Bryan Cambray remembers what it was like when his ship HMS Twostep was required to play her part in the Anzio Landings

Operation Shingle - The Anzio Landings

'That something was up' became only too obvious as the harbour and anchorage in Naples began to fill in late December, 1943, and even more so in the January. There were numerous landing craft, from the small to the large LSTs, so there was to be a landing somewhere, soon. But where? Rumours of the destination were rife, ranging from the south of France to one of the large Italian ports such as Leghorn or Civitavecchia.

All was soon revealed -- on January 20 we, that is HMS Twosrep, a Dance-class armed AS/MS trawler, were to escort a group of small landing craft to land at Anzio in Operation Shingle on January 22 - and a more heavily armed and determined bunch of American soldiers had never seen. To use an Americanism, the scuttlebutt had it that they were mainly men who had escaped from Europe or had other, very personal, scores to settle -- at least, that was what the crew heard! "Our" lot however, were British.

Anzio was of strategic importance to the allies as it was possible for them to able to sustain suitable air cover from Naples and to give them an ideal strongpoint to push for an attack on enemy supply roads. Once this had been established, a further advance to the east could be carried out.

We were in good company -- two other Dancers, the Minuet and Hornpipe - had been allocated the same task, all three of us sailing independently. Leaving Pozzuoli we sailed south between Capri and the mainland and then headed north up past the Isles of Ponza, leaving them well to starboard -- they were to be our last real 'fix' -- and then steam until we came to a submarine showing a green light. It would then be turn to starboard anti lead the landing craft to the bench.

It was extremely dark that night and because the sea was almost dead calm, none of the soldiers was seasick. to my joy (and almost disbelief as navigating officer) I was able to report to my CO, L.t. B.L. Moir, RNVR, that we were dead on course as I was able to get a couple of 'fixes' on Ponza - I assumed it was Ponza away!

Green Light

Changing course, we steamed on, then looking in vain for the green light. Constantly checking the log, peering through binoculars, checking the charts and course again and again I was convinced that it should be in sight NOW! But it wasn`t. More checks -- time was running on and my C.O. decided that we must have overshot the turning point. There was a sea mist.

There was nothing to do but to order the convoy by loudhailer to turn through 190 degrees (W/T or Aldis lamps were not to be used under any circumstances) in the hope that the light would miraculously appear. This was exceedingly difficult and chaos reigned for a while but, fortunately there were no collisions and we eventually proceeded in an orderly manner' in the opposite direction. Just as we were turning a silent grey shape slid by, seemingly within touching distance. It was an E-boat! Its crew must have been as surprised as were - before either skipper or guns' crews could take any action it roared away disappearing into the mist. Would it return? We were all on tenterhooks anyway and this simply heightened the tension.

More checking the log and charts followed. Dawn was beginning to break by this time and we could begin to see the dim shapes of other ships close to the shore. Lt. Moir decided that it was now or never and signaled that we were turning to the beaches, the landing craft following and then roaring past as land loomed near. It was strange. There was a sort of eerie silence, the Americans meeting no resistance. Had we landed them in the right spot or miles from their objective even though other landing craft could be seen? One thing was for certain - we were four hours late!

Lt. Bryan Cambray, RNVR
Part 2

Bryan Cambray
Nick Clark © 2001