Saturday, June 9, 2018

Articles: Italy, Oct. 12-16, 1943 - Pt. 14.

Navy Boys on Their Way Home.

[Photo: British forces gradually press toward Rome but they are several
months away from entering the Italian capital. Canadians in the 80th Flotilla
of Landing Crafts are homeward bound. Credit - The Winnipeg Tribune ]


Interested readers will find a steady supply of articles related to the slow march of Allied troops toward Rome, in The (Digitized) Winnipeg Tribune.

That being said, the trail of Canadians in Combined Operations has technically gone cold because they have pointed their landing crafts toward North Africa for the return ride back to the United Kingdom. 

In Navy memoirs my father writes the following:

After our work from Sicily to Italy was done and our armies were advancing we returned to Malta. We stayed but a few days, then took MT boats to Bougie in Algiers, and were soon after loaded onto a Dutch ship, the Queen Emma. The ship had been bombed and strafed, her propellor shaft was bent and we could only make eight knots an hour under very rough conditions. Her super structure was easily half inch steel, and in various places where shrapnel had struck I could see holes that looked like a hole punched in butter with a hot poker, like it had just melted.

We arrived at Niobe barracks in Scotland and in true navy style were put on a train and sent to Lowestoft in England, not too far from Norwich, England (my hometown’s namesake or visa versa) on or near the east coast.

Backing up a bit. While on the Queen Emma we had an attack of boils break out and we were taking exams to become Acting Leading Seamen. It was my fortune to not get boils at first, and I teased everyone aboard. But my turn came. I got three beauts close together on my neck. I went to sick bay, and what did they put me on? You guessed it - mercurochrome. I said, I won’t be back, same as when I broke my toe, and I didn’t. I passed my exam, got my book and carried the boils clear to Lowestoft.

I heard mess deck buzz. We were getting a lot of money and going on leave. The stipulated time for ratings is twenty-four months overseas and we were closing in. No more raids. Thanks God, for pulling me through. The mess deck buzz proved to be correct, they gave us all a pile of money (pound notes), and I thought it was too many for me because I made a big allotment to my mother. 

How they ever kept track of our pay* I’ll never know, and to my dying day I will believe they gypped me right up to here. 

[*Editor: Navy records were kept up-to-date by legions of people, some based at COPRA camps (e.g., at Largs, Scotland). COPRA stands for Combined Operations Pay Record and Accounts and photos of some sites are archived at Imperial War Museum. Please link to Photographs: Training on Landing Crafts (13)]

Before going on leave I went to Stoker Katanna and I said, pinch out these boils. “I’ll lean on the top bunk and no matter how it hurts, pinch them out.” I never felt a thing because they were as ripe as cherries. I slopped on a big bandaid and away I went on leave, never bothering to answer a ton of mail. I also received eight hundred cigarettes.

We were due for a do and we did it up brown. You couldn’t possibly lose me in London, England even when I was three sheets to the wind. No way.
(Page 37, "DAD, WELL DONE")

And after just a few pints of brown ale, I'm sure, many (including my father) returned to Canada. They arrived home aboard the Aquitania during the first week of December and shortly thereafter were presented with a challenging decision, related to "where to serve next?"

By mid-January, a large contingent of Canadian sailors would be riding the rails across Canada on their way to a Combined Operations training grounds on Vancouver Island (i.e., HMCS Givenchy III at Comox). My father would marry his first wife a few months later, in the spring of 1944, and be on active duty on The Spit (Comox) until discharge in the fall of 1945.

Canadians in RCNVR and Combined Ops stop in Hornepayne ONT
on their way to Vancouver Island. Photo - Doug Harrison, Jan. 1944

Wedding Bells. Late April or early May, 1944. Photo GH.

We leave the battle in Italy - an incredibly long and difficult slog for Allied troops - with the following and final news clippings from the Tribune.

Unattributed Photos GH

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