~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

WW2 land, sea and air forces of the Allied Nations planning, training and operating together as a unified force on amphibious raids and landings against the enemy.

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 ~ COMBINED OPERATIONS HQ ~

Instructional Pamphlets

On June 4th 1940, while the last of the British Expeditionary Force was being evacuated from Dunkirk, Churchill sent a memorandum to his Chief Military Assistant and Staff Officer, General Ismay. He was Churchill's main communications link with the Chiefs of Staff. The memorandum warned against the dangers of concentrating too much on the defence of the United Kingdom against enemy attack or invasion. "It is of the highest consequence to keep the largest numbers of German forces all along the coasts of the countries they have conquered, and we should immediately set to work to organise raiding forces on these coasts where the populations are friendly." Two days later he continued on the same theme, "I look to the Chiefs of Staff to propose me measures for a vigorous, enterprising and ceaseless offensive against the whole German-occupied coastline."

Major Arthur B Rothwell of The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, was seconded to the Command's HQ (COHQ) following service in Iceland. With his military background and writing skills, he was given the task of preparing a number of Combined Ops pamphlets on a range of diverse subjects in aid of the training effort. This is his story.

Background

Combined Operations HQ was located at 1a Richmond Terrace, London, not far from Downing Street. It never received a direct hit during the bombing raids or, later, by the V1 or V2 rockets. However, one day, a sneak attack bomber dropped a line of four bombs nearby; one behind Downing Street, one in front, one in the entrance to Richmond Terrace and one under my office window. Luckily, I had just left on an errand but, as a result of the explosion, it took me a long time to get my papers back together again!

[Photo; HM The King paid a private visit to COHQ on 29th September 1942 to meet officers. He was received by Lord Louis Mountbatten. © IWM (A 11967)].

About every 10 days, we stayed overnight at COHQ as part of a fire watching squad. We would sleep fully dressed on camp beds in the cellar and would ‘stand to’ when the air alarm sounded. The leader of my squad was Sir Malcolm Campbell, the racing motorist. We were on the roof of COHQ the night the first V1s came over London. Later on, Campbell and I made some trips around various factories looking for inventions that might be useful for amphibious operations. He had the authority to buy items of general interest and I had the authority to buy items useful for the Beach Units.  I remember buying the first ‘walkie talkie’. Although they were bulky and sufficient for one-man to carry, they were soon to prove their value on the Normandy beaches.

As the months passed, there were a number of command and staff changes. Mountbatten went to South East Asia and was replaced by General Bob Laycock. Laycock led the commando raid that had tried to kill Rommel (Operation Flipper). Only he and his Sergeant had returned. Brigadier Robertson, was posted elsewhere and the position of  Director of Combined Operations was taken by Brigadier Bernard Fergusson, who became my immediate superior.  Bernard had been a Chindit in Burma and had led three columns behind Japanese lines, a story he tells in his book ‘Beyond the Chindwin’. While in Burma, he kept losing his monocle and had to arrange for several spares to be dropped with his parachuted supply drops!

After the war, Bernard became CO of the 1st Battalion Black Watch only to resign hurriedly when the Umpires on a TEWT - a tactical exercise with troops, found him playing poker with his opposing General. In 1946, he became Inspector General of the Palestine Police but again resigned after a man died under questioning which led to protests in the House of Commons. He wrote numerous books including ‘History of the Black Watch’ and the ‘Watery Maze’, which was a history of Combined Operations, something he told me was a waste of three years of his life. Later he became Governor General of New Zealand and then Chairman of the British Council. Eventually titled Lord Ballantrae, he died in his Club of a heart attack on 29 November, 1980. Bernard was the only one of my war time acquaintances with whom I kept in touch. The last letter I received from him was dated 16 January, 1980.

Combined Operations Pamphlets

My pamphlet on Beach Organisation had been well received and I was soon getting demands for many others. My actual contribution differed with each pamphlet. Necessary information was usually obtained from a number of sources. Having become familiar with this, I had to decide how to divide it into chapters to make a rational sequence. Nearly always the text had to be rewritten into short and easily understood sentences. Also important was my use of the word ‘should’ where the commander had an option and the word ‘will’ where he had no option. I was never able to determine how many copies I should have printed of each pamphlet. I usually ordered between 3,000 and 20,000 so there may still be thousands lying around in some warehouse.

My job of writing and re-writing pamphlets went on. It might appear boring but this was not the case. There were always minor problems in the Club, new visitors were being introduced and commanders of Combined Operations Units coming from amphibious operations abroad were requested to spend a day with me and relate their experiences.

A list of Combined Operations Pamphlets which were published is as follows:

1944

Beach Organisation and Maintenance

Fire Support Instructions

Hardening of Commando Troops for Warfare

Employment of Amphibians in Combined Operations. [Operation Overlord – Combined Operations Study – Oct 1944]*

1945

Combined Operations (General)

Air Aspects of Combined Operations in The Long Range Assault

SP Artillery in an Assault

Bombardment Spotting Instructions

Conduct of the Long Range Assault in the Far East

Cliff Assaults

Commandos in the Field

Small Scale Amphibious Raids

Provost in Combined Operations

Driving Instruction for Combined Operations

Combined Operations Staff Notebook

1946

Organisation of the Ferry Service

Organisation and Employment of Beach Organisation REME Units

Organisation and Employment of RASC Units for Beach Maintenance

Employment of Royal Engineers in an Assault Landing

Intelligence in Combined Operations

Naval, Army and Air Force Planning of Combined Operations.* [Introduction to Combined Operations Planning]*

* [Copies of the marked documents were enclosed with the original memoir, the Naval, Army and Air Force pamphlets appear to have been single Service editions, the Introduction to C Ops Planning pamphlet was not listed in the memoir and the Operation Overlord pamphlet, again not listed, was sent to the Green Howards Museum].                                                                                                                     

 Cliff Assaults.

A couple of the above pamphlets deserve comment. When attending the Combined Operations Administrative Course at HMS Dundonald, I had become very friendly with a Major Harry Faviell. From time to time he would drop into the Club and we would have a meal or a drink together. Later, he became responsible for the training of the American Rangers in the cliff assault on the German Battery [Point du Hoc] in the early hours of D Day and so he assisted me with the pamphlet named ‘cliff assaults’. On D Day he accompanied the American Rangers to the top of the cliff and, after they had captured their target battery, he considered his responsibility finished.  Having emptied the wallets of the adjacent dead German soldiers, he took the next LCT back to Dover. Next day he changed the money at the Bank of England and we celebrated the success of the Normandy landing together.  Next day, the Bank of England ceased exchanging ‘liberated’ currencies.

Driving Instructions for Combined Operations.

The circumstances of writing the ‘Driving Instructions for Combined Operations’ should also be of some interest. When one of our senior officers was watching a loading exercise on the south coast, he noticed that the driving signals used by the three Services were slightly different. It might not seem to matter in daytime but it could prove dangerous at night and under fire. Bernard asked me to call a meeting of the Services to decide upon an agreed set of signals. The meeting was held at COHQ on 23 August 1944. I remember the date well because I was called out of the meeting to be told that my eldest daughter had been born. No problems were encountered in writing and getting Service approval for the pamphlet. My next job was to produce a training film illustrating the various agreed driving signals. For this purpose, I was deposited in an old English Inn on the Norfolk coast, together with a film unit, one of each of the various landing craft and ships, including an LST, and a large variety of vehicles. We wrote the script each evening and shot it next day. Richard Dimbleby read the commentary and it was completed and distributed in the record time of four weeks.

Miscellaneous

General Montgomery had denied the BBC request to be with the follow-up troops in Operation Overlord. Hugh Vaughan-Thomas, whom I have referred to as Vaughan, had an elder brother, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, who had joined the BBC at the beginning of the war. He was involved in all of their outside broadcasts and concocted the idea that he would like to cover the Rhine crossing. Wynford discussed the idea with Vaughan, but the latter could not very well make the necessary recommendation so got me to push the idea upstairs. This was successful and the BBC was given permission to make a broadcast of the crossing, which was duly made by Wynford. I knew Wynford fairly well. He was the first reporter to take part in a night bombing raid over Berlin and we all had breakfast together next morning. Anyway, soon after the authority for the broadcast had been given, the BBC invited Vaughan and I to come over to their offices, we thought to discuss business. Actually, they had arranged a cocktail party for us and we spent the next two hours talking to BBC personalities, who previously had only been names.

Sometime in 1944, I was told that I had been appointed Secretary of an Inter Service Committee to decide upon the equipment for the Beach Brigade for the Normandy Operation. The Committee comprised about a dozen Admirals, Generals and Air Field Marshals. I do not remember their names. After three meetings, everything was agreed and the Committee dissolved itself, leaving me to implement their decisions, with dire threats of punishment if I failed to get the equipment in time. Most of the basic equipment had to be provided by the US. I indented for it on Washington through the Engineering Department of the War Office. Colonel Bruce Lumsden, CCO’s representative in Washington, soon notified me that the Pentagon had given it Immediate Top Priority.  Apparently, Roosevelt was not going to give Churchill any excuse to delay Overlord and the equipment arrived in ample time. Lumsden was a good friend of mine and had excellent connections in Washington. When visiting us in London, he usually brought me a bottle of Noilly Prat, which was then no longer available in the UK. His aunt owned Pimms and, one day, he took me to meet her. I was offered a case of Pimms a month and I accepted, even though I couldn’t drink that much!

Allied Combined Operations of World War 2

Raids and Major Landings

 Codenames

 Dates

NW Europe

 

 

Lofoten Islands

CLAYMORE

4 Mar 41

Spitzbergen

GAUNTLET

18 Aug 41

Vaagso

ARCHERY

27 Dec 41

Bruneval

BITING

28 Feb 42

St Nazaire

CHARIOT

28 Mar 42

Dieppe

JUBILEE

19 Aug 42

Normandy

OVERLORD/NEPTUNE

6 Jun 44

Breskens-Scheldt Estuary

SWITCHBACK

9 Oct 44

Walcheren

INFATUATE

1 Nov 44

Rhine Crossing

PLUNDER

23 Mar 45

Elbe Crossing

 

29 Apr 45

Mediterranean

 

 

North Africa

TORCH

8 Nov 42

Pantelleria

CORKSCREW

11 Jun 43

Sicily

HUSKY

10 Jul 43

Invasion of Italy (Messina)

BAYTOWN

3 Sep 43

Salerno

AVALANCHE

9 Sep 43

Termoli

DEVON

6 Oct 43

Anzio

SHINGLE

22 Jan 44

Elba

BRASSARD

17 Jun 44

South of France

DRAGOON

15 Aug 44

Lake Comacchio

ROAST

1 Apr 45

Indian Ocean

 

 

Madagascar

IRONCLAD

5 May 42

Burma

 

 

Akyab

LIGHTNING

3 Jan 45

Myebon

PUNGENT

12 Jan 45

Ramree Island (initial assault)

MATADOR

21 Jan 45

Kangaw

 

22 Jan 45

Ramree Island - Cheduba

SANKEY

26 Jan 45

Ramree island - Kyauknimaw

MIKE

4 Feb 45

Ru-Ywa

 

16 Feb 45

Letpan

 

13 Mar 45

Rangoon

DRACULA

2 May 45

Pacific

 

 

Guadalcanal (Solomons)

BREWER

7 Aug 42

Attu (Aleutians)

LANDGRAB

11 May 43

Woodlark & Kirwina Islands

CHRONICLE

30 Jun 43

Kiska (Aleutians)

TURNOVER

15 Aug 43

Baker Island

BILLSTICKING

1 Sep 43

Lae (New Guinea)

POSTERN

4 Sep 43

Finschaven (New Guinea)

DIMINISH

22 Sep 43

Bougainville (Solomons)

RIFLE RANGE

1 Nov 43

Tarawa (Gilberts)

 

20 Nov 43

Makin (Gilberts)

GALVANIC

20 Nov 43

Arawe (New Britain)

DIRECTOR

15 Dec 43

Cape Gloucester (New Britain)

BACKHANDER / ESCALATOR

26 Dec 43

Saidor (New Guinea)

MICHAELMAS

2 Jan 45

Roi, Namur & Kwajelein (Marshalls)

FLINTLOCK

31 Jan 44

Admiralty Islands

MERCANTILE

29 Feb 44

Aitape, Humboldt Bay, Tanamarah (Hollandia) -  (New Guinea)

RECKLESS

22 Apr 44

Wake Island

STRAIGHT LINE

17 May 44

Biak Island

HORLICKS

27 May 44

Saipan (Marianas)

FORAGER / TEARAWAY

15 Jun 44

Noemfoor Island (Dutch New Guinea)

 

2 Jul 44

Guam (Marianas)

FORAGER / STEVEDOR

21 Jul 44

Tinian (Marianas)

FORAGER

24 Jul 44

Cape Sansapar (Dutch New Guinea)

GLOBETROTTER

30 Jul 44

Morotai (Halmaheras)

INTERLUDE

15 Sep44

Angaur Island (Palau)

STALEMATE 2

17 Sep 44

Pelelieu (W Carolinas)

STALEMATE 2

17 Sep 44

Leyte (Philippines)

KING 2

20 Oct 44

Mapia Islands

 

15-18 Nov 44

Mindoro (Philippines)

 

15 Dec 44

Lingyan Gulf, Luzon (Philippines)

MIKE 1

9 Jan 45

Iwo Jima (Volcanos)

 

19 Feb 45

Zamboange, Mindanao (Phillipines)

VICTOR 4

10 Mar 45

Okinawa (Ryukus)

ICEBERG

1 Apr 45

Tarakan (Borneo)

OBOE 1

1May 45

Wewak (New Guinea)

DELUGE

11 May 45

Brunei-Labau (NW Borneo)

OBOE 6

10 Jun 45

Balikpapan (Borneo)

OBOE 2

1 Jul 45

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page. They, or any other books you know about, can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). Their search banner link, on our 'Books' page, checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Just type in, or copy and paste the title of your choice, or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords.

The Watery Maze : the story of Combined Operations by Bernard Fergusson. A very good introduction to the conditions prevailing at the time the Command was set up and through the early years when in fighting took place between the "new boy on the block" and the Chiefs of the traditional services. London : Collins, 1961. 445 p.

Acknowledgements

With the exception of a few minor additions to the text for the purposes of explanation and clarification, the text presented above is as written by Major Arthur B Rothwell TD (1/7th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) and as transcribed by Scott Flaving in November 2015. The document had been received from Charles Clauson (Ex Welsh Guards, 1966-1974), from Houston, Texas in Sep 2015. It had been obtained from the author who resided in the USA at the time of his death. This web page is an extract from the author's unpublished memoir entitled "The Second World War, 1939 - 1945, Remembered by a Yorkshire Territorial. We are indebted to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment Museum, Halifax who submitted the text for possible addition to this website.

News & Information

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Events and Places to Visit

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our  webpage free of charge.

To everyone else: Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event or place of interest, click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page (click on icon above) about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

 

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

 

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee has recorded interviews with veterans from any conflicts. These  films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

 

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