Thursday, November 19, 2015

Training for Combined Operations

Training Sites and Stories - Canadians in Combined Ops., WW2

Training Sites in Canada

Wellington Barracks, HMCS Stadacona, Halifax
Photo from Nova Scotia Museum

In Canada, thousands of young men from coast to coast volunteered for WW2 service from 1939 - 1945 and my father's experience related to recruitment and subsequent training may shed some light on how some of these men - more than a few of them just boys really - were quickly caught up in a whirlwind of travel and training before participating in several dangerous raids (e.g., St. Nazaire, Dieppe) and invasions (e.g., North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy) associated with the Combined Operations organization in the European theatre of war.

My father, Gordon Douglas Harrison, volunteered to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR, the Wavy Navy) at HMCS Star, Hamilton, Ontario in June, 1941. He did some initial training there before moving on to HMCS Stadacona, Halifax, Nova Scotia for more training later that same year. While in Halifax he volunteered for Combined Operations and was transported to Scotland aboard the Dutch liner Volendam in January, 1942.

Once in the U.K. he moved about for training - a month here, two months there - in such a fashion he could barely keep his head on straight or recall all the details. Fortunately he recalls the names of many Combined Operations training centres in his memoirs and the task of following his zigzag path (between stints of training for raids, and more training for subsequent invasions) in England or Scotland is difficult but not impossible. And once he returned to Canada after two years of 'hostilities' and settled into routines at a Combined Operations training base on Vancouver Island, he was there almost until he was discharged in September, 1945.

Following are a few details concerning training sites that are mentioned by my father in his memoirs and serve as some (albeit faint) link to Canadians in Combined Operations, during WW2:

HMCS Star, Hamilton - the base is still active, found on the southern edge of Hamilton Harbour. Address is 650 Catharine St N. Access can be found at the north end of, e.g., Bay or James Street. 

"Young recruits marching near Bay Street, Hamilton, 1941" 
Provenance - Doug Harrison

HMCS Stadacona, Halifax - the base is still an active centre, home to Admiralty House Navy Museum. During WW2, it served as a stepping stone for those willing to join the Combined Operations organization.

"Entrance to HMCS Stadacona can be found at 2778 Gottingen Street, Halifax" 

"The red brick Officers' Quarters still stands. The sailors' barracks is gone" 

Initial and important training related to the R.C.N.V.R and Combined Operations took place in several centres in Canada. More details will follow. 

Unattributed Photos by GH

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