Friday, February 23, 2018

Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (10).

Various Crafts and Camps: Isle of Wight to Irvine.

Don Westbrook (of Hamilton, Ontario) out front of a Bell Tent at Camp
Auchengate, near Irvine, 1942. Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 


The number of servicemen who received training on landing craft at Combined Operation Centres and the types of landing craft used grew rapidly as WW2 continued.

Thousands of men (hundreds from Canada) would well remember significant practise operations at various locations on U.K.'s coast. 

Canadians in Combined Operations have fortunately written a few stories about their adventures related to training before several real operations took place. In my father's stories I learn that his early training in 1942 took place first at HMS Northney near Portsmouth (southern England) before moving to north-west Scotland (HMS Quebec at Inveraray, then to Camp Auchengate south of Irvine) prior to the Dieppe raid and invasion of North Africa.

Canadians also trained on larger landing craft [LCI(L)s] near the Isle of Wight in 1944 in preparation for D-Day Normandy.

To read two entries that touch on training prior to Operation Neptune, and the event itself, please visit the following links:

Story: Normandy - Operation NEPTUNE Part 1

Story: Normandy - Operation NEPTUNE Part 2

[Editor's note: The online links to the University of Alberta (Edmonton), home of the texts St. Nazaire to Singapore (two volumes of Canadian veterans' stories re Combined Operations - mentioned in the above links) has been lost.]

Several photographs follow concerning landing crafts and training operations. A few related stories recalled by Canadian veterans in Combined Operations are also provided.

For more information about Landing Crafts and training exercises, please visit Search Our Collections at Imperial War Museum (IWM).

A23755. Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM's) in line ahead followed by two
Landing Craft Gun (Large) LCG(L). Photo Credit - Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

A23759. Quarter Bow view of a Landing Craft Flak (LCF), underway during
an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight. Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Photographer.

A23760. Landing Craft Rockets (LCR). Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Photographer,
Imperial War Museum, U.K..

A23762. Landing Barge Vehicles (LBV's). Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM

A23763. Various types of Landing Craft alongside in Southampton Docks before
or after an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight. Lt. E.E. Allen, IWMuseum.

The following three photos are used with the permission of Lloyd Evans, RCNVR and Combined Operations (1941 - 45):

 Landing Craft alongside in southern England docks, circa 1942.
Canadians Don Linder (left), Doug Harrison (centre, peeking out),
Don Westbrook (far right)

  Landing Craft alongside in southern England docks, circa 1942.

A23764. Various types of Landing Craft alongside in Southampton Docks. 
Lt. E.E. Allen, RN Official Photographer, IWM.

A23766. Mess deck scene on board a Landing Craft Gun (Large) (LCG(L)).
Spare guns crew while away time playing cards, reading and resting.
Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

A23771. Passing 4.7 inch projectiles through the hatch of a Landing Craft
Gun (Large) (LCG(L)) during an invasion rehearsal off the Isle of Wight.
Note the crew wearing anti-flash clothing. Lt. E.E. Allen, IWM.

Related to the above projectiles, my father recalls the following story while aboard the Dutch liner Volendam on his way to Scotland from Canada in January 1942, prior to any training aboard landing craft:

Late at night I was on watch at our stern and saw a red plume of an explosion on our starboard quarter. In the morning the four-stacker was not to be seen. The next evening I heard cries for help, presumably from a life-raft or life-boat. Although I informed the officer of the watch, we were unable to stop and place ourselves in jeopardy as we only had the Firedrake with ASDIC (sonar) to get us through safely.

Navy mates Doug Harrison and Buryl McIntyre
stand outside Wellington Barracks, Halifax, 1941

After some days we spotted a light on our port stern quarter one night. It was the light of the conning tower of a German submarine. How she failed to detect us, or the Firedrake detect it, I will never know. I was gun layer and nearly fell off the gun (4.7 gauge). I informed the Bridge and the Captain said, “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. It could be one of ours.” But as it quickly submerged we did fire one round to buck up our courage. Navy memoirs, Page 8

A28990. Landing craft in the harbour at APPLEDORE.
Lt. J.E. Russell, RN photographer, IWM.

Heading with above photograph: HMS Appledore, Combined Operations Training Base. June 1, 1945. North Devon. Headquarters for the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Unit (LCOCU) to which the Navy Frogmen belong.  

A29872. The parade ground at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, RN Photographer, IWM.

HMS Dundonald was located adjacent to the ocean 2 - 3 miles south of Irvine, Scotland. Navy boys were accommodated at Camp Auchengate farther south down the road or beach from Irvine, and north of Troon. I believe many ratings stayed in Bell Tents and officers stayed in Quonset huts.

Coxswain Joe Spencer (Toronto, Canada) at Irvine. 
Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 

Map displays the RAF and navy camps, landing strips, bogs, etc.
As found at Combined Operations Command by Geoff Slee

A29875. General view of the beach at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon, where many
Tank Landing Craft tests were carried out. German prisoners are working in the
foreground. Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, Admiralty Official Collection, IWM.

The next three photographs were taken by Editor while in Irvine, 2014. Looking north from Irvine's beach toward Troon.

Doug Harrison, RCNVR and Combined Operations 1941-45, recalls staying at Camp Auchengate and carrying out significant training exercises there on landing crafts.

We were stationed at Auchengate camp outside Irvine at the time in bell tents and all washing facilities were outside. We never went ashore the regular way under inspection of an officer. O/D Art Bradfield, who was confined to barracks, inspected us, lifted the fence and said, “Be back on time you guys.” And we always were. Navy memoirs, Page 17

Len Birkenes returning On Board at Irvine through a makeshift gangway.
Photo - St. Nazaire to Singapore, Pg. 44 

Art Bradfield of Simcoe may have been confined to barracks as a result of an earlier incident in Inveraray. Doug Harrison writes:

Boy, but was it dark up there amongst the heather and the hills (in Inveraray).

As well, gambling in any form was not allowed in the navy for fear the losers might steal, but a friendly game of craps with pennies was going on one night when rounds were being made. O/S Bradfield of Simcoe, the winner, couldn’t sweep the pennies under his hat fast enough and was caught and severely punished. Navy memoirs, Page 12.

A29877. Seamanship class in progress at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon, with
(right background) REME units learning wire splicing from a naval instructor.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, RN Photographer, IWM.

A29880. The quarterdeck and main avenue at HMS DUNDONALD, Troon.
Lt. E.A. Zimmerman, IWM.

More photographs from Irvine and Inveraray, etc., will follow.

Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (9).

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