Friday, January 26, 2018

Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (3).

Gradual Growth of Combined Ops Crafts and Crews

[Photo: Art LD3102: Night scene showing searchlights
from two boats circling just off a beach. Creator - Henry Carr. 
Photo Credit - The Imperial War Museum (IWM)] 


In October 1941 Lord Louis Mountbatten became the new Commander of Combined Operations and was charged not only with the re-invasion of France but the development of men and materials required for such a tremendous task. The construction of training centres and 1000s of landing craft, and the assembling and training of 1000s of crews for a gigantic amphibious operation did occur, gradually at first, then in ever-increasing numbers.

It is my understanding that Canada's contribution to Combined Operations began with about 100 ratings by December 1941 and grew to 1,000 by D-Day Normandy, which represents about one per cent of those who signed up for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve during World War II.

In October 1941, concerning training centres and landing craft, the Combined Ops' cupboard was not entirely bare. There were some training facilities on the Clyde, at Inveraray and in the Middle East at Kabrit on the Great Bitter Lake.

Canadians in Combined Ops at HMS Saunders, Kabrit on the
Great Bitter Lake before the invasion of Sicily, July 1943.

As said in an earlier entry, the number of training centres, the types and sizes of landing craft, and the numbers of men trained to man landing crafts gradually grew over succeeding months and years.

In this and subsequent entries, several photographs related to landing crafts will be displayed from the Imperial War Museum (IWM) as found within its extensive and valuable archives. Sites visited by the Canadians in Combined Ops will be featured on occasion.

[Please link to IWM at Search Our Collections and browse at your leisure through photographs, films and audios, etc.]

Heading with the following photograph: The Alligator Amphibious Tank. 4 February 1943. Combined Operations School, Dundonald Camp (Found between Irvine and Troon, Scotland).

A14346. The Alligator Amphibious Tank seen in action on the beaches, these tanks
are used in landing machinery and guns, etc. Photo - Lt. S.J. Beadell, and IWM

Heading with the following photograph: Britain's shock troops practice Assault tactics. 4 February 1943. Combined Operations School, Dundonald Camp. British Commando troops in training. 

A14348. Commando troops taking a 15-foot jump during training. 
Lt. S.J. Beadell, and IWM.

A14350. Commandos, Britain's shock troops, practising assault tactics at the
Combined Operations School at Dundonald Camp. Here they are landing from
a dummy landing craft into a shallow pit filled with water so as to simulate a
true amphibious landing. Lt. S.J. Beadell, RN Photographer, and IWM

A14352. Commandos practising assault tactics at the Combined Operations
School at Dundonald Camp. Here a man is crawling through a pipe buried in
the sand during manoeuvres. Lt. S.J. Beadell Photographer, and IWM.

A14355. Two commandos of the Royal Engineers with their Yukon packs
containing the gear with which they land on the beaches practising assault
tactics at the Combined Operations School at Dundonald Camp.
Lt. S.J. Beadell, RN Official Photographer, and IWM.

Heading with the following photograph: Rear Admirals watch Combined Operations training. 8 February 1943, Dundonald Camp.

A14582. Rear Admiral T.H. Toubridge and Rear Admiral C.S. Daniel visited a
Combined Operations training centre: A tank landing craft during the exercise at a
Combined Operations Training centre. Lt. S.J. Beadell, RN Photographer, IWM

A14585. An amphibian tank exercise on a golf course near a Combined
Operations Training Centre. Lt. S.J. Beadell, RN Photographer, IWM.

My father wrote the following story that took place while training aboard landing crafts between Irvine and Troon:

Sometimes at Irvine I acted as seaman along with Gash Bailey under a Coxswain named Owen, who wasn’t very bright. One night we had an exer-cise landing, complete with soldiers against shore defences. Also, we had a stoker, Lank, who was below decks. My, it was rough and cold. The stoker took a pail to vomit in and Gash and I lashed ourselves down on ALC cowling.

We had an officer named Jake Koyl who was later to become our commander after Lieut. McRae was captured at Dieppe. During the exercise the soldiers became sick, oh so terribly sick. And what happens a long, long way from shore? We run aground.

Koyl says, “Okay, over you go Harrison and Bailey, and together we’ll rock her loose.” We were wearing big heavy duffle coats and sea boots but over we went. After we got her loose, however, Owen left us out there and headed for shore. We fought for high ground against the waves and, weighing nearly a ton, we took off our duffle coats, dropped into holes and had a wonderful time until Owen somehow found us toward morning.

Editor: Perhaps Owen used an Aldis lamp or searchlight.

My father concluded the story this way:

The good people at the pub near the place our ALCs docked took us in, gave us blankets, porridge, whiskey, and dried our clothes. (Page 17-18, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Editor: I took the following still photograph while in Irvine, looking south toward the beaches of Dundonald Camp and Camp Auchengate (Navy) seen in the above IWM photos. 

The following looks west offshore from Irvine, toward an island known for its very hard rock - used for curling stones. Did Comb. Ops. training take place there too? Not likely, but it looks like a nice spot to visit (next time) at any rate.

Please link to a short video I filmed in the same area that reveals the beaches between Irvine and Troon: Landing Craft Beaches.

Please link to a second short video - a 360 degree view - filmed in the same area: Beach from Irvine to Troon.

Heading with the following three photographs: Spearhead of Invasion; Naval Beach parties and Commandos. 8 to 12 June 1943, HMS Saunders at Kabrit, Bitter Lakes near the Mediterranean.

A17721. Assault landing craft underway. Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Photographer
As found at the Imperial War Museum.

A17722. Communicating with other craft by means of flag signals as naval beach
parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS, Kabrit, Bitter Lakes near the
Mediterranean. Note the Bren gunner in the front of the landing craft assault.
Credit - Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Official Photographer. and IWM. 

A17723. Landing craft assault (LCA 330) going under the cover of smoke screen
as naval beach parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS, Kabrit, Bitter
Lakes near the Mediterranean. Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Photographer, and IWM.

More to follow.

Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (2).

Unattributed Photos GH.

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