Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Articles: Sicily, August 20 - 26, 1943 - Pt 17

Sicily Falls, Italy is Next

[Winnipeg Tribune reports early invasion date for Europe, Italy first]

In Canada, during the late summer of 1943, one was able to read of the progress of the war not only in Sicily but on other fronts as well, e.g., in Russia and the Pacific and elsewhere. Several Canadian writers were featured in The Winnipeg Tribune and I share a few of their offerings here, along with photos that reveal various aspects of the Second World War.

Where possible, details are added from memoirs of members of Combined Operations, from the time period close to the offerings from the newspaper. Though Canadians in Combined Ops were resting, recuperating and repairing their LCMs on the island of Malta in preparation for the upcoming invasion of Italy (e.g., Operation Baytown was scheduled for Sept.3, one week away), some articles displayed here from the Tribune connect with a few of their recent experiences (previous and later).

Allied actions are mentioned in the caption below, while Canadians manning landing crafts ("Don't call 'em barges") are settled on Malta, south of Sicily (and off the map).

The Canadians of the 80th Flotilla of Landing Craft (LCMs) who were later assigned the task of ferrying troops and materials of war into Italy in September, moved into some rustic accommodations in Messina during the first week of the invasion and discovered that many members of the local population were in dire straits related to food and hospital supplies.

My father wrote:

After a time we were sleeping in casas or houses and I had a helper, a little Sicilian boy named Pietro. First of all I scrubbed him, gave him toothpaste, soap and food. He was cute, about 13 or 14 years of age, but very small because of malnutrition. His mother did my washing and mending for a can of peas or whatever I could scrounge. (Page 36, "DAD, WELL DONE")

My father and other sailors helped where they could by sharing slim rations and medical supplies. They called their laundry "dhobi" and those who helped with laundry "dhobies." My father mentioned that 13 and 14 year old children looked much smaller and younger than in Canada, due to poor food supply.

Other excerpts from The Winnipeg Tribune re war actions and conditions in late August, 1943:

Canadian shipbuilding was active on both coasts. Records indicate that during WW2 a good supply of landing crafts, likely for use in Combined Operations training at a Canadian Navy base near Comox, B.C., were manufactured in the Vancouver area.

Some information about the Navy base follows:

Early in 1943 the (Canadian) army decided that bases for combined Operations on the west coast were no longer necessary as a defence measure. Meanwhile, however, the training in Canada of combined-Operations personnel for service in the European theatre of war had been given careful consideration, and as a result of these developments the entire policy was revised. All operational bases were abandoned, and the entire combined-Operations activities were concentrated at Courtenay. 

Naval training later moved to the nearby naval camp at Comox Spit, formerly operated by H.M.C.S. "Naden" for musketry and seamanship training. This establishment became known as "Givenchy III." In February 1944 there were 51 landing craft on the west coast of which all but 8 were based on Comox.* (Page 232, The Naval Service of Canada, Vol. 2)

*Comox and "Givenchy III" was to become home to several of the Canadian sailors - in just a matter of a few months - who were busy in Malta in August 1943 preparing themselves and their landing craft for the invasion of Italy. 

The Navy Press Relations Officer, mentioned as missing in the article below, was mentioned earlier in articles related to members of the Canadian Navy and Combined Operations while preparing for D-Day Sicily, i.e., the invasion of Sicily, July 10 1943.

Bartlett was mentioned by Louis V. Hunter, Canadian Press War Correspondent, in an article that was cabled from Allied Headquarters in North Africa in early July 1943.

Hunter writes:

The first picture of the part the stalwart sons of the Dominion played was brought back from Sicily by Lt. Cmdr. E.H. Bartlett, R.C.N., of Toronto, Press Relations Officer who was ashore briefly on Sicily.

Full article can be found at Local Tars Help Put Army on Sicilian Beaches. 

According to Al Kirby, a Canadian member of Combined Operations, Bartlett (having captured a 'first picture') made an incredible error, perhaps while trying to capture a 'first interview' with German soldiers.

In a news article published in November 1943 one reads:

While the invasion of Italy was continuing, the sailors and the barges lived ashore on Sicily. Most of the Sicilians had crossed over to the mainland and left their houses empty. The sailors occupied these houses. Seaman Kirby told of a Canadian war correspondent, Lt.-Commander E.H. Bartlett who, after interviewing some of the invasion troops, continued on up to the front lines. He apparently didn't know where he was going, reports Kirby, and the next thing he knew he was interviewing German soldiers. The Germans invited him to stay and now he's a prisoner of war. 

Link to the full story at Article re Combined Ops, "Canadian Soldiers Showed Up Everyone"

Lieut. John F. Kennedy, skipper aboard PT-109

The Tribune published the following article in their August 20 issue, re a very young JFK:

More excerpts, cartoons and ads from The Winnipeg Tribune as found at Digital Collections, University of Manitoba:

On August 26, the Commander of Combined Operations was given a new assignment. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the second to be given command of the Combined Operations organization after Adm. Robert Keyes, was appointed Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia.

Unattributed Photos GH

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