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 COMBINED OPERATIONS

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


Combined Operations - Scotland Index Page

Animated waving Scots flags

Links to web pages with strong Scottish connections to Combined Operations.

No 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 'major' landing craft capable of carrying tanks, heavy vehicles, supplies and troops. 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 HMS Brontosaurus.

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.

No 11 (Scottish) Commando - The Black Hackle The 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 were trained at HMS Armadillo, Ardentinny, 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.

[Photo; LST 216, converted to FDT (Fighter Director Tender) in coastal waters off Greenock. © 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 FDT's 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?

[Photo; Major Carline, The Quarter Master General, Sir Riddle-Webster, Brig. Bruce-White and Maj Steer-Webster examining plans at Garlieston Harbour. © IWM H 28097.]

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.

9th LCT 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.

LST 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 to explode.

The crew dispersed in April/May of 1945 as Misoa lay off Inveraray in Scotland - there were no doubt mixed emotions as their hazardous, 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 at Dundonald, Ayrshire, which was within easy flying distance of the many landing craft training beaches around the Clyde estuary and beyond.

The Squadron's 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 Pilot. 516 Combined 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.

"I" LCT Squadron This is an incisive, often amusing account of a WW2 Landing 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.

[Photo; 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, including Scotland.

Combined Ops Memorial Information about the memorial, including its location in the grounds of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. 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.

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.
 


News & Information

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.

Remember a Veteran

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.

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Events and Places to Visit

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. 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.

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).

Combined Operations Handbook (Far East)

The 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.

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to this complex subject.

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