War Diaries of 5th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery

1939 - 1947


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Memorandum From Lt.-Col R.R. Hoare D.S.O., M.C., R.H.A. August 1942.







     5th REGIMENT, R.H.A.





10 Aug 42.









Dear Tensal -


             The attached memorandum, which I have sent to most of the senior officers out here, may be of some interest. It will give you some kind of picture as to recent events, !!








Yours truly,       






MGRA           869B

Please speak BP




     5th REGIMENT, R.H.A.

22/8/42           M.E.F.




July 6th




Dear Tensal,

               Your very kind letter has only just reached me. It will be sent out to all ranks.

               We are all doing well, and the spirit of the men is splendid.

               Two years on command of a regiment is a long time, and probably new blood is wanted! Promotion here naturally goes to those who have been out the longest.I do not want to find myself on the ‘old side’ for a Reg, and in a base job! Would you consider it a great impertinence if I asked whether you had a job for a C.R.A. in Home Forces!. And if so, whether you would consider applying for me. It would require some personal influence. I have had a good deal of training in European warfare and it would be great to bet into an invasion battle.

               I do hope you won.t mind my asking


               We all send our best wishes






Y. sincerely.    



C in C

V.R. File                                52 A


H.F. 6317/1/R.A. (F.A)


M.G.R.A. to C. -in-C.

PIA – please keep for me AP


            The  C.-in-C. gave me the attached to read. Lt.-Col. HOARE who commands the 5th Regiment R.H.A. had probably the best gunner regiment when he took it overseas. He is on the C.R.A’s list and I consider would make an excellent C.R.A. now.


I notice that the Middle East is now demanding independent batteries and thus breaking that bridge mental organisation. I regard this with considerable alarm as there are few battery Commanders who can train their batteries without the more experienced assistance of a regimental commander. Of course at times batteries must be decentralised and no doubt more so in the desert then elsewhere, but the fact remains a strong concentrations of fire or what I wanted in battle. Using guns only in “penny packets” I am sure is wrong, except that it must be done with 25-prs have a primary anti-tank role .


I believe if these demands for independent batteries are continued the whole technical training of the Gunners will suffer and I hope the War Office will resist this policy.


I have heard that units leaving this country with high morale and a great esprit de corps, find they are broken up on arrival in the Middle East. I understand the gunners have given a good account of themselves in the Middle East and this can only be due to good training. Good training necessitates good regimental commanders.





28 August, 1942







The following impressions gained by a R.H.A. Regt on arrival in this country may be of interest to those concerned.


1.         It must be remembered that every unit coming out to this country is not necessarily inexperienced. two Btys office Regt have already made their name in France during this war, where they attained a very high standard of fighting efficiency. We have our own traditions to maintain.


2.         It seems very evident that troops should be given at least a month training in the desert before being taken into action. Although the actual tactical side of this Regt was unaffected, the fact of having been taken into action within a few days or arrival caused a very long sick list, together with a great many other complaints. The taking of this entire armoured brigade which this Regt was supporting, into action so rapidly, has resulted in the departure of the Brigadier commanding, who was suspected by all concerned.


Not only is it necessary to train all ranks in desert movement and to accustom them to the climate, but there are also many points of hygiene, administration and organization which should be studied comma and which in themselves are absolutely essential for the well-being of any good unit .


In the event now this Regt has not been allowed the promised few weeks, the present reserve position being too close for alternative training and for the full use of wireless.


3.         Much of the advice given in lectures and talks was conflicting. It should be of tremendous assistance if certain officers with well-balanced minds could be attached to each unit, on landing, for a limited period, with a view to giving advice not only on the tactical side but also on points of administration. In the case of my Regt this was not done, and I had great difficulty in getting out a definite policy from all I heard.


4.         The fact that one R.H.A. Cmdr has been extremely successful with commanding his Regy in a certain manner does not necessarily mean that other R.H.A. Cmdrs should do the same. Every C.O. must produce his own picture and could be expected to copy those of others.


After the battle of Hondeghem, when I was commanding ‘K’ Bty., the D.M.T. expressed disappointment that my War Diary did not bring out more lessons. I explained that the only lesson gained was the undesirability of sending a R.H.A. Bty, less two troops, without any infantry or other defence to defend a village situated on a German armoured divisional centre line. He agreed.


The same thing applies in the desert. Many Regts and Btys have fought most gallant actions, but those actions in themselves were unusual comma and it would be the greatest mistake to contend that they were necessarily the right way to carry out any particular future movement.


5.         A C.O must within reason, be allowed to decide for himself by what means he considers he can best command his Regt. Whilst it is desirable for him to remain as much as possible with the Armd Bde, how many occasions when either the C.O.2 or other responsible officer must take his place in this capacity. The main HQ of the Regt should invariably move with the main HQ of the Armd Bde it is supporting.


The C.O. has always the responsibility of his 24 guns, and there must be numerous occasions when his job is with those guns and not in some other position where he is unable to exercise personal control. It may well be said that he has control of them through wireless, but this is not the same as being with the guns personally. Wireless does not give him the actual control of the gun position. He must have a free hand.


6.         The complete disregard of the current occupation of O.Ps results in unnecessary casualties. this was seen to be entirely wrong comma and no matter what the rank of an officer may comma if he wishes to visit an O.P. he should do so by the normal method, which means keeping out of sight of the enemy and drawing their fire on to the O.P. concerned.


7.         The change between the moving armoured battle only static battle seems not to be clear. If F.O.Os are forward with no infantry in front of them, then I agree the infantry protection is absolutely necessary. If, on the other hand, there is an empty line of outposts with the O.Ps behind them,  the F.O.Os can fend for themselves.


The same thing applies to the guns. The Regt area should invariably have an A/Tk Bty to defend it, but it does not require infantry unless there is an exposed flank or the frontline is likely to move backwards, leaving the tanks and the R.H.A. Regt.


New, it is essential to that an A/Tk Bty should be allocated to each Regt. Whilst I appreciate there is much controversy in this respect, I firmly believe that the training and co-operation , which would exist between the A/Tk and the R.H.A. personnel are essential for efficient work. If, on the other hand, the Btys are continuously continually changed, it does it makes it far more difficult to get a well organised protected area.


8.         The entire training of the Regt should be left in the hands of the C.O. I consider that this particularly applies when they C.O. has commanded for over two years. His suggestions and advice should be considered. It is unlikely that he will wish to carry out anything adverse to the efficiency of his Regt. If he is not considered capable of completely running his own command, then there can be but one answer.


9.         A great deal of unnecessary anxiety is course to concerned by the question of getting sick and wounded officers and men back to the unit after they have been evacuated. If units could send, through the army comma and list of those people by name, this would then, under Army authority, be forwarded to the versus various departments concerned, it would ensure that the right people were re-posted to the right units. Whilst it is fully appreciated that during a grave emergency rules might have to be broken, as a general rule the efficiency and esprit de corps of any unit - so absolutely necessary for good fighting - must depend on the retention of his officers and men. When a unit first comes to this country, it feels particularly lost if there is any fear of officers and men being posted elsewhere comma and I feel certain that a great deal could be done to ease the minds of all concerned if a definite ruling could be published on this matter. I now realise that many of our people are likely to return, but this has only been ascertained after inquiries have been made of numerous resources.


10.        During the first phase of the recent battle, I came under the orders of no less than three C.R.As, as well as the direct orders of Cmdr 23 Armd Bde Group. Each C.R.A. wants something different: each C.R.A. is out to be the most helpful: but the fact remains (if any C.O. allows himself to become rattled) four different masters are bound to cause confusion of thought.


11.        The replacement of soft vehicle by “Honeys” for F.O.Os does not seem to work smoothly. It is believed that the tanks are actually available, but although on one occasion we sent in some tanks for exchange the new ones could not be issued because “Cairo” said that in future we should be equipped with Valentines. In the first place it is not all at all certain that this Regt will be equipped with Valentines; and in the second place it is not least invite the not the least you saying that Valentines will be sent to us if they are not available at once. When we are in action or in close reserve we must have the tanks available. It is useless and most extravagant in lies to expect F.O.Os to go forward into a tank battle in soft vehicles. At the time of writing we are four tanks down on establishment of 10 comma and matter which should be remedied as soon as possible.


12.        The number of senior officers who visited this Regt to wish us good luck was greatly appreciated by all ranks. We had a personal visit by the M.G.R.A., the B.R.A. and the C.C.R.A. of each Corps. This visits were great encouragement all ranks and made us feel welcome on the country. Needless to say, my Divisional Commander and his staff were continually present to do all they could to assist.


13.        This originality has had a great deal of practice in Regtl deployment, and has an excellently trained survey party. On the other hand, I consider that the question of centralising guns can be overdone. Whilst entirely deprecating the “penny packets”, I do feel that a Horse Artillery Bty is well capable of supporting a Regt on its own, without interference from the Regtl Cmdr concerned. The ideal position is that a Bty can be put in support of a Regt but that the Regtl Cmdr can retain sufficient control so that if necessary he can have Regtl fire brought down on any one point. Provided this rule is adhered to, the “penny packets” must disappear, as the Btys would be too far away from regimental control.


14.        It is realised that the above points are both controversial and frank. They are in no way meant to be critical. But perhaps, after commanding a Bty for a year during the last war, ‘K’ Bty in France during the recent operations and this Regt for over two years, I may be allowed to express my feelings.



10 Aug 42.

Lt.Col., R.H.A.


Commanding 5th Regt., R.H.A.



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