Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Articles: 1943 Issues of Gangway, Navy News .

Royal Canadian Navy Gangway

[Photo: West Coast News, by Canadian Navy Personnel]


In the September 2, 1943 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune (Digitized) mention was made of Ordinary Seaman (OD) Bruce Mooney, ex-newspaperman for the Tribune. We are told OD Mooney went to work on the Gangway, an RCN newspaper situated at the Navy base (Naden I) in Esquimalt, B.C.

This Editor believes that for those interested in Navy history and stories, finding old copies of The Gangway would be an interesting research project.

[Four issues of Gangway can be read by linking to "For Posterity's Sake."]

Canadian Navy history and memoirs reveals that during WW2 there was a Combined Operations training base (Givenchy III) established in late 1943 at Comox Spit on Vancouver Island, and several veterans of the raid at Dieppe and the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy went there to serve in January 1944, after they had returned home from Europe in December 1943.

Though Gangway does not focus on Combined Operations to any great extend, references are made to personnel and events that veterans of Combined Ops (and those searching on behalf of veterans) would likely find interesting. Some details and articles are provided below.

From the May 1943 issue:

[Photo: Iconic picture taken at HMS Quebec, Inveraray Scotland.
Canadians who had volunteered for Combined Operations trained
on landing craft there, beginning in Spring 1942.

The above photo and attached article appeared in Gangway to provide information about a practice assault using landing craft at a Canadian location. The assault was being filmed as part of a Hollywood Movie, likely "Commandos Strike At Dawn."

During WW2, most of Canada's landing craft were on Vancouver Island, many at Givenchy III.

More photos related to the movie, starring HMCS Prince David, can be found at For Posterity's Sake.

Givenchy Barracks were at Esquimalt Navy base, and pre-dated
Givenchy III Barracks at Comox Spit.

Navy boys played a lot of baseball at Esquimalt and the tradition continued at Comox. Editor is not sure if Naden III refers to Esquimalt base or Comox base.

Zooy suiters had a hard time from Navy boys in London, Ontario. Similar news about Navy VS Zoots came out of Montreal as well. What was the problem?

Lloyd Evans, RCNVR and Combined Operations, writes about being in Malta in August 1943, and among many details he recalls is a short reference to a Canadian pilot, Buzz Beurling:

 Malta - Aug 1943

On arrival at Valetta harbour we tied up our LCMs. We were billeted for a week or two at old Fort Manuel before moving to a tented camp....

This was the Island where the Canadian pilot Buzz (screwball) Beurling, at that time with the RAF and later with the R.C.A.F., became known as the "Knight of Malta." The story goes that he was shot down near the water's edge and, although injured, made his way back to the airfield. He immediately took off in another plane and shot down the plane responsible for shooting him down earlier! After the war he was killed taking off from Rome on his way to fight for Israel; the plane had been sabotaged.
(Page 31, My Naval Chronicle)

Coincidentally, a lengthier reference concerning Buzz is found in the July 1943 issue of Gangway:

The Firedrake was well-known to the first two drafts of Canadians who volunteered for Combined Operations in late 1941. When they were shipped overseas in early 1942 in the Volendam, a Dutch liner (just one of several ships in a convoy), they were escorted by the faithful Firedrake and it earned their praise.

My father writes the following in his memoirs, concerning the convoy and his safe arrival in Scotland in January 1942:

The convoy consisted of a destroyer H.M.S. Firedrake, armed merchant ship Jervis Bay (sister ship of the famed Burgess Bay who held off a large German man o’ war until the remainder of its convoy could escape, costing her her life and all aboard) and an American four-stacker loaned by the USA to England.

The Dutch captain lined us all up and assured us we would arrive safely because the Volendam had already taken three torpedoes and lived to sail. This was very heartening news for those of us who had never been to sea except for a few hours in Halifax upon a mine-sweeper. Our first meal was sausage with lots of grease. Naturally, many were sick as it was very rough.

Late at night I was on watch at our stern and saw a red plume of an explosion on our starboard quarter. In the morning the four-stacker was not to be seen. The next evening I heard cries for help, presumably from a life-raft or life-boat. Although I informed the officer of the watch, we were unable to stop and place ourselves in jeopardy as we only had the Firedrake with ASDIC (sonar) to get us through safely.

After some days we spotted a light on our port stern quarter one night. It was the light of the conning tower of a German submarine. How she failed to detect us, or the Firedrake detect it, I will never know. I was gun layer and nearly fell off the gun (4.7 gauge). I informed the Bridge and the Captain said, “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. It could be one of ours.” But as it quickly submerged we did fire one round to buck up our courage.

Some days later we spotted a friendly flying Sunderland and shortly after sailed up the Firth of Clyde to disembark at the Canadian barracks called Niobe. Before we disembarked, however, we took up a good - sized collection for the crew of the Firedrake for bringing us through. It was soon confirmed that the American four-stacker had taken a fish (torpedo).
(Pages 8-9, "DAD, WELL DONE")

[Editor: The book can be purchased via AbeBooks]

Recently, news articles related to the invasion of Italy (D-Day Sept. 3, 1943) have been posted on this website. And more will follow. In the July 1943 issue of Gangway the following appeared:

Before I discovered (in memoirs) that my father had been a member of Combined Operations, I assumed he was a member of the merchant marine. Though the poem below relates to the Merchant Navy it could be used to raise appreciation for all those who volunteered to serve their country during WW2:

[Last line: "They give; must not we repay?"]

Please link to Articles: Italy, September 4 and 6, 1943 - Pt 21.

Unattributed Photos GH

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