Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Articles: Operation TORCH, N. Africa, Nov. 1942 (Pt 3).

Allied Troops Land in Three Locations, Some Resistance. 
News Clippings about D-Day November 8, 1942.

[Photo: A12633. In the distance a destroyer is laying a smoke screen round one of the
transports off Oran. Two landing craft assault and one landing craft personnel ramped
can be seen in the foreground they are LCA85, LCA394 and LCP(R) 838. 
Credit: RN Photographer, Lt. J.E. Russell, Imperial War Museum (IWM)]

[Photo: A12650. Smoke screens off Arzeu, near Oran.
Photo Credit: Lt. F.A. Hudson, IWM.]


Surely, a few interesting events occurred onboard the Derwentdale and Ennerdale (Allied troopships, converted from oil tankers) in early November 1942 between the passing of Gilbraltar and initial landings along the North African coast on November 8th. I would be content with one sentence from my father's memoirs, but one sentence he did not write. After seeing the Mediterranean Sea for the first time he falls silent for several days in memoirs;  his next words are about LCMs going over the side.

Fortunately, after returning to Canada in December 1943, after the invasions of Sicily and Italy, he was interviewed - along with Buryl McIntyre, his close mate from Norwich Ontario - by a reporter from the London Free Press. And in the published report I find three sentences* that lead up to the actual landings on D-Day North Africa.



[The following excerpt from the newspaper article appeared on February 5, 1944 in The Free Press, London]

After Dieppe, his seven day leave cut down to two, Buryl was almost immediately training for the next phase of the war. Late in October he and this time Douglas Harrison were in a great convoy bound for an unknown destination.

[Photo: A12654. General view of the convoy en route for Gibraltar bathed in
sunlight and stretching into the distance. RN photographer F.A. Hudson.
Imperial War Museum (IWM)] 

Composed of all kinds of ships the convoy was loaded with machinery, bull-dozers, wire for landing sleds, jeeps, guns and the thousand other things which make up an invasion.

*Three Sentences - Alert! 

They passed Gibraltar and proceeded along the North African shore. They saw and heard the silencing of shore batteries and presently were ready to land. Buryl handled a landing craft for the British First Army and Douglas worked with the Americans.

So, as British and American forces landed at and near Oran and Algiers, Canadians in Combined Operations were at work on various landing crafts that transported troops and all the materials of war to shore, at times facing resistance.

I believe that Allied landings by the Western Task Force, centred at Casablanca, and made up of ships, troops and materials from the USA, did not involve any Canadians and their landing crafts. My father landed at Arzeu aboard Derwentdale, east of Oran, as part of the Center Task Force, made up of British and American forces. I would think aforementioned Buryl McIntyre, aboard Ennerdale, was there as well.

Map and more details can be found at Operation Torch, Wikipedia

Timely photographs from the Imperial War Museum:

Caption: A12647. American troops manning their landing craft assault* from a
doorway in the side of the liner REINA DEL PACIFICO. Two of the landing craft
are numbered LCA 428 and LCA 447. Photo Credit - Lt. F. A. Hudson,
Imperial War Museum (IWM)

*The landing craft is likely a British model manned by Canadians (RNCVR) in Combined Operations (my father included) under the command of a Royal Navy (or RNR) officer.

at Oran during Operation TORCH. Photo Credit - F.A. Hudson, IWM.

Caption: A12671. Troops and ammunition for light guns being brought ashore from
a landing craft assault (ramped) (LCA 428) on Arzeau beach, Algeria, North Africa,
whilst another LCA (LCA 287) approaches the beach. Lt. F.A. Hudson, IWM

It is this editor's belief that the sailor who lowered the ramp and entered the water first is none other than my father Doug Harrison, RCNVR and Combined Operations. Lt. F.A. Hudson took several other photos while on shore and Doug appears in several. The following is my second favourite, after the one above.

In it, my father (farthest left, middle background) is holding an anti-broaching line attached to LCA 426 (a twin to LCA 428 above) and is being joined by another seaman dragging a second line. Meanwhile, U.S. troops, perhaps American Rangers or members of the 16th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams, unload boxes of supplies.

Caption: A12649. American troops landing on the beach at Arzeu, near Oran, from
a landing craft assault (LCA 26), some of them are carrying boxes of supplies.
Photo Credit - Lt. F.A. Hudson, Imperial War Museum

My father wrote about some of his duties associated with landing crafts in memoirs re N. Africa:

The job of the seaman on an ALC or LCM is to let the bow door down and wind it up by means of a winch situated in the stern of the barge. This winch is divided so you can drop a kedge (anchor) possibly about 100 or so feet from shore depending on the tide. If it is going out you can unload and then put motors full astern, wind in the kedge and pull yourself off of breach (a position sideways to the beach).

The tide is very important and constantly watched. If it is going out (on the ebb) and you are slow, you can be left high and dry, and if so, you stay with the barge. If the tide is on the make (flowing in) you use the kedge to keep you from swinging sideways on breach. In this case your kedge would be out only a short ways. After much practice, however, the kedge can be forgotten and everything done by engines and helm. Each barge has two engines.

A convoy is only as fast as the slowest ship and fast ships that make over 20 knots usually travel alone on a zig zag course so a sub cannot get lined up on them. That wouldn’t work today as subs are much faster.
Page 26, "Dad, Well Done"

News from The Winnipeg Tribune and other timely photographs and captions from IWM that are related to the landings will follow.

First News clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune
About Operation TORCH, D-Day North Africa

[D-Day occurred on November 8, a Sunday, so news of the event was published in Canada beginning on November 9, 1942.]

Russian leaders badly wanted a second front, they agitated for it often, A second front would pull German troops away from the war front in Russia. Their elation, mentioned below, is understandable. British troops are mentioned but were present as well, in the Central and Eastern Task Forces.

British and American troops are mentioned together in the article below:

Guess who's coming to dinner? 

General Ritter von Troma is on the left, Monty on the right, not as caption suggests.

Members of Canada's Navy and Navy Reserve are busy on many fronts, some at sea, some on North African shores.

Unfortunately, what was hailed in the following article - no more "12,000 mile detours" - did not entirely come to pass. In the summer of 1943, several Allied ships felt it necessary to send forces (including Canadians in Combined Operations and their landing crafts) around Africa to Egypt rather than simply travelling via The Med.

In the fourth paragraph of the article below (beginning 'Oran Resists') one reads about resistance faced by some parts of the Allied Central Task Force from navy-controlled batteries at or near Oran. 

At an online source I find the following:

The Center Task Force would go ashore at three beaches in the vicinity of Oran on 8 November at 1 AM, the exact hour when the Western Task Force coming from the United States was to land at Casablanca and the Eastern Assault Force, mostly British, was to touch down at Algiers.

The most important landing was in the Gulf of Arzew, twenty-five miles east of the city of Oran, where there were two coastal batteries and a French garrison. A company of American Rangers was to spearhead the assault, followed by the 16th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs). Google - Oran and the Provisional Ordnance Group

My father wrote about facing sniper fire on two occasions. On one occasion he was forced to hide behind a bulldozer blade in his Landing Craft Mechanized while a ground on a sandbar. On a second occasion he writes:

Our Coxswain was L/S Jack Dean of Toronto and our officer was Lt. McDonald, RNR. After the 92 hours (he worked non-stop from Nov. 8 - 11) my officer said, “Well done. An excellent job, Harrison. Go to Reina Del Pacifico and rest.” 

But first the Americans brought in a half track (they found out snipers were in a train station) and shelled the building to the ground level. No more snipers. (Navy memoirs.)

Back in Canada, theatre-goers are kept up-to-date (to a degree) about the war effort by news reels, some produced by Canadian film-makers:

The Winnipeg Tribune editorializes about the importance of the North African campaign and recent landings:

The following is an article about, and interview with, a Canadian officer who is a member of RCNVR and Combined Operations.

After the war, Lt. J.M. "Mac" Ruttan wrote a piece or two for "St. Nazaire to Singapore: The Canadian Amphibious War 1941-1945", a book in two-volumes that shares the personal stories of Canadian war veterans of Combined Operations.

Very rare book, featured on this site. See "books re Combined Operations" under "click on Headings" in right-hand margin.

I have a soft spot for food advertisements from Eaton's FOODATERIA. Such good prices!! : )

Please link to Articles: Operation TORCH, N. Africa, Nov. 1942 (Pt 2).

Unattributed Photos GH

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