34 Beach Brick, RAF Component
The R.A.F. Component of 34 Beach Brick was formed on 1st June 1943 at Kabrit in Egypt and was attached to 1st Battalion Welch Regiment. The Commanding Officer of the R.A.F. Component was Squadron Leader R Willoughby. The unit establishment was 5 Officers and 35 Other Ranks, with all the Other Ranks and one of the Officers coming from 121 Maintenance Unit.
The unit was immediately involved in Exercise “DUCHESS”, making a practice landing from L.C.A.s at Sinai at 06:00 hours on 3rd June. They only had the rest of June to prepare for Operation ”HUSKY” - the invasion of Sicily. On 30th June the unit sailed from Port Tewfick to Port Said.
From 1st July to 4th July they waited at Port Said aboard H.M.T.s “WINCHESTER CASTLE”, “HORONTES”, “RHYS” and “DEVONSHIRE” and then they sailed from Port Said on 5th July 1943 and landed on D-Day, 10th July at Avola, Sicily. 34 Beach Brick landed with the 50th Division, part of the 8th Army’s 13 Corps.
While continuing to work on the beaches at Avola, supervising the unloading of R.A.F. Stores, P.O.L. and Ammunition and the disembarkation of R.A.F. personnel, part of the unit were attached to No. 2 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit (Overseas) at Syracuse.
On the 18th July the beaches were closed down and the R.A.F. Component personnel working there were attached to No. 121 Maintenance Unit to form No. 2 Park. The rest of the R.A.F. Component continued with Embarkation duties at Syracuse till the end of July and on into August.
On 21st August the unit left Syracuse to re-locate at Buccheri and rejoin No. 34 Beach Brick. They were now preparing for Operation “BAYTOWN” - the landings on the toe of Italy. 34 Beach Brick was assigned to work with the 1st Canadian Division (part of 13 Corps) for the assault across the Straits of Messina.
The unit now had signals personnel added. F/O D. M. Clark had joined the unit from No. 3 A.L.G. on 9th August “for Cypher duties” and on 28th August four more signals personnel arrived on attachment pending posting. These were a Code & Cypher Sergeant plus a Corporal and two L.A.C.s who were Wireless Operators.
On 2nd September 34 Beach Brick R.A.F. Component left Buccheri for Catania where they embarked on L.C.I.s 52 and 53 and sailed out of Catania at midnight. At 06:30 the next morning (D-Day, 3rd September) they landed with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade on the FOX beach sector just north of Reggio di Calabria (between the mouth of the Fiumara dell'Annunziata and the mouth of the Torrente Torbido further north).
The next day 34 Beach Brick R.A.F. Component moved into Reggio di Calabria where they carried out Embarkation duties throughout September, October and into November. A number of personnel were hospitalised for varying lengths of time during this period, including the C.O. S/Ldr Willoughby who was in hospital for 21 days, F/Lt Penny assuming command during this time.
On 21st November the R.A.F. Component of No. 34 Beach Brick was disbanded. The unit personnel were distributed between Nos. 61 and 67 Embarkation Units, H.Q. T.A. F., No. 38 P.T.C. and No. 2 Beach Group.
Arrangements were made with the Town Major Reggio to route onwards the three Other Ranks who were still in hospital.
There is a photograph relating to 34 Beach Brick R.A.F. Component that appears in the Imperial War Museum Collections Online:
Photograph No. NA 6492 was taken on 3rd September 1943. The official caption for the photo is:
“Operation BAYTOWN: the first men of the RAF Regiment to arrive in Reggio, Italy, establish their headquarters in the town within minutes of landing.”
This description is incorrect in referring to the R.A.F. Regiment. The photo shows a signboard on the building displaying an R.A.F. roundel and “34 Brick”. From this it is clear that the photo shows the headquarters of 34 Beach Brick, R.A.F. Component.
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