War Diaries of J Battery, Royal Horse Artillery

1941 and 1942

 

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January to October 1941

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The following is a transcript of the Battery War Diaries as recorded by them and replicated here to respect how it was written to cover both the years of 1941 and 1942.

J Battery

3rd Regt R.H.A.

Royal Horse Artillery

BATTERY WAR DIARY                  

'J' Bty RHA

Nov 17th 1941 - Mar 18th 1942.

After leaving Tobruk between 20th – 25th Sept 1942 on relief ny 149th Regt. (A/Tk) R.A. the battery took over the equipment of this regt at Amiriyah and proceeded to Alanza Camp to regt and refit. The battery was there brought up to strength in O.R’s and in Officers by the arrival of Lt. C.J.V. Young from H.Q. 10th Corps. After training for some three weeks the battery moved to an area about 15 miles S.W. of Amiriyah to train as a regt. Considerable training was put in there at digging gun pits for all round defensive positions, as navigation and at night movers. Two firing practices were also held at stationary targets at ranges varying 600 to 1000 yds. In each of these the battery came out easily first in the number of hits obtained in spite of one troop having defective sights.

On the 12th Nov the regt, moved via the main road to an area about 20 miles S. of Matruh on the Siwa track; thence to an area S. of Side Barrani about 20 miles E. of Maddlene, On arrival in this area final arrangements were made for what was going to be the Lybian Offensive. The advance to the wires started at dusk on 17th Nov, the battery being allotted to the R.B’s and the 60th Fld. Regt. R.A. with a troop in reserved to guard H.Q. Support Group 7th Arm’d Div.

The officers of the battery on 17th Nov were:-

Major B. Pinnery M.C. R.H.A. (O.C.)

Capt. D.V. Jennings M.C. R.H.A.                      Lt. C.J.V. Young R.H.A.

Lt/ J.E. Pass R.H.A. commanding “B” Troop.

2/Lt. G.W. Gunn M.C. R.H.A. commanding “A” Troop.

2/Lt. N.A. Hardy M.C. R.H.A. commanding “C” Troop.

The battery strength on crossing the wire into Lybia was 6 Officers and 181 O.R’s and 12 2Pdr A/Tk Guns on new 3 Ton Chev. Portees.  

By the evening Nov 18th a position had been reached at Bir Soadida, the objective for the first day. During the advance 7th Support Gp. had moved in rear of Adv. H.Q. 7th Arm’d Divn. and met no oppositions from ground or air. On the following day a small advance was made until opposition ws met at Sidi Rezegh Aerodrome. This place was attacked and captured next day and occupied by 7th Support Gp. The battery took up positions on the aerodrome defending this eastern perimeter. “A” Troop the guns of 60th Fld Regt. R.A. “C” Troop were further to the North with the 60th K.R.R.C. – “B” Troop were in reserve behind H.Q. Support Gp. By the evening gun pits had been dug in the N.E. corner by “C” Tp. and the guns were in position. At dawn next day however these were vacated and the guns replaced on portee owing to uncertainty onto the line the enemy’s expected attack would take. A large body of enemy tanks had been reported to the E. and at about 1000 hrs this appeared on the escapement making for the aerodrome and moving N.E. It is thought that about 60 tanks were in the force but no definite figures can be given. They were first engaged by “A” Tp. who were portee beneath the escarpment. The enemy fire was being heavy both from Mk. IV and Mk. III Tanks and some portees were on fire. Eventually the tanks completely over-run the tp. position, only one gun managed to withdraw and that had suffered casualties. The total of casualties was many. Major R. Pinney and 2/Lt Gunn manned a portee and held their position until the latter was killed and the portee set on fire. In this action “A” Tp. put up a magnificent defence against heavier metal and against very heavy odds.

The following were killed:-

2/Lt G.W. Gunn M.C. R.H.A..

Bdr Burns. Gnr Bateman. Gnr Dunbar.
Gnr HudsoN. Gnr McMurdee.

The following were missing believed killed;-

L/Sgt Gray.

Gnr Callen.

Many more were wounded and evacuated.
Having gone through the position held by “A” Tp. the tanks proceed on their course, evidently with the intention of going round the N.E. corner of the aerodrome and getting in behind the guns defending it. “C” Tp. were the next to encounter them, which they did at approximately 1030 hrs. Again the odds were overwhelming and “C” Tp. had an unpleasant position on the flat plain, a position which gave no cover to the portees from which the guns were being fought. One section under Sgt Brookes had both guns set on fire by shelling and suffered heavy casualties. The other section under Sgt. Finagin continued to fire, at the same time withdrawing slowly onto the protection of the 25 Pdrs. This section saw that the tanks were working round their flank so concentrated their fire on the leading tanks. Eventually, after the two leading tanks had been stopped. The main body turned off to the N. and withdrew. It is impossible to estimate the number of enemy tanks knocked out in this action. It is that “C” Tp. put out four but they were firing at long range, although a few rounds were fired at 800yds, and in some cases tanks which were hit and stopped continued to fire. In the first attack “C” Tp. lost the following killed;-
L/Sgt Hiscock. Gnr McElvaney.
Gnr PatoN Gnr Robson.
Gnr Valentine A.
Two guns were put out of action but one was repaired later. At 1100 hrs, Sgt Brooks. Whose section had been bady mauled, returned with the remaining “AA Tp. gun and a scratch detachment. “B” Tp. meanwhile were still in reserve on the escarpment. While the battle was going on further N. the Support Gp. “B” Echelon, which had perhaps ventured to far N. and were within 7 miles of the aerodrome, were attacked at 0800 hrs by a German Arm’d Coln. In the ensueing turmoild many vehicles took the wrong course and drove straight into the Italian Camp of El DuBa. The battery were most unfortunate in losing as P.O.W. the following:-

B.S.M. Aylett.

Sgt. Art. Rowbottom.

Bdr Batchelor.

Bdr Grainger.

               and several others. Many Headquarter vehicles were also lost including the office lorry with all records and a consider sum of Bty. Fund, the fitters lorry and the water cart.
               At about middle  a second attack was out in by the enemy from the E.. This time they did not attack with such determination and when “C” Tp. withdrew to the guns of “Jerboa” Battery 4th Regt R.H.A. the enemy withdrew. It appears the enemy put in another attack later in the afternoon but the fighting was so confused for the rest of the day that it is difficult to get a clear picture. Before dusk 2/Lt Hardy went up to “A” Troop’s position where he found the vehicles had been looted and burnt. He could not stay as enemy M.G.. fire was getting dangerous.
22nd Nov.         After leaguering for the night ”C” Tp. awoke to find a German Tank Leageur about 3000 – 4000 yds away. This was instantly engaged by 60th Fled Regt and the Tp. and, after some delay by our own tanks. The enemy did not stay, but withdrew. At about 0730 hrs Major Pinney took another gun and portee up to “C” Tp.. By then the firing had died down. At about 0745 hrs it was noticed that he was missing and a search of the area resulted in the discovery of his body. He had been killed by a small shell splinter at the base of the skull.
                        Except for some shelling nothing very much happened until at 1400 hrs when the German Tanks were seen moving round the ridge to the N.W. of the aerodrome as though preparing to put in another attack. To meet this attack the 22nd Arm’d. Bde, came forward and a long range artillery and tank duel lasted until about 1600 hrs when the 4th Arm’d Bde. arrived. As dusk fell the enemy shelling got more intense and their infantry advanced onto the XXXXX ridge N. of the aerodrome. The loss of this deprived Spt. Gp. Arty of their O.P’s and at dusk the force withdrew 5 miles S. of the escarpment through the S. Africans. During the day “B” Tp. had been in reserve but Bdr Toogood was killed by a shell.
23rd Nov.          The intention for the day was to shell the aerodrome with O.P’s on the escarpment. This however was frustrated by an enemy attack put in round the S.E. corner of the Leaguer at about 0800 hrs. They had about 30 to 40 tanks in this attack of which many were Mk. II’s. Concentrated fire from 25 Pdrs and A/Tk guns of the regt. forced this attack to turn away and it is thought that the enemy lost between 10 and 12 tanks. During this action Lt. C.J.V. Young who was directing a portee, was seen to drop from a vehicle as though wounded by M/G. fire from a nearby German Tank. He did not rise again nor did a later search of the area reveal any trace of him. At about 1000 hrs “C” Tp., having found some more ammn., dash away to the S. and shot up two German lorries and brought back to German Staff Cars with prisoners. Meanwhile a defensive ring of guns had been placed around the large area cover by the numerous S. African 3 Ton Lorries. Most of the S. African Infantry was dug in the N. and to the N.W. of the area and the S., where most of the Spt. Gp. guns had been placed, had very few infantry XXXXXXXXX to support them. “C” Tp. were place to the N. to defend the O.P’s of 51st Fld. Regt. while “B” Tp. were placed along with two troops of “D” Battery on the S.W. flank. About noon it was seen that a very large body of XXXXXX enemy M.T. and tanks were forming up in the W. They remained there for a considerable time, apparently refueling the tanks. Unfortunately 25 Pdr ammn. was so short that it was not thought advisable to shell the position. All 2 Pdr guns were left portee owing to the large area to be covered and the difficulty of knowing from which direction the enemy attack might develope. At about 1700 hrs the enemy attack started, coming out of the sun with artillery support and a smoke screen. It was seen that about 70 or 80 tanks were advancing against such a weight on a small front our defence could not hold out, and “B” Tp. who were immediately in the path of enemy advance suffered heavy casualties. All their portees were destroyed except one which came out of action on fire and was later repaired satisfactorily. Bdr Rooth, Bdr Tayler, and Gnr Chapman were killed, while Lt. J.N. Pass, Sgt Bettsworth and may others were taken prisoner, wounded or missing. During “B” Tps last action on 23rd Nov. it was almost impossible to get a clear picture of what happened, but from stories told later by wounded it seems that at least three German tanks were hit and set on fire by the Tp. Gnr Marriott was later reported killed in action. “C” Tp. had meanwhile been moved to the second defence line of guns, which was on the E. side of the leager. This long line of guns made up of “F”, “J”, “M” and “Jerboa” Batteries R.H.A. were faced with the difficult task of engaging the enemy as they advance through the S. African Lorries and the smoke. However the hostile tanks turned N. and as darkness was falling the remaining troops of Spt. Gp. Under Col. Currie 4th R.H.A. withdrew through the New Zealanders to a point 15 miles N. where they went into leaguer with the Spt. Gp. H.Q.
24th Nov.          Before dawn next day Spt. Gp. Moved on to Fatura where what remained of the echelon was found and the battery was able to replenish. Two S. African portees were attached to the battery, these and a gun from “D” Battery were made temporarily into a composite troop with Lt. C.A.A. Grover in command. At about 1100 hrs an enemy coln was reported approaching the position and a few shells were sent over by them. After remaining in a good defensive position for about ½ an hour, Spt. Gp. Moved E. as the enemy had by-passed the position and were going E. by a more Southerly route. After going for a matter of 40 miles along the Trigh El Abd, the Gp. Which by now had split into Cons under Cols Curries, Douglass and Mayfield, turned S. at dusk and then W. again, eventually arriving at the main F.S.D. and F.M.C at about 0300 hrs on the 25th Nov. This night march was memorable for the fact that bodies or our own men and Gen. Rommel’s troops were continually passing close to each other in the darkness, - his going on their long trek to Schefersen and Badis, and ours attempting to reform at the F.M.C. “C” Tp. who were in front of the coln. had to stand silent when a group of German Tanks cross right in front of them at about 2200 hrs not 30 yds distant.
25th Nov.          This day was spent forming an all round mobile defence of the F.M.C. One gun of “D” Battery was given to “C” Troop with detachment to bring them upto four.
26th Nov.          The colns moved N. to an area 455398. “C” Tp were attached to Mayfield Coln – the Scots Guards Coln commanded by Col. Mayfield with the 60th Fld. Regt. in support.
27th Nov.          Very large colns of enemy M.T. were seen moving on the Trigh Capuzzo. They were engaged by our 25 Pdrs. “C” Tp continues to protect O.P’s.
28th Nov.          Very successful shelling of the Trigh Capuzzo S. of Gambut resulting in the capture of several hundred prisoners. R.A.F. continued bombing the enemy colns at night. Spt. Gp. Withdrew to 457254 as XXXXXXX enemy armoured coln was reported.
29th Nov.          “C” Tp shot up about 5 M.T. and a small car. Experienced a little difficulty in collecting prisoners as the Scots Guards Carries with whom they were operating had a great respect for concealed A/Tk guns. The enemy movement was by this time all West-wards. On this day B.Q.M.S. Hinton reappeared, having been with the Spt. Gp. “B” Ech. Since the 24th and having wandered over the desert trying to avoid the German colns. With him he had what was left of the Bty. Ech. vehicles. Another portee of “J” Battery reappeared with a “D” Battery gun and detachment. This was the one that had been sent back from “C” Tp on the 21st.
30th Nov.          Support Group H.Q. moved Westwards again to Farhat. The colns continued to operate against the enemy moving West along the Trigh Capuzzo with considerable success. “C” Trp still with Mayfield Coln.
Dec 1st. “B” Ech. moved to F.S.D. by night as there was a fear of enemy armoured colns coming round our own colns. Mayfield Coln at Pt 456401. Tobruch Garrison withdrew inside the defences again taking H.Q. 13th Corps with them.
2nd Dec.           “B” Ech. stayed at F.S.D. while the colns continued to operate to the N. No canteen stores arrived since the 17th Nov. and even the ration cigarettes were not available. Today a few hundred cigarettes were bought from The Church of Scotland Mobiule Canteen and were welcomed by all. “C” TP knocked out 5 M.T. and one M 13 during the shelling of Gambut Aerodrome.
            “B” Ech. moved forward again to Farhat where the straggles from “B” Tp, including Sgt Branney and L/Sgt Ellis, together with some men from Bty HQ turned up. They had been sent back to Matruh after the disintegration on Nov 23rd but managed to find their way back. With them the brought one gun on a portee and one portee empty as well as an 8 cwt and a 15 cwt – all of which were exceeding welcome.
4/12. The second phase of the attack opened. An Indian Bde. were to capture Gubi supported on their Northern flank by the 2nd Gds. Bde. and the 4/22 Armd. Bde – the latter being a composite Bde. with about a hundred and twenty tanks and composed of 4th Armd. Bde. and the 22nd Armd, Bde. The Support Gp. Colns were to harass to El Adem. “C” Tp has a very successful Day. The chased XXXXXXXXXX three M 13’s until they got cornered in a wadi and destroyed – unfortunately, they were not permitted to continue their hunt. Later in the day they shot up about 12 M.T. whereupon the Scots towed them in a claimed the prisoners. A large Italian Dump at El Tiad was discovered and destroyed just before the enemy arrived; this action was probably one of the causes of the enemy’s retreat.
5/12      Enemy withdrew from El Adem after fighting with the 4th Ind. Division and being shelled from the Tobruk Garrison Force.
6/12      Withdrawal continued W, of Tobruk pas Acroma. 800 New Zealanders recaptured from an Italian A.D.S.
7/12      Colns. Continued their advance Westwards. Some Stuka raids  but nothing very important happened. New Zealanders, Poles etc, has emerged from Tobruk and were persuing the enemy.
8/12      New officers arrived as reinforcements. The battery strength on this date was one Capt. and one Subtn. (2/Lt Hardy). Temporarily posted to the battery were Lt/ C.E.M. Castle 149 Regt; R.A. Lt G.A. O’Brien of the 4th Fld. Regt R.A. and 2/Lt White. The enemy made several low level machine gun attacks. Their activity in the line had been growing much more intensive during the last week; probablu owning to the fact that out airforce was busy moving up to advanced aerodromes. Dive bombing also had been very much on the increase and remained fairly troublesome until about 22nd of Dec. - after which date there was a very marked lack of enemy interference.
9-10/12 Were fairly blank days. The general allied advance was concentrating round the Ain-el-Gazala position held by the enemy with approx. 2 Divns of Infantry and an indefinite number of tanks in support. Support Gp. Were on the Southern Flank of the line with the 4th Ind. Divn. In the centre and the New Zealand and Polish Bdes. in the N. around Gazala itself.
11/12    Nothing of importance happened.
12/12    Major Ackroyd – Hunt 2nd i/c, arranged for 2 guns to be sent from the Northumberland Hussars who were no longer able to man them. One gun was fixed up on the spare “B” Bty. portee a and the spare “J” Bty. gun which had arrived back with Sgt Branney on the 3rd made the fourth. To man this new Tp. four men were borrowed from the N.H’s. L/Sgt Cole and three men were brought from R.H.Q; and two men were lent from “M” Bty. As there was not an officer with sufficient A/Tk experience in the Bty. 2/Lt H.A. Nisbett of the 65th A/Tk R.A. was transferred from “D” to “J”. He had arrived in the regt. on the 8th. From this date “J” Bty. had eight guns.
13/12 A quiet day spent with A/B Tp. with Wilson Coln. and “C” Tp with Mayfield Coln. At this time Support Gp. had three Colns operating. They were constituted as follows;-
  Currie Coln, Hugo Coln. (ex Douglas Coln)

Lt. Col. Currie.

   4th R.H.A.

Mjr. Visc. Garmoyle 2nd. R.B.

F and D/D Bt'tries 4th R.H.A.

1 Tp. M Bty R.H.A  1 Tp. N.H's

1 Tp. 1st Light A.A.  1 Coy 2nd Scots Gds.

203 Bty 51st Fold Regt. R.A.

1 Tp. M Bty. 1 Sec. D Bty  R.H.A

1 Bty S.A. Fld Regt R.A.

1 Tp. 1st Light A.A.  Regt. R.A.

2nd R.B. less 2 Companies.

   Mayfield Coln. Wilson Coln
Lt. Col Mayfield Scots Gds.   Lt.Col. Wilson 3rd R.H.A.

60 Fld. Regt R.A.

1 Tp. D Bty R.H.A. 1 Tp. J Bty.

1 Tp. 1st Light A.A. 

2nd Scots Guards less 1 Coy

C Bty R.H.A.

1 Tp. D Bty R.H.A..

C Coy 2nd R.B.

                        Wilson Coln. moved forward to engage the enemy on the extreme Southern End of the Gazala Line. This line extended about 15 miles inland and ran roughly S.SW, from Ain-el-Gazala. Ay 1100 hrs A/B Tp. changed places with “C” Tp. of “D” Bty so that the eight guns of “D” were henceforward with Wilson Coln and “J” Bty was with Hugo Coln. Not very much activity. One or two heavy Stuka raids but not much damage resulted. Scots Gds reverted to Gds Bde. Mayfield Coln finished. “J” Bty joined Hugo Coln with 60th Fed. Regt. R.A.  

15/12                Hugo Coln. relieved Wilson Coln. in their position which was a natural basin giving good positions for the 25 Pdr. On the preceding day the Scots Gds. had been removed from Spt. Gp. and had to join The Gds. Bde. operating in the S. This left three colns. in the Spt. Gp. The Bty remained with Hugo Coln. which now had:-  

                                    60th Fld Regt R.A. (2 Batteries)

                                    “J” Battery R.H.A. (2 Troops)

                                    1 Coy. 2nd Bn. R.B.

                                    2 Tps L.A.A.

                         There was intermittent shelling through the day. The enemy replied with 155 m.m. guns but their fire was desultory. L/Sgt Bush was wounded by a splinter and evacuated. A/Tk guns in all round defence.  

16/12                Position as on the 15th.  Shelling much heavier from us that from the enemy.  

17/12                Relieved by Gds. Bde.  The Spt. Gp. Moved on in the direction of Mechili round the Southern flank of the Gazala Line. There was reports of large numbers of enemy M.T. moving out of Gazala towards Mechili. 4th Armd. Bdr. Had been round the back of their position the day previously but apparently without much effect.  

18/12                Hugo Coln. moved on towards Mechili, being straffed by the R.A.F. on the way! Leaguered that night in sight of the fort.  

19/12                2/Lt Hardy with “C” Troops was the first to enter Mechili. Nothing much except for a number of dead Italians – apparently bomb victims – and the usual collection of derelict vehicles (Italian), most of which appeared to be part of the relics left over from last winter’s campaign. News was received that Derna has been evacuated by the enemy. The advance goes past Mechili down the track to Gst Derva and Charruba – destination Benina  

20/12                Advance is continued to an area 20 miles E. of Benina, and slightly S.  

21/12                Many abandoned M.B’s were seen on the way but on the whole there was no sign at all that the Germans made anything but an extremely orderly retreat. The enemy, by now were meant to be in full retreat down the coast roads and that evening all possible vehicles in “B” Ech. were loaded with petrol, in many cases it meant dumping stores and personnel, and were sent upto the Coln, arriving after and extreme unpleasant 20 mile journey over bad country at 0600 hrs on the 22nd. On the night of 21st the remaining Bty of the 60th was sent back to refit. Also several guns of “M” Bty and some vehicles of “J”. The number of colns was then reduced to two. Curries Coln with A/B Tp of “J” Bty and 6 guns of “M” Bty under Major Eden D.S.O. R.H.A. “F” Bty and “Jerboa” Bty of the 4th R.H.A. commanded respectively by Major Withers M.C. R.H.A. and Major O’Brien-Butler R.H.A. and 1 Copy. Of 2nd Bn. R.B.

Wilson Coln with “C” Bty R.H.A. 8 guns of “D” Bty R.H.A. 1 coy 2nd Bn. R.B. Each coln also has its L.A.A  

22/12                Currie Coln moved at 0700 hrs via MSUS to ANTELAT. There were hopes that the performance of the preceding year would be repeated and the road would be cut before the enemy were clear of Benghasi. This coln moved fast and arrived about 8 – 1- miles W. of Antelat 2 hrs before dark.

23/12                Currie Coln moved off to the N. Magrum Aerodrome was found to be still in use and was shelled. Two large fires were started and it was instantly evacuated. At about 1200 hrs a very large colh of enemy was reported near Antelat and the coln hurried S. to help Wilson Coln whoe were trying to engage.  The enemy coln. apparently the relics of the German Armd Divn., presented a stupendous target as they came down the escarpment with no haste or dispersion. Fld guns covered their withdrawal and about 20 tanks kept close watch on the flanks. They were heavily shelled by both colns but with surprisingly little effect apart from 5 or 6 vehicles being knocked out. The German Coln continued its withdrawal with admirable coolness and discipline and eventually withdrew to Agedabia, shadowed by our armoured car patrols from the Royals. As soon as the main body of softskins had been removed from the shelling about 20 German Tanks, Mk III and IV, and eight wheeled armoured cars attacked Wilson Coln who were caught in a disadvantageous position for A/Tk defences and had to withdraw as speedily as possible. In the brisk action “C” Tp of “J” Battery had three casualties. 2/Lt Hardy R.H.A., Bdr Howell and L.Bdr Haverson D.C.M. – all were slightly wounded and evacuated. 2/Lt Hardy, until the time of his wounds, had done consistent outstanding work as a Tp Cmdr since the beginning of the operations. For his bravery in many actions and continued high standard of leadership he was awarded an immediate M.C. as few days later. “C” Tp were taken over temporarily by Lt Barrington of “D” Bty. Capt Jennings joined Wilson Coln that noght from Currie Coln.  

                        It transpired that the armoured coln encounter in this area was probably sent out by the enemy in order to draw the XXXXXXXXXX attention of the Gds. Bde. and Spt. Gp. away from the main rd. down which traffic was still moving in the evacuation of Benghasi. In this the enemy succeeded for when the Spt. Gp. reached the road on the night of the 24th the ‘birds’ had flown.

24/12                This was a day of rain and poor visibility. Spt. Gp. seemed to be undetermined as to which course to take, although the orders were to harass towards Agedabia. Some enemy shelling was encountered from the W. where they had apparently left a few small groups to harass and cover their withdrawal. This situation was left to be dealt with by the Gds. Bde. whilst Spt. Gp. moved at 1500 hrs Northwards to Soluch-Chouines area. That night a small party was sent to mine the main rd. in case any enemy traffic should still be moving on it. Nothing was caught.  

25/12                The Divisional Cmdr, Major General Gott, accompanied by Brig. J.C. Campbell, visited the colns and informed them that the enemy has withdrawn to Agedabia and the Spt. Gp. would be returning to the Msus Area in a day or two. Christmas Day passed quietly. “C” Tp were with Wilson Coln, “A/B” Tp were with Spt. Gp. H.Q.  

26/12                No movements. In the afternoon the Bty joined up again and started preparing four portees for handing over on arrival at Msus. Colns broke up into regts.  

27/12                7th Spt. Gp. moved to an area 11 miles E. of Scaledeima. the Bty gave away 6 guns and three 15 cwts.  

28/12                A move to pont 5 miles W. of Msus, The guns and 15 cwts came back again. Lt G.A. O’Brien took over “C” Tp.  

29/12                A day of much need maintenance. Colns were put on 2 hrs notice to move.  

30/12                News was received at 1500 hrs that the 22nd Armd Bde. had received a serious reverse in the Haseiat Area (S.E. of Agedabia). The colns were reformed and moved off at 1800 hrs to Antelat.  

31/12                7th Spt. Gp. took over the role of 22nd Armd. Bde. The Bty was with Currie Coln. Two more colns, Bolton and Squeak, were formed from 2nd R.H.A., N.H’s and 9th Bn R.B’s. These operated to the right of the Spt. Gp. Coln. Currie Coln took up position 10 miles N. of the “well with the wind pump”. No incidents.

1/1/42               Currie Coln moved S. and W.      Final area 2 miles N.W. of the afore-mentioned well. Enemy armd. car activity was noticed buy they were not aggressive. The Royals reported shelling of the area S. of the track Balandah – Agedabia.  

2/1                   Coln moved to Balandah area where German Coln was encountered and 2 of their vehicles put out. Coln later withdrew slightly to leaguer.  

3/1                   Blank day.         Rest.  

4/1                   Blank day.  

5/1                   Blank day.         One half of coln stood by under Major Christopher at one hrs notice. Nothing happened. Sandstorm, under cover of which the Germans withdrew from Agedabia.  

6/1                   Coln moved  about 12 miles S.W. without encountering any of the enemy.  

7/1                   Coln moved down towards Haseiat. No opposition.  

8/1                   230° for 15 miles. Again no opposition.  

9/1                   220° for 7 miles. Again no incidents.  

10/1                  260° for 17 miles. Very bad visibility owing to a severe sandstorm.  

11/1                  Currie Coln was in position facing N.W., S. and E XXXXXXXXX Bettufel. This was the sudden extremity of the fortified enemy line which ran from the sea past El Agheila and then in a half moon to protect his Southern flank. This was a good position as he thus had in the N. the formidable A/Tk obstacles formed by the lakes and salt pans which lie either side of the rd. just E. of El Agheila. The Southern most extremity of his line while not so protected, could only be approached over very bad country remarkable for camel hums and very soft sand through which it was extremely to find a way for wheeled vehicles.

                        During this day some shelling of enemy positions and infantry was carried out. Also news arrived that the 7th Spt. Gp. were going back to Delta.  

12/1                  Several Stuka raids.       Currie Coln twice dive bombed. Sgt Fiddy slightly wounded in second attack. Gnr Lee, Roberts and Armstrong wounded in first attack when heavy bombs straddled “B” Troop. Gnr Lee died next day in a Fld. Hosp. at Hasieat. Troop vehicles, particularly 15 cwts giving trouble from broken springs, leaking radiators etc.  

13/1                  Four 15 cwts were handed over to the R.B. in the leaguer area. One Stuka raid took place in the evening followed by mild aerobatics and ground straffing by Messerschmidt 109’s. No damage done. Everyone remarked on the astonishing speed of the latest model Messerschmidt. The relieving colns of the 1st Armd Divn. Spt. Gp. moved up and spent the night in same area. They moved up the next morning a 0700 hrs, whiles 7th Armd. Div. Spt. Gp. moved back to their “B” Ech. area.

14/1                  Five portees and two 15 cwts handed over to N.H’s in the “B” Ech. area.  

15/1                  Withdrew to a favourable position to rest and prepare for return. B.S.M Hinton appeared with 20,000 cigarettes having been back to rail-head for them! B.Q.M.S. produced a surprisingly quantity of water, so that the Bty smoked, washed and grew ever more cheerful.  

16/1                  Bad sandstorm. Regt. joined up again. Bty handed over two 15 cwts.  

17/1                  Spt. Gp. started homeward journey by moving to Antelat.  

18/1                  To Msus where three portees were handed over. The Bty now had no guns and were mostly travelling in R.A.S.C Transport. All 1098 stores remaining having been put in the two 3 Ton Chevs still left.  

19/1                  To 12 miles W. of Mechili.  

20/1                  To Tmimi where Rear Army (8th) H.Q. was located.  

21/1                  To Gambut where many brand new 3 Tonners arrived from Tobruch to be taken over by the Regt. No-body knew the reason for this. Regt. remained one day at Gambut as the German advance from Agedabia and the usual ‘flap’ was on.  

22/1                  Back via Badia and the recent captured Halfaya Pass to Bug Bug. The new Bug Bug Road was appreciated by the Bty who has last seen it as a track nearly a year before.  

23/1                  Bug Bug to Naghamish.  

24/1                  Naghamish to Alex.- Cairo Road.

25/1                  Arrival Beni Yusef.  

                                    While the Regt. was at Beni Yusel Camp a Memorial service for 7th Spt. Gp. was held in the Cathedral on 10th Feb 1942. This followed the Ceremonial Presentation of the Ribbon of the Victoria Cross to Maj. Gen. J.C. Campbell V.C.D.S.O.M.C. by the C. in C. Middle East, Gen. Auchenleck. The parade was held in Kasr-el-Nil Barracks and was attended by the original members of 7th Spt. Gp.;-

 

 3rd Regt. R.H.A.

4th Regt. R.H.A.

2nd Bn. R.B.

1st Bn. K.R.R.C.

and attached arms and services.  

Gen. Campbell had won the highest award for his services when commanding as Brig, the 7th Spt. Gp. and particularly for his outstanding gallantry at the crucial battle of Sidi Rezegh. He had been Colonel of the Regt, in Sept., Oct., and Nov. of 1940.

19/2      The Regt. moved to Abbassia from Benu Yusef, less “M” Battery who went to Almaza.

1/3       Capt. W.E. Blomefield M.C., R.H.A. (late of “D” Bty) joined the Battery.  

18/3      Major A.P.D. Yorke, R.H.A., late of “K” Battery R.H.A. took over command of the Battery from Major D.V. Jennings M.C. R.H.A. who became Bty Capt.  

                                    This marked the change over of the Regt. from Anti-Tank to 25 Pdrs., two of which had just arrived in the Battery. On the same date Lt. P.M. Bennett R.H.A. and Lt G.C. Gray R.H.A. joined the Battery.

 

April to December 1942

Missing 

 

 

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