Thursday, December 22, 2016

Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (3).

Microfiche at the Courtenay Library.

Combined Ops School (at Givenchy III) holds D-Day Rehearsal. 
From the Comox District Free Press, April 27, 1944

There are pros and cons related to looking through old newspapers on microfiche or microfilm. While doing research at the Courtenay Library on May 24, 2015 I experienced both. In an email sent home that day I wrote, "After lunch I walked a bit, then headed to the library to stare at microfiche." Yes, there is a lot of staring and rubbing of eyes as pages slowly go by, followed by zooming in and out to obtain a clear image before attempting to print a clear facsimile. Time passes slowly, very slowly.

That being said, from the same email I read, "I received a few buzzes about clippings I found, e.g., Dad's commanding officer, so already I am happy. Slow process but I will persevere" Pros and cons, with enough 'pros' to keep me at it for several hours, long enough to get "kicked out at four PM closing time."

And about a year later I wrote the following emails about the same experience at the same library:

(May 18, 2016) Wet day here while I scanned newspapers on microfiche, found some articles that help w names, dates, events, etc., related to Combined Ops. AOK.

(May 19, 2016) Yesterday I had some good results w microfiche at the Courtenay Library, and I return this morning for one more try. The afternoon may therefore be open for other activities, e.g., a trip to The Spit by bus, depends on the weather.

Therefore, on wet days, if you don't mind staring at 70-year-old newspapers, head to a library and research Canadians in Combined Operations, WW2. You might get lucky.

Here is a link to the location, phone number, etc. of The Courtenay Library.

Information related in some way to Combined Ops:

 Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, July 15, 1943

In the July 15, 1943 issue of the Comox District Free Press we read "Allies Smash at Axis Around the Globe" and learn that "Overnight advances made by the Allied invasion forces on Sicily have now given them control of about one-eighth of the island" and "Canadian troops are battling up the east coast of the Island towards the city of Catania...."

We know that six-months later, in January 1944, several Canadians in Combined Operations who were active on landing craft during Operation HUSKY (Sicily) arrived at Givenchy III to assist with training activities.

Prior to their arrival, the Navy section of the Combined Ops School was known as Givenchy II, or so we learn when we read the account of the death of "Butch", RCNVR.

Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, November 18, 1943

The change to Givenchy III was made in October 1943 when the main focus of the base switched to Combined Operations. Perhaps the newspaper had not picked up on the switch of the name. (Or....?)

Commanding Officer G.S. Windeyer (mentioned in Research: Comox and Courtenay, BC - Part 2. Link provide below), of HMCS Givenchy III, addressed the local Elks' Club in late 1943 and a lengthy report of the event is found in the Comox newspaper. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

 Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, December 16, 1943

We read:

The modest beginning of the Canadian Escort Force was when a small convoy of corvettes, of which the speaker's ship was one, had put into Iceland and were called out suddenly from there to the rescue of a merchant convoy which had been caught by a "wolf pack" of submarines. They responded nobly and that was the start of the Canadian Escort Force. "It has expanded from only seven corvettes to more than thirty at the present time," the speaker said, adding his personal opinion that if it had not been for this force the Allies would have lost the war.

The first convoy group was made up of three ships from the West Coast and four from the East but most of the crews were prairie or West Coast men. He found that factionalism, as induced by mixed crews, made for good competition and kept the men on their mettle. Commander Windeyer stated that although he had fully enjoyed his days at sea on such duty, it was "not always jam". Corvettes are "hard riding" and on one particular trip nearly all the crew members were sick, including himself.

One of their most exciting jobs had been to dash out and bring in the Battle Cruiser "Repulse" during the Bismarck show in the North Atlantic. The big (cruiser) had only about a pint of oil left. The corvette gave her some and later brought up a tanker to refuel her before she again took up the chase on the ill-fated battleship.... 

Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, December 16, 1943

My father tells the following short story, involving CO Windeyer (on a day 'windeyer' than usual), in his Navy memoirs:

Then I went to Givenchy III, known as Cowards Cove, at Comox on Vancouver Island. It was absolute heaven there. Just normal routine; I trained a few zombies on cutters, and played ball five or six times a week under a good coach.

I also looked after Captain Windyer’s sailboat and prepared it when he wished to go for a sail. One day quite a wind was blowing and I was called by the captain to prepare the boat for sailing. First thing I did was drop the drop keel and it sheered its bolt stoppers and plummeted into twenty feet of ocean. Diving would not raise it because we could not dive low enough, but by means of a wire we hooked a hole and retrieved it and soon the sailboat was ready to sail.

“Isn’t it a bit windy today, sir, for sailing such a small craft?” I said. “I’ll be the judge of that,” he remarked. He hadn’t gone a hundred fathoms when the sailboat tipped over and he was bottoms up. We rescued him with an LCM barge, and when he came ashore - hair flattened and really soaked - he never even glanced my way. I wouldn’t have either. ("DAD, WELL DONE", Page 40)

Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, April 20, 1944

The threat of air raids was often felt along the West Coast of British Columbia and the newspaper article above may have appeared particularly pertinent to Canadians in Combined Operations stationed at Givenchy III in Comox. I have learned (from other news articles) they were going to be involved in a large-scale dress rehearsal for upcoming D-Day landings only a few days after the story about "Jap Raids Expected" was released.

The article went on to say the following:

"Roused by the warning of this high official who offered official confirmation of the fact that the Japanese are preparing suicide raiders in the form of old freighters converted into small aircraft carriers for attacks on the coast in a desperate effort to disrupt our attack plans, the local committee got down to business and effected a complete re-organization of the set-up in this area...."

The re-organization must have worked because the upcoming "large-scale dress rehearsal" (see photo at top of this page) and "our attack plans" were not disrupted by Japanese air raids.

Microfiche - Comox District Free Press, April 27, 1944
Invasion is followed by a Carnival. Free rides on Landing Craft!

More to follow.

Please link to Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (2).

Unattributed Photos GH

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