Thursday, October 29, 2015

Websites re Combined Operations

Don Kemsley's Journal - Part 2

 "Members of Combined Ops on their way to Sicily.
Please note Don Westbrook, top row, first on left"

"These men are aboard HMS Keren, photo dated 1943"

Mr. Kemsley, a member of RCNVR, trained in Halifax in the fall of 1942, and ultimately volunteered for Combined Operations. He travelled to Scotland near Christmas time in the Queen Elizabeth with 17,000 other Navy and Army troops and soon found himself training on all sorts of landing craft in southern England. From his notes it appears he then travelled back to Scotland before being shipped off to Sicily the long way 'round, i.e. by travelling aboard HMS Keren around Africa and to HMS Saunders in Egypt for more training.

"Comb. Ops at HMS Saunders. Tents in background. Don Westbrook
appears in back row, 4th from left, in large shorts (due to dysentery?)"

About his experience during the invasion of Sicily he writes, in part:

     The beaches were small and very shallow so we had difficulty getting
     up far enough on them to make a dry landing. The anti-aircraft guns on
     the beaches and on the ships at anchor kept the aircraft up high but there
     was constant bombing and straffing of the beaches for many days. We
     were harassed by German and Italian planes and the second night we
     were there they bombed and sunk a hospital ship* that was anchored and
     brightly lighted some distance from our beach.

Don certainly travelled a lot of miles before reaching Sicily, during the invasion and many more afterwards. His notes are full of information about his duties with Combined Ops, and because he spent some time with the 80th Flotilla shipping all the materials of war from Sicily to Italy in September, 1943 (two months after the invasion of Sicily), I feel he may have crossed paths with my father more than once.

I say thank you to Sandy Kemsley, Don's daughter, for making the effort to share her father's wartime journal with others.

Please link to and read Combined Operations in the Canadian Navy, 1943 by Don Kemsley.

* the hospital ship was likely the Talamba. Many medical staff perished

Photos by GH

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