Combined Operations Badge (embroidered cotton)
BuiltWithNOF
35 Beach Brick

 

35 Beach Brick, R.A.F. Component

One of a number of Beach Bricks formed in the Middle East, No. 35 Beach Brick, like the others, had an R.A.F. Component of 5 Officers and 35 Other Ranks. The Commanding Officer of the R.A.F. Component was Squadron Leader J.E.T. Murphy.

The infantry battalion in 35 Beach Brick was 18th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry. This was a new battalion of the D.L.I. formed early in 1943 at the Northern Counties Depot at Genefa in Egypt. It included men from other northern regiments as well as the D.L.I. The C.O. was Colonel Ralston who was from a Highland regiment and the Adjutant, Major Cameron was an officer of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. (1)

In due course 18 D.L.I. left Genefa and travelled by rail to Gaza. There they were issued with Combined Operations badges and 35 Beach Brick was formed. Trevor Barlow 1944

Trevor Barlow was one of the airmen who joined the R.A.F. Component of 35 Beach Brick. He was an M.T. Fitter who had left the U.K. in early 1943 and travelled down to South Africa and up the east coast to Egypt where he was posted to ‘35 Brick’. In his diary he noted a journey from Cairo to Gaza across the Sinai Desert in May 1943.

During May, 35 Beach Brick trained at Gaza, much of it taking place on the beaches and often at night. Late in May or early in June 1943, 35 Beach Brick left Gaza by rail to go back to Egypt. Arriving just outside Alexandria, 35 Beach Brick set up camp at the side of the road not far from the salt flats, where the camps of many different units stretched for miles. Some leave was allowed in Alexandria but it was not long before the Beach Brick personnel boarded ship in Alexandria harbour.

On 1st July 1943, just after Nos. 31, 32, 33 and 34 Beach Bricks embarked for the invasion of Sicily (Operation “HUSKY”), Trevor Barlow records that he left Alexandria by boat, “destination unknown”. Following the coast past Tripoli and landing at Sousse (Tunisia) on July 10th, he travelled by train to Bougie in Algeria.

After two weeks at Bougie, 35 Beach Brick travelled by road back into Tunisia, to a camp outside Bizerta. Here there was training in vehicle waterproofing and a practice landing from L.C.I.s. 35 Beach Brick were working with 46th Division and were training to take part in the assault landings at Salerno, in Italy (Operation “AVALANCHE”).

Trevor Barlow had a diving accident while training and was admitted to the U.S. 95th General Hospital with a severe neck injury. As a result he missed the operation he had been training for and never rejoined 35 Beach Brick. Staying in North Africa to recover from his injury, he eventually joined another unit in Italy at the end of 1943. (2)

The main British assault force for Operation “AVALANCHE” was assembled in the Tunis area. 35 Beach Brick embarked at Bizerta on U.S. manned L.S.T.s and sailed from there to Salerno Bay. The landings began on 9th September and 35 Beach Brick, operating on ‘Uncle’ Beach, was one of three beach groups serving the British landing beaches.

35 Beach Brick “had great difficulty in organising its beach area. Although the shingle and sand beach was good, and the exits satisfactory, the routes inland were narrow and flanked by ditches. Moreover enclosures, patches of wood, swampy ground, and irrigation channels abounded. The build up on the beaches went briskly, but to clear them was another matter, and the congestion became acute.” (3)

Major Cameron, Adjutant of the 18th D.L.I. won the M.C. for his efforts to help clear traffic congestion by leading vehicles off the beach with a Jeep while under fire from the enemy.

Reproduced below is the text of a message from the commander of 46th Division (10 Corps) thanking the personnel of 35 Beach Brick for their work in the Salerno beach-head.

C-O-P-Y

TO ALL RANKS OF 35 BEACH BRICK

You have now passed from my command, but on your doing so I should like to express to you the gratitude of 46 Div for your work. The courage, endurance and skill which you have displayed has contributed in no small measure to the success of a difficult and perilous venture. Overcoming all difficulties and conteming all dangers you have punctually discharged all craft and have established the Beach Maintenance Area.

We have all been members of the same team and with your help have won quite the most important “away” match of the season.

Thank you all and good luck to you all.

Signed. J.L.I. Hawkwsworth.

Maj-Gen

 Comd 46 Div

19 Sept. 43. 

N.B.  the word ‘contemning’ was mistyped in the original.

When the port of Salerno opened, 18th D.L.I moved in to work the port. The battalion returned to Egypt at the end of 1943 and then went back to the U.K. From there they were to land in Normandy as the infantry battalion in 36 Beach Brick – the reserve beach group for the GOLD assault area (Operation “OVERLORD”).

The R.A.F. Componentt of 35 Beach Brick was disbanded in November 1943. Some personnel joined a new R.A.F. beach unit that was being formed in the Mediterranean theatre (ultimately named No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit), while the others were posted to other units.

Squadron Leader Murphy returned to the U.K. where he was appointed C.O. of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit with the rank of Wing Commander.

(1) The information about 18th D.L.I. mostly comes from the memoirs of Harry Allen, written and published by Harry Allen under the title “Rise and Shine” in 2003 and printed by Rts (UK) Ltd, Kirkby, Merseyside, L33 8XF

(2) Trevor Barlow convalesced at Sidi Ferruch in October 1943 and was finally able to cross to Italy towards the end of the year. Passing through Taranto and Bari and then on to Foggia, he eventually caught up with the "remains of 55 Squadron" (his new unit) on Christmas Eve 1943. Trevor remained in Italy until 1946.

Many thanks to Trevor Barlow’s daughter, Sarah Thiele for contributing this information about her late father’s connection with the R.A.F. Component of 35 Beach Brick.

(3) Molony, C. J. C. “The Mediterranean and Middle East Vol. 5, The Campaign in Sicily 1943 and the Campaign in Italy 3rd September 1943 to 31st March 1944”, 1973, p280

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Copyright © J.M.Fenton, 2007-2011

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