Monday, January 15, 2018

Photographs: Imperial War Museum - Sicily, 1943 (3)

Operation HUSKY, Invasion of Sicily, July 1943.

NA4184. A Universal carrier is towed ashore, as troops unload ammunition from a
landing craft in the background, 10 July 1943. Sergeant Frederick Wackett and 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.

About a memento connected to the trip around Africa my father writes:

One of the merchant officers, James Robertson, had borrowed a hammock during the trip. It reappeared 43 years later in Melbourne, Australia. During Navy Week October 1986, Canada sent a warship - the HMCS Yukon - to represent the country.

After a naval exercise at the Shrine of Remembrance, Officer Robertson made a presentation to Commander K. A. Nason; it was the hammock upon which the officer had painted his version of the Combined Operations Insignia and the names of the Canadian sailors who had served aboard the Walnut many years ago.
(Page 67, "DAD, WELL DONE")

17 names appear on this hammock, ‘D. Harrison’ among them
Photo - Navy Museum, Esquimalt, B.C.

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 and U.S. photographers worked aboard airplanes (see top photo), 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. Copies of rare photographs can be purchased, if desired.

Please link to IWM at Search Our Collections.

Displayed below are a few pictures taken by 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.

Included are two photos of the new LCI(L)s mentioned in my father's memoirs:

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. (Page 31, "DAD, WELL DONE")

The accompanying captions are found with the photos as well:

NA3938. Planning and Preparations January - July 1943: View of the dockside
of Sousse Harbour, Tunisia. Landing craft are loaded with vehicles and equipped
in preparation for the invasion. Sgt. Dawson, No. 2 Army F&P Unit and IWM.

NA4075. Planning and Preparations January - July 1943: Men of 5th Battalion,
Seaforth Highlanders board landing craft while, in the foreground, others wait their
turn at the quayside at Sousse Harbour. Sgt. Stubbs,
No. 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit and IWM.

NA4139. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9 - 10 July 1943: A survivor of the
airborne invasion, Lance Corporal Blaycock, boards a Royal Navy warship after being
rescued from the sea. His glider landed in the sea after being blown off course and he
was picked up after spending seven hours afloat. Capt. Knight, No. 2 Army F&P Unit

NA4183. A British Universal Carrier Mark I comes ashore during the invasion of Sicily
on 10 July 1943. Sergeant Frederick Wackett. No. 2 Army Film Unit, and IWM.

Caption: NY3090. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9 - 10 July 1943:
Aerial view of the Allied landings showing landing craft along the shore as troops
go and supplies move inland. Photo Credit - U.S. Embassy WW2 Library
and Imperial War Museum (IWM) 

NA4186. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9 - 10 July 1943: British
troops manhandle vehicles and equipment on the beaches as they are unloaded
from landing craft. Sergeant Frederick Wackett and IWM

NA4193. Operation Husky. Men of the Highland Division wade ashore from
landing craft during the landings in Sicily, 10 July 1943. Sergeant Frederick
Wackett, No. 2 Army Film and Photographic Unit, and IWM

NA4194. Infantry from the 51st Highland Division wade ashore from
a landing ship*, 10 July 1943. Sergeant Frederick Wackett and IWM. 
*Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) - LCI(L)

Though many photos give the impression the Allied landings were peaceful or unopposed, there was a very rough side to beachings in several sectors. My father writes:

Once, with our LCM loaded with high octane gas and a Lorrie (truck), we were heading for the beach when we saw machine gun bullets stitching the water right towards us. Fortunately, an LST (landing ship tank) loaded with bofors (guns) opened up and scared off the planes, or we were gone if the bullets had hit the gas cans. I was hiding behind a truck tire, so was Joe Watson* of Simcoe. What good would that have done?

Our beach had machine gun nests carved out of the ever-present limestone, with slots cut in them to cover our beaches. A few hand grenades tossed in during the night silenced them forever.

Slowly we took control and enemy raids were only sporadic, but usually at dawn or dusk when we couldn’t see them and they could see us. At such times we had to get out of our LCMs and lay smoke screens, and travelled the ocean side or beach side depending upon which way the wind was blowing. Even then they could see the masts sticking up. During one raid I was caught on the open deck of the Pio Pico, so I laid down - right on a boiling hot water pipe. I got up quickly.
(Page 31-32, "DAD, WELL DONE")

*Link to Joe Watson's side of the story: Article - Joe Watson, RCNVR and Combined Operations, 1941 - 1945

NA4233. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9 - 10 July 1943:
A British soldier inspects a captured Italian pillbox in the Pachino area.
Capt. R.F. Gade, No. 2 Army Film Unit, and IWM

NA4502. British troops in a landing craft assault (LCA), 9 July 1943.
Sgt. Rooke, No. 2 Army Film and Photographic Unit and IWM.

NA4513. British troops go ashore from an infantry landing ship (LCI(L),
10 July 1943. Sgt. Rooke, No. 2 Army F & P Unit, and IWM.

As mentioned earlier, the new LCI(L)s are seen below, in drydock:

A18153. An LCI in the drydock for repair, with a view of Sousse
in the background. Photo - Lt. C.H. Parnall and IWM.

A18154. An LCI in the drydock for repair, with a view of Sousse in
the background. These floating dry docks were being made in America.
The parts were numbered and then assembled where wanted. 
Photo Credit - Lt. C.H. Parnall, RN Photographer, and IWM

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

Unattributed Photos GH.

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