Friday, June 29, 2018

Articles: Operation TORCH, N. Africa, Nov. 1942 (Pt 4).

Canadians in Combined Ops in Two Locations, 11 Day Wonders
News Clippings from D-Day +2, November 10, 1942.

[Photo: Nov. 8 1942, Anglo American armies landed on the north coast of Africa.
Photo Credit - History Stuff. Click here for more details.]

[Photo: Algeria, American soldiers landing on the beach, November 1942*
Photo Credit - The Jews of Algeria. Click here for details.]

*It is this editor's belief that the US soldiers arrived off the coast in a converted ocean liner named Reina Del Pacifico, and are disembarking (above) from a British ALC (assault landing craft) manned by Canadians (Doug Harrison, Norwich in the lead, far right).


Canadians in Combined Operations, perhaps about 200 in all, were involved in significant landings in North Africa, November 1942. Two boys from Norwich Ontario were part of what was described as 'the biggest armada of all time', i.e., Buryl McIntyre aboard landing crafts that transported members of the British First Army to shore, and "Douglas (Harrison) worked with the Americans." (The Free Press, London ONT - Feb. 5, 1944)

At an online source we read the following about the landings in N. Africa:

The purpose of the landings at Oran, Casablanca, and Algiers was to secure bases on the coast of North Africa. After the bases were secured, there would be rapid exploitation to acquire complete control of French Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia and extend offensive operations against the rear of Axis forces to the east...

The Center Task Force would go ashore at three beaches in the vicinity of Oran on 8 November at 0100, 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 (of the landings) was in the Gulf of Arzew, twenty-five miles east of the city, where there were two coastal batteries and a French garrison. A company of Rangers was to spearhead the assault, followed by the 16th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams (RCT's) of the 1st Infantry Division and most of the tanks of Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division... 
(Source - Click here for more details.)

It is my understanding that the Canadians worked four days straight without much chance for relief - transporting troops and their many supplies was a non-stop operation. After four days without much sleep or food, my father rested for a day aboard the Reina del Pacifico before returning to his flotilla of LCMs to begin the week-long task of transporting reinforcements and their supplies to the North African shores.

News Clippings from The Winnipeg Tribune, issued on November 10, 1942:

A12638. Photographed from the deck of the ship that they are disembarking
from, American troops can be seen getting into a landing craft personnel (ramped).
Photo Credit - (Russell, J E (Lt) RN photographer, Imperial War Museum (IWM)

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, IWM

A12648. American troops exiting their landing craft assault on the beach at Are,
near Oran. Some of the ships of that convoy can be seen in the distance.
Photo Credit - Lt. F.A. Hudson, IWM.

I believe that the sailors who manned landing craft worked at their job - ferrying men and materials of war - under a good deal of pressure. Troops already landed wanted essential supplies before moving inland (e.g., ammunition, food, equipment, etc.). Plus, there were more troops on the way from the U.K. and U.S.

The arrival of troops in North Africa would help - in a significant way - turn the tide of the war. Other factors were also taking a positive turn, e.g., the sea battles vs German U-boats. Churchill would say, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the beginning of the end." Please see the upcoming article (four steps down) entitled 'Churchill Sees Victory's Bright Gleam in Egypt' for the context of that well-known, timely quote.

Another band of resourceful Canadians are introduced in a lengthy piece from The Tribune:

Canadian pilot 'Buzz' Beurling gained fame because of his flying exploits and is mentioned by one Canadian in Combined Ops in memoirs that touch on Malta:

This was the Island where the Canadian pilot Buzz (screwball) Beurling, at that time with the RAF and later with the R.C.A.F., became known as the "Knight of Malta." The story goes that he was shot down near the water's edge and, although injured, made his way back to the airfield. He immediately took off in another plane and shot down the plane responsible for shooting him down earlier! After the war he was killed taking off from Rome on his way to fight for Israel; the plane had been sabotaged. Memoirs, Lloyd Evans (RCNVR, Comb. Ops.)

The Canadians in Combined Operations, serving under RN officers, were a small but significant part of the North African landings. Not often were they mentioned as a separate group because, more often than not, they were aboard British ships and doing the same work as countless other sailors from the U.K. or U.S.

It can be said that the Canadians punched above their weight. Their written histories are extremely rare and valuable, and it is through their chronicles that today's student of history can obtain a front row seat to the chaos and carnage of war, the times of standing easy and the walk along the Blackpool Pier with a lovely ladies who were often sad to see their new friends go home.

More to follow, bon ami!

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

Unattributed Photos GH

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