War Diary of Captain Alan W. Willis (Lieut.Cmdr. R.D. R.N.R. Ret’d )

favourable. Even so her flat-bottom characteristically caused excessive rolling and she had frequent problems with her twin diesel engines. Nor was she very fast, typically 10 knots maximum - not built for speed. She arrived on 29th of March in time to help with the landings at Oran (N.Africa) with 1300 tons of supplies including a landing-craft secured to her upper deck (off-loaded by heavy lift crane) and 14 tanks .She then worked the ports and beaches in Algeria and Tunisia running supplies- harried by frequent air raids- prior to the German surrender of all her African forces in May. The Allied attack then switched to mainland Europe and No.361 embarked guns, tanks, jeeps and other vehicles together with 300 troops of the 51st. Highland Division (8th.army) for the landing at Cape Passero in Sicily on 10th.July - the first day of the campaign .The weather conditions on the previous night were stormy and the Allies had considered postponing the attack. However conditions improved with the dawn and the landing was a complete success despite heavy air raids and some ‘E’ boat activity by the Germans, the beaches were only lightly defended .LST 361 then made several runs to Syracuse and other ports returning to N.Africa with German prisoners. The next big push was against the Italian mainland at Salerno (south of Sorrento) to which Alan made 4 runs from 28/8 to 26/9 loading at Tripoli in Libya with supplies ranging from bicycles to generators and ‘Willys Bantams’, whatever they were ! These particulars are drawn from an exercise book that Alan kept, detailing all his voyages in landing ships, a highly irregular and forbidden activity, but which give a detailed picture of where and when he went and what was carried. Unfortunately, it makes no reference to the weather, conditions on board, or the dangers involved except to admit that some of the beachings were ‘ hard going ‘.Salerno was heavily defended by a German army under Kesselring with great determination .In fact the American commander General Clark at one stage considered withdrawing his forces from the beachhead because of the problems that Montgomery was experiencing in advancing up from the southern Italy to link up with and relieve Clark’s divisions. Further trips were made to Sardinia with American troops ,also running supplies to Taranto the big Naval Base at the toe of Italy where our puny carrier - born aircraft had wreaked such havoc on the Italian fleet in Nov. 1940 . By January ’44 the fighting at Salerno had ended and LST 361 made several landings at Anzio further up the coast, as the Allies struck towards Rome. It is understood that at this heavily defended landing Alan was mentioned in dispatches “for bravery under fire”. This award was made to some of those who did not gain a Page 7
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