Thursday, January 18, 2018

Photographs: Imperial War Museum - Sicily, 1943 (4)

Operation HUSKY, Invasion of Sicily, July 1943.

Photograph NA4065. Troops embarking into landing craft at Tripoli for the invasion
of Sicily, 3 July 1943. Photo Credit - Lt. Chetwyn, No. 2 Army Film and
Photographic (F and P) Unit, 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 African 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 on the 10th.

About the invasion of Sicily, Lloyd Evans, a member of RCNVR and Combined Operations (and the 80th or 81st Canadian Flotillas of landing craft) writes:

The next day we sailed in fairly heavy seas and, as usual, for an unknown destination. A few days later we were given a booklet describing Sicily. That night we unloaded the landing craft in exceptionally heavy seas - Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, was on.

The initial landing was fairly quiet but later heavy enemy artillery opened up. This was quickly silenced by a few salvos from the 16-inch guns of a supporting Monitor. This particular Monitor was one of two shallow draft Cruisers that had been built for bombardment duties in the China seas. It had been fitted with large blisters on the sides, a kind of sacrificial layer, to reduce damage from a torpedo attack.

An hour or two into the landing enemy planes started bombing the beach area. It was very intensive in the first 24 hours with nearly thirty raids but continued for several days at less intensive levels. The first of the raids each day were a regular wake up call in the mornings!

By the water's edge and beach area there were several crashed American gliders which had been cut loose too early and failed to reach their designated landing zones. They still had bodies in them. After several days of almost continuous bombing our ship ran low of 20 mm Oerlikon A.A. ammunition. Such was the intensity of the firing that the gun barrels overheated and were replaced by the guns crews. Until our ship received fresh supplies of ammunition we only fired in self defence of a direct attack on our ship.

While all this bombing was hard on the nerves it didn’t accomplish very much. However about noon one day, three Stuka dive bombers came screaming from behind the mountain and out of the sun. They dropped three bombs hitting two ships directly and damaging another from a near miss. For a few hours the black smoke from the exploding ships turned day into night.

On another occasion, during a heavy bombing attack, a hospital ship lying off our beach, was sunk. Hundreds of bombs were dropped at this time on the numerous ships around the beach so the incident might have been accidental. After a Canadian Spitfire squadron became operational from a nearby grass runway there was a big reduction in enemy air activity. 

The above excerpt is from LIFE ON A WW2 LANDING CRAFT, as found at, a scholarly website - worthy of lengthy visits! - developed and maintained by Scotsman Geoff Slee.

Many excellent photographs - revealing troop carriers in convoy, flotillas of landing craft, beach landings and subsequent Allied action in Sicily 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.

The captions that accompany the photographs are provided by IWM as well:

E25716. Men of the Durham Light Infantry board a 'Z' craft at an Egyptian
port to be transported to a ship bound for Sicily, 12 July 1943.
Photo Credit - Sgt. Travis, No. 1 Army F & P Unit, IWM.

A17945. Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: A small section
of the vast armada of ships which took part in the invasion of Sicily as photographed
from landing ship headquarters HILARY at dawn of the first day of the invasion
of the island. Lt. H.A. Mason, RN Photographer, and IWM.

A17956. Operation Husky: Scene in the early morning as the invasion fleet
closed in to land troops, tanks and guns during the start of the invasion of Sicily.
In the distance smoke is rising up from what appears to be a landing craft on fire.
While in the foreground, HMS GLENGYLE a Landing Ship (Infantry) lowers
a LCVP during the operation. Lt. H.A. Mason and IWM.

A17906. A view from the bridge of HMS ALYNBANK as she approached
Pachino, Sicily. The ship in the background may well be the KEREN*.
Lt. E.E. Allen, Royal Navy Official Photographer and IWM 

*Editor: HMS Keren was one of the many ships that carried troops around Africa on its way to Operation Husky. It also carried Canadians who were members of RCNVR, Combined Operations and 80th or 81st Canadian Flotillas of landing craft, men trained to carry troops and materials of war to shore in Sicily. Below are some of the Canadians aboard Keren, while in the Atlantic Ocean:

 Note Don Westbrook, back row, first on left. Photo - Doug Harrison

Canadians at HMS Saunders, Egypt. circa June, 1943
Note Don Westbrook, back row, fourth from left.
Photo - Doug Harrison

A18099. A late evening picture of the fast convoy of big ships stretching
across the horizon, carrying the men who made the initial assault, approaching
Sicily. Photograph taken on destroyer HMS NUBIAN. Lt. F.G. Roper, IWM.

NY 730. Operation Husky: American soldiers drive a US army scout car from a
landing craft onto the beach at Licata while under fire. The U.S. sector attracted the
first and severest Axis counter attacks. U.S. Embassy WW2 Photo Library, at IWM.

A17907. A loaded landing craft tank (LCT 412) taking Royal Air Force personnel
to the Sicilian shores near Pachino during the invasion of the island.
Lt. E.E. Allen, Royal Navy Official Photographer, IWM. 

NA4275. Troops wade ashore from landing ships, 10 July 1943.
Credit - Sgt. Stubbs, No. 2 Army F & P Unit, and IWM.

NA4635. General view of one of the invasion beaches, with Italian prisoners being
made to remove barbed-wire in the foreground, 9 July 1943.
Photo - Sgt. Loughlin, No. 2 Army F & P Unit, and IWM.

A17917. Just after dawn men of the Highland Division are up to their waists in water
unloading stores from landing craft tanks. Meanwhile beach roads are being prepared
for heavy and light traffic during dawn of the opening day of the invasion of Sicily.
Lt. C.H. Parnall, RN Photographer, and IWM.

NA4715. Bofors anti-aircraft gun crew of 268 Battery, 40th LAA Regiment on alert,
16 July 1943. Photo - Sgt. Bourne, No. 2 Army F and P Unit and IWM.

NA5543. Operation Husky: An Airborne Division Horsa glider, after landing off
course nose down in a field near Syracuse. Although unsuccessful in achieving their
primary objectives, the Airborne forces did cause considerable disruption behind
the lines. Photo - Major G. Keating, No. 2 Army F & P Unit, and IWM.

Unattributed Photos GH.

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