Sunday, April 1, 2018

Research: Commando Training - the New Wave in RCAF.

Commando-Style Training Grows in Popularity.

Loaded L.S.T.s in Catania harbour, 1st September 1943.

While searching The Winnipeg Tribune (digitized newspaper link) for information about Canadian sailors who served in Combined Operations, I also came across articles that mentioned commando-style troops and training, some of it related to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). I will display two articles below.

But first, I must say that during the search I was reminded of two very good photos (one is posted above) that were attributed to W. Sinclair Macleod - a member of the RCAF and Combined Operations. His experiences as part of RAF Beach Units are listed online.

Sinclair writes:

Joining Combined Operations

I had no idea what kind of unit it was but based on the code name used to identify it I was pretty sure it was slated for active service somewhere. I asked for and was given the posting. Little did I know what I was getting into. By various modes of transport I made my way to the staging compound and joined the unit. It was to be a small unit of thirty three consisting primarily of signals personnel. Flying Officer E. H .D. Bland, R.A.F. was to be the Officer Commanding. Once again I am to be the only Canadian (R.C.A.F.) in the unit.

Please link to Royal Air Force Beach Units for full details. The site is an excellent collection of materials related to a little-known group of specialists that worked hard to establish efficient beachheads. They incorporated commando-style training in their efforts and oft-times were transported by Canadian sailors in Combined Ops to selected beaches or landing sites, in Italy at least.

One can find some information about Beach Units in the 'books re combined operations' in the right hand margin; e.g., for more information please see The Beachhead Commandos.

In my opinion, as WWII progressed and the reputation of commando units grew, some aspects of their rigorous training were incorporated into the regimes of other forces, even in Canada.

My father, a member of the 80th Flotilla of Canadian Landing Crafts, recalls the following about returning to Canada in 1943 after two years of service, shortly after the invasion of Sicily (July 10) and Italy (Sept. 3, Operation Baytown):

It would be fitting here to say, to wherever camp or ship we went - and we were at many - we were called ‘new entries.’ Even after two years overseas, when we arrived back at Halifax and fell in, the first words we heard were “for the benefit of you new entries.” How humiliating can they get? Then you got the rules.

We met a lot of (Canadian) sailors, who were shortly to go through what we went through already, and they called themselves commandos. They sure were in for a rude awakening. We were never called commandos, only combined operations ratings, and we were the first from Canada to go overseas.
(page 6, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Dad then went on to serve about two more years with Combined Operations (at a training grounds in Comox, BC). Some members of the 80th Flotilla may have been given some credit for their work in the following clip from the October 6, 1943 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune:

Commando-style training is incorporated into RCAF regimes, as reported in October 1943:

As found in the Oct. 6 '43 issue of The Winnipeg Tribune

Please link to Research: Photos of Jack Trevor Come Together.

Unattributed Photos GH.

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