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 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.