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A series of special events to mark Inveraray’s special connection with the D-Day landings 75 years ago concluded with a tour of wartime sites in the area.
Guided by Ken MacTaggart and Jim Jepson of the Royal British Legion Scotland Inveraray branch, a group of 20 locals and visitors started on Saturday June 8 from the D-Day exhibition in the town’s Nichol Hall and headed to the caravan park at Dalchenna, which was established as Naval land station HMS Quebec in 1940.
Its purpose was to train integrated teams from the three services – Army, Navy and Air Force – in the landing assaults that would be needed to re-take occupied territories in France, the Mediterranean, Norway and North Africa. The group viewed the Combined Services monument made of stone from Bonawe Quarries, which sits in front the reception building, formerly the recreation hall in the wartime camp.
Continuing to the shore of Loch Fyne, slipways and piers were inspected along with old photographs showing the bay full of military vessels. Up to 15,000 personnel were based around Inveraray at any one time, and a total of 250,000 received their training here during the war years – Polish, Canadians, Free French, Americans and Norwegians as well as British servicemen and women.
Inveraray was chosen as the Combined Training Centre because of its remoteness, limited road access which could be controlled at check-points, its beaches for practising landings, and thick woods for jungle training. Crucially, the group heard, it was beyond the range of German bombers.
The tour continued to the memorial above the golf course to Gertrude Canning WRNS, the 20-year-old ‘Wren’ from Northern Ireland who was murdered here in 1942 by an unknown assailant. This is close to the former Avenue Camp and Town Camp, which had over 100 Nissen huts to accommodate soldiers.
Gertrude worked at Admiralty House, now the Loch Fyne Hotel, which was the next stop. This was operational headquarters and saw wartime visits from King George VI, prime minister Winston Churchill, King Haaken of Norway, General de Gaulle of France, Poland’s General Sikorski and others.
From here the group visited the Inveraray Castle grounds, where two other large military camps filled up the present-day Winterton park and surrounding woods.
Final stops were made at war graves in Kilmalieu cemetery, the Shira camp, and the war memorial on the front green, which records the 13 men of Inveraray who died in the Second World War.
The tour stops at the Combined Operations memorial at the site of HMS Quebec. no_a24DDay75_tour01
A slipway and pier from the days of the Combined Operations Training Centre can still be seen – and used by people at the Argyll Caravan Park. no_a24DDay75_tour02
The scene of tragedy – Gertrude Canning’s memorial. no_a24DDay75_tour03
The group visits the war graves at Kilmalieu cemetery. no_a24DDay75_tour04