Operation HUSKY, Invasion of Sicily, July 1943.
Caption: NY726. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9 - 10 July 1943:
Allied assault troops board American invasion craft in North Africa while, in
the background, fully loaded landing craft set sail for Sicily.
Photo Credit - U.S. Embassy WW2 Photo Library
at Imperial War Museum (IWM)
About 200 - 250 Canadians, members of RCNVR and Combined Operations, served on four flotillas of landing craft during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The flotillas were designated as the 55th, 61st, 80th and 81st. (My father was part of the 80th Flotilla).
Before the invasion most Canadians assigned to the important task of manning landing crafts travelled on various ships from ports in the U.K. on the trip of a lifetime, i.e., around the African continent, through the Red Sea, to a friendly port (e.g., Port Said), and then to nearby camps (e.g., HMS Saunders), before setting off once again for an undisclosed destination.
Canadians in Combined Ops at HMS Saunders, circa July, 1943.
My father wrote extensively about his voyage around Africa and the first few paragraphs appear below:
ABOARD THE SS SILVER WALNUT
At about the same time our small convoy entered the green waters of the Irish Sea, other convoys were leaving other British ports carrying more Canadian sailors and their landing craft as well, for a destination known only to a few. Our escort ships appeared far too small and far too few, but the supply of war ships was stretched to the breaking point at this time in the war, April 1943. We headed south on a murky day on a quiet sea.
The Canadian S/Lt* aboard called us all together in the waist of the ship to lay down the routine and laws for the journey. We had been through all this before, but a reminder did no harm: cover all portholes at night; we could sleep on deck if weather permitted, but we were to wear life belts or have them securely fastened to one arm; a lighted cigarette can be seen over a long distance by a surfaced submarine at night, so if you value your life and that of your comrades and ship, don’t smoke on deck at night; any garbage was to be tossed over the stern at night.
(*The late S/Lt (Sub Lieut.) Davie Rodgers, RCNVR, usually chummed with the late Andy Wedd, DSC, at Dieppe. Somewhere they must still be together. Their lively hyperactivity infuriated the late S/Lt Doug Chisholm who called them “The Girls’ School.” All three increased the interest at Ward Room level. Ratings appeared tolerant.)
The officer went on to say that in the event we were torpedoed, the lifeboats were designated for the crew; our hopes were in the Carley floats. We all knew how to cut the lines that let the floats slip over the side, praying at the same time we would never have to use them. (Page 56, "DAD, WELL DONE")
Many excellent photographs - revealing the troop carriers in convoy and flotillas of landing craft in subsequent action - related to the Allied cause during WW2, are part of a vast collection belonging to the Imperial War Museum, U.K.
Several RN photographers, for example Lt. C.H. Parnall, worked aboard troop ships, landing craft and on the beaches creating valuable still photographs and newsreels that inform us of many details pertaining to the invasion.
I encourage readers to browse IWM collections at their leisure. By adjusting the number of the first photograph below (e.g., changing A17913 to A17914), one will see the next photo in the collection. Copies of rare photographs can be purchased, if desired.
Please link to Search Our Collections.
Displayed below are a few pictures taken by Royal Navy photographers during World War 2. They are now archived at IWM and may assist those searching for more information about the role of Canadians in Combined Operations - and many other divisions, regiments, etc. - during Operation HUSKY.
The accompanying captions are found with the photos as well:
A17913. Prisoners of war marching along the beach to awaiting ships, watched
by Naval Commandos, one of whom is armed with a Tommy gun at dawn of the
opening day of the invasion of Sicily. A landing craft infantry (large) (LCI (L) 124)
and two landing craft tanks LCT 382. Lt. C.H. Parnall and IWM.
A17916. Troops from 51st Highland Division unloading stores from tank landing
craft on the opening day of the Allied invasion of Sicily, 10 July 1943. Just after dawn,
men of the Highland Division up to their waists in water unloading stores on a landing
beach on the opening day of the invasion of Sicily. Meanwhile beach roads are being
prepared for heavy and light traffic. Several landing craft tank can be seen just of
the beach (including LCT 622). Lt. C.H. Parnall and IWM.
A17918. Glimpse of the invasion coast as an armoured vehicle was being
towed ashore from landing craft during the landings in Sicily at dawn of the
opening day of the invasion. Lt. C.H. Parnall and IWM.
A17920. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: A tractor comes to
the rescue of an armoured vehicle which had stuck in the mud temporarily during the
invasion of Sicily, several landing craft can be seen in the background at dawn of the
opening day of the invasion. RN Phtographer Lt. C.H. Parnall and IWM.
(a Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM) - a Mark 3) going ashore in the early morning
during the start of the invasion of Sicily. Lt. H.A. Mason and IWM
July 10, 1943. We arrived off Sicily in the middle of the night and stopped about four miles out. Other ships and new LCIs (landing craft infantry), fairly large barges, were landing troops. Soldiers went off each side of the foc’sle, down steps into the water and then ashore, during which time we saw much tracer fire. This was to be our worst invasion yet. Those left aboard had to wait until daylight so we went fishing for an hour or more, but there were no fish.
A signal came through, i.e., “Do not fire on low flying aircraft, they are ours and towing gliders.” What, in the dark? Next morning, as we slowly moved in, we saw gliders everywhere. I saw them sticking out of the water, crashed on land and in the vineyards. In my twenty-seven days there I did not see a glider intact. We started unloading supplies with our LCMs about a half mile off the beach and then the worst began - German bombers. We were bombed 36 times in the first 72 hours - at dusk, at night, at dawn and all day long, and they said we had complete command of the air. (Page 31, "DAD, WELL DONE")
Photographs from a more peaceful location on the day of the invasion, or from later in the same week:
A17959. Troops dashing ashore from landing craft.
Photo Credit - Lt. H.A. Mason and IWM.
A17960. Troops dashing ashore from a landing craft assault on the first day of
the invasion of the island of Sicily. Lt. H.A. Mason and IWM.
A17961. Great activity on the landing beach in the early morning.
RN Photographer Lt. H.A. Mason and IWM.
Saturday July 10, 1943: The Sicilian Invasion Begins. On Board the Troopship Winchester Castle, Off Sicily.
A17981. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: LCT 355 off Sicily
on the momentous morning of Saturday July 10 1943 at the start of the invasion of the
island. By July 20 a third of the island had been captured by the 8th Army and the US
forces. Three troopships can be seen in the distance. Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.
RN Photographer Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.
Please link to Photographs: Imperial War Museum - N. Africa, 1942 (5)
Unattributed Photos GH.