June 16 – July 4, 1943: Bound for Sicily and Operation Husky

June 16: Got our allotment for boats today. I will be travelling with “C” Squadron. Bert, Ralph, Bill, Ruddick and I will go on the same boat. Expect to pull out in little over a week, but from where or to where, I don’t know.

June 18: Two years ago today we left (Camp) Borden (Ontario). Just finished a long and interesting B.S. Session – Bob Taylor, Tommy Johnson, Bruce Trotter, Poop and I. This is the only recreation we have here at all. This camp is even worse than Salisbury Plain. Believe it or not.

June 19: Sudden orders to move off tomorrow morning. One terrific day of documentation. Poop and Jimmy staged a celebration at night, which did not help our sleep much.

June 20: Fell in in full kit by Naffie and marched to Langholm stations, which we left at 10:20. I hated very much to say good by to old Hank Greenberg who was down to the station to see us. Off. He is not coming with us. We picked up the XIth Bn at Hatwick, passed through Edinburgh and Glasgow, saw Mr. Muir’s Bank (the Clydesdale Bank) on way through. Landed at Greenoch at 5:30 and marched to barracks. Bob Taylor, Bob Donby and I occupied a compartment in train coming up. Bob Taylor, Grant Elliott, Capt. McKay (M.O. With XIth) and two other XI officers and myself are sharing a billet, a club house of a cricket green.

June 21: Breakfast is over, sick parade is over. I have just brought Ralph up to our billets and I am now going to have one swell bath. Tonight I went out to Part Glasgow and visited Mr. And Mrs. Murray and Mrs. Brown. The latter is writing home.

June 22: We line up at barracks at 9:30 a.m. And come by bus to Wemyss Bay where we go aboard L.S.T. 164 – F11. All “C” Squadron is on this boat. I am sharing a cabin with young Archibald from Saskatoon. In the adjoining cabin are Cresey (Calgary), Grant Morrow (Peterborough), Graham (Montreal) and Don Taylor (Toronto). The accommodation is excellent here and the meals are grand. I don’t know when we sail, but there is a large convoy forming. I still don’t know where we are going.

June 24: Still in harbour – started Malaria treatments today. The last of our troops came on board yesterday. Big Canadian mail brought around to the Ships today and we sent mail off. Don’t know how long they will hold it before posting.

June 25: Sailed tonight at 5 p.m. – It is now 8 p.m. And no sea sickness yet.
Officers on board:
Capt. Liggett — Brigade, Capt. Swanson RCASC, Capt. Gillespie RCOC, Capt. Curran RCPC, Capt. Gray Brig. H.Q., Lieut. Hanson RCCS,
Calgary Regiment: Major Donahie, Capt. Taylor, Lieut. Graham, Lieut. Morrow, Lieut. Cawsey, Lieut. Archibald, Capt. Alexander
June 26: One day at sea, starting our second. Long rows of vessels parallel in Convoy with destroyers in front and on the sides. Ireland has at last faded from sight – now no land visible as we start our second day. Got doused with a pail of water from the upper deck today. The sea is smooth and we seem to be making good time. The Convoy really is a glorious sight to see. Much warmer today. Not very much sickness aboard. We expect to turn south tomorrow so it should be warmer.

© IWM (A 18096) Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: A late evening picture as the fast convoy of big ships, carrying the men who made the initial assault, approached Sicily. Photograph taken from the destroyer NUBIAN

© IWM (A 18096)
Operation Husky: The Sicily Landings 9-10 July 1943: A late evening picture as the fast convoy of big ships, carrying the men who made the initial assault, approached Sicily. Photograph taken from the destroyer NUBIAN

June 27: Everything just the same today. Getting some warmer. It will probably be pretty monotonous before we get to the end of our journey. Good weather.

June 28: The weather is still excellent, but very heavy swells are running and we are rocking like a cork. There will probably be a lot of sea sickness tomorrow. We are still running south west. Will turn east for Gibraltar one of these days.

June 29: Very difficult to write as it is so rough. We are supposed to be a few hundred miles out to sea, opposite the Bay of Biscay – but all the water looks the same to me. We are really having a congenial – all good fellows, so everything is o.k. This flat bottomed L.S.T. Is grand in harbour, but holds the world’s championship for the open ocean.

June 30: Last night we had engine trouble and got quite a long way behind the Convoy – caught up O.K. During the night. We are not rolling as much today. We have just finished our fifth day at sea – should reach Gibraltar by the end of the week. We will certainly all be glad to find out where we are going and to get there.

July 1/43: Dominion Day – I wonder what news is broadcast to you at home today. We are now a few hundred miles west of Portugal – still proceeding south. We put on our Eastern uniforms today – shorts with open shirts – lovely and warm out – bright sun and smooth sea. Gave three lectures today on heat stroke and Malaria. We are having a real good trip, but will be glad when we reach the other side.

July 2: Still beautiful weather. Nothing of interest today.

July 3: Shooting accident on board, not serious. Sing song on deck today. We are getting nearer Gibraltar. All indications point to Italy.

July 4: All called to action stations early this a.m. A corvette had made contact with a submarine and dropped some depth charges. Results unknown. This afternoon the sea is like a mirror. It is very warm and the sun is almost blistering hot. Have just had a nice salt water shower and am tingling all over.

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About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.

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