Combined Operations Camps, Landing Crafts and Crews.
[Photo: From Combined Operations by Clayton Marks, London ONT.]
As World War II continued Combined Operation Centres or camps began to dot the shoreline of the United Kingdom. Thousands of men would eventually pass through the doors of some of the more extensive camps, as at HMS Saunders, at Kabrit, on Bitter Lakes, Egypt.
Canadians in Combined Operations travelled around Africa in troops ships before arriving in Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo (as in top photo), and stayed at Saunders in preparation for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.
Some of these men later 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. For example, Ted Zealley (3rd from left in top photo) appears in photos taken in 1944 while aboard an LCI(L).
Ted Zealley (first left) looks like he is holding aces!
Photo - From the collection of Bill Eccles
Some of the Canadians arrived in Egypt with time to spare for exploration and adventures. Lloyd Evans of Markham wrote the following about that time in memoirs:
This historic place was closer to the city and easier to reach than we had imagined - a streetcar ride followed by a short walk past a beautiful open-air beer garden and we were there. Our escort for the day was a public relations officer who, in peacetime, was a reporter for the Toronto Star. The three of us had our photographs taken on a camel’s back in front of the Sphinx and took a tour through a Pyramid after paying for a candle and a tour guide. Even in wartime the place was a tourist trap. After the war I established that the photos taken that day were not at Naval headquarters although there were others of our gang taken at the camp in the desert before I joined them. I learned that this officer was killed on a MTB, possibly in the Straits of Messina, before he had time to send the pictures back to Ottawa.
When it was time to return to camp I had another bad case of dysentery and the other two boys headed back without me. Later in the day I felt a good deal better and headed back on my own with only a foggy idea of where the camp was. I managed to get a couple of rides on some army trucks but as darkness fell so did my spirits. Rumour had it that some Arabs would cut your throat for the ten shillings bounty the Germans offered for your pay-book! I was therefore relieved to see the lights of an American Airforce base which I knew was close to our camp. We often went swimming in the lake where, from behind its raised banks, we watched ships go by as though they were sailing through the sand.
Lloyd Evans, Ottawa, circa 1941
Photo used with permission.
Later in the week we took off in a convoy of trucks stopping for something to eat in Ishmalia (the Garden of the East). Our destination was Port Said where we spent almost a week in the Marina Savoy Hotel. Not for the fist time we had nothing to do but wait around and enjoy the sights. One evening we visited a nightclub dive and watched the girls dance on a high stage with a roll of barbed wire around the front of it to protect them from the patrons. In between their dancing the girls would sit at the tables, scrounge drinks and, with a hand under the table, work away to talk us into a little extra! Even with the barbed wire some soldiers tried to climb on to the stage such was the power of drink and the lure of young women.
We then boarded the American Liberty ship MV Pio Pico along with our landing craft and set sail for Alexandria where we were allowed to spend the evening ashore. We spent a very pleasant evening at a large peacetime R.N. base which had a beautiful navy hostel and restaurant with an orchestra. It was difficult sleeping that night as the duty Destroyer fired depth charges every hour to prevent frog-men from trying to plant limped mines on the sides of the Warships. The Battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth had been damaged this way earlier in the war so such precautions were necessary. (Pages 27-28, My Naval Chronicle*)
* My Navy Chronicle is a rare hard cover book self-published by Mr. Evans and family. It contains the contents of Lloyd's memories sent by email to Mr. Geoff Slee of Scotland. Mr. Slee did a lot of hard work in organizing the email contents into orderly form, and I tip my hat toward Scotland at this time. Mr. Evan's memoirs (14,000 words total) appear at Mr. Slee's comprehensive website entitled COMBINED OPERATIONS. Please visit it today. I'm certain you will return to it often.
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.]
A heading accompanies the related photos that follow:
Spearhead of invasion; Naval Beach Parties and Commandos. 8 to 12 June 1943 HMS Saunders at Kabrit, Bitter Lakes, near the Mediterranean, during training.
A17738. A section of the Beach Party searching for underwater obstacles,
barbed wire, etc. In the background can be seen a rubber dinghy from which
soundings are being taken. Photo Credit - Lt. L.C. Priest,
and Imperial War Museum (IWM).
A17756. One of the throws in unarmed combat.
Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.
A17757. A grim figure, holding a knife in his hand, a commando leaps down from
a sandbagged wall. Part of the vigourous training of Naval Commandos as naval beach
parties and commandos train at HMS SAUNDERS. Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.
A17759. Vigorous action of Naval Commandos during their training course.
Photo - Lt. L.C. Priest, and Imperial War Museum, IWM.
A17765. Street fighting in progress. Part of the training for Naval Commandos.
Photo - Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.
A17768. Lieutenant P R G Smith, RN, of the Shetlands, disembarking from a canoe,
the small and fragile craft used for night raids, as naval beach parties and commandos
train at HMS SAUNDERS. Lt. L.C. Priest, IWM.
IWM Heading that accompanies the following photographs:
Pre-Invasion fleet exercises in English Channel. 1 to 5 May 1944, on board LST 304.
A23086. Tank landing ships in line ahead approach the exercise area.
Photo Credit - Lt. C.H. Parnall, IWM.
A23087. Tank landing craft going to land their cargoes. Note the Red Cross
ambulance in foreground. Credit - Lt. C.H. Parnall, IWM.
A23089. DUKWs or "Ducks" after leaving the parent ship landing ship tank
and making their way to the beach during pre-invasion fleet exercises in the English
Channel. Note the covering barrage balloons and smoke-screen on the beach
in the distance. Photograph taken from LST 304. Lt. C.H. Parnall, IWM.
A23090. A "Rhino" ferry, loaded with army lorries, leaving an LS(T)
for the beach. Note the open doors of the LS(T) on the left.
Lt. C.H. Parnall, RN official photographer, IWM.
Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (4).
Unattributed Photos GH