Operation Torch, Nov 1942.

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by bexley84, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    By January 1943, the 1st Army advance had pretty much gummed up and awaited "the end" to the rainy (muddy) season .. positioned to the west of Mateur, south to Medjez and onto Goubellat down to the French held areas near to Bou Arada..

    Of course, others had ideas what "the end to the rainy season" meant..
  2. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Operation Torch

    I had previously assumed that the London Gazette was for publishing official announcements but have recently found that it also contains some interesting and quite detailed reports on WW2 operations. I am sure that many of you were well aware of these reports but perhaps others are not.

    This is a link to a report on Operation Torch, issue 38569:

    This has 18 pages; just hit the ‘next’ button at the top to view them all.

    I was in Gibraltar recently, as mentioned an important area for control of the Med and the success of Torch. I recently visited the WW2 tunnels that were dug from 1941 to house a garrison to defend the Rock against invasion; some of the Torch planning took place there.

    Gibraltar is small – only 2.6 sq miles (6.8 sq km in new money) – but the tunnels extend for over 30 (yes thirty) miles to provide accommodation, hospitals, stores and services to enable personnel to live underground for up to a year. [Note that other tunnels in the Rock were dug in 1779 during the Great Siege].


    The tunnels included a secret observation chamber, which, if the Rock was lost, would be sealed with six men inside it – 2 doctors, 3 signallers and 1 officer. This was known as Operation Tracer and the task of the unfortunate 6 was to spy on the Germans and report back to London. There was no way out but, thankfully, the plan did not need to be implemented.

    In 2006, the last surviving member of the team, Dr W A Bruce Cooper, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander, RNVR, re-visited the cave. He died in 2011 at the age of 96.

    As a follower of 78th Infantry Division, and 56th Recce in particular, the following London Gazette articles are also of interest:-

    Issue 37779 - North Africa (16 pages):

    Issue 38196 – North Africa (50 pages)

    Issue 38895 – Invasion of Sicily (22 pages):

    Issue 38205 – Conquest of Sicily (18 pages)

    Issue 38937 - Italy (98 pages):

    There are no doubt many more, well worth using the advanced search facility if there are other subjects of interest. This is a report on the Great fire of London!!
    Osborne2 and 4jonboy like this.
  3. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Hi Tony
    Thanks for posting.
    I cannot seem to get the links to work-anyone else having problems?


    EDIT Sorry they are working now!
  4. Rosey

    Rosey Member

    Hi Tony

    Thank you so much for posting these articles.
    Operation Torch and the Operations in North Africa from 8th Nov. 1942 to 13th May 1943 were of huge
    interest to me as my father in law was with 2 Hampshires and left for North Africa on 11.11.42
    and was KIA 3.12.42 and although I have managed to research quite a lot on the subject I hadn't
    seen the London Gazette articles before. Excellent.

  5. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day bexley84.13nov 2012.12:28pm.re:eek:peration torch,nov 1942.(p1)thank you for posting this very interesting thread.the link was worth watching.it is not an area you hear much about,regards bernard85
  6. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Before the Torch landings took place (and no doubt every other operation) there was much intelligence and undercover work carried out in preparation. I have just posted this article on the SOE forum that mentions one such mission that took place in North Africa.


    At less than 9 miles wide the vulnerability of shipping through the Strait of Gibraltar would have been a major consideration for Operation Torch and the destruction of this tracking station must have removed one obstacle to the success of the operation.
  7. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    I have been listening to the IWM interview of John Gowan, 56 Recce, C Squadron, 15 Troop who served with my father, Ernest Illingworth.

    "We all got our gear together and we went to Glasgow and got on a ship called the Marnix Van Sint Aldegonde, which was a Dutch East Indies luxury liner and they had a lot of landing craft on the deck, probably a dozen. We had no vehicles; we didn't take them with us, and we set sail down the Clyde and joined the main convoy outside and headed into the Atlantic, on the fast convoy. We weren't told what we were going to do and where we were going, but we waited for the slow convoy to get to almost the same place as we were, when we went through the Straights of Gibraltar. We didn't land at Gibraltar although the rest of them did, but we were told that there was still street lighting in Algiers, but that didn't mean a thing to us. Then we found out we were going to make a beach landing, our Squadron, just our Squadron, six o'clock in the morning on the 8th November 1942."

    object description:

    Inspection of troops aboard ST MARNIX during the world's greatest combined operation when the 500 ship convoy safely transported allied troops to French North Africa, where simultaneous landings were made at strategic points

    dbf and Owen like this.
  8. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Part of the convoy stretching towards the horizon, as seen from MS Marnix Van Sint Aldegonde


    MS Marnix Van Sint Aldegonde


    (Many thanks to Tony56 for link to website)

    Edit: John Gowan's memory of disembarking:
    "We had to go down these scrambling nets in to pontoons they were-they didn't have doors that dropped at the front, they were just pontoons. They took us to the beach and of course we had to jump over the fronts; it is surprising how heavy a bren-gun is when you are jumping from the boat and down into the sand; the drivers were carrying the ammunition boxes with the spare magazines in"
    dbf likes this.
  9. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    A little addition.....British submarine dispositions re Operation Torch.

    Attached Files:

  10. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    The caption of the two photos on the following links state that they depict soldiers disembarking the troopship Marnix van St Aldegonde into landing craft during Operation Torch.



    The troops have a ‘51’ shoulder badge, any members able to identify who they are?

    In addition they have, what appears to be a somewhat makeshift white armbands, can anyone explain?
  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Almost five years since I posted this original note about Torch...now into the 75th anniversary cycle

    I've just came out off the phone after speaking to 1st Army veteran, Sergeant Charles Ward, who arrived on 22nd November 1942 at Algiers with my Dad....they were two of the lucky ones that got home to see their Mum and Dad in 1945.

    best wishes
    kopite, Recce_Mitch, 4jonboy and 2 others like this.
  12. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Amongst my father’s memorabilia is the following letter from 56 Recce colleague, Bill Eldridge:

    Dear Tony
    .......... Yes, I well remember going over to North Africa, also being told to get on deck of the ship to be taught how to fire a gun which I had never seen before.

    A gun crew consisted of one sailor and the rest of the crew was made up of us soldiers. We only had about 15 mins instruction then it was 4 hours on and 8 hours off for the rest of the trip. When we were well out at sea came a day when we practiced firing these guns, you know there were several on the boat, the gun turrets turned 1800 so we had good all round fire cover. When not on duty we had to remain below deck, it came as quite a surprise when after many days I went on deck to man the guns and from nowhere were thousands of boats, aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and many other warships.

    Up to this time none of us knew if this was the real thing, we did not even know where we were going, after being at sea I think 4 weeks or so, a few hours before landing we were told the invasion of Algiers.

    Then, as you say, them rope ladders, with the boat rocking plus rifle it’s a wonder anyone made it into the invasion boats. I do remember however practising up and down rope ladders in England prior to the trip.

    I was pleased to get into my armoured car with Ron Tee and Sid Rouse and we stayed together through N Africa, Sicily + Italy ..........
    Yours sincerely

    From 56 Recce War Diaries
    C Sqn, Commanding Officer Major J N Forshaw

    8 November 1942
    0720 1st party from Viceroy [Viceroy of India], landed, Lt Wheatley in charge of unit beach.
    0815 1st party from Marnix [Marnix Van St Aldegonde] landed, no opposition encountered from French. No enemy air activity. Spitfire patrols active from 1st light.
    0830 Proceeded to harbour area 1 mile East of Apples White Beach. Sqn now all present.
    1030 First vehicle landed – rear link wireless truck, closely followed by Royal Signals charging plant vehicle & Assault Troop stores truck. Sea becoming choppy & LCMs having great difficulty in landing vehicles. Consumption of rum amongst Naval ratings apparently partly responsible.
    1600 Harbour area in state of defence, no authentic news of position in ALGIERS, many rumours.
    Recce_Mitch, 4jonboy and bexley84 like this.
  13. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Just watched this cracking movie once again.

    I wonder how many of you recognised the voice of Bernard Miles representing the common British soldier ?

  14. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    QUOTE="Ron Goldstein, post: 767582, member: 341"]Just watched this cracking movie once again.

    I wonder how many of you recognised the voice of Bernard Miles representing the common British soldier ?


    Haven't watched it for a couple of years now and will watch it while I'm on my travels...hopefully I shall be able get over again to Tunisia during 2018

    best wishes
  15. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member Patron

    The sailings of the troopships involved in Operation Torch had a knock on effect with the Winston Special Conveys conveying troops out to India for the Burma Campaign.The Athlone Castle in WS 29 was routed out via Bahia, Brazil, on a more westetly course than usual. The ship left Liverpool 26.10.1943. The men were told that they were taking that route to avoid U Boats, and Operation Torch remained a secret to themmat least.

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