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.

Australia Greece  Belgium Holland Canada UK USA France Norway Poland New Zea'd



Visiting Memorial?

Roll of Honour



All Pages Index

Notice Boards


They Also Served


Contact Us

 Hundreds of thousands of visits each year to 200  web pages & 3000 photos.  News & information at the bottom of this and every web page.

You can show your appreciation for those who served the Allied cause in WW2, by 'liking' the Combined Ops Facebook page.


In the early to mid 1940s the small Scottish town of Inveraray was host to an estimated quarter of a million men undergoing Combined Operations training in amphibious landing techniques on the shores of Loch Fyne. These are the personal recollections of these times compiled by three local residents.

Preparations for War Combined Operations VIP Visits Odds & Ends Further Reading Acknowledgments

Preparations for War

Few people who, lived through the wartime years, are likely to forget Sunday 3rd September 1939 when the news came of Britain's declaration of war on Germany.

Many young men and women left the area to go to war. The older men, and the boys waiting for call-up, were formed into a Local Defence Volunteer Company (later the Home Guard) under the command of Captain John Campbell-Blair, Dalchenna and Lieut. A M MacPherson, Manager of the local Union Bank (now the Bank of Scotland). An Observer Corp was formed under the command of Captain Walter Thursby at Horse Park. The police force, under Sgt. Taylor, was augmented by Special Constables mostly comprised of men from Inveraray Estate who had seen service in the previous conflict. Photo Opposite; [Photo of Capt John Campbell-Blair outside Dalchenna House courtesy of his granddaughter Juliet Peters (nee Campbell-Blair].

In preparation for the outbreak of hostilities plans had been made for the evacuation of city children to the comparative safety of the countryside. These plans were now implemented.

In Inveraray, during a thunderstorm, the Duchess of Hamilton tied up at the pier and a troop of bewildered children was led down the gangway. They were marshalled at the Jubilee Hall in the Maltland and where were given a hot meal cooked by a committee of local ladies.

Under the direction of Mr. James Carmichael, a local contractor, every available car in the district was used to convey the children to their respective destinations. These included the cars from Turnbull's garage The children were given a warm welcome.

The original number of evacuees, including women and children, was 424. Many found the country way of life so different to that of the city that they soon returned home. They preferred to face the dangers of the German bombers in familiar surroundings! In the school log of September 25 1919  the headmaster, Donald MacKechnie, noted "Government evacuees began work today along with our own pupils - 22 boys, 43 girls. By Dec. 1943 four evacuees still remained in the burgh." [Photo - view of Inveraray from the watchtower. c 1942 Karl Work.]

Combined Operations

In 1940, after the fall of France, the Prime Minister began planning the invasion of Europe. Admiral Keyes began a search for a suitable place to train Commandos and crews together. The choice eventually fell on Inveraray and on the 15th October 1940 Vice Admiral Theodore Hallet R.N. assumed command of No.1 Combined Operations Invasion Training Centre. Suddenly, this quiet little town on the west coast of Scotland, found itself playing an important part in the war against Germany.

Royal Engineer and Pioneer Companies duly arrived to set up camps. The local firms of Messrs James Carmichael and Messrs Cowieson of Glasgow being the principal contractors.

Town Camp and Avenue Camp were erected behind the Newtown and the Duke's and Castle Camps sprang up in the castle grounds. Shira Camp was built at the entrance to Glen Shira and, south of the town, land on Dalchenna Farm was requisitioned to build a Naval Camp known as "HMS Quebec" (now Argyll Caravan Park). Further along the shore Kilbride and Chamois Camps were established. As the camps were completed they were occupied. Many famous regiments were to receive specialised training in  the hills and on the shores of Loch Fyne. [Photo: Inveraray Castle, Karl Work c 2000.]

Commando troops, who were later to take part in many raids on enemy territory, had their first training here. They arrived in the late autumn in troopships which anchored off the Creags. Among the officers was Captain Randolph Churchill son of the Prime Minister.

Some of the larger houses and buildings in the town were requisitioned by the Admiralty. These included Dalchenna House, Fern Point, Coffee House, Rudha-na-Craig and Tigh-na-Ruadh (the present Loch Fyne Hotel) - the latter becoming Admiralty House. In the grounds of Fern Point a Nissan hut was established for use as a decontamination centre. Other buildings were requisitioned during these war years included Cherry Park, which became the Quartermaster's store. The old byre there was transformed into a cook house.

The town was often the scene of attack and defence manoeuvres from doorway to doorway and close to close. Khaki clad men armed, with Tommy guns and revolvers, would overrun the streets whilst townspeople carried on with their normal duties.

One young evacuee lived with his grandparents in a house facing the pier. He spent hours watching the comings and goings of soldiers and ships in the harbour area. He wrote a letter to his parents giving them a blow by blow account of everything he had observed from his vantage point. Owing to censorship of letters at the time all his parents received was a heading "Dear Mum and Dad" and a tail piece "Love Jim."

Provost A. J. MacIntyre, himself an officer of the 1914-18 war with the rank of Major, presided over the Town Council. He also acted as Welfare Officer between Military and Civilian Authorities. It was a busy and difficult time for civic dignitaries. They suddenly found they had to cope with demands for extra water and provisions to meet the requirements of a large influx of workmen and HM Forces personnel. In a Minute of the Town Council, dated 20th September 1940, it was noted that baffle walls were to be erected in front of the closes in the town. As a protection against enemy action it was also agreed to order a dozen stirrup pumps at 1. 0s 0p each.

The off duty hours of troops were made as comfortable as possible. A cinema was built within the castle grounds and a large N.A.F.F.I. canteen was built on the site of the present day Youth Hostel. The local W.V.S., under the presidency of Mrs. Alex. J. MacIntyre, and supported by local ladies, opened a canteen in the St Malieu Hall. The venue proved immensely popular with the soldiers and opening hours invariably found a long queue waiting. A cup of tea or coffee and bun cost one penny (pre decimal) and the profits went towards parcels for the troops. Mrs. A. M. MacPherson, a local banker's wife, looked after the financial side of the organisation, while Mrs. John MacCallum was Hon. Secretary, later succeeded by Mrs. James Drummond. In addition to the voluntary running of the canteen W.V.S. dispatched parcels to the local boys serving in the war zones.

HMS Queen Emma and HMS Princess Beatrix were the first warships to remain anchored off the town. The transport ship "Ettrick," with troops for invasion training aboard, lay off shore, as did the hospital ships "St David" and "St Andrew." These "lend lease" ships were used until the Jubilee Hall at the Maitland was converted to a Military Hospital. It had 50 beds complete with a fully equipped operating theatre and X-ray room. The hospital was staffed by members of the Queen Alexander's Imperial Medical Nursing Staff and by V.A.D.s who were house in the Maitland buildings. The Medical Orderlies and ambulance drivers shared hut accommodation on the Greens. Some local people, as well as military personnel, owe their lives to the skill and dedication of hospital staff based there.

By 1941 two more ships at the pier were the "Quebec" and the "Beverly Brook." There were regular comings and goings of naval ships including units of the Allied Fleets. Dutch oil-driven lighters were, for a long time, on duty mostly around Kilbride. Two Canadian lake steamers, the "Eaglescliffe Hall" and the "A.A. Fields" were anchored off the pier - the latter was sunk during the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast.

In Dalchenna Bay two Mississippi river boats, the U.S. Northland and the U.S. Southland were stationed as a camp overflow. Several of their sister ships were sunk crossing the Atlantic to Britain.

In the latter part of 1943 and early 1944 a number of Docker Companies underwent invasion training at Kilbride Camp. This consisted of loading and unloading ships under war conditions including the use of live ammunition.

VIP Visits

On the 27th June 1941, the Right Honourable Winston Spencer Churchill , M.P., Prime Minister and War Leader, visited the Inveraray Training Area. The Premier, and those accompanying him, came ashore, below the Manse, from landing craft after witnessing operations at Ardno near St Catherine's. As he entered Admiralty House a number of householders from nearby Newtown greeted him. He replied "God bless you all." In the course of his visit he told the Provost how much he appreciated the wonderful setting of the Royal Burgh. He declared that he, and all his War Office, realised how much the people of Inveraray were doing under great difficulties. He wished his personal thanks to be conveyed to the Council. His closing words were "Carry on Provost. By our united efforts victory is sure." (Town Council Minutes). Later at Kilbride, from a sandbagged shelter, he watched demolition of barbed wire entanglements and a demonstration of beach assault and landing techniques. Prior to his departure from Loch Fyne, the Prime minister marched behind a Military Band to the pier. He responded to loud cheering by waving his cap on a walking stick above his head!

In the autumn of 1941 His Majesty King George VI visited the Inveraray Training Area. On arrival he was received at the pier head by His Grace the Duke of Argyll, Lord Lieutenant.

The Provost, Magistrates and members of the Town Council, were presented to His Majesty - Provost Alex. J. MacIntyre, Baillie Arch. H. MacDonald, Baillie Donald MacLaren, Dean of Guild Alexander Gillespie, Councillor James Devine, Councillor High B. Jenkins and Deputy Town Clerk George M. Sime. After lunch, at Admiralty House, the King proceeded by sea to Frenchfarland where he too observed demolition exercises. After visiting Kilbride Camp and "HMS Quebec" he returned to Inveraray and left by sea.

Norwegian troops undergoing training were visited for two days by H.M. King Haakon of Norway and H.H. the Crown Price Olaf. His Majesty held a review in the Stable Park and was the guest of his officers at the Petty Officer's Club (Coffee House). The royal visitors resided at Admiralty House which was placed at their disposal by the Lords of the Admiralty. During their stay the Norwegian National flag was flown on the flagstaff.

Lord Louis Mountbatten succeeded Lord Keyes as Head of Combined Operations and in that capacity visited Inveraray to boost the morale of the men at a time when things were looking grim.

A large contingent of W.R.N.S. billeted at Dalchenna, was stationed at H.M.S.Quebec. Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent and Chief Commander visited there to open a new sick bay.

American, Canadian, Free French, Poles and Russians were also trained at Inveraray. On one occasion several landing craft, one of which was flying the Stars and Stripes, were seen approaching the shore below the manse. The company, who walked up to Admiralty House, included General Eisenhower, Major General Thorne, G.O.C. Scottish Command and Mr Winant U.S. Ambassador to Britain.

Odds & Ends

In 1940 the B.E.F. retreated to Dunkirk amongst which was the 51st Highland Division. It included the 7th and 8th Battalions of the Argyll and Sutherland highlanders. The Division was cut off at St. Valery and the survivors were forced to surrender. Several local men were taken prisoner and spent the remainder of the war as P.O.W.s. Among these was Captain Ian Campbell who was heir to the Duke of Argyll. During captivity, his wife Louise (later Duchess Louise), was instrumental in forming a link with agencies whereby parcels and comforts were transported to the men in the P.O.W. camps. Many Argyll men had cause to remember her with heartfelt gratitude.

One local lady will be remembered, with affection, by the troops who passed through Inveraray. She was Miss Kirsty MacLachlan of the Temperance Hotel (corner of Main Street East and Front Street). Kirsty turned her hotel into a home from home for all who cared to call and was affectionately known as "The Mother of the Fleet."

A casualty of war was the church steeple which was regarded as being unsafe. It was removed in 1941. Each stone was carefully numbered and stored in the old quarry at Bealach an Fhuarain with the intention of rebuilding the spire at the end of hostilities. The fate of these stones has long remained a mystery, but, suffice to say that by the end of the war they had disappeared! Today the cost of a new steeple has proved prohibitive and the lovely old parish church of Inveraray stands denuded of what was the focal point of the town. Luckily the town clock and the church bell, which were removed during the demolition of the steeple and stored for safekeeping, have been returned to their rightful place.


Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. 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. Click 'Books' for more information.

Please contact us if you have a story or any information about wartime Inveraray.


Courtesy of The Combined Operation Association's 'Bulldozer' from an original article written by Ann M.Craig, Rae MacGregor and Sheila W. MacIntyre (1994).

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.


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


Copyright 2000 to 2018 inclusive [www.combinedops.com]. All rights reserved.