Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Short Story re North Africa & Friendly Fire

North Africa: Oran, Exposure to Friendly Fire*

by John E. Rimmer, L/Sea, RCNVR

Photo is found in St. Nazaire to Singapore, page 113

Introduction: At the thirty-fifth reunion in Thunder Bay in 1989, Tom Scott and I were talking about an incident we, amongst others, experienced. Perhaps you did too. Any way we decided that I should write about it and send it to Clayton for the news letter**. However I never got around to sending it so I will send it on to David***. We found it amusing anyway. You be the judge.

 "John (Jack) Rimmer is aboard H.M.S. Keren, on route to Sicily, 1943"

"Please note Don Westbrook, in above photo, back left"

"Roy Burt (left), author of 'The Saga of the Wine Barrels'
"Don Westbrook (right), as seen in July 1994 RCNA newsletter" 

Arzew, North Africa, November 8, 1942

Tommy Scott and I were wondering how many of the guys here in Thunder Bay remember the experience being targeted by apparently, friendly gun fire during the North African landings at Arzew. If they do, they would probably remember on D-Day + 1 laying on the boat deck of the S. S. Reina Del Pacifico sunning ourselves during one of our rest periods while a relief crew had taken over our LCM.

Two RN Seafires came in low over the sand dunes and made a pass along the beach and then swung out over the anchored ships as we all watched in awe and admired their flying skills.

Then on their second pass over the beach, one behind the other, they sprayed the beach with machine gun fire scattering the troops in all directions. Then it was our turn to scatter as they swung out toward us. Somehow we all made it down the hatches without anyone getting hit. We could hear bullets ricocheting off the deck and superstructure.

It seemed that the two Fleet Air Arms planes had run low on fuel and their carrier had left the area and they were advised to land and refuel at the Arzew airfield. The problem was it hadn't been captured yet and on landing their planes they were taken over by the Vichy French and it was them that caused all the excitement. However it was a one-time-only affair as the air field was captured shortly after that and we weren't bothered by our own aircraft for the rest of the operation.

*The fire was really not all that friendly.
**A monthly newsletter, related to the Canadian Comb. Ops arm of the RCN association, was printed and distributed for many years.

***Albertans David J. and Catharine (Kit) Lewis, and Len Birkines compiled and printed the stories found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945, Volumes 1 and 2.

John Rimmer's story and many more can be found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941 - 1945, Volume 1

Link to Short Story re North Africa and Wine Barrels

Unattributed Photo by GH

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