Sunday, January 14, 2018

Photographs: Imperial War Museum - Sicily, 1943 (2)

Operation HUSKY, Invasion of Sicily, July 1943.

Caption: A17921. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: Instructions
being signalled to waiting landing craft by semaphore at dawn of the opening day of the
invasion of Sicily. One is LCI (L) 124, the other is an unidentified LCT. 
Photo Credit - Lt. C.H. Parnall and Imperial War Museum (IWM) 


Before the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, most Canadians assigned to man landing crafts travelled around the African continent. My father did so on SS Silver Walnut, and though the ship had to make numerous stops for repairs in Africa ports - Cape Town, Durban - it arrived in Port Said in late June.

In early July a large armada of Allied ships left the shores of North Africa, bound first for Malta, then D-Day Sicily. 

My father writes:

Back to England I went for more training in May, 1943 with barges aboard the S.S. Silver Walnut, a real dud. 

We formed up and headed to sea again, this time from Liverpool. We didn’t know but Sicily was next. The Silver Walnut left convoy at Cape Town, South Africa to coal up and for repairs. She was constantly breaking down and was a sitting duck for subs. Fortunately, there were not many subs in S. Africa vicinity. 

We finally passed through the Indian Ocean, past Madagascar to Aden and Port Said, properly pronounced Port Sigh-eed. The other boys who arrived in the desert long before us, because of our slow ship, were the unfortunate ones, and were found sleeping in tents - hot in the day and cold at night - and most had severe dysentery, some were just shells. The boys with dysentery so bad just sat in latrines all night.... I spent one night only in the desert so I was lucky.

Thanks, old slow ship. ("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 (top photo), 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 next photograph below (e.g., changing A17985 to A17986), 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:

A17985. Section of the invasion fleet off Avola, Sicily, on the morning of the assault.
Photo - Lt. L.C. Priest, aboard troopship Winchester Castle. (IWM)

A17986. Fighting was still going on ashore (note the fire) when this picture of landing
craft was taken off Avola on the morning of the invasion. Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.

A17987. At Avola, Sicily.
Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.

Map of Sicily found in Combined Operations by C. Marks, London Ontario
Members of 80th & 81st Canadian Flotillas, manned Landing Crafts, Mechanized
(LCMs) in Operation Husky, near Avola (lower right of above map), July ‘43

A17988. Supply ships unloading as the troopship leaves Sicily having completed
the landing of her cargo. Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.

Once the troopships left the vicinity - perhaps to return to N. Africa for more troops or supplies - the Canadians in Combined Operations had only their LCMs for use as accommodation, a poor arrangement at the very least. 

One Canadian, Doug Harrison of Norwich Ontario, recalls the following about how the men who manned landing crafts fared in "make-shift accommodation":

After about a week of being continually harassed by bombers, ack-ack fire and dog fights in the sky (we Canadians shot down a wing tank and almost single-handedly drove the Americans from the skies) one of our fellows on a short reconnoitre ashore found an abandoned limestone cave. 

This cave, a huge hump in the beach landscape, was to become our shelter at night for nearly three weeks. About 60 of us slept there, including another Norwich boy, the late Buryl McIntyre. The remaining Canadian boys slept in holes dug along the beach, covered over by whatever they could scrape up.

The cave itself had been used at some time to house cattle to protect them from us*. It was large enough to sleep many more. The roof was 70 or 80 feet thick and supported by huge limestone pillars inside. We soon obtained a barrage balloon (the same way I got the rum) which we anchored on top of the cave. Unless a bomb dropped in front of the door, we were as safe as a church. There wasn’t a bomb as yet that could pierce that roof.

The limestone underfoot was almost like wet cement, but we happily trudged through this, put our hammocks down doubled up, laid our mattresses on them, curled up in our blankets, clothes and all, and slept like logs. We even recessed navy lamps into the walls. The ceiling was about 20 feet high. It was cool, damp and safe and we shared our good fortune with several little green lizards who had cool feet. ("DAD, WELL DONE")

*Editor: I would suggest that during Sicilian summers, the cattle were housed in the caves near Avola, and elsewhere, to protect them from the heat.

A18085. The Cruisers HMS ORION and HMS UGANDA on patrol with Mt. Etna
towering in the distance, some 40 miles away. Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

A18086. Silhouetted by the sun, the SS ULSTER MONARCH, a transport
carrying commando troops, entering Augusta harbour under fire from shore batteries.
Commando troops can be seen in their landing craft going towards the harbour boom
in the setting sun, photograph taken from the destroyer NUBIAN. HM destroyers had
engaged shore batteries and machine gun posts at the entrance to the harbour.
Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

The Ulster Monarch is mentioned in Doug Harrison's Navy memoirs from those days:

After approximately 27 days I came down with severe chills and then got dysentery. I was shipped to Malta on the Ulster Monarch and an intern came around and handed me 26 pills. I inquired how many doses was that? “Just one,” he replied.

At Malta I was let loose on my own to find Hill 10 Hospital. I did after a while and they asked me my trouble. I said, “Dysentery.” “Oh, we’ll soon cure that,” they said. How? “We won’t give you anything to eat.” So for four days all I got was water and pills and soon I was cured, though weak. I thought of those poor devils in the desert. (Page 34, "DAD, WELL DONE")

A18090. Liners right inshore, 4 miles south of Syracuse unloading troops
and landing craft. Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

A18091. Four miles south of Syracuse a small ammunition supply ship, hit by
enemy bombs, can be seen in the distance as she blazes near the landing beach
during the invasion of Sicily. Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

A18093. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: Ships of the
invasion fleet under air attack as they unload troops and equipment on a beach
four miles south of Syracuse. Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

A18097. During the invasion of Sicily, SS ULSTER MONARCH, a transport
carrying commando troops, and the destroyer HMS TETCOTT can be seen entering
the harbour of Syracuse under fire from the shore batteries. Commando troops are in
their landing craft going towards the harbour boom in the setting sun.
Photograph taken from the destroyer HMS NUBIAN.
RN official photographer Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

A18098. A large liner, with landing craft hanging over her side, against a background
of one of the landing beaches, four miles south of Syracuse, vineyards
can be seen ashore. Lt. F.G. Roper and IWM.

Prior to the landing of Allied troops on assorted beaches in Sicily, military parades of sorts would take place in Alexandria and other ports of departure:

A18170 General view of the saluting base as the Army detachment marched past.
Lt. L.C. Priest and IWM.

Unattributed Photos GH.

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