Thursday, November 26, 2015

Short Story re North Africa & A Cluttered Beach

Action on Les Andalouses Beaches, Oran (November, 1942)

By Dr. Wm. Neil McLean, CDR, RCNVR

"A point on Les Andalouses Beach where Petty Officer RN Neil McLean spoke firmly
to a senior officer and was drafted out of RN Combined Operations into a stores job."
Photo credit - V. Jones, Operation Torch, Pan Ballantine History of WW2, 1973

From Calgary Neil McLean went to Gosport, England for Boy Seaman training at HMS St. Vincent. After service with the Home Fleet, in the Eastern Mediterranean and Force H, he was drafted to Combined Operations as Petty Officer (PO). In the course of Operation Torch his Beach Group C was ordered to direct landings at Les Andalouses (Y Beach).

Chart found in Combined Operations page 66

However, on arrival of PO McLean's C2 Beach Party it was found that the central beach was inaccessible due to its rocky condition. Pre-invasion  beach reconnaissance was not well developed at that time. C2 Party was therefore divided between the Western (C1) and Eastern (C3) Beach parties.

The Beach Master of C1, a Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. who had transferred from the Merchant Navy, was impetuously calling in craft out of their order. The beach became cluttered with 'broached to' craft as there were insufficient hands to properly handle the crafts' lines. The officer was adamant and refused to take advice (from McLean) re the correct procedure. Without the standard stern lines control of the beach cluttered up with 'broached to' and unserviceable craft.

"A 'broached to' LCM (left) at Les Andalouses, Nov., 1942"
Photo - US Army in WW2, Ch. 11, page 201

After his remonstrations McLean found himself returned to General Service. PO McLean was drafted to a Naval base at Aultbea, Scotland. There convoys to Murmansk were formed up. After a year he went to HMS Defiance, a Torpedo School at Devonport, and qualified for Leading Torpedo Operator, Low Power (LTO, LP).

He spent about a year on HMS Bagshot, a minesweeper, clearing German minefields around Greece. Next he transferred to the RCNVR as an AB (Able Bodied Seaman), LTO, LP. On demobilisation  he went to the University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine. On graduation he began his practice of Family Medicine in Calgary. Rejoining the Naval reserve as a Surgeon Lieutenant he retired as a Surgeon Commander, RCNR, Retired.

Photo Credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Vol. 1, Page 114

Neil McLean was a well trained Petty Officer when he was drafted to Combined Operations in command of the C2 Beach party. In a WW2 torpedo exhibit at the Naval Museum of Alberta, Neil McLean is pictured standing by a weapon - characteristic of his old non-sub rating - restored by his work as a Naval Museum Volunteer.

This short story is found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941-1945 Volume 1, Page 114

Link to Short Story re North Africa & Friendly Fire

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