~ The Combined Operations Project ~
& Memorial -
A Backward Glance and a Forward Look
website and memorial are dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of men and women
who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2.
[Photos; The memorial and me at the National Memorial Arboretum in July 2013.]
There are two distinct income and expenditure
streams - one for the website and one for the memorial.
The website is
"not for profit" funded mainly from membership fees. It is free to use, carries
no adverts, pop-ups or cookies and has no formal connection with any
military or government department. Surplus funds are used in support of forces' charities and
the Memorial Fund. All income and outgoings in support of the website since November 2000, are recorded on
our website accounts page.
The memorial stream has two strands. The original
Memorial Fund was set up in 2006
to raise funds for the construction of a permanent memorial. Although the
dedication ceremony was
held in July 2013, it was not until January 2017
that the final bills were paid when a single donation of £2,000 topped off the
fund at a magnificent £21,128! That fund was then closed and its small surplus
became the initial deposit of a new Memorial
Maintenance and Development Fund where income and expenditure are accounted for. My signature and one other are required to authorise
The Combined Operations Command is the unintended victim of its own unique structure and oganisation.
Its personnel were recruited from the Army, Navy and Air Force and when the war ended, the vast
majority of them returned to their original units! At the memorial dedication ceremony on the 4th of July 2013,
General Barrons alluded to this when he said "After
the end of the war, the skills and lessons faded quickly with little imperative
and nobody to champion them. For some, the increasing importance of air power
made these capabilities seem less relevant, and they were quite wrong."
This sentiment is slowly
finding favour in the public consciousness, but
there's still much to do before the work of the Combined Operations Command, and everyone
who served in, or alongside it, receive the recognition they really deserve.
enormity and diversity of their contribution to the war effort, is second to none.
In the mid 1990s, I
discovered that my father in law, John Glen, had worked on wartime radar
installations in the RAF and in the
Combined Operations Command. After decades of silence, his fascinating wartime
story unfolded in the second half of the 1990s and along the way, it captured my interest.
his work on newly established coastal radar stations in the early
was attached to the Combined Operations Command and reported to John
Brown's shipyard on the Clyde. There, he joined a recently arrived US
vessel undergoing conversion from a Landing Ship Tank (USS LST 217)
Fighter Direction Tender (FDT 217), together with FDT 216 and FDT 13.
[Photo; John Glen, left middle row
with his team.]
served on FDT 217 in charge of a small team of Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) volunteer
radar technicians. They maintained and operated radar equipment on board 217,
most memorably off the Normandy beaches for 3 critical weeks in June 1944.
based mobile radar units took over the role as they moved forward through
Normandy and beyond with the advancing allied forces, the job of the FDTs
was done. John was mentioned in dispatches, although he was reluctant to take
personal credit for the excellent performance of his team.
Bernard Fergusson's excellent book "The Watery Maze", only to the
realise that the
Operations Command was vastly greater in size, scope and influence, than I had
first thought. Since there was no information on the
Internet, and with the naive confidence of a novice, I set about writing a few
Work on the website
started in November 2000 with the purchase of the
www.combinedops.com domain name for
£40.65 per annum. The following March, web hosting services were purchased for
£57.58 per annum - incredibly expensive by today's standards. For the first 4 or
5 years, the website ran a deficit but, as it became firmly established,
and with improving finances, the Combined Operations Command memorial fund was set up.
It was an act of blind
faith, if not folly. There was little money, no design, no site, no bank account
and no local support in the form of a committee. Financial donations, written contributions
for the website, fund raising activities, practical help and advice from many
hundreds of veterans, their families and friends, sustained the project that
would otherwise have faltered in its infancy. It was a privilege for me to be the means by which their
wonderful support and encouragement metamorphosed into a memorial, educational
website and Facebook page.
By a process I've never fully understood and over which I exercised little control, the
website grew like 'Topsy.' It now receives hundreds of thousands of visits each year
(6,000,000 hits) from around the world and yet the final chapters of the Command's remarkable story, are as elusive as ever!
John Glen did not live to see the little acorn he planted
grow and develop. He died in November 2000 at the age of 81. He would have
been so proud to see two of his great grandchildren lay a wreath at the
dedication ceremony on behalf of
all who contributed to the memorial fund.
to the Future
The website and
memorial aim to;
the memory of the achievements and sacrifices of the Combined
Operations Command and the thousands of all nationalities who served
in or alongside the Command on operations in WW2.
02). Improve public recognition of the Combined Operations
Command's substantial contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.
03). Set up appropriate
measures to ensure the long term development and maintenance of the
memorial and website in perpetuity.
04). Provide free access to the website in perpetuity.
Combined Ops related articles, stories, anecdotes, reminiscences,
diary entries, poems and photographs from visitors to the site or from
our own resources.
06). Provide notice boards on the website for appeals
for information or advice and the means for anyone to respond
links to external websites that provide complementary historical information, WW2 records and veterans' welfare.
08). Provide an extensive list
of Combined Ops related books and the means of sourcing them
including 'out of
09). Provide memberships to those who wish to support the
website's purposes and/or to request advice or information.
Geoff Slee, Edinburgh, Scotland.