History of 'DD' Battery, Royal Horse Artillery
Chapter 2 - Aftermath of Sidi Rezegh, The German Spring Offensive, Gazala, Alam Halfa and El Alamein, (January 1942 - December 1942)
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|1st January, 1942||On New Year's Day Support Group moved hurriedly south all night to Saunnu : the 22nd Armoured Brigade had had a sharp reverse and needed our help. O.Ps. contacted Reid Force from the 5th Indian Division, who had arrived at the " "Well with a Windpump" from Jialo (Bir Fenacia). No shooting today.|
|2nd January, 1942||Currie Column advanced south-west towards Belandah (known as Belinda) to teat the strength of the enemy's right flank. At mid-morning a clash occurred with an enemy flank guard on the Haseat—Agedabia road. " M " Battery had a grand shoot and knocked out two guns (75 mm.) and several lorries.|
|3rd-4th January, 1942||In rest position near Bir Fenscia while Lyndon Column of and R.H.A. and 1st R.B. remained in contact.|
|5th January, 1942||More harassing near Belandah. returning to Fenacia near Reid Force at night.|
|7th January, 1942||Agedabia reported clear of enemy and the column moved west to deal with armoured car screen at 00585. Very bad soft sand and nearly all vehicles except four-wheel drive ones sticking continually. Contact made at last.|
|8th January, 1942||The column less a section of " D " Troop proceeded south-west from Haseat to Bir M'Niscu. This section, with Capt. Barrow and Lieut. Wilson, moved ahead with " B " Squadron K.D.Gs. as Rydon Force (commanded by Major Rydon, O.C. Squadron, K.D.Gs.). There was also a troop of N.H. 2-pdrs. Two 25-pdrs. and the normal echelon of ammunition (160 rounds per gun.) only allowed for protection of the armoured car patrols. Rydon Force moved to Bettaful on the north bank of the wide Wadi Faregh. Its role was really advanced guard.|
|10th January, 1942|| Dust storms prevented
Currie Column's advance, but on the 11th Rydon Force was reabsorbed into
Currie Column, thirsting for replenishment. The enemy were on the road at
Marsa Brega and also at Bir Belcleibat farther south. This latter force
was engaged near Bir Suera, where he held a good position on the high
ground, 2nd R.B. carriers attacked, supported by " F " Battery
and Jerboa, but " F " deployed in an exposed area of soft sand
and came under heavy artillery and anti-tank fire and the attack ended in
During this week the enemy was very active in the air, landing two or three Stuka raids every day on to the. column, 2/Lieut. P. Crane, D.S.O., being killed in one of them. He was Assistant Adjutant.
|11th January, 1942||11th (H.A.C.) R.H.A. O.Ps. accompanied our O.Ps. as a prelude to taking over from the column the next day. During the afternoon the Battery handed over several vehicles wireless sets and stores to 2nd R.H.A.|
|14th January, 1942||The Carrie Column moved back to Haseiat, where Major R. A. Eden took command of the Battery, Major O'Brien Butler returning to his old battery, " M," which Major Eden had been. commanding for ten months.|
|29th January, 1942||The 7th Support Group arrived at Beni Yiasef where it remained a few days before splitting up when 4th R.H.A. and " M " Battery, 3rd R.H.A., went to Almaza.|
DURING THE SIDI REZEGH CAMPAIGN, 18TH NOVEMBER, 1941 - 14TH JANUARY, 1942.
|February, 1942||The Battery spent the month refitting and doing range duty for the course shooting of the School of Artillery, Almaza, taking weekly turns with " F " and " C " Batteries. All ranks were given seven days' leave, which nearly all N.C.Os. and men took in Cairo itself, though some of the officers went to Palestine, Syria. Alexandria and Luxor. Two enjoyed some good duck shooting at Faiyum. These were Lieut. Bante and Lieut. Currie|
|25th February, 1942||The Regimental Christmas Dinner was held at the Slade Club, Abbasia. on 25th February, two months late.|
|March, 1942||Depot duties range shooting and individual training continued while the Regiment (4th R.H.A.) remained in tents at the Royal Artillery, Base Depot, Almaza, ten miles north of Cairo.|
|25th March, 1942|| The Regiment at last
moved out by road to the Western Desert once again after a very enjoyable
two months back in civilisation. During this period Jock Campbell, former
Colonel of the Regiment and then Brigadier, 7th Support Group was awarded
the V.C. for bravery at Sidi Rezegh, to the joy of everyone in the whole
Support Group, which also included the 3rd Regiment, R.H.A. in which
Regiment he had .served for many years and also commanded in the desert.
There was a ceremonial parade for 7th Support Group at Kasr-el-Nil
barracks, when the C.-in-C., General Sir Claude Auchinleck, presented the
ribbon and inspected the 7th Support Group.
A few days later Jock was promoted Major-General and given command of the 7th Armoured Division. Then, all within a month, came the terrible news that he had been killed when his car overturned on the main road just below Halfaya Pass. The shock to all ranks was great, and no General was ever loved more than Jock or more deeply mourned. One of the really great gunners, who during the desert war had been out in front since the Italians first entered the war and been a continual inspiration to the whole Desert Army. His " Jock Columns " were to play a prominent part in the next campaign. He had given his name to these unknowingly when he formed the first column in the desert with " C " Battery in the summer of 1940.
The Regiment took the field still united with the 2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade (Lieut.-Colonel The Viscount (Hugo) Garmoyle) in the 7th Support Group, now renamed 7th Motor Brigade, and commanded by Brigadier Callum Renton, D.S.O., later R.B. The other two Greenjacket battalions were 2nd/60th (Lieut.-Colonel Charles Sismey) and 9th/60th, The Rangers (Lieut.-Colonel C. Grenville Grey).
The Brigade was still in the 7th Armoured Division Major- General Frank Messervy), the original desert armoured division. The 4th Armoured Brigade was the "armour," in which was the 1st Regiment R.H.A. (" A " (The Chestnut Troop), " B " and " E " Batteries).
|28th March, 1942||Arrived at the training area, Bir Uaar, about fifteen miles west of Sidi Omar, on the frontier, where the Battery spent the next fortnight training.|
|April 1942||Moved to Bir El Gobi, about thirty miles due south of Tobruk, for a further fortnight spent in training and long reconnaissances around round El Adem and Acroma|
|25th April, 1942|| " D " Troop
moved independently to assist the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment
(Lieut.-Colonel Newton King) in harassing the enemy in the area Rotonda
M'teifel—Rotonda Segnali. Two days later " C " Troop moved
down to the area twenty-five miles south-west of Segnali to support the
12th Royal Lancers in maintaining an exceptionally wide front of
observation with their armoured care.
Having been reinforced by a home draft at Almaza. the Battery went into action with the following officers and warrant officers and Nos. 1 :-
" C " Troop :
" D " Troop :
" D " Troop stayed a week up north with the South Africans, with whom they formed a strong bond of friendship and had some interesting shoots into the Segnali basin.
" C " Troop operated in sections usually fifteen or twenty miles apart, and had several very exciting mornings repelling the " Thugs Column," which was wont to launch out two or three mornings a week. This column usually comprised half a dozen tanks and some guns, and armoured cars and was always led by two Germans in little staff car or volkswagen. These two were soon christened the " Thugs," and the column became officially known as such. It was always turned back after an hour or so of stropping by our guns and never penetrated more than twenty miles into our bit of desert.
Between " C " and " D " Troops during this period a column of Free French were also operating. This was known as the TOM Column. " B " Battery also were in another column, the March Column, in this middle and on the M'Teilum ridge, with a company of 2nd R.B.
|1st May, 1942|| The " Thugs
Column " came on to us at dawn and was rather stronger than usual.
They must have been moving nearly forty miles per hour, and " C
" Troop' i right O.P. 2/lieut. Atkinson, in " 9 " (the rear
link truck normally), just managed to avoid being cut off, he losing his
hat during his rapid move.
" F " Battery were on our left and had wireless trouble that morning, ib were in action some time after us; however, " C " Troop's accurate and rapid fire soon stopped the enemy, who went into the usual huddle and then withdrew north-west about 11 o'clock, and nothing was gained to them except to confirm' the presence of 7th Motor Brigade and 12th Lancers in the area.
|4th May, 1942|| For the next ten days
the Battery formed the nucleus of the March Column in a rather static role
on the M'Teilum ridge, a forward position overlooking the Segnali basin.
Here we were supporting the 4th South African Armoured Can again and we
always referred to them as " Sacks " on the wireless, after
The B.C. commanded the column, which bad various different infantry companies relieving each other, and also a troop of 4.5 medium guns under command. "C" Company, 2nd R.B. (Major Desmond Prittle), who had been in a position with " B " Battery, 1st R.H.A., remained on for a week with us and then were relieved by " A " Company, 9th K.R.R.C. (Major Grenfell Smith-Dorrien). Both these companies were very enterprising with night patrols, and obtained valuable information of the enemy disposition. During the day the eight field guns, and four medium guns were hardly ever silent, as there were always hostile vehicles or working parties to be seen.
It was here that the Battery first had " A " Troop, 170 L.A.A. Battery, 57th L.A.A. Regiment under command. 2/Lieut. Tate ran a very fine troop which remained with us until August, and a strong bond of friendship grew up. Lieut.-Colonel E. D. Howard-Vyse the L.A.A. Regiment C.O., was himself an old Horse Gunner and had several friends in the Battery, including B.S.M. Marlow.
Before leaving the March Column another battalion of the 60th Rifles Arrived to relieve the Rangers (9th K.R.R.C.). This was the 2nd K.R.R.C., commanded by Lieut.-Colonel 0. N. D. Sismey, who were to be alongside us in the same column, under the name of August, throughout the coming battle and retreat to the Alamein line. Major W. Heathcoat-Amory, the Second in Command, took over the March Column from Major Eden.
|16th May, 1942||The Battery spent the next week resting in the area of the 4th Armoured Brigade back fifteen miles south-west of Al Adem, and were affiliated to the 8th Hussars, old friend of the Regiment from 1940 days. Each troop had a two-day holiday down at Jerboa Bay, an organised rest camp on the seaside, about twelve miles east of Tobruk. After four very hard weeks on these columns this bathing holiday made new men of us all. With or a week were two Free French officers, Lieut. Jacques de la Roche and Lieut. Roger Ceccaldi. We taught them something about 25-pds and they seemed to enjoy their stay as much as we enjoyed having them. Lieut. Ceccaldi was captured later at Bir Hacheim, but Jacques got out all right.|
|25th May, 1942||Feeling refreshed in mind and body, the Battery moved up again into the southern area and relieved " E " Battery. 1st R.H.A. (Major Charles Armitage, M.C.), in the August Column in the extreme western zone of observation south-east of Bir Tengeder the next day. Major Heathcoat-Amory was in command|
|26th May, 1942||The day started unusually quietly, with only the odd armoured car visible. At about 3 o'clock in the afternoon a report came through on the Rear Link " blower " that a large column of enemy tanks and M.E.T. (Mechanised Enemy Transport) was moving east from Rotonda Segnali. Consequently we were surprised to receive no orders until dusk, when the code- word " Rabbits " came through, followed two hours later by " Hares." meaning a further withdrawal still to a position south of Bir Hacheim. All night the August Column marched in a full moon over splendid going, but the Boche were moving faster, and the 15th and 21st Panzer Division had rounded the southern flank of the fortified Bir Hacheim well before dawn.|
|27th May, 1942|| For breakfast we
halted alongside the July Column, in which was " F " Battery,
and realised for the first time that although we has done fifty miles,
driving all night, the enemy had driven even further and had attacked the
Retma " box," which the 2nd R.B. and the Rangers were defending
with " C " Battery. This " box "was evacuated without
much loss except that two officers and forty other ranks of " C
" Battery were temporally captured with their three guns, later all
safely recovered. The day was spent in driving, on to Bir el Gobi without
incident, except that one man (Gnr. Moorhouse) in the Battery was wounded,
by a Hurricane strafing us. Capt. Chilver-Stainer captured an English
3-ton lorry and 15-cwt. truck, roping in seven German prisoners.
After a " brew-up " at Gobi in the evening, where we heard all about the Retma " box" the August Column was ordered to move at dusk to the big F.M.C. (Field Maintenance Centre) twenty miles south-east of El Adem to defend it from the east other column taking up positions on its other sides. Most of the Battery managed to get four hours' sleep tonight
|28th May, 1942||No threat materialised and at mid-morning the column, now commanded by Lieut.-Colonel O. N. D. (Charles) Sismey, moved of north-west towards El Adem to engage the enemy columns reported east and south of that now famous place and attempting to reach Tobruk. We never made contact with the enemy.|
|29th May, 1942||The enemy having withdrawn well west of El Adem, our column spent the day pursuing him, eventually coming into action in the valley between El Adem and Acroma against a few tanks and guns. Lieut. Millington's wireless 8-cwt. was knocked out in the poor visibility, and he and his crew escaped. Then followed about the worst night any of- us had ever had. Hoping to get some deep at last, we leaguered in good time about three miles back from the gun position and the column turned in, dead tired. First a single plane appeared over the leaguer like " the monstrous crow " from " Alice in Wonderland ": he flew up and down, machine-gunning forwards and backwards. The rear gunner's bullet head was silhouetted in the moonlight like a hobgoblin. Yet not a single man was hit, nor did a vehicle go up, The leaguer had to disperse to fifty yards' interval, and the bombers even then didn't leave us alone, for the rest of the night they were dropping flares all round, but no damage at all to anyone, only another night with hardly a wink of sleep.|
|30th May, 1942||After a nice little morning shoot we trekked up the escarpment south to Knightsbridge, and from there north to Maabus er Rigel in the afternoon, from which the enemy had withdrawn during the morning, Capt. Chilver-Stainer captured a Mark III tank intact with four prisoners, and was very loath to' set it ablaze, but luckily he did so (in view of later events). With the Battery sitting pretty on top of the Rigel, it was a stirring sight to the general westerly movement of the enemy all round us from north-west to west to south. Bad attacks of dive-bombing lost us two trucks.|
|31st May, 1942|| A long night march
twenty miles south-east robbed us of another night's sleep, but the next
day we were able to make it up and do some vital maintenance to the
vehicles. At midnight the column moved off again on a long night march
round the south of Bir Hacheim, now known as Tattenham corner, the whole
of 7th Motor Brigade moving as one force to strike round right up to the
enemy at Mteifel west of our minefield stretching north from Bir Hacheim.
Our fatal casualties during the month were :—
|1st June, 1942||The excitement was when the B.C.'s armoured car ran up on one of our own mines, all escaping unhurt. The Battery Captain reluctantly came to the rescue with his splendidly equipped 8-cwt, which the B.C. relived him of for the time being. Leaving his crew to take a 3-tonner. The whole Motor Brigade swept round Hacheim and the three columns, March, July and August (ours) were in action south of Rotonda Mteifel early in the afternoon. There were some beautiful targets of M.E.T, on the Trigh el Abd, and towards evening some eight-wheelers started worrying our O.Ps., all of which had got a couple of portee 6-pdr.guns as escort.|
|2nd June, 1942|| The next morning we
were all agog to continue the harassing northward when very early an SOS
came from Hacheim, saying that the French garrison was being attacked from
the north-east and east by a strong enemy armoured force. Again the whole
Motor Brigade set speed to the help of the Free French and sped south-east
in an appalling sandstorm; this, coupled with a strong, hot, following
wind proved too much for the vehicles, and we were reduced to halting
every three miles and turning into the wind to cool off, When evening came
the August Column was well in the lead, but none of the Brigade could
reach Hacheim and we were feeling rather despondent at having failed to
help the French when the tremendous news came through that the attack had
been completely repulsed and fifty-two tanks knocked out. The B.C.
accordingly signaled out to all can " Vive General de Gaulle,"
and this was promptly checked back by a bright wireless operator as "
We've three zero miles to go." Actually Brigade did try to move us
twenty miles west to leaguer with the echelon that night,' however, this
was too much and was met with a blank refusal by us to move more than two
miles farther that night. We should only have been moving away from our
quarry on the morrow, and everyone was dog-tired and in real need of a
full night's sleep.
With the echelon arrived 2/Lieut. Jackson with his troop of 6-pdrs of the 95th Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A. This troop was to stay with us throughout the next six eventful weeks and did a great service.
The day started with a disaster, for Capt. Barrow ran over a crest with his 8-cwt. car O.P. and 6-pdr. escort, only to find himself right on top of a nest of anti-tank guns and M.Gs. In the ensuing engagement one of the 6-pdrs.was, unfortunately, lost and its crew wounded or captured, having had the porter hit and immobilised. It had three German prisoners aboard who had been picked up about half an hour beforehand with a lorry. These were recaptured by the enemy, too, but not the lorry. For the rest of the day the battery was continually in action against various enemy guns and vehicles, the zero line being due east and the target area being the undulating country south of Bir Hacheim. This was the first day of a week in this area, which the Motor Brigade spent harassing the enemy south of the Free French fortress.
There were several amusing little encounters during the week, and O.Ps, had a very tricky morning approach over undulating ridges where the enemy could easily lie up in ambush. Always at night each of the three columns withdrew three to five miles to leaguer and replenish in comparative security. Thus was an old Support Group custom rigidly enforced in the previous winter campaign by Jock Campbell, when Brigadier.
|4th June, 1942||At dawn there was a very pretty little engagement when both O.Ps. bumped an enemy anti-tank screen and both O.P. 6-pdr escorts and the whole Battery were in action over open sights together until the enemy screen withdrew, about half an hour after dawn.|
|5th June, 1942|| Towards afternoon the
enemy attacked Bir Hacheim again with about twenty tanks and infantry from
the south-east and cent a small force of tanks and armoured cars against
the July Column, who were on our west. The Battery knocked out one M13 by
a direct hit at 7,000 yards in the shoot on to this force, but the B.C.'s
Bren carrier was set on fire. Bdr. Whitley was later awarded the Military
Medal for great gallantry on this occasion.
The citation was:-
" On the evening of the 5th June, 1942, south of Bir Hacheim, No, 868151 Bdr. P. A. Whitley was the wireless signaller of " DD " Battery O.P. in a Bren carrier. The carrier was act on fire and Bdr. Whitley received a bullet wound in the head. Despite this he continued to operate the set with great gallantry until ordered to bale out when the flames enveloped the whole carrier. Since the other signaller was badly wounded in the shoulder, Bdr. Whitley maintained communication to the guns unaided until the last possible minute, enabling one M13 tank and one other vehicle with personnel to be knocked out by 25-pdr. fire, and was finally lifted on to another carrier in a state of collapse"
Bdr. Whitley was sent down to Johannesburg with a broken pelvis and was eventually evacuated to England. Lieut. J. A. R. Feist, who was wounded in the leg on the gun position the same day. followed him home from South Africa.
|8th June, 1942||2/Lieut. C. D. V. Wilson, who had spent most of the day in his O.P. with enemy vehicles and armoured cars behind him brought in a lorry with an anti-tank gun and four German prisoners. A few days later 2/Lieut. Wilson captured a volkswagen from his O.P., when a little group of four volkswagen approached within 200 yards of him. The other three escaped under a smoke- screen, picking up the men from the knocked-out one. 2/Lieut. G. C Sheppard joined the Battery from the Middle East O.C.T.U., having previously served in the ranks of "C" Battery with the other Rhodesians.|
|10th June, 1942||After a fortnight of terrific Stuka attacks, high- level bombing attacks, and about six full-scale ground attacks with tanks, all of which they repelled, the Free French evacuated Bir Hacheim during the night and about three-quarters of the garrison of 3,000 came safely out with their guns and small arms. Eight hundred remained behind and were taken prisoner. There was a sharp battle during tine night exodus.|
|11th June, 1942||Rommel himself entered Bir Hacheim to-day, and with incredible speed sent a column of 400 small arms thrusting north-east towards El Adem, led by twenty tank and twenty armoured cars.|
|13th June, 1942||After two days out of contact the August Column swung in again towards El Adem, whilst a terrific battle was raging round Bir et Harmat, about twenty miles west. This was the black day for the Eighth Army when our tanks walked into Rommel's spider-web of 88 mm. cunningly concealed, and over a hundred were lost.|
|14th June, 1942||All ignorant of this tremendous reverse, our column bad an excellent day in the area of Bir Bu Scenaf, about six mite west of El Adem. An abandoned Mark IV special tank was burnt out by 2/Lieut. C. D. V. Wilson and his O.P. escort of 6-pdrws after he had driven off the enemy recovery party. Later in the afternoon he shot the whole Battery on to a huge collection of enemy - soft-skins." badly dispersed, a lot of vehicles which were like our big L.A.D. Scammels. We were all in good heart until Capt. J. Davies-Scourfield, the Liaison Officer from Brigade. brought the bad news and the fateful order to withdraw to the Egyptian frontier. The Battery and the 2nd/60th could hardly believe it, and no one slept that night.|
|15th June, 1942||The August Column was now the rearguard immediately south of El Adem, and the next few days were so exciting that no one had time to worry about the bad news. For four days the Battery was firing all day and withdrawing slowly south-east towards the frontier wire, usually by leapfrogging troops three miles over each other. The Battery fired 838 rounds on the 15th at various small columns, mostly with ten or twenty tanks leading them. Our " cousins " the 1st R.H.A. were in action just north of us, and two new columns, April and May, suddenly appeared on our south. The O.Ps. were usually so busy firing that. on one frequency for the Battery, there wasn't much opportunity for sending continual "sitreps" (situation reports). We therefore tried a new idea of lending an infantry " running commentator " to which every O.P. was shooting. But it never worked really well. During this intense period and throughout the next fortnight our signallers were a tremendous standby - the air was hardly ever still and the strain on sets as well as signallers was intense. The lowest we ever reached was four sets in action one afternoon, and the B.C. had to act as the G.P.O. set for " D " Troop.|
|17th June, 1942|| The Indians evacuated
the El Adem "box" in the small hours and a large number (about
half a battalion) of them came towards our column, being first regarded
through binoculars with some suspicion. They were in great heart when we
made contact, and we were much impressed by their spick and span
appearance: they even had a goat with them.
An amazing incident occurred today. One of our Hurricanes hit the ground near our gun portion, bounced up, and the pilot wax thrown out of the cockpit; quite unperturbed, he stood up and walked over to our guns. Apart from burnt hands, he was all right.
|18th June, 1942||Another exciting day, with tank columns pressing us all day in open, flat desert. We continued to leapfrog back by troop firing almost all day from dawn to dusk. It was vital to keep touch with the columns on our flanks to avoid being out-flanked. This was done every hour or so by taking for their map reference over the rear link to Brigade, but the best way was for the two O.Ps. to contact their O.Ps. and if possible keep with them. This ours generally managed to do.|
|19th June, 1942|| Brigadier Caller
Renton was promoted Major-General and given command of the 7th Armoured
Division, and Lieut.-Colonel The Viscount Garmoyle promoted Brigadier to
command the 7th Motor Brigade (formerly 7th Support Group). This news was
very welcome to us all.
During the next three days the August Column drove round in an anti-clockwise circle, with the Royals ending up on the escarpment looking southward over Sidi Rezegh aerodrome on the morning of Sunday, 21st June. We knew on Saturday that Tobruk was being; heavily attacked and that our tanks were to harass the attacking force, and we hoped for the sound of the battle as dawn broke. Instead there was an ominous silence, and when the new Brigadier arrived we had already guessed the worst. An officer of the Worcestershire Regiment drove into the column from the west and told the Brigadier that the fortress had definitely fallen, but that there were many parties trying to escape to join the main Eighth Army, A few odd trucks did come in during the day, while we fired at odd troops of enemy armoured can in the Sidi Rezegh aim. At 2 o'clock the order came to move south, and we tool one farewell look at the old battlefield, thought for a moment of Jock, and then drove away.
|22nd June, 1942|| After a gruelling
night march of twenty miles we reached our destination at 4 a.m. and sat
in front of the " wire " (Egyptian Frontier), waiting for the
Boche to come on. As usual, Rommel lost no time, and we were son in action
about seven miles west of Sidi Omar. A large column was moving down the
wire north-north-east of us, and the situation on our right flank was
uncomfortably obscure. Accordingly we moved down about ten miles south for
the night, hoping to meet our echelon near the Trigh-el-Abd. This we never
did, and this was because we never got into wireless touch with them.
Capt. Sainsbury had brought them up and after a fruitless search before
dark could only bed down and wait till morning. About midnight several
German tanks entered his little leaguer, and he was himself held up by a
tommy-gun at a few yards' range, however, he dodged away and managed to
get all our lorries safely away.
B.Q.M.S. Britton and Bdr. Partlett were captured, but both escaped the next day and rejoined " C " Battery after a fifteen-mile walk.
|23rd June, 1942|| This was a thrilling
day. We rose as usual about 5.30, and the O.Ps. were out before dawn. We
could only hope the echelon were safe and would turn up in due course.
Very early there were columns to our west and north, and both the Troop
Commander, Capt. Barrow, and Capt. Strainer had good days, destroying
several vehicles and guns. We were directed through the El Beida gap,
about half-way between Sidi Omar and Fort Maddalena, and it was touch and
go whether we should make it since there were enemy working down the wire
to our north-east. However, the troops leapfrogged back systematically,
firing all the time. and by 4 o'clock the Battery was back in Egypt gain.
It was rather a depressing moment; however, it was a great relief to get
through the gap without losing a single vehicle. Several N.C.Os. and men
were wounded in a Stuka raid during the afternoon, but the evening was
quiet until dark, when the column was ordered to do a long night march
east. The opposition evidently decided likewise, and their columns, firing
Very lights and flares, were hard on our tail for most of the night. At
stage the centre column could plainly be heard about a mile behind and dead on our course, while the flank columns seemed to be drawing up level with us. The sky towards the north was lurid with dumps going up along the coast road. 'A back-braking but thrilling sight.
|24th June, 1942||At dawn the enemy were reported by the Royals to be about five miles behind us, but we never saw any of the Royals' armoured cars, and Capt. Stainer bumped a German staff car over a brow at fifty yards. Unfortunately, it dodged away from his armoured car. All oar spirits rose when Capt. Sainsbury appeared with the long-lost echelon just in time for breakfast, and soon we were moving east again, add two days later we were back on the old Siwa-Matruh road at our old friend of 1940 days, "Bir Kanayis," after a few rearguard shots at M.E.T. on the way.|
|26th June, 1942||Sergt. Britton and Bdr. Partlett were the only missing when the echelon was attacked, and after being captured both cleverly escaped and rejoined us later. Now we had a strong position near Bir Thamail and awaited the enormous southern column of 3,000 M.E.T. and tanks. This, however, kept close along the line of the escarpment until it met our tanks and " C " Battery|
|27th June, 1942||The Battery had an excellent shoot on the southern flank guard of this column, in which about thirty A.P.Vs. and guns were turned from their eastward course to such effect that they were seen at dusk disappearing due west in dribs and drabs. We reached the big petrol and water dump at Bir Khalda about midnight after a fifteen-mile march, and every vehicle piled on all the extra water and petrol tins it possibly could, then the Field Squadron of the Division scuttled what was left by pricking the tins with bayonets.|
|28th June, 1942||The next three days were all spent in long, wearying drives over the most appalling stony country. Having moved about fifty miles east from Khalda on the 28th, it was surprising to be ordered twenty-five miles west again on the 29th to engage nothing in particular, but to harass from the south toward the enemy supply line. This order would have been welcome if our vehicles hadn't been in such a precarious state, and the prospect of another extra fifty miles before we eventually reached the Alamein line (which we well knew we were bound for) was uninviting for that reason. This westerly trip caused us to lose about half a dozen vehicles through wear and tear and no means of towing them away (El Daba). Having made contact with as enemy echelon at dusk on the 29th, but too late to do any harm, the whole column was ordered right back to join Brigade before we could make contact with anything on the enemy replenishment axis the next morning.|
|30th June, 1942|| A bumpy, hot, arduous
drive east brought us alongside the Motor Brigade just as the sun set
(825162), a particularly lovely sunset this evening and a solace for our
weary and very sore eyes. That night, in fact, Capt. Chilver-Stainer and
Lieut. Millington were compelled to go lick with " desert blindness
" - in other words, acute eye strain). Lieut. A. A. Banks accordingly
assumed command of " C " Troop in the temporary absence of Capt.
So ended June, a month of enduring memories. Perhaps the perpetual lack of sleep, an average of (our or five hours a night, is the most poignant memory of all. The fourteen-hour days allowed always by a four or five-mile drive back to leaguer to meet the echelon were lengthened still further by having to get up an hour before dawn so as to get the O.Ps. out and the column absolutely ready by first light. Often on our lips were the words of the old negro spiritual, " O God, you made the day too long." Yet throughout the great retreat to the Alamein line there was hardly a sick man.
|1st July, 1942|| During, the long
easterly trek yesterday we touched the northern fringe of the tremendous
Qattara Depression and had an awe-inspiring view of its vast and
formidable aspect below a drop of over four hundred feet. It looked
utterly impassable, and if only we could hold the twenty-five mile front
of the Alamein line this huge waste must stop him reaching the Nile.
Eventually in the late afternoon today we halted a mile south of the New
Zealand " box," (863167). and Colonel Sismey, the Column
Commander, together with the B.C., went into the " box " to see
the New Zealand Brigadier, Having established a very good liaison, we were
all set to remain on their southern flank when orders came ordering the
column south-east again to take up a position at El- Himeimat, a very
conspicuous peak at the southern end of the Alamein line. This involved
another night march of some fifteen miles over country which looked nasty
on the map, but by a stroke of fortune we found a good hard track which
led us almost the whole way, and by midnight we were in bed as the moon
set and seized the remaining five hours for sleep.
The very light of the New Zealanders fitting snugly in their " box " had been a tonic, and their whole atmosphere breathed confidence. Their guns were in action throughout the evening and their perimeter looked immensely strong. Consequently it bad been depressing to pull away south-east from them for no apparent reason, at any rate on our particular sector of the front. But a tremendous battle was raging to the north, where Rommel's armour was being held by a few tanks and a solid line of 25-pdrs.
|2nd July, 1942||Our role was even more depressing—the rearguard column for that part of the Eighth Army scheduled to withdraw towards Cairo down the barrel track in the event of a reverse in the north (888233). The rearguard was never required, for the Alamein line, as all the world knows, held everything that Rommel could hurl in.|
|3rd July, 1942||This day was undoubtedly the turning-point of the retreat. Having spent the whole of the previous day lifting out of contact on the barrel track waiting for the outcome of the battle in the north, we remained in position all this morning, feeling rather cold-blooded yet glad of a respite for vehicle maintenance. Then at noon came the order to move north and come into action south of the July Column (" F " Battery and 2nd R.B. 425265)). We could not make contact before dark, and finally leaguered with guns in action. Very bad news that the Brigadier, Hugo Garmoyle, had been mortally wounded and Capt. Jimmy Barton, commanding " F " Battery, had been killed today - both quite exceptional officers|
|4th July, 1942|| The news arrived
to-day that the 3rd R.H.A. were in the line again somewhere near El
Alamein. The 3rd and 4th R.H.A. have been like sisters ever since they
took the desert together in the spring of 1940 to meet the Italian menace.
Then the 3rd R.H.A. were an anti-tank regiment, but now they blossomed out
for the first time as a 25-pdr. regiment with " D ", " J
" and " M " all three of which were old friends of ours in
the old 1940 days in Wavell's campaign (except " J" then with
6th Australian Division). " D " in the long summer of 1941 on
the wire again while " M " and " J " helped to hold
Tobruk, and all three again during the Sidi Rezegh campaign in the Currie
Column particularly. As the 1st R.H.A. were just north of us and the 2nd
R.H.A. somewhere not far away, we knew that the Boche would never see the
Nile with the first four Horse Artillery Regiments to bar the way and the
5th rushing up from Suez (with the 8th Armoured Division) to complete the
batteries from " A " to " M," with " CC "
and us to make it fifteen - not a bad array of guns.
To-day we settled down south of Point 93 (881269) and harassed north for the next four days. A stirring incident here which inspired everyone was a great New Zealand effort. They caught an Italian column in close leaguer before dawn and completely wiped it out, capturing about forty guns, including six 88 mms. This was done chiefly by a brilliant divisional artillery concentration laid on immediately after the infantry night patrol had reported the presence of the leaguer.
The shambles afterwards was visited by every O.P. and carrier sweep for days, and was a never-failing supply of loot.
|7th July, 1942||Two new subalterns, Lieut. C. E. Hutchinson and Lieut. P. B. Foster, joined, but Lieut. Foster was evacuated two days later with a temperature of 105°, a bad go of dysentery, and rejoined R.H.Q. as A./Adjutant subsequently. Lieut. Hutchinson went to " C " Troop.|
|8th July, 1942||The New Zealanders took over our role at Point 93 and our column was Mat to join the rest of the Brigade about ten miles south with orders to prepare for a long march west on the morrow. The morrow was to be one of the most reciting days of the whole campaign.|
|9th July, 1942|| Before first light we
were on the move west and were soon joined by Major J. W. Wainwright, the
new Second-in- Command of the Regiment We were to go west to Point 103
(860273) and contact the enemy, and engage him as fast as we could. "
C " Battery in the March Column were given the role of protecting the
Sappers blowing the New Zealand " box " at Qaret el Abd to our
east, and " F " Battery were directed towards EL Khirita to our
south-west, with the April Column operating to their south.
Before breakfast we were in sight of Point 103, and soon some Italian tanks appeared, a mixture of M13's and L6's (a new light tank). Lieut. Banks was right O.P. for "C" Troop, with Capt. Barrow out to the west on a good commanding height. Major Eden with Major Wainwright on his car formed a centre O.P. Soon he and Lieut. Banks were engaging tanks with both " C " and " D " Troops and with the anti-tank guns commanded by Lieut. John Jackson, R.A.. An L6 was soon knocked out, and later an MI3 was set smoking when " D " troop engaged over open sights at about 1,200 yards. Both troops fired over open sights in this action and were both to pull out at about midday. However. a heavy threat had developed to wt west, and " F " Battery had withdrawn under orders right back across our stern, and it was an unpleasant shock suddenly to discover that their column, the July Column, was well south-east of us instead of south-west. By mid afternoon two main attacks had thrust on us, one to our north which swung west into the " box " which " C " Battery's Sappers had blown up, and a much stronger one to our west, later turning out to be the 90th Light Division with Honeys and Portees. With us were nine Honey tanks under Capt. Basil Forster, who did sterling work all day and knocked out several enemy guns and tanks. Their code name was " Hypo," by which they were known affectionately ever afterwards, as was Capt. Forster himself. Both troops were firing due west all the afternoon and leapfrogging east while the Boche infantry streamed forward along the top of the ridge running south-east through Gebel Kalakh, firing with M.Gs. and infantry guns at our O.Ps. Their tanks never came near our anti-tank guns.
Sergt. H. E. Smith. No. 1 of " 4 " Sub, " B" Troop, was wounded in the shoulder, but refused to leave his gun and continued to fight it till dark. The gunners were very exhausted by the evening, but our firing wasn't over for the day as we were ordered to harass the enemy throughout the night.
Actually the Battery fired twenty rounds per gun at minute intervals over an area where the enemy had halted about 1,000 yards square. Then we limbered up and moved back three miles to leaguer.
For this days actions Lieut. A. A. Banks and Lieut. J. Jackson (95th Anti-Tank Regiment, R.A.) were both subsequently awarded the Military Cross. Lieut. Banks citation was as follows:-
"As O.P. officer he was outflanked by four enemy tanks, but stayed at his vantage point long enough to bring a heavy concentration on to enemy transport following the tank. Then he directed his 6-pdr. guns to another tank, which they knocked out."
"He remained with two 6-pdr. guns on the flank of four tanks white the Battery engaged them over open sights, and although himself under direct fire he brought effective fire on 'the main column while his 6-pdr. engaged the tanks from his O.P."
"His action halted the enemy for several hours and destroyed two tanks."
|10th July, 1942|| Now that the 90th
Light Division had ensconced themselves on Gebel Kalakh it was certain
that they would come on in the rooming and, what was more, they would be
looking straight down on us. No sooner was the Battery in action against
the enemy forward screen of armoured can and portees than it was shelled
out by some excellent gunnery. And so it was in the next position a mile
farther east, so that we had only one course open and that was to move
north and crowd in on to the July Column, This we did and spent the rest
of the day in action almost continually. Before " C " Troop
moved, its No. 4 gun had an interesting little direct shoot against two
hostile Honey tanks trying to creep down the escarpment about 4,000 yards
south of the gun position. They lost no time ill disappearing over the top
of the ridge again. the column was shelled throughout the day more heavily
than ever before, and we were lucky to have only one casualty, that
unfortunately being a mortal wound from an enemy 25-pdr, (captured).
About an hour before sunset an infantry and tank attack developed on our front and the Battery did full justice to some splendid targets. The 2nd/60th had some long-range shooting with their Bren guns and mortars, and " C " Battery and the Rifle Brigade were doing the same just to our north from a position of the Munassib wadi, herein after known as " Lob-bowler's Alley " because all the Battalion mortars were firing together from there. " Hypo," our Honey tank squadron, were still with the column, and also had a good day.
By dusk the attack was definitely repulsed and the enemy had done no damage at all to our column. The march back to leaguer to-night was one of the worst ever, and even a Honey tank of " Hypo " bogged itself in the soft sand. Without the help of this Honey squadron we should have been in sore straits, but eventually we met the echelon at the appointed place soon after midnight and received orders from Brigade to move a few miles north again at first light.
|11th July, 1942||Today everybody, particularly officers and signallers, was so dog-tired with lack of sleep and two flat-out days of battle that a comparatively quiet day came as a blessed relief, The Brigade orders were vague and simply told us to contact and prepare to support the New Zealand Division by protecting their left flank at Point 93 as they advanced north from their " box " at Deir el Muhafid. Actually there was no threat from the west at all and the Battery won't even in action.|
|12th July, 1942||In action again in our old area south of the now famous Point 93 (881269), and some harassing shoots against odd M.E.T. and Italian tanks. Lieut. G. R, W. Howell joined the Battery from home, having fought in France. The 1st R.H.A, were now immediately behind us, and the Chestnut Troop gun position actually within 500 yards of our war troop position the B.C. formed a joint O.P. with Capt. G. S. de Yonge, commanding the Troop, in his tank and had an interesting evening dispersing various groups of M13 tanks and infantry guns which the enemy had thrust forward. With two wireless sets in the tanks Jerboa Battery and the Chestnut Troop could both engaged Major Eden had the great advantage of his old signaller, L/Sergt. G, Openshaw, on the Jerboa net as " 10." Four days later he was killed in a Stuka raid about two miles north of Point 93.|
|13th July, 1942|| General "
Strafer " Gott, the Corps Commander (13th Corps), paid a visit to the
column with Major-General Renton, the Divisional Commander, and impressed
everyone by his usual quiet sang froid and a cheery " good
morning " to everyone.
For the next four days the column had a quiet period in this area and had as guests two war correspondents of Parade - Gillmore, a New Zealander, and Zola, a Hungarian, their official photographer.
|16th July, 1942||This morning they accompanied Capt. Barrow in his O.P. and were lucky enough to be eye-witnesses of an interesting little action, in which the escort of 6-pdr. anti-tank guns captured a vehicle and three German prisoners. The photographer, Zola, ran alongside the Portee as the gun was engaging enemy vehicles about 600 yards away and got some good pictures : soon after he photographed the O.P. car, Capt. Barrow's yellow Ford 13-cwt„ being systematically shell out of its position. The sequel to the visit was an article in Parade on the August Column, called " Jock Columns Grow Up," and the management were good enough to present every man in the column with a free copy. Practically everybody sent his copy home by the next post as the article won universal approval.|
|17th July, 1942||This morning the column moved west into the depression Deir el Anger, running west from Point 93, and spent the next eight days there harassing west at the enemy now ensconced in the old New Zealand " box " at Qaret el Abd.|
|25th July, 1942||At dusk the Battery fired a series of concentrations in support of a fighting patrol of the Rifle Brigade, commanded by Major T. Bird, M.C. " C " Battery also supported this attack, which was directed on an Italian post at 868262 in front of the Mun Assib wadi, where the March Column were operating, The R.B. patrol, consisting of two officers and fifteen other ranks brought back his exact counterpart of Italian prisoners - that is two officers and fifteen other ranks—and killed about ten others, all without loss to themselves, a highly successful sortie with which the General was extremely pleased, and the Battery received a letter of congratulation from him. The two batteries fired over 600 rounds altogether.|
|27th July, 1942||The column spent two days in the area of Point 116 (879257) and was again visited by General Gott. This was to relieve the 3rd R.H.A. in the 4th Light Armoured Brigade where they moved north to exploit the attack of the 23rd Armoured Brigade up in the northern sector.|
|29th July, 1942|| This attack
unfortunately failed, and back we went to Deir el Anger for another five
uneventful days. News arrived that Bdr. Whitley had been safely evacuated
to South Africa, a great relief after an anxious week of uncertainty as to
whether he bad recovered from is bad wounds.
2/Lieut. C. D. V. Wilson was posted to R.H.Q.
Résumé of July 1942.
During the month the Battery was in contact with the enemy everyday except the 11th, and had two really heavy days on the 9th and 10th. However, all the big battles of armour were fought in the north near the railway and the coast road: the southern sector was mostly comprised of artillery harassing by day and vigorous infantry patrolling by both sides at night, the outstanding one of ours being Major Bird's on the night of the 25th July.
The flies were by far the worst discomfort and by the end of the month were almost intolerable. No one could drink a cup of tea without at least half a dozen dead flies floating in it. No one could remember things being so bad in 1940 or 1941.
Desert sores began to get bad towards the end of the month, probably due to the flies as much as anything.
Being so near the Delta, rations were excellent, and fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fresh meat came up fairly often. A system was started of sending back three or four O.P. drivers and signallers with the canteen lorry, under a senior N.C.O. This gave them a couple of nights in Cairo and was much appreciated,
Casualties June and July.
The only fatal casualty during the two months June and July was:—
|3rd August 1942||The column pulled out of the line and went into a reserve position north of Deir el Muhafid for ten days, under command Royal Scots Greys (Lieut.-Colonel Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes).|
|13th August 1942||The August Column relieved the March Column (" C " Battery and 2nd R.B. less two companies) in the wadi Deir el Munassib. This was really a shallow depression and a well known place to the Battery, as we had during July fought on all sides of it and often crossed and re-crossed "it. For the next fortnight we were to sit in it waiting for the long-expected Boche attack to come on through it. " M " Battery, 3rd H.H.A., so well known to all of us and commanded by Major Terence O'Brien Butter, previous " BC " of Jerboa, was, to our great delight, operating immediately to our south, and every day sent a sniping section forward into the Munassib depression to a position almost alongside our forward troop.|
|17th August 1942||Lieut. E. Mathar joined the Battery from the Middle East O.C.T.U., having served six years in the ranks of " M " Battery. To arrive and find " M's " forward section with Battery Forward Headquarters was a nice surprise to him. There were not many good targets daring this period; however, the Battery bad one good combined " link " shoot with " M " on to an O.P. on Qaret el Khadim, a prominent knoll in front of the dominating feature Gebel Kalakh, General Montgomery, the new Army Commander, visited the column twice and spoke to a lot of men in the Battery.|
|26th August 1942||Lieut. A. A. Banks left the Battery to take over " G " Troop, " F " Battery, on promotion to Captain.|
|30th August 1942||General A. Maxwell, M.G.R.A. Middle East, visited the Battery in the afternoon, and the evening was dead quiet on the zone. Shortly before midnight the Afrika Korps attacked all along the southern front, between northings 25 and 27. Throughout the night the Battery fired S0S tasks on to and in front of the forward minefield, behind which were sitting the 2nd/60th, together with Capt. Barrow and Lieut. Millington, our two O.Ps. 'This thrust of Rommel's bad been expected for a fortnight, yet it was so well concealed that it came without any immediate warning.|
|31st August 1942|| Next morning the
columns was still in position and continuing to engage infantry and
vehicles infiltrating up the wadi. The O.Ps. bad been forced in near to
the guns once they were outflanked both north and south. Till 9 a.m. the
Battery poured a stream of shells down on the 90th Light Division, our old
adversary, who it proved to be. Lieut. Sheppard in "C" Troop
O.P. scored three " brew ups " in quick succession on a
concentration of vehicles which included several staff cars. Later it was
proved that General Von Bismarck was killed by gunfire that day, and the
Battery hope that he was one of the three, particularly as he was most
likely to have been in the central sector of the assault. Lieut.
Millington in the left O.P. scored another good " brew up."
The order to withdraw according to plan came as usual by code word at 9 a.m., and none too soon, for by then the Afrika Korps had swept along the Himeimat plateau to our south, driving back " M " Battery and the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and our left O.P. could count 93 tanks about two miles to our south-east. Hardly had our withdrawal begun than this tank force turned north, and our situation looked extremely ugly, but then, to our intent relief,' they all began to " brew up " and we dipped away north of them. Had they come north they must have cut off the whole column
During the night and early morning the Battery had fired 1,460 rounds, and the gunners were tired, but they bad to dig in the guns in the position to which we were ordered (435868); the enemy column did not march on before dark, which allowed everyone to reorganise in preparation for a probable night march.
We hadn't been in bed long before this was ordered, out luckily not to move before dawn. This meant there was no urgency and we all managed some sleep after a flat-out twenty-four hours.
|1st September 1942|| By breakfast time we
had arrived at our destination, Bir Maeilikh, which was to be the most
easterly point to which the Battery withdrew in the desert.
Everything depended on the tank battle in the north at Alam Halfa, the high feature in the Ruweisat ridge which was the objective of the Panzers. There our tanks had been waiting hull down, and the clash had come on the evening of 31st August. It continued on the morning of 1st September, and, thanks to General Montgomery's brilliant tactics and our armoured brigades, supported by the 1st R.H.A. and 5th R.H.A., the battle was soon won, as we knew when the order came to advance west about midday and the Battery has a splendid evening shoot on to the formations M.E.T.
|2nd September 1942|| The enemy were try to
reform the Deir el Ragil depression, but the Armoured Brigades were now
pressing hard on them from the north-east, the New Zealanders were putting
in counter-attacks by night southwards from Point 93 area, and the Motor
Brigades column and 4th L.A.B. tanks and armoured cars were closin in on
He had to fall back to Hemeimat and the Munassib wadi, which be did in easy stages between the 2nd and 6th September, pounded all the time by the R.A.F. and the Eighth Army guns.
|3rd September 1942||This was a particularly satisfactory day for the Battery, for there were four definite " brew ups," three of which were in one shoot and included the most glorious of all " brew up " an ammunition lorry.|
|4th September 1942||Capt. Barrow's armoured car was hit low down by armour piecing shot in several places and had to be evacuated; luckily no one was wounded.|
|6th September 1942||By dusk the column was definitely established at the west end of Deir el Ragil and the enemy had finished their withdrawal, Rommel having decided to stand and hold Qaret el Hemeimat, the giant hill commanding many miles to the east and north. Two gunners were wounded in " D " Troop by 150 mm. shell fire, one of whom died next day. The next five days were spent in harassing from the Ragil position, with plenty of amassing shoots and the left O.P. drawing a lot of fire.|
|11th September 1942||The 7th Motor Brigade was relieved and we handed over to a battery of the 3rd Field Regiment.|
|12th-18th September 1942||The Regiment joined together and moved to a seaside camp near Burg el Arab, where we spent a delightful week in a fig grove, bathing, resting, visiting Alexandria, and eating figs. General Montgomery carried out a ceremonial inspection of the Regiment and expressed great appreciation.|
|19th September 1942|| The Regiment moved to
the Cairo - Alexandria road to join the 10th Armoured Division, only to be
moved on within two days to join the 1st Armoured Division (Major-General
Raymond Briggs) at Khatatba in the delta. On arrival here the Regiment was
taken out of the 7th Motor Brigade and became part of the Divisional
Artillery (Brigadier B. J. Fowler, late 3rd R.H.A.), together with and
R.H.A., 11th H.A.C., 78th Field
Raiment and 76th Anti-Tank Regiment. everybody was allowed four clear days' leave before the Regiment settled down to serious Regimental training, an entirely new role for the 4th R.H.A., it having never once fought as a regiment in two and a half years campaigning. Lieut. R. Atkinson was posted to R.H.Q. as Survey Officer temporarily.
was a continuation of the static column harassing role which had begun on
17th July. When the Prime Minister, Mr. Winston Churchill, visited the
Eighth Army in the desert, Capt. A. H. D. Barrow and Sergt. H. £. Smith
represented the Battery and had the honour of shaking hands with him. Only
two from each battery or company could be presented when he met the 7th
Motor Brigade on 22nd August.
The big battle which began at midnight, 30th-31st August, went exactly as our Generals hoped it would, and Major-General Renton described it as a " text-book let-piece."
When the Battery filed S0S tasks throughout that first night it was the first occasion that the Regiment had fired in the desert at night other than in odd harassing shoots.
On pulling out on 12th September the Regiment, to the great regret of all the old " desert rats," parted company with the 7th Armoured Division after serving with it ever since the start of the war in the desert, this last period being one of almost five months' continuous column work, with fighting hours from 0545 hours to 9 p.m.
Casualties During August and September.
The only fatal casualty was Gnr. W. Roberts, " D " Troop, wounded in the head on 6th September at Deir el Ragil and died the next day, 7th September. He is buried in El Gharbaniyat Cemetery, Plot 9, Row E, Grave No. 3.
|9th October 1942||The Regiment moved with 1st Armoured Division to Halfway House on the Cairo—Alexandria road and continued intensive training.|
|13th October 1942||Anniversary of the formation of the Battery.|
|20th October 1942|| The Battery now took
the field with the following Officers and Warrant Officers and Nos. 1;-
" C " Troop.
Sergt. Victory is the only original No. 1 left.
The Battery sign painted on the doors of all vehicles had proved very useful for identification from a long way off and had often been admired by other units during the summer campaign, It was a crouching Jerboa in natural fawn on at desert circle background set inside a square of dark blue and light blue halves (diagonally). Capt. Chilver-Stainer drew the Jerboa from life, and B.S.M. W. Cook (" D " Troop) suggested the two blue background—light blue for "C" Battery and dark blue for " F " Battery, our two parents.
|21st October 1942||The Regiment assembled in the staging area, and the complete detail of the Army Commander's plan for the coming attack, including the roles and positions of all Division, was made known to all ranks.|
|22nd October 1942||Major Eden, Capt. Sainsbury and Lieut. Millington were all in hospital with jaundice; Capt. Barrow commanded for the battle. The Regiment moved to the assembly area (446898) which for several days had been occupied by real and dummy vehicles to conceal M.T. movement from the air.|
|23rd October 1942||At last light batteries formed up in column of route. Jerboa Battery following 2nd K.R.R.C.. in readiness for the approach march of twenty-five miles and the passage through the minefields. The entire plan had been rehearsed on several occasion's during recent weeks, and it was a question of putting the battle drill into practice. The Battery moved on the another of the three tracks through the minefield, the sector being covered by 9th Australian Division right and 51st (Highland) Division left (443899).|
|24th October 1942|| The start line was
" Bombay road " crossed at 0300 hours and it was 1000 hours
before the Regiment came into action in the least congested area (879295).
One O.P. was with the Queen's Bays and the other with supporting role
generally to 2nd Armoured Brigade. Our first gun position was still our
own side of the front British minefield : however, in the afternoon the
Regiment moved west (877296) into action just beyond it, with 78th Field
and 2nd R.H.A. right and left respectively. Still no good targets to be
had, the O.Ps. being on the 870 grid line.
The enemy was holding up our armours' advance with individual 88mm, guns, and for several days he made good use of each successive piece of high ground - each slightly higher than the last - between the 870 grid and Tel-el-Aqaqir.
From the 24th to 29th the Regiment fired nightly concentrations lasting for an hour to hour and a half. During the day the Regiment stayed in the same position, though the front in this sector was advanced a few hundred yards.
|26th October 1942||O.Ps. were regularly shelled and guns only spasmodically, one gunner in " C " Troop being mortally wounded.|
|27th October 1942||The Regiment moved north to the right front of the 78th Field Regiment. Our right O.P., Lieut. C. E. Hutchinson, put down a regimental concentration (886297) to assist the recovery of some of the Yorkshire Dragoons' anti-tank guns. Meanwhile the 7th Motor Brigade had done splendid work, the 2nd R.B. making history at Snipe (code word) with art epic action in which Lieut-Colonel Vie Turner won the V.C. and the Battalion knocked out with the help of a troop of 76th Anti-Tank Regiment, about 57 tanks.|
|28th-29th October 1942||Our fire was now duplicating that of the gunners of the 133rd Infantry Brigade our own Motor Brigade having gone back.|
|31st October 1942||The 4th Field Regiment took over the regimental gun position and the Regiment moved back to rest in the area Alam Onsol.|
Casualties during October, 1941
L./Bdr, J. V. Robotham, 8th October: Accidentally killed at Khatatba, Buried at Heliopolis.
Gnr. B. Ellis 26th October: Killed in action (877396).
|1st November 1942||A day of strenuous maintenance until orders were received for the Regiment's return to the line to take part in the second phase of the great Alamein battle. The New Zealand Division was to force the minefields, moving west along the 300 grid with the object of holding this bridgehead for 1st Armoured Division to reach and hold Tel el Aqaqir. The 9th Australian Division had recently had some success in an attack on the right of this sector. The breakthrough was to be about three miles north of the area where the attack of this 23rd October had been directed. from the Onsol area the Regiment moved a long way east for batteries to form up with the battalions for the approach march. The Division assembled in the area of " Sydney Road, " and one O.P. joined 2nd K.R.R.C.|
|2nd November 1942|| The Motor Brigade and
4th R.H.A. advanced at 0200 hrs. and by dawn had reached 868299. There was
a thick mist and much shell-fire when the battery eventually came into
action on the extreme right of the Regiment (869300). Prisoners seemed
plentiful. At this point the Allied line (9th Australian Division) swung
north-east, and shelling was heavy from Sidi Abd el Rahman. and there was
even some from the immediate north Enemy minefields had to be cleared in
the gun area. The enemy had attached booby traps to their dead, which
meant that burial was dangerous.
Our OP reached 864299 with 2nd K.R.R.C., the left battalion of the Brigade. Aqaqir was in sight, but not yet own. no on the night of the 3rd November the Motor Brigade attacked, supported by the whole Divisional artillery.
|4th November 1942||By dawn on the 3rd 2nd K.R.R.C. were astride the road at Aqaqir, but pinned to the ground, with considerable casualties. The kill was near.|
|4th November 1942||The 2nd Armoured Brigade advanced across the Sidi Rahman - Aqaqir road while the Motor Brigade remained to reassemble. The Regiment then moved to 839396 and was in action in the early afternoon, " D " Troop lending an 0.P. with the 2nd Armoured Brigade. By this time the enemy was withdrawing fast and it was possible to go well west up the wadi Deir el Murka to about 854294 without getting any better targets than a hull-down tank on protective patrol. Clearly there would be a further long move.|
|5th November 1942||This came on 5th November, when 2nd R.H.A. and 4th R.H.A. moved up the telephone wires from 838397 to 838303 south of El Daba station. Our O.P. at 841318 to the north-east had no targets. He was in a mine-infested area accompanying the infantry in digging atraggling enemy ont of their hiding-places, Somewhere here General Ritter von Thoma, commander of the Afrika Corps, was captured by the 10th Hussars. The position at 838313 was soon given up, and the Regiment moved south-west in the afternoon to remain on wheels at 838355- The enemy were many miles away, and the order was given to move seventy miles to Khalda by night. The Battery had reason to remember Khalda with gratitude, for it was here during the retreat that was were given free access to water and petrol at the dump. This night march proved a grinding trial in thick dust, and slit trenches scattered over the route caused many falls. During the march one 8-cwt. truck, with Bdr. Shotton and Gnr. Bagley, was in German hands for a few hours, but only for a few hours.|
|6th November 1942||By dawn the Regiment was in square 7649, just east of an enemy minefield, and after breakfast continued the march to Khalda. On the way many parties of Italians were picked up, but only a few Germans, proving that the Germans had callously abandoned the Italians as a general rule. At Khalda there was no sign of the enemy. Heavy rain fell in the evening, turning the desert into a swamp and bogging many vehicles to axle depth, including the Battery replenishment vehicles. Even tanks towing other vehicles became stuck. All this rain caused an acute petrol shortage and was responsible for the failure of the pursuit|
|7th November 1942||The Regiment moved to 698312, where the 2nd Armoured Brigade was concentrating. 2nd R.H.A. and 7th Motor Brigade were held back at Khalda for lack of petrol, as also was" C " Troop, which had topped up " D " Troop. " D " Troop was now attached to " F " Battery.|
|8th November 1942||However, the Regiment was not required to support the Armour, and remained in situ all day. The armour duly moved north and cut the road, but found that the concentration of M.E.T. had slipped out of Mersa Matruh and escaped by the coast road during the night. Thus ended the attempt at pursuit, which failed because of the petrol shortage, due to the excessively heavy rains.|
|18th November 1942||The Division now came out of contact and proceeded to Ras Chechiban, about seven miles inland from T'Mimi, arriving there on 18th November and remaining tor four long months' training until 3rd March, 1943, when it moved on with the rest of the 10th Corps to the Mareth line, reaching Medenine on 15th March. Lieut.-Colonel L. J. Livingstone-Learmouth. M.C., succeeded Colonel Christopher in command. During the four months there was ample opportunity to practise everything: except driving instruction, which owing to shortage of petrol was barred. Never the less there were a few peg driving competitions, also alarm stakes, gun grill competition, signallers' and specialists' competitions, physical fitness tests, rifle shooting, and Bren gun tests, as well as many recreational contests such as section football tournaments and dismounted sports. Christmas and the New Year were both celebrated with every possible stimulant from the N.A.A.F.I. and other sources. Many N.C.OS, and men went to the leave camp at Derna for & few days and enjoyed the holiday, but there was no leave at an to the Delta, and only those lucky enough to go back on a course could get to Cairo, Congestion of troops in Cairo was presumably the reason why no leave was granted.|
November and December 1942 to February 1943
|During the stay at
Chechiban there were several changes in the officers. Lieut. P. W. E.
Currie rejoined in December from H.Q., 7th Motor Brigade, but was posted
to " C " Battery in March just before the war.
At that time 2/Lieut. R. H. English was posted to " F " Battery and Capt. H. L. Cooper, D.C.M., and Lieut. W. Hannam-Clark came to us from " C " Battery. Capt. Cooper took over command of " C " Troop permanently owing to the prolonged absence of Capt. Chilver-Stainer, who had had diphtheria, jaundice and tonsillitis in succession. Capt. Chilver-Stainer was awarded the M.C. in the periodical list which came out in February,
Capt. E. D. Simonds joined the Battery for about six weeks. He joined us in December from " C " then went sick for a month in January, and was subsequently posted to " F"
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