Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Editor's Research: Lloyd Campbell, London Ont. (1)

Dieppe Veteran and Prisoner of War.

What passing-bells for these who died as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
Dieppe, Dieppe by B. Greenhous


Lloyd George Campbell of London attended high school at South Collegiate and not too many months or years after graduation he volunteered for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve, perhaps at HMCS Prevost, an inland navy base that currently stands at the Fork of the Thames River, near downtown London, less than a mile from my house. 

My father also volunteered for RCNVR (in 1941, at HMCS Star in Hamilton) and the two men crossed paths after volunteering for Combined Operations (late 1941), perhaps while training upon landing crafts in southern England or north-western Scotland prior to the Dieppe raid. But they certainly knew each other to some degree after meeting aboard the Ennerdale, a converted oil tanker, on their way from Scotland to the Isle of Wight, in preparation for Operation Rutter, the first (and cancelled - July 7, 1942) running of the raid at Dieppe, France.

In Navy memoirs my father writes the following - in 1975 - about that voyage in June of '42:

I believe we went from Irvine to H.M.S. Quebec, then to H.M.S. Niobe and then aboard the oil tanker Ennerdale at Greenock in late April, 1942. Our barges were loaded on the ship too, by use of booms and winches. I do recall that before leaving Greenock one of the ship’s crew said to me, “I wish we weren’t going on this trip, matey.” When I asked why he said, “‘Cause we got a bloody basinful last time!” We got our basinful this time too.

During the trip down the west coast of England it seems we pulled into an Irish seaport one night; however, farther down the coast of England we headed south past Milford Haven, Wales, and all was serene.

We usually had a single or maybe two Spitfires for company. There were eight ships in the convoy; we were the largest, the rest were trawlers. Of course, the Spitfires only stayed until early dusk, then waggled their wings and headed home.

On June 22, 1942, my mother’s birthday, O/D Seaman Jack Rimmer of Montreal and I were reminiscing on deck. We must remember there was daylight saving time and war time, and to go by the sun setting one never knew what time it was. Jack and I were feeling just a little homesick - not like at first - and it was a terribly hard feeling to describe then.

Our Spitfire waggled his wings and kissed us goodnight though it was still quite light, and no sooner had he left when ‘action stations’ was blared out on the Klaxon horn.

Eight German JU 88s came from the east, took position in the sun and attacked us from the stern. It was perhaps between eight and nine o’clock because I had undressed and climbed into my hammock next to Stoker Fred Alston. When the Klaxon went everybody hit the deck and tried to dress, and being the largest ship, we knew we were in for it.

I got my socks on, put my sweater on backwards and got the suspenders on my pants caught on the oil valves. I was hurrying like hell and nearly strangled myself - scared to death. They needed extra gunners so Lloyd Campbell of London, Ontario (later to die of wounds suffered at Dieppe) said, “Let me at him.”

The bombs came - and close. They really bounced us around. The gun crew on the foc’sle of the ship was knocked clear off the gun by the concussion and fell but were only bruised.

The attack was short and sweet but it seemed an eternity. A near miss had buckled our plates and we lost all our drinking water. I ventured out on deck immediately and picked up bomb shrapnel as big as your fist. I noticed the deck was covered with mud from the sea bottom. I kept the shrapnel as a souvenir along with many other items I had but, alas, they were all lost in Egypt.

We arrived at Cowe (Isle of Wight) the next day with everyone happy to be alive and still shaking. It indeed had been a basinful. Incidentally, two German 88s were shot down. Norm Mitchinson of Niagara Falls was credited with two planes shot down during the course of the war; one at Dieppe and one at Sicily. Both were low flying bombers. His weapon was a strip Lewis 303.
(Page 19-20, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Rutter was cancelled shortly before the scheduled time of disembarking and many would say that the next raid, known as Operation Jubilee, should have been cancelled as well.

About 6,000 troops took part, for the most part Canadians, along with members of the Royal Navy and several dozen Canadians manning the landing crafts. Able-Bodied Seaman (AB) Lloyd Campbell suffered severe wounds during the raid on August 19 and was ultimately captured by German forces.

His daunting experiences are mentioned in memoirs written by his commanding officer, Lt. Robert McRae of Toronto (captured as well). McRae writes vividly and at length about arriving off the French coast in a small R-boat at about 7:30 AM, August 19. He passed through a smoke screen to confront the foe. Machine gun fire greeted him.

Landing crafts (Higgins boats; plywood) laying down smoke screens off Dieppe.
Credit - Canada at War, and Imperial War Museum

Coming out on the other side (of the smoke screen)
with a full view now of the coast,
we found we were fatally headed toward the beach
under the steep cliffs.
to the right side of the town instead of the town front,
with the ominous heads of the enemy clearly visible
lined along the top of the cliffs. And now they began to pour
machine-gun fire down into the boats.

In our craft, Campbell,
who was at the wheel, received a line of bullets across his thighs
(later as a POW he lost his legs to amputation
and died before Christmas from gangrene).

Cavanagh, standing beside him, was shot in the chest,
and died an hour later thrashing in torment while his lungs filled up.
My third crewman, Brown, took something in the stomach
that damaged him for the rest of his life. But although wounded,
he took over Campbell's place at the wheel,
and for this action received a gallantry award
after the war. As it was my place to stand
behind the man at the wheel,
Campbell had stopped the machine-gun bullets
I might otherwise have received....

From pages 61 - 62, St. Nazaire to Singapore :The Canadian Amphibious War, (Volume 1).

Lt. McRae became a POW at Dieppe, 1942.
Photo credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore: Volume 1

My father missed Dieppe by one day along with about 35 other Canadians, and returned to duty as landing crafts returned to southern England (e.g., Newhaven, Portsmouth, Southampton) and was present when casualty lists were posted. He says:

I lost my first comrades at Dieppe. Others were wounded. O/S Kavanaugh (sic) - killed. O/S Jack McKenna - killed. A/B Lloyd Campbell, London, Ontario died of wounds after his legs were nearly cut off by machine gun fire. Imagine Higgins boats made of 3/4 inch plywood going in on a beach like that.

Lieutenant McRae, our commander, Stoker Brown, and others I can’t recall were taken prisoner. And lots of people don’t even know Canada’s navy was represented at Dieppe. 
(Page 21, "DAD, WELL DONE")

Stoker Brown (left) reunites with Doug Harrison (my father, front centre),
Lt. R. McRae (at back) and Art 'Gash' Bailey (right) after the war.
Photo credit - St. Nazaire to Singapore: Volume 1

When St. Nazaire to Singapore - The Canadian Amphibious War (two volumes of memoirs by Canadians in Combined Operations) was being assembled in the mid-1990s my father made a submission that related to those comrades he lost at Dieppe. The short list mentioned AB Lloyd Campbell, Cavanaugh, McKenna (as seen above), as well as S/Lt. Clifford Wallace, Canada's first casualty re Dieppe (shot during the crossing in the English Channel).

 As found in St. Nazaire to Singapore: Volume 1*

*Please note - my father listed no date of death for Lloyd Campbell or location of burial other than Berlin. Few people would have had that specific information at the time.

Mr. Campbell's name can also be found in the book Combined Operations by Londoner Clayton Marks (RCNVR, Combined Ops) among the partial list of the 950 - 1,000 Canadian men who volunteered for dangerous duties with Combined Operations during World War II.

Note that Campbell and Cavanagh are listed together again.

Mr. Campbell's name ("Lloyd G. Campbell") is also found in 'KNOWING NO DEFEAT', a book published in London Ontario. The name is included in the LSCI Active Service Roll (a list of all former South Collegiate students who enlisted in WW II) beginning on page 131. It is the first place I have seen Lloyd's middle initial, but I am certain it is the same Lloyd Campbell referred to all along in this post.

Though R. Cavanaugh and C. Wallace are listed as buried at Dieppe (and some information can be found about that burial service), and J. McKenna was buried at Newhaven (S. England; some information available in Al Kirby's account re Dieppe raid), I have only been able to find scant information concerning Campbell's death and burial, already mentioned above. I.e., "died of wounds", "Berlin", "lost his legs to amputation and died before Christmas from gangrene".

Recently, however, while scanning my computer screen and beginning to read a story of some interest in The Winnipeg Tribune entitled 'Reporter Gets Nine Wounds In Oran Raid' (related to the invasion of North Africa, November 1942, during which my father was very busy on landing crafts near Oran), my eyes were drawn toward a small news headline.... two columns over!

'Navy Casualty'.

My heart began to thump. 

I thought, "Could this be about a Canadian in Combined Ops?"

"Lloyd George Campbell is Lloyd G. Campbell, London! I'm sure of it!"

My heart thumped for quite a while. What I have discovered, with some good fortune involved, is pertinent information about a Canadian veteran of Dieppe:

- Lloyd died as a POW on October 21, 1942.

- the location of Camp 9-C may be known, and burial records may exist.

As well, more research work can be done - possibly with good results - if I can locate and connect with Lloyd's surviving relatives here in my home city of London.

More will hopefully be supplied here about Mr. Campbell, with his picture if one exists.

The research continues....

Unattributed Photos GH.

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