B. Lawrence Lantz, from the Gatineau area of Quebec, was our Flotilla barber, and one of the most liked of the seamen. He was a few months older than I, a lot quieter, and considered by all to be a steady, reliable, knowledgeable fellow. And so he was. I add the last statement because not everyone in our group turned out to be what he first appeared to be. A.B. Joe McKenna, another well mannered, very likable and quiet guy, was also about nineteen, but hailed from Souris, P.E.I.

I turned to the Q.M. "It looks like these two are standing by for Bailey and Belontz. What kind of a number do you have for them?" I queried. "Same story as you," he replied, "Get what you need for a weekend stay into your attache case and trot your useless bodies to the R.P.O.'s office at the double. A lorry is waiting for you and if you miss it you will bloody well have to walk."

As we cleared the door and started along the quarterdeck, heading for the mess, McKenna turned to me, "What's this all about anyway?" "Damned if I know," I answered, "The R.P.O. will no doubt give us the bad news when we get over there."

"Alright lads, I see you've got your gear with you, now I want you to fill in these forms for me, then you can board that lorry outside and be on your way," scowled the R.P.O. I looked at the piece of paper and across the top it said, "Next of kin form", then "This is not a will". I looked at the R.P.O. "What the hell kind of a job is this chief?" "No idea," he exclaimed. "An R boat Flotilla needs you three for a few days and then you will come right back here." "But what's this next of kin form all about," I persisted. "You lads have got to ride this bloody lorry out of here and sure as Christ made little green apples, one of you will fall out and kill yourself, and we have to know where to send your rum soaked body." We all realized that that was the only explanation we were going to get, so we complied and out the door we went and into the back of a 60 hundred weight idling on the roadway.

The trip to Newhaven took over three hours and we arrived there just after supper, completely unexpected. No one knew what we were required for, so we were told to pick up some bedding at a store room in a large shed on the jetty and report to the Flotilla Commanding Officer in the morning. At the stores, we were each given, one hammock mattress and two Navy blankets. We looked around the shed for a place to lay our heads down. The building was about the size of an airplane hanger and most of the floor area was covered with the beds of what looked like about two or three hundred sailors and other types.

We finally found a spot where we could be together and made up our beds for the night. We questioned the juicer sailors around us and found that the few nearest us were an R.N. Flotilla of R boats who had been moved here the day before and this freight shed was the only accommodation available. The general concensus was that some kind of an exercise was about to take place, but no one had any actual information. It was now about 2000 and we had had nothing to eat since noon hour, so we had a little discussion about whether we should go ashore to get some grub. We concluded that there would be nothing open, not even the pubs now, so we decided to hang around and shoot the breeze until we felt like sleeping.

And there ended Saturday night, August 15th, 1942.

"Terrible action just days away" Photo from The Watery Maze

Part 2 to follow.

*One might wonder if "Addy's" weekend leave included a dance with his future bride. At time of writing, Mr. and Mrs. Adlington live in London, Ontario

Please link to more Memoirs re Combined Operations

Unattributed Photos by G.Harrison

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