Saturday, November 19, 2016

Context for Combined Ops: Commandos, Landing Craft....

Connections from The Memory Project

Photo from aboard a Landing Craft, Infantry (Large (LCI(L))

Please learn how to work your way around the scores of pages of veterans' stories and photographs at The Memory Project. Though the number of stories from Canadians in Combined Operations is small, there are many that shed light on the conditions at the time shared by all services.

For example, the top photo comes with the following caption:

Infantrymen of The Highland Light Infantry of Canada aboard LCI(L) 306 of the 2nd Canadian (262nd RN) Flotilla en route to France on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

It accompanies the memories of Mr. Herbert Foss who served in the Highland Light Infantry during and after the D-Day landings.

Please link to Mr. Herbert Foss for more details.

On page 106 one can find the memories of Glen Allen Ades, a member of the Canadian Navy who certainly knew how to handle small boats and landing crafts.

He says:

(In England just before the invasion, Glen was sent to the southern coast to assist others with landing craft skills.) And I got down there to help them break guys in for handling. As I say, I could take the regular landing craft, little twin engine landing craft, and I could make those things do anything I wanted. 

I said, “Now look, when you’re heading in, generally the artillery that’s taking shots at you will watch the trajectory, the path that you’re coming in and they will start lobbing shells in short. And as long as they’re dead on, they’ll time their shots so that you’ll run into one of the shots.”

So I said, "If you’re going in, depending on which way the wind’s blowing and the current’s going, increase the speed on the opposite engine. And you’ll end up going straight in, but you’ll go sideways. So by the time you go ahead 100 feet, you’ll be five feet to the right. So the shell will land where, where you would have been, in the water.” 

That was basically how to handle the landing craft.

More details are available at The Memory Project.

Commando Service Certificate presented to Marine Eric Saunders, March 12, 1946.
Photo Credit - Eric Saunders, as found at The Memory Project

Eric Alfred “Lofty” Saunders, Navy, Combined Operations (Commando) recalls the following:

Everybody volunteered but about five percent. So the No. 41 Royal Marine Commando was formed. From there on, it was just hard training. We had to go to commando school, we went to street fighting schools, we did everything under the sun and did a lot of pretty hard training. But it was fun. That was in Scotland, we had to go up to Scotland to get our commando training. After that, we went back to London, where we did our street fighting training in the east end of London which was all bombed out. It was just a perfect place to learn street fighting. The streets were just rubble.

No. 41 Royal Marine Commando, part of "X Troop", in Dundonald,
Scotland, 1943, just before leaving for Sicily. Eric Saunders

Though Mr. Saunders served with England's Navy and British Coomandos, he could easily have crossed paths with Canadians in Combined Operations in the UK, Sicily and Italy.

His lengthy memoirs and more photos can be found at "Lofty" Saunders, The Memory Project.

I include the following excerpt from The Memory Project because a photo of its subject and the man's timeline are similar to my father's, Doug Harrison.

About Geoffrey Smith, RCNVR, we read:

My name is Geoffrey W. Smith. My nickname is 'Jock.' I started off in the [Royal Canadian] Navy in 1941 as an Ordinary Seaman, and was discharged in 1945 as a Sub-Lieutenant. October of that year we departed Toronto for Halifax. In November/December of '41 I was sent to Montreal to pick up a new construction ship – HMCS Vegreville – and crew her to Halifax, which I did. In January - February, I took part in an anti-submarine course and became a qualified anti-submarine detector with ASDIC [Anti-Submarine Detection Investigation Committee] Rating. I was sent to HMCS Arrowhead, one of the original Flower Class Corvettes, as an ASDIC Rating and took part as an ASDIC Rating in the new command of the Londonderry runs. 

Jock Smith and a mate at HMCS Stadacona (Wellington barracks) 

Doug Harrison, Buryl McIntyre, HMCS Stadacona, 1941

The arches of Wellington Barracks (background left) reveal the pairs of men are standing in almost the same spot, the same year. The two men in lower photo volunteered for Combined Operations in November or December of that year and arrived in Scotland for training on landing craft at the end of January 1942. At various times they shuttled troops of many nationalities, along with Commandos, here and there for practise for future raids and invasions.

Roland "Roly" Black was an officer aboard HMS Glengyle (Landing Ship Infantry, Large) for a time and became familiar with landing craft as a member of the Canadian Navy, on loan to the Royal Navy and Combined Operations. 

Part of his memories follow:

In landing groups, normally a battalion at a time.... it was night raids and [in November 1941] we were scheduled to assist in [Operation Flipper] a raid on Rommel’s headquarters [in Libya], to capture him. And that night, it was discovered that when the troops went ashore, Rommel had already left to report back home to Hitler and you might say, it’s a disaster as far as the efforts there are concerned but still, it was an exciting experience....

It was usual after you were competent over a period of time, that you would graduate to the larger vessels. And take command and I guess that was perhaps the final exciting episode.

When I took my landing craft, I think my crew was something like twenty-six as I recall, twenty-six men. We took supplies, equipment and tanks and munitions and landed at El Alamein [Egypt]; came ashore during the night. And we were there for a day and a half, mainly loading invalided men and officers from the [Field Marshal Bernard] Montgomery [British Eighth] Army, which wasn’t too far away a distance from us on the shore.

More details can be read at Roly Black, The Memory Project.

Roland Black (R) in N. Africa during service with Combined Operations.
Photo Credits - Roland Black as found at The Memory Project

HMS Glengyle (Landing Ship Infantry, Large) in port in N. Africa

Roland Black's camp in North Africa early in the war

Please link to Context for Combined Ops, "Shipping Out, December 1943"

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