No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section was formed in Italy, originally as No. 82 Brick. and took part in the assault landings in the South of France.
No. 82 Brick
No. 82 Brick was formed in November 1943 as one of three Bricks in a new R.A.F. Beach Group for the Central Mediterranean Force. The new No. 82 Brick was attached to No. 67 Embarkation Unit at Brindisi. On 26th November it was agreed with W/Cdr R.D. George that No. 82 Brick should be transferred to Naples.
No. 82 Brick arrived at the R.A.F. Beach Group H.Q., Bellavista at 2pm on 4th December, having travelled from Brindisi. The Brick’s officers, F/Lt Walsh and F/Lt Vaughan, moved in to the Officers Mess in the H.Q. Building and the other ranks of the Brick went to “Villa Marca”, Bellavista to be billeted with the men of No. 81 Brick.
On 20th December, F/Lt Vaughan, two N.C.O.s and twenty men of No. 82 Brick were loaned to No.114 Maintenance Unit, together with a 3 ton vehicle, to help with the distribution of equipment.
The R.A.F. Beach Group had been asked to run a Ground Crew Rest Camp for No. 3 Base Area at a villa near Sorrento. The Beach Group C.O., S/Ldr Robertson was trying to resist having personnel from the Beach Group employed in this way but, on 28th January 1944, it was arranged that F/Lt Walsh would go to Sorrento and meet Air Vice Marshal Robb, who wanted the Rest Camp scheme to go ahead.
No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section
At the end of January 1944, No. 82 Brick was renamed No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section and its parent unit, which had been known as the R.A.F. Beach Group, was renamed No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit. No. 110 Beach Section was located in the Bellavista area of Portici, near to Naples.
On 2nd February 1944 F/Lt Walsh and F/Lt Vaughan went to Sorrento to prepare a scheme to set up the Ground Crew Rest Camp for No. 3 R.A.F. Base Area.
S/Ldr Robertson was still trying to avoid involvement with the Rest Camp. Group Captain Cullery, the Officer Commanding No. 3 Base Area had requested it. Group Captain Hanson-Abbott of M.A.A.F. Movements was against it. The C.O. spoke to M.A.T.A.F. H.Q. seeking confirmation that No. 5 Beach Unit would not be required to do it and on 4th February, F/Lt Walsh was told on that he would not be required to go to Sorrento the following Monday.
However, H.Q. M.A.T.A.F. finally instructed that a Beach Section was to be loaned to No. 3 Base Area for duties in connection with the R.A.F. Rest Camp at Sorrento and at 8am on 10th February, No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section comprising F/Lt J. Walsh (Officer Commanding), F/Lt C.S. Vaughan, 3 Senior N.C.O.s and 15 men left Portici to go to the Villa Angelina, Massa Lubrense, four miles west of Sorrento.
On arrival, at 10.45am, F/Lt Walsh made a survey of the Rest Camp, which was currently accommodating 55 men, excluding the personnel of No. 110 Beach Section. 28 of the visiting personnel left the next morning and F/Lt Walsh carried out an inspection of the house and grounds to see what improvements could be made for the benefit of those using the Rest Camp. 21 more men arrived so that the total number of ‘guests’ was now 48.
On 12th February the Section made some internal alteration to the dining room so that it was no longer necessary to have two sittings for meals. There were 14 new arrivals, bringing the total in the Rest Camp that day to 62. On 13th February, 58 ‘guests’ departed leaving only four remaining at the Rest Camp.
F/Lt Walsh visited No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters at Portici on 17th February.
On 20th February personnel of the Section were busy carrying out improvements at the Rest Camp, including the installation of a power plant for pumping water for the main house supply. Installation of the power plant was completed on 26th February. The water supply to the camp was now good and baths were available for all visiting personnel. During the week there had been 67 new arrivals and 4 departures.
On 10th March 1944, for reasons that are not clear, No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section moved out of the Ground Crew Rest Camp at Villa Angelina, Massa Lubrense and went to No. 2 Air Crew Rest Camp at Sorrento. This was understood to be a temporary move but no information about it was received by No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters.
Following a road accident in which an airman from No. 109 Beach Section was killed. F/Lt Vaughan went to No. 5 Beach Unit Headquarters on 18th March to serve as a member of the Court of Inquiry into the incident and on 19th March officers and men of the Section attended the funeral of the airman (LAC Salvidge) in Naples. F/Lt Walsh also served as a member of the Court of Inquiry, staying at Unit H.Q from 20th to 23rd March. F/Lt Vaughan did not return to No. 110 Beach Section as he took the place of the C.O. of No. 109 Beach Section who had been injured in the road accident.
On 24th March orders were received for No. 110 Beach Section to prepare to move. They were going to Corsica to work with the U.S. 12th Air Service Command. On 28th March 1944 the personnel of the Section arrived at No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters in Portici. Their vehicles (two 3 tonners and a jeep) were loaded with more equipment and they moved off in the late afternoon, together with No. 111 Beach Section and embarked on L.S.T. A18 in the Port of Naples. The vessel sailed the next morning and they disembarked at Ajaccio, Corsica on 30th March 1944.
At Ajaccio, the Section was accommodated in a staging area together with No. 111 Beach Section. On 3rd April, F/Lt Walsh went to Bastia to arrange a billet for the Section. He returned the next day and on 5th April, the Section moved to Bastia for embarkation duties in the port there.
After checking stores from S.S. ”Hebe II” on 1st and 2nd of May, unloading and loading activities in May 1944 were as follows:
|4th May||S.S. “Baltic” arrived and commenced discharging|
|5th May||S.S. “Ravenspoint” commenced discharging|
|6th May||S.S. “Ravenspoint” completed discharging|
|9th May||S.S. “Hebe II” commenced discharging.|
S.S. “Maceratti” docked and was discharged.
|10th May||S.S. “Hebe II” completed discharging|
|11th May||S.S. “Zene” discharged.|
S.S. “Motia” commenced discharging.
S.S. “Isolina” arrived.
|12th May||S.S. “Francesco Madre” discharged.|
S.S. “Isolina” completed discharging.
|14th May||S.S. “Giampaolo” arrived and discharged.|
|15th May||S.S. “Motia” completed discharging.|
|17th May||S.S. “Cora” completed discharging.|
|21st May||S.S. “Hebe II” commenced discharging.|
|22nd May||S.S. “Hebe II” completed discharging.|
S.S. “Orkla” completed discharging.
S.S. “Zaanstroom” commenced discharging.
|25th May||S.S. “Zaanstroom” completed discharging.|
S.S. “Isolina” and S.S. “Ulla” arrived and were discharged.
S.S. “Le Trait” commenced discharging.
|27th May||S.S. “Corcrest” commenced discharging.|
|30th May||S.S. “Empire Dace” arrived and commenced discharging.|
|31st May||S.S. “Corcrest” and S.S. “Empire Dace” completed discharging.|
During the month of June 1944, No. 110 Beach Section continued to perform embarkation duties at Bastia, dealing with American Air Corps stores and personnel.
On 6th July 1944, at 07.00hrs, the Section left Bastia accompanied by Unit Headquarters and drove to Porto Vecchio. No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit was being withdrawn from Corsica and the whole Unit assembled at Porto Vecchio before embarking on L.S.T. 1010 on 7th July.
No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit sailed from Porto Vecchio, disembarked at Civetevecchio at 09.00hrs on 8th July 1944 and travelled to Rome. Headquarters and No. 110 Beach Section obtained accommodation at No. 2 R.A.F. Base Area, Rome.
The Unit left Rome on 9th July to go to Naples. No. 110 Beach Section travelled on Highway No. 6, passing through Cassino. Having travelled approximately 90 miles they camped for the night on a site just outside Cassino where they were “greeted with a deluge of rain”. At 11a.m. the next morning they arrived at Bellavista and joined the rest of the Unit on a camping site alongside the Autostrada.
A new Combined Operation was planned and No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section was to be part of the 45th U.S. Infantry Division Beach Group. The U.S. Army’s 40th Engineer Combat Regiment was the principal unit in the 45th Infantry Division Beach Group and, on 12th July, F/Lt Walsh went to find the Regiment at their campsite on the Plain of Salerno, about ten kilometres from Battapaglia. He reported to Major Hardison and arrangements were made for the Section to join the Regiment there the next day.
On 13th July, the Section went to join the 40th Engineer Combat Regiment and No. 109 R.A.F. Beach Section joined with the 540th Engineer Combat Regiment (as part of the 36th U.S. Infantry Division Beach Group) at the same time. The two Sections were “soon comfortably accommodated and became familiar with their American comrades.” It was reported that, “All personnel were impressed by the hygienic conveniences and good food.”
On 17th July No. 110 Beach Section’s more-serviceable Thorneycroft lorry (RAF19285) was transferred to No. 111 Beach Section and F/Lt Walsh and two drivers went to Headquarters to collect new vehicles allotted to No. 110 Beach Section. (These were Bedford 3 ton vehicles Nos. RAF6608 and RAF19086.) The next day, Section personnel prepared their kit for a move.
The two new vehicles arrived on 19th July and, on that same day, the Section moved with 40th Engineer Combat Regiment to an assembly area approximately five miles north of Qualiano.
F/O J.R.H. Wilson joined the Section on 28th July having been posted from No. 16 Supply and Transport Column to fill a vacancy.
The Section continued with preparations for the coming operation (Operation “DRAGOON”) and on 12th August, Section personnel embarked on S.S. “Dilwara”. Cpl Robins was subsequently admitted to the ship’s sick quarters due to injuries sustained from falling down a stairway.
“D” Day, 15th August 1944
At 14.20hrs, personnel of No. 110 Beach Section made a wet landing in the DELTA sector and bivouacked for the night in St. Maxime some six miles from where they landed.
D + 1, 16th August 1944
F/Lt Walsh established the Section Headquarters at St. Maxime and organised billets for his men. Signs were erected and notices painted, over a wide area, giving the Section’s location. Disembarkation of units was commenced over all the DELTA area beaches.
D + 2, 17th August 1944
Section personnel were established in Petrol and Ammunition dumps and on the beaches in the DELTA area. Those on duty at the beaches were confused by information they received indirectly from the Beachmaster, that certain beaches were being closed. These beaches, in several cases, were reopened without any advice being given.
D + 3, 18th August 1944
More beaches were opened at 262 South and the port of St. Tropez. A sub-section of No. 110 Beach Section was established at St. Tropez to work on the new beaches.
D + 6, 21st August 1944
F/Lt Walsh reported that he wasn’t happy with the cooperation he was receiving from Major Hardison of U.S. Army Air Corps.
D + 10, 24th August 1944
It was reported that DELTA Yellow and DELTA Blue beaches were in the process of being closed.
D + 13, 27th August 1944
Group Captain F.C. Read, Commanding Officer 202 Group disembarked in the DELTA beach area and was met by S/Ldr Robertson and F/Lt Pollard from Headquarters No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit.
On 4th September the sub-section of No. 110 Beach Section at St. Tropez was joined by five men from No. 111 Beach Section who had been attached for duty there.
No. 110 Beach Section’s two 3 ton lorries finally turned up on 9th September. They had been scheduled to arrive on D+ 5 and it was now D+25!
Some captured German equipment acquired by W/Cdr Cowlrick’s M.A.A.F. Field Intelligence Unit was shipped out over DELTA beach on 12th September.
By 13th September the beaches had become very quiet and all of No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit was involved only in routine matters. The Headquarters staff of the Unit moved in with No. 110 Beach Section at their billet in St. Maxime on 24th September.
This was the last month in the twelve month history of No. 110 R.A.F. Beach Section and No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit. Details of that final month for the whole Unit can be read on the No. 5 R.A.F. Beach Unit page.
Main source used for this page:
Operations Record Book of No. 5 RAF Beach Unit – found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/438 at The National Archives.