Sunday, December 6, 2015

Passages: "Working like Bees", Beach Z, North Africa

The Campaign for North Africa (1942)

Map from The Campaign for North Africa, Page 83

Context for Combined Operations' activities at Beach Z, east of Oran, North Africa, is provided by the following two excerpts from The Campaign for North Africa by Jack Coggins.

Center Task Force Landings

"Once the first waves hit the beach"

     At dusk on November 7 the Center Task Force,
     fast and slow convoys now united, turned back
     from its eastward course (one pointing toward Malta)
     and steamed south for the 3 landing beaches (X, Y, Z).

     The columns for each section had already been formed,
     and left the others in turn for their respective stations.
     Beacon submarines were in position off each beach,
     and these boats were located about 2130.
     British doctrine called for launches to be sent
     to each submarine to pick up piloting officers.
     Each of these launches would then join the landing craft
     and guide the leading waves in to the assigned beaches.

     The submarines, meanwhile, would proceed
     closer inshore and drop off teams in collapsible boats
     who would station themselves even closer to the beaches.
     Once the first waves hit the beach, the transport -
     some 7 miles offshore - would move in closer to
     the beaches through channels
     swept clear of possible mines.

     Page 82

Various landing craft, from The Campaign for North Africa, Page 69

The Main Landings

"harassing fire - it was quickly silenced"

     The main landings were in the Golfe D'Arzeu, either
     at the town itself or on the "Z" beaches to the east.
     Here 34 transports and over 20 escorting warships
     prepared to land the 16th and 18th Regimental Combat
     Teams and Task Force Red. A Ranger force was
     to land north of the town and capture two coastal-
     defense batteries there while others took the town.

     At H-Hour four companies of Rangers swarmed ashore,
     scaled the cliffs of Cap Carbon, and took the battery at
     Fort du Nord from the rear after a brief skirmish.
     Two more companies in small boats entered the little
     harbor at Arzeu, surprised the garrison, and took the guns
     at Fort de la Pointe (aided by an American captain in the 
     Foreign legion stationed at the fort).

Darby Rangers in training; preparing for the North Africa Landing
(US Army Photo) Photo Credit to Darby's Rangers

     As a green flare announced the success of this under-taking,
     a mixed U.S. and British naval party entered in a landing
     craft and seized 4 small vessels moored in the harbor.
     The port was put to immediate use, and although harassing
     fire opened up at daylight, it was quickly silenced.
     The three beaches in "Z" Sector were good,
     though exposed, with easy approaches.

     Page 84

The 'Canadians in Combined Ops' Connection

What follows is an excerpt from the memoirs of Canadian L/S Coxswain Doug Harrison (Chapter 5, "DAD, WELL DONE")

"Everyone Else Was Working Like Bees"

     My group went through much more training at H.M.S. Quebec
     and then we entrained for Liverpool. We left Greenock in
     October, 1942 with our LCMs aboard a ship called Derwentdale,
     sister ship to Ennerdale. The 80th and 81st flotillas, as we are now called,
     were split between the Derwentdale and Ennerdale in convoy,
     and little did we know we were bound for North Africa.

     I became an A/B Seaman (Able-bodied) on this trip
     and passed my exams classed very good
     We had American soldiers aboard and an Italian in our mess
     who had been a cook before the war... however...
     we nicknamed the Derwentdale the H.M.S. Starvation.

American troops climb into assault landing craft (manned by Canadians
in Combined Ops.) from liner REINA DEL PACIFICO during Operation
'Torch', Allied landings in North Africa, November 1942.
Photo credit - Imperial War Museum, London, UK

     One November morning the huge convoy, perhaps 500 ships,
     entered the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar.
     It was a nice sun-shiny day... what a sight to behold.

     On November 11, 1942 the Derwentdale dropped
     anchor off Arzew in North Africa and different ships
     were distributed at different intervals along the vast coast.
     My LCM had the leading officer aboard, another seaman
     besides me, along with a stoker and Coxswain.
     At around midnight over the sides went the LCMs,
     ours with a bulldozer and heavy mesh wire, and
     about 500 feet from shore we ran aground.
     When morning came we were still there, as big as life and
     all alone, while everyone else was working like bees.

American troops landing on the beach at Arzeu, near Oran, from a
landing craft assault (LCA 26, manned by Canadians), some of
them are carrying boxes of supplies. Photo credit - IWM

     There was little or no resistance, only snipers, and I kept
     behind the bulldozer blade when they opened up at us.
     We were towed off eventually and landed in another spot, and
     once the bulldozer was unloaded the shuttle service began.
     For ‘ship to shore’ service we were loaded with five gallon
     jerry cans of gasoline. I worked 92 hours straight and
     I ate nothing except for some grapefruit juice I stole.

To read more by L/S D. Harrison, link to Memoirs re Combined Operations,

Link to Passages: Comox Spit and Polish

Unattributed Photos by GH

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