Combined Operations in Hitler’s War – II

Combined Operations in Hitler’s War – II

06 Jun 24
Posted by: H E Horan
Message from the Editor

The third article from the NR archives in our series on Operation OVERLORD for the 80th Anniversary. The author considered the development of combined operations, logistics and equipment as background on the OVERLORD planning process. Originally published in January 1961 [49/1, p. 18]. A 30 minute read.

The Invasion of the Continent

From the moment he became CCO, Lord Louis Mountbatten had directed his long-term planners to give urgent consideration to the question of what was necessary in :he way of preparing for the eventual invasion of the Continent. In spite of what had been going on in the shape of current business (the raids and IRONCLAD), the CCO was able to forward to the Chiefs of Staff on March 18th a reasoned appreciation outlining the preparations which should be taken in hand at once. In this the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces and the Future Operational Planning Section assisted and concurred. When ‘D’ Day occurred it is interesting to review this document and see how right it was.

After consideration, the Chiefs of Staff decided to submit a minute to the Prime Minister requesting him to approve the policy of developing the facilities and defences of the south coast ports. At the same meeting the Chiefs of Staff decided that the planning of cross-Channel operations, including the larger scale raids in Home Waters should be undertaken by the staffs of C-in-C, Home Forces, C-in-C Fighter Command (and where applicable Bomber Command) and the staff of the Chief of Combined Operations in close consultation.

At the same time the Chiefs of Staff invited the Chief of Combined Operations, the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces and the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command to prepare a brief appreciation with the object of diverting German air forces from the Russian front. Note: It will be noticed that the title of Commodore, Combined Operations had been changed to Chief of Combined Operations; as such he had a seat on the Chief of Staff Committee. The appointment carried with it the ranks of Vice-Admiral, Lieutenant-General and Air Marshal.

Construction of Landing Craft ‘Hards’

The consideration of the Army requirements for a large-scale landing in France showed that the port facilities on the south coast of England could not possibly cope with the traffic. This difficulty was overcome by building ‘hards’ of concrete mattresses on the beaches where LST and LCT could beach and embark their cargoes over their ramps. Literally hundreds of miles of these mattresses were used in this country and on the Continent. At each ‘hard’ in this country, water and electricity were laid on and stores built for spare parts, food, clothing, etc.

Coordinator of Ministerial and Service Functions

The great scale of the work required before the Continent could be re-entered soon became manifest at COHQ, further not only the Services but many civilian Ministries would be involved. Accordingly the CCO obtained approval for Brigadier Sir Harold Wernher to be appointed to his staff with the title of Coordinator of Ministerial and Service Functions. His role was to bring together the many authorities involved in the projects and, having explained the matter to them, to co-ordinate and follow the progress of the work. It was about this time (March 1942) that approval was given by the United States Government for officers from the USN and Army to be appointed to the staff at COHQ.

The Dieppe Raid

Early in April both the Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces and the CCO became convinced that before any operation on a large scale could be launched against the German-occupied coast of France it would be only right and proper that something larger than a raid should be undertaken; in this all the latest ideas for overcoming the defences should be tried out and tanks should be employed.

Examination of the intelligence available showed that the town of Dieppe was the most favourable target. It was realised that, although this locality was not heavily defended, a town of its size could only be successfully raided if the number of troops used was considerable. It was estimated that as many as six battalions would be necessary. This was the number required for the large-scale trial envisaged, also tanks would be required to support the troops once they were ashore. From the air point of view, it was felt that the Germans would call up as many squadrons as they could to oppose the landing and this would provide plenty of targets for the RAF – this coincided with the ideas of the Chiefs of Staff mentioned earlier.

The Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, General Sir Bernard Paget, delegated his authority in the matter to the Commander-in-Chief, South-Eastern Command, Lt Gen B L Montgomery, who decided that the First Canadian Army should provide the troops to carry out the operation. The staffs of all these formations then joined the planners at COHQ and together they produced two plans.

The first, favoured by the Home Forces planners, was for a frontal attack delivered against the beaches of the town itself supported by two flank attacks, one to the west and one to the east, at distance of between 1 1/2 and 2 miles from the centre of the town. Shortly before the main assault was launched, parachute or gliderborne troops were to attack two heavy batteries of coast defence guns, one sited about six miles to the east and the other about 3 1/2 miles to the west. The second plan, favoured by the COHQ planners, was to make no frontal assault but to land two battalions at Puits (two miles east of the town) and two battalions to Pourvilles (2 1/2 miles west) and to keep two battalions as a floating reserve to be used to exploit success. Both plans entailed the maximum air support that was available, further it envisaged a bombardment of maximum intensity on the town. Naval opinion was not in favour of the frontal assault but it was perfectly feasible from the naval point of view.

After considerable discussion the Plan finally submitted to the Chiefs of Staff included the frontal assault preceded by intense bombardment from the air. Airborne troops were to be employed to capture the coastal batteries to the east and west of the harbour entrance.

The first full-scale rehearsal was carried out on June 13th, 1942, using the small harbour of West Bay (Dorset), but was not satisfactory and the CCO ordered another for June 23rd. The operation was then planned for July 4th. The weather on that day was unfavourable and the date was advanced to July 7th; in the interval two of the assault ships were hit by aircraft bombs while at anchor in Yarmouth (IOW) Roads, so the operation was cancelled and the troops returned to their training areas in Surrey and Sussex.

A New Directive

On July 27th a new directive on the Dieppe Raid was given to the CCO and it was under this that the raid was eventually launched. The plan was changed. To maintain security it was decided that the troops were to be embarked direct from their training areas and the embarkation and operation were to run as a coordinated whole. Further it was decided that Commandos should carry out the neutralization of the batteries flanking the town as there were times that weather conditions prevented the use of airborne troops when others could be landed from seaward. At a final conference just before the raiding force sailed it was decided to do without a preliminary bombardment from the air on the grounds that this would make it difficult for tanks to get over the rubble it would cause.

Operation RUTTER

As dusk was falling on August 18th the whole expedition, consisting of 139 ships and craft, sailed from four different ports-Southampton, Portsmouth, Shoreham and Newhaven. They reached their objectives right on time, although the Commando detailed for dealing with the coast defence battery to the east of the town encountered a German convoy when nearing the French coast. Surprise was complete, as was shown by the ease with which the coast defence battery to the west of the town was captured by the Commando detailed for the job.

The actual fighting ashore has been described fully in various publications. In all these great stress is laid on the bravery and fortitude of the troops but in spite of all this the frontal assault was a failure. On the other hand, the work done by the RAF was outstanding, as it resulted in the greatest air victory up-to-date in the war. The following table gives the details of losses inflicted on the Luftwaffe:

The following are the remarks of the AOC Fighter Command:

“From a close study of all reports available the following conclusions are Reached:

(a) From an air point of view the operation was highly successful, because it forced all available German Air Force aircraft to operate and thus enabled the Royal Air Force to inflict considerable casualties on the enemy’s forces on the Western Front and drew on his already depleted reserves.

(b) Although the operation was satisfactory, it was not of sufficient duration to deplete the enemy to a point where he was no longer able to make good his losses from his reserves.

As it was, the wastage inflicted on the German Air Force on the Western Front by Fighter Command was greater than during a month of recent offensive sweeps.”

New Material and Techniques

Once again the need for a Headquarters Ship was emphasised. It was unfortunate that HMS Bulolo (see Plate 15), which had recently been converted, was not ready in time; however two more ships were at once put in hand for conversion; the Signal Section at COHQ was responsible for producing the necessary plans.

Following on this was the formation of Naval Assault Forces. Up to date the ships used in any raids had been those that happened to be available at the time. The need for discipline, morale, tactical integration and competence applies just as much to naval forces as to army and air formations. Force ‘J’ was formed by the Admiralty, stationed in the Solent and formed the model for all later formations.

It had been proved that overwhelming naval support fire was essential to an opposed landing. Accordingly the staff at COHQ produced designs for what was known as the Landing Craft (Gun), which was an LCT which mounted two 4.7-inch naval guns, with its shallow draught to work close inshore (see Plate 11).

The most revolutionary idea proposed by COHQ was the fitting of large numbers of 65 lb. rockets on the decks of landing ships and craft (LCT (R)). At first LCT were fitted with 1,000 of these and in this way it was possible to drench an enemy-held beach just prior to the landing craft ‘touching down’. They provided a very awe-inspiring sight and were most successful in all future landings (see Plate 12).

To provide specially trained beach parties, fully equipped with the gear necessary for their work, a special school was established in the Clyde area. At the same time the beach parties were renamed Beach Commandos.

Again it was abundantly apparent that finding the right beaches was a matter of difficulty in what was usually early morning light obscured by the smoke of battle. Accordingly a Beach Pilotage School was set up at Glen Caladh, near Tignabruaich, from which delectable locality there emerged highly skilled officers who earned most favourable comment wherever they were employed.

At Dieppe, all the tanks were landed in daylight before the tank obstacles had been breached and the underwater obstacles had been destroyed. A school for the destruction of beach defences was accordingly set up and produced the technique, training and equipment that was required. The removal of underwater obstacles was taken in hand by the Torpedo School at Portsmouth (HMS Vernon) and the Admiralty experts were most helpful in this respect.

Arising out of the use of fighter protection for the ships in the vicinity of the beaches, the Dieppe Raid proved that a ship was needed from which the movements of these aircraft could be directed and controlled. The Signal Section at COHQ was charged with the production of the necessary designs for the equipment. In consequence of their efforts, Fighter Direction Ships took part in all subsequent landing operations and proved their worth (see Plate 16).

Summing Up

The Raid on Dieppe is summed up by Sir Winston Churchill in his book, The Second World War, Vol IV, as follows:

“Dieppe occupies a place of its own in the story of the war, and the grim casualty figures must not class it as a failure. It was a costly but not unfruitful reconnaissance in force. Tactically it was a mine of experience. It shed revealing light on many shortcomings in our outlook. It taught us to build in good time various new types of craft and appliances for later use. We learnt again the value of powerful support by heavy naval guns in an opposed landing, and our bombardment technique, both marine and aerial, was thereafter improved. Above all it was shown that individual skill and gallantry without thorough organisation and combined training would not prevail, and that team work was the secret of success. This could only be provided by trained and organised amphibious formations. All these lessons were taken to heart.

Strategically the raid served to make the Germans more conscious of the danger along the whole coast of Occupied France. This helped to hold troops and resources in the West, which did something to take the weight off Russia. Honour to the brave who fell. Their sacrifice was not in vain.”

Alteration in Plans

Coincident with the work entailed by the preparations and mounting of the Raid on Dieppe, both the Planning and Administrative Staffs at COHQ were engaged in dealing with the question of dispatching an expedition with the object of taking and holding an area on the north coast of France, which was given the title of SLEDGEHAMMER – this was an attempt at a ‘Second Front’. However, early in July, 1942, the US Chiefs of the Army and Naval Staffs (General Marshall and Admiral King), accompanied by the President’s personal representative (Mr Harry Hopkins), paid a visit to London.

As the result of the deliberations that then took place it was decided that a landing on the North African coast was to be the major operation for 1942. This decision was given on July 28th, and on August 7th all the planning resources of COHQ were placed at the disposal of General D W Eisenhower, US Army, who had just been appointed as Allied Commander-in-Chief for the operation (TORCH), with Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay as his naval commander. These officers were integrated with the Commander-in-Chief’s staff and so had a hand in all the planning for the operation.

So much for the planning side of the operation. But as the CCO had under his command all the assault ships and craft in the UK it was the duty of COHQ to see that the requirements of the Allied Commander-in-Chief were met in full.

The following table shows requirements first notified in August and the actual numbers that sailed in October:

This clearly shows how, as planning progresses for an amphibious operation, the number of ships and craft inevitably mounts. The following remarks in an Admiralty report are of interest:

“It can be said that during this period of mounting ‘Torch’, the Admiralty lost control of the situation. It should be remembered, however, that speed of mounting and secrecy were essential factors and the contribution of COHQ to this mounting operation was immense… The purpose was to get a force together of sufficient magnitude and get it away secretly to date. That this force started mounting in September and carried out the operation early in November was in itself an extraordinary piece of work, and was only achieved by the relatively independent initiative of every individual responsible. There was no time for tidy co-ordination.”

Effects of Operation TORCH on CO Command

The effects of Operation TORCH on the Combined Operations Command as far as the naval side was concerned was stated by the CCO in a memorandum to the Chiefs of Staff dated September 30th, 1942. The final summing up is of interest in that it shows the paucity of the Combined Operations resources even at this date:

“(a) ‘Torch’ has taken more landing craft than I can produce crews for and numbers have had to be made up from other RN sources.

(b) The standard of training for a large part of the craft crews and assault forces is not high enough for a tough and protracted assault.

(c) So large a part of the Naval CO Command has been given up to ‘Torch’ that it will not be possible to train an adequate new force before the summer of 1943.

(d) The early formation of a Naval Raiding Force is an essential prerequisite for any re-entry into the Continent and it must be given regular fighting experience.”

Planning for the Invasion of Europe

While all this high pressure work was being done, the planning of the re-entry into the Continent had lain more or less fallow. But with the return of the COHQ planners from General Eisenhower’s staff when no longer required, it was taken in hand once more. As there were no small landing craft available for raids on the French coast, the raid planners were able to lend a hand in this matter – their knowledge and experience was of considerable value. One of the reasons for the shortage of landing craft was because the CCO had to supply from his own resources all the LCA required by the US Commanders who had the job of landing the US troops in the vicinity of Oran and Algiers – the USN at this juncture had no form of armoured assault landing craft.

The first real difference of opinion was where the actual landings should take place in France. The Army and the RAF wished to use the Pas de Calais area while the CCO advocated the Baie de la Seine. The chief reasons for favouring the latter was that the shore defences there were not on the scale of those along the French coast between Dunkirk and Boulogne, the beaches were better, it was a shorter haul from the embarkation ports on the South Coast of England and finally there was a certain amount of shelter to be had from the prevailing south-westerly winds.

Artificial Harbours

It became abundantly clear quite early in the planning stage that, wherever the landing did take place, some form of artificial harbour would be necessary to provide shelter for the ships and craft employed in the follow-up operations which would have to be on an unprecedented scale. Apart from Cherbourg there was no port on the north coast of France which could be used; moreover the capture and reconditioning of Cherbourg would be a major operation on its own. The idea emanated from COHQ that the thing to do would be to build synthetic harbours in the vicinity of the beaches used for the assault. Involving as it did a colossal expenditure of time, money and labour in the construction of concrete pontoons, this project did not get the necessary approval until well into 1943.

Petrol Supplies

Early in 1942, as part of the study of the problem of the re-entry into the Continent, the question of the supply of petrol in bulk was carefully considered at COHQ. The first solution proposed was to moor small tankers off the coast and pump the petrol ashore. The enormous quantities required and the danger of the tanker being hit and set on fire soon put paid to this method. But as the result of a trial the idea sprang up of laying a pipe-line across the Channel and pumping the stuff through it. After trials in the Thames Estuary and the Bristol Channel, which took some considerable time, it was decided that the best method was to lay a cable without its normal inside core and pump the oil through it. Such a cable was laid from Swansea to Watermouth (North Devon) and petrol was delivered through this at the rate of 37,200 gallons every twenty-four hours. As this was far from reaching the Army’s requirements, the Petroleum Warfare Board took a hand. They produced a flexible welded steel pipe of 3-inch diameter which was wound on a large floating drum and which could be laid under water from pumping stations on each side of the Channel. This worked out most satisfactorily and after ‘D’ Day, by using every available method, it was found that it was possible to supply the Army with about 1,000,000 gallons a day.

Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)

During the middle of 1942 the need for a large landing craft with considerable endurance became abundantly evident at COHQ. Accordingly designs were prepared by the staff and approved by the Admiralty. Owing to pressure of work these could not be built in UK shipyards, so the design was sent to the USA and a contract placed. These craft were of a novel design and were originally known as ‘Giant “R” Boats’. They had accommodation for 200 troops (sleep and feed) and actually crossed the Atlantic under their own power. In operations they were highly successful and were first used in the invasion of Sicily (Operation HUSKY), where their long endurance and good seakeeping qualities were most valuable.

Service Ministries and COHQ

By the end of 1942, as the result of the planning for the re-entry into the Continent, it became clear that the Service Ministries would have to undertake all the work that had been done by the CCO. The number of ships and craft required reached figures which corresponded to those of the strength of the Navy in peace-time, the personnel required to be entered and trained meant that special provision for them had to be made; as it was seen that combined operations would have to be undertaken on a world-wide basis, it was clear that all these matters would have to be controlled by the Admiralty.

As far as the Army formations were concerned, the numbers of military personnel required ran into millions. Arrangements for giving combined training to all these were far beyond the resources available to COHQ. In addition, large numbers of US troops would have to be transported to, accommodated and trained in the UK. This was clearly a job for the War Office.

A special committee was formed in the Admiralty under the Deputy First Sea Lord. As the result of this the Admiralty set up a Directorate of Combined Operations Personnel, which worked directly under the Second Sea Lord, the Engineering and Construction Departments of CCO became incorporated with DNE (CO) to form a new department known as Directorate of Combined Operations Material, while the Movement and Craft Section at COHQ became an Assistant Directorate of Operations Division. This disposed of all the activities of Rear-Admiral Commanding Landing Craft and Bases. At the same time the planning section of the naval staff at COHQ became a Deputy Directorate of Plans Division. Later a new Admiralty department was formed known as the Director of Combined Operations Division. All these new arrangements show what was necessary from the Admiralty point of view when Combined Operations were firmly deposited on its plate.

Casablanca Conference

A most important conference was held at Casablanca early in 1943 at which the future strategy of the war was dealt with. Among the many decisions taken by the President of the USA and Sir Winston Churchill was the following:

“We have agreed to establish forthwith a Combined Staff under a British Chief of Staff until such time as a Supreme Commander with an American Deputy is appointed. A directive to cover the planning is in course of Preparation.”

Shortly after this Lt Gen F E Morgan was appointed to fill this new position and he was known as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC). His appointment was dated April 13th, 1943. Among the staff appointed with him were certain members of the planning staff from COHQ.

The CCO knew full well the difficulties which this new entity would come up against. He suggested that a study period should be held in the combined headquarters at Largs, where all the high-ranking officers engaged in the planning could study the matter in an atmosphere removed from that of Whitehall and have access to the establishments which were daily doing the training and development of Combined Operations technique. This was approved by the Chiefs of Staff and at his own request General Devers, US Army, who was commanding the US Forces in Europe, was included in Conference ‘Rattle’ with his staff. Representatives from appropriate civilian Ministries also attended.

The result of Conference ‘Rattle’ is best summed up in General Morgan’s own words. After explaining that at the end of the first day things seemed to be pretty hopeless he goes on to say: “We decided to give it one more day. And during that day what we hoped for began to happen. A member of the opposition was seen to smile. We redoubled our efforts, and by the end of the ‘course’ there was not only unanimity but enthusiasm. ‘Overlord’, as far as COSSAC was concerned, was On.”

The Conference at Largs finished on July 2nd, 1943, and General Morgan forwarded his outline plan to the Chiefs of Staff on July 15th. This plan was taken by the Chiefs of Staff when they sailed for the Conference at Quebec (‘Quadrant’) in the Queen Mary on August 4th, 1943.

New Role for Combined Operations Headquarters

During the Quebec Conference the reorganisation of COHQ was gradually completed in that its advisory and planning functions were increased, while its administrative duties were transferred to the newly-formed Divisions in the Admiralty. At a meeting held at the Admiralty in May the following figures showing the total personnel in the Combined Operations Command on April 1st, 1943, were produced.

Taken over a period of three years and starting from scratch this increase is something to look back on with satisfaction. It must also be remembered that the majority of the officers and ratings had had to undergo training of a kind never before attempted.

South-East Asia Command

At the Conference at Quebec it was decided to institute a South-East Asia Command on the same lines as that held by General MacArthur, US Army, in the South-West Pacific. It was therefore announced that HM the King had been pleased to approve the appointment of Acting Vice-Admiral the Lord Louis Mountbatten to be Supreme Commander, South-East Asia. Thus, one year and ten months after becoming Adviser on Combined Operations, Admiral Mountbatten had to quit the Combined Operations Command much to the regret of all those who had served under him.

Build-up of Combined Operations

Looking over this short account it becomes abundantly clear that the task that both Admiral Keyes and Commodore Mountbatten were faced with when they were appointed to the post of Adviser on Combined Operations was one of considerable magnitude. Neither had any precedents to fall back on. All three Service Ministries were fully engaged in the conduct of a war of unprecedented scope. The Service staffs were engaged in expanding and building up their forces; there was the ever-present threat of invasion; all localities suitable for training had been taken over; the shipbuilding and ship-repairing resources of the country were strained to the uttermost in very trying circumstances. In the midst of all this Combined Operations appeared as a new idea and was therefore looked on with dislike, suspicion and distrust. It is not surprising therefore that there was little or no co-operation: in fact, sometimes the attitude was one of active opposition.

In spite of all this, gradually difficulties were overcome and in the end opposition turned to co-operation. This all required time; but time was of the essence of the contract. It was during this period that the charge was levelled at the Combined Operations Organisation that it was forming a ‘private navy’ and a ‘private army’ of its own. A glance at what has gone before clearly proves that this view was nonsense. The fact was that because the other Ministries and their staffs were snowed under by their work they had not the time to devote to something new and largely unknown. Therefore there had to be a separate organisation, embodying all three fighting services, whose job it was to design, obtain and test the ships and craft required for this novel type of warfare. Then they had to devise the new techniques and train the officers and men of all Services in how to apply them – in other words to make them into ‘amphibians’. All this work required initiative, imagination, persistence and personality of the highest order. That this was forthcoming in the Combined Operations Command is borne out in the signal sent to

Admiral Mountbatten just after D-Day which read as follows:

“Today we visited the British and American armies on the soil of France. We sailed through vast fleets of ships with landing craft of many types pouring more and more men, vehicles and stores ashore. We saw clearly the manoeuvre in process of rapid development. We have shared our secrets and helped each other all we could. We wish to tell you in your arduous campaign that we realise that much of this remarkable technique and therefore the success of the venture has its origin in developments effected by you and your staff of Combined Operations. (Signed) Arnold, King, Brooke, Marshall, Churchill, Smuts.”

Conclusion

Ever since the end of Hitler’s war there has been an organisation in being charged with the development of the techniques for use in amphibious operations. It comes under the Chief of Amphibious Warfare who, up to date, has been an officer of the Royal Marines. To assist him he has an integrated staff drawn from all three fighting services. In this way continuous progress is assured and Amphibious Operations will not be consigned to the Limbo of Forgotten Things as was the case with Combined Operations after the First World War on the grounds that they were too difficult or too costly.

There must have been many who, when they read the First Lord’s statement on the Navy Estimates for 1961, were both surprised and disappointed to see that there was little or no provision being made in the future for landing ships and craft of all shapes and sizes. The operations at Port Said at the end of 1956 showed how woefully short the Navy was in this respect – the great bottleneck during the Second World War was the shortage of these. Being of both special and novel design, landing ships and craft cannot be produced out of the ‘conjuror’s hat’ at the drop of the flag; it is a business that takes time and skilled shipbuilders.

At the present moment the Amphibious Warfare Squadron consists of one Headquarters Ship, two Landing Ships (Tank) and two Landing Craft (Tank). These are all getting old and are due for replacement within the next five years or so. It is true that there are a few Landing Ships (Tank) operated by the War Department but these also are ‘getting long in the tooth’.

This is a very different picture from that seen by a senior member of the staff of COHQ on D-Day. He has put on record that wherever he looked during his passage across the English Channel he found evidences of the work of COHQ. Whether it was in the design of the ships which filled the Channel, the technique employed by the supporting ships and craft, or the training of the officers and men taking part in the operation, he found the hand of COHQ everywhere. His description of the actual landing was that it appeared to be much quieter than a practice landing at one of the Combined Training Centres!

The Future

Crystal-gazing is always a dangerous business, besides being at times misleading. But it seems, from all the information available to an outsider, that the policy of HM Government in the matter of preparation for amphibious operations is governed by the fact that they expect these will be mainly of the fire brigade type on a comparatively small scale; therefore a compact and mobile force ready to move at short notice is all that is required.

The light fleet carrier Bulwark has been converted to fill this role; with a Commando of Royal Marines embarked she now forms part of the Far East Fleet. Considerable experience has been gained in operating the ship, her helicopters and the Commando in the exhaustive programme of exercises that have been carried out. The need for a second ship of this type is now fully recognised and the preliminary work of conversion of HMS Albion – sister ship to the Bulwark – has been authorised.

As has been announced in the House of Commons, new designs for a Naval Assault Ship and for a Landing Ship (Tank) for the Army are well under way. It is believed that the Assault Ship will be of the Landing Ship (Dock) type with good speed and endurance and will form an ideal team-mate for the Commando Carrier. It will be remembered that the original LSD (built in the USA to designs originated in COHQ) had a speed of 16 knots and an endurance of 8,000 miles (see Plates 7 and 8).

For future landings, therefore, it would appear that the ‘water-gap’ will be bridged as far as the troops are concerned by the use of helicopters; by landing craft swum out of the LSD for tanks, heavy equipment and guns; and when it comes to the follow-up formations the solution is to fly them out by Transport Command of the Royal Air Force, which of course assumes that a beach-head has been captured and landing facilities been made ready for the landing of heavy aircraft on an airfield.

It seems therefore that the ‘combined operations’ known to us all in the Second World War are things of the past owing to the employment of new techniques and devices. But account should also be taken of the way that warfare has altered in this atomic and nuclear age. Gone are the huge armies requiring their large concentrations of men, guns, supplies, etc., gone also are the vast administrative ‘tails’. The emphasis is now on small, mobile, hard-hitting formations. This new arrangement is an advantage to any island power such as we are. With control of sea communications assured, our military striking forces can be ‘put in’ wherever they can exploit success. But it must never be forgotten that this ‘putting in’ is at least 90% a naval operation and a difficult one at that, for which preparation must be made in peace-time.

It seems only right to admit that the Second World War saw the rise from nothing of Combined Operations, the attainment of its apex on D-Day, its decline and fall since peace broke out, and the need for amphibious warfare dwindled with the onset of the Cold War and the rise in importance of the Nuclear Deterrent as a means of preventing global war in the future. It is to be devoutly hoped that this bit of crystal-gazing may prove to be correct but there are many who, like the writer, must feel that it is as well to remember the old motto, ‘Put your trust in God but keep your powder dry’.