Monday, November 21, 2016

Context re Combined Ops: H. Jones, on Reina Del Pacifico

Herbert Jones, Aboard the Reina Del Pacifico

Photo credit - Paul Heaps at Wirral Globe, Liverpool UK

During the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, many Canadians in Combined Operations piloted landing craft that delivered troops and materials of war to shore from a variety of troop ships, part of the largest armada of all time (at least, up to that point in history). Some Canadians, including my father, completed 'ship to shore' duties off the coast of a small town, Arzeu (east of Oran), and transported American troops and their supplies from the Reina Del Pacifico, and other ships as well. Later, they became more familiar with the Reina Del as a hospital ship, and as a place to rest and recuperate, e.g., from exhaustion.

US troops from the liner REINA DEL PACIFICO climb aboard ALCs 
(assault landing craft) manned by Canadians during Operation 'Torch', the
Allied landings in North Africa, Nov. 8 1942. Photo credit - IWM

Recently I was sent a newspaper article (written by Craig Manning of the Wirral Globe, Liverpool, UK) about WW2 veteran Herbert Jones, who served aboard the Reina Del Pacifico as a Defensively-Equipped Merchant Seaman. The article, published May 13, 2013 and partially seen above, was sent me by Mr. Jones' grandson Mark Pountney after he had read a piece about the Reina Del on this blogsite/archive.

These types of connections - paths crossing - between Canadian and British seamen and other forces, surely occurred numerous times throughout the war, i.e., aboard ships, at pubs while on leave, at shared mess or dance halls, on battlefields, etc., do remind us that men and women from many nations served together with one purpose for a significant time. These incidental, tangible links should not be forgotten.

Mr. Manning's article begins:

     A Wirral war veteran who served in the Battle of the Atlantic
     has recalled his experiences ahead of the conflict's 70th anniversary
     commemoration. Herbert Jones, 93, was granted Freedom of the
     City of Liverpool in recognition of his bravery.

One reads that Mr. Jones, a member of The Atlantic Convoy Assoc., served aboard the Reina Del Pacifico (or "Queen of the Pacific") during "four major maritime actions", i.e., the invasions of Norway, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He recalls his biggest battle, 1943:

     "We were on our way in a convoy of eight ships to the
     Mediterranean to try to get vital supplies into Malta."

The convoy was attacked by the Luftwaffe (64 planes in all, and five were brought down).

     "The next morning I'd just come off watch and was having a shower
     when the alarm went again. There were 34 planes this time. We won 3 - 0."

Not only did Mr. Jones serve upon the Reina Del, a ship familiar to and much appreciated by Canadians in Combined Operations, but saw action in many of the same places as those Canadian boys. i.e., North Africa, Sicily and Italy. As well, that he got caught off guard by German planes is reminiscent of Canadians, in convoy aboard the Ennerdale, getting struck from behind by German aircraft on their way to southern England prior to the raid on Dieppe.

About that attack my father wrote:

Our Spitfire waggled his wings and kissed us goodnight though it was still quite light, and no sooner had he left when ‘action stations’ was blared out on the Klaxon horn.

Eight German JU 88s came from the east, took position in the sun and attacked us from the stern. It was perhaps between eight and nine o’clock because I had undressed and climbed into my hammock next to Stoker Fred Alston. When the Klaxon went everybody hit the deck and tried to dress, and being the largest ship, we knew we were in for it.

I got my socks on, put my sweater on backwards and got the suspenders on my pants caught on the oil valves. I was hurrying like hell and nearly strangled myself - scared to death. They needed extra gunners so Lloyd Campbell of London, Ontario (later to die of wounds suffered at Dieppe) said, “Let me at him.”

The bombs came - and close. They really bounced us around. The gun crew on the foc’sle of the ship was knocked clear off the gun by the concussion and fell but were only bruised. The attack was short and sweet but it seemed an eternity.

Click here to read more about Operation RUTTER and the lead up to the Dieppe raid.

Mark Pountney also informed me that Herbert Jones passed away over two years ago (as of Nov. 2016).

Please link to Context for Combined Ops: F. Gillard, BBC News

Unattributed Photos GH

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