Saturday, January 2, 2016

Articles re Combined Operations, "Norwich Sailor Sees Action"



The following newspaper article appeared in The Brantford Expositor in December 1943 or January, 1944.

Caption: HOME FROM ITALY - Leading Seaman Doug Harrison, Norwich,
who is home on leave after two years of active service on naval and combined
operations overseas. He played a part in the successive invasions of North
Africa, Sicily and Italy, and came through many heavy bombings.
Staff photo from The Brantford Expositor, Dec. 1943 

Home on leave after a year of duty in the Mediterranean theatre of war is Leading Seaman Doug Harrison, Norwich, who played a part in the invasion of Sicily, and finally the invasion of Italy.

Arriving home Friday, having returned to Canada with some 200 other active-service veterans of combined operations, LS. Harrison told The Expositor: “We’re all very lucky to be home. We had very few casualties in spite of the bombing raids we went through.”

Enlisting in the R.C.N.V.R. two years and four months ago as an Ordinary Seaman, the Norwich boy went overseas almost immediately, and since his arrival in Britain he has been on loan to the Royal Navy. Both in training and in subsequent operations, his duties have been to see that invasion barges “get the goods to the soldiers at the right time, on the right beach.” His reference to “goods,” he explained, meant food, ammunition, trucks, and every other variety of war supplies.


His share in the North African campaign was “quite easy,” he said. His point of invasion was at Arzeu, a short distance from Oran, on the Algerian coast. That was in November of last year, and it was his first operation after a year of training. 

“I missed going to Dieppe by just one day,” he said. He had been on leave, and returned to duty just as the Dieppe casualty lists were coming in. Seven of his combined operations colleagues failed to come back from that cross-Channel venture.


The Sicilian invasion he described as plenty hot. “We had 72 air raids in 36 hours,” he said. “We were bombed for three or four hours at a stretch, every night and every morning for a month, from the time the invasion started July 10.”

“We found the people of Sicily in bad condition, nearly starving. We practically kept them, with our own food. I saw boys 19 years old, only as big as Canadian boys of 11 or 12. They were begging for food all the time.”

 Canadians in Combined Ops (e.g., signalman, centre) man the Landing
Craft Mechanized (LCMs) on the beaches of Sicily in July, 1943

Photo Credit for above two photos - Imperial War Museum


The Italian campaign was “easy,” so far as his share of the invasion was concerned, he said. “There was nothing to it. It was just a matter of walking in and taking over, after a 55-minute bombardment of Reggio Calabria, on the toe of the Italian boot, by naval guns and rocket guns.”

Leading Seaman Harrison, who drove a truck for the Norwich Co-operative before enlisting for naval service at the age of 20, is the son of Mrs. Alice Harrison, Norwich. He has a brother, Corporal Roland Harrison, R.C.A.F., stationed at No. 5 Service Flying training school, Brantford.

The Canadians overseas are doing a great job, he said. Omitting the navy for evident reasons of modesty, he had high praise for the Canadian Army and the R.C.A.F. “In my estimation the Canadian Army is the best in the world,” he said.


“Anybody who has relatives overseas should write lots of letters,” he advised. “The Canadian boys like to get mail. It’s as welcome as pay day - in fact, in Italy it’s even more welcome because they can’t spend money there.”

He saw many active servicemen from Brantford, Norwich, and other points in this district. “They’re a good-looking bunch of lads, husky boys, and all tanned up,” he said.

LS. Harrison expects to return overseas on completion of his leave at home*. He said he would not commit himself by making any prediction as to the length of the war, as the enemy was “a pretty tough customer, and will take a lot of beating.”

*Doug Harrison volunteered for two more years of duty and then served at a Combined Operation Training School in Comox, Vancouver Island. He was discharged in September, 1945.

Doug (front), Chuck Rose (middle) and Buryl McIntyre
Perhaps at Union Station, Toronto. circa January, 1944,
on their way to Vancouver Island

Photos GH

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