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Exercise Verity

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Exercise Verity

Exercise Verity was a 1949 multilateral naval training exercise involving 60 warships from the British, French, and Dutch navies for the newly formed Western Union, the precursor to the Western European Union (WEU).[1][2] A contemporary newsreel described this exercise as involving "the greatest assembly of warships since the Battle of Jutland."[3]

Background

The Treaty of Brussels was signed by the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands on 17 March 1948. It was a mutual intergovernmental self-defence treaty which also promoted economic, cultural and social collaboration. The Brussels Pact had cultural and social clauses, and provisions for the setting up of a Consultative Council. The basis for this was that a cooperation organization between Western nations would help stop the spread of Communism.[4][5][6]

Command structure

The command authority for Exercise Verity was the Western Union Defence Organization (WUDO), the defence arm of the Western Union. Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein was the WUDO's senior officer as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee.[5][7] Admiral of the Fleet Sir Rhoderick McGrigor, RN, was in overall command of Exercise Verity. At the time of the exercise, Admiral McGrigor was serving as Commander-in-Chief of the British Royal Navy's Home Fleet.[2][8]

The Operation

The 60-ship fleet gathered in Mount's Bay, near Penzance, prior to setting sail for the Bay of Biscay for the week-long exercise. Field Marshal Montgomery held a reception on board the flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands sponsored a cocktail party aboard the cruiser HNLMS Tromp.[2] Field Marshal Montgomery stayed on board the Implacable as an observer during the exercise.[2][3]

Submarines, including the highly advanced French boat Roland Morillot,[2][9] made simulated attacks against convoys and naval formations using dummy torpedoes. The exercise included bombers flying from land-based airfields.[2] French and British carriers also launched air strikes, with Implacable successfully carrying out strike operations against the enemy ("White") aircraft carrier force led by the light aircraft carriers HMS Theseus and the French Arromanches.[note 1] Naval bombardment and convoy escort operations were also carried out. Finally, motor torpedo craft of the Belgian Navy joined other Western Union warships to execute mine-sweeping operations in Weymouth Bay.[1][2][3]

On 4 July the White force aircraft (RAF Lancasters and Dutch fighters) operated searches against the Blue force (escorted by French aircraft and British flying boats) as it approached the Bay of Biscay.

Later both naval surface forces combined in a simulated convoy - the aircraft carriers standing in for troopships - with Lancasters, Mitchells and Meteors as air cover. Land based fighters and naval strike aircraft practiced attacks with cannon and rockets against the smaller ships and then against the main force of four carriers, the battleship Anson and supporting destroyers. The same was practiced the morning of the following day.[10]

One unusual example of allied cooperation involved the replacement of the outer wing of a Netherlands Sea Fury fighter aircraft that had been damaged by a bird strike. Since the Royal Netherlands Navy did not provide such elaborate spare parts when the aircraft's group deployed to RNAS Culdrose, the damaged Sea Fury received a replacement wing with British markings.[11]

Admiral McGrigor summarized the accomplishments of Exercise Verity by noting: "The object of these manoeuvres is to show that we are willing and able to work together in case of aggression... I can say straight away that it's been a very great success..."[2]

Force composition

Major naval units included the British battleship Anson; the British carriers Implacable, Victorious and Theseus; the French carrier Arromanches; three British and five French cruisers; and 21 "destroyers and destroyer escorts".[2]

Aviation units included Royal Netherlands Air Force with Mitchell medium bombers and Meteor fighters, Royal Netherlands Navy Fireflies and Sea Furies Royal Netherlands Navy at French Maritime Air Force Dornier and Sunderland flying boats and Wellington bombers, operating from Brest and Lorient. Belgium contributed fighter aircraft in "a preliminary stage". The RAF forces included Avro Lancaster and Avro Lincoln heavy bombers, Sunderland flying boats and Meteor fighters. Overall control was RAF Coastal Command.

Implacable carried de Havilland Sea Hornet fighters and Blackburn Firebrand strike aircraft. The British 15th Carrier Air Group operated Fairey Fireflys and Hawker Sea Furies from land bases.

Aftermath

When the division of Europe into two opposing camps became unavoidable, the threat of the Soviet Union became much more important than concerns over German rearmament. Western Europe therefore sought a new mutual defence pact involving the United States. The United States recognized the growing threat of the USSR and was responsive to this concept. Secret meetings began by the end of March 1949 between American, Canadian and British officials to negotiate such a trans-Atlantic mutual defence pact. Eventually, it would lead to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the North Atlantic Treaty signed in Washington, D.C. in 1949. NATO began forming its own military command structure in 1951, at which time the headquarters, personnel and plans of the WUDO were transferred to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), and SHAPE took over responsibility for the defence of Western Europe.[5][6][12][13]

The Treaty of Brussels was amended by the Protocol signed in Paris at the conclusion of the London and Paris Conferences on 23 October 1954, which added West Germany and Italy to the Western Union, which was renamed the Western European Union.[14][15]

See also

Cold War portal
  • Operation Grand Slam (NATO)

Notes

References

Notes
Bibliography

External links

  • Pathé Films online - July 14, 1949
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