~ No. 1 COMBINED TRAINING CENTRE, INVERARAY ~
The No 1 Combined Training Centre (No 1 CTC) was located on the remote shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland. Its contribution to the war effort cannot be overstated. Its prime purpose was to train army and navy service personnel in the use of minor landing craft for landing assault troops, supplies, ammunition and weaponry onto heavily defended enemy occupied beaches, with RAF support as required.
[Map courtesy of Google Map Data 2017.]
Around 250,000 service personnel from the Allied Nations passed through the training centre from 1940 to 1944, of which up to 15,000 were billeted in the area at any one time. They subsequently put their training into effect in Norway, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, the East Mediterranean, France, Holland and even Madagascar. The training provided at Inveraray made all these historical events possible, including D Day.
The navy base, HMS Quebec, was part of the No 1 Combined Training Centre. The name was chosen because of Captain Wolfe's Combined Operation to capture the Abraham Heights at Quebec.
Churchill and his planners knew that an entirely new approach was required to reinvade enemy occupied Europe. There were no convenient ports to disembark the hundreds of thousands of troops with all their supplies, vehicles and equipment. Furthermore, any beaches thought suitable for a landing, would be heavily defended.
The reinvasion of Europe would need a well trained and equipped amphibious invasion force, of overwhelming strength. It required to draw on the best resources and practices of the three services, working closely together as a unified force. For the amphibious phase of the operation, the training task was Herculean in the numbers to be trained, the diversity of the training and the design and procurement of specialised equipment.
Over 50 Combined Operations shore bases and establishments were set up, mainly in the west of Scotland and the south of England. For operations further east, the Middle East Combined Training Centre was set up on the Bitter Lakes in Egypt. This was, arguably, the largest training programme in human history.
'CTC Inveraray', as it was commonly called, was set up in October 1940, to provide training for commandos, brigade groups in the assault role, formations in follow up and building up, port operating companies, squadrons of the RAF Regiment and the RAF Servicing Commandos. In respect of training directly concerned with amphibious landings, it was a time of experimentation, innovation, evaluation and development, as lessons were learned in the course of training and feedback from operations. To an extent, the training manual was being rewritten as they went along.
[Map of the No 1 Combined Training Centre, Inveraray.]
Over the years, the training provision was adapted and new training establishments were opened elsewhere to meet specific needs. One such was the provision of RN Beach Signals/Section training. At the instigation of Mountbatten, the Combined Signals School (CSS) was formed at HMS Quebec on November 1, 1941. This was a very early example of a Combined Unit, where it was possible to see personnel from all three services parading together and reporting to a Signals Duty Officer, who could be from any one of the three services! The CSS taught signalling procedures and assisted in the development of new techniques and methods. They were also involved in early forms of navigational aids, involving radio and other devices, designed to help landing parties locate their designated landing beaches. In 1942, the school moved to HMS Dundonald 2 at Troon in Ayrshire.
The Army presence comprised four Wings viz; Brigade Group, Army Tank, RE (Tn) & REME. The Army Tank and RE (tn) Wings provided training for their own personnel. They were allocated craft, accommodation and lecture rooms according to their needs and availability. Their participation in training exercises was independent of the Brigade Group Wing.
[Photo; troops practicing a beach landing from an LCA (Landing Craft Assault) on Loch Fyne. © IWM (H 14572).]
The Royal Navy
The Royal Navy presence at Inveraray took the form of a Naval Staff, under a Captain RN, working directly to the Commandant of the CTC. A few miles to the south, lay HMS Quebec, which was also commanded by a Naval Captain who, by virtue of his seniority, was also Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC), Inveraray. HMS Quebec’s primary role was to provide and maintain craft for training operations and to accommodate personnel drafted in for the training of units at the CTC.
HMS Quebec I was the major naval component at the No 1 CTC, while HMS Quebec II was located in the Hollywood Hotel, Largs, where training for staff officers was provided on Combined Operations. The courses were held from July 1943 to March 1944. A total of 1158 officers completed the intensive course including 153 from the Royal Navy and Marines, 379 from the British Army, 122 from the Canadian Army, 351 from the RAF and 153 Allied. Click here for more information.
The Air Section comprised two RAF officers on the staff of the Training Centre Commandant. In addition, the CTC could draw on the services of 614 Squadron RAF to provide aircraft for training purposes but their RAF mainstay was 516 Squadron based at RAF Dundonald in Ayrshire, which was attached to the Combined Operations Command. At the end of each intake's training, mock landings took place under realistic war conditions. 516 Squadron strafed the landing beaches on low level attacks and provided smoke cover, while landings were in progress. Mortar shells fired from nearby positions and small arms fire completed the hazardous effects.
Below is a typical report from the Air Section of the No 1 Combined Training Centre for March 1944. The report is presented as typed, except for the addition of photographs. It provides an insight into the role of the RAF at the training centre.
(B) At various times during the month No 516 (Combined Operations) Squadron, R.A.F, Dundonald co-operated with Fighter, Smoke and Bomber Aircraft on the following exercises:-
Exercises "Newton Bay" - Saturday 1st April, 1944, (Assault Exercises with live ammunition - zero0700 hours and 18.30 hours).
Exercises "Newton Bay" - Sunday 16th April, 1944, (Assault Exercises with live ammunition - Zero 17.30 hours).
Exercise "Newton Bay" is an Assault Exercise using live ammunition supported by artillery, tanks and aircraft, the latter providing smoke screens, bomber support and fighter bomber support. (Photo of Hurricanes 'attacking' Newton Bay).
Exercise "Airshow" due to take place on Tuesday 18th April, 1944 had to be cancelled owing to adverse weather conditions.
Aircraft on five occasions for various exercises had to be cancelled owing to unfavourable weather conditions. The Forward Air Link Control was again provided from the R.A.F. Seaplane Tender No. 1533stationed at this Combined Training Centre.
During the month the
Air Staff Officer (S/Ldr. J. Huggan) gave lectures on the Air Aspect of Combined
Operations on nine occasions to the following:-
(C) No.12 course for
the Royal Air Force Regiment in Combined Operations was held at this Combined
Operations Training Centre on the following dates:-
(D) The following
Officers visited the Air Section of this Combined Training Centre, during the
course of the month:- Colonel C.F.O.G. Forbes, Chief Inspector or the R.A.F. Regiment Depot, GRANTHAM,
attended No.18 Course for the R.A.F. Regiment as a Spectator Officer, but was
unfortunately admitted to the Military Hospital Inveraray on the 14th April,
1944. Colonel E.A. Shipton, O.B.E, M.C, T.D, (G.D.O.1. Headquarters, No.x22 Group)
attended course No.12 for the Royal Air Force Regiment as a Spectator Officer.
Major Parkinson (Headquarters No. 22 Group) attended course No.12 for the R.A.F.
Regiment and took over the duties of C.R.A.F.R. for the course and took charge
of the Wing on the Exercises. Wing Commander B.G.F. Drinkwater, Senior Air Staff Officer, No.105 Wg.
Flight Lieutenant D. Rymer, Flight Commander No. 516 (C.O.) Squadron visited the
Air Section of this Combined Training Centre. Squadron Leader Reeves, Officer Commanding No. 516 Squadron, visited the Air
Section of this Combined Training Centre, on the 29th April, 1944 for the
purpose of attending a Briefing Conference for Exercise "Newton Bay".
[Photo above; HMS Quebec with Loch Fyne in background. © IWM (A 29892).]
(A) Flight Lieutenant W. Ward, R.A.F.R. was on temporary duty at this Combined Training Centre, from the 8th April, 1944 to the 23rd April, 1944, for Instructors Duties, in order to take over the command of No.12 R.A.F. Regiment Course.
With the exception of No.12 Course for the R.A.F. Regiment, the work carried out by this Air Section was to a great extent Army Liaison. On the 24th April, 1944 the First Brigade of the 52nd Division, arrived for Combined Training , the course will last for approximately three weeks and will be followed by similar courses for the other Brigades.
Owing to the shortage of staff, the Army provided specialist instructors for No.12 Course which assisted us in handling the course in a satisfactory manner.
Signed (J Huggan),
[Photo right; Inveraray main street in the 1940s.]
What the Trainees Thought
Inveraray today is a popular tourist area of Scotland but the weather can be harsh, particularly in the winter. The table below shows training was provided throughout the year, so any individual's experience would be affected by the timing of his training. However, there was more than the weather to complain about, as the poem immediately below shows. It was circulated around the Royal Engineers in Chamois Camp, although it's thought that similar poems were written about many other remote locations, only the name being changed.
Ode to Inveraray
This bloody place is a bloody cuss
The bloody films are bloody old
It bloody pours, it bloody rains
Everything's so bloody dear
All bloody work no bloody games
Enough of this ere bloody rhyme
There was, however, entertainment at HMS Quebec as Alan Findlay confirms; "My brother, Ian Findlay served in the Royal Navy during the 2nd world war. He was an engineer all his life and was a Petty Officer Artificer serving at Inveraray and Gosport. He was a musician and played the violin. The two photographs are of concerts at HMS Quebec. The first one shows the Quebec concert party in September 1943 entitled 'Navy Mixture;' my brother is forth from the right back row. The second photo is the same concert party on 21st March 1944 entitled 'Smile a While'.
Turnover in Trainees.
As units left the area, on completion of their training, others arrived to take their place. Below, is a record taken from the diary of a local resident. It's probably not a complete record or accurate in every detail but it gives a sense of the turnover of trainees involved. [Courtesy of the Combined Operation Association's 'Bulldozer' Newsletter.]
The Closure of HMS Quebec [Courtesy of the Combined Operations 'Bulldozer' of 1946.]
H.M.S. Quebec has been added to the list of those ships and establishments for which 'no further requirement exists,' and we commence 'paying off' on 1st June, 1946. In actual fact the great exodus has already started and a steady stream of personnel, craft and ships is constantly moving southwards.
It seems fitting that Quebec should not be allowed pass without recording a brief summary of its history and achievements. A large percentage of both naval and military personnel who took part, both in the smaller combined operations, which preceded it and in the main assaults on Europe, were trained at this base. Quebec has also, throughout its history, been actively associated with our Corps activities in various spheres, and many Royal Marines have 'passed through.
H.M.S. Quebec is a Combined Operations establishment, situated on the upper reaches of Loch Fyne, Argyllshire, some two miles from Inveraray. The base derived its name from the historical operations which resulted in the capture of Quebec in 1759. Roads in the establishment were named after Admiral Saunders and Admiral Holmes, both of whom had distinguished themselves in this operation. The foreshore was named "The Caronage," the name given to that part of the beach where old-time sailors careened their ships.
[Photo; Let's not forget the WRNS without whom the No1 CTC could not have functioned. Here we see them relaxing in their recreation room at HMS QUEBEC. On the walls are pictures and posters depicting life in the Colonies. © IWM (A 15156).]
Commissioned on the 1st May, 1941, the main functions of the base were to train and accommodate naval landing craft crews, to accommodate officers and men in "pool" awaiting draft and such crews as were used in combined training by C.T.C., Inveraray.
The base was also to have extensive repair and storage facilities and to carry the pay accounts of some thousands of Combined Operations ratings. The usual growing pains were experienced in opening the camp, which first consisted of twelve wooden huts, the necessary galleys, pay offices and a small canteen. The huts were built on stilts, as the ground was wet and boggy and not, as at the present time, well drained. The situation on the shores of Loch Fyne was extremely practical as well as being picturesque. A steel pier was erected and this could be used at any state of the tide by landing craft. A gently sloping beach, with protection from all but S.W. gales, ensured the easy handling of craft for repair and maintenance.
Some 450 officers and men were in camp by the middle of May, 1941, and work went on apace in further construction. Engineering workshops, boat slips, the Wrennery and a well fitted sick bay were completed. Training, which had up to that time been carried out from various ships moored in the Loch, now settled down to a steady cycle, twelve officers and 150 seamen arriving from H.M.S. Northney every fortnight. Flotillas were commissioned for the Lofoten, Vaagso and Spitzbergen raids and both day and night training was carried on by these crews operating with the C.T.C.
A rifle range and assault course were built on the rising ground behind the camp and the whole area resounded to Lewis, tommy-gun and rifle fire and grenade explosions. Newton, an almost uninhabited spot on the opposite side of the Loch, was now being used as a training ground for assault landings, and Quebec supplied craft and crews to work with Major Landing Craft Flotillas and the military units in both day and night operations.
Life in camp was rigorous, and the base staff were fully extended in the work of maintaining the craft and in accommodating and administering the continual flow of trainees and others passing through the base. The W.R.N.S. were with us from the very day Quebec first commissioned, and they now began to descend upon us in large numbers, infiltrating with great success into all departments. Some of the duties which this wonderful Service took upon itself were transport drivers, cooks, stewards, writers, communication ratings, electrical ratings, messengers, generator watch-keepers, ship’s mechanics and duty boats’ crews. Some also specialised in painting and welding. This influx of the fair sex not only relieved a hard pressed base staff and permitted the release of personnel for sea service, but added considerably to the amenity possibilities.
[Photo; tank commanders and their crews practicing a beach landing from a TLC (Tank Landing Craft) on Loch Fyne. © IWM (H 14572).]
In 1941 the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill paid a visit to the base and gave one of his typically fighting speeches before he left.
H.M. The King, accompanied by the C.C.O. ( Admiral Lord Keyes ), also visited Quebec and inspected the ship’s company. A touch of colour was lent to this memorable visit by the dress of the Lascars (sailors from the East Indies) of Winchester Castle, who mustered with several contingents from ships in harbour.
Local facilities for recreation have always been meagre in the extreme. Long leave in those early days was not to be thought of. Short leave was restricted to the village of Inveraray, which possessed few facilities for catering to the requirements of such a vast number of Navy, Army and Air Force personnel as were now camped around its environs. The local ladies ran a W.V.S. which did yeoman service through the whole of the war period. Dances, whist drives etc. organised by the various Services and local people, helped enormously to keep up morale and provide some essential distraction from the unending training programmes. Periodical leave was not organised until the beginning of 1942, and as all liberty men had to travel by a skeleton service of buses between Inveraray and Glasgow, numbers had to be kept to a bare minimum. Later, when things got more into swing, a regular service of R.N. transport, assisted by the Army M.T. Pool, was run to and from the railhead at Arrochar, 27 miles distant, and regular leave has since been granted every three months.
Much could be written about the activities of various Flotillas and special parties who passed through the base, not forgetting the Canadians who eventually took part in the historic Dieppe raid, but space does not permit.
[Photo; Accommodation ship, HMS Ettrick off Inveraray.]
Visits were paid to the base in 1942 by H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester, H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent, Admiral Stark of U.S.N., and several other high ranking officers of the various Services. One memory, however, of all personnel, who knew Quebec, will always predominate over others… the weather. Rain, rain and yet more rain. Some of the older inhabitants, it is rumoured, had to be whisked away quickly when it was found that their feet had started to become "webbed." Yet, bad as the weather could be, it seldom was bad enough to prevent training, which went on unhindered by enemy activities or from any other cause. Early in 1942 the numbers of personnel passing through so increased that it was necessary to take over Chamois Camp and several "lines" in the Army Town Camp at Inveraray. Later, it became necessary to use two accommodation ships, the Northland and the Southland, which were moored just off the Camp Pier.
In 1943 several outstanding incidents occurred. The camp cinema was opened by Miss Evelyn Laye, whose visit to Quebec was greatly appreciated. Her wish that many happy hours would be spent by us in that same building has certainly been fulfilled. In the same month a large section of the training was transferred to Dartmouth, and in August the same year H.M.S.Copra, which was now dealing with 5,000 accounts, deserted the safety of Argyll for the blitz area of London. That year marked he peak of Quebec’s activities. The Junior Officers’ Club was instituted and opened, visits to us were paid by Mr. A.V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and several other notable people and high ranking officers. Late in 1943, we also received our first H.M. Flotillas and under the eyes of the experienced naval landing craft personnel the Royals began to infiltrate into Quebec’s life. The advent of the Royal Marines was welcomed in the camp, as this infused a keen and friendly rivalry in both work and sports which has continued to this day.
Visits by H.M. The King of Norway and Crown Prince Olaf and several high-ranking officers, inspections and real solid hard work marked 1944-45, and much more valuable training was accomplished. The social and recreational side of camp life was further extended. Association football, rugby, and in the summer, cricket and sports meetings were held. Indoor entertainment was provided by dances, regular cinema performances, socials, whist drives and boxing meetings, and the Quebec network of wireless programmes was instituted.
[Photo; Marines jungle training in August 1945 at the No1 CTC at Inveraray and HMS Quebec. Training by Royal Marine staff under the guidance of the Royal Marine Eastern Warfare School, Brockhurst, Hants. A patrol crossing a ravine by rope and wire bridge. © IWM (A 30139).]
The invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and, later, N. France, were all followed with profound interest at Quebec, where so many crews were taking part in these operations had received their basic training. The close of hostilities against Germany found Quebec a highly organised, efficient and smooth working base, with a record of solid if unspectacular achievement behind it.
VE-Day was celebrated, therefore, in the full realisation of work well done. Training still continued, however, until well after VJ- Day, which in due time was also celebrated in becoming fashion.
In October, 1945, the duties of Commanding Officer, H.M.S. Quebec, and N.O.I.C., Inveraray, were amalgamated and the command was passed to a Royal Marine officer, Lt. Col. W. F. Edds, O.B.E., R.M.
And now Quebec is paying off! The Loch is still dotted with a large number of ships and craft, but these are going and in a short while Loch Fyne will settle down to her old-time peaceful quiet and Quebec and her many activities will be but distant memories.
Photos below, courtesy of Stuart Kidd, who runs an interesting website about Inveraray at www.visit-inveraray.co.uk writes... I have attached two photos of HMS Quebec at Inveraray. The first one, taken in the 40's, shows the Quebec camp looking south, with the drill hall/cinema in the centre background. I believe in the foreground are the hospital buildings. The second photo, I took in late 2003. I tried to take it from a similar position and you can see that the drill hall is still there in the centre background. Today it is used as a recreation hall for various games and sports.
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. Book recommendations are welcome.
Elsewhere on this website;
The wartime reminiscences of local residents.
A report by a Canadian war artist who observed training exercises at the No1 CTC.
The often humorous account of landing craft training at Inveraray.
The West Nova Scotia Regiment. Follow their journey by road from Newhaven on the south coast of England to Inveraray in Scotland where they underwent training in minor landing craft operations during March 1943. http://www.wnsr.ca/sites/default/files/1943-03.pdf
Inveraray. During WWII both my parents served (and met) at the Combined Operations Establishment in Inveraray. My father had been in the RN since 1934, when he joined as a boy seamen. From my father, I remember that he was once apprehended on leave in Sheffield by a vigilant policeman who did not recognise his "mixed" uniform.
My mother was a P.O. in the WRNS - presumably in the Accounts Office at HMS Quebec. Among her papers I found this photo, which I remember her saying was taken at Inveraray sometime prior to 1944 when she left the service. She was then Olive Ann Elisabeth Smith. She's the middle one of the three Wrens. I assume the photo is of the members of the Accounts Department where she was employed, perhaps the wooden building behind them housed their office... but this is speculation. Does anyone recognise the surroundings or the people in the photo? Click on the photo to enlarge it.
If you can help please contact Chris on the e-mail link opposite.
After reading the web pages of 'Combined Operations' I recall a tale told to me a few years ago while visiting the Muckleburgh Collection Museum in North Norfolk. I spoke to its founder, the late Berry Savory, who told me that he had served at Inveraray Castle in WW2 as part of a training facility prior to D-Day. One of the reasons for choosing this location was its distance from German airfields - it was beyond the range of all aircraft they then had to carry out a mission and return to base.
One day they heard a droning in the sky and the consensus was that it was a German aircraft. The military authorities contacted London and were told to, 'dig in'. London was asked, 'With what?' The reply was, 'We are sending the necessary equipment.' Some time later a very large lorry consignment of standard pick heads arrived but there were no handles. London was asked, 'Where are the handles?' Reply, 'We will send some'. Berry laughingly recalled that the handles never did arrive, but, if they had, hand held picks would have made little impression on the rocky terrain around Loch Fyne!
The plane apparently crashed somewhere in the Midlands after running out of fuel. It had obviously become hopelessly lost during its mission. Berry was sure that somewhere in the vicinity of the castle is a large pile of badly rusting pick heads!