Friday, December 30, 2016

Little Library: Final Touches (4).

Voila! Fini!

Signage Tells the Tale. All Done!

When I attached the final sign this morning, bottom of the front door, I gave a little cheer. Looks good, I thought. Then I opened and closed the door a few times. Feels good, I said to myself. Good n sturdy!

 Five feet of post. Have shovel, will travel.

Red arrows are on each side of the library too. Good 'sell job'.

I think I can say this now.... the workshop is officially closed for the rest of 2016!

(That being said, with three little free libraries on order, I will be opening its door early February, sooner if I get the itch.)

Stay tuned for 2016 IN REVIEW.

Please link to Little Library: Final Touches (3).

Photos GH

Monday, December 26, 2016

Little Library: Final Touches (3).

A Sign I'm Getting Very Very Very Close to the End

Little messages tell the tale.... Trade Books

It's also about time to make a phone call:

"Good morning. Are you ready for me to dig a hole in your  front lawn? See you real soon."

Photo GH

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Little Library: Final Touches (2).

Final Little Jobs on the Big Project

The Little 'Free' Library stands ready for the Final Touches

As I come down to the wire I have to inspect the library closely. I see I need to give the plexiglass a wipe - it collects dust like a magnet - then vacuum the interior and check the security system.

 All four walls and roof panels are solid. No 'wobblies'. Check.

 Solid pine strips inside door frame are solid, will act a drip edge. Check.

 Base is tight, as are ship lap edges on three walls. Check.

 Corners look and feel snug. Check.

 Door catch lines up with outer door snap. Snap! Check.

Platform and collar for the five-foot 4" x 4" support post are painted!

So, I can begin work on the last little job.... signage. Check.

First, I need a cup of dark roast to steady my nerves. 

More to follow.

Please link to Little Library: Final Touches (1).

Photos GH

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Little Library: Final Touches (1).

Last of Its Kind.

The gray barnboard is the last in stock, perhaps forever!!

I'm going to miss loading up the trunk of my Honda Civic with 16-footers of gray barnboard from Fenelon Falls. I enjoyed a handshake deal with a local lumber yard for several years, but it has come to an end. (If you hear a lonely coyote howling at the moon, that could be me!)

That being said, I have also enjoyed the process of turning the last of the barnboard into a 'little free library' for someone in my community. The gray lumber, rich brown cedar roof and sturdy red door (w plexiglass) look A1, in my opinion, and I am but a few days away from adding the final touches, i.e., attaching signage, placing a few used books inside and making a delivery.

 A bit of painting yet to do before I can say, "Fini! Voila!"

Stay tuned.

Please link to Little Library 13

Photos GH

Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (2).

Givenchy III on The Spit 

The Spit, formerly called Givenchy III Canadian Navy base, offshore of
Comox, BC, a designated Combined Operations training centre, 1943 - 46. 
Photo Credit - Comox Museum, circa 1930s (Looking south) 

The Goose Spit, currently home to HMCS Quadra (Sea Cadets)
A paved road now connects The Spit (front centre) to Comox (right)
Courtenay is on far shore, far right. Photo by GH - Looking north

The Spit is one documented location in Canada where training occurred (e.g., aboard landing craft) related to Combined Operations during WW2. Several Canadians in Combined Ops, including my father Doug Harrison, arrived on the scene to perform various services - from menial dining room activities to serious D-Day landing exercises or rehearsals (aboard Canadian-built landing crafts) - after serving two years overseas aboard crafts that participated in well-known raids (e.g., Dieppe) and full-scale invasions, i.e., in North Africa, Sicily and Italy (1942 - 43).

I was motivated to visit The Spit and other sites (on three occasions thus far (between 2012 and 2016) after stumbling upon a news article my father wrote in the early 1990s. It began with the following intriguing lines:

In 1944 I was stationed in barracks on a piece of land called "The Spit" at Comox on Vancouver Island, BC. About a half mile of water separated the spit from Comox and to get ashore we had to be inspected and travel to Comox on a real Liberty ship.

Before visiting I combed through my father's memoirs and realized he had written a good deal not only about being stationed at The Spit but about his duties there as well. A few lines tell the beginning of the tale:

(After the invasion of Italy, Sept. 1943, and arriving back in Canada in December of the same year) Then I went to Givenchy III, known as Cowards Cove, at Comox on Vancouver Island. It was absolute heaven there. Just normal routine; I trained a few zombies on cutters and played ball five or six times a week under a good coach.... I also looked after Captain Windyer's sailboat and prepared it when he wished to go for a sail.... At Givenchy III I passed professionally for my Leading Seaman - Acting Coxswain rating, classed Very Good.

I have walked completely around and criss-crossed The Spit a few times and explored 1940s newspapers (hard copies and microfiche) and books at both the Courtenay Library and hospitable Courtenay Museum and Archive. Though most remnants of Combined Ops' past is gone, several details remain and give one the sense that hard work and good leaves were the norm. Significant ships and crews visited "The Spit" during WW2 and significant training took place in the waterways round and about the area, a taste of which can be easily enjoyed while enjoying scenic walk-abouts or scanning old newspapers.

On Friday, 20 May 2016, I sent the following email home from Comox:

Subject: The Spit

All is well. The day was very good for hiking around the spit, with temperatures between fifteen and twenty with some clouds. Many photos will be clear and bright.... I am thinking of repeating the trek on another suitable day. I enjoy walking on the spit and the bus to and from Comox is easy to use, just ten minutes away from the house (AirBnB in Courtenay).

Photographs tell part of the story:

 Buses get within a mile or so, but do not run out to the DND property.
I walked to The Spit (30 min.), then around it (1 hr. plus) and onto DND land.
Evidence remains of old Navy buildings, barracks, but not of ball diamonds.

 Canadians in Combined Operations heading west to Vancouver Island.
(L-R) Don Linder (Kitchener), Chuck Rose (Chippewa), Buryl McIntyre (Norwich)
Joe Watson in foreground (Simcoe), Don Westbrook (Hamilton) 

Combined Training Operation in Canada. Assault training at
the Combined Operations School, Courtenay, B.C., January 1944.
Photograph - National Film Board. Six Years of War, Page 114

 Navy Ball Team. Possibly taken in Campbell River, 1944 or 1945
(L-R) Back row, starting third from left: Chuck Rose, Doug Harrison, 
Jim Malone, Bill Grycan, Doug Arney. The rest - unknown.

 Much can be learned about Givenchy III at Book: Land of Plenty

Ball diamond on The Spit may have been near rail line associated
with the Government oyster beds, as seen in top photo.

"Zombies on Navy cutters": A few more excellent 1940s photos about The
Spit can be found in the book entitled Sailor Remember by W. Pugsley

 The 'cutter basin' (i.e., the above photo) at low tide reveals a much
different profile, but the mountains in background remain the same.

A totem now stands where once stood the Navy team's ball screen
(As told me by a Comox resident and regular walker at The Spit)  

Practice swings by Doug Harrison. Bill Grycan in background.
Rail track can be seen behind them (linked to oyster beds?)

Bill Grycan (centre) and his bride. Bridesmaid and Groomsman, unknown
Purchased at Courtenay Museum by GH. 

More to follow.

Please link to Research: In Comox and Courtenay, BC (1).

Photos GH

Transition Zone Squared (10).

Another Good Week in the Books.

Photo: Trudging along near Blackfriars.

I walked every day last week for a total of 26.5 miles. Not bad for a geezer, some will say.

This week I may include bicycling (on board a recumbent exercise bike) more than once in my routine because I have a thick book I want to finish by New Years, and "readn and ridn" go hand in hand.

By the Numbers:

When I cycle, I count 20 min. as one mile. 90 min. = good readn time. 

Can I walk two more marathons in a row?

 My 10-week average is right around marathon distance!
I am an ancient marathoner after all!

Can you spot my last vacation?

Photos From Along the Way:

A new year is approaching. Will I maintain my average pace and cover 1,200 miles in 2017?

We shall see what we shall see.

Please link to Transition Zone Squared (9).

Photos GH

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dad's Navy Days - Gord's Stellar Research (1).

'You've Got Mail' From Vancouver Island, May 2016.

At the White Whale Restaurant, beside Courtenay Slough. Cheers!

Three times I have visited Vancouver Island (specifically Victoria, Esquimalt, Comox, Courtenay, Gladstone Brewery) in the last few years in order to conduct research related to my Dad's WW2 experiences as a member of RCNVR and Combined Operations. I feel each trip has been very worthwhile and good information has been uncovered at libraries, archives, museums and Navy bases. 'Walk abouts' and conversations or 'sit downs' at pubs are helpful too.

While away I emailed home to let my family know I was alive and well. On occasion I mentioned a few words or included a photo related to my research. Naturally, I suffered failures on several occasions or felt empty-handed because so much time has passed since my father served at a Combined Operations Training Centre (Givenchy III). Other times I could celebrate success and feel positive about not only trips to the Island but others planned for the future.

I 'celebrate success' in the following email:

Subject: Courtenay Slough, May 23, 2016

Hi Family,

I write this while enjoying my first coffee of the morning. I include a photo I took yesterday while enjoying a pint and chips at the White Whale Pub. The pub's deck overlooks the Courtenay Slough, used as a parking lot for boats to this day.

Dad would have parked landing crafts here, and walk a quarter mile with his buddies to the Riverside Hotel for pints, or to a movie at the Bickle Theatre next door, and maybe to a dance at Native Sons Hall, an impressive building next in line on the same street.

I cut my stay at White Whale short because the Memorial Cup games begin on TV at four pm. London Knights play today so I will come home for that game too.

The Courtenay library is closed, no microfiche for me, so I may bus it to Cumberland for their festivities (May 24th weekend). Their museum could also be closed, will check first. Big mining town in the forties, should be lots of good old buildings to stare at.

Hugs to all, Gord.

Not only did my London Knights go on to win the Memorial Cup but I greatly enjoyed the Victoria day festivities in Cumberland. Their museum was closed but a lively brew pub was open. As well, when I parked myself at the White Whale beside the Courtenay Slough I felt I was very close to a lively hub (or center of activities) enjoyed by young Canadian men and women during WW2. The former Combined Ops training centre at Comox (now HMCS Quadra) was close by as was Courtenay's town centre, with some buildings still standing that my father and his mates in the Combined Operations organization commonly frequented about 70 years ago.

Related Photographs:
 Navy No. 1 Ball Team, Lewis Park, Courtenay, 1944-45. Slough nearby.

 Wooden landing craft, parked in Courtenay Slough

 Old card displayed at Simms Park near Courtenay Slough

 Commemorative plaque at Simms Park, 50 metres from the Slough

 Riverside Hotel is up the hill, right, behind the tall trees. Slough is back left.
Lewis Park is back right. Bridge crosses the Courtenay River.

Hotel in late 1940s with Bickle Theatre and Dance Hall behind it.

 Native Sons (Dance) Hall still stands. Bickle (gone) was to the right.

 Riverside Hotel was destroyed in the 1960s.

Three members of Combined Operations at Givenchy III, on The Spit.
Comox is in the background, Courtenay 2 miles left of Comox. 
Doug Harrison (center) trained "Zombies on Navy cutters"

More to follow.

Photos GH

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Books: Combined Operations, 1940 - 1942

Combined Operations, 1940 - 1942

Prepared for the Combined Operations Command
By The Ministry of Information, London, UK

Front Cover: First Published 1943

Though I recommend this rare book highly I find it unusual in a couple of ways: It was published in 1943, two years before the biggest chapters of Combined Operations unfolded, i.e., before the conclusion of WW2. It was initially sold for 'one shilling net' but distributed 'second hand' by the Post Office, free of charge*. And it was 'prepared for (i.e., on behalf of) the Combined Operations Command by the Ministry of Information'.

Propaganda? Perhaps, but in the best sense of the word. I think it was produced during WW2 and (after its purchase) distributed at no cost in order to inform and encourage the British public about the War Offices's early attempts to attack Germany on European soil. 'Offense is underway' it proclaims, though initially as small but daring raids.

True? I say, very much so, as it records the beginnings of the Combined Operations organization, its initial raids into Norway and France before major invasions (e.g., into North Africa, Sicily, Italy and France) could take place. Details and photographs therein are also found in later texts, e.g., related to Commando raids upon (e.g.) Lofoten Islands, St. Nazaire and Dieppe.

On page 37 we learn that before members of RCNVR were involved in training for, and participation in, the raid at Dieppe, "a small force of Canadian troops (a company of Royal Canadian Engineers, detachments of the Edmonton Regiment, the Saskatoon Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals).... had formed part of an expedition which was organised to attack Trondhjem in April 1940 (but never sailed). The military forces had spent some time at a Combined Operations training Centre in Scotland, becoming familiar with various landing craft and learning the technique of making a landing on beaches held by the enemy."

Small forces, often made up of Commandos and members of all three forces, travelled great distances with spare resources, and their adventures are recounted, in such places as Egypt, Tobruk (Libya), Crete, Syria. We read of a raid on Rommel's house (Libya), another on military and economic targets at South Vaagso and Maaloy Island in Norway (see 'Shooting it out in the streets', Page 59), a successful raid on German radio-location equipment at the village of Bruneval in Northern France (Pages 65 - 70), and much more before encountering significant, first-hand accounts related to the well-known raids at St. Nazaire in March 1942 and Dieppe, August 1942.

Photos From Along the Way:

 Table of Contents, in part

Training familiar to some members of Combined Operations
Crossing mined rivers on toggle-rope bridges. Page 16

Invasion Rehearsal: Men engaged in combined operations must
learn to land powerful armaments on defended shores. A Bofors
A.A. gun is hauled aboard a tank landing craft. Page 16

 Attack! Attack! Attack! A Royal Marines' storming party leaps ashore 
from its landing craft under cover of a smoke screen. Inveraray. Page 16

 Jerry won't use that lot: Commando troops, having overpowered the German
garrison on the Lofotens, watch oil burning on the sea at Stamsund. Page 16

"The flames and flashes that belong to a raid"
Yaagso seen from Maaloy. Page 64

Highly recommended. Can be purchased at AbeBooks for under $10 Canadian.

*From Page 2: "There are many men and women in the Forces who would welcome a chance of reading this book; if you hand it in at any Post Office, it will go to them." 

Please link to READY, AYE, READY- An Illustrated History of the Royal Canadian Navy

Unattributed Photos GH