Friday, December 30, 2016

Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (8).

Hank Greenberg Catches for Canadian Team!

Courtenay River. Ball diamond is on right. (Lewis Park).

Yes, I'm still looking over my microfiche and Comox Argus (hard copy of WW2 newspaper) files. Emails related to my trips to Vancouver Island suggest that such research is a suitable rainy day activity. One says, "Wet day here while I scanned newspapers on microfiche, found some articles that help w names, dates, events, etc., related to Combined Ops."

Another time I report a 'close, but no cigar' event: 

All is well at the end of my second day in BC. I had some good luck with WW2 era newspapers today, in that I found good descriptions of combined operations exercises in Comox and area. I also saw photos (concerning) dad's friends and colleagues. But I did not see photos related to dad's first marriage. The photos were of another G. Harrison. (Editor - Call it a "Big Disappointment!")

I will look through microfiche tomorrow for 1943, and hope clippings of value will appear.

PS - I am eating kale salad for lunch, found the same bag you buy, at $8.99, likely more than you pay. But I can stretch mine out because Dee and Brian (Airbnb hosts) grow kale in their back garden. More news as it happens, likely tomorrow.

Below, please find clippings and photos that provide a few more details about Combined Ops history, WW2, or more details of the times, at least.

While some Canadians in Combined Ops were training others at The Spit (i.e., "training zombies on navy cutters" said my father), other Canadians were in the midst of a long, drawn-out battle in Italy:

 As found in the Comox Argus, August 3, 1944

Earlier in the summer of '44 the Navy team was described as a classy squad. I hoped to find mention of my father's performance at third base, but I had no luck. However, his team's performance was regularly mentioned, and occasionally that of one of his teammates: 

 As found in the Comox Argus, August 10, 1944

 Jim Malone - Comox Argus, August 10, 1944

I enjoyed noticing that Jimmy Malone showed up in a clip, but my eyes opened wide when Hank Greenberg was listed, especially as a catcher for an RCAF team. Is this news fit for the Smithsonian or just a coincidence re names?? (Hank Greenberg was a professional ball player who dropped major league ball during the war, then went back to it after WW2 service was completed. Hank also served in the Air Force. Did he visit Canada's west coast as part of his training and play a few games under cover? Oh, there could be a mystery here!)

 As found in the Comox Argus, August 24, 1944

If you know the tune to "Pistol Packin' Mamma" you will be able to sing along to the following ditty:

As found in the Comox Argus, September 21, 1944 

The ditty continues:

We'll push you 'cross the river,
And throu' the fields of grain,
You'll wish that you had never
Heard of the Normandy campaign.

We'll blast you throu' the day,
And mess you up at night,
When we get throu' with you my boy,
You'll be an awful sight.

Lay that luger down, kid,
You haven't got a chance,
Luger, luggin' Ludwig
You're all washed up in France.

 Place your order before prices rise. Comox Argus, Sept. 28, 1944

'With The Forces' was a regular feature found in the Comox Argus and the story below was taken from Flying Officer Dick Anderson's letter home to his mother:

As found in the Comox Argus, Sept. 28, 1944

Details from Anderson's letter continues:

The most irritating part is the continuous attack of mosquitoes and sand-flies. Malaria is not prevalent but sand fly fever is exceptionally bad. Dick says he is bitten from head to foot but in spite of it is as fit as a king and as brown as a berry. The swimming is very good as it is in the whole of the "Med." and he spends as much time as possible on the beaches.

Naval ratings (including several Canadians) off duty enjoying a bathe
on the North African coast at Oran or Mers-El-Kebir. Photo - IWM

Details from Anderson's letter continues:

"Our Room was Really Wizard"

"Malta is not a bad spot but very monotonous. The island has been just about knocked to bits but they have come back from the Blitz and started again. Conditions are excellent, plenty of food, and clothing, and most of the people fairly well educated and clean. The Maltese are very religious."

Before he went to Malta, Dick and his squadron had been at a rest camp in Sicily. "After the sand, rocks and filth of North Africa it was like living in a new world. It is the loveliest spot I've seen since leaving Vancouver Island. The whole place is a huge garden looking on the "Med." with (Mt.) Etna towering behind it. We were in a beautiful tourist hotel with all the pre-war staff looking after us, waiters and servants on every hand - tea in bed in the morning and breakfast if you wanted it. Our room was really wizard, soft spring beds etc. mattresses with sheets, bathroom with bath, hot and cold showers. There was outdoor dancing, moonlight swimming, etc."

Dick drank jasmine tea with a Sicilian family every afternoon. The talk ranged from ranching in Australia to the problems of post-war Europe. That was one side of the picture but "there is no middle class in Sicily and one either lives in a dirty hovel or a semi-palace. Education is practically nil. The farms are rich but the methods are about 1800 style. Flight Officer Anderson concludes by commenting: "How lucky we are to be Canadians or Americans - life is so much easier there."

I include the following photo, of the back of one of my dad's pictures developed in Courtenay in 1944 or '45. (An associated ad re the photo service follows). I have learned that Silvertone burned down many years ago but many photos and negatives were saved, so finding shots from WW2 is not impossible.

 As found in the Comox Argus, Oct. 12, 1944

The Comox Legion, still standing, is mentioned in the article below. It was likely a familiar place to members of the WW2 Armed Forces, including my father and his mates. The adjoining ad re Victory Bonds mentions the Allies' demand for unconditional surrender of Axis forces, a condition that may very well have prolonged World War 2.

As found in the Comox Argus, Oct. 19, 1944

The Courtenay Slough was definitely a busy parking lot for all types of water craft, including landing craft used by the Canadians in Combined Ops stationed on The Spit (i.e., Givenchy III).

 As found in the Comox Argus, Nov. 9, 1944

The Slough is very near Simms Park, a short walk from Courtenay's town centre, and one will find the display board below, including an early picture of the Slough and details related to landing craft, WW2:

The Tanker That Wouldn't Die!

The following story by Gordon Sinclair was found in the Comox Angus, sponsored by United Distillers Ltd.:

As found in the Comox Argus, Nov. 16, 1944

The story continues:

Among the crew ordered to abandon this flaming wreck, was Oswald Preston of Montreal, who had been rejected for enlistment in the RCAF and was now working toward Britain in the hope of being accepted by the RAF. Preston argued against abandoning ship because, he said, she might be saved. 

Through two days and nights of icy drifting on an angry sea, he and his shipmates stolidly watched their tanker burn, but not sink. Red hot plates bulged liked twisted wire, she was low down at the bow and flames leaped higher than her mast, and yet she floated. Preston, the rookie, talked survivors into climbing aboard again and there they battled flames into submission, started the pumps, shored up gaping holes  and with no charts to guide them, sailed the San Demetrio to England, where thousands of barrels of oil were reclaimed from her tanks.

For his determination to see this voyage through, Oswald Preston was given the ship's battered ensign by grateful buddies. Medically rejected by the RAF, he signed aboard another tanker for the homeward, but has never been seen or heard from since. A movie based on the San Demetrio and her gallant crew is being shown throughout Canada.

UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER! The day the Nazis finally admit the defeat that's already inevitable may be a few weeks away, or it might take a few months. There's no thought of relaxing the war effort over there, and over here, management and men of U.D.L. are continuing the all-out production of high-test alcohol for vital war materials in this war-geared plant - twenty-four hours of every day in the year.

More to follow.

Please link to Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (7).

Photos GH

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