Thursday, April 20, 2017

Articles: Sicily, July 27, 1943 - Pt 12.

And The Work Goes On

Lt. Cdr. J.E. Koyl (D.S.C., RCNVR, Combined Ops) has a story to tell

Caption for top photo. As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore


The Winnipeg Tribune (digitized, from July 27, 1943) continues to report on the WW2 events from all fronts, and some details are shared here. Though the focus of reports in Sicily usually relate to the progress of the Canadian Army, occasionally an article focusses on the work of Canadians in Combined Operations. 

On July 27, 1943, Canadian troops marched north toward Messina, eventually to be subdued and used as a stepping stone to the invasion of Italy, and members of the 80th and 81st Canadian Flotillas of landing craft continued their significant work of transporting some men and many materials of war by landing craft to beaches south of Syracuse.

In Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks we read the following from the memoirs of Lt. Jake Koyl, pictured above:

The LCM's handled every type of cargo from a 16-ton tank or 215cwt. truck to a double tier of 4 gallon high octane gas cans. Ammunition, Army "composite" ration boxes, small arms, mortars - all was grist to their mill. And, considering the fact that the merchant men carried roughly their own tonnage in cargo, there was an enormous tonnage to be handled.

Discharging from LCM -

Although not so delicate an operation as loading, the unloading of an LCM required good seamanship in the beaching of the craft and good beach organization to clear the load as quickly as possible. Navy personnel did not handle cargoes once the LCM had beached but this work was done by Army personnel and by prisoners.

Caption: This photograph on the morning of the assault was taken by Lt H.A. Mason, R.N., an official Navy photographer, and shows an LCM (Landing Craft Mechanised), Mark 3. This is the first of a sequence of photos that Mason took beginning on HMS Hilary, the Force V HQ ship, and ending with him on shore. It was taken off 'Bark West' where the only LCM carrier was Empire Elaine, so this LCM had very probably been hoisted off her shortly before the picture was taken (Admiralty Official Collection, Imperial War Museum A 17955). Photo Credit - david gibbins journal

It was, in fact, a remarkable feature of the unloading operations that Italian prisoners were found comparatively willing to do this work although the Indian regiment, who were put in charge of the Italian prisoners, were no doubt persuasive in their supervision. After the second day, a considerable number of Italians were available; before that the work had been mainly done by the Indian regiment.

Beach Organization -

The available labour was not the only factor in unloading the ships but good organization was of even more importance. The Military Landing Officer, the Beach Master and his Naval beach party had their beach very well organized and constructed seven beaching points suitable for LCM's from which led exits connecting with four roadways to the highway about a quarter of a mile inland.

Three of these roadways led out and the other was for traffic to the beaches. These exits and roadways were constructed by bulldozers - tractor trucks of very high horse power and low geared, fitted with a kind of snow plough ahead of the engine so that they can push earth and sand away to make a level road. They were also immensely useful for towing or pushing trucks that had stuck or craft that had beached too hard and could not get off under their own power.

When the bulldozers had done their work, fine wire netting was laid across sandy and muddy stretches where truck wheels might get bogged down and with these makeshifts, useful roads were constructed amazingly fast. The first LCM's to land at a beach to be used for stores carry bulldozers and wire netting.

As can be seen, it is of the utmost importance to construct as many landing points for the craft as there is room on the beach and as many exits as are required to clear the stores unloaded at these landing points. The only mechanical assistance in unloading at the beach was provided by Scammels (sic) and Dukws, some of which were fitted with light cranes.

A Scammell as found at Pinterest. More at Wiki/Scammell

Craft Maintenance -

For the first eighteen days of the operation, all craft of the 80th and 81st Flotilla were kept in operation all the time. This was a remarkable achievement and the more remarkable when it is considered that the beach conditions, especially in "GEORGE" sector, were not ideal.

"GEORGE" Sector is part of ACID NORTH. Photo Credit - david gibbins journal

* * * * *

Below, readers will find articles that deal with a few important events related to Operation HUSKY, as well as a variety of materials (that have some bearing on WW2 matters) reported or displayed in the July 27 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune:

The above article, one of only a few discovered in The Tribune that focusses on Canadians in Combined Operations, continues:

In command of the new units as group officer was Lieut. Jack E. Koyl, of Saskatoon, a veteran of Dieppe and North African landings. With him was Lieut. Robert Smith, of Regina.

(Dispatches from Allied Headquarters in North Africa said it was estimated 500 Canadian naval men took part in the Sicilian landings as members of the R.C.N., the Royal Navy, and Combined Operations units.)*

Long Way Around

Weeks before the attack on Sicily, the new Canadian landing force got orders to sail from the United Kingdom - destination undisclosed. For days the ship sailed southward, around the Cape and up the East African coast to the Mediterranean.

Some time before the Sicilian invasion the navy, merchant navy, army and air force put on a full-dress rehearsal for the job ahead.

From the mess-decks where they had been drinking the inevitable cocoa with which the navy starts night operations, the Canadians made their way to their craft.

"Assault force, fall in by your craft; embark when ready," came the order.

The troops moved to their positions.

Not a Hitch

The flotilla officer, the senior Canadian officer who would lead the landing craft afloat, checked his watch.

"If you're ready...." He suggested to an army officer. The word was passed down the lines and the troops commenced embarking.

Seamen stood by to help. There was no hitch.

Then it was the turn of the Merchant Navy. The carrier ship was manned by her own merchant crew. They were on duty at the davits, waiting the order to lower. Quick on its heels the landing craft started to descend to the sea. Greased falls, silent winches, dropped them. The splashing of keel against water was the only sound. And then, with engines turning quietly, falls were cast off and the craft, one by one, slipped away into the darkness to form into a flotilla ready to land their troops.

In the carrier ship there was no lessening of activity. More troops were to be landed and their assembly at the correct embarkation points was already in course. The return of the landing craft, once their troops were discharged, found their second loads ready. 

During the whole "ferry service" there was never a delay through troops not being ready to embark or through landing craft not being in position to take them.

An army officer, commenting on the fact the landing craft seemed to be running on unbreakable schedule, said, "These Canadian fellows know their job." The R.C.N.'s new unit was ready for Sicily, its first big show.

*About 250 of the 500 Canadians were volunteer members of Combined Operations (who had initially volunteered for the RCNVR, or 'the Wavy Navy') manned landing crafts on July 10 and stayed in Sicily completing 'ship to shore duties' for about 30 days. More details can be found in an article entitled "Local Tars Help Put Army on Sicilian Beach" (posted previously) and another article entitled "Canadian Tars On The Dot", (also posted previously).

Accompanying the article were the following two photographs:

* * * * *

The headlines on July 27, 1943 reminds us that Italy would be the next big push, and Ross Munro was still leading the pack with first-hand stories:

An article by AP writer Relman Morin mentions important contributions made by Canadian troops:

The first two paragraphs, above, read as follows:

Canadian and American troops, throwing themselves forward in the north-eastern area of Sicily, have cut to pieces savage german counter-attacks in the central sector and advanced over ground strewn with Axis dead, Allied headquarters announced today.

At the same time a headquarters communique announced that Allied air forces had smashed a new enemy attempt to bring reinforcements on a large scale into Sicily by shooting down 21 huge German Junkers-52 transports in a battle over Messina Strait....

With the help of the enlarged map, above, we can spot the location of Canadian troops at Regalbuto. Canadians in Combined Ops were working on the beaches (and living inside cattle caves) south of Syracuse, lower right on map.

While Canadians were busy on their landing craft delivering the materials of war, German barges were dodging "gunfire and bombs" during "Axis reinforcement attempts".

An editorial piece from The Tribune explains what stakes "we are playing for" in Sicily:

Other important news from Sicily:

In one story left to us by a Canadian in Combined Ops, mention is made of a writer (unnamed) from a Montreal newspaper who accompanied Canadian landing crafts into Italy in September 1943. Perhaps it was L.S.B. Shapiro, seen above. I will continue to comb microfiche copies of The Montreal Gazette (now The Montreal Star) in hopes of making useful news stories.

What follows is an interesting story associated with the invasion of Sicily. The initial story about Col. Gibson, "Hero in Desert Fight" (right side in photo below) prompted his mother to write to the newspaper, which then prompted a response from CP News.

From Mrs. Colin Gibson:

Many good stories and films reached Canadian shores from Sicily. I tip my hat to Sgt. Allan Grayston, a very busy and brave cameraman:

Please note, the film 'INVASION OF SICILY', albeit in smaller type than 'PRAIRIE CHICKENS':

Other items of interest follow:

Please link to Articles: Sicily, July 24 - 26, 1943 - Pt 11.

Unattributed Photos GH

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