Betfor Journal: Extracts from earlier editions
We begin with an article written by rthe Chairman of the Betfor Association,Ray Griffiths and published in Journal 20, edited by Guido.
"Anzio" by Ray Griffiths
In late July 1953 I was 'transferred to 'Combined Operations'
for a period of three months, and with others I moved from
Rossetti Bks to what was probably the largest dock, which
housed two enormous floating cranes. We were at the end of
it and a few hundred yards along the quayside was based the
'Guardia di Finanza' with their boats.
We had three LCAs (Landing Craft Assault), the R.E,.
manned one, the Loyals anotherand we, the North Staffords
had the third one, called "Anzio".
Our OC was Major Dunky and since our unit was small and
hidden away, the crews had an excellent relationship with him
and he was held in high regard.
Our knowledge of the sea, and tide movements were
gleaned from a day trip to Blackpool. Just the calibre of
soldier the Army needed, no sense of danger - in fact no sense
of any sort - but what a great time we had!
Since we had no radio communication between the craft
our first priority was to master the rudiments of semaphore,
which we did. However, when a good sea was running and
we were balancing on a heaving deck it became difficult to
send messages to craft which were hidden by the swell and
when they came into view we disappeared, thus giving a time
delay to any garbled message. On reflection our 'man overboard'
drill was a possible disaster looking for somewhere to
happen. It consisted of someone throwing themselves off the
back of the craft into the sea - remembering that fifty years
ago shark attacks were not unknown in the Adriatic, although
no one told us. At the cry of 'man overboard!' the engines
were stopped and a lifebuoy thrown out, then we lowered the
ramp to drag the man aboard thus shipping a large volume of
water into the craft, which usually took an hour to pump out.
A few memorable events are worth a mention. Our first,
and believe last - night exercise involved us sailing up the
coast in line astern, I believe possibly between Miramare and
Duino. The night was dark as we approached a small sandy
beach where we could see tables and chairs set out almost to
the water edge, and officers and their wives (?) sipping drinks
by candle light, very reminiscent of a Jack Viettriano painting,
only the singing butler was missing! At the command 'line
abreast!' we turned and ran for the beach, driving up onto the
sand and, in unison, dropping our ramps with the customary
The effect of our sudden arrival from the darkness of the
sea upon this peaceful scene was riotous. Obviously they
thought Tito had come to claim his own! Some of the ladies
screamed and made a run for it, tables were overturned and
amidst all this panic, we strolled down the ramps in our usual
attire - seaboots and brown overalls! Needless to say, we
were not very well received, there were some heated
exchanges and I believe our OC - bless him - had his knuckles
On another occasion our task was to land an assault party, I
believe, from the Loyal Regt on a rocky beach somewhere
above Miramare where, amidst crossfire and explosions they
were to scale the cliff face with ropes.
All three craft had
their full compliment of troops as we nosed our way in
following our usual drill, each craft had someone hanging over
the ramp looking for rocks just beneath the surface. Our
draught was about four feet and we found that we were
unable to get any closer to the beach than about twenty yards,
when the order 'Ramps down!' was issued.
The OC of the landing party told his men to stay put whilst he
and Major Dunky had a heated discussion about getting the
landing party into shallower water. The outcome of this
debate was that we were ordered to pull back a further twenty
yards! Major Dunky then - stating with great authority - that
whilst at sea he and no one else was in command! The landing
party then went on to the ramps and into the water on their
way to the beach - for those who couldn't swim we threw out
our lifebuoys and then went over the side ourselves to help
One morning we sailed down to Lazzaretto and landed on a
small sandy beach below the barracks, whose occupants were
at that time on the live ranges in Austria. We messed about
for a while and then realised that the tide was going out fast,
so fast that we were unable to move the craft. Meanwhile our
predicament was attracting the attention of a large group of
locals so we made our way to the barracks where we talked
the cook into providing us with something to eat. Returning
to the beach we found that we were in the middle of a large
expanse of sand. In order to save face we told the locals that
we had beached the craft to enable us to clean them below the
waterline, which meant that we had to carry on with that job
until the evening when we managed to refloat the boats.
One night when the crew of' Anzio' were on guard duty
the conversation verged on fishing and it was mentioned that
the best time for fishing was at night - after all the locals were
fishing at night the horizon was alive with dots of light from
their boats. The scene was set at midnight we would row
out with our dinghy for a spell of serious fishing.
A group of us wearing casual uniform on the LCA "Overlord".
Before going any further I should explain that our dinghy was
a small rowing boat some eight feet long and three wide and
when we acquired its services it was more akin to a colander
than a vessel. Every morning it was necessary to bale it out
before rowing out to the moored craft.
But during the night a terrific storm blew up so it was
decided to postpone the fishing expedition. Although the
storm really did not play a great part in this decision, I
suppose that we thought it would be too uncomfortable. It
was that we laughed at danger we were simply too stupid to
At first light the sky was grey and it felt very cold, the sea
was very choppy making the LCAs bob about at their
moorings. There were four of us - or five? - I remember Cpl
Cliff Shone, John Smith and Vic Turton. Dressed in our
thick socks, seaboots-Wellingtons, brown duffel coats we
climbed down to the dinghy, baled her out and set off. I was
in charge of the fishing gear, which consisted of a large drum
of seemingly unbreakable nylon monofilament, a number of
hooks baited with mussels and bits of fish, with at least three
one inch nuts to take it down.
... After we cleared the breakwater, conditions really turned
nasty, however, I threw the baited line over the side but it
followed the dinghy on the surface. I retrieved the line and
added to it a four inch propeller which was in the boat. This
had the desired effect and down it went. Meanwhile the others
were desperately baling out. We were hit by three waves in
succession, the third capsizing us!
I found myselffollowing the line I had just thrown over the
side, I recall looking up at a pale green light which was the
surface and struggling to swim up to it, while the duffel coat
and the seaboots were dragging me down. When I surfaced
the dinghy was upside down and the others were clinging to
onto the two inch keel, fighting for breath as the sea
constantly washed over us. We were in dire straits and we
could not hold on for long when round the corner of the dock
came the 'Guardia di Finanza' launch at full stretch and spray
breaking over the bows.
The 'Guardia' captain went berserk, and to make matters
even worse our fishing line wrapped itself round the launch's
propeller. They kindly towed our dinghy back to our station
in the docks.
The unit was closed down in late September/early October
and I last saw "Anzio" a bit later when I formed part of a
skeleton crew to deliver it into an American LST (Landing
Ship Tank). I believe it was the bows that opened up and we
sailed straight inside, and then we were ferried back to the
Ray Griffiths, N Staffords