Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (3)



Deputy Director, Historical Section, General Staff

Personnel of No. 3232 Servicing Commando relax by their vehicles in Sicily,
while awaiting the order to proceed across the Straits of Messina for the invasion
of Southern Italy (Operation BAYTOWN). Photo Credit - WW2Today

In the 876 page, comprehensive history of the Canadian Army one will find mention of the Canadian landing craft flotillas that were on hand - for a month or more at a time - during the 1943 invasions of Sicily (beginning in early July) and Italy (September).

I have listed some pertinent passages below from pages 202 - 204 that relate to Canadians in Combined Operations during Operation BAYTOWN - ferrying troops and materials of war from Messina Sicily to Reggio in Italy - but will not say I have found them all. For those who like reading or scanning lengthy texts, I wish you "good hunting."


Operation BAYTOWN - Italy

The Assault Across the Strait, 3 September 1943

We read, "As darkness fell on the evening of 2 September the assaulting battalions of the 13th Corps came down from the hills behind Mili Marina, and formed up in their appointed groups along the beaches. The weather, in contrast to the rude welcome it had given the Allied invaders of Sicily, was ideal."

Just before 12AM - on calm, moonlit seas - the Landing Craft, Assault (LCAs) arrived and settled into a long line near the shore. Troops soon began to board the craft and at about 0230 hours the force moved away from the beaches, in formation, and readied themselves for the trip (seven miles) to the Italian mainland. Meanwhile, at about the same time Landing Craft, Infantry (LCIs), with the Royal 22e Regiment aboard, left Catania's harbour and travelled north along Sicily's coast meet the rest of the Canadian brigade.

The text says, "When the sixteen L.C.As. assigned to carry the Canadian assault companies drew in to the Mili Marina beach, four L.C.Ms.† came with them, to embark the follow-up companies who were scheduled to land on "Fox" beach five minutes after the leading troops."

(† Landing Craft Mechanized. The "Mark III" type - L.C.M. (3) - used by the Canadians in "Baytown" was a 50-foot ramped craft, built to carry 24 tons,- and capable of landing a vehicle or stores in shallow water.)

The troops that boarded the LCMs heard familiar sounding voices coming from their crews - likely for the first time - because they were made up of Canadian sailors.

We read, "The 80th L.C.M. Flotilla, commanded by Lieutenant J. E. Koyl, R.C.N.V.R., had been detailed to provide part of the transport ferry for the 3rd Brigade - an all too rare example of operational partnership between the two Canadian services." Another half dozen crafts belonging to this Canadian Flotilla arrived later to transport a second wave of troops and materials.

Lt. Koyl and Canadians in Combined Ops. See names below.

Photo Credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore by D. Lewis., C. Lewis, L. Birkenes

Lt. Koyl's vessels and crews participated admirably in the September 3rd invasion of Italy, and afterwards - for 32 days - performed the demanding task of transporting all the necessary materials of war from Sicily to the Italian mainland. Let the record show that another Canadian Flotilla, i.e., the 81st, had worked with the 80th in transporting troops and materials of war during Operation HUSKY (the invasion of Sicily, two months earlier). However, the 81st Flotilla was not used during Operation BAYTOWN because its craft - made up of an older model - had smaller, less powerful engines than those used by the 80th Flotilla (which used Mark IIIs, U.S. made, with diesel engines).

The Canadians were aware that sounds coming from so many engines in their small fleet alarmingly broke the stillness of the night as they made their way across the Strait of Messina. However, at 0330 hours a barrage from mighty guns placed on the shores of Sicily and from warships filled their eardrums. What a barrage it was, from over 500 medium and field guns of the 30th Corps.

British artillery bombards the Italian mainland from Messina in Sicily
prior to the initial landings at Reggio. Photo Credit - WW2Today

Besides fire from very large guns, e.g., short range 25-pounders and the devastating 15-inch guns aboard three monitors, there were two-pounders attached to LCSs (landing craft, support) of different types which followed behind or beside the assault flotillas. When front-running LCAs were about 1,000 yards from Italy's shore, powerful fire from 800 five-inch rockets from LCT(R)s (rocket craft) blasted over their heads.

The text says, "All in all the Allied cannonade was a remarkable display of power against defences which Intelligence had shown to be decidedly weak. The objectives were now obscured by dense clouds of dust and smoke, which the early morning off-shore breezes carried out into the path of the approaching craft."

At midnight
on September 3, 1943
our Canadian landing craft flotilla,
loaded once again with war machinery,
left the beaches near Messina, Sicily and
crossed the Messina Strait to
Reggio Calabria in Italy.
The invasion of Italy
was underway.

There was no resistance.
The air force had done a complete job
and there wasn’t a whole building standing
and the railroad yards were ripped to shreds.
"DAD, WELL DONE" by D. Harrison,
80th Flotilla, RCNVR, Combined Ops

We read, "There was some confusion as the assault craft deployed for the final run into shore; and in the Canadian, as in other sectors, landings generally were not made at the prearranged places," due to clouds of dust and smoke, and tidal currents in the Messina Strait.

As Canadian units landed the West Nova Scotias suffered some difficulties with some L.C.As going astray. However, these changes to plans had no terrible ill-effect "for the enemy offered no opposition, and the Canadians landed on empty beaches from which even the expected mines and wire were missing."

At about 0500 hours the Principal Beach Master with the Canadian flotilla sent his L.C.As for the short run in to the beaches. At about 0600 hours General Simonds' Headquarters received this signal: "Success at Fox Green Amber at 0526 hrs".

Brigadier Penhale landed his third infantry battalion and the rest of his brigade reserve shortly thereafter. He landed at "Fox Amber" beach at 0630 hours, "having crossed the Strait in Lieutenant Koyl's own L.C.M."
Please link to Books re Combined Operations - THE CANADIANS IN SICILY and ITALY 1943-1945 (2)

Unattributed Photos GH

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