The great contribution of the No 1 Combined Training Centre to the war effort is a matter of public record. Its key role was to train service personnel in the latest techniques of small landing craft amphibious warfare. Around 250,000 personnel passed through the portals of the training centre from 1940 to 1944. At any one time up to 15,000 service personnel were billeted in the area - the impact on the small community of 500 can only be imagined!
HMS Quebec was a part of the No 1
Combined Training Centre - see photo opposite of the original HMS Quebec
badge. The name was most likely selected because of
Captain Wolfe's Combined Operation
to capture the Abraham Heights at Quebec.
Churchill and his planners knew that when the invasion of Europe began the Allies would need a well trained and equipped invasion force drawing on the resources of all three services. Such was the magnitude of the task assigned to Combined Operations in terms of the numbers to be trained, the diversity of the training and the procurement of equipment that a total of 45 Combined Operations Establishments were set up in the west of Scotland and the south of England. (Click on map to enlarge, then hold cursor over map and click on the 'Expand to Regular Size' box that will appear).
The focus here falls mainly on the No 1 Combined Training Centre (No. 001 CTC) at Inveraray which trained around a quarter of a million forces personnel in just 4 years. This was undoubtedly the largest training operation mounted in the history of the United Kingdom.
Information on each of the establishments included in the map opposite is available by clicking here.
CTC Inveraray was set up in October 1940 and continued almost without interruption until July 1944 – a month after D-Day which was the largest amphibious landing in the history of warfare. (Click on map to enlarge, then hold cursor over map and click on the 'Expand to Regular Size' box that will appear).
Training was provided for commandos, brigade groups in the assault role, formations in follow up and building up, port operating companies, squadrons of the RAF Regiment and RAF and servicing commandos.
There was no training manual to follow. New ground was being broken at Inveraray in terms of the scale of the operation and the technology of warfare which had changed greatly since the Great War of 1914 – 1918. This was therefore a time of experimentation, innovation evaluation and redesign.
Over the years therefore the training provision changed and new training establishments were opened elsewhere to meet specific needs. An example of this was the provision of RN Beach Signals/Section training. At the instigation of Mountbatten the Combined Signals School (CSS) was formed at HMS Quebec on the 1st of November 1941. This was a very early example of a Combined Unit and it must have been an unusual sight to see personnel from all three services parading together and reporting to a Signals Duty Officer who could be from any one of the three services! (Photo; Inveraray street 1940s. Click to enlarge).
The CSS taught signalling procedures and assisted in the development of new techniques and procedures. They were also involved in early forms of navigational aids involving radio and other devices which were designed to help landing parties locate their designated landing beaches. In 1942 the school moved to Troon (HMS Dundonald 2).
It was noticeable that the effectiveness and efficiency of the training delivery and the training itself improved over the years.
The Army presence comprised four Wings viz; Brigade Group, Army Tank, RE (Tn) & REME. The Army Tank and RE (tn) Wings provided training for their own personnel. They were allocated craft, accommodation and lecture rooms according to their needs and availability and their participation in exercises was independent of the Brigade Group Wing.
The Royal Navy
The Royal Navy presence at Inveraray took the form of a Naval Staff, under a Captain RN, working directly to the Commandant. A few miles to the south was a large naval establishment called HMS Quebec also under a Naval Captain who, by virtue of his seniority, was also Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) Inveraray. HMS Quebec’s primary role was to provide and maintain craft for training operations and to accommodate personnel drafted in for the training of units at the CTC. (Photo; Hired Transport Ettrick off Inveraray).
There was a small RAF presence of two Officers on the staff of the Commandant. The CTC also had a call on 614 Squadron RAF for the provision of aircraft for training purposes.
HMS Quebec was the naval part of the No 1 Combined Training Centre. There was a second part to this establishment in the Hollywood Hotel, Largs and for the sake of clarity they were designated HMS Quebec I and HMS Quebec II respectfully.
At HMS Quebec II a training course for staff officers in WW2 Combined Operations was established. Visit the website of the Combined Arms Research Library (Digital Library) for details of the course content. The courses were held from July 1943 to March 1944. A total of 1158 officers completed the intensive course including 153 from the Royal Navy and Marines, 379 from the British Army, 122 from the Canadian Army, 351 from the RAF and 153 Allied. We're grateful to Martin Briscoe of Fort William, Scotland for drawing our attention to this invaluable source of information.
Training Under Fire. In the more advanced stages of training mock landings took take place under realistic war conditions. 516 Squadron based at RAF Dundonald in Ayrshire laid on low level 'attacks' strafing the beaches or laying smoke while landings were in progress. Mortar shells fired from nearby positions and small arms fire completed the hazardous effects. Injuries and even deaths were not unknown during these exercises but the greater need was to give the men a taste of conditions they were likely to face against the enemy. In 1992, on a training beach at Gortenfern, Kentra on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, evidence of this activity was found in the form of mortar shell casings and .303 bullets dated 1942. Peace and tranquillity have long since returned to this beautiful location and today little or nothing of all this activity remains to be seen. ((Photos; mortars, bullet, map of area and the beach today).
Ode to Inveraray. Not everyone was enamoured with the virtues of
Inveraray as this poem circulated around the Royal Engineers in Chamois Camp
amply demonstrates! At the time Inveraray had a population of about 500 while
the various training camps often had 15,000! To be fair to Inveraray it is
thought that similar poems were written about many other remote locations only
the name being changed n some cases.
Extracts from the Diary of an Inveraray Resident Courtesy of the Combined Operation Association's 'Bulldozer' Newsletter.
There was a constant turnover of service personnel as units left the area on completion of their training while others arrived to take their place. This is a record taken from the diary of a local resident. It does not claim to be a complete record or accurate in every detail but it gives a sense of the movements involved.
This is a typical report from the Air Section of the No 1 Combined Training Centre for March 1944. The report is presented as typed except for the addition of photographs.
(B) At various times during the month No 516 (Combined Operations) Squadron, R.A.F, Dundonald co-operated with Fighter, Smoke and Bomber Aircraft on the following exercises:-
Exercises "Newton Bay" - Saturday 1st April, 1944, (Assault Exercises with live ammunition - zero0700 hours and 18.30 hours).
Exercises "Newton Bay" - Sunday 16th April, 1944, (Assault Exercises with live ammunition - Zero 17.30 hours).
Purpose of Exercise "Newton Bay".
Exercise "Newton Bay" is an Assault Exercise using live ammunition supported by artillery, tanks and aircraft, the latter providing smoke screens, bomber support and fighter bomber support. (Photo of Hurricanes 'attacking' Newton Bay).
Exercise "Airshow" due to take place on Tuesday 18th April, 1944 had to be cancelled owing to adverse weather conditions.
Aircraft on five occasions for various exercises had to be cancelled owing to unfavourable weather conditions. The Forward Air Link Control was again provided from the R.A.F. Seaplane Tender No. 1533stationed at this Combined Training Centre.
During the month the
Air Staff Officer (S/Ldr. J. Huggan) gave lectures on the Air Aspect of Combined
Operations on nine occasions to the following:-
(C) No.12 course for
the Royal Air Force Regiment in Combined Operations was held at this Combined
Operations Training Centre on the following dates:-
(D) The following
Officers visited the Air Section of this Combined Training Centre, during the
course of the month:-
Signed (J Huggan),
The Closure of HMS Quebec Courtesy of the Combined Operations 'Bulldozer' of 1946.
H.M.S. Quebec has been added to the list of those ships and establishments for which 'no further requirement exists,' and we commence 'paying off' on 1st June, 1946. In actual fact the great exodus has already started and a steady stream of personnel, craft and ships is constantly moving southwards.
It seems fitting that Quebec should not be allowed pass without recording a brief summary of its history and achievements. A large percentage of both naval and military personnel who took part, both in the smaller combined operations, which preceded it and in the main assaults on Europe, were trained at this base. Quebec has also, throughout its history, been actively associated with our Corps activities in various spheres, and many Royal Marines have 'passed through.'
H.M.S. Quebec is a Combined Operations establishment, situated on the upper reaches of Loch Fyne, Argyllshire, some two miles from Inveraray. The base derived its name from the historical operations which resulted in the capture of Quebec in 1759. Roads in the establishment were named after Admiral Saunders and Admiral Holmes, both of whom had distinguished themselves in this operation. The foreshore was named "The Caronage," the name given to that part of the beach where old-time sailors careened their ships.
Commissioned on the 1st May, 1941, the main functions of the base were to train and accommodate naval landing craft crews, to accommodate officers and men in "pool" awaiting draft and such crews as were used in combined training by C.T.C., Inveraray.
The base was also to have extensive repair and storage facilities and to carry the pay accounts of some thousands of Combined Operations ratings. The usual growing pains were experienced in opening the camp, which first consisted of twelve wooden huts, the necessary galleys, pay offices and a small canteen. The huts were built on stilts, as the ground was wet and boggy and not, as at the present time, well drained. The situation on the shores of Loch Fyne was extremely practical as well as being picturesque. A steel pier was erected and this could be used at any state of the tide by landing craft. A gently sloping beach, with protection from all but S.W. gales, ensured the easy handling of craft for repair and maintenance.
Some 450 officers and men were in camp by the middle of May, 1941, and work went on apace in further construction. Engineering workshops, boat slips, the Wrennery and a well fitted sick bay were completed. Training, which had up to that time been carried out from various ships moored in the Loch, now settled down to a steady cycle, twelve officers and 150 seamen arriving from H.M.S. Northney every fortnight. Flotillas were commissioned for the Lofoten, Vaagso and Spitzbergen raids and both day and night training was carried on by these crews operating with the C.T.C.
A rifle range and assault course were built on the rising ground behind the camp and the whole area resounded to Lewis, tommy-gun and rifle fire and grenade explosions. Newton, an almost uninhabited spot on the opposite side of the Loch, was now being used as a training ground for assault landings, and Quebec supplied craft and crews to work with Major Landing Craft Flotillas and the military units in both day and night operations.
Life in camp was rigorous, and the base staff were fully extended in the work of maintaining the craft and in accommodating and administering the continual flow of trainees and others passing through the base. The W.R.N.S. were with us from the very day Quebec first commissioned, and they now began to descend upon us in large numbers, infiltrating with great success into all departments. Some of the duties which this wonderful Service took upon itself were transport drivers, cooks, stewards, writers, communication ratings, electrical ratings, messengers, generator watch-keepers, ship’s mechanics and duty boats’ crews. Some also specialised in painting and welding. This influx of the fair sex not only relieved a hard pressed base staff and permitted the release of personnel for sea service, but added considerably to the amenity possibilities.
In 1941 the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill paid a visit to the base and gave one of his typically fighting speeches before he left.
H.M. The King, accompanied by the C.C.O. ( Admiral Lord Keyes ), also visited Quebec and inspected the ship’s company. A touch of colour was lent to this memorable visit by the dress of the Lascars (sailors from the East Indies) of Winchester Castle, who mustered with several contingents from ships in harbour.
Local facilities for recreation have always been meagre in the extreme. Long leave in those early days was not to be thought of. Short leave was restricted to the village of Inveraray, which possessed few facilities for catering to the requirements of such a vast number of Navy, Army and Air Force personnel as were now camped around its environs. The local ladies ran a W.V.S. which did yeoman service through the whole of the war period. Dances, whist drives etc. organised by the various Services and local people, helped enormously to keep up morale and provide some essential distraction from the unending training programmes. Periodical leave was not organised until the beginning of 1942, and as all liberty men had to travel by a skeleton service of buses between Inveraray and Glasgow, numbers had to be kept to a bare minimum. Later, when things got more into swing, a regular service of R.N. transport, assisted by the Army M.T. Pool, was run to and from the railhead at Arrochar, 27 miles distant, and regular leave has since been granted every three months.
Much could be written about the activities of various Flotillas and special parties who passed through the base, not forgetting the Canadians who eventually took part in the historic Dieppe raid, but space does not permit.
Visits were paid to the base in 1942 by H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester, H.R.H. The Duchess of Kent, Admiral Stark of U.S.N., and several other high ranking officers of the various Services. One memory, however, of all personnel, who knew Quebec, will always predominate over others… the weather. Rain, rain and yet more rain. Some of the older inhabitants, it is rumoured, had to be whisked away quickly when it was found that their feet had started to become "webbed." Yet, bad as the weather could be, it seldom was bad enough to prevent training, which went on unhindered by enemy activities or from any other cause. Early in 1942 the numbers of personnel passing through so increased that it was necessary to take over Chamois Camp and several "lines" in the Army Town Camp at Inveraray. Later, it became necessary to use two accommodation ships, the Northland and the Southland, which were moored just off the Camp Pier.
In 1943 several outstanding incidents occurred. The camp cinema was opened by Miss Evelyn Laye, whose visit to Quebec was greatly appreciated. Her wish that many happy hours would be spent by us in that same building has certainly been fulfilled. In the same month a large section of the training was transferred to Dartmouth, and in August the same year H.M.S.Copra, which was now dealing with 5,000 accounts, deserted the safety of Argyll for the blitz area of London. That year marked he peak of Quebec’s activities. The Junior Officers’ Club was instituted and opened, visits to us were paid by Mr. A.V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and several other notable people and high ranking officers. Late in 1943, we also received our first H.M. Flotillas and under the eyes of the experienced naval landing craft personnel the Royals began to infiltrate into Quebec’s life. The advent of the Royal Marines was welcomed in the camp, as this infused a keen and friendly rivalry in both work and sports which has continued to this day.
Visits by H.M. The King of Norway and Crown Prince Olaf and several high-ranking officers, inspections and real solid hard work marked 1944-45, and much more valuable training was accomplished. The social and recreational side of camp life was further extended. Association football, rugby, and in the summer, cricket and sports meetings were held. Indoor entertainment was provided by dances, regular cinema performances, socials, whist drives and boxing meetings, and the Quebec network of wireless programmes was instituted.
The invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and, later, N. France, were all followed with profound interest at Quebec, where so many crews were taking part in these operations had received their basic training. The close of hostilities against Germany found Quebec a highly organised, efficient and smooth working base, with a record of solid if unspectacular achievement behind it.
VE-Day was celebrated, therefore, in the full realisation of work well done. Training still continued, however, until well after VJ- Day, which in due time was also celebrated in becoming fashion.
In October, 1945, the duties of Commanding Officer, H.M.S. Quebec, and N.O.I.C., Inveraray, were amalgamated and the command was passed to a Royal Marine officer, Lt. Col. W. F. Edds, O.B.E., R.M.
And now Quebec is paying off! The Loch is still dotted with a large number of ships and craft, but these are going and in a short while Loch Fyne will settle down to her old-time peaceful quiet and Quebec and her many activities will be but distant memories.
Photos courtesy of Stuart Kidd who runs an interesting website about Inveraray at www.visit-inveraray.co.uk Stuart writes... I have attached two photos of HMS Quebec at Inveraray. The first one, taken in the 40's, shows the Quebec camp looking south, with the drill hall/cinema in the centre background. I believe in the foreground are the hospital buildings. The second photo I took in late 2003. I tried to take it from a similar position and you can see that the drill hall is still there in the centre background. Today it is used as a recreation hall for various games and sports. (Click on the photos to enlarge).
We are interested in any old photos of HMS Quebec or Inveraray taken in wartime. If you have any please contact us.
Amphibious Training in the USA.
While researching the 348th Engineer Combat Bn. and their involvement in WWII, I
found this on-line publication "Army Ground Forces Studies". Not all chapters
are available for reading, however Section 22, "The Amphibious Training Center"
can be read on-line. Chapter VI describes training at Camp Edwards,
Massachusetts and specifically Commando training provided by Major Woodcock of
No. 1 Commando. Here's a link to the chapter: http://www.history.army.mil/
Inveraray. During WWII both my parents served (and met) at the Combined Operations Establishment in Inveraray. My father had been in the RN since 1934, when he joined as a boy seamen. From my father I remember that he was once apprehended on leave in Sheffield by a vigilant policeman who did not recognise his "mixed" uniform.
My mother was a P.O. in the WRNS - presumably in the Accounts Office at HMS Quebec. Among her papers I found this photo, which I remember her saying was taken at Inveraray sometime prior to 1944 when she left the service. She was then Olive Ann Elisabeth Smith. She's the middle one of the three Wrens. I assume the photo is of the members of the Accounts Department where she was employed, perhaps the wooden building behind them housed their office... but this is speculation. Does anyone recognise the surroundings or the people in the photo? Click on the photo to enlarge it.
If you can help please contact Chris on the e-mail link opposite.
After reading the web pages of 'Combined Operations' I recall a tale told to me a few years ago while visiting the Muckleburgh Collection Museum in North Norfolk. I spoke to its founder, the late Berry Savory, who told me that he had served at Inveraray Castle in WW2 as part of a training facility prior to D-Day. One of the reasons for choosing this location was its distance from German airfields - it was beyond the range of all aircraft they then had to carry out a mission and return to base.
One day they heard a droning in the sky and the consensus was that it was a German aircraft. The military authorities contacted London and were told to, 'dig in'. London was asked, 'With what?' The reply was, 'We are sending the necessary equipment.' Some time later a very large lorry consignment of standard pick heads arrived but there were no handles. London was asked, 'Where are the handles?' Reply, 'We will send some'. Berry laughingly recalled that the handles never did arrive, but, if they had, hand held picks would have made little impression on the rocky terrain around Loch Fyne!
The plane apparently crashed somewhere in the Midlands after running out of fuel. It had obviously become hopelessly lost during its mission. Berry was sure that somewhere in the vicinity of the castle is a large pile of badly rusting pick heads!
This page about the No 1 Combined Training Centre, Inveraray was prepared by Geoff Slee from research material by Phill C Jones.
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