36 Beach Brick, R.A.F. Component
On 16th July 1943 Squadron Leader G.C.H. Ade arrived at the Combined Training Centre at Kabrit, Egypt having been appointed to command the R.A.F Component of No. 36 Beach Brick. He returned to Headquarters R.A.F. Middle East the next day to request the posting of personnel to make up the unit establishment of 5 Officers and 35 Other Ranks. H.Q R.A.F. M.E. agreed only to post 25% of the unit strength until operations were imminent.
36 Beach Brick R.A.F. Component formed at Kabrit on 20th July 1943, with 3 N.C.O.s and 6 airmen from No. 140 Maintenance Unit joining S/Ldr Ade. The R.A.F. Component was immediately involved in Exercise “DUCHESS”. This was a full scale Brick exercise that lasted from 22-25 July. Another officer joined the R.A.F. Component after the exercise and the unit engaged in general training, including lectures, P.T., route marches and swimming.
The Army battalion that was the main component of 36 Beach Brick was 8th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment. 8th RTR had taken part in the Battle of El Alamein and then, in November 1942 was taken out of the line and gave up its tanks (1). The Commanding Officer, Colonel J.R. Winberg, was one of a number of officers who had been, “Mentioned in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East during the period November, 1941, to April, 1942” (2)
On the 4th August 1943 the RAF Component of 36 Beach Brick received instructions from Brick H.Q. to prepare for operations. At this time S/Ldr Ade had one officer and ten other ranks when he should have had four officers and 35 other ranks. His unit was therefore less than one third of the size it was intended to be.
On 5th August 36 Beach Brick left the Combined Training Centre at Kabrit to travel to Hadera. The R.A.F. component departed under the command of F/Lt Longmate while S/Ldr Ade went to H.Q. R.A.F. Middle East to try and get hold of the officers and other ranks he needed to bring his unit up to full strength.
On 6th August, while 36 Brick were crossing Sinai en route to Hadera, S/Ldr Ade got in touch with the Base Personnel Staff Officer and all the personnel he needed were posted. S/Ldr Ade contacted the units from which the men were coming and arrangements were made for them to go immediately to 25 Personnel Transit Centre at Helwan.
On 7th August S/Ldr Ade collected 2 officers, 17 N.C.O.s and 3 airmen from 23 P.T.C. and they set off in four 15 Cwt. Dodge trucks, joining a large convoy headed for Palestine. They arrived at Ismailia later that day.
36 Brick arrived at Hadera on the afternoon of 8th August and the next day S/Ldr Ade’s party joined them after crossing Sinai and going through Gaza.
At Hadera the R.A.F. Component reached its full establishment and a few days were spent preparing. On the 15th August the Mechanised Transport was despatched to Haifa for shipment and 36 Beach Brick set off by rail for Suez. At Suez they embarked for Exercise “OUTCRY”. The Exercise took place from 24th to 26th August and then on 27th August, Colonel Winberg addressed the men and told them the operation had been postponed.
From the timing of the above events it is almost certain that the operation they were preparing for was Operation “ACCOLADE”. This was to be the capture of Rhodes, Scarpanto and lesser islands to the North. Probably, the Beach Brick was intended for use only in the capture of Rhodes. This part of the broader plans was originally known as Operation “HANDCUFF” but later was known by the overarching “ACCOLADE” code name. Plans for “ACCOLADE” were scuppered in the second half of August because the Middle East Commanders in Chief did not have sufficient resources under their command and the Allied Chiefs of Staff decided not to commit the extra resources that would be required. (3)
36 Beach Brick R.A.F. Component continued with their training. Early in September 1943 36 Beach Brick moved back to Hadera by rail and the R.A.F. Component was attached to R.A.F. Hadera for more training. The Germans took control of Rhodes from the Italians on 11th September and the occupation of Cos, Leros and Samos by the British began on 14th September. The R.A.F. Component left R.A.F. Hadera and rejoined 36 Beach Brick on 26th September. Training continued.
On 1st October 1943, the Chiefs of Staff again authorised plans for the capture of Rhodes (by the end of October).
On 3rd October the second in command of 36 Beach Brick gave instructions to the RAF Component to again prepare for operations. Exercise “LANDCRAB”, a ‘dryshod’ Brick exercise took place on the 7th and 8th October and then on the 13th October notification was received that the operation being prepared for had been cancelled.
It is likely (because the dates fit) that the operation 36 Beach Brick was preparing for was related to the re-activated plans for the capture of Rhodes. Cos was invaded by the Germans on 3rd October and lost by the next day. The planning to recapture Rhodes now might have included the re-capture of Cos, but was again suspended following a conference of the Middle East Commanders in Chief on 12th October.
At the end of October 1943 the R.A.F. Component moved with 36 Beach Brick back to Kabrit C.T.C. From 10th October arrangements were made for the R.A.F. Component to transfer from A.H.Q. A.D. East Medn. to 206 Group. The R.A.F. Component took part in full scale Brick exercise “DUCHESS” 12th – 13th October but then re-located at 107 Maintenance Unit. S/Ldr Ade and F/Lt Longmate continued to work with 36 Beach Brick to ‘maintain operational liaison’ while most of the unit worked for 107 M.U.
The C in Cs had decided on 12th October that Samos and Leros would be held but Leros was lost to the Germans on 16th November and so, finally, on 18th November, the order came that all troops were to withdraw from the Aegean and all ambitions in that area were abandoned.
Early in December there was some Beach Brick training and then in the middle of the month the R.A.F. Component moved back with 36 Beach Brick at Kabrit. The R.A.F. Component was re-organised and there was more training and then on 28th December 1943 the unit moved with 36 Brick to a new location at Ataka YC Camp.
The Operations Record Book for 36 Beach Brick, R.A.F. Component ends at this point. It is likely that the R.A.F. Component was disbanded not long after.
8th RTR was re-equipped with tanks in early 1944 and went to Italy, where it served until the end of the war. 36 Beach Brick was later to be the reserve beach group for 104 Beach Sub-Area (GOLD assault area) for the invasion of Normandy. The 36 Beach Brick battalion for that operation was 18th Bn. Durham Light Infantry. There was no R.A.F. beach unit attached.
(1) See: http://www.desertrat.brigades.btinternet.co.uk/7thABunits.htm
(2) See: London Gazette Supplement, 11th Dec 1942, Issue 35821 at www.gazettes-online.co.uk
(3) See: 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, Chapter XV, Operations in the Aegean
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