Chapter 2: The 1st Division Goes to the Mediterranean
After Long Waiting
The two Canadian formations whose future course of action had thus been plotted in such widely separated cities as Algiers, Cairo, Ottawa and London were the senior Canadian representatives of their arms of service in the United Kingdom. General McNaughton himself had brought the 1st Infantry Division to Britain in December 1939.1 The 1st Army Tank Brigade, first of the Canadian armoured formations to move overseas, had arrived during the summer of 1941 under the command of Brigadier F. F. Worthington, a pioneer of armoured warfare in Canada.2
Mobilized at the outbreak of war as one of the two divisions of the Canadian Active Service Force, the 1st Division included the nation’s three Permanent Force infantry regiments (The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the Royal 22e Regiment). Its long sojourn in the United Kingdom is described elsewhere in this History.*
* Volume I, Six Years of War.
After the dark days of June 1940, when it had sent a brigade group in a brief and disappointingly fruitless excursion across the Channel, the Division had settled down to what General McNaughton had “long thought was the important task, the defence of these islands.”3 Through the remainder of that anxious summer, in which German invasion appeared imminent, officers and men stood on guard between London and the Channel coast, training intensively to meet the expected test. But Hitler’s courage failed him, and there followed two and a half years of marking time – a period broken only by the sending of a small force of the Division on the bloodless expedition to Spitsbergen.4 The enforced waiting, however, was no time of idleness, for a great offensive weapon was in the forging. Throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom Briton and Canadian readied themselves to carry the war to the enemy, and the spring of 1943 found the three brigades of the Division, which was
commanded now by Maj-Gen. H. L. N. Salmon, completing an exacting course of basic training in combined operations.
Two years of concentrated training across the Sussex Downs had brought the 1st Army Tank Brigade to a high standard of efficiency, which had been tested and proved on the fire-swept beaches of Dieppe, where one of its regiments – the 14th Army Tank Regiment (The Calgary Regiment) – had been the first unit of the Canadian Armoured Corps ever to go into action. Brigadier R. A. Wyman had succeeded Brigadier Worthington in the command in February 1942.
The 1st Division “Takes Over”
It was the natural claim of their seniority and efficiency which led General McNaughton to select these two formations for participation in Operation “Husky.”5 Once the nomination had been made the Canadian Division lost no time in “taking over” its operational role from the British formation which it was replacing. Indeed, on 24 April, before a reply had been received from Ottawa, the War Office, acting on the assumption that Canadian confirmation would be forthcoming, issued a directive instructing the Commander of the 3rd Division, Maj-Gen. W. H. C. Ramsden, to establish direct contact with the Headquarters of the Canadian Division and “to place at the disposal of the Canadian Commander full details of the progress in planning and preparation that has so far been made.”6
The actual “hand-over” was in the nature of an operation in itself, appropriately given the code name “Swift”.7 For weeks the staff officers of the British Division, with a direct channel of communication established to Headquarters of Force 545 in Cairo, and in close touch with planners at the War Office, had been busy organizing the mass of information passed to them from higher levels and working out in detail the varied and complicated administrative problems arising from participation in the coming assault. A large part of the preliminary spade-work had been completed, much of it in extremely rocky ground, for even at this late date no firm plan for the invasion had reached the United Kingdom. The sound methods which General Ramsden’s officers had employed enabled them to present the Canadians with a well-established and smoothly functioning planning organization which did not suffer from interruption during the takeover. On 24 April General Salmon set up his divisional planning staff at Norfolk House, in St. James’s Square, and upon a branch-to-branch basis each British officer individually put his Canadian “opposite number” in the picture, passing to him and explaining the contents of the bulky files of data
which went to make up the giant blueprint so soon to be translated into execution.8
It was an unkind turn of events which thus compelled the officers of the 3rd Division to surrender to others the high hopes of action towards the realization of which they had so enthusiastically laboured. The blow was the heavier in that it was not possible at the time for General Ramsden to pass on to the troops under his command the reasons (conveyed to him by Sir Alan Brooke) for their replacement by the Canadians.9 To their great credit be it said that they took their disappointment in good spirit, and the assistance which they gave their successors did much to smooth the Canadian path. For them entry into action was to be postponed for a year, but the associations formed with Canadians were to continue. When on 6 June 1944 the 3rd British Division landed on the beaches of Normandy, it was at the side of the 3rd Canadian Division.10
Canadian Planning Begins
At Norfolk House General Salmon’s staff plunged energetically into their exacting task. Time was against them. D Day for HUSKY had been set as 10 July,*
* The final Anfa meeting had agreed that an intensive effort should be made to achieve the favourable June moon for the operation, but on 20 March General Eisenhower reported to the Combined Chiefs of Staff that it was impossible to meet this earlier deadline.
and embarkation was due to begin in mid-June.11 The complex problem of mounting a force that was to be sea-borne to its point of contact with the enemy was attended by many difficulties, and had to be met by most careful planning. Every morning saw conferences conducted at successive hours under the auspices of the General Staff Branch, the “A” and “Q” Branches,†
† The General Staff Branch is responsible for training, Intelligence, security and operations. The “A” and “Q” Branches are concerned with all phases of administration, including transportation arrangements and the provision of equipment and supplies.
and an inter-service committee charged with coordination of the sea, ground and air aspects of the operation. The attendance at these meetings of officers of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the War Office and close liaison between the Canadian branches and services ensured harmonious progress within the whole complex organization.
As soon as Force 545 learned that the 1st Canadian Division would replace the 3rd British Division, it sent an urgent request for General Salmon and certain of his staff officers to come to Cairo forthwith.12 In the vast design of operation HUSKY the Canadian formation would enter the assault on D Day as part of an army it had never seen before, and it was therefore highly desirable that the divisional commander should have some previous contact with those who were to be his superiors and his colleagues,
and that an opportunity should be given for members of the Canadian planning staff to consult with their “opposite numbers” who were at work in Cairo. Arrangements were made for General Salmon, accompanied by his naval associates and several officers of his staff, to fly out to the Mediterranean. The Air Ministry made two aircraft available, and the flight was ordered for 29 April.
At nine o’clock that morning General Salmon and his party took off from Hendon in a Hudson. With the GOC were Rear-Admiral P. J. Mack, RN, the Naval Force Commander assigned to the Canadian section of the operation; Captain Sir T. L. Beevor, RN, a member of his staff; Lt-Col. G. G. H. Wilson, GSO1, 3rd British Division; and Lt-Col. C. J. Finlay, who had just been appointed Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, 1st Canadian Division.13 The aircraft did not clear the United Kingdom; near Barnstaple, in Devonshire, it crashed and burned. All the occupants were killed. As a result, departure of the second aircraft was postponed.14
This misfortune was not permitted to halt even momentarily the course of preparations for the operation. When General McNaughton learned of the accident, he immediately gave instructions for Maj-Gen. G. G. Simonds to assume command of the 1st Division, put himself “in the picture” in regard to the forthcoming operation, and to fly to Cairo in General Salmon’s place without delay.15 The new commander held the distinction of being Canada’s youngest general officer. A Permanent Force officer, he had come overseas in 1939 as a major on the staff of the 1st Canadian Division. He had risen rapidly, serving as GSO1 of the 2nd Canadian Division, and as Brigadier General Staff of the 1st Canadian Corps, in which appointment he had won high commendation from General Montgomery.16 He had recently completed a tour of duty under the Eighth Army Commander in North Africa. On his return to England in mid-April he was promoted Maj-Gen. (at the age of 39) and given the command of the 2nd Canadian Division – an appointment which he had held for only a few days when his transfer to the 1st Division entrusted him with the direction of Canada’s share in the Sicilian enterprise.
Late on the afternoon of 29 April General Simonds went to Norfolk House and immediately began to familiarize himself with the design of the operation and the progress so far made under General Salmon’s direction. As noted above, the outline plan had not yet reached its final form; indeed at that very moment it was undergoing critical examination by the service Commanders-in-Chief in conference at Algiers (see above, p. 18). Thus when the new GOC left London on the morning of 1 May for the flight to Cairo, he knew that a modification had been contemplated, but was not aware how the plan then stood, particularly with regard to the intended location of the Canadian assault. As a precaution in case of a future mishap
General Simonds’ party had been divided into two groups for the flight. His GSO1, Lt-Col. George Kitching, and his CO Divisional Signals, Lt-Col. J. H. Eaman, were placed aboard the second aircraft, which carried also Brigadier Christopher Vokes, Commander of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade; Brigadier A. W. Beament, Deputy Adjutant General at CMHQ; and Lt-Col. D. K. Tow, Assistant Quartermaster General, 2nd Canadian Corps.*
* Lt-Col. W. P. Gilbride, who succeeded Lt-Col. Finlay as A.A. & QMG, 1st Canadian Division, remained in London to carry on planning.
It was airborne early on 30 April. Travelling with Simonds in a third aircraft (replacing the crashed Hudson) were his Commander, Royal Engineers, Lt-Col. Geoffrey Walsh; his Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General, Major A. F. B. Knight; and Rear-Admiral Sir Philip L. Vian, RN, an officer of great distinction, who had been appointed to replace Admiral Mack.17 “Vian of the Cossack” was no stranger to the Canadian Army, for in 1941 he had commanded the naval squadron which escorted the detachment of the 1st Canadian Division on its excursion to Spitzbergen.
At Gibraltar and again at Algiers, where sandstorms delayed the journey eastward, General Simonds found that no decision had yet been reached on a final plan for HUSKY. It was not until his arrival, on the evening of 4 May, at Headquarters Force 545 in Cairo that the Canadian Commander learned that the general plan of the operation was at last “firm”. In conferences with the planning staff of the 30th British Corps – the formation to which the 1st Division had been allotted for HUSKY – the General discussed the changes that had been made in the broad scheme, and decided on the manner in which he wanted to carry out the Canadian share of the task allotted to the Corps. He then saw Lt-Gen. Leese, the Corps Commander, and obtained his concurrence in certain modifications in the assault plan for the Canadian sector. These concerned the fixing of interdivisional boundaries, and provision for special attention to be given to enemy coastal defences on the Canadian right and left flanks. To ensure that the most accurate information possible would be available regarding the beaches at which the Canadians were to land, Simonds asked for a submarine reconnaissance to be made. He emphasized to Leese that time was short, and that he must soon return to England.
I told him I had to put forward a firm plan, and leave Cairo with the clear understanding that whatever plan I took back with me could not change, as the loading of the ships was soon about to start, and this could not be delayed.
In the afternoon I made a further study of the map and model and put the plan down on paper and cabled it home that night. The plan was cabled to England within 24 hours of my arrival in Cairo and was never changed since.18
For four more days Simonds remained in Cairo, conferring with various officers of the Headquarters of the Eighth Army and the 30th British Corps.
He had a number of meetings with Maj-Gen. D. N. Wimberley, GOC 51st (Highland) Division, which was to assault on the Canadians’ immediate right, “to make certain that we were properly tied in on the right flank as regards junction points.”19 On the morning of 9 May he left Cairo on his return journey, and after a near mishap, when faulty navigation almost brought about a landing in Eire and consequent internment for the whole party, he reached London on the afternoon of the 11th.20
Training for the Assault
In the meantime units of the 1st Canadian Division and of the 1st Army Tank Brigade terminated their long stay in “Sussex by the Sea” and moved northward into Scotland. During the past winter, as we have seen, the three infantry brigades had completed basic training in combined operations; a final period of advanced training was now needed to fit them for what a War Office directive styled “(a) an opposed landing, (b) subsequent land operations including mountainous country.”21 At Inveraray on the rugged Argyllshire coast each brigade in turn underwent a rigorous eight-day “refresher” course designed to put officers and men in tip-top physical condition and to practise them in the highly specialized technique of assault landing. A strenuous programme of forced route marches, cross-country runs, hill-scaling, rope-climbing and exercise with scramble nets achieved its purpose, drawing from one brigade diarist the comment, “the men are stiff but have stamina and carry very well their hardening”.22
Under the skilled direction of specialist instructors in combined training units carried out day and night assault landings along the Ayrshire coast on “hostile” beaches “defended” by troops of a Royal Marine commando acting as enemy. With the keen and critical eye of the Royal Navy upon them, prairie lads, born and raised a thousand miles from the sea, mastered the niceties of transferring themselves from the decks of transport into small landing craft pitching on the choppy waters of a Scottish loch. In addition to the week at the Combined Training Centre the Canadian battalions, stationed briefly at camps in south-western Scotland, filled their days (and much of their nights) with an intensive programme of specialized training involving work with new types of equipment. “No. 1 novelty” (so new as to be still on the secret list) was an anti-tank weapon which was destined to achieve wide repute – the PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank).
For the units of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade a special course in mountain warfare in the hills of Perthshire preceded the period at Inveraray. It was General Simonds’ express desire that the Division should undergo as
much mountain training as possible in the short time available, and particularly the 3rd Brigade, whose role in HUSKY was to follow up the initial assault of the 1st and 2nd Brigades. Cliff-scaling and mock attacks up steep mountain sides played an effective part in the hardening process, to which an important contribution was made by the introduction of the troops to the “Everest carrier” – “an ingenious device with which a man can take the load of a mule, or almost!”23
Meanwhile the Canadian Tank Brigade, with Headquarters temporarily established at Annan, in Dumfriesshire, was busily engaged in its particular form of preparation, having taken over training areas previously occupied by the 33rd Army Tank Brigade, the British armoured formation originally selected to go to Sicily. When Brigadier Wyman’s units moved north from Sussex they said goodbye to the Canadian-made Ram tanks which had replaced their earlier British Churchills. In the Mediterranean theatre Sherman tanks had been adopted as standard equipment; accordingly on their arrival in Scotland the Canadian tank regiments inherited the Shermans which had been issued to their predecessors in the HUSKY order of battle.
There was much to be done in little time. Officers and men quickly familiarized themselves with their new tanks, and on the armoured fighting vehicle range at Kirkcudbright each regiment practised the use of the 75-millimetre gun with which the Shermans were armed. In its forthcoming role in the Eighth Army (although until the end of May the secret was known to none below Brigade Headquarters, and then only to regimental commanders) the Brigade was to find itself in exalted company – the exploits of Montgomery’s tank formations in the Western Desert were already legendary. The Brigade training staff was therefore fortunate in having the assistance of a small number of British officers who had served with armour in North Africa. Two of these – Brigadier G. W. Richards, the commander of the 23rd Tank Brigade, and Major E. S. Franklin, an expert in Sherman tanks – were expressly sent by General Montgomery to the United Kingdom to work with the Canadian Army Tank Brigade.24 With the group from North Africa was Brigadier M. E. Dennis, Brigadier Royal Artillery, Eighth Army (and later Maj-Gen. Royal Artillery, 21st Army Group); his timely advice and encouragement to Canadian gunners, both during the training period in Scotland and later in Sicily and Italy, contributed greatly to the effectiveness of the Canadian artillery in the operations in the Mediterranean theatre.25
May passed into June, and the deadline set by the War Office for the completion of preparation found the Brigade in a satisfying state of readiness. By the middle of the month, when the time came for
embarkation; units had received their full scale of equipment, their tanks were camouflaged and waterproofed,*
* In waterproofing, the tanks were prepared for “wading” ashore under their own power through a maximum depth of six feet of water. The main precautions taken were to extend the exhaust pipe above water level and seal with a special plastic material exposed joints and working parts.
and officers and men had completed five days’ privilege leave.26
While infantry and tank units were thus putting finishing touches to their training, the Canadian planning staff in London had been equally busy. The arrival of a firm outline plan for the invasion had made it possible to push to completion planning at divisional level; with the actual landing beaches selected intelligence staff officers could finish compiling their “Intelligence Summaries” – the established sources from which the assault troops would learn about the terrain over which they were to fight and the dispositions and characteristics of the enemy formations that they might expect to encounter.
On the “A” and “Q” sides staff officers continued to fashion the administrative plan for equipping and maintaining the Canadian force. They were aided greatly by the visit to North Africa of Brigadier Beament, who, as we have seen, had flown out with the initial planning party. He attended meetings with the various planning staffs at Cairo and Algiers and brought back to the United Kingdom final decisions on many “A” and “Q” problems. Lt-Col. Tow, who accompanied Brigadier Beament to the Mediterranean, remained in Africa to handle the numerous details of Canadian administration and to act as liaison officer with the Army Group and with Allied Force Headquarters (see below, p. 38).27
On the shoulders of the Canadian planners rested the responsibility of ensuring that when the troop convoys sailed from the United Kingdom they would carry with them every item of the great mass of equipment, vehicles and stores required for keeping the force in action during the first three weeks of the operation; thereafter maintenance would be carried out through Eighth Army channels from the Middle East.28 Every possible contingency had to be foreseen and measures taken to meet it. There could be no afterthought in the replacement of shortages, for no more shipping in support of the operation could be expected from the United Kingdom until 42 days after the landing. Thus, to give only one example, the possibility that a water-trailer might stall on a Sicilian sandbar caused the replacement of all water-trailers by water-trucks with four-wheel drive. Loading tables for each ship in the several convoys were worked out in the
minutest detail to ensure that the innumerable items of cargo would be available at the time and place they were required in Sicily. Every vehicle was stowed on board fully loaded, care being taken in the distribution to maintain a safe balance throughout the entire convoy of such important stores as ammunition, food and water. “We knew the contents of every lorry”, said one of the planners afterwards, “and the drivers themselves knew what was in their lorries, where they were to go on landing and, once they arrived there, what to do”.29
The task of the administrative planners was further complicated by the fact that since the Canadian force was to be supplied over the Eighth Army’s lines of communication, it was necessary for the sake of standardization to adopt, in the main, British types of equipment which were in use in the Mediterranean Theatre and which could be maintained or replaced from bases in the Middle East. Accordingly the 1st Division and the Tank Brigade were re-equipped with the Thompson machine carbine, which had only recently been replaced by the new Sten. Other weapons that had been adopted for the Canadian overseas forces were issued. The former machine-gun battalion of the 1st Division, The Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.), now reorganized into three Brigade Support Groups, received the 4.2-inch mortar and the 20-millimetre anti-aircraft gun. The anti-tank platoons of the Canadian infantry battalions relinquished their 2-pounder guns in favour of 6-pounders, while the divisional anti-tank regiment drew 17-pounders in place of some of its 6-pounders.30 It will be observed that much of this equipment was not to be found in the list of the normal requirements of an infantry division or tank brigade mobilized for action. Wherever the various articles to be issued were included in the standard mobilization tables – in military terms the “G.1098” scale their provision to the 1st Canadian Division and the Army Tank Brigade was a Canadian Army responsibility; the furnishing of everything other than G.1098 equipment, including a large number of items peculiar to the forthcoming operation, was undertaken by the War Office.31
The most important addition to the vehicles with which the Canadian formations were now to be equipped was the American-designed amphibious truck – the DUKW (so designated from its factory serial initials). This was a normal US two-and-a-half-ton six-wheeled truck which had in fact a boat built around it. All six wheels were power driven, but when the vehicle entered the water the motive power was transferred to a propeller. When afloat the DUKW attained a maximum speed of six knots, and should the propeller fail, under favourable conditions it could still be driven up to two miles per hour by the wheels. Ashore its cross-country performance was similar to that of an ordinary three-ton lorry. Its primary task was the transfer of stores from ship to shore, and because of its amphibious powers it was the
only craft that had no fear of the sandbars which it was expected would be found off the beaches where the Canadian Division was to land. In case of emergency, as will later be seen, it could be used in place of the LCA* to carry assault troops ashore.
* Landing Craft, Assault.
The planners of HUSKY, mindful of the lessons of Operation “Torch”, and alive to the necessity of assuring a rapid build-up for the assault forces, adopted the DUKW to accelerate the unloading of stores and equipment. As a result of successful trials during 1942 orders had been placed in America for 2,000 of the amphibians, and by the early summer of 1943 production was well advanced. Of 350 of these vehicles allotted to the Eighth Army for the Sicilian operation, one hundred were sent direct from the United States to the United Kingdom for the 1st Canadian Division.32 Probably no other item of equipment for the expedition caused more anxiety than these hundred DUKWs. Until the last moment it was uncertain whether they would arrive in time for loading – a procedure which itself presented special difficulties in stowing for launching from the ships’ davits at an early hour on D Day. The delay in delivery created a further problem with respect to the training of special drivers, to instruct whom driver-mechanics experienced in handling amphibious vehicles were flown from North Africa to the United Kingdom. Only two DUKWs were available at the Combined Training Centre†
† General McNaughton personally tested one of these, driving it “ashore on soft sand and afloat in a considerable sea.” The demand for DUKWs for the Canadian landings in Sicily followed.33
until the first consignment arrived from America early in June, so that there was barely time to give all drivers some practice in operating the novel vehicles before they had to be reloaded for their journey to the Mediterranean. But all difficulties were successfully overcome; as will later be shown, these amphibians in their first employment in an operation in European waters splendidly proved, their worth. HUSKY wrote a new chapter in the story of beach maintenance of an assaulting force, and the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, when examining the lessons of the landings, was to underline “the profound effect that DUKWs have had in amphibious warfare.”34
The fact that Operation HUSKY was to take place in a climate considerably warmer than that of the United Kingdom, and would conceivably involve fighting in mountainous regions, added to the already long lists in the hands of the “Q” planners. While good Canadian battledress was adequate protection against the traditional rigours of an English summer, it was necessary now to provide all ranks with light weight “khaki drill” clothing, better suited for the torrid heat of Sicily in July. Rope-soled shoes and tinted eyeshields and spectacles were among the many items of tropical equipment provided, which included even a special camouflage paint to
conform with Middle East requirements. Mules might be acquired for carrying supplies in the Sicilian hills; and so over one hundred sets of pack saddlery were taken along and personnel experienced in animal transport were included in the first reinforcements. Nor did the providers overlook the dangers of disease lurking in the Sicilian valleys and plains. In the comprehensive cargoes that were being assembled anti-malarial sets, mosquito nets, fly swatters and spray guns found an important place, to enable every precaution to be taken against the onset of tropical maladies. In such manner was provision made for the multitudinous needs of the Canadian force; for, as General Simonds had been told at the War Office, this was “to be the best found expedition which ever left the United Kingdom.”35
The use of British channels for supplying from the Middle East all the material wants of the Canadian component of the Eighth Army once operations had begun could obviously not be extended to the “A” or personnel side to include the furnishing of reinforcements. Casualties in the Canadian force had to be replaced from Canadian sources – an arrangement presenting special problems which would not arise in the case of the non-Canadian formations engaged in HUSKY. In an assault landing it was to be expected that initial casualties might be heavy. But whereas British and American reinforcements for the 15th Army Group would be available at short notice from depots already operating in North Africa, no such Canadian establishments existed nearer to Sicily than the United Kingdom.
Accordingly a Canadian base reinforcement depot was planned, where reinforcements could be held in training close to the theatre of operations. For reasons of security it was not practicable to establish convenient reserves of Canadian troops in North Africa before the assault was launched. The Canadian planners therefore proposed that the headquarters and three of the battalions of the contemplated depot should be set up in North Africa on or after D Day, but that a fourth battalion of reinforcements, amounting to nearly 1500 all ranks, should be carried straight to Sicily in one of the early follow-up convoys, and thus be available within three days of the initial landings. Both the War Office and Allied Force Headquarters at first expressed doubts as to the practicability of this expedient, but they were finally convinced by the arguments which Canadian Military Headquarters presented.36 In the actual event the scheme quickly found its justification on the landing beaches, where every available man was required to assist in the unloading of ammunition, rations and stores; while in the fighting that followed reinforcements for the Canadian units were immediately forthcoming. On the other hand, had all the Canadian reinforcement battalions been sent to North Africa, it would have taken at least three weeks to replace early losses – a particularly serious situation in the event of the early casualties reaching their expected proportions. So convincingly did the HUSKY landings demonstrate the value of this policy that in planning
the subsequent invasion of the Italian mainland the Eighth Army instructed each of its assault divisions to have 1,000 reinforcements landed between D plus 3 and D plus 6.37
Closely paralleling the administrative problem of maintaining the reinforcement stream was that of arranging for the care and evacuation of the wounded. The process of recovering Canadian casualties from the Middle East bases to which the normal Eighth Army lines of communication would carry them might well be attended by complications, and it was early decided that they should be moved directly westward from the scene of action. It seemed expedient therefore that in addition to sending a Canadian general hospital direct to Sicily, Canadian medical installations should be established in North Africa athwart the line of evacuation to the United Kingdom. The British authorities welcomed such a proposal, and plans were made to dispatch a 1,200-bed general hospital and a convalescent depot to Algeria,* to be set up in the vicinity of No. 1 Base Reinforcement Depot.38
* No. 5 Canadian General Hospital (600 beds) began functioning at Syracuse on 22 July; No. 1 Canadian Convalescent Depot went to Philippeville, and No. 15 General Hospital to nearby El Arrouch.
In the interest of avoiding confusion and unnecessary duplication it was essential that the conduct of Canadian administration should not intrude upon the British channels already existing in the Eighth Army. At an early stage of Canadian participation in the Force 141 planning it was prescribed as a basic principle that once the 15th Army Group was committed to action all matters of administration affecting Canadian troops were to be handled to the highest degree possible through the normal chain of Army and higher command.39 Notwithstanding these arrangements the need was recognized for a Canadian “A” staff element at General Alexander’s headquarters to assist in the supervision of such peculiarly Canadian administrative matters as have been referred to above, and to provide a means by which Canadian service authorities in the United Kingdom might have liaison (in all except operational matters) with the Commander-in-Chief and with the Canadian force commander in the field. To fulfil these functions foundation was early laid for a “Canadian Section, General Headquarters First Echelon”, to be attached to Headquarters 15th Army Group. Lt-Col. Tow was appointed AA&QMG in charge of the Section, and thus became the senior officer of the Canadian Adjutant-General’s Branch at General Alexander’s Headquarters. At the same time a “Canadian Section, GHQ Second Echelon” was authorized. “Second Echelon” was the office at the base of the senior AG officer at GHQ, and the officer in charge of the Canadian Section represented Colonel Tow in the execution of policy regarding Canadian personnel. His chief duties were to maintain records of service of all ranks in the Canadian force, to report strengths and casualties
to CMHQ, to register graves, and to arrange for the supply of reinforcements to units in the field.40
By the end of May planning was over and preparation was well advanced. Although the Division had passed from under the direct control of the 1st Canadian Corps, the Corps Commander, Lt-Gen. H. D. G. Crerar, had found time to visit the Canadians on several occasions during their specialized training in Scotland; and Lt-Gen. Leese, in whose 30th Corps the Division was soon to serve, had sent back his Brigadier General Staff, Brigadier G. P. Walsh, by air from Africa to coordinate details for the assault.41 On 22 May the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades and attached supporting arms and services, embarked in the same ships that were to take them to Sicily, carried out a great combined landing exercise on the Ayrshire coast near Troon. The rehearsal took place under the eyes of General McNaughton and the Commander of the Combined Training Centre, Maj-Gen. J. S. Drew, and members of his staff, and their criticisms were of great value to the Divisional Commander in remedying certain weaknesses in technique which the exercise had revealed.42
General Montgomery visited England in the latter part of May, fresh from his victories in North Africa. There were discussions with General McNaughton and General Simonds, and on 27 May the Eighth Army Commander addressed at the War Office the senior officers of the three services who were to take part in Operation HUSKY. Describing the pattern of the attack in forthright terms Montgomery “made a very fine impression, and earned the confidence of all present in his plans.”43 From the Commander of the Eighth Army under whom they were to serve the Canadian officers caught the spirit of the great enterprise, and a fuller realization of its vast scope. It was stimulating to the imagination to discover that while Canadian troops were rounding off their training on the Scottish coast, British formations designated to assault alongside of them on the Sicilian beaches were similarly rehearsing their landings on the distant shores of the Red Sea. There was good reason for confidence, for the health, physical condition and morale of the troops were at the peak. The provision of equipment for the force was substantially complete, and it was almost time to begin the tremendous task of loading the vehicles and stores for the expedition.
The Convoy Programme
The transfer by sea of a completely equipped force of more than 26,000 troops* over a distance of more than two thousand miles could at best be no light undertaking; when in addition, the destination for a major part of that
* The total strength of Canadian units embarked from the UK for Operation HUSKY was 1,851 officers and 24,835 other ranks.44
force was a hostile shore, with an assault landing to be coordinated precisely with those of similar forces converging from other distant ports, the movement became one of extraordinary complexity. To carry the Canadians and all the vast paraphernalia of their material requirements the Navy assigned shipping to make up four main convoys. The date of departure of each of these from the United Kingdom was predetermined by its rate of progress and the designated time of its arrival in Sicilian waters. It was necessary for slow-moving cargo vessels laden with vehicles and stores to leave port several days before the speedier troop transports, in order that they might make timely rendezvous with them for the assault. “Follow-up” convoys were dispatched so as to reach Sicily three days after the initial landings.
The majority of the troops, including the three infantry brigades of the 1st Division, were assigned to the “Fast Assault Convoy”, due to leave the Clyde on D minus 12 (28 June), and to proceed at twelve knots. This convoy of a dozen vessels comprised the headquarters ship, HMS Hilary, with Rear Admiral Vian aboard, great passenger liners like the Durban Castle and the Polish Batory, which had adopted with their wartime grey the classification of LSIs (Landing ships, Infantry) or LSPs (Landing ships, Personnel), and three of the new LSTs (Landing ships, Tank), bearing the pugnacious names of HMS Boxer, Bruiser and Thruster. The Headquarters of the 1st Canadian Division travelled in Hilary. (Almost a year later this ship was to serve the 3rd Canadian Division in the same capacity for the assault on Normandy.) The remainder of the Division embarked by brigades. The 1st Brigade, commanded by Brigadier H. D. Graham, sailed in HMS Glengyle, Derbyshire and the Dutch Marnix van St. Aldegonde; the 2nd, under Brigadier Vokes, was aboard HMS Circassia, Llangibby Castle and Durban Castle; HMS Batory and Ascania carried Brigadier M. H. S. Penhale’s 3rd Brigade.45 In assigning the troops to the vessels in which they were to sail due attention was paid to the order in which they would disembark at the end of their journey. Assaulting battalions had to be allotted to ships together with their full complement of beach group personnel (for organizing and maintaining traffic on the beaches), and engineer reconnaissance parties (to clear paths through minefields).
The bulk of the transport and stores required to support the first attack, together with a small number of troops, was carried in the “Slow Assault Convoy”. This convoy sailed from the United Kingdom in two groups; the first, consisting of eight LSTs, setting out on D minus 21 (19 June), the other, made up chiefly of seventeen cargo vessels, leaving five days later. These two sub-convoys were timed to join forces off Algiers on D minus 5, and to proceed thenceforth at a uniform rate of eight knots.
The two follow-up convoys carried the Tank Brigade – less the 12th Army Tank Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment), which was to take part in the assault – the Canadian hospital installations and No. 1 Base Reinforcement Depot, and various other units not required for the assault itself. A slow convoy of 42 ships sailed from Scotland on 25 June, and was followed on 1 July by the ten ships of the faster group.
Embarkation and Sailing
Early in June long motor convoys began to arrive at ports up and down the west coast of Great Britain – in the Bristol Channel, on the Mersey, and along Clydeside – bringing heavily-laden unit transport from the training areas. At the docks a vast assortment of stores gathered from ordnance depots all over the country found its way into the holds of the waiting ships. Loading was done tactically, i.e., in such a way that vehicles and cargoes could be discharged in an order of priority governed by the demands of the tactical plan and by the facilities for unloading that would be available on the beaches. Since it was essential that the vehicles, stores, supplies and ammunition necessary to maintain the assault should be landed as quickly as possible from the waiting convoys, the ships carrying the motor transport and the general cargo vessels had to be so grouped that their arrival at the “Release Position”* would immediately follow upon the landing of the assaulting waves. As the vessels in the English ports completed loading their respective quotas of vehicles and stores, they sailed up the west coast into the Clyde and anchored in their convoy assembly areas. Here, between 13 and 16 June all the assault troops of the 1st Canadian Division embarked on the ships that were to carry them into battle.46
Two more weeks were to elapse, however, before the Canadians actually left the United Kingdom; for one final phase of training yet remained. This was designed as a dress rehearsal for HUSKY, and was to take the form of a large-scale combined operations exercise on a section of the Ayrshire coast closely resembling in local topography the Sicilian beaches assigned for the Canadian landings (although the security-minded authors of the scheme represented the area as being a part of the coast of German-occupied France). On 17 June a convoy of twelve transports sailed out of the Clyde, and in the very early hours of the following day the assault by the 1st and 2nd Canadian Brigades began. But bad weather interfered. High winds and a rising sea which endangered the landing craft forced a postponement of the exercise, and the troopships returned to the Clyde. The weather continued
* The point offshore where men and supplies are trans-shipped from the ocean-going vessels to the smaller landing craft that will carry them to the beaches.
to be unfavourable, and finally, as though to emphasize the appropriateness of the rehearsal’s code name, on 22 June forced cancellation of Exercise “Stymie”. For the 3rd Brigade, which had not taken part in the combined practice landings on the Ayrshire coast, and had now been prevented from rehearsing its role of following through the assault brigades, a landing exercise in the Clyde was arranged. While, in all these circumstances, the Division’s test was naturally not as successful as had been hoped, even in the very incomplete form in which it took place it taught certain useful lessons which were duly noted.47
The days crawled slowly by as the force waited impatiently on board for the day of departure. Physical training, lectures, and such routine tasks as weapon-cleaning helped pass the time, and there were one or two welcome route marches ashore. On 19 June the first of the slower convoys, with its accompanying corvettes and other protective naval craft, slipped quietly out to sea;* and thereafter at prescribed intervals other groups of ships followed.
* Escort groups for the various convoys during the voyage to the Mediterranean were as follows: for the “Fast Assault Convoy”, two frigates and five sloops; for the “Slow Assault”, one frigate, one sloop, one cutter and six corvettes; for the “Fast Follow-Up Convoy”, three destroyers and three frigates; and for the “Slow Follow-Up”, one destroyer, one frigate, one cutter and six corvettes.48
On the evening of 28 June the Fast Assault Convoy itself steamed away from Greenock. As the big transports and their naval escorts left the mouth of the Clyde, unknown to anyone on board a heart-felt God-speed came from the nearby shore. In a room in HMS Warren, a shore naval establishment at Largs, on the Renfrewshire coast overlooking the firth, a group of senior Allied officers of all three services sat secretly in conference devising plans for new blows against the Axis. Under guise of the code name Exercise “Rattle”, it was one of the important convocations of the war, for its object was to study the problems of combined operations in a cross-Channel assault on the continent, and on its conclusions was based much of the subsequent planning and preparation for the launching of Operation OVERLORD. Suddenly the chairman, Lord Louis Mountbatten, halted the discussions, asking all to walk outside. They looked down across the darkening waters and saw the Canadian convoy moving majestically forward in line ahead out, into the open sea. To at least one of these observers, General McNaughton, it must have been a profoundly moving experience to see the 1st Canadian Division thus setting forth on its path of high adventure.49
With the convoys outward bound there was reasonable cause for satisfaction that the great secret of the enterprise had been well kept. It was unavoidable, of course, that a very considerable number of people had to know, in varying degree, the details of the forthcoming operation; planning and preparation for so extensive and complicated a business could not have otherwise proceeded. Every possible precaution was taken, however, to
ensure that no individual knew more of the great project than was absolutely necessary to the efficient performance of his duties. Up to the time of their departure from Scotland, and indeed for some days afterwards, the troops themselves, beyond knowing that their task was an assault landing (to be made in a latitude where tropical kit might be needed), were dependent upon rumour or their own imagination for an answer to the question, “Where are we going?” As we have seen, even battalion commanders were let into the secret only at a very late date, and they, as well as any other officers who knew parts of the truth, kept their own counsel. Throughout the days of training the lesson of security was emphatically impressed upon officers and men by means of lectures and the showing of specially prepared films which illustrated convincingly the dangers of careless talk.50
A particularly difficult problem of security had arisen with the untimely death of General Salmon, coinciding as it did with the beginning of the movement of the 1st Division from Sussex. It was clearly undesirable that any publicity regarding the loss of its Commander should direct attention to the Canadian Division, and it was of the utmost importance that no inkling of the crashed aircraft’s destination should reach either the troops or the general public. There was some official discussion between the War Office and the Canadian military authorities as to whether an announcement of the accident should be made. It was decided that the news should not be concealed, and accordingly a simple announcement was made in Canada and in the United Kingdom that General Salmon and Lt-Col. Finlay had been killed in a flying accident over south-west England.51
Striking evidence of the success of the security measures that had been taken to preserve the great secret of the forthcoming operation appeared in the genuine surprise with which the majority of troops aboard the convoys received the news, when several days out from land, that their target was Sicily; more convincing proof was later to come from the enemy himself, when his reaction to the Allied landings showed how completely he had been kept in the dark about the doom that was inexorably descending upon his Mediterranean outpost.
The Voyage to Sicily
On 1 July – Dominion Day – the last flight of transports weighed anchor in the Clyde and followed the other convoys out into the North Atlantic en route to the Mediterranean. There were now grouped at various intervals off the coast of Western Europe some 125 vessels, including the escorting naval craft, all forging steadily forward with their freight of Canadian troops and equipment. The allotted course took the troopships around the northern coast of Ireland and thence directly south, giving the Bay of Biscay
a wide berth. The weather was fine and warm, and as officers and men donned their tropical kit excitement ran high at the prospect of early action.
It was on Dominion Day that the troops aboard the Fast Assault Convoy, now well out to sea, learned that their destination was Axis-held Sicily, and that the expected day of their landing was to be 10 July. All ranks cheered heartily at the news that they were entering the Mediterranean theatre of war and were to become part of the famous Eighth Army. A greeting from General Montgomery, which was read on all ships, carried a warm welcome to the Canadians:–
I know well the fighting men from Canada; they are magnificent soldiers, and the long and careful training they have received in England will now be put to good use – to the great benefit of the Eighth Army.52
There were messages too from the Commanders of the First Canadian Army and the 1st Canadian Corps, wishing the troops the best of luck. In a special Order of the Day Maj-Gen. Simonds called on all ranks of the 1st Canadian Division to live up to the fighting tradition which their formation had inherited from the First World War. He reminded them that with the cooperating naval and air forces the Division was a part of the best formed expedition ever to set sail to invade a hostile country.
It remains only to apply the lessons of our training under the stress of actual operations. I am not trying to tell you the task will be easy. War is not easy – it is a hard and bitter struggle – the ultimate test of moral and physical courage and skill at arms.
I do tell you that you will be launched into battle on a good plan which has been carefully rehearsed and that if you coolly apply what you have been taught during three years of preparation, success will be ours.53
There was something now to occupy every officer and man. It was part of General Montgomery’s policy that all should be completely briefed on the proposed operations. On each ship the sealed bag containing instructions for units was opened, and the maps, air photographs, operation orders and intelligence pamphlets which it held were immediately put to good use. A large-scale relief model that every ship carried gave officers and men a realistic picture of the terrain of the beaches and their hinterland where the Canadian assaults would be made. On these models the expected course of the coming operations was explained to all ranks, and as a result of the intensive study which they received during the following days the actual landings were made on a shore whose topographical features were in the main recognizable to all.
Every effort was made to maintain officers and men in the best physical condition. Divisional Headquarters issued a special directive for
training during the voyage, which insisted on the “maintaining of regular hours for physical training, washing, eating, fatigues, games and lectures.”54 These lectures placed emphasis on first aid, sanitation and the treatment of prisoners of war and civilians. The men were warned that looters would be dealt with in the “severest manner”. To combat in advance the danger of infection from tropical diseases – a matter considered so important by General Montgomery that he had addressed a letter regarding it to all unit commanders – medical officers by special instruction and insistence on the taking of mepacrine tablets endeavoured to make all ranks fully “malaria-minded”.55
By such means, as the convoys pursued their course towards Sicily, the members of the 1st Division groomed themselves to meet their Commander’s direction – to “go ashore physically fit, with everyone knowing his job and what is required of him.”56
In Mediterranean Waters
Opposite the south coast of Spain the Fast Assault Convoy swung eastward, and in the early hours of 5 July passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean. Thence it continued along the North African coast, and rounding Cape Bon sailed south-east in the direction of Tripoli. On the morning of D minus 1 (9 July) it turned northward towards the appointed rendezvous south of Malta. When each convoy was well inside the Mediterranean a flotilla of destroyers replaced the group of smaller escort craft which had conducted the transports safely through Atlantic waters.57 The weather remained fair, and after their weeks of hard training amid the cold Scottish mists the troops found the cloudless skies and blue seas of the Mediterranean a welcome change.
The entire voyage of the Fast Assault Convoy was accomplished in safety, although there were some alarms which set all the ships weaving in intricate emergency turns, and the troops on board saw at least one enemy submarine blown out of the water by the depth charges of the escorting destroyers. The Slow Assault Convoy was, however, less fortunate. On the night of 4–5 July Axis submarines lurking off the North African coast between Oran and Algiers torpedoed two of its merchantmen, the St. Essylt and the City of Venice. The former vessel. was abandoned in flames; and an attempt to tow the sinking City of Venice to Algiers failed. On the following afternoon a third ship, the Devis, carrying the Commodore of the convoy, was also hit. She caught fire and sank in twenty minutes.
The Officer Commanding the troops on board has given the following details of the loss of the Devis:
At approximately 1545 hrs. 5 July 43, the ship was struck by a torpedo just aft of amidships. The explosion was immediately beneath the ORs’ Mess Decks, and blew the body of one man up on the bridge, and two more on the boat deck, as well as the rear end of a truck, etc. Fire broke out immediately and within 3 to 4 minutes the fore part of the ship was cut off from the aft part. Explosions of ammunition were continuous.
The men, with two exceptions, behaved extremely well. They took their boat stations in an orderly manner, and did not throw over the rafts or jump overboard until the order to abandon ship was given. In the meantime, they collected wounded and burned men, and took them overboard with them when they went.58
Of the more than 900 troops aboard these three ships 593 were Canadians. In the first two sinkings there was fortunately little loss of life; among. the Canadians one officer and five other ranks were listed as missing. Casualties were heavier for the Devis, which carried 261 Canadian and 35 British officers and men.59 A number of soldiers were killed or fatally injured in the initial explosion, and men were trapped in the hold when the companion-way burnt out; in spite of prompt rescue operations, 52 Canadian other ranks were reported as missing and subsequently presumed killed.60
The loss of the cargo carried by the three vessels was serious, but the less so because it was fortunately spread over a large number of units. More than 500 vehicles and some forty guns went to the bottom, and the resulting shortages caused considerable difficulties, especially to Divisional Headquarters, which lost almost all of its vehicles and signals equipment.61
July entered its second week, and now from many points of the compass the forces destined to the conquest of Sicily were closing in upon the island. From Alexandria and Port Said at the far end of the inland sea which the Fascist dictator had presumed to style an Italian lake, and from the ports of Tripoli and Sfax along its southern shore, great convoys of the Eastern Task Force had set out on the voyages which would bring them, each promptly upon its appointed hour, to the designated rendezvous with the Canadians. Some divisions of the American Seventh Army had already embarked on their eastward course from Oran and Algiers; in Bizerta and Tunis – wrested from the Axis only two months earlier* – and in Sousse, other formations of the Western Task Force, held in waiting to the last because of their relative proximity to the island target, were readying for their successive departures. Steaming along their prearranged paths in the intricate maze of seaborne traffic, the ships bearing the Canadians drew in
* Bizerta was taken by British troops on 7 May and Tunis by American forces on the same day. On 13 May General Alexander sent his historic signal to Mr. Churchill: “Sir, it is my duty to report that the Tunisian campaign is over. All enemy resistance has ceased. We are masters of the North African shores.”62
to the focal point of the converging convoys. In all, more than 3000 merchant vessels, naval fighting ships and assault craft of all types were preparing for the descent upon Sicily.63
During the passage through the Mediterranean the Allied convoys had kept generally close in to the southern shore, where they received adequate fighter protection from squadrons of the Allied air forces based on the North African mainland. During the first nine days of July aircraft of the Northwest African Coastal Air Force flew a total of 1426 sorties in safeguarding eastbound shipping, including a record number of 574 sorties on the 8th and 9th. Over the westbound convoys the fighter squadrons controlled by Air Headquarters, Air Defences Eastern Mediterranean, flew 1421 sorties during the same period. Naval cooperation aircraft in both sectors carried out nearly 600 sorties on anti-submarine patrols and submarine hunts. As the great armada converged on Malta during the morning of 9 July, fighters took off from the island’s airfields to cover the approaching shipping with a protective umbrella of nearly 60 miles’ radius.64
Effective as these measures were, there was a still more potent reason for the almost negligible opposition offered by the enemy’s air and naval forces to the massing of the Allied invasion fleet. From the middle of May until the end of June his airfields, his ports and submarine bases and his lines of communication had been subjected to an intensive bombing programme. During these six weeks bombers and fighter-bombers of the Northwest African Air Forces and Middle East Command had flown 2292 sorties against airfields in Sicily, Sardinia and Southern Italy, and 2638 against other strategic targets in these areas.65
Convincing evidence of the success which attended these Allied efforts appears in enemy records which came to light after the war. At a conference in Rome on 12 May 1943 Admiral Arturo Riccardi, Chief of the Italian Naval Staff, complained to the Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz, that air attacks were causing such severe damage in the Strait of Messina that it had become difficult to maintain the garrison in Sicily. “Since railroad traffic has come to a complete standstill in Sicily”, he stated, “the island has to be supplied by sea from Naples. The only way to improve transportation facilities on the island itself would be an increased use of lorries.”66 The conference was further told “that in Messina not even 130 heavy anti-aircraft guns, concentrated in a small area, were able to prevent the air attacks”, and that “the Italian Admiral Borone* in Sicily had reported yesterday that a month from now nothing would be left on his island unless strongest efforts for the defence against enemy air raids would be made.”67
* Probably Rear Admiral Pietro Baroni, Naval Commander, Sicily.
During the week immediately preceding D Day an even greater effort was put forth against enemy airfields in Sicily. The group of landing-grounds in the Gerbini area received the severest attention, for it was here that the enemy had based the majority of his fighter planes. Between 4 and 9 July these fields felt the force of 373 heavy and 560 medium bomber sorties flown by the Northwest African Air Forces and by Cyrenaica-based Liberators of the Ninth United States Air Force. German losses were heavy. On one day, 5 July, an estimated 50 out of 54 Axis aircraft on the main Gerbini airfield were destroyed, and on the same day 35 out of a force of 100 German fighters were reported shot down while attacking a formation of 27 Fortresses.68 The remaining airfields in south-eastern Sicily all received their quota of heavy bombloads, and the landing-grounds in the west of the island, while regarded as of secondary importance, came in for their share, though in more limited proportions, of Allied aerial attack.
Playing an important part in this great “softening-up” operation were three Royal Canadian Air Force night bomber squadrons of Wellingtons No. 420 (City of London) Squadron, No. 424 (City of Hamilton) Squadron, and No. 425 (Alouette) Squadron. These formed a Canadian wing of Maj-Gen. James H. Doolittle’s Northwest African Strategic Air Force – No. 331 (RCAF) Wing, commanded by Group Captain C. R. Dunlap – and from 26 June to the time of the assault (and for many weeks thereafter) they took off night after’ night from their Tunisian base in the Sousse area to raid targets in Sicily, Sardinia and Southern Italy.69
All these blows by the Allied air forces had their desired effect. By the eve of D Day the attacks upon the Sicilian airfields had rendered many of them unserviceable, and had forced an estimated half of the enemy’s aircraft formerly based there to withdraw to landing-grounds in Southern Italy. The Allied aerial offensive had fulfilled its mission in preventing the concentration of an effective air striking force, just as the control of. the Mediterranean seaways by our naval and air forces had dissuaded the enemy from employing submarines on any appreciable scale against the approaching convoys.
By midday of 9 July the Canadian Fast Assault Convoy had reached a point 70 miles south of Malta, and now the precision of intricate naval schedules framed months earlier once again became apparent. During the hot, cloudless morning the eager troops looking out to starboard from their transports had watched the approach of convoys from the Middle East ports while they themselves were drawing in sight of their own Slow Assault Convoy, now only a few miles ahead. At noon the attendant naval vessels slipped away from the troopships which they had escorted through the Western Mediterranean. Their place was immediately taken by a force of four cruisers and six destroyers, assigned the task of bombarding the beaches
and providing close gun support for the assaults of the Eastern Task Force.70 From the Slow Assault Convoy five vessels (but for the sinking of the St. Essylt and the City of Venice the number would have been seven) joined the faster group, which without delay continued on its path.71
The course was now drawn to the north, to pass between Malta and the setting sun, and thence to bend north-eastward in the direction of the Sicilian coast for one final rendezvous. Offshore, at a point half a dozen miles from the beaches where the 1st Canadian Division was to make its landings, a lone waiting British submarine marked the release position* from which the actual ship-to-shore assault would be launched.72
* 36° 36′ N., 14° 57′ E. Unrivalled, stationed at this point, was one of four submarines of the 10th Flotilla assigned to mark the release positions of the respective convoys and to lay navigational aids to assist landing craft flotillas in finding their beaches.