Combined Operations - Scotland
Links to web pages
with strong Scottish connections to Combined Operations.
1 Combined Training Centre.
Around 250,000 personnel, from the Army, Navy and Air Force, passed through this prime training centre
at Inveraray, Scotland between late 1940 and 1945 for joint training in
the operation of 'minor' landing craft, such as LCAs. Up to 15,000 service personnel were billeted in camps and on boats
on Loch Fyne at any one time. The impact
on the small community of 500 can only be imagined! HMS Quebec was the naval
base at the training centre.
No 2 Combined Training Centre.
This shore based
establishment provided training for officers and crews in the operation of
landing craft capable of carrying tanks, heavy vehicles, supplies and
The centre was located at Toward Point, 6 miles south of Dunoon on the
River Clyde. The Royal Navy component of the training centre was called
UK Training Establishments
After the evacuation of a third a million men at Dunkirk in June 1940,
long term plans were prepared for an amphibious invasion of overwhelming
force onto unimproved, heavily defended, enemy held beaches. There would be no convenient ports or
harbours available to the Allies and, those captured, were likely to have
been destroyed by the retreating enemy.
Many hundreds of
thousands navy and army personnel would
require training in the use of landing craft of many types, while operating as a
single, unified force. To meet this unprecedented training challenge,
over 45 separate training establishments and land bases, mainly in the
west of Scotland and the south of England, were established. The Combined
Operations (RN) crews of the landing craft and the Army soldiers they
carried, with their munitions, tanks, transport and supplies, were jointly
trained in loading landing craft, beaching and unloading onto heavily
defended beaches as would be the case during the initial assault phase.
11 (Scottish) Commando - The Black Hackle
Commando unit was raised in Galashiels in July 1940 where it was billeted in the Netherdale Mills. From there, they marched
to Ayr, en route to Arran, for training in their surprise 'hit and run'
kind of warfare. They were a short lived Commando unit being dispersed to other Commando units a little
over a year later. However, much was packed into this
period including a daring attempt to capture Rommel in his North Africa
HQ, which resulted in the award of a VC. This 20,000 word Commando history
was written by Graham Lappin, whose father served in 11 Commando.
Royal Naval Commandos
(The Beachhead Commandos). In larger amphibious landings, tight control of the movement of men, vehicles
and supplies over the unimproved landing beaches, was essential to avoid
delays and bottlenecks. Any disruption in the supply chain to the armies,
as they moved inland, would create an opportunity for an enemy
counterattack, with potentially disastrous consequences. The RN 'Beach' Commandos exercised their authority with
vigour. One such is reputed to have ordered a General to "Get off my
bloody beach!"... which, even if apocryphal, is such a pleasing thought! They
a shore based establishment on Loch Long.
Fighter Direction Tenders Fighter Direction
Tenders were, in conjunction with their
HQ ships, floating command and
control centres, which bristled with antenna and aerials for radar,
communications and intelligence gathering purposes. They were the eyes and
ears of the
large scale invasion forces off the beaches of Normandy in June 1944. They extended the radar cover, provided by shore based stations on the south coast of England, well into enemy occupied
France. There were 3 Fighter Direction Tenders designated FDT 13, 216
& 217. After about 3 weeks or so, the two survivors were withdrawn when land
based mobile radar units were established in France.
LST 216, converted to FDT (Fighter Director Tender) in coastal waters off
© IWM (A 21922).]
The conversion work,
on the American built Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs 13, 216 and 217), was
undertaken by John Brown's shipyard on the upper Clyde. Sea trials,
including the calibration of their radar equipment, were conducted in the Forth and
Clyde estuaries with the assistance of 516 (Combined Operations)Squadron RAF stationed at RAF Dundonald in Ayrshire. The
home port was Inveraray on Loch Fyne.
Mulberry Harbours The Allies needed secure sheltered harbour
facilities within days of the Normandy landings to supply their
advancing forces until ports and harbours were captured and made usable. How did they
erect two harbours, each the size of Dover, in just a few days in
wartime, when Dover took 7 years to construct in peacetime?
Carline, The Quarter Master General, Sir Riddle-Webster, Brig. Bruce-White
and Maj Steer-Webster examining plans at Garlieston Harbour. © IWM H
It was a
civil engineering project of immense size and complexity. Such was
Churchill's annoyance at what he perceived to be slow progress, that
he indulged his frustration in a terse signal to Mountbatten on the 30th May, 1942... "Piers
for use on beaches.
They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be
mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don't argue the
matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves."
Many top secret,
early prototype trials were undertaken at Garlieston, then part of
Wigtownshire, now Dumfries and Galloway.
Flotilla In mid October 1944, the terrible
fate of the 9th LCT (Landing Craft Tank) Flotilla was sealed as it sailed beyond Lands End in the tow of merchant ships. It was part
of Convoy OS92/KMS66 bound for the Mediterranean, en route to the Far
East under Operation Appian. As the main part of the flotilla left the
River Clyde (see map), there had been warnings of bad weather, but the
safety rules and procedures failed to protect the craft. Over 50 men were lost
as 6 craft foundered. How did the tragedy happen and was it avoidable? This is the tragic story
of "The Lost LCT Flotilla."
Poetry A fine collection of heartfelt poems
mostly about the Normandy landings on D Day and the Commando Memorial at Spean
Bridge, near Fort William, Scotland.
HMS Misoa These
are the recollections of a young, Scottish Combined Operations (Royal
Navy) seaman, who proudly served on Misoa for two and a half years.
Requisitioned for war service
from the shallow waters of Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo on the northern
coast of South America, Misoa saw active service off
North Africa, Pantellaria, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. Her crew thought of her as a lucky ship, since the only bomb to hit her, failed
The crew dispersed in April/May of 1945 as Misoa lay
off Inveraray in Scotland - there were no doubt mixed emotions as their
great adventure had come to an end.
516 Combined Operations Squadron
RAF. Air support for Combined Operations training in amphibious landings
was provided by 516 Sqd. The squadron was located
Ayrshire, which was within easy flying distance of
the many landing craft training beaches around the Clyde estuary and
primary purpose was to add realism during the final stages of mock
amphibious beach landings by laying down smoke screens, dropping small
bombs and strafing the landing beaches. They also assisted in the calibration of new
seaborne radar equipment on the 3 Fighter Direction Tenders and towed
drones for anti-aircraft gunners to hone their skills. They
drew on the services of other squadrons as the demand for their services
outstripped their capacity.
516 Squadron RAF - Memories of a
Ops Squadron RAF, was attached to Combined Operations to provide air
support during amphibious training exercises, calibration of radar
etc. These are the memories of New Zealander, Doug Shears.
This is an incisive, often amusing account of a
Craft Tank Squadron of around 50 LCTs and LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry). The
story starts in the harsh, cold, winter of 1943/44 in the Moray Firth on
the north east coast of Scotland and ends with the hazardous landings on
the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The story is told by the
Flotilla's Lieutenant Commander, Maxwell O W Miller, RN, later Commander.
Of his men he warmly wrote; Elie Halévy, that great French historian of the British people, says somewhere,
that the most inexplicable thing about the British Navy is that its greatness
has been built up against a background of ill-used sailors, in ill-found ships,
commanded by the most undisciplined corps of officers that ever stepped a
quarterdeck. In the recent war, it was my good fortune to serve in Major Landing
Craft, the Tank and Infantry
Landing Craft that bore the brunt of the
landings in France and Italy, and to command a squadron that would have
delighted Monsieur Halévy’s historian’s heart!
Inveraray in Wartime
In the early to mid 1940s, the
small Scottish town of Inveraray, played 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 three local residents.
a view of Inveraray from the watchtower c 1942 by RCAF,
LAC, Karl Work who served on FDT 217.]
Memorials and Plaques
There's only one memorial to Combined Operations in its entirety but there is
a surprising number of memorials and plaques
devoted to individual Combined Operations
units, operations and establishments around the world,
Combined Ops Memorial
main features of the memorial comprise stones generously donated by Bonnar
Quarries from the shores of Loch Fyne, symbolically close to the
No 1 Combined Training Centre at
Inveraray. The memorial embraces all the Allied
nations whose service men and women served in
or alongside Combined Operations, or
were trained by them in amphibious
warfare and was
fully funded by veterans,
their families and friends through this website. There is a local memorial
to HMS Quebec in the grounds of the
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.