War Diaries of C Battery, Royal Horse Artillery

1940 and 1941

 

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January 1940 - April 1940

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BATTERY HISTORY

“C” BATTERY, ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY

1.5.40Helmieh Camp

Orders received for the Battery to move to Mersa Matruh

2.5.40

Road Party leave 0700 hours.

Rail Party leave Helmieh Siding 2200 hours.

3.5.40

Rear Party leave.

3.5.40

Mersa Matruh

Road and Rail Parties arrive Mersa Matruh, detrain and proceed to rendezvous at Kilo 35 on Sidi Barrani – Matruh road.

4.5.40

Battery takes up Battle positions to cover Wadi Halzene. A Troop forward, B & C Troops linked in depth.

6.5.40

Support Group Commander gives permission for swimming parties at 25% away per time.

7.5.40

The Captain met S.C. at Kilo 6 on Matruh road to rec. a rear camp.

8.5.40Madwar Camp

Battery returns to Madwar Camp at Kilo 11.

11.5.40

The camp is visited by Support Group Commander.

13.5.40

7th Armoured Division arrives at Mersa Matruh less 8th Hussars and 1 Royal Tank Reg.

17.5.40

Practice of quick moves from Camp Battery, read in one hour.

21.5.40

One troop per day ordered to stand-to from 0315 to 0515 and from 1800 to 2000 hours daily for anti-parachutist precautions.

22.5.40   

to 10.6.40

During this period the Battery underwent training of all classes, and numerous divisional schemes of varying lengths and purposes.

10.6.40

ITALY DECLARES WAR.

10.6.40

Sidi Barrani

“C” Battery left Madwar at 2000 hrs. and advanced to Sidi Barrani, arriving 0500 on June 11th

11.6.40

A Troop come into action in a forward position with B & C Troops linked in rear. During the afternoon gun positions were surveyed and defensive tasks on the front of the 60th Rifles decided upon.

12.6.40

At 1400 hours A troop advanced to a new position at Buq Buq in support of the 60th Rifles. At 1700 hrs. B troop moved to join 4th Armoured Brigade at Bir Digmaish. (Buq Buq lies due West of Sidi Barrani about 25 miles from Sollum. For Bir Digmaish see Map A.1)

 

 

OFFICERS “C” BATTERY, R.H.A.

 

June 10th 1940/ Outbreak at War.

H.Q.

Battery Commander: Major R.H.M. Thomas, M.V.O., R.H.A.

Battery Captain:         Captain G.W. Goschen, R.H.A.

Q.                               Lieut. W.M. Griffiths, R.H.A.

C.P.O.                        Lieut. R.G. Cook, R.H.A.

A.C.P.O.                    2/Lieut. W.K. Evers; R.H.A.

“A” Troop.

Captain W.A.P. Warden, R.H.A.

Lieut. G.E. Dee, R.H.A

“B” Troop.

Captain J. Houghton, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. D.R. Hughes, R.H.A.

“C” Troop.

Lieut. J. Lefèvere, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. E.D. Simonds. R.H.A.

 

 

 

The situation for the next two weeks was that C Battery less B troop remained in support of 60th Rifles at Buq Buq

 

 

13.6.40

Sidi Azeis

“B” Troop

B Troop under orders from 4th Armd. Brigade took part in an attack on Sidi Azeiz (See Map No. 1) with 1 squadron 7th Hussars, 1 troop Bofors, 1 Squadron 11th Hussars. The troop in this engagement had three guns, only, one being left at Dar el Hamra en route. An O.P. was occupied but was shelled out and firing was carried on using the clock method of indication of rounds, and an armoured car of the 11th Hussars. This method was very unsuccessful and the troop withdrew at duck to a leaguer area in the road the Egyptian side of the boundary. Italian Fighter aircraft attacked the column on its return to leaguer, but no casualties were suffered.

14.6.40

    to

28.6.40

“B” Troop remained East of the wire during this period in leaguer.

29.6.40

“B” Troop came into action by Fort Capuzzo (see Map No.1) at 1800 hours and engaged two enemy batteries in the open. One enemy battery withdrew at 1815 hour. Shooting stopped on request of Tank Commander at 1835 hours for a tank attack to be launched. Troop opened up on third enemy abattery at 1615 hours for 10 minutes.

30.6.40

The O.P. was shelled by enemy all night but all rounds fell short. “B” Echelon was bombed by air in their bivouac area in the evening, mostly incendiary bombs which caused no damage of casualties. Troop withdrew to bivouac area at first light on 30th of June.

 

 

July

 

5.7.40

Orders were received for the remaining troops “A” and “C” who were still at Buq Buq to join “B” Troop in the Capuzzo area. The two troops marched all day and bivouacked in area on night of 4/6th. “C” troop were bombed on the march, casualties – 1 killed and 1 wounded.

6.7.40

The whole Battery came into action in front of Fort Capuzzo. Battery concentrated for 5 minutes, 220 rounds expended, with considerable effect. Enemy transport were engaged at 1700 hours, 60 rounds at 1900 hours on Italian infantry situated in Sargar S.W. of fort, and registered. “A” Troop withdrew to rear action position, remainder with to bivouac area.

7.7.40

“A” troop detail at 0200 hours for an independent mission with 7th Hussars. Infantry see in open West of Fort Capuzzo were engaged. This bough an instantaneous reply from enemy batteries brought up during the night. The O.P. was quickly ranged on and had to be evacuated. Throughout the morning any movement at O.P.s drew enemy fire. At 1000 hours information was received that an enemy column was attempting to cut off 7th Hussars. B.C. went out in armoured O.P. to bring fire on column but failed to locate it. Capuzzo was heavily reinforced during the afternoon. Frequent burst were fired at irregular intervals by our remaining 6 guns (two having gone out of action with bent trails) at targets in the Fort area. Enemy artillery then became active and shells began to fall near gun positions. There were located and engaged with 15 rounds per gun at 1730 hours. These batteries did no reply. The two troops withdrew to rear position at dusk.

8.7.40

A quiet night; the O.P. was out early but no enemy activity. Concentrations were fire on transport near Capuzzo. This was answered by one heavy enemy gun, rounds falling well plus of gun positions. Heavy concentrations were fired on enemy batteries at 1730 hours, to which there was no reply. A quiet evening followed by a peaceful night. Expended about 400 rounds of H.E. four more guns out of action with broken trails. A serious state for the Battery.

9.7.40

A very quiet day, no enemy movement seen. The press came up at lunch to photograph. A well managed show was given, the guns firing a few rounds of gun fire for them. The enemy responded, their rounds landing close enough for the press to photograph. The afternoon brought an Italian Bomber circling around the gun position for nearly an hour flying about 2000 ft. altitude. All guns (A.A.) opend up a lone without visible effect, although it was believed he was hit. The gun positions were moved in the evening, about a mile to the N.E.

10.7.40

Capuzzo area

A quite morning; the Battery opened fire around midday, and immediately received a response from enemy Medium Artillery. 24 rounds were put down by them on the gun position, 8 of which failed to detonate. The bomber returned during the day but was chased away by one of our Gladiators. Observation on an enemy convoy was tried in the afternoon using a tank and a No. 9 Set but did not prove very satisfactory. A quiet night followed/

11.7.40

Located and engaged enemy medium guns by cross observation. The O.P. Officer has a narrow escape when shells burst within several yards. The telephonist had a greater thrill when a shell landed one yard from his head, burst upwards and perforated a petrol can and the sides of the truck, whilst the fuze went through four blankets and came to rest against the operator’s shoulders. Both men were unhurt and carried on their duties as if nothing had happened. Bdr. Clark received the M.M. for his conduct on this occasion. The enemy guns were successfully ranged on and silenced. In the morning a divisional concentration was fired on Capuzzo, 60 rounds, “F” Battery joining in. This turned out most successful, In the afternoon the Battery was almost entirely responsible for turning back a convoy of 150 supply lorries, and preventing them from reaching Capuzzo. The night was blasted with our harassing fire but no reply came.

12.7.40

Early in the morning a certain amount of enemy activity was seen on the neighbourhood of Capuzzo. On being fired upon all the enemy ran for the Fort. Several targets were registered by the Battery. At 1340 hours on a report coming from 4th Armoured Bde. a concentration was fired on the Bardia Road north of Capuzzo. 90 rounds were expended and it us believed that the column reported failed to get in; the rest of the afternoon was quiet, During the evening an enemy O.P. was engaged, the observer leaving in haste. At dusk a report was received that the enemy supply column would attempt to reach Capuzzo, after dark. Mines were laid on the road. On hearing the mines explode a concentration was put down to complete the enemy’s discomfort, otherwise a quiet night.

13.7.40

Early on this morning the enemy tried to occupy the O.P. in the Water Tower and three times they were shelled out of it. Time was spent in registering the Customs House. No further enemy movement was seen. In the afternoon an enemy bomber flew over the Battery at a height of about 12,000 feet but took no action. In the evening on information from the 60th a concentration was fired on the Bardia Road, to frighten off enemy supply columns. During the night harassing fire was put down on Capuzzo to assist the Sappers in blowing up Mussolini’s Statue, which was suspected as being used for an O.P. During the shooting an ammunition dump of the enemy was hit.

14.7.40

A quiet morning until midday when a concentration was put down on an enemy column which was trying to get into Capuzzo. At about 1300 hours the enemy guns, which had been silent for 48 hours, commence to shell our position, only four shells landed near, the remainder fell short. The Battery retaliated on the enemy’s position, having recorded the data. Every gun opened up including the 60 pdrs. and during the general concentration a oil dump was hit, starting an enormous fire, which burnt for four hours. Two other lesser fires were started, one of which like ammunition going off. Dense columns of black smoke and flames 100 ft. high leapt over Capuzzo while concentrations were fired into the Fort area periodically. Harrassing fire was again continued throughout the night. “A” Troop which was detailed had a most successful day stopping the enemy columns which were trying to get into Capuzzo and destroyed 40 enemy lorries. Capt. G. W. Goschen was shelled continuously for over one hour in the O.P. but despite this maintained fire on the enemy. For this he was awarded the Military Cross. The battery fired 120 rounds per gun during the day – a most successful day.

15.7.40

The early morning was spent in the registration of further targets. Then throughout the morning observed fire was brought to bear on the hutted enemy columns outside Capuzzo. One gun from ”A” troop was put in a forward sniping position, where it could get good command of the Bardia Road with observation from an armoured O.P. This gun did excellent shooting in the evening both at transport moving along the road and at an enemy gun position in the open. Three shells landed amongst about 40 men gather in a group near the gun position. A quiet night, The forward gun fired 99 rounds during the afternoon, which proved too much for it, the right trail finally breaking,

Miscellaneous

It must be stated here that “C” troop on 10th July had been merged into “A” and “B” troop, making the Battery into two six-gun troops.

16.7.40

The morning was again spent in registration. At 0830 hours the 7th Hussars supported by “A” troop with concentration and a smoke screen put in an attack on a disabled enemy convoy. The attack was completely successful. “B” troop engaged and neutralised one enemy battery which opened up on the 7th Hussars, from near the fort. During the morning “A” troop engaged convoys on the roads – The enemy having taken to sending out single vehicles at about 10 minutes intervals. “A” troop disabled 6 vehicles which left the fort in a similar manner. Harassing fire was by “B” troop almost continuously from 2100 hours to 0400 hours throughout the night, single rounds at irregular intervals.

17.7.40

On the whole a quiet day; there was considerable air activity by the enemy. Five bombers spent an hour overhead during the morning about 1100 hours, at a height of about 20,000 feet. In the afternoon there about at 1545 hours. “A” troop opened up on convoys supported where possible by “B” troop, otherwise no enemy movement seen.

REPORT BY MAJOR GOSCHEN M.C. (Insert)

 

 

REPORT ON THE EMPLOYMENT OF A TROOP OF 25 Pdrs. WITH MECHAIZED UNIT

 

(Sunk by enemy action)

18.7.40

A completely quite day, not a single round being fired. An enemy bomber circled the position at about 3,000 ft. At 0900 hours and at 1900 hours but no offensive action was taken, “B” Troop less one gun and Battery H.Q. were relieved by “F” Battery during the course of the night. “A” troop withdrew from BP 40 and took over a gun position at Silquiga in the Capuzzon Area.

19.7.40

“A” troop in action on the night of 19/20th. The position was handed over to “F” Battery and the troop withdrew to the previously occupied position at Buq Buq.

20.7.40

The situation of the two troops was “B” Battery in a vineyard at foot of the escarpment at Sollum, and “A” troop at Buq Buq for refitting and resting purposes.

21.7.40

The role of “B” troop was with the support group and the section included the area north of the escarpment and the coast road through to Buq Buq and Sidi Barrani. “F” troop of “F” Battery had been in this position before “B” troop took over and various strategic points had been registered in particular the road from Sollum to the village at the foot. The troop was disposed so that 2 guns were forward in the vineyard and 4 guns about a mile back in the Wadi al Shaabua. The grapes in the vineyard were just ripe, as were the figs, and the M.O. who was always short of medical stores said he would refuse to issue any laxatives to the gun detachments there. The main O.P. was in a Sagar on the top of the escarpment protected by at first by the 60th Rifles and then the Rifle Brigade. This was a quiet time much appreciated by the troops although a certain amount of strain was felt by the detachments in the forward sector. An Italian offensive was believed imminent and various plans for withdrawal were adopted. The chief concern of the officer in the O.P. was now to get his wireless set down on foot over 600 feet of steep escarpment. Though the general role of the forward troop was to harass, the Italians had increased their frontier forces, in particular their Artillery. The enemy were in the habit of having no forward O.P.s but to control fire either by observation ladders at the guns oras we believed through wireless direction finding apparatus. Consequently their replies to our shelling though determined and often tempered was often very blind. The intention of the Italians seemed to be the neutralisation of every possible O.P. This meant the Sollum aerodrome buildings would be variously bombarded was also were the Barracks. The whole of the ground between the Barracks and the Hilfaya Pass came in for a plastering. This activity added another possibility to shorten the life of the O.P. Officer who now had to furnish a shelling report and often something in the nature of a cash register was needed to total up the number of rounds sent over by our antagonists.

 

            Further amusement was provided by the “Circus”. This considered of anything from 20 to 30 fighters who obviously protected a very nervous spotter plane in controlling fire from the Rumlah batteries. One of these batteries which were mostly 105mm. guns used to fire along with a big gun which came to be known affectionately as “Bardia Bill”. He more that often than not fired four duds out of six. To relieve the tedium of the general routine reconnaissances along the wire along the wire became the fashion. There were carried out in the early afternoon when the mirage quietened down. One occasion which will not be forgotten by two officers in the troop started out as a light hearted attempt to discover the xxxxxxxx position of the Rumlah guns. The intention was to go on until fired at, obviously, then the gun position should be apparent. All went well and the party started out in an armoured O.P. and a 8 cwt. both well comflaged. Fire was duly drawn and bearings etc., taken which were firing by direct observation, and becoming exceeding accurate. A quick withdrawal was made behind the next crest but proved unsatisfactory and a Wadi near by was quickly moved into. The 8 cwt. came to rest behind some graves and blended well in the background although in full view of the Italian gunners. The armoured O.P. moved up the Wadi right banked and fortunately for the occupants the Italian guessed wrongly and search and swept to the left of them completely ignoring the 8 cwt.

16.8.40

A naval bombardment was carried out of Capuzzo. Battery rear H.Q. were established at Kilo 125 on the Matruh-Sidi Barrani Road.

18.8.40

“A” troop were visited by the Bishop of Cairo and A.C.G.

23.8.40

A forward O.P. was established on BirWair at Boundary Post 24 overlooking Capuzzo

26.8.40

The left section of “A” troop was detached and moved towards Sidi Omar leaguering for the night of 26/27th 5 miles East of Sidi Omar. This move was made in order to counter a movement of enemy M.ET. from Gaber Saleh.

27.8.40

As an Italian offensive now seemed imminent Support Group took over the whole front and “A” troop were in support South of the escarpment. The Rifle Brigade were released by 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards and a fresh Sargar nearer to Hilfaya Pass (pronounced by now “Hellfire”) became the O.P. due to being discovered in the other by bombers and the Italian gunners. It had a narrow escape one evening when five bombers dropped 20 assorted heavy bombs around it but failed to injure occupants or Sanger. This attempt was summed up by the O.P. telephonist, who no doubt came from Yorkshire, by “I thought that was curtain !”

 

          The Italians had now taken to using shrapnel but the shells always burst to high and did not trouble anybody. A story was now circulating that the Italians intended to attack very soon. It seemed to start from our water cart driver who with his water cart man had captured the crew of an Italian bomber and obtained the information. This proved correct, although it was taken with a pinch of salt at the time.

 

          The tranquillity of the night was shattered by shots being fired at what the F.O.P. said was an Italian patrol. The troop stood to and a T.S.M. went out to investigate and came back with the relieving news that it was a lost Company Commander of the Guards.

31.8.40

“A” troop registered enemy batteries by day and occupied dummy positions at night to cover patrol activities penetrating into Capuzzo,

 

During the period 31.8.40 a programme of harassing fire was carried out by “C” Battery and the 7th Medium Regiment.

 

At 1800 hours a section of the 7th Medium Regiment fired an Air shoot with the co-operation of a Lysander. This was not very successful as A.A. fire from the Fort area prevented “spotting”.

 

At 1830 hours “A” troop joined in with 7th Medium Regiment firing on x the following targets: (i) Dump Area; (ii) Fort; (iii) Hostile Battery; (iv) Any movement seen. Two O.P.s were employed – Lieut. Cook at Boundary Post 34 with W/T communications;  Lieut. Hughes at Boundary Post 38 with Line and W/T communication.

 

At 1900 hours a hostile battery (HB9) opened up and was engaged successfully, an ammunition dump being set on fire. The A.A. guns (HB5) were also silenced. The third phase was to bring down neutralising fire on three known battery positions if they opened up on machine guns of the 3rd Batt. Coldstream Guards. The Guards were sending patrols into the Dump Area about 0200 hours and the M.G.s were to cover withdrawal and harass any enemy opposition. Actually no enemy batteries opened up, though the O.P. very much appreciated the firework display from Italian small arms.

1.9.40

“A” troop relived “B” troop at Solumith, occupying section positions forward at the Fig Grove and four guns in Main position two miles back East. “A” troop recorded no further activity until Sept. 13th.

 

Advance parties from each troop came up the escarpment the previous night at arrange the change-over. The troop leaguer area was near Helfaya Pass, at Bir Silweiat. Four guns were in action 1 miles East of Musaid at what became known as the cultivation position.

 

Two O.P.s were taken over, the first being more of less permanent connected by lines to the guns situated at Bir Wair between Boundary Post 34 and 35. This was a very prominent sandy well and it was never understood why the Italian did not shell it. Possibly its security was due to the higher crest East of it.

 

The second O.P. was site between two very thin bushes 400 k. from the wire Boundary Posts 27 and 28. Communication here was by 1½ miles of wire to a W/T truck dug in behind the crest due East. Both these standing O.P.s were very insecure as the nearest supporting arm was at least 4 miles distant, whilst the enemy were considerably nearer. In fact, apart from shell fire, there was nothing to present the enemy either putting the O.P. party into the “Bag” at any time without interference.

 

As a consequence of this insecurity, particularly at Boundary post 28 the armoured O.P. was often used in this area. Even so, one of many similar incidents will illustrate what might have happened if the Italians had displayed the slightest amount of initiative.

3.9.40

Two officers went out in “TOC” North east of Capuzzo on as far as Boundary Post 26. Rounds if gunfire were being put down for identification of two of the Northern batteries when Driver Gray reported three enemy lorries with infantry escorted by four motor-bykes mounting machine guns, both parties halted and the Italian infantry immediately deployed on the ground. Two rounds of gunfire were ordered; Gray told to start up his engine preparatory to retiring to a healthier place. A peculiarity of this type of armoured O.P. was that it could only be turned gradually. A hasty attempt to put on full lock jammed the steering and the vehicle went round and round in small circles. Visions of an extended holiday in Benghazi, if not Napes, arose in everybody’s mind. Shells in the meantime however, had arrived, corrections were made but already the Italians were discouraged and had remounted their vehicles. In no time their lorries were on the move back to Bardia, chased by gun fire at extreme elevation.

 

It took half an hour’s illtreatment to rectify the steering. The wireless was the found to be jammed by the enemy from Capuzzp, so a discreet withdrawal was carried out to the Musaid holloe. – Where two precious bottles of beer were shared to crown the escape. Meanwhile the enemy guns at Ramlah doubtless informed of their patrols’ “brush” the British, pounded away at imaginary O.P.s in Musaid and Sollum Barracks.

 

 

OFFICERS “C” BATTERY, R.H.A.

 

September 13th – Italian Advance.

H.Q.

Battery Commander: Major R.H.M. Thomas, M.V.O., R.H.A.

Battery Captain:         Major G.W. Goschen, M.C. R.H.A.

Q.                               Captain. W.M. Griffiths, R.H.A.

“A” Troop.

Lieut. R.G. Cook, R.H.A

Lieut. G.E. Dee, R.H.A

Lieut. A.E. Wood, R.H.A

“B” Troop.

Lieut. E.Taylor R.H.A

Lieut. J. Lefèvere, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. D.R. Hughes, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. W.K. Evers. R.H.A

 

Captain W.A.P. Warden, R.H.A. absent sick.

2/Lieut. E.D. Simonds. R.H.A.                  .

 

10.9.40

Throughout the day, reports were coming in showing the enemy to be concentrating towards Sidi Omar. Normal harassing fire was put down by the four guns in action at the “Cultivation position” on the Capuzzo area.

11.9.40

An enemy column of 400 M.E.T. were reported halted at Sidi Omar West of the wire. Enemy reinforcements were reported in the Capuzzo Area. In view of this and to prevent an enemy break-though South of the Escarpment, a small force under command of Lieut-Col. J. Campbell R.H.A. M.C. was composed as follows:

 

                  4 guns        “C” Battery   )

                  1 troop       “M” Battery  ) R.H.A.

 

                  1 squadron   6th R.T.R.

 

and went to Sidi Omar.

 

The guns came into action at 2130 hours. 300 rounds were poured into the excellent target provided by the enemy’s close leaguer. The remaining section of “B” troop was withdrawn about 6 miles East of Bir Nuh, R.H.Q’s old position

12.9.40

The enemy advance seemed to be about to start at any moment now. The section at Bir Nuh was in action until 1200 hours. The armoured O.P. was sent forward to observe and collect information. The enemy was reported well established right on the wire. Batteries of 105 mm were being dug in East of the Wire at Boundary Posts 26 and 27.

 

In the evening 700 enemy vehicles were reported in the Sidi Omar area. This was believe to General Maletti’s mobile “ desert division”. 4 guns of “C” Battery with Bofors and Infantry escort moved out to engage them.

13.9.40

Fire was opened at 0230 hours but after first ranging round could not be observed owing to a thick mist. This did not actually matter as the target was so vast that considerable damage was done. The patrols 11th Hussars reported later that 200 damaged vehicles were left on the position.

 

The most important result, however, was that this force was direct North and all fears of being outflanked in the early stages of the withdrawal were removed.

 

This was a terrific achievement for 4 guns, but exacted its toll on the strain felt by all ranks. The night until the mist came down was brilliant moonlight. More than ordinary cautions had to be observed in the approach North to avoid noise. Constantly with everybody was the expectation of being bombed. Italian air superiority was well marked in these days. The complication of the mist was a mixed blessing. It prevented enemy ground observation, but ordinary dispersion has to be observed, and yet it was difficult to keep contact with outlying vehicles.

 

Later that day the whole of “B” troop withdrew to the area of pt. 200.

 

 

THE ITALIAN ADVANCE  -  “A” troop North of the Escarpment.

 

Enemy Batteries put down heavy concentration on Musaid and Sollum Barracks. Under cover of this and a very fine smoke screen infantry and tanks advanced on Sollum.

 

The forward section of “A” troop in the Fig Grove engaged them on the aerodrome and withdrew at 0900 hours. The O.P. was successfully withdrawn from the Sargar on top of the Escarpment 7 minutes before the Sangar was well and truly bombed. The section withdrew to a position covering the Sollum – Buq BuQ track. Later the other two sections engaged the enemy was they appeared on top of the escarpment from their main position in the escartpment at Wadi Shaba and later still an excellent positioned target was provided by lorries bunching were the road had been blown up on the Pass. During the afternoon the Troop withdrew to cover the Sollum – Buq Buq track.

19.9.40

Major Goschen took a section of “A” troop forward and engaged enemy tanks coming down Hilfaya pass. This was an excellent target as the Italian experienced great difficulty in negotiating the steep and twisting track down the escarpment. Their tanks were being winched round and this caused bunching. Three tanks were hit and caught fire. The excellent shooting was responsible for the path not being used for the rest of the day. In the evening “A” troop withdrew to the Buq Buq position. This was the one dug at the start of the war.

15.9.40

The enemy continued their advance this morning and were engaged by “A” troop by one section in one positions and another position by the remaining section. The enemy were checked again and again by well directed fire from the O.P. Apart from the odd searching bursts which fell plus of the Troop, there was no enemy counter-battery work. The ammunition problem was by now acute although we were withdrawing.  Replenishments were unable to keep pace with the expenditure. Smoke had to be fired along with H.E. in an attempt to ration expenditure. At 1700 hours the Troop withdrew to the Hamid position already prepared.

16.9.40

During the night “F” Battery had advanced and at first light were already in action at Hamid. The enemy continued his advance and was engaged by both batteries. “A” Troop withdrew and came into action at El Rab facing South “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Leap-frogging “F” troop and finally “G” troop withdrew. In the early afternoon fifty enemy medium tanks made flanking movement to the South. “A” troop covered the withdrawal of “F” and “G” troop by engaging the tanks. There had been in the past two days considerable enemy air activity and in particular the dropping of “Themos Flask Bombs”. Gunner Hutchinson was wounded when his fifteen cwt truck ran over one of these. The truck had to be set on fire. Other vehicle casualties was one 3-tonner which caught fire and a Dragon set on fire to avoid capture. The Troop leaguered at Kilo 102.

17.9.40

“F” Troop withdrew. “G” and “A” troops were in action North and South of the road respectively. “A troop fired on a few rounds, but the enemy were evidently consolidating at Sidi Barrani. At 1900 hours the Regiment less “B” troop, “C” Battery, came under command of 4th Armoured Brigade. “B” troop came under orders from 7th Armoured Brigade. “A” troop moved to “Charing Cross” (Kilo 16).

ITALIAN ADVANCE  -  General

13.9.40

A new phase of the war began with the events that followed this Friday. Anxious days followed; days when the enemy seemed to have cut us off. They had five divisions moving against us; days of uncertainty through lack of news; days without rations because “B” Echelon had been bombed; periods without water, when the sappers had to blow up the wells before our water cart. Above and beyond all this was the anxiety that we should not get the guns back because our Dragons – third hand at the start – were at the end of their tether. Our paramount anxiety was to let the Italian know some time or other that we were going back not because they were pushing us back with odds of ten to one, but because we were ordered to do so. Every day flights of Italian bombers came over and dripped their bombs as and when they pleased and when they had no bombs left the machine-gunned.

 

 

THE ITALIAN ADVANCE  -  “B” troop South of the Escarpment.

14.9.40 to

18.9.40

“B” troop withdrew with the rest of Support Group as flank guard to the forces on the Coast. Apart from the first two days, the xxxx enemy made no attempt at an encircling movement. This fact may be deservedly out down to the actions at Sidi Omar. “B” Troop fired no further rounds on the withdrawal although it was many times in action as a precautionary measure. O.P.s were sent forward for information and often were anything from ten to twenty miles in front of the guns. For the most past the guns were on wheels. On the night of the 15th the guns were dropped into action near the Sofafi facing N.W. to cover a possible attack from the coast up the road. That day was notable for twenty-two separate air raids on the force South of the escarpment, “B” troop suffered no casualties though two 15 cwt truck of the escorting company of the Rifle Brigade were hit, and one man was killed – a magnificent tribute to the accuracy of the Italian aircraft. One Dragon was machine-gunned whilst being repaired and had to be set on fire to avoid capture. “B” troop withdrew to Bir Enba throughout the night and came into action there to cover the approach from Sidi Barrani. This was the second day without rations, particularly that of water. Thirsts were slaked sparingly with radiator water by some, other tried well water for a change and got it.

 

In the early afternoon the Troop withdrew and came into action at Side Barrani – Sidi Mumir, while “B” echelon withdrew to Bir el Sanawaiyat. This was the worse period during the withdrawal, for ration reserves were sparingly drawn on and the rest saved for the ever thirsty Dragons. At this time the utmost any officer or Gunner had to drink each day was a bare hald mugful of tea. Had it not been for this abstinence and the lucky discovery of a well – howbeit foul – at Bir Abu Stag, undoubtly “B” troop would never have got their Dragons safe back home. It was extremely sheering to those who had experience this to receive the following later from Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, K.C.B., D.S.O., G.O.C.- in-C., B.T.E.

 

“Please convey to all ranks “B” troop, “C” Battery R.H.A. my appreciation of their devotion to duty during the retirement from the Libyan Frontier, whereby through the sacrifice of their drinking water they were able to effect the withdrawal of the guns with the loss on only one tractor.”

 

On the third waterless night “B” troop were greatly indebted to Capt. P. W.  Hobbs, R.H.A.  and “F” troop “M” Battery R.H.A.. who in exchange for badly needed petrol gave the troop twelve gallons of equally badly needed water.

18.9.40

“A” troop spent the day at Ras el Rakham and moved in the evening to R.H.Q. at Bir el Gibb. “B” troop were earlier in 2 miles East, but moved South of the escarpment and West of the Matruh-Siwa road in the Kimayis area at 688318 and formed a camp. Later “C” force under command of Lieut-Col. J. Campbell M.C., R.H.A. was assembled

 

“A” troop “C” Battery R.H.A.

1 troop “D” Battery R.H.A.

1 Squadron 11th Hussars

1 Company 1st K.R.R.C.

 

The role was to contact the enemy and harass him whenever possible

19.9.40

“C” Force marched on Divisional Centre Line to Bir Ibeise.

20.9.40

Arrived el El Sawi. The force deployed as follows: There was a forward O.P. at Pt. 54 and a rear O.P. at          . The guns were in action one thousand years East of El Sawi. The 60th Rifles were astride the Sidi Barrani with “D” Battery. Force H.Q. was at El Sawi. The day was largely spent in forward reconnaissance.

21.9.40

A force consisting of “A” troop “C” Battery R.H.A. less one section. 1 troop D Battery R.H.A. and 2 sections of 1st K.R.R.C. left at 1500 hours and arrived at 1800 hours at 587355, travelling 18 miles in 5 hours to attack enemy concentrations at Bir Suleman (500357). Bir Suleman was shelled from 1900 hours to 2000 hours. 300 rounds were expended. The enemy replied with 105 and 75 mm guns without damage. The troop had no casualties to men or vehicles during action. The slow advance over 5 hours was made to avoid xxxxxxxxx arousing any suspicion amongst the enemy. The ground was very dusty and at this xxxxxx speed movement was not visible at any great distance. Further the noise made by the Dragons was considerably reduced.

22.9.40

No further enemy movement.

23.9.40

No further enemy movement. Relieving force arrived in the evening.

24.9.40

“C” returned to El Gibb.

THE SIWA ROAD

27.9.40

Both troops were in Camp in their respective areas near the Siwa road, and remained there until October 31st, when each troops moved out as part of the North and South columns respectively.

 

The whole of this period was one of rest, refitting and maintenance. Personnel changes, drafts and fresh equipment was taken over.

30.9.40

Major G.H. Thomas M.V.O., R.H.A. took over as 2nd i/c 4th Regiment R.H.A.

Major G.W. Goschen, M.C. R.H.A. commanded  “C” Battery.

1.10.40

2nd Lieuts R.A.B Fletcher, J, Plant, J.B. Robinson and J.O.K. Denny were posted to “C” Battery with draft of 45 Other Ranks.

3.10.40

“A” Troop took over FWD tractors from 104th Regiment R.H.A.

24.10.40

Balaclava Day. The celebrations took place at “A” Troop leaguer Area.

In the afternoon “A” troop beat “B” troop at football. The Battery then had supper which was followed by a concert in the evening. Past members of “C” Battery who were guests were Lieut-Col. J.C Campbell M.C. R.H.A., Major M Yates R.H.A., Major R.J.H Thomas M.V.O., R.H.A., and Lieut-Quartermaster F.C. Studley R.H.A.

25.10.40

Lieut. G. E. Doe was posted to H.Q., B.T.E. on a special mission. 2nd Lieut. V.H. Wolfson posted from R.H.Q. to “A” Troop.

26.10.40

Six officers of the 1st Regiment R.H.A. were attached to the Battery for desert experience.

31.10.40

Lieut. G. E. Doe returned to “A” Troop and 2nd Lieut. V.H. Wolfson was interposted to “B” Troop. “C” Battery took over twelve new 25 pdr Mark II guns from Ordnance.

 

 

OFFICERS “C” BATTERY, R.H.A.

November 1st 1940 – North and South Columns.

H.Q.

Battery Commander: Major G.W. Goschen, M.C. R.H.A.

Battery Captain:         Captain. W.M. Griffiths, R.H.A.

Q.                               Lieut. J. Lefèvere, R.H.A.

“A” Troop.

Captain R.G. Cook, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. J.O.K. Denny, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. J. Flant. R.H.A.

“B” Troop.

Captain. D.R. Hughes, R.H.A.

Lieut. A.E. Wood, R.H.A

2/Lieut. V.H. Wolfson; R.H.A

2/ Lieut. J.B. Robinson; R.H.A

 

 

Absent Sick.

Captain W.A.P Warden, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. E.D. Simonds, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. E.A.B. Fletcher, R.H.A.

 

 

 

-------------------------------

 

 

NORTH AND SOUTH COLUMN

 

When the enemy advance stopped at Sidi Barrani, various forces were sent out to re-establish contact until the situation was clarified. Eventually the situation was organised into two columns, one operating North of the escarpment and the other South of the escarpment. The purpose of each column was at first to delay any further enemy advance, and later to prevent any attempt to establish fresh camps. Considering this role, units mainly came from Support Group 7th Armoured Division.

 

The Italians who mostly concerned the Columns were in strongly fortified camps around Tuma, Habsa, Matsilla, Nebeiwa and ten miles South West of Bir Enba at Alan el Rabia.

 

On the whole, the Italians were well content to remain within the perimeter of their camps, particularly so on the Coast. Occasionally from the centre and Southern camp the made short patrols on force but always under cover of their Medium Artillery.

1.11.40

North Column. “A” Troop left rest position at Bir el Harrash and went forward leaguering North of the escarpment at Bir el Mulmein for the night.

2.11.40

“A” troop moved forward and took over “G” troop’s position’s at el Mamura with North Column. This was composed of 1 troop “C” Battery R.H.A., 1 troop “M” Battery R.H.A. and 1 company 1st K.R.R.C. under command or Lieut-Col. S, de Salis, 1st K.R.R.C.

5.11.40

Four guns were moved up to position East of Hill 60 (526365) in the evening to fire at night, but were forced to retire at 1300 hours as enemy columns were advancing East as far as Fakri (324356) and threatened to cut them off. The back up a position at Hill 93 (536357) but the enemy retired without coming into range (see also account of “B” troop action of November 5th in Alam el Imma).

8.11.40

The O.P. at Point 44 (328369) was attacked by motorised infantry (11 vehicles) and forces to withdraw under shell fire. The attack was made North of Side Barrani Road. The O.P. party withdrew to El Samn where they were again shelled and withdrew South. A section was moved to Alam Galud (632633). The Armoured O.P. was in the Area of the Clockhouse at (630366) where it engaged the lorries which withdrew after four rounds. Later this section moved very slowly into the Hill 60 position and the O.P’s were reoccupied at Point 44. In the evening targets were engaged in the Wadi Maktilla Camp at 1700 hours. Rounds fell in the main leaguer Area. A fire was started and enemy guns replied without damage. Section withdrew 17.45 hours.

14.11.40

A section occupied a position at Sanyet Iznin (628363) with O.P. at El Samn to shoot at MET which was hoped would move East from Maktilla to investigate a dummy placed at (6303707) no targets appeared.

17.11.40

A section occupied a forward position at (62083563) with an O.P. at El Imna (615357) from dawn to dark.

18.11.40

It was decided to manthe position at (62083563) permanently with a section in it for three days at a time. Gun pits were dug and a leaguer established there.

24.11.40

A section occupied at Sanyet Izmin before first light and in the evening shot at an outpost of Maktilla Camp.

24.11.40

On receipt intelligence reporting a move of the enemy along the coast to North. A four gun position was occupied near Bir Abd El Watil (63313629) to cover the coast track and road East of Maktilla Camp.

29.11.40

Section position at (62083563) came under control of the newly formed Centre column and the section therefore returned to main Troop Leaguer. at Bir El Mamura.

2.12.40

A troop were relieved by the 1st Field Regiment, R.A. and left the North Column to join Centre Column with B Troop.

SOUTH COLUMN

1.11.40

B Troop moved from leaguer Area West of Siwa road South of Escarpment to Bir Mumein and leaguered there for the night.

2.11.40

Arrived Sidi Mumein and relieved “F” troop R.H.A. The left column was under command of Major G.W. Goschen M.C. R.H.A. and consisted of B Troop “C” Battery, R.H.A.

One Troop “M” Battery, R.H.A.

“A” Coy K.R.R.C. under Major C. Constitt.

 

Just North down the Escarpment ready for support was the 3rd  K.O. Hussars. Forward observation from the Coast South to Bir Khamsa was maintained by the 11th Hussars. Four guns were in action 200 yards East of Point 190. An O.P. was manned daily at Point 196.

Lieut. A.B. Wood, R.H.A. made a reconaissance Point 196 to Bir El Magasid and to Bir El Warawir.

3.11.40

Reconnaisance of previous day extended by Troop Commander and Lieut. A.B. Wood, R.H.A. with one section truck 60th Rifles as far as Alam Abu Hiligat. As the W.T. truck was driven up the eastern slope forty enemy MET drove up the other side. The reconnaissance party withdrew East 1000 yards believing enemy patrol to be moving South West. This was not so and the reconnaissance party was heavily shelled and machine gunned at 1000 yards but withdrew without casualties. Meantime reports had reached Force Commander of the enemy movements and four guns were moved forward to Point 196 to rendezvous with 3rd K.O. Hussars. Troop Commander was sent forward as F.O.O. but the enemy had withdrawn to Nibewia Camp.

 

 

PRECIS OF REPORT ON BATTLE OF EL IMNA BY MAJOR G.W. GOSCHEN, M.C., R.H.A.

5.11.40

Major G.W. Goschen secured reports from 11th Hussars of enemy patrols in force North West of Ghot Arada early in the morning . He decide to engage them and at 12.30 hours he sent the following force to rendezvous with the 3rd Hussars in Ghot Areida.

 

Two enemy columns were located at 623360 and North of Alam El Imna (616359). An O.P. and Force H.Q. were located at Point 114. A simple plan was evolved of a preliminary Artillery Bombardment followed by an encircling tank attack

 

        Fire was opened at 1400 hours in the East Column in hopes of cutting them off from the large column in the Ima area. The first few rounds of gunfire made the enemy move North West.

 

        Both enemy columns began to move immediately. The method was in two long lines with 200 yards intervals between vehicles thus making it difficult for effective engagement as targets. The enemy method of leap frogging a rear guard of 2 or 3 guns with 12 medium tanks prevented the 3rd Hussars from getting in contact.

 

        The Troop continued firing until 1515 hours, 280 rounds being fired at 4200 – 6500 yards. The guns had been continuously shelled from 1200 to 1500 hours.

 

        At 1530 hours the Troop withdrew due South, At 1600 hours the enemy were observed to rally between Point 88 and Matshi

 

        The Troop returned to its original position in Ghot Areida but the enemy withdrew Westward to Point 90 (606364). Meanwhile the Troop Commander was ordered forward s F.O.O. escorted by one Troop of Light Tanks and one Platoon of 60th Rifles. The battlefield was circled but little found except empty cartridge cases and small sangars.

 

        During this time the Cruiser Squadron of the 3rd Hussars had got into contact with the Tail of the Eastern Column but withdrew at 1700 hours.

 

        The results of the battle were summarised.

 

        The engagement was unsatisfactory owing to the waste of time. Gunfire will not acheive results by itself when the enemy is unrestricted in movement.

 

The scout carrier proved unsatisfactory after a journey of fourteen miles over very rough country it wireless set was found to be out of order. As a consequence the Troop Commander had to order up his W/T eight cwt. This was used as an O.P. on the only possible featured in the Area for observation this unarmoured vehicle from 14.00 hrs to 15.50 hrs was shot at by 75 MM. guns Breda A/T guns, tank 37 MM. guns and machine guns. In view of this the Battery Commander asked for tanks to be issued for O.P. vehicles.

 

        For the next week or so the enemy was obviously licking his wounds, he plucked up courage however and made several excursions but always retired very quickly on the first sight of an move to trap him.

15.11.40

        For this reason Lieut.Colonel P. Wilson took over South Column with 3rd Hussars under command. The next few days the whole force leaguered in turn at Ghot Alam El Hilieqat and Bir Abu Magasid but the enemy did not stir very far from camp. While leaguered at Bir Abu Magasid news was received of an enemy column having advanced as far as Bir Enba. At 17.00 hours a section with Bowker Bofor escort and a Platoon of Infantry was sent racing towards Ghot El Shalludi but the enemy returned home to Rabia almost as the guns started to move.

 

        It now seemed likely that the enemy realising the gap between Rabia and Nebeiwa Camps (15 miles) was about to make a camp at Bir Enba. This reason Force H.Q. was moved forward just East of Ghot Shalludi supported by a section of guns, O.P.s were first put out at Point 204 (Bir Enba) and Point 185 to commend respectively advances from Rabia and Nebeiwa but the O.P. at Point 185 was eventually left to 3rd. Hussars.

19.11.40

        At 0800 hrs 7 single engine fighters flew pat the O.P. at Point 204 (Bir Enba) into the sun and then dived bombed and machine gunned the seven vehicles in the O.P. area for 15 minutes. After the first attack all ranks replied with small arms fire. Over 100 incendiary and H.E. bombs were dropped. The enemy aircraft were definitely disconcerted by the S.A.A. fire.

 

        The casualties were Major Philips 3rd K.O. Hussars and 2/Lt. K. Watts “M” Battery, R.H.A. whose W/T 8cwt was straddled with bullets

 

        This unusual air activity heralded enemy ground movement. Towards 10.30 hrs reports came in of enemy patrols moving southwest from Nibeiwa and Habsa. After much uncertainty as the to the ultimate directions of the two columns, our forward patrols located them advancing south and west of Alam El Hileiqat.

 

The two enemy columns joined eventually with their head on the high ground of Bir El Bint. From this position they shelled our patrols on Hileiqat but seemed indisposed to advance.

 

        Meantime the forces of the Left Column had wheeled north in Ghot Shalludi and the cruiser Sqadron were working round East of the enemy to cut off their retreat from Nibeiwa. B Squadron were in reserve east of Bir Enba.

 

        At 13.04 two sections of “B” Troop forward opened fire on enemy tanks with a roving O.P. hull down 500 yards East of El Shalludi. The remaining section almost immediately followed from Ghot Sidi Abbas. The shell fire was very accurate and the enemy started to withdraw.

 

        After 98 rounds had been fired upon the very large target (see acc. captured report on engagement for numbers of enemy). The cruiser squadron got into contact with enemy. Meantime since 12.45 hrs the O.P. at Point 204 had reported at least 35 enemy vehicles approaching from Rabia. The four guns forward were handed over as soon as shooting ceased to this O.P. A round of gunfire at extreme elevation was sufficient to turn the enemy back although the rounds fell 100 yards short.

 

        With the enemy routed but safe under the batteries of Nibeiwa the engagement was broken off.

 

The casualties inflicted were

5 Medium Tanks.          )

2 Ammunition Lorries.  )      destroyed.

1 Breda A.A. Gun          )

 

2 Lorries.                       )

1 Breda A.A. Gun         )       captured.

 

1 officer and 5 men were taken prisoner

 

        Our own casualties were nil, but on O.R., R.C. of Sign. was killed and two O.Rs., 1st K.R.R.C were wounded as a result of a dive machine-gun attack at about 13.30 hrs.

 

        Following is a report by the Commander of one of the columns captured in Rabia Camp during our advance in December. It is an interesting doc for various reasons; the enemy estimate of forces against them which actually were 1 Regiment of Mechanised Cavalry and 1 Coy supported by “B” Troops six guns, his excellent comparison of the inferior Italian equipment with the British; his bad map reading and above all his identification of our F.W.D tractors as heavy tanks ready to go forward in the third wave of attack.

 

 

REPORT CAPTURED AT RABIA CAMP.

 

 

                                                MALETTI GROUP.                               PM 13/c

                                                                                                            21 Nov. 1940. X1Xth.

                                                H.Q. 3rd Group of Bns.                                     Fascist

                                                                                                                           Year.

Subject:-          ACCOUNT OF BATTLE OF ALAM ABU HILEIQAT.   

                        (1/100,000 SIDI BARRANI MAP Ed. 39 (Italian)).

 

                                                Report by Lt. Col. Luigi CRINITI.

 

            The Mobile column, constituted and equipped under my orders on the evening of the 18th inst., was ready at 0800 hrs on the 19th to march against the enemy at the first signal.

            The column was completed as under:-

            1 Auto Saharan Co. (Sebba)                           Comd.             Capt. MATALONI.

            1 Bn. of M. Tanks (27) Tks.                                "                   Maj.  CEVA.

            7th Lib Bty of 65/17 Guns.                                "                   Lt.     LANNARIELLO.

            17th Coy of Metropolitan Arty.

            of 47/32 Guns (Six Guns)                                   "                   Lt.      GALIO.

            260th Bty of Metropolitan Arty )

            of 20mm Guns (4 guns)                      )               "                   Lt.       TOESCA.                   

            Reinforced by 1 Sec (2 guns of   )                                         the 10th Bty)                           )

            3 M/C Bersaglieri Despatch Riders.

            1 R/T Station – R.F.3.C.

 

            At 1000 hrs. I received the order to move to ALAM ABU HILEIQAT where I was to join the column from the 2nd Lib Div under Comd of Col. GLORIA and place myself under his Comd.

            At 1030 hrs I began to move towards ABAR ABU EL WITWIT (59733544 on our map) in the following order:-

            Van Guard.     1 M.G. Pl of Saharan Co.

                                    1 Sec of 47/32 Guns.

                                    1 Sec of 20 mm Guns.

            Main Body.     1st Echelon:    Bty of 65/17.

                                                            2 Pls of Saharans.

                                                            2 Secs of 47/32 mm’s.

                                                            1 Sec 20 mm’s.

                                    2nd Echelon:   Bn of Tks. to the rear, slightly on the right flank.

            Rear Guard.    1 Sec of 20 mm’s.

                                    All elements of the column were lorry borne.

                                    I myself proceeded with the vanguard.

                                    At 1035 hrs I arrived at ABAR ABU WITWIT and I                                   signalled accordingly to this H.Q. the pre-arranged signal.    Number 1.

 

                        At 1116 hrs, I reached a spot 2 Kms NW of BIR EL NAGA (on the “T” of the word "Pietrose" on the Italian map) where I perceived very clearly on the horizon 7 enemy A.F.Vs lying with their front to the North towards ALAM EL ILLIQUIS, with a small detachment of two other A.F.Vs at BIR EL SHALLUDI. I signalled this information to this H.Q. in the following terms:   

"On my left, I see no sign of the 2 Lib Div Column Stop. 9 A.F.Vs towards ALAM EL ILLIQUIS Stop. I am awaiting liason and will then proceed Stop. "

                        Seeing still no sign of the column from the 2 Lib Div and fearing that from where I was,    on low ground, I should not be able to pick it out, I went at 1125 hrs to the area of BIR EL NAGA (600351) whence I sent this HQ the signal:

"Arrived No. 2 Stop A.F.Vs still at same spot Stop."

From this area I ordered the 65/17 mm Bty to fire 2 rds against the enemy A.F.Vs in the ABU EL QADIR area (598348) our map.

                        From the fact that the enemy remained absolutely stationary I thought that his A.F.Vs at ALAM EL ILLIQUIS had been placed there as bait, and I therefore concentrated my attention on my left flank.

            The later developments of the encounter were to prove that my impression was fully justified. In order to be in a better position to watch the ground and every movement of the enemy, I proceeded to ALAM ABU HELEIQAT, which I reached at 1140 hrs. I saw no movement or dust from the direction of LLQET FALLAQ, whence Col. Gloria’s mobile column should have appeared.

            On the other hand I perceived numerous enemy A.F.Vs in formation and moving along a wide front from SIDI ABBAS to Trig pt. 159 passing behind pt. 142.

            Dust was apparent in the direction of GHOT EL ISHBA and GHOT EL SHIHIEBIYA, both areas on my flank. I signalled this to HQ:

                        "On front point 159 to pt 142, to the SW of my position, 18 other A.F.Vs moving on to my left flank Stop I am standing my ground Stop No sign yet of 2nd column Stop I am at the RV Stop. "

            I could now see clearly that the enemy was in battle formation and marking time. I estimated the enemy strength as being of 30 to 40 tanks and A.F.Vs but from the wide movement of his formation, I suspected the presence of other A.F.Vs out of sight in the two GHOTS above mentioned. I marked time awaiting the arrival of the column of the 2nd Lib Div.

            The enemy, by his formation, revealed his attention, which appeared to be to draw us into a trap and fall on our flanks and eventually on the rear of our column making for BIR ENBA.

            My wait at ALAM ABU HILEIQAT upset his plans. He therefore hastened to place his A.F.Vs towards my left, i.e. towards pt. 142.

            I watched his movements, and took up battle formation as shown on attached plan, ordering my Bty of 65/17 to open fire on the advance enemy elements in the area ABU HILEIQAT. At 1200 hrs and 1215 hrs respectively I sent the following signal:

"Please discover whereabouts 2nd column Stop enemy trying to get on my left flank Stop" and "Enemy with numerous A.F.Vs continues to infiltrate on my left flank towards the North, meanwhile A.F.Vs first seen had now increased and remained stationary Stop Please contact 2nd column Stop."

            In order to be ready in any emergency, I ordered the tank Bn to close in behind the right flank of my formation. The enemy appeared to be trying by his movements to discover my intentions. Still I saw no sign of the 2nd column in the direction of LLWET FALLAQ.

            At 1230 hrs I sent an officer of the Saharan Co. Lt. Marcuzzi, to the North to attempt to discover the column from the 2nd Div and to establish contact with it.

            At 1240 hrs I perceived the vanguard of the 2nd Lib Div coming from the North on line from BIR EL DIMEIM to GHOT EL DIMEIM. Simultaneously 2 enemy sections of 2 guns each of the medium calibre posted in the direction of SIDI ABBAS and BIR SIDRUHS respectively, opened very well aimed fire on my position.

            Having no means to counter I gave the order to stand fast in their battle positions. The wide space between enemy A.F.Vs decreased the effect of the enemy attack.

            Enemy artillery subjected my formation to a violent and well aimed fire and at the same time I saw the mobile column from the 2nd Div which had reached a line in rear of my position, about 1 Kilo. away.

            I went immediately to Col. Gloria whom I appraised of our own and enemy positions and asked for the co-operation wherever possible of his guns to encounter the intense and precise fire of the enemy. Col. Gloria immediately ordered the Bty of 75/27 guns of his column to get into position and open fire. I returned to the fighting line on foot, my car having already been hit and immobilised by enemy fire. I left one D.R. with the damaged car and sent the other two with orders to the units under my comd.

            At 1330 hrs, I saw an attack of about 30 medium enemy tanks developing flanked on their right by about ten light tanks and A.F.Vs widely dispersed.

            At a single given order, these latter moved rapidly on to my left flank, on a front from ALAM ABU HILEIQAT to ABAR ABU HILEIQAT.

            I immediately sent orders to my 20 MM and 47 MM sections (Lt. Toesca and Lt. Gallo) to meet this threat and, indeed, these units with superb courage, made a valorous stand against the enemy attack. I ordered the heroical Lt. Jannariello, commanding the 65/17 Btys to watch and defeat the enemy advance. The Saharan Co. under its brave commander, was charged with the defence of the flank of the Bty of 65/17 guns.

            I communicated the enemy threat to Col. Gloria from whom I requested the intervention of the artillery of his column and I then went to Major Ceva, commanding the tank Bn. to order him to detach a small nucleus of tanks for a counter attack but on arrival at the spot held by the tank Bn. I found that the situation there was also grave. From pt 159 and GHOT EL SHIBEIYA, I saw, arriving at full speed, a Bn. of medium and light enemy tanks, about 40 or 50 in number, making directly for my position. I appreciated that the displacement of tks as I had proposed would have been both useless and harmful and our tk Bn therefore prepared itself, instead, to face this new enemy threat. I ordered our tanks to counter attack and informed Col. Gloria and relied on him to let you know the situation which was now clearly defined.

            In the meanwhile, the enemy A.F.Vs and light tanks from ALAM EL ILLIQUIS and SIDI ABU EL QADIR began to approach rapidly towards my right flank.

            All units courageously stood their ground in the unequal struggle, checking the enemy attack on my front so that it converged on to my flanks. The battle was now at its peak; all my strength was in the line and in close contact with the enemy, every man, every gun and every machine was at its appointed place. The enemy was stopped as a result of the stubborn resistance of our troops.

            I requested from Col. Gloria and from the comdrs of the btys. of 75/27 and 65/17 guns in his column the support of their fire against the enemy tanks which were closing in and approaching my front from all directions.

            Col. Gloria decided to withdraw my front on to his position. The withdrawal to be done gradually. I carried out this order, starting with the 7th Bty of 65/17, Sec by Sec, all of which units were being subjected, from a very short range, to an intense fire from all along my front from the continuous fire of the enemy, coming from constantly varied directions.

            Our Bn of Lt Tks, on my right flank, carried out my order to counter attack with a valorous onset against the enemy aiming at my right flank. The falling back from my front to that of the column of the 2nd Div then began.

            This was an extremely delicate and difficult operation as it had to be carried out under the intense and very accurate enemy fire which constantly shortened the range on to my position. One Sqn of our fighters then flew over the battlefield at a low altitude.

            Col. Gloria sent with his car 2/Lt. Maugeri of my comd. To NIBIEWA to inform HQ of the position and to ask for reinforcements.

            We reached the position held by the column of the 2nd Lib Div, from where I perceived that the enemy tks had surrounded us and were subjecting us to a rapid and variable fire.

            I stopped the guns within my reach and faced the new situation. At this moment I received the support of the group (N.B. Full bty according to English standards) of 75mm guns from our camp, which, with intense fire, dispersed the enemy tanks which had inserted themselves between us and the camp. The enemy, who with superior and picked forces, hoped to succeed in his well premeditated and prepared attack to capture one of our mobile columns, fell back on to his starting point defeated by the courage of the Italian soldier.

            At 1700 hrs I returned to the camp with the last tk from the rear guard, viz. Major CEVA’s.

            The struggle was a fierce and decisive duel between our mechanised forces against the A.F.Vs of the enemy, superior in numbers, might and fire power, confident of their own safety. I do not hesitate to state that the staunch spirit of our soldiers won the day. Every private, every officer of the column knew how to face death with contempt in order to win through. Every vehicle was a centre of fire and heroism.

            I must cite one and all, officers and O.Rs who, with a noble and moving example made up by their own heroism, and with truly exemplary courage, our inferiority as against the enemy in numbers and material.

            Against the strong armour of the enemy, everyone put up the armour of his own heart, against which the fire of the enemy attack shattered itself.

            The most shining example of all was given by the heroical Lt. Iannariello, commanding the 7th Bty of 65/17 guns.

 

 

LOSSES SUFFERED.

 

Officers                       Killed 3,          Wounded 3.

Metropolitan O.Rs      Killed 4,          Wounded 30, Missing 10.

Libyans                       Killed 6,          Wounded 18,  Missing 2.

 

DAMAGE TO ARMS AND MATERIAL.

 

5 Med Tks                   Hit and immobilised on the battlefield.

11                             Hit and salvaged.

1 65/17 mm gun:         Direct hit – destroyed.

1 65/17 mm gun:         Wrecked by enemy fire with officer and crew all killed.

                                    Remained on battlefield.

2 20 mm guns:             Hit – U/S/, salvaged.

1                             Direct hit by grenade, gun wrecked, lorry engine wrecked.

                                    Remained on battlefield.

2 47/32 mm guns:        Direct hits – U/S – salvaged.

 

M/T LOST.

 

1 SPA lorry carrying 20 mm gun.

1 Lancier, hit and set on fire.

1 SPA lorry carrying W/T set – direct hit.

 

DAMAGED M/T SALVAGED.

 

27 M.T. hit in various parts.

1 W/T station wrecked.

 

ENEMY LOSSES.

 

Ascertained as they were seen to be hit and immobilised on the battlefield:

4 Med. Tanks.

6 Light tanks.

7 A.F.Vs.

No enemy was seen on foot outside their tanks and A.F.Vs.

 

 

OBSERVATIONS.

            I estimate, without fear of error, that there were approximately one hundred A.F.Vs opposing us. Of these, about 60 were medium tks with a rotating gun turret, about 20 Lt tks and about 20 A.F.Vs. I also noted a few tanks of heavier type than the medium tks advancing with the second wave.

            The enemy which was already in formation evidently was awaiting one of our mobile columns which usually cover the ground from the front of our position to the camp of the 2 LIB DIV.

            The formations are shown on the attached diagram. Seeing me mark time, the enemy started to assault the position held by my column with the support of his guns, by waves of Bns. in Sqn. formation, with a distance of 80 metres between tks, the medium tks being in the centre and the Lt. tks and A.F.Vs on the extreme flanks from where constantly commanded by wireless they sought to attack the flanks of our formations and by the synchronised movements of all his units, the enemy appeared to have perfect co-ordination, regulated by wireless.

            The med. tks. when they reached their positions fired with the turret gun only, keeping up a sweeping fire and offering the smallest target. The Lt. tks. and A.F.Vs on the other hand, fast and easily manoeuvrable, attacked, altered position and kept up a continuous fire without ever offering a fixed target.

            The material at my disposal has shown certain defects which I feel it my duty to point out. The M.T. on which the 20 mm and 47/32 mm guns are mounted offer considerable targets to the enemy while at the same time affording no protection at all to the gun crews and their drivers. As to the SPA 38, they do not allow for the free manoeuvring of our fire, when the entire crew is on board. The crews are obliged in order to man their guns more easily to jump off the vehicle.

            The gun mountings, the inevitable up and down movement of the vehicle and the recoil of the guns themselves make the aim far from accurate. The 65/17 Bty. Which, in order to move, is obliged to load and unload the guns on any vehicles occasionally available, was in a seriously critical position at a certain period of the two engagements in question.

            The circumstances of battle obliged the gun crews to descend from the vehicles and lie on the ground this being quite a natural defensive reaction. As a result, the rapid mobility of the gun is limited and rendered useless.

            The comds  of our A.F.Vs and M. Ts should, in order to operate properly, have several and safe means of communication with each other. In my case, in the middle of the engagement, with my car hit, one Motor cyclist killed and the other detailed to salvage the damaged car, I was obliged to move on foot from one point of the front to another, in order to supervise, to co-ordinate the action of the various units and to give orders. I was forced to use men from each unit in the capacity of despatch carriers on foot.

            In battle, it is essential that each vehicle should have among its personnel at least one other soldier capable of driving it. Several M.T. found themselves during the engagement, in serious difficulties and unable to move as a result of the drivers having been wounded or killed. Some of the officers were temporarily obliged to take the place of the drivers at times when their own duties as officers were of more importance.

            As for tks. it is absolutely essential for their safety and efficient working in battle that they should be able to transmit their orders by wireless. Our tks. due to their being limited as to their fire power and in view of their narrow arc of fire, are very poorly manoeuvrable.

 

21.11.40

           The 8th K.R.I. Hussars relieved the 3rd K.O, Hussars. Lt.Col Watts, 8th K.R.I. Hussars took over command of South Column from Lt. Col. P. Wilson, R.H.A.

 

           Orders from Support Group had now hardened. The harassing and delaying role was finished with. Any enemy attempting to close the Nibeiwa – Rabia Gap were to be destroyed.

27.11.40

Advance parties came from 1st R.H.A. to relieve “C” Battery, R.H.A. on South Column

28.11.40

“C” Battery, R.H.A. relieved by “B/O” Battery, R.H.A.

“C” Battery less one troop moved to the area Bir El Magasid (614365) and leaguered there for the night. “A” Troop were still part of the North Column.

 

CENTRE COLUMN.

 

The whole front was now reinforced. The Indian Division were about to take over the North Column in order that the South Column might keep the Rabia – Nibeiwa Gap open undisturbed. A Centre Column was formed to cover any enemy movement which might threaten the left flank of the North Column or the right flank of the South Column.

 

The column was composed of :-

“C” Battery, R.H.A.

2nd Bn. R.Bs. (less 1 coy)

It was responsible for its own observation forward.

29.11.40

The company was forward supported by “B” Troop less one section in action in Ghot Areida (615353). Standing O.P. with gunner and infantry North of Alam El Imna (615357). The scout carrier was used as an roving O.P. North East of this area. Another O.P. was manned at Point 135 (614343). The remaining section was in action Bir El Quiten (621352).

1.12.40

Harrassing fire was put down on Rabia and Matahi Camps at 0745 hrs. The enemy replied blindly with 105 m.m. guns but without any idea of where our guns where.

2.12.40

“A” Troop were relieve by 1st Field R.A. and left the North Column and leaguered at Bir El Qitan (321352) remaining section of “B” Troop was brought formed to Ghot Areida. December 4th “A” Troop relieved “B” Troop at Ghot Areida.

6.12.40

A forward four gun positions was occupied at first light at (61003553). Enemy vehicles were shot at on Hill 90 (607164) and hill itself registered.

8.12.40

“C” Battery, R.H.A. came under the command of the 4th Armoured Brigade. Rendezvous at Bir Yasn in the morning and leaguered with rest of the 4th Armd. Bde. In Ghot Shalludi (592344)

 

4th Armd. Bde. was composed as follows:-

 

7th Hussars.

2nd Bn. R.T.R.

6th Bn. R.T.R.

 

 

 

THE BRITISH ADVANCE.

 

The advance of December the 9th in which “C” Battery supported under command of 4th Armoured Brigade was part of a movement of the whole front.  

The role of the 7TH ARMOURED DIVISION as a whole was to carry out an encircling across the Sollum – Sidi Barrani Road thereby preventing reinforcements of the enemy in the Sidi Barrani Area. Secondly to contain the enemy in the Area while the Indian Division destroyed the camps at Maktilla, Tummar, Sidi Barrani and Nibeiwa.  

The movement was completely successful and led to the subsequent advances on the Frontier, Bardia and Tobruk where similar encircling movements were carried out.  

At 0615 hrs 4th Arm. Bde. Advances North West and North past West side of Nibeiwa to prevent interference with the attack on that camp by the Indian Division.  

At 0800 hrs “C” Battery moved in support of the 7th Hussars crossing the ridge North side of Wadi El Kharuba (582631). While on the move the battery was shelled by two hostile batteries dug in from Rimth. “A” Troop were in the rear of “B” Troop slightly to their right flank, and so were able to continue the advance out of the enemy batteries by withdrawing behind the next crest.  

“B” Troop continued to advance for 400 yds to gain more shelter and dropped into action. The enemy batteries were engaged over open sights at ranges between 2500 -4500 yds. In all 478 rounds were fired, 21 of which were smoke.  

In the report on this action the whole troop was praised for its coolness and presence of mind in a very disadvantageous position against an enemy well dug in. In spite of the precise fire of the enemy, shells landing all over the gun position, the guns were xxxx well handled by the detachments. All available men in the troop helped to carry and bring up ammunitions.  

Sgt. Cooper, the G.P.O.A, although hit in the face carried on with his duties; Sgt. Jerrold the Troop A/I displayed great coolness in dressing  injuries on the gun position throughout the action; Gnr Rogers. S. was also mentioned for exemplary conduct. Tho’ a maintenance signaller he was wounded while on gun but refused to until knocked unconscious by the concussion of another shell.  

The Troop Commander, Capt. W.A.P. WARDEN, R.H.A., was later awarded the M.C. for his initiative and conduct on this occasion. Sgt. Cooper received the D.C.M. and Gnr. Rogers the M.M.  

Tho’ almost everyone boasted a flesh wound from splinters, only 11 men were seriously wounded and 6 of these had to be evacuated. One gun received a direct hit and was temporarily out of action. One F.W.D. tractor was set on fire. Another had a tyre burst by shell fire and one trailer was destroyed. The G.P.O’s W/T 8cwt had a direct hit on the mast and the W/T was temporarily put out of action.  

“A” Troop meantime has maintained advance and gained contact with the 7th Hussars via Alam Agred. The troops came into action at C.669 commanding the Sullum – Sidi Barrani Road, and occasionally shelled MET and enemy batteries at Rimth. 47 rounds were fired.  

Towards evening T.S.M. Crocker and Gnr. Howard were taken prisoner for a short while but escaped. An account is attached.

10.12.40

0800 hrs “B” Troop came into action facing West at Alam Hamid supporting 6th R.T.R. to prevent enemy retiring from Sidi Barrani.

11.12.40

4th Armoured Brigade withdrew to Ghot Shalludi at 0730 hrs.  

At 2130 “C” Battery moved with the 2th R.T.R; to Dar El Hamra (537320.)  

The attack on Sidi Barrani Area was completely successful. 3 Generals including a Corps Commander were eventually captured along with over 30,000 prisoners. At this time “mopping up” operations were in progress while the 7th Armoured Division was sent on ahead for its second great encircling movement.  

During the next few days the enemy were particularly active from the aire. Bombing and machine gunning occurred throughout the day.

12.12.40

“C” Battery moved with H.Q. 4th Armoured Brigade and the 2nd R.T.R. to El Roweibit (521342)

13.12.40

4th Armoured Brigade divided itself into two columns as follows:-

 

COOMBE FORCE.

 

4th R.H.A. less “B” Troop.

11th Hussars less 2 Squadrons.

2nd R.T.R.

 

             4th ARMOURED BRIGADE.

 

H.Q. 4th A.B.

“E/O” Bty.

“B” Troop “C” Battery

7th Hussars

2 Squadrons 11th Hussars.

1st R.T.R.

 

Both troops had been active during the day about 6 miles N.E. Bir Kireigat. The battery was being bombed throughout the day but only one man Gnr. Cutler of “A” Troops was slightly wounded. At 23.30 hrs both columns crossed the Frontier wire to Bir El Haraga (485393).

14.12.40.

The advance continued with the heaviest days bombing as yet. In all Coombe Force was bomber 35 times and 4th A.B. little less. “B” Troop suffered one casualty:-

              Gnr. Howard was killed. One 8cwt truck and one ammunition lorry was set on fire and destroyed.  

“A” Troops went into action at Gabr Bzen with O.P. at 482307 commanding the Bardia – Tobruk Road. They were heavily bomber en route but without loss. The O.P. was machine gunned and dive-bombed but without casualty.  

‘Coombe Force’ advance on the left flank of 4th Armoured Brigade and cut the Tobruk – Bardia Road between North and South grid lines 480 – 490.

15.12.40.

Both Troops remained in positions. Both Troops wagon lines were heavily bombed; one ammunition lorry was destroyed and one damaged. Two men were killed and two wounded.

16.12.40.

After crossing the wire 7th Division found that an enemy position at Sidi Omar was still being held in strength. As a consequence 4/R.H.A. was withdrawn to attack Sidi Omar in support of 2nd. R.T.R. at first light.  

“C” Battery came into action S.W. of Sidi Omar with “F” Battery on the East. The range was 7750 for “A” Troop. A Regimental concentration lasting 10 minutes was put down at 1600 hrs and was extremely successful. The 25 pdr. Shells not only completely demoralised the enemy gunners but raised such a dust that our tanks got into the fort area and took the place without the slightest opposition. 560 rounds were expended by the regiment of which 300 were fired by “C” Battery. The enemy commander on surrendering wished it put on record that he had resisted for 16 minutes!  

That night “C” Battery moved to the area (503357), about half a mile South of Boundary Post 42.

17.12.40.

“C” Battery rested at Bir Ghirba 504370.

18.12.40.

The Same. The weather continued bitterly cold with sharp frost.

21.12.40.

“C” Battery, R.H.A. came under command of 7t h A.B.

“A” Troop were in support of the 8th Hussars and “B” Troops 3rd Hussars. At 0630 hrs the Battery left for new leaguer area (491386).  

On the way the battery were heavily bombed 1 O.R. being killed and 4 O.Rs. being wounded: Bdr. Hodgkinson, L/Bdr. Basham and Gnrs. Carter an Smith A. Gnr Jones B. being the man killed.

25.12.40.

No Christmas Dinner! The weather was still bitterly cold.

31.12.40.

“C” Battery moved to area (504398) and leaguered having come under command of 4th Armoured Brigade.

 

------------------------------

1.1.41

New Years Day!  

The enemy had definitely been pushed beyond the Libian Frontier. There still remained however that well defended town of Bardia as a threat to the Egyptian Frontier. This hada already been cut off from reinforcements from Tobruk. The 7th Armoured Division had the task of carrying out harassing operations with any penetration of the defences possible whilst reinforcements for the assault were brought up.  

4th Armoured Brigade in particular were active on the Northern sector of the Bardia Defences and were to maintain observation North of the Bardia Tobruk Road inside the defences. The battery came into action as follows:-

“A” Troop  (502399).

“B” Troop  (503397).

O.P’s were out in Wadi El Kharuba (503398). Silent registration was carried out during the day. AT about 1630 hrs both O.P’s were withdrawn and “B” Troop’s scout carrier was immediately engaged by an enemy battery when it moved.

2.1.41.

At 1400 hrs working parties of 100 men were engaged as they worked on the wire and breastworks at (51103997) and (51553992) enemy tanks replied without damage. Shortly afterwards the working parties reassembled but again dispersed finally, by first few rounds of gunfire.

3.1.41.

THE ASSAULT OF BARDIA.

 

From first light G.F. targets engaged these were mainly enemy lorries. At 0815 hrs the Navy took over the bombardment of Bardia. “B” Troop’s O.P. was nearly removed by an “over” from of our own 15 inch the shell failed to burst and went bouncing straight for the guns. These it missed owing to a slight leg-break.  

From 1500 _ 1600 hrs two enemy batteries were engaged at (51254018) and (51244012) in all 734 rounds H.E. were expended by the battery.  

During the day the Australian Division had penetrated the defences and taken over 8000 prisoners.

4.1.41

Mopping up operations continued. “C” Battery in actions but with little to do. 17 rounds of H.E. were fired only.  

At 0915 hrs the enemy seems to be contimplating a sortie on this sector. A 100 vehicles including tanks assembled behind the wire, considered the situation and withdrew after a few rounds gunfire.

5.1.41.

Bardia fell over 35,000 prisoners being taken including parts of two divisions which had been believed to have got safe too Tobruk. At 1200 hrs  “C” Battery came under command of 7th Armoured Brigade and moved to Nza El Chelb (418390). Meantime the 11th Hussars has pushed their patrols right forward to the Western approach of Tobruk.  

El Adhem aerodrome South of Tobruk was reported clear with 68 enemy aircraft destroyed.

6.1.41

The 3rd Hussars occupied Aeroma and captured some Bersenglieri

7.1.41.

“A” Troop came into support of the 8th Hussars “B” Troop in support of 3rd Hussars and moved to Aeroma at dusk.

8.1.41

Both troops came in action the next day as follows

“A” Troops were in action as follows:-

A section occupied a position at Point 156 at first light. Targets were recorded and a harassing programme fired on them.  

Four guns were moved to a position at (40144168) and were connected by line to an O.P. on the Ridge North and by wireless to a roving O.P. on the left. Two of these guns later moved a third position at (40104180). Targets were engaged and recorded North and West of the Perimeter  

The line O.P. was heavily shelled by the enemy during the day and was out of touch with the guns for nearly two hours. It was not known whether the O.P. party had been wiped out, until maintenance signaller Moult walked through the concentration repairing cuts in the line and re-established communication with a very much active O.P. party.  

“B” Troops were in action 200 yds off a fort at Aeroma with an O.P. commanding Bomba – Tobruk Road and a roving O.P. with observation on the western defences of Tobruk from Ras El Medaauer.

9.1.41.

The same N.M.S apart from occassional vehicles inside the western defences.  

“B” Troop were dive-bombed but without damage. Both troops fired harassing programmes on the defences. “A” Troop had no O.P’s out useing only recorded targets. The object of the harassing fire was to make the enemy think that more guns opposed him than in reality in the hope he would withdraw to the inner defences.  

With the arrival of reinforcements 7th Armoured Brigade were released for further advance westward. Support Group took over the western sector of Tobruk.  

“A” Troop moved west in support of the 8th Hussars along with the Trigh Capuzzo and leaguered 40 miles west Tobruk off the gridded maps.  

“B” Troop moved in support of 3rd Hussars and leaguered for the night at Point 192 in Ghot EL Mostared (35884314).

10.1.41

“A” Troop occupied a forward four gun position and a rear section in position in leaguer area to cover any enemy advance along the Trigh Capuzzo.  

“B” Troop came into actions with a section forward at (35984374) linked to four guns at Point 182 (35984357). The armoured O.P. was three miles N.W. on the edge of the escarpment at (35664399) with observation over the Ein be Gazala and the Derna – Tobruk road. The road was registered where it turned a corner under escarpment at Kilo 119.  

The role of both troops was to support cavalry units of 7th Armoured Brigade. 7th Armoured Brigade was to prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching Tobruk garrison, either by the coast or inland.  

In the next few days 3r d Hussars pushed patrols into Timimi and finally into Bomba which were reported evacuated by the enemy. “B” Troop moved another 8 miles and came into action to command junction of Machili track and the Bomba – Tobruk road.  

Both Troops were some forty odd miles west of Tobruk. In view of the transport difficulties it was hoped that the battery would not be recalled for the assault of Tobruk. Some of the vehicles had been on the go since the outbreak of war. Ever since the crossing of the Frontier the going had been indescribably bad. The major part if the ground covered in Libia so far has been of the (camel hump) variety and guns and vehicles has taken a terrific beating.  

Meantime though so far west the situation was quiet apart from the occasional visit from enemy fighters. These did not worry us overmuch as our light A.A. gunners were very much on their toes.

19.1.41.

Tobruk was now completely invested so the battery was in high hope of being left in peace. Orders however had been received that we had come under command of 4th Armoured Brigade.

 

BATTLE OF TOBRUK.

 

Consequently “A” and “B” Troops returned from their positions, covering the Trigh Capuzzo and the Bomba road respectively and the battery leaguered that night in the Ghot to N.W. of El Adem aerodrome.

20.1.41.

The greater part of the day was spent in preparing for the Tobruk attack and that evening the battery took over from “F” Battery, they coming under command of the Australian Division. During the night, harassing fire. Counter battery and concentrations on a time programme, were fired on the S.W. sector of the Tobruk defences, to give the impression that an attack was to me made on this sector and to cover the movements of troops in the selected area.

21.1.41.

From first light the battery’s role was, to protect by observed fire on the left flank on the Australian Division, with particular reference to counter-battery work. Zero hour was at 0540 hrs. At this time an armoured O.P. from “A” Troop went through the wire with the assault Bn. “B” Troop’s O.P. being a light tank on the S.W. face of the perimeter. It was soon seen that there was very little depth to the Tobruk defences. The Australians made very rapid headway in the centre, overrunning battery positions, stores and headquarters and capturing large numbers of prisoners; when however they turned West along the perimeter considerable more resistance was met from fortified post on the wire. By midday however, resistance in Tobruk, east of the El Adem road from the wire to the sea , had ceased and “C” Battery’s part in the battle was over. 200 rounds per gun had been fired.  

During the day orders were received that from midday the following day the Regiment would be at five minutes notice to move with the remainder of 4th Armd. Bde. to capture Machili. Machili lay some 120 miles west of the battery’s position. The 3rd Hussars received their orders at 0800 hrs and were to the south and west of Machili by 1730 hrs the following day.

22.1.41.

At 1630 hrs the signal was given for the advance to begin. The battery moved with the regiment and leaguering that night just south of the Trigh Capuzzo after covering 17 miles.

23.1.41.

At 0300 hrs the march resumed. The 7th Hussars was the leading regiment and the battery moved in support of them. By 0800 hrs the battery had covered 80 miles and according to the navigator were 12 miles due East of the Fort.

24.1.41.

During the night orders came from Brigade that by first light the 7th Hussars were to be astride the track running N.E. from Machili in area of Cot Breiber. “D” Battery were to be in action in a position to cover Machili and the tracks running N.E., E. and S.E. from the Fort,  

Accordingly at 0500 hrs the 7th Hussars with the Battery moved 8 miles N.E. First light showed that the Fort instead of being S.W. was in fact N.W.  On this being reported the 7th Hussars were ordered to move to the Cot Breiber area but the Battery were told to remain in action in their present position provided that they could carry out their task from that area.  

In justice to the navigator it must be remembered that the 100 mile advance had been over featureless desert and that the scale of the only map had been 1/500,000.  

The situation at 0700 hrs , therefore, was that “C” Battery were in action 5 miles S.E. of Machili; the 7th Hussars were moving N.W. to join their leading squadron who had been in the Cot Breiber area since the previous evening; the remainder of the Brigade were moving N.W. some 15 miles from the Fort. The 3rd Hussars had not made contact with the enemy and little was known of his position or strength.  

Soon after first light 15 fighters and 3 bombers had attempted to attack the battert but had not pressed their attack in face of A.A. fire. There were no casualties.  

By 0800 hrs O.P’s had been established and the Fort registered at ranges of 9600 and 10200. A few enemy vehicles could be seen on the ridge behind the Fort but there was no activity in the Fort area.  

At 0900 hrs terrific outburst of 2 pdr. fire from N.W. showed that 7th Hussars had run into trouble. Shortly afterwards large columns of lorries totalling over 500 vehicles could be seen moving South along the ridge towards the Fort but still out of range of the battery. At this point a message was received by “H” truck that 7th Hussars had been attacked by a large number of enemy tanks and had been forced to withdraw east. “Tank preparation” was given. “B” Troop were told to watch the right flank and shortly afterwards opened fire at 5 enemy ME 11s moving east at ranges of 3000 and 4000 yds. “A” Troop by this time had begun engaging the enemy columns moving on the Fort.  

At 0930 hrs Col. Campbell arrived on the gun-position with orders that both troops were to withdraw 4 miles east until the situation on the right flank had been cleared up.  

It was subsequently learned that the 7th Hussars had arrived in the Cot Breiber area at the same time as enemy reinforcements from Derna. 46 ME 11 and 13 s had been part of this relieving force. The 7th Hussars had been withdrawn having accounted for 6 enemy tanks at the cost of two cruisers and five light s. They had succeeded in getting a situation report to the 2nd Tanks who had come up at 30 m.p.h. and striking the enemy on their flank as they persued the 7th Hussars destroyed 12 enemy tanks at first contact  and a further 6 before the action was broken off.  

The battery did not come into action that day.

25.1.41.

The battery moved out at first light and came late action in the same area as the previous day. “F” came into action 1 mile on their right flank. Large numbers of enemy vehicles could be seen on the high ground N. and E. of the Fort. Three groups of enemy tanks were located in this area as were 2 A.A. batteries and 2 - 105 mm. batteries with their wagon-lines. Both troops were kept busy. Observation was excellent.  

At about 1400 hrs a patrol of 4 tanks from the 3rd Hussars accompanied by “A” Troop’ O.P. went forward to the Fort. When within 300 yds of the Fort A/T and machine gun fire was opened on the patrol and 2 tanks were destroyed. Five men got clear from these tanks and, under heavy fire the troop Cmdr. succeeded in picking up the five men with his 8 cwt. and rejoining the remainder of the patrol who had withdrawn when the 2 tanks had been destroyed.  

On the return of the patrol, the Fort was engaged from previous registration as a Battery target. 50 rounds were fired in 30 seconds and no round fell outside the walls of the Fort.

26.1.41.

The battery occupied the same positions as on the previous day. Fewer vehicles could be seen otherwise there was little change in the enemy dispositions. All records having been kept of targets engaged by either troop on the previous day these were now engaged as battery concentrations. There were most effect and subsequent events proved that the morale effect was even greater that the material damage.  

During the morning while in action “A” Troop were attacked by five dive bombers and six fighters. The attack came from out of the sun, and lasted five minutes and was pressed home with boldness; One fighter was shot down by the battery’s Troop of 155 Bty but Sgt. Bradley was killed and one gunner wounded.

27.1.41.

When O.Ps were reoccupied at first light it was seen that during the night the enemy had evacuated Machili and their position on the high ground N. and W. of the Fort. 15 vehicles and 3 A.A. guns damaged by shell-fire had been left on the position.  

The Machili position secured the Southern flank of the Italian main lines of supply between Bengasi and Derna. It had been reinforced by 2 Batteries of 105 mm. guns, a medium tank battalion and an infantry brigade. The ground to the N. and W. of the fort was impossible country in which tanks might operate. The only offensive action in the area was undertaken by artillery and it must be considered that the fire from 4th R.H.A.  had rendered the Italian position untenable.

28.1.41.

Contact was regained with the force from Machili early on the 28th., the battery having moved at first light 30 miles N.W. to a position on the Machili – Elonte track. The Battery came into action at extreme elevation after having a very rough journey the last 10 miles over the most broken country yet encountered. The following is a quotation on this move. “ “C” Battery’s move across this piece of country is worthy of a very special mention.  

Very fine leadership and determination to get to their objective must have been displayed by all ranks. At one point where deep water-channels cust into the sane were encountered, ramps to get the vehicles across had to be made by the men with shovels. In spite of these difficulties the Battery completed the journey of 9½ miles in 1½ hours.” Steep wadis and very rocky going made it unlikely that Machili garrison, who were still withdrawing N.W., would again be bought to the battle. The Battery, therefore, with 2nd Tanks, were ordered to leaguer that night on the Elonte track (O.9815)

29.1.41.

The enemy withdrew along the heights between Chanlan and Slonte. “C” Battery did maintenance in area (O.9515).

30.1.41

“C” Battery moved as part of the 4th R.H.A. under command of 4th Armoured Brigade via Machili 40 miles West to the area (T.7689).

31.1.41

Maintenance. A very quiet day until later afternoon when we had a visitation from dive-bombers and fighters. Some bombs were dropped but all well wide of the nearest vehicle which was the B.S.M’s truck.  

The six escorting fighters attempted to machine gun the regiment but were driven off by the A.A. guns. One of “F” Battery’s A.A. guns scored a direct hit on one and brought it down in flames. The pilot baled out.

1.2.41.

In view of reports of the enemy’s retreat along the coast an attempt was to be made to cut him by striking N.W. from the present position.  

The ground to be crossed was apparently for worse than that North of Machili and as a result two reconnaissance parties were sent out to find a route onto the Slonto – Machili track.  

The ground proved unbelievably bad and broken up by precipitous wadis scored and lined by innumerable water channels. On of our 8 cwts accompanying a patrol of the 2nd R.T.R. achieved the first 8½ on 3½ hours.  

As a result of these recces it was decided not to attempt this route.

2.2.41.

Reports were received of the enemy withdrawing on to Bengasi, which by now had been declared an open town by the Italians.

3.2.41.

The Battery moved at 0800 hrs as part of 4th Armoured Brigade. The Brigade was to cut off the troops attempting to move South from Bengasi down the coast road. In the evacuation, according to prisoners of warhad  already started speed was essential, and two days were given to the Brigade to reach the road.  

At about mid-day the Brigade halted, as the going was so bad, over rocky hillsides, that it became obvious that the tanks could not keep up with the schedule and a flying column was sent ahead to join the 11th Hussars at Msus and there came under Col. Coombe’s ordered, This column consisted of 1 BN. R.B. less carrier platoons, “C” Battery, R.H.A. and attached A.A. and A/T Troops from 155 Lt. A.A. Bty. and 106 R.H.A. respectively. Lt. Col. J.C. Campbell, M.C., R.H.A. was given command of this column.  

The force consisted of under a thousand men, over half of which were infantry. They had to cover in two days over 160 miles of desert, of which little was known and nothing was known of the enemy dispositions or formations in the area chosen as the forces final objective.  

Shortly after the march was resumed the force struck good going and put on speed to make up fot the delay. The column at times was travelling at 30 to 36 m.p.h. and it says much for the maintenance of the vehicles that only one from the Battery failed to reach that nights leaguer. The fort at Msus was found to be evacuated and the Battery leaguered that night three miles short of the fort having covered 87 miles.  

The march resumed at first light, the route being from Msus to Antelat and then 18 miles S.W. to the road. One section from “A” Troop moved as advance guard with the leading Coy. of the R.Bs. No trace of the enemy was found during the march although, the B.C.s party moving with Regtl. Headquarters of 11th Hussars was twice attacked by enemy fighters.  

A position commanding the road was reached at 1300 hrs and the advance section went into action being shortly joined by the remainder of the Battery/ “A” Troop’s O.P. went forward with a patrol of the K.D.Gs to a large white block-house on the road about 8 miles south if Beda Fomm. “B” Troop’s O.P. was kept in reserve near Force H.Q.  

Shortly after the arrival of “A” Troop’s O.P. a column of about 3 lorries supported by A/T guns came down the road to the block-house. These were at once engaged by “A” Troop and the column halted, the infantry in the lorries taking up positions in the ditches and scrub alongside the road. Lt. Col. Campbell collected any men and trucks he could find in the O.P. area and engaged the enemy with light automatic and rifle fire. 300 prisoners were taken in this manner and the only casualty being Capt. Davis who was killed while prisoners were being collected.  

More columns were reported advancing from the direction of Bengasi and by this time the leading Coy. had taken up a defensive position overlooking the road above the block-house. At about 1600 hrs one section from “B” Troop was moved forward to a position immediately in rear of this Coy. with an O.P. with the Coy’s forward platoons. As lorried appeared down the road the were engaged by “A” Troop or the forward section of “B” Troop and no lorry succeeded in getting past the block-house.  The men in the lorries however, owning to lack of supporting fire generally managed to get clear of the road and by 1700 hrs there were upwards of a thousand men with some automatic and A/T weapons in the rough ground east of the road immediately in front of our foremost localities. Both O,Ps were at times shooting 100 yds in front of their own positions. This was the state of affairs at last light and for the night a second Coy. was brought up on the left side of the road the right Coy. being withdrawn 500 yards south of the block-house. Defensive fire was arranged on the road by the block-house. This was called on only once during the night.

5.2.41.

By first light “B” Troop had moved forward and were in action 2 miles to the N.W. of “A” Troop. Three O.Ps had been established in each forward Coy. area and he Battery was now in position to cover 3000 yds East of the block-house to the sea. There was no enemy movement until 0800 hrs. At this time 12 lorries full of men came south on the centre Coy’s front along the main track.  This column did not seem to have any knowledge of the presence of a force in front of them and on being fired on by “B” Troops surrendered. At about 1000 hrs a very much larger column supported by three 105 mm. guns four 75 mm. guns and three ME 13s came down the main road and were engaged in the neighbourhood of the block-house by the whole Battery and the right and centre Coys with their supporting A/T guns.  This column offered considerably more resistance, but their guns, having being brought into action in full view of two O.Ps were quickly silenced two of the ME 13s were as quickly destroyed by A/T fire. By 1100 hrs all resistance from this column had ceased.  

While this action had been in progress a very large column of some 200 lorries with 8 – 75mm/ guns in support was approaching the extreme left of the position by the coast track. This column moved with great cautions and although getting some protection from the sand dunes offered a magnificent target to “B” Troop. When “B” Troop fired on this column the majority of the vehicles halted and the men scattered into the sand dunes. A few more adventurous lorries dashed across the open towards the main road but on running into the fire of both troops this part also abandoned their vehicles.  

The remainder of the morning was spent in rounding up prisoners from these columns and that of the previous evening. By 1400 hrs between Ten and Eleven thousand had been collected.  

Little was done for the remainder of the day but reports came from 4th Armd. Bde. who were ten miles to the N.E. that further columns might be expected and that although they had destroyed some sixty ME 13s at least 30 had slipped through and were still at large. With only six A/T guns and the rest of his small force unarmoured Col. Coombe considered asking for some assistance that evening. Eventually it was decided that the 1st Tanks would be moved South and come under orders from 0800 hrs the following morning. By last light defensive fire had been registered on each Coy’s front, road blocks covered by A/T guns had been put out on the main road and mines had been laid across each Coy’s front. It was decided that one officer from the Battery would remain with the Coy. on the coast sector and at Bn. H.Q. just off the main road some 500 yds south of the block-house.  

Soon after dark reports were continually reaching Bn, H.Q. from all three Coy’s that there was much movement of vehicles in their fronts. Defensive fire was called for on all sectors at about 1930 hrs. At about 2030 hrs an enemy column headed by tanks succeeded in breaking through the road block on the main road and getting clear of the position. The B.C.A.  at Bn: H.Q. counted 40 vehicles in this column as the moved down the road within 40 yds of his truck. The road sector was that where least precautions had been taken as in addition to a mass of enemy captured vehicles on the road it had been reported that 4 cruiser tanks and an O.P. from the 1st Regiment was spending the night on the road five miles to the North of the block-house.  

Later in the evening came right into the position between the centre and left Coys. Defensive fire was asked for which set fire to an ammunition lorry and 4 tanks leading this column were blown up on land mines. The column remained in that position until first light. Other columns were reported moving later during the night and defensive fire was asked for and put down on all three sectors, three further times and heads of columns were continuously engaged by light automatics and supporting A/T guns. From report arriving at Bn, H.Q. it appeared that the enemy failed to break through in any area after the original break through on the road but were in closest touch with our F.D.Ls.  

In view of this and considering that the situation at first light might be exceedingly critical a third O.P. was ordered to report to Bn. H.Q. by 0645 hrs.

6.2.41.

On the road sector it became possible to see 200 yds at about 0545 hrs; and immediately there arose an outburst of A/T, 2 pdr., machine gun and light automatic fire. The enemy’s leading tanks were seen to be within 200 yds of Bn. H.Q. 1st R.Bs. Luckily this possibility had been foreseen and the two O.P. trucks withdrew to a vantage point some thousand yards to the S.E. taking most of the H.Q. staff of the R.Bs (none of whose vehicles were able to move) with them. The two A/T guns in this area knocked out 7 ME 13s and forced the remainder to “huddle” just east of the road about 300 yds south of the block-house. Here there came under intense fire from “B” Troop while “A” Troop dealt with the “soft-skinned” vehicles of the column the tanks were protecting. “B” Troop put 120 rounds into this tank concentration and after 5 minutes all 2 pdr. fire died away and, it now being light enough to see some distance, it was apparent that this columns resistance had ceased. 23 medium tanks were captured or destroyed as a result of this action.  

While this was going on on the road, two further columns were being engaged by the left Coy. in the coast sector. The situation on the road having been considered most critical both Troops have been used to support the right Coy. The only support the O.P. Officer with the left Coy. could offer at first light was the fire of his Bren gun and the Boyes Rifle on his scout carrier. 24 magazines were fired by the driver from the Bren and a corresponding amount by is O.P.A from the Boyes Rifle, In the centre the Coy Comdr. Had decided by first light that he must withdraw. This left the left Coy. almost surrounded, but of these two columns being heavily supported by tanks, and already having lost 4 tanks on the minefield, the enemy failed to take advantage of this opportunity and before resistance on the road had ceased the left Coy., on its own, had caused the columns on their right and left flanks to surrender.

 

CONCLUSION.

 

During the 48 hours operation 16,000 prisoners including one Army Commander and one Corps Commander had been captured. 27 ME 13s, several hundred lorries, 82 – 75mm. guns and 23 – 105 mm. guns besides a large amount of A/T and automatice weapons had been captured or destroyed.  

The Battery had no casualties, the R.Bs casualties were very slight, the two troops of 106 R.H.A. to whom the honours of the 6th Feb. must go, one officer and two complete subsections. The K.D.Gs had five cars put out of action but crews in each case escaped.  

Later that day the Battery was relieved by “B/O” Battery and rejoined the 4th Armd. Bde, at Beda Fomm.

 

OFFICERS “C” BATTERY, R.H.A.

February 3rd 1941 – Battle of Beda Fomm.

H.Q.

Battery Commander: Major G.W. Goschen, M.C. R.H.A.

C.P.O and H              Captain. D.R. Hughes, R.H.A

“Q”.                           Lieut. J. Lefèvere, R.H.A.

                                   Lieut. J.B. Robinson; R.H.A

“A” Troop.

Captain R.G. Cook, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. J.O.K. Denny, R.H.A.

2/Lieut. J. Flant. R.H.A.

“B” Troop.

Captain W.A.P Warden, R.H.A.

Lieut. A.E. Wood, R.H.A

Lieut. V.H. Wolfson; R.H.A

Lieut. E.A.B. Fletcher, R.H.A.

 

 

Absent Wounded.

2/Lieut. E.D. Simonds, R.H.A.

Rejoined at Beni Yusef.

 
 
GIARAUB  

12.3.41. (5.15p.m.)

Left Deni Yusef

13.3.41.

Left leaguer area outside Mena Camp.

14.3.41.

Spent the day on the Alex – Cairo road in terrific dust storm. One gun-tower on road having broken radiator the result of having run into the gun in front owing to very poor visibility.

Rescued two carloads of civilians and took them in tow as far as Amriya. Leaguered that night on the by-pass road between the Alex – Cairo and Alex – Matruh roads.

15.3.41

Spent the day on the Matruh road, dust storm still bad.

Leaguered at Kilo 9 on Matruh – Sidi Barrani road for the night.

16.3.41.

Advance party consisting of Major Goschan and car complete and Lieut. A.B. Wood and car went forward with Australian Staff to contact Force Commander in Melfa area. This party leaguered that night forty mils short of Melfa.

The remainder of the Battery left Kilo 9 at 11.00 hrs and arrived at Bir Fuad at 17.00 hrs where it leaguered for the night. The technical store lorry caught fire during the day and was completely burnt out.

17.1.41.

The advance party arrived at the top of Davidsons Pass (9476) at about 10.00 hrs where they were met by a guide who took them to Force H.Q. at about (7684) where they were met by Col. J.C. Campbell who had flown up.

The rest of the day was spent by the advance party the advance party in reconnaissance.

The remainder of the Battery spent the night in leaguer fourteen miles from the top of Davidsons Pass.

18.3.41.

Col. J.C. Campbell and Major G.W. Goschen were on recce at first light returning at about 08.30 hrs.

The Battery moved forward to a dispersal area at approx. 9474.

Lieut. A.B. Wood was sent back from Force H.Q. to contact the Battery and bring them forward to a new dispersal area at 8075.

The Battery were to move behind the Australians to the new area, but owing to the fact that the Australians went by the longer route via Maarab el Qarn the Battery went down the escarpment via Davidsons Pass and stole a march meeting the Australian column on the track at about 8676. As the Australia column were still going past at 17.30 hrs the Battery leaguered for the night where they were.

19.3.41.

The Battery moved at first light to area 8075 where they had breakfast.

Enemy patrols having been reported at Cistern at 6759 and at Daly’s Dome 6369. “B” Troops were sent forward in support of the Australians with orders to go into action in the area 7069 to cover both these areas.

Four guns were (with difficulty owing to the softness of the gun platforms) got into action in that area.

Two zero lines were ordered the first of 200° and the second direct on Daly’s Dome.

There was no movement seen at the Cistern so the guns were laid out Daly’s Dome which could be seen from some sandhills just in rear of the Troop positions. The director was laid on the target and the line passed direct to the guns.

Two ranging rounds were fired at Daly’s Dome which was promptly evacuated.

Just after mid-day a ten minute concentration was put down by “B” Troop on the high ground Caret el Tamma 6071 in support of the infantry, this ground was soon in our hands.

The remaining section of “B” Troop, which were still on wheels, were forward under Lieut. V.H. Wolfson to a position just inside the wire entanglements at 6366, and engaged targets as opportunity occurred.

The remaining four guns moved forward to join the forward section just as it was getting dark and after much trial and tribulation owing to the bad going the last vehicle arrived at mid-night after strenuous efforts by 2/Lieut. E.A.B. Fletcher.

20.3.41.

The situation at first light was that the enemy were occupying the high ground 5972 and adjoining features, the plantation, the village itself, and the high ground in rear of Giarabub.

Our own troops were in occupation of Qaret el Tamma 6071 and adjoining high ground, on which was also situated our O.Ps.

 

“B” Troop were in action at 6366.

“A” Troop were on wheels in the area 8075.

The Australian Light Horse supported by one troop of the 8th Field Regt. Were blocking any movement along the track Giarabub Melfa north of the salt marshes.

The rest of the day was spend moving forward the remainder on the force for the main attack which was to go in on the morning of the 21st.

“A” Troop were brought forward and went into action in the right front of “B” Troops approx. 6473.

The troops were linked and the remainder of the day was spent in registration of target areas.

At 16.00 hrs Company Commanders were shown by firing a few rounds where the concentrations were going down at dawn the following morning.

The weather has deteriorated during the day and a moderate dust storm was now blowing.

21.3.41.

Zero Hour was at 05.15 hrs.

Two Battery concentrations were put down, one of ten minutes and the other of fifteen minutes duration, the second concentration however was stopped a few minutes before the allotted period.

As soon as it was light the two O.Ps Capt. Warden Capt. Cook were to go forward in support of the Left and Right Company’s respectively, shooting their respective troops by observation.

The attack developed satisfactorily and there was little more firing during the battle.

Five German bomber aircraft came over during the battle but were denied observation by dust storm which was now raging.

About 800 prisoners were taken including the Italian colonel i/c of the garrison who was slightly wounded.

The Battery withdrew that afternoon and leaguered in area 8676.

22.3.41.

The Battery moved at 10.00 hrs on the first stage of its journey back to Beni Yusef, ot moved North to 9095 and there on a bearing of 90° towards the Siwa Road.

The Battery leaguered that night 7 miles short of the West of the Siwa Road.

23.3.41.

The Battery moved at 08.00 hrs and leaguered that night at Kilo 9 on the Siwa – Barrani – Matruh Road.

24.3.41.

The Battery moved at 08.00 hr (Gun group) and at 09.00 hrs lorry group and leaguer that night near Amriya Aerodrome after covering 176 miles.

25.3.41.

The Battery moved at 07.30 hrs (lorry groups) and 07.45 hrs the gun group. The lorry party arrived at Beni Yusef at 12.30 hrs and the Gun Group at 13.30 hrs.

 

GENERAL.

 

The Battery were thirteen days from Beni Yusef and during this period had covered over one thousand three hundred miles and fought a small battle.

It says much for the maintenance of the Battery that only five vehicles were out of action during the period and all were later recovered with the exception of the technical stores lorry which was burnt out , two of the remainder were put out of action through accidents.

   

 

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE PRESS.

SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY.

BY

 

LIEUNTENANT-GENERAL SIR RICHARD N. O’CONNOR, K.C.B., D.S.C., M.C.

General Officer Commanding_in_Chief,

British Troops in Egypt.

 

         Headquarters.,

           British Troops in Egypt.

             Cairo

       2nd April 1941

 

It is with great regret that I take leave of the 4th R.H.A. on its transfer to another command. What is Egypt Command’s loss will be another’s gain, as the Regiment has one of the finest fighting records of any unit in the Middle East. Its experience has been unique and there has been practically no fighting between MATRUH and AGHELIA in which it has not been represented.

          Its first major action was carried out during the British withdrawal last September when its fine shooting took a particularly heavy toll of the advancing Italian columns. Then in the recent Libyan campaign it played a most important part on the advance to SOLLUM; in the battles for BARDIA and TOBRUK; and finally on the last decisive battle of BEDA FOMM.

          Its outstanding fighting spirit, and enthusiasm is due to the fine example set by its commander back up so well by all the officers and other ranks in the Regiment.

          The 4th R.H.A. has fully maintained the high traditions of the Royal Regiment, and I wish all ranks good luck in their new Command.

 
 

 

SUBJECT:-              Appreciation of Service.

 

Headquarters.

     Western Desert Force.                               CR/Egypt/2/20207/A

        X     X     X     X

----------------------------  

          The following telegram from his Majesty the King is reproduces and circulated to units to be brought to the notice of all ranks:-

“Following from Secretary of State for War to General WAVEL by command of the King.

I transmit the following message from his Majesty “Begins” Please convey to all ranks of the Force under your Command my heartiest congratulations on the victory in the Western Desert, skill in planning the complicated operation, for the greatest credit is due to yourself and Commanders and Staff of all three Services, was equalled by the efficiency and dash of the troops in carrying it out, the whole Empire, will, I am sure, be proud that contingents from the Dominions and India as well as those of our Free French Forces played as distinguished part in this supremely successful encounter with an enemy vastly superior in numbers – GEORGE R.I, _ end”

 

Headquarters,                                                                                                Colonel,

British Troops in Egypt, Assistant Adjutant General,

Cairo            December, 1940.                                                British Troops in Egypt.

 

 

SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

BY

General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, K.C.B, C.M.G., M.C.

Commander – in – Chief, The Middle East.

 

--------------------------

 

         General Headquarters.,

                  Middle East.

          Cairo

          23rd December, 1940.

 

          Now that the enemy has been drive from Egyptian soil, I should like to express to all ranks in Egypt my thanks and admiration. The success won in the Western Desert has been one in which all have shared. It has been above all a triumph for careful preparation, good administration and hard training, behind the lines at the Base, as well as in the theatre of operations. Without the organisation and hard work at the docks, the camps, in the workshops, in the supply depots, in the training establishments, it would have been impossible to have had ready, and equipped, the striking force that hit so hard and moved so rapidly. Without careful staff work and administration the preparations could not have been so surely and secretly made. Only troops trained to the highest morale and physical pitch and led wit dash and confidence could have carried through the operation so swiftly and successfully, and at such small cost.

The hard conditions of welfare in this desert – long distances, dust storms, alternate cold and heat – have been cheerfully endured by everyone. I would add a special work of thanks to the supply services and the drivers of vehicles whose efforts have enable the forward troops to make so rapid an advance, and to the signals service who have maintained communications during that advance. The operations are not ended and further efforts with a similar spirit will bring further successes.

 

 

APPENDIX “A”.

ORGANISATION.

The Battery originally left Cairo organised on a Pamphlet 10 basis of Battery H.Q., and three troops plus a few extra vehicles to enable it to work as a unit of the Armoured Division. However on the first day at Sidi Barrani the pamphlet broke down as “A” Troop was sent West to Buq Bug and “B” Troop along the top of the escarpment towards Capuzzo leaving “C” Troop on the ground without any O.P. This lead to the eventual organisation of two six gun troops with a very much reduced Battery H.Q. The eventually organisation being  :- Battery H.Q., X and H trucks, Battery Office – Q. Stores and Battery Q. Officer.

Each Troop was to function as a completely separate unit with its own ‘B’ Echelon vehicles. The Troop consisted of four Officers; i,e, a Troop Commander – an Fire Control Officer, A G.P.O. and a Troop W.L.O. The Troop had 4 wireless sets mounted in the trucks of the Troop Commander, G.P.O., F.O.O and one in T. 15 cwt. There were 2 M. Trucks, T.L.B., Food and Water distribution and Fitters Truck. Three sections of 2 guns 6 trailors and 3 F.W.D’s, an ammunition group and “B” Echelon.

Originally it was not foreseen but at times troops were working at least 20 and sometimes up to 50 miles apart. In this case ‘B’ Echelon was the only method of sending back returns to Battery H.Q., but the B.C. used to remain with one troop, and visit the other or if the situation was fairly static as D.R.L.S. was run.

FIRE CONTROL.

This was often completely different from that laid down in A.T. Vol. 11. The chief difficulty was in Map reading. Very often the Battery was working in featureless desert and the only guide to one’s position was a dead reckoning from some identified spot or from one’s last position: for this reason it was found essential that the gun group leader kept a continuous plot of the course on his map. The again owing to the featureless country and mirage, estimation of range was a complete gamble. It was found that every time one round on the ground gave the only true answer. Troops seldom were linked except in static situations so that troops were either allotted zones or tasks on the occasion when they were shooting in the same area. When the ammunition situation permitted,  ranging often consisted of two or three single rounds and then ranging was continued  by rounds of Gun Fire, During the middle of the day, mirage was often so bad that it was nearly impossible to get accurate observation on fire, and the only indication of accuracy was the reaction of the enemy.

COMMUNICATION.

O.P’s. These were generally at least 4 miles from the guns. This would have entailed extremely long cable lines, so except in fairly static positions wireless alone was used. For the first 4 months the Battery was equipped with No.1 sets which were found to be unreliable and lacked sufficient range. During the six months we have had No.11 sets communications have never failed. These sets have worked over ranges of 17 miles on low power and during the retreat from Sullum the Battery sets were the only means of communication between the Coastal column and H.Q. Support Group, a distance at times of over 50 miles. On several occasions a long remote control was found essential, this might be anything up to a mile. Occasionally O,P’s were provided by Light Tanks with No.11 sets. In this case the O.P. Officer has got to also act as signaller owing to the difficult procedure.

GENERAL.

The normal layout was as follows:- One troop and “X” on the normal Battery frequency; the other troops on an alternative frequency. To be able to control the units ‘X’ was always close to one of the trucks on the alternative frequency. The normal ‘H’ truck was used for communication to R.H.Q. Only three times was wire used to R.H.A.

“B” Echelon.

The normal working of “B” Echelon was on the following lines:

Echelon vehicles of each unit in the Brigade, when not in use stay at what is known as “B 2 area”. Orders are then issued as the method of drawing supplies in the morning and their delivery in the evening. Rations, ammunition and petrol are either from an R.A.S.C. Echelon, FSD, or S.I.S.

Normally the replenishment vehicles set out under the Brigade Eschelon Comdr. in the morning and travel anything up to 20 miles to meet the R.A.S.C., both echelons being in wireless touch with each other. After replenishment, the Brigade echelon returns to its “B 2 area”.

The subsequent move forward of the Battery’s echelon may be as part of the Brigade echelon, with that of the unit with which the Battery is working, or it may move up on it’s own, Guides from each troop meet the echelon at some prearranged spot, or, with the parent unit. Normally; the echelon do not arrive in the forward areas until some hours after dark, owing to their vulnerability from the air, and for the same reason they start back for their B 2 area as soon as the rations etc. have been delivered. A troops of A/T guns is normally allotted to a Bde, echelon for it’s protection; but in no case has an echelon been attacked from ground troops, though frequently by bombers and fighters.

The distance from the B 2 area to the Battery varies from 5 to 10 miles. In no case was the Battery’s echelon asked to compete with an echelon journey of more than 50 miles, for more than four days on end; the strain on these occasions, on both men and vehicles being considerable. Ammunitions vehicles; however, operating on their own in pairs , have on occasions, made a 100 mile trip each way over the desert, to replenish when the situation was critical.

MOVEMENT AND AIR DEFENCE.

On all occasion except on night marches and night leaguering, the Battery or Troops moved in aeroplane formation, vehicle being anything from 300 yds to 500 yds apart. This led to difficulty in control. Whenever moving as a Battery if possible we moved on a troop front. On long marches it was found essential to have one wireless set at the head and one at the rear. The wireless at rear was also that of the “whipper in” who was found essential to bring on stragglers and lame dogs.

At the halt vehicles were dispersed sometimes to 800 yds with trailers and gun split from vehicles.

AIR DEFENCEV ON THE MOVE.

Bren guns and if attached Light A/A, travelled at the head of the column with the role of coming into action and allowing the remainder of the vehicles to pass through.

AIR DEFENCE AT THE HALT.

Brens on A/A stands and all rifles opened up. Slit trenches were invariably dug away from vehicles as the enemy invariable went for the vehicles and not for the men.

 

 

 

APPENDIX “B”

Nominal Roll Of "C" Battery Royal Horse Artillery

 

Major.

G.W.

Goschen. M.C.

R.H.A.

Captain.

R.G.

Cook. M.C.

R.H.A.

Captain.

W.A.P.

Warden. M.C.

R.H.A.

Captain.

D.R.

Hughes.

R.H.A.

Lieut.

A.B.

Wood.

R.H.A.

Lieut.

J.E.

Lefevre.

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

V.H.

Wolfson.

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

E.D.

Simonds

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

J.O.K.

Denny.

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

J.

Flant.

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

E.A.B.

Fletcher.

R.H.A.

2/Lieut.

J.B.

Robinson.

R.H.A.

 

 

 

 

 

B.S.M.

Timson.

W.R.

 

B.S.M.

Bamber,

J.E.

 

B.S.M.

Marlow.

G.H.

 

B.S.M.

Murchison.

F.H.

 

T.S.M.

Henderson.

W.

 

T.S.M.

Crocker.

A.

 

T.S.M.

Etherington.

J.

 

B.Q.M.s

Slack.

S.

 

Sgt.

Cornelious.

J.

 

Sgt.

Crook.

H.

 

Sgt.

Sunderland.

J.

 

Sgt.

MacCorquodale.

D.

 

Sgt.

Jerrold.

R.A.

 

Sgt.

Harrison.

H.

 

Sgt.

Simpson.

L.J.

 

Sgt.

Cook.

W.

 

Sgt.

Cooper. D.C.M.

H.L.

 

Sgt.

Johnston.

T.

 

Sgt.

Fothergill.

R.B.

 

Sgt.

Edgecombe.

L.B.

 

Sgt.

Roberts.

D.

 

Sgt.

Britton.

S.R.

 

L/Sgt.

Briggs.

A.N

 

L/Sgt.

Fox.

J.E.

 

L/Sgt.

Officer.

W.

 

L/Sgt.

Beale.

J.H.

 

L/Sgt.

Bateman.

W.C.

 

L/Sgt.

Shaw.

H.I.

 

L/Sgt.

Clark. M.M.

A.L.

 

L/Sgt.

Wells.

A.

 

L/Sgt.

Ambler.

A.W. (Artificer).

 

L/Sgt.

Robbins.

B. (Artificer).

 

L/Sgt.

White.

J. (Artificer).

 

L/Sgt.

Pritchard.

C.

 

Bdr.

Dawes.

C.C.

 

Bdr.

Oldham.

C.W.T.

 

Bdr.

Gorton.

R.B.

 

Bdr.

Briggs.

L.

 

Bdr.

Cross.

W.

 

Bdr.

Dick.

G.J.

 

Bdr.

Smith.

R.J.

 

Bdr.

Henderson.

A.

 

Bdr.

Powell.

V.C.

 

Bdr.

Marshall.

D.E.

 

Bdr.

Cartwright.

P.C.

 

Bdr.

Sindle.

R.R.

 

Bdr.

Conibeere.

H.

 

Bdr.

Foss.

W.

 

Bdr.

Wheatley.

C.

 

Bdr.

Peutherer.

A

 

L/Bdr.

Limpkin.

A.F.

 

L/Bdr.

Tennant.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

Sample.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

Baillie.

A.

 

L/Bdr.

Smith.

F.

 

L/Bdr.

Claw.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

Redfern.

G.H.

 

L/Bdr.

Hutchinson.

E.

 

L/Bdr.

Tallentire.

A.

 

L/Bdr.

Barrett.

I.M.

 

L/Bdr.

Smith.

C.L.

 

L/Bdr.

Du-Plooy.

A.

 

L/Bdr.

Greaves.

L.

 

L/Bdr.

Stewart.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

Grice.

W.H.

 

L/Bdr.

Lacey.

V.C.

 

L/Bdr.

Edwards.

A.

 

L/Bdr.

Leddy.

E.

 

L/Bdr.

Kingdom.

G.T.

 

L/Bdr.

Lacey.

C.F.

 

L/Bdr.

Hepworth.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

McCloskey.

J.

 

L/Bdr.

Young.

W.

 

L/Bdr.

Taylor.

W.H.

 

L/Bdr.

Gray.

A.C.

 

Gnr.

Adams.

J.R.

 

Gnr.

Andrews.

S.

 

Gnr.

Busk.

H.

 

Gnr.

Burrows.

G.

 

Gnr.

Barnes.

V.W.

 

Gnr.

Byrne.

D.

 

Gnr.

Bowd.

R.H.A.

 

Gnr.

Birks.

R.

 

Gnr.

Birch.

A.L.

 

Gnr.

Bradford.

J.

 

Gnr.

Binstead.

B.J.

 

Gnr.

Barron

W.

 

Gnr.

Brassington.

G.

 

Gnr.

Burke.

P.J.

 

Gnr.

Barry.

F.J.

 

Gnr.

Borland.

W?C?W?

 

Gnr.

Bradbury.

J.

 

Gnr.

Bernthal.

R.

 

Gnr.

Baker.

T.

 

Gnr.

Banwell.

M.

 

Gnr.

McBrown.

A.

 

Gnr.

Crowley.

D.J.

 

Gnr.

Churchill.

W.A.J.

 

Gnr.

Collins.

R.A.E.

 

Gnr.

Cocker.

K.J.

 

Gnr.

Cronwright.

R.G.W.

 

Gnr.

Cribbett.

J.

 

Gnr.

DeVille.

A.

 

Gnr.

Duggan.

A.E.

 

Gnr.

Devaney.

J.E.

 

Gnr.

Dillow.

L.H.

 

Gnr.

Davis.

T.J.

 

Gnr.

Fraser.

W.R.S.

 

Gnr.

Ferrie.

J.F.

 

Gnr.

Foster.

W.M.

 

Gnr.

Groom.

S.

 

Gnr.

Grimmer.

D.

 

Gnr.

Gritt.

I.G.

 

Gnr.

Grant.

R.A.

 

Gnr.

Griffith.

V.

 

Gnr.

Gardner.

J.

 

Gnr.

Gardner.

A.B.

 

Gnr.

Gunner.

H.R.

 

Gnr.

Evans.

T.

 

Gnr.

Holland.

H.

 

Gnr.

Hall.

J.G.

 

Gnr.

Hawkins.

D.G.

 

Gnr.

Hammond.

F.

 

Gnr.

Hutchinson.

J.W.

 

Gnr.

Hill.

A.

 

Gnr.

Howell.

F.A.

 

Gnr.

Hasler.

A.H.

 

Gnr.

Noman-Berry.

C.A.

 

Gnr.

Henderson.

P.

 

Gnr.

Huntley.

G.A.

 

Gnr.

Jones.

H.

 

Gnr.

Jenkinson.

S.

 

Gnr.

Jackson.

P.

 

Gnr.

Jacobs.

L.

 

Gnr.

King.

L.

 

Gnr.

King.

P.S.

 

Gnr.

Kettle.

E.

 

Gnr.

Kemp.

J.E.

 

Gnr.

Loomer.

L.R.

 

Gnr.

Lacey.

C.J.W.

 

Gnr.

Lloyd.

R.

 

Gnr.

Levey.

A.M.

 

Gnr.

Leahy.

C.

 

Gnr.

Langley.

G.

 

Gnr.

Lavender.

E.

 

Gnr.

Luckett.

G.

 

Gnr.

Middleton.

T.

 

Gnr.

Moore.

J.

 

Gnr.

Matthews,

D.

 

Gnr.

Matthews.

W.J.

 

Gnr.

Minney.

F.C.

 

Gnr.

McFarlane.

D.S.

 

Gnr.

Mason.

W.

 

Gnr.

Murphy.

L.

 

Gnr.

McKnight.

T.

 

Gnr.

McDermott.

E.J.

 

Gnr.

Madden.

A.T.

 

Gnr.

Morris.

F.J.

 

Gnr.

McCormick.

J.

 

Gnr.

Mooney.

J.

 

Gnr.

Maton.

J.F.

 

Gnr.

Marsland.

G.H.

 

Gnr.

Mason.

C.D.

 

Gnr.

Manning.

L.B.Z.

 

Gnr.

Moss.

H.

 

Gnr.

McCoulough.

W.J.

 

Gnr.

Marlow.

A.J.

 

Gnr.

Mylchreest.

C.

 

Gnr.

Murton.

J.

 

Gnr.

Norris.

F.C.

 

Gnr.

Neary.

P.

 

Gnr.

Nelson.

J.

 

Gnr.

Norton.

P.

 

Gnr.

Pennell,

S.R.

 

Gnr.

Poulsom.

T.C.

 

Gnr.

Pater.

G.

 

Gnr.

Powell.

G.T.

 

Gnr.

PARFITT.

T.

 

Gnr.

Phillips.

C.W.

 

Gnr.

Powell.

C.E.

 

Gnr.

Rogers.

V.A.

 

Gnr.

Routledge.

E.

 

Gnr.

Rogers, M.M.

S

 

Gnr.

Rees

A.

 

Gnr.

Rosen.

M.

 

Gnr.

Rennie.

W.

 

Gnr.

Ridsdale.

T.

 

Gnr.

Radcliffe.

J.

 

Gnr.

Standbridge.

J.C.

 

Gnr.

Smith.

T.A.

 

Gnr.

Simonds.

W.H.

 

Gnr.

Smith.

J.T.

 

Gnr.

Sturt.

J.V.Z.

 

Gnr.

Sheppard.

G.C.

 

Gnr.

Smith.

J.T.

 

Gnr.

Southcombe.

L.F.H.

 

Gnr.

Steward.

E.J.

 

Gnr.

Tranter.

T.

 

Gnr.

Thomas.

F.G.

 

Gnr.

Triffitt.

R.H.

 

Gnr.

Thompson.

W.R.

 

Gnr.

Wiiliams.

J.

 

Gnr.

Wiiliams.

R.

 

Gnr.

Webb.

A.J.

 

Gnr.

Whitefoot.

A.A.

 

Gnr.

Waxam.

A.

 

Gnr.

Waister.

M.W.

 

Gnr.

Watson.

P.J.

 

Gnr.

Whittle.

R.

 

Gnr.

Wright.

C.

 

Gnr.

Whenman.

T.

 

Gnr.

Yapp.

L.

 

Gnr.

Rossiter.

W.J.

Service Numbers omitted, but available

 

APPENDIX “C”.

Battle Casualties of “C” Battery Royal Horse Artillery.

         

2/Lieut.

W.K.

Evers.

R.H.A.

(Killed 22/9/40)

2/Lieut.

E.D.

Simonds.

R.H.A.

(Wounded 21/1/41)

Captain.

D.R.

Hughes.

R.H.A.

(Wounded 8/2/41)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gnr.

Everall.

J.

(Killed 5/7/40)

 

Gnr.

Fisher.

G.W.

(Wounded 5/7/40)

 

Bdr.

Kearns.

F.

(Killed 28/8/40)

 

Gnr.

Hutchinson.

J.

(Wounded 16/9/40)

 

B.S.M.

Onions.

A.S.

(Killed 22/9/40)

 

Gnr.

Leslie.

E.

(Killed 22/9/40)

 

Sgt.

Cooper.

H.L.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

Bdr.

Oldham.

C.W.T.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Bridgeman.

C.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Knight.

J.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

L/Bdr.

Truslove.

T.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

L/Sgt.

Fox.

J.E.

(Wounded 12/12/40)

 

L/Bdr.

Cutler.

A.M.

(Wounded 13/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Howard.

F.C.W.

(Killed 15/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Mace.

C.A.

(Killed 15/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Lucas.

W.F.

(Wounded 16/12/40)

 

Bdr.

Bettany.

W.W.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Snell.

J.C.

(Wounded 9/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Mayer.

R.

(Wounded 15/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Frazer.

W.R.

(Wounded 15/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Brown.

C.A.

(Wounded 16/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Jones,

B.

(Killed 21/12/40)

 

Bdr.

Hodgkinson.

E.A.

(Wounded 21/12/40)

 

L/Bdr.

Basham.

M.J.

(Wounded 21/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Carter.

J.

(Wounded 21/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Smith,

A.

(Wounded 21/12/40)

 

Gnr.

Ashton.

R.H.

(Wounded 21/12/40)

 

L/Sgt.

Bradley.

J.

(Killed 26/1/41)

 

Gnr.

Cawthray.

J.

(Wounded 26/1/41)

 

-------------------------------

 

Service Numbers omitted, but available

 

 

IN THE BAG.”

 

Returning from R.H.Q after handing over a crashed Italian pilot, Sgt Major Crocker and Gnr Howard found that “B” Troop had left their original position, so they decided to bed down for the night there.

 

After giving instructions to one staff car containing captured Italian generals, the Sgt Major noticed another staff car approaching. Thinking it was English, both went with preparations for a meal.

 

When the car drew alongside the looked up to find themselves covered by rifles and automatics from the car. The Sgt Major was put into the staff car while Gnr Howard had to drive the 8 cwt.

 

Both cars went towards Sidi Barrani having a race with British tanks and vehicles who of course presumed nothing wrong with an 8 cwt escorting a staff car.

 

The Sgt Major vainly waited for a chance to turn the tables but his escort were vigilant. The Italian major turned away from Sidi Barrani hearing the noise of battle still, and drove down the road to Buq Buq until the met a tank of 2nd R.T.R. in the dusk.

 

In swinging round Howard managed to stop his 8 cwt with ful; right lock on in a hole, The tank crew turned their guns on the fleeing staff car and fired rounds through the roof.

 

The  major stopped the car and Sgt Major Crocker took him prisoner. The Italian soldier refused to give up his arms and in the ensuing struggle was seriously injured

 

 

 

 
 

A TALE OF A MINEFIELD.

   
21.1.41

Early in the afternoon of the assault on Tobruk Major Goschen was required at R.H.Q. and officers had to be sent out with a W/T 8cwt to take over “A” Troop O.P.

2/Lt. E.D. Simonds was sent with the directions to meet the major through the gap in the wire where the main attack was made.

On his way there his truck struck a minefield and his driver’s arm was blow off. Lt. Simons and the wireless operator were untouched though seriously shaken. The car was wrecked with its rear still across to unexploded mines,

Immediate help for the driver was essential. Lt Simonds elected to get it from a british tank a mile further on the Tobruk defences. This however was abandon at the area was still in Italian hands.

Lt. Simons tried to retrace his steps but was sniped fast and furiously by some Italians who had plucked up courage at the sight of a single British officer. Eventually a lucky bullet hit him in the arm. Deciding they might be luckier still in a moment Lt. Simonds immediately “died an agonising death” hoping to get away in the approaching evening.

The Italians however became brave enough to inspect the “corpse” but they were surprised to find it “ much alive. They took Lt. Simonds back to A/Tank gun emplacement where this wound was well dressed. Meantime Australian Infantry attacked behind “I” tanks and for better security Lt. Simonds was pushed under the tripod of the A/Tank gun which vainly tried to incapacitate an approaching tank. The only injury inflicted was on Lt. Simonds eardrums, which were perforated by the 70 rounds fired.

This failing the Italians fled a little away and then surrendered to Lt. Simons and the “hand to hand fighters” He returned to the wrecked 8cwt truck to find that his driver Ashton had been evacuated and that the operator DeVille and had re-established W/T communication with Capt. Hughes, who was even then cautiously navigating the minefield. Capt, Hughes reachedthem in the nick of time as the sun set brought them safely off despite the unexploded mines. All have survived the experience.

 

 

 
 

VERY NEARLY A HOLIDAY

   
21.12.40. B.S.M. Marlow and Bdr. Powell had remained behind to make final preparations after burying Gnr. Jones B., who had been killied in that day's bombing

Pushing on after the Troops in the dark they turned North off the Trigh Capuzzo. Suspecting vehicles in front they flashed their lights , to which a reply was made. As the B.S.M advanced the lights moved away so the B.S.M halted until a Verey light was fired.

After chasing the lights for 7 miles they halted and suspicious of the vehicles flashed for recognition. The lights were replied in particular a red tail light, and then the vehicles moved/ The B.S.M. chased on again for another 12 miles when the vehicles halted and sounded motor horns.

The B.S.M approached cautiously for another 200 yds, then Bdr. Powell dismounted and went towards the group of vehicles. He found they were very large Italian vehicles.

The B.S.M turned immediately and made off South East. It was not long before two motor cycles appeared, one to right and left, apparently try to encircle them. They persued the Sgt. Major until Sidi Azeiz was reached where they gave up.

The Sgt. Major and Powell carried on until half past one in the morning whereupon they went to sleep.

At first light the found H.Q. 7th Armoured Brigade and got directions for Regtl, H.Q. and eventually "C" Battery. So end safely an exciting night chase in an unarmoured vehicle.

 

 

 

 

April 1941 - October 1941

Missing

 

November 1941

Commanding Officer: Major H.W.L. Cowan R.H.A.

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
  1-17   “C” Bty remained under Comd 22 Armd Bde – training and preparation.  
  18   Advanced through Gap 82 in rear of 22 Armd Bde – no action  
  19   “B” Tp had short action over open sights with enemy Tks. O.Ps sent out for other targets but no action resulted.  
  20   Bty went into action at first light with O.P. in observation at GUBI. Moved EAST in support of 4 Armd Bde, who were heavily engaged with German tks,   
      A Tp under comd 3 CLY and B Tp under comd 4 CLY. The Bty took up positions near GABR SALEH and towards dusk dropped into action facing N.E.  
      Two O.Ps went forward with the tks. A Tp shot up and dispersed small enemy coln.  
  21   Bty advanced with the two Armd Bdes N.E. A Tp engaged a large enemy coln for about 1½ hrs causing considerable damage.   
      The Bty then advanced with 22 Armd Bde westward to assist 7 Armd Bde in area BIR EL HAIAD, line of advance being over ground made heavy by recent downfall of rain.   
      A Tp fired a few rounds but failing light made observation almost impossible  
  22   In early morning B Tp engaged large concentration of enemy tks to EAST with Capt Wood forward in O.P. with patrols of R.Glos.H.   
      After 1½ hrs Capt Wood was killed while taking the shoot. At midday Battery moved NORTH and the enemy contacted in great strength in area SIDI REZEGH.   
      Bty dropped into action firing N.W. but an extremely fierce tk battle was raging in the area during which arty support was often impossible.   
      Both Tps had to withdraw in the course of the day but remained in action until dark shelling concentrations behind the aerodrome and firing a smoke screen under orders of Brig. J.C. Campbell, VC, DSO, MC, to cover a withdrawal of certain guns and personnel of 60 Fd Regt.   
      The B.C., Major HWL Cowan was wounded  
  23   Bty was attacked about 0800 hrs in leaguer area and forced to withdraw hurriedly to SOUTH.   
      Bty dropped into action 3 times but forced to withdraw without firing owing to threat from WEST.  
      Later in the day an enemy coln was shelled and the Bty advanced N.E. to Pt. 183.  

November 1941

Commanding Officer: Major C.J. Lomas  R.H.A.

  24   Major C.J. Lomas took over comd of Bty, Capt Howland becoming B Tp Comd.   
      Bty moved northwards and throughout the afternoon heavily engaged enemy coln moving SOUTH, but ammunition short. 1 gun and 14 O.Rs from 60 Fd Regt joined A Tp.  
  25-26   Bty remained in action all day (protecting left flank of N.Z. Div) without firing.  
  27   Bty remained in action in same place. In early afternoon Bde moved 9 miles EAST and at Pt 192 Bty heavily engaged the enemy throughout afternoon until dark.  
      During a Tk battle B Tp’s O.P. (in a Tk) received a direct hit and the O.P.A. killed.  
  28   The Bty continued shelling the enemy. At midday Bde moved SOUTH and joined forces with 4 Armd Bde.   
      Bty moved N.W. and re-established contact with the enemy and Bty heavily engaged the enemy although observation from O.Ps was difficult as a fierce tk battle was in progress  
  29   The Bty remained in action but firing throughout the early morning was restricted owing to ammunition shortage.   
      When ammunition was received an advance was made N.E. and late in the afternoon a large coln was shelled until dark.   
      A S.African Bty and Tp of 7 Med Regt both joined in.  
  30   The remnants of 22 Armd Bde with “C” Bty joined forces with 4 Armd Bde and “C” Bty virtually became a third Bty of 2 RHA.  
      The Bty came into action about midday to guard against any threat to the Bde’s left flank. Little enemy movement was seen and no rounds fired.  

 

December 1941

Commanding Officer: Major C.J. Lomas R.H.A

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
  1   4th Armd Bde advanced North to SIDI REZEGH to extricate some New Zealanders who were being attack from two direct positions.   
      Owing to confused situation little shooting was done. After heavy shelling Brigade was withdrawn to SIDI MUTAH to replenish. O.Ps were sent out West. Bty engaged a Coln of German lorried infantry.  
  2   A day of rest and maintenance  
  3   Rested in same position. Joined 22 Armd Bde Gp Regt in same area.  
  4   Moved 13 miles West to GUBI area to cover 11 India Bde. Arty support not needed  
  5 0700 0700 hrs Bty moved back to BIR BARRANEB; joined Sp Gp at BIR MCHEISESS and rest of day spent in forming Wilson Coln consisting of C Bty, Tp D bty 3 RHA and coy 2 RB under comd Col Wilson, 3 RHA  
  6   The guns were brought into action at first light to cover rescue of large party of New Zealand and S. African tps mostly wounded who had been taken prisoner by the Italians and abandoned in a waadi at 441404.   
      A number of rounds were fired and all the prisoners brought away during the day. From Point 175 an enemy Coln of 30 tks and 250 MET was heavily engaged until it moved West along TRIGH CAPUZZO out of range.   
      At about 1500 hrs Coln moved to HAGFET EZZGHEMAT EL GARBIA 4339 where it leaguered for the night.  
  7   Bty moved North 7½ miles and intermittently engaged O.Ps, M.T. and working parties S.E. of EL ADEM throughout the day. A Tp picked up 1 extra gun and found a detachment to man it.  
  8   Intermittent shelling throughout the day at MET and infantry moving Northwards up the GUBI – EL ADEM track.  
  9   Coln moved West at first light, crossed the GUBI track running N.W. and fired a few rounds at dispersed MT in area 395405.   
      Westward move than made up to TRIGH CAPUZZO, 395410, but did not come into action  
  10   The advance N.W. was continued by bounds and eventually Bty took up positions at 376427. Enemy positions on pt 209 and infantry and MT to the N.W. were engaged until late afternoon, when the Coln was relieved by the 4 Ind Div.   
      The O.P. parties captured about 250 prisoners 11 lorries and 3 A/Tk guns. On being relieved the Coln moved back to BIR VCHEIDA for the night.  
  11   At first light the Coln moved N.E. for about 4 miles and engaged a large enemy Coln of infantry guns and MET for some considerable time.   
      Shortly before midday the Coln moved 6 miles South to TRIGH CAPUZZO, then 15 miles on 275° and 5 miles N.W. to help HUGO Coln who were engaging enemy tks and guns.  
  12   The Coln moved 5 miles N.W. from MOATET EL ADEM and engaged enemy positions to the North. A fire plan was fired at 1605 hrs to assist the Coln infantry who went in destroyed several enemy lorries and took about 200 prisoners.  
  13   A day of rest and maintenance. Enemy air activity very much in evidence in area  
  14   The Bty came into action in same place as on 12th facing West; intermittent firing throughout the day but no good targets seen.  
  15   Coln moved North to engage the southern flank of the enemy position.   
      Firing was only possible at extreme ranges as there was a six mile wide valley between the Bty and the enemy.   
      Some scattered MET were engaged but only a few rounds fired.  
  16   At first light a move was made to TRIGH EL ABD to protect a large convoy of supplies. After moving some distance the Coln turned N.W. and W along the Div axis but did not come into action all day.  
  17   At 0830 hrs the Coln was relieved by GRANT Coln and marched 70 miles over difficult country leaguering for the night 12 miles South of MECHILI.  
  18   At 0430 hrs the Column moved 5 miles North. Some rounds were fired at maximum elevation destroying enemy MET in the area of MECHILI.  
      The majority of the enemy forces moved West during the course of the day.  
  19   The advance Westwards was continued at first light and during the course of the day a few rounds were fired at enemy MT retreating Westwards along the CHARRUBA track.   
      Coln leaguered for the night in the foothills East of CHURRUBA.  
  20   At first light the Coln moved towards CHARRUBA. A number of enemy MET were engaged with considerable success.  
       In the afternoon the enemy shelled A Tp’s gun position heavily and whole detachment of Sgt Beale’s gun were wounded by a direct hit.  
  21   The advance was continued towards BENINA aerodrome, but project was abandoned owing to heavy going and rain.  
  22   Maintenance until midday. The Coln moves South and resting spending the night near BIR BELHASEN  
  23   The Coln advanced 8 miles due West and during the morning a large force of German tks guns infantry and MET moved from BEDA FOMM to ANTELAT. .  
      Wilson Coln moved 15 miles South to engage them. The enemy were seen stationary at ANTELAT hill and the Coln advanced a further 5 miles. 30 tks advanced towards the guns and were engaged over open sights.   
      No casualties were suffered and the action was successful in causing the whole force to move South to AGEDABIA  
  24   The Coln advanced West and South the Bty doing a certain amount of shooting.  
      In the late afternoon the Coln advanced 40 miles North West and leaguered 6 miles off the main road South of GHEMINES.  
  25   Christmas Day found the Coln astir at 0200 hrs owing to the charging plant having caught fire.  
       At first light Coln moved North but no enemy engaged.  
  26   Remained in same area  
  27   Support Gp started on return to DELTA in order to refit and C Bty joined the Regt for the first time since the start of the campaign.  
  28-29   Remained and moved with the Regt.  
  30   WILSON Coln reformed and C Bty moved off at 1715 hrs to join it.   
      After a night march of 20 miles the Coln leaguered 4 miles N.E. of ANTELAT.  
  31   A further advance of over 20 miles was made in S.E. direction in the morning. No targets were seen.  

 

 

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