Operation Torch: 80th Anniversary

Discussion in 'All Anniversaries' started by SteveDee, Oct 2, 2022.

  1. Staffsyeoman

    Staffsyeoman Member

    A subject of great interest here, as my uncle landed with 11 Bde HQ Signals of 78 Div.
  2. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

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  3. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    8th November 1942

    The Operation Torch convoys had brought over 100,000 troops in support of the North African landings which commenced on 8th November 1942. The US Navy landed American troops on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. The British Royal Navy landed American troops along the coast at Oran (Algeria) and British/American troops at Algiers.

    The British role in the invasion was played down because (by this time) the French hated the British for sinking a large part of their fleet when France fell to Germany.

    Due to poor preparation and planning, the landings were shambolic. Troops were ferried from the ships to the beaches via landing craft. On the Atlantic coast, poor navigation and the rough seas resulted in troops being dropped miles from their designated zones, often isolated from other groups.

    Even in the relatively calm waters of the Mediterranean, some landing craft lost their way, hit rocks and sank. As the troops were carrying heavy guns and ammunition, they had to be taken right to the beach, so that they could step out into shallow water. One landing craft grounded on a sandbank close to a beach, but as the soldiers got out of the boat and started to make their way towards the beach, they walked into deeper water, and many were drowned in the darkness due to the weight of their backpacks. Some survived by dropping their equipment, and then wandered around the beach without their guns, not quite knowing what to do next.

    In the 1940s many men could not swim, so if they got into difficulties, they just perished.

    Operation Terminal

    The plan was to send HMS Malcolm & HMS Broke straight into Algiers harbour. But as they approached, powerful searchlights lit up the two battle ships and they came under fire. The lights made it difficult to see the harbour entrance, so the ships had to circle around a couple of times before finding their way in. In the process, HMS Malcolm was hit and had to withdraw. HMS Broke was able to enter the harbour and berth alongside another ship. The assault team landed around 5:30 am and successfully captured a power station.

    However, after a couple of hours the French artillery were able to force HMS Broke back out to sea. By midday, the Allied landing party were forced to surrender to the French. HMS Broke sank the following day.

    Operation Reservist

    This attack on Oran involved HMS Hartland and HMS Walney. Neither ship was armoured. The US Navy hated the plan and it was unofficially referred to as "the charge of the 700". But Vice Admiral Betram Ramsay said "if it doesn't do anything else, its good for the spirit of the people to carry out one of these operations".

    Once again, these two ships were spotted. On came the searchlights and the French artillery let them have it!

    Flying the Stars & Stripes, HMS Walney led the way into the harbour. An officer announced that they were Americans, but the Allied ships came under close range fire from battleships.

    Most on board (American & British) died. The fate of HMS Hartland was much the same.
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  4. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

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  5. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    10th November 1942

    Following a heavy bombardment by British battleships, Oran surrenders to Allies.
    Negotiations with Admiral François Darlan (commander of the Vichy French forces) commence.
    German troops had already begun landing in Tunisia.
    An Allied convoy is sent east from Algiers to capture the ports of Bone, Bougie & Philippeville.
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  6. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    11th November 1942: The Western Task Force

    Following a failed coup d'etat on the 7th November by General Antoine Béthouart, the French command had advance warning about the Torch landings in Morocco, and were therefore able to increase their coastal artillery in readiness for the impending invasion. Poor weather made landings more difficult than expected and the US troops came under attack at first light.

    Major General George Patton landed in the morning of the 9th November. Angered by the apparent lack of leadership on the ground and a general air of chaos, Pattern toured the beaches personally sorting out issues.

    Having encountered unexpected resistance, Patton's forces were preparing to "bombard hell" out of Casablanca. Luckily, shortly before this attack was due to start, Admiral François Darlan got a message through ordering the French troops to stand down.

    By the afternoon of the 11th, Casablanca was in the hands of the Allies.
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  7. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    12th November 1942

    Convoys KMS02 & KMF02 (which departed Scotland 25th Oct & 1st Nov respectively) arrived today to reinforce troops and supplies.

    KMF02 included the Duchess of Richmond which was from a class of ships known as the “Drunken Duchesses” because they apparently gave you a lively ride on a rough sea.


    Here is a short extract from Sgt Len Scott's account on his voyage to Algiers on the Duchess of Richmond:-

    It was necessary to empty my bladder fully before sleep. To attempt reaching the 'heads' during the night might involve stepping upon someone's face in the dim, blueish light. The only way out was via narrow and uncompanionable 'companion-ladders.'

    Every ten or fifteen minutes the escorting corvette signalled a 'toot-toot' and the whole convoy changed course – zig-zagging. Each evening we sailed straight into the sunset and some hoped for a Canadian landfall. I knew better and one evening the sun was behind us. 'All ranks' were assembled to be told over the Tannoy of our destination - Algeria, in North Africa....the voyage had been long and boring.

    We had queued for everything - queues which stretched around the entire deck-space: for cigarettes, tea, 'entertainment' and, with desperation, for the latrines. We had all been issued with 'sea-soap' because ordinary soap would not lather in sea-water - and sea-water was what issued from the ablution taps.

    {upon arrival} We march into the city, sweating, full kit, rifles, greatcoats, blankets and kitbags. Trucks roar past us carrying American soldiers in relaxed postures, some smoking cigars. They jeer at we foot-sloggers - the 'goddam (Oedipal) Limeys'. We respond with two-fingered salutes.

    The voyage appears to have been calm and uneventful, apart from a near miss between the Duchess and one of the other vessels. Not all convoys were so lucky.

    See more brilliant written accounts of Len's wartime experiences here: BBC - WW2 People's War - Sergeant Len Scott - Unheroic Soldier
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  8. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Stats drawn up for a US Army history. Fold3. upload_2022-11-12_20-18-45.png
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  9. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Added a thread yesterday, only read one chapter of the book, which helped to explain what happened in Vichy-run Algeria and the very early fighting between the French and Germans & Italians in Tunisia: 'Giruad and the African Scene' by George Ward Price
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  11. hutt

    hutt Member

    Today, 80 years ago my father was having his eyes tested in Edinburgh. 4 days later on the 27th he sailed to North Africa on convoy KMF04.
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  12. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Today, 80 years ago my dad had his 20th birthday -he would have been 100 today had he lived .
    I often wonder what he thought about on this day, or if he even realised it was his birthday.
    If only.......I had asked.

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