Sunday, January 28, 2018

Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (4).

Combined Operations Camps, Landing Crafts and Crews

Photo: Canadians at their first training Camp: HMS Northney on Hayling
Island,  not far from Portsmouth, Southern England. circa February 1942. 
L-R: A. Adlington, London; J. Spencer, Toronto; C. Rose, Chippawa; D. Harrison,
Norwich; A. Bradfield, Simcoe; D. Linder, Kitchener; J. Watson, Simcoe; J. Jacobs.
Photo Credit - From the Collection of Joe Spencer (2nd left)


As World War II continued Combined Operation Centres or camps began to dot the shoreline of the United Kingdom. Tens of thousands of men would eventually pass through the doors of some of the more extensive camps, as at HMS Quebec south of Inveraray on Loch Fyne.

Canada's contribution to Combined Operations began their training on Hayling Island in February 1942 ("the toilets froze and cracked"), likely on early ALCs and LCMs. Later recruits trained on new Landing Craft, Infantry (Large), also known as LCI(L)s, e.g., near the Isle of Wight prior to D-Day Normandy.

Some of the earliest recruits became familiar with the training facilities in Egypt at Kabrit on the Great Bitter Lake as well. They stopped and stayed at HMS Saunders after their trip around Africa on their way to Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943.

Canadians in Combined Ops in Ismalia, Egypt, 1943.
L-R: P. Martel, E. Chambers, S. Ingram, N. Mitchinson. 
From the Collection of Joe Spencer

Norm Mitchinson also appears in the photo below, back row, fourth from the right.

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

My father Doug Harrison wrote the following about what he saw at HMS Saunders after arriving in Egypt later than other crews (due to a number of stops for repairs on the Silver Walnut):

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 and let it run from their poor behinds. I spent one night only in the desert so I was lucky. Thanks, old slow ship. (Page 29, "DAD, WELL DONE")

To help readers shake that last image from their minds I will add these recollections of the same time by another member of RCNVR and Combined Ops:

We proceeded through the Red Sea to the entrance of the Suez Canal where we lowered our landing craft over the side of our mother ship and continued our journey through the canal. 

We stopped at a camp in the desert close to the Bitter Lakes where we joined up with the rest of our flotilla who had arrived earlier. We were told that the day before there had been large quantities of Quebec Black Horse beer in the canteen... but unfortunately for us they'd finished it! Oh Yeah!

By June 1943 the heat, flies and dysentery made living conditions unpleasant. We spent most of the time lying in our tents, sweating, covered with flies and running to the toilet. The toilets were trenches dug in the sand surrounded by empty jute bags. It was amusing to see everybody lined up on the parade square and the bodies running like hell for the toilet. I think the record was 24 times in one night but my best performance was 24 times in one day.

One weekend three of us decided to hitchhike to Cairo even though we only knew the general direction. Road signs, as we know them today, did not exist then in Egypt - at least I can't remember seeing any. We hitched a lift on an army truck and on arrival in Cairo we found a well appointed hostel that catered mostly for Canadian Aircrew in transit to India. We enjoyed the luxury of sleeping on mattresses on a balcony overlooking the city. As soon as we arrived we met a RCNVR Special Branch Lt. who informed us that Cairo was out of bounds. We pleaded ignorance and to our surprise and delight he asked us to be his guests on a visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx the next day. (Pages 19, and 27, My Naval Chronicle by Lloyd Evans)

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.]

A17724. Army assault troops landing from invasion craft as naval beach parties and
commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS, Kabrit, Bitter Lakes near the Mediterranean.
Photo Credit - Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Photographer, Imperial War Museum (IWM)

A17725. Army assault troops landing from a landing craft assault (LCA 57)
as naval beach parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS.
Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Official Photographer, IWM.

A17726. Army assault troops landing from invasion craft. 
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17727. A landing craft mechanised (LCM 1005) approaching shore with its bow
being lowered as naval beach parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS.
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17729. Two men erecting a sign to mark the extremity of the beach whilst
a third man keeps guard as naval beach parties and commandos train. 
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17730. The main Naval Beach Party coming ashore with all the essential
equipment for marking beaches and maintaining communications (note the
soldier at the front with the radio on his back). Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17731. The main Naval Beach Party at work. A loud hailer has already been
erected as naval beach parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS.
Lt. L.C. Priest, RN Official Photographer, IWM.

A17732. Operating the loud hailer for direction of beach traffic.
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17734. Beach party communications at work, with a radio being used.
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

A17735. Directing incoming landing craft by means of semaphore flags.
The landing craft mechanised (LCM 1005) that brought the troops to the beach
can be seen behind the two men. HMS SAUNDERS. Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.

More to follow.

Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (3).

Unattributed Photos GH.

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