War Diaries of J Battery, Royal Horse Artillery

1941 and 1942

 

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January to March 1941

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‘J’ BATTERY, 3rd REGIMENT, R.H.A.

 
 

WAR DIARY.

 
 

9th April, 1941.              Remained in Tobruck and collected Battery together. Found Water Cart and Officers Mess truck at Staging Camp, after journey back from Agadabia with Tower Hamlet Regiment Echelon.

R.H.Q., 3rd R.H.A. and ‘D’ Battery arrive in Tobruck.

 

10th April, 1941. Handed over 8 guns and portees to ‘D’ Battery.

11th April, 1941. Moved to area near Staging Camp, alongside R.H.Q.

Tobruck invested.

12th April, 1941. Moved suddenly at Midnight.

                                                IB’ Troop attached to 2/17 Bt. near Post R.32.

            ‘A’, ‘C’ and Bty H.Q. with 2/48 Bt., in area of Ras El Meduar.

13th April, 1941. Had to prepare positions on outer perimeter, and to complete occupation of them.

14th April, 1941. The enemy put in large scale attack in area Post R.32 and 33, where ‘B’ Troop were in action.

0130 Hrs:-  Coy.H.Q. at Post 32 came under heavy shell and S.A. fire.

0400 Hrs:-  Tanks could be seen near wire in moonlight.

0530 Hrs:-  The first wave, consisting of approx. 15 tanks towing 4 Bofors? And A/T guns with infantry following, came through the wire stopped over Coy. H.Q.

                        Artillery fire(Def.) was called for, to be put down on to of Coy. H.Q.  This was done. The Bofors crews were knocked out, the infantry cleared back, and the tanks moved on to the Left Rear of this position.

0700 Hrs:-    Tanks reappeared from left rear and moved towards the gap in the wire through which they had entered. There were engaged by all available A/T. weapons and 8 were knocked out,

                        At this time Small Arms fire from the direction of the wire (a sniper) killed Bdr. Williamson. A Soluthern gun from the same area the opened fire on the same detachment, riddling the shield, killing Gnr. Aitchison and wounding Gnr. Atkins. However, Atkins continued to fire the gun single handed.

0715 Hrs:-    The Ammunition on Atkins gun was hit and started exploding. Atkins, wounded in the leg and arm, started to crawl away. Bdr. Rudd was in Coy. H.Q. dugout, and immediately rushed into the open and pulled Atkins to safety. Artillery and small arms fire was heavy at this time.

0730 Hrs:-    15th Bn. Came up and rounded up the infantry and cleared up the snipers. Prisoners amounted to over 100.

0745 Hrs:-    Our cruiser Tanks arrived and followed the remainder of the emery tanks upto the wire, and then stopped.

                        The gun commanded by Bdr. Lane, consisting of L/Bdr. Haworth, Gnr/ Griffin and Gnr. Jones, remained in action the whole time and did excellent work in helping to knock out 8 tanks.

                        Sgt. Bettsworth’s gun was on wheels when the action started in the leaguer position. He was moving to a better position when a shell hit his gun and broke the trail. He therefore wisely withdrew. That afternoon “B” troops was relieved by “A” Troop.

 

April 16th.

1230 hrs:-    Tanks were reported on the right flank of “A” Coy 2/48 Bn.

1245 hrs:-    Tanks were seen circling the “fort” ay Ras el Meduar, having broken through at Post R.2.

                        Bdr. Griffiths (”C” Troop) had his gun in position North of the fort. As the tanks appeared round the back of the fort, Griffiths and his detachment came under small arms fire, and leaving their gun they made away in the 15 cwt. They were not seen again until next morning.

                        Sgt. Bettsworth and the mobile gun of “B” Troop moved away and engaged the first three tanks at a range of 900 yds. He reported that direct hits were made but the rounds seemed to bounce off and the tanks kept moving at a reduced speed.

                        Further tanks came through and Bdr. Lane. Engaged them. He also reported that direct hits were scored, but the rounds bounce off and no tanks were halted permanently.

                        Sgt. Bettsworth then moved his gun to another positions and engaged one large tank which stopped but later moved away very slowly.

                        In all 5 tanks were captured when the remainder withdrew. 2 light C.V.3 were in or near the wire and one medium tank (actually M.13) about 1,000 yds outside the wire.

                        Later reports indicate that 4 derelict tanks were stranded behind Carrier Hill, at least one with a hole straight through the turret. It is though possible that thee tanks were the ones engaged by Bdr. Lane and Sgt. Bettsworth which limped away and have since been abandon.

                        Some reports say that they were towed away at the end of the battle.

 

April 17th to 20th.

                        Considerable enemy infantry movement over whole front. Several large scale attacks attempted, but all were put in without any form of arty support and failed with considerable loss. A total of 1,100 Italian prisoners were taken by this Bn. (2/48) during this period.

                        Our casualties were negligible.

April 22nd.

                        A small offensive was put in round the back of Carrier Hill (Operation Instruction attached). Our casualties were one killed and eight wounded. We captured 360 prisoners and left many killed. 150 M/Cycles, 50 lorries and 8 guns were left in Carrier Hill area. Later attempts to recover them proved unsuccessful.

“M” Battery lost one portee on one off our own mines.

April 22nd to 28th.

                        Very quiet but enemy artillery is increasing in activity.

                        Enemy air getting very active and raids even more numerous than before.

April 28th.

                        2/48 Bn were relive by 2/24 Bn.

                        We were very sorry to lose the 48th, who were a delightful crowd, with whom all ranks had made many friends.

April 28th.

                        R.H.Q. handed over their vehicles and a large quantity of stores and left Tobruck by boat.

                        Weather getting warmer, wind dropping.

                        Air raids increasing in intensity.

                        Flies begin to appear.

 

                   N.B. Owing to dive bombing attack on R.H.Qs. boat shortly before they were due to embark, the boat was sunk. R.H.Q. left several days later.

 

 

 

 

SECRET

 

(See entry in “J” Bty’s War Diary dated 22 April)

22nd Apr 1941.

SITUATION

 

 

1

Enemy.

(a)   Enemy occupying posn from ACROMA Rd – CARRIER HILL.

(b)   Enemy tks have been seen near ACROMA.

2

Own tps and att A Tk guns are in previous posns

3

Supporting tps:-

(a)   One tp I tks

One Bty 51 Fd Regt.

One tp “M” Bty 3/R.H.A.

    Are supporting the inf during the operation.

(b)   Our Aircraft will fly over Bn front during the operation to cover noise of our own MT and to assist to extricate inf if required.

INTENTION

 

4

C Coy and two sec Carriers Hill will make a raid to drive enemy from Carrier Hill.

METHOD

 

5

(a)   The I tks are going through gap in wire at Post R5 at 0640 hrs 22 Apr 41. The will be followed by our Carriers and by C Coy which will move towards CARRIER HILL approx. 400x behind tanks.

(b)   Route from R5 WEST to rear of CARRIER HILL then NORTH across CARRIER HILL towards ACROMA Rd then EAST through two gaps in wire vicinity post S4.

(c)   Attackers will return through wire not later than 0900.

(d)   After gaining CARRIER HILL the I tks are protecting the left flank of attackers against any enemy ARFs which come from general direction of ACROMA.

(e)   A FOO of 51 Fd Regt is accompanying the attack and the regt is prepared to fire as required to extricate the attackers if necessary. The achieve surprise the arty is not firing before the attack commences.

(f)    B Coy will be prepared to receive PW through our wire and to provide escorts to PW cage.

(g)   Carriers will be allotted as follows:-

One sec to accompany attack

One carrier for Comd 4 (Carrier) Pl.

One carrier for Comd C Coy.

One sec to be in readiness in dead ground to read of B Coy to assist in collection of prisoners or as otherwise required,

(h)   One det 3 Pl (Mortars) will be prepared to fire on CARRIER HILL to assist extraction of attackers if required.

ADM

 

6

Gap at R5 is being prepared by RAE. Gaps in vicinity of S3 will be prepared by B Coy.

B Coy will have guides in readiness to direct attackers in through gaps and to mark gaps with petrol tins on wire.

7

TO will arrange for three 30 cwt lorries to be in rear of B Coy posn in readiness to go fwd to collect wounded and stragglers of required,

8

RMO will detail 8 stretcher bearers to accompany attack and will also have stretcher bearers in readiness behind B Coy posn

INTERCOMM

 

9

Carriers and vehs participating will carry two blue pennants at half mast.

10

One DR will move with attack.

11

Signal that attackers are back through wire.

12

Fwd Bn HQ during operation at B Coy HQ.

13

3 Pl Comd will send runner to fwd Bn HQ at 0630 hrs.

 

 

 

(Sgd)

F.H. SCOTT.    Capt.

Adjt 2/48 Bn.

 

 

 

“J” BATTERY R.H.A.

 

WAR DIARY.

 

APRIL 30th, 1941.

            All quiet until about 1500 hours. The M.T. and infantry in small Nos. started to move east along Arcoma road.

 

1700 hrs. Heavy dive-bombing attack on front of left a nd centre coys. Seemed to be chiefly on the wire minefields and a few forward posts. The telephone wire was cut to al l forward coys, but was soon re-established to left and right coys.

1900 hrs. Fairly heavy barrage was put down over the whole front moving slowly forwards. Right coy reported infantry advancing, Bangalore torpedoes being used on wire near S.3 astride the Acroma track. Wire then cut to right coy – getting dark – left coy reported N.M.S. – line to Bde was cut.

2100 hrs. Reserve coy reported enemy infantry engaging them from 500 yds N.W. of their position. Incessant small arms and tracer over the whole front. Shelling was pretty heavy over the whole area.

2300 hrs. Line to left forward coy had gone – reserve coy reported enemy infantry in area of wooden hut.

0100 hrs. 24th A/T coy arrived to take up their original positions behind the minefield. Could only use four of them owing to enemy patrols being in the minefield.

0200 hrs. Sgt. KEIRLE and his detachment, who were N.E. of 209 found their position completely overrun by German infantry. They assumed that “A” Coy had been completely overwhelmed. The managed to make their way through the minefield, and arrived at Bn H.Q. about 0500 hrs.

            Meanwhile Sgt. FINAGIN and detachment were in large cave alongside their gun and could hear German infantry moving and talking just outside.

            Bdr. ELLIS and L/Bdr. REES were in wadi near the mobile gun. The found themselves surrounded by Germans and hear no sound from our infantry in S/6, just in front of them. The imagines the remainder of the detachment had been overwhelms and so made their way back to Bn H.Q. arriving safely. All this time “B” troop saw no sign of enemy infantry.

            Sgt. FINAGIN and party remained in the cave for the whole day.

 

 

APRIL 30th, 1941.

0500 hrs. Bn H.Q. and Reserve Coy areas under heavy shelling and small arms fire. Their was still no communication with either of the three forward coys and only intermittently through to Bde H.Q.

            Enemy infantry appeared to be holding line of the minefield just in front of Reserve Coy area.

0700 hrs. Five columns of enemy tanks appeared over southern slopes of Pt. 209, moving in a N.E. direction. About 60 were counted, of which 40 were medium (German). This large phalanx of armour advanced slowly on Bn H.Q., subject them and the Reserve Coy to machine gun and H.E. fire. Oneof the guns of 24 A/T Coy behind Bn H.Q. received a direct hit, all the detachment being slightly wounded.

            The forward gun of the 24 A/T Coy engaged the leading tanks and knocked out three before itself being put out of action. Two other tanks appeared to hit the minefield, and the remaining tanls halted.

            As the tanks were advancing, infantry were seen on and around Pt. 209. Groups of what might have been prisoners could also be seen. The tanks were shelled by 51 Field Regt, who had an O.P. at Bn H.Q.

0900 hrs. The main body of tanks turned about and went out of sight over Pt. 209, leaving by the route they has used coming in. Five derelict tanks were left on the edge of the minefield, and about ten were left on the southern and eastern slopes of Pt. 209 cruising about and giving covering fore. Enemy infantry all over Pt. 209 and in the area of the hut. The main body of tanks then made towards “B” tp (see Sgt. CARLEY’s report attached). There were several dive-machine gun and dive bombing attacks on Bn H.Q. and reserve coy area during the morning. The position was shelled and machine gunned, but there was no important movement of ground troops. The “I” tanks were expected but they were diverted to the south to restore the situation there, after the main body of tanks had attacked “B” Troop’s area.

1900 hrs. The 2/48 Bn put in a counter attack at Pt. 209 to try and restore the original positions. The attack was not supported by tanks and was a failure. The 48 Bn withdrew about 2100 hours, having met strong opposition from enemy tanks and M/G nests. Shelling and sniping of Bn H.Q. continued through the night. Bde promised a counter attack with tank support by first light. Communication to Bde was very weak.

 

MAY 2nd 1941.

            The enemy snipers moved up during the night and at first light the Bn H.Q. and Reserved Coy area came under heavy shell and small arms fire from front and both flanks.

0605 hrs. Orders were received to withdraw clear of the position by 0615 hrs as artillery concentration was going to be put down on our position at the that time prior to the counter attack being launched.

            We got out under heavy fire without loss of personnel but left two vehicles which had been damaged by enemy fire and one gun which was “dug in”, the striker and sight being removed. We were informed before leaving that we should return to the same positions as soon as the counter attack went in. However:

0630 hrs. All personnel were sent back to Rear Bty H.Q. Major LEWIN went to contact 2/23 Bn to find how “C” troop fared. Capt. JENNINGS was sent around the left to see about “B” troop/ 2/24 Bn were taken out of the lines for a rest and re-organisation. The enemy were in posts R.9 to S.7 and in the old Bn H.Q. area.

            Pioneers were holding from BIANCA to R.10 and 2/10 Bn from BIANCA to S.13.

            These positions remained throughout the d ay.

            The air continued to be very active.

            Communication was gained with 2/Lt. HARDY who was in S.10 and reported Sgt. BROOKS and L/Sgt. BRANNEY’s guns as O.K. Enemy M.G. and mortar fire very active over the whole area.

 

MAY 3rd 1941.

0800 hrs. Sgt. FINAGIN and the remainder of his detachme nt (less Gnr. PAGE) and Bdr. ELLIS’ walked in.

            They remained in the cave near their gun during May 1st and May 2nd. All this time Germans were talking and moving round the entrance to their cave. A German M.G. post was set up about 10 yards from the entrance and at one time a German looked into the cave, but did not see them.

            At 0200 hrs on May 3rd they decided to make a bolt for it. A German sentry was walking up and down the wadi outside the cave, and they left the cave one at the time when the sentry was at the other end of his beat. Gnr. Page was the fourth to leave but was never seen again. All the others made their way safely through the Australian lines to escarpment south of the Derna road.

            Decided to move Sgt. BROOKS’ gun, as his position was too exposed and entirely unprotected as the 2/10 Bn were in actual practice 1000 yds behind the main line they said they were holding. All movement in this area was impossible during daylight and arrangements were made for the gun to be got out at night.

 

2045 hrs. 18 Aust Inf Bde put in a large scale attack on enemy salient, supported by heavy artillery barrage. 2/12 Bn attacking down line of posts from North to 2/9 Bn from South – 2/10 Bn operating against salient. The attack was a complete failure and by 0300 hrs the 18 Bde had withdrawn behind their respective start lines. The chief causes of the failure seemed to be:-

1.     This Bde had not been under fire before.

2.     The night was very dark, and junior cmdrs had made no recce of the ground.

3.     2/12 Bn were late on the start line.

4.     Enemy put up a very impressive firework display and appeared very strong in automatic weapons.

The air was thick with flares, verey lights and tracers of all descriptions the whole night. The artillery fired about 20,000 rounds in the barrage.

This prevented any work being done on recovering Sgt. BROOKS’ gun

L/Sgt. BRANNEY’s gun still manned.

 

MAY 4th 1941.

            Sgt. Bettsworth’s mobile gun repaired and put North of DERNA road behind blue line, in Bde Reserve.

            No change in ground dispositions during the day.

            2/48 relieved 2/10 during that night. Sgt. BROOKS’ gun brought back safely, and put with Right Coy of 2/48 Bn, manned by a fresh detachment under Sgt. BROOKS.

            During the period of May 1st-5th Sgt. BROOKS behave magnificently. As already stated the enemy “break through” left his gun in a very exposed and untenable position. On the night of May 2nd Sgt. BROOKS sent his detachment back to Battery H.Q. but himself remained in the area. Any movement in daylight was impossible in that area. However, Sgt. BROOKS continued to crawl about on his own, and worked untiringly, preparing his gun and stores for evacuation. His efforts were rewarded when, on the night of May 4th the gun, two vehicles and all his stores were safely manhandled to a position under cover in the area of S.12.

            Enemy M.G. and artillery fire appeared to be decreasing in intensity.

            Considerable air activity over TOBRUK, Div H.Q. and M.D.S. areas.

 

MAY 5th 1941.

            No change. Enemy activity decreasing.

            2/23 Bn removed the plateen in Post 11a that was providing protection for Sgt. BRANNLEY. His gun was therefore brought in that night and out into position S.13.

            2/Lt. HARDY has remained either S.10 or S.12 since the attack began. He spent the daytime lying low and every night was out organising and supervising the moves of guns. The work put in by him during this very trying period was invaluable (his report attached). He was slightly wounded on May 3rd by a mortar bomb which fell in the mouth of S.10 killing one Australian and wounding six others.

            2/Lt. HARDY came back to Battery H.Q. on May 8th and organised a system of reliefs for the gun detachments.

 

MAY 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th.

            No change. Bty Adv H.Q. brought near 2/48 Bn H.Q.

            Enemy activity decreasing – slight shelling – very little small arms fire.

 

MAY 10th, 11th and 12th.

            No change. Periodical air activity over TOBRUK.

 

MAY 13th 1941.

            26 Aust Inf Bde relieved by 18 Aust Inf Bde during night.

            2/10 Bn took over from 2/48 Bn.

            2/12 Bn took over from 2/23 Bn.

 

MAY 14th 1941.

            No change. All quiet on “A” troop’s front since break through on April 14th.

 

MAY 15th 1941.

            2/10 push forward and take up line Forbes Mound to old Bn H.Q. of 2/48 Bn.

2/12 Bn attacked during the night. S.10 captured. No communication to S.8 or S.9 and situation there not known. Attack on S.13 and S.15 by 60 Italians beaten off, all attackers being either killedor P.O.W.

 

MAY 16th 1941.

            Tank hunting platoon of 2/12 recaptured S.10 and 1 German officer, 27 German O.Rs, being taken prisoner. Situation at S.8 and S.9 still unknown.

N.B. Sgt. KIERLE’s detachment did good work during attack on S.13 on night May 15/16, They were manning the gun in rear of S.13, and during the attack Gnr. Abbot with the Bren Gub, and the remainder of the detachment with Rifles, engaged a party of enem y that had broken through. Going out next day they found several enemy dead that had fallen to their small arms fire.

 

MAY 17th 1941.

            During night 16/17 runners from S.8 and S.9 reported all O.K. Posts still holding out.

0530 hrs.   Attack by 2/23 Bn and 10 “I” tanks on S.4, 5 and 6 and 7 unsuccessful.

            S.6 is recaptured. One German Officer and 18 German O.Rs. P.O.W.

            Thanks and infantry get separated and attack fails. Considerable ill feeling between Aussies and “I” tanks, due to bad co-operation.

            S.6 was unsuccessfully evacuated that night.

 

MAY 18th 1941.

            No Change.

            Slight enemy shelling and M.G. fire.

           

            Duststorm.

 

May 25th, 26th and 27th.

            Received notification of Military Medal for Bdr. Rudd and Gnr. Atkins.

            No change.

            Enemy shelling increasing.

            Increase in high level bombing over harbour area – very little air activity over forward areas.

            Patrolling and occasional sniping.

            Perfect weather – flies getting worse.

 

May 28th and 29th.

            (28th) A and C tps exchanged positions.

            Getting warmer.

            Enemy shelling increasing.

            Enemy taking air shoots by “Henschel” recce plane.

            18th Cav patrol puts jitters up Ities, who call for def. fire and start flap.

            Gnr. EVANS (C tp) wounded by shell fire near Fig Tree.

 

May 30th 1941.

            Considerable hotter.

Bde move H.Q. to my wadi.

All Bns move H.Qs.

16th A/Tk Coy (Capt Nelson) receives orders to relieve 26th A/Tk Coy (Capt SHEEHAN) in our area.

At the last moment the relief was indefinitely postponed.

A general “flap” started – no reason know apart from the date.

At about 1700 hours an aircraft, definitely identified as a “Hurricane! Flew other the salient and got a large amount of AA (heavy and light) thrown up at it. This was the first friend aircraft we had seen since the Air Force left Tobruk in April.

 

May 31st 1941.

Flap died down and nothing materialised.

Everything carried on as usual – weather getting warmer.

 

June 1st and 2nd 1941.

Air raids increasing in intensity.

Enemy shelling a bit more frequent.

The retrieved 2-pdr comes out of Ordnance and is put behind the Blue Line, on top of escarpment with A tp.

 

June 3rd 1941.

16th A/Tk Coy took over from 26th A/Tk Coy during night 2/3 June.

Indian working party on YellowLine weapon pits drew considerable artillery fire, the majority of which fell on Advanced Battery Headquarters – 15-cwt and one rifle damaged.

The 18th Australian Inf Bde start being relieved by the 20th Australian Inf Bde.

A tp relieve C to the Fig Tree area and C tp come back to the Blue Line.

 

6th June 1941.  

 

  (Sgd) L. H. LEWIN

        Major R.H.A.

 

            It is now over a month since R.H.Q. left Tobruk, and we have had no news from the as to their whereabouts or future moves.

 

 

 

“J” BATTERY R.H.A.

 

WAR DIARY.

 

June 4th - 5th.

            Enemy shelling increasing – T c R. reports considerable increase of MET in this area.

            Sgt. BROAD’s gun shelled by enemy mortar about 1930 hours on evening of 5th. One bomb fell on the roof of the dugout, but did no damage, and many bombs fell within a few yards. Gnr. McGILL was wounded in the shoulder by a bomb splinter. The detachment left the dugout for nearby slit trenches. Sgt. BROAD and Gnr. BRESLIN helped McGILL away to the Aust Inf stretcher bearers, who were in a nearby trench. A bomb the scored a direct hit on the gun, seriously damaging it and exploding the ammunition. Sgt. BROAD and Gnr. BRESLIN crawled out to try and save the greater part of the ammunition.

            BROAD was wounded in the buttock and back was later evacuated. Gnr GUNN managed to get the badly battered gun away that night and it was taken to ordnance next day. The remainder of the detachment were withdrawn, and arrangements were made with the guns on either flank of this position to alter their arcs as to cover the area which had been covered by the damaged gun.

 

June 6th, 7th and 8th.

            Situation remained comparatively quiet. Three reinforcements joined the battery, one of which was under close arrest and went straight into detention.

            Restrictions on petrol consumption were increased, all bathing parties stopped.

            At about 1400 hours an air raid by Stukas and C.R.42s. Several Stukas were brought down. One was inspected and found to have the German swastika painted out, and the Italian facses painted in their stead. The pilots were Italian.

            The Henschell appeared particularly interested in our area.

 

June 9th, 10th and 11th.

            Enemy shelling increasing, particularly in H.Q. area

Considerable air activity. A minor “flap” in night 10/11 caused by increased shelling on S.8, S.9 and S.10 and large enemy working party west of S.11. Nothing materialised.

 

June 12th, 13th and 14th.

            No change. Considerable shelling in Bty Adv H.Q. area, but no damage. Enemy M/G fire active at night. Air activity only slight – chiefly single planes at night.

 

June 15th and 16th.

            Enemy activity increasing everywhere – more movement on all fronts. Enemy shelling heavy in Bty Adv H.Q. area during night 14/15th. Possible due to the relief of 17 Bn.

 

June 17th, 18th and 19th.

            Great disappointment due to failure of Sollum arriving as early as expect. Enemy air activity over TOBRUK practically non-existent. Shelling not quite as intense. Ground situation unaltered.

 

June 20th - 24th.

            Practically no ground activity. Patrols in salient have difficulty with booby traps. Air activity increasing slightly. Considerable enemy shelling in spasms, otherwise all quiet.

Pamphlets dropped in Tobruk, urging us to surrender!!

 

                                                     

 

26th June 1941.      

(Sgd) L. H. LEWIN

 Major R.H.A.

 

REPORT BY 2/LT. HARDY, WHO HAD HIS TROOP H.Q. IN S.6. WHICH

WAS THE COY H.Q. OF “D” COY, 2/24th BN.


 

On the 3oth of April, at ap prox 1700hrs, in the area of S.1 to S.6. enemy aircraft flew over and dived bombed the fort at 209 and the running from the fort north. This was followed up by heavy shelling of the forward troops, also the posts. There was still no sign of enemy tanks or infantry at dusk. The telephone wire had been broken by shell fire to forward posts and Bn H.Q, so no information sould be received. Two signallers were sent out to repair the line.

At about 2100 hours the shelling was very slight. At about 2300 hrs a certain amount of wire was required for new communication. I knew where this wire could be found, also I wanted to see if the gun detachments were O.K, so I arranged with the Company Cmdr of “D” Coy to take his P.S.M. and one O.R. with me. We arrived at the block hous e in rear of S.6 O.K. We found the wire and other stores required.

I left the P.S.M. and 1 O.R. there and went on to see my gun detachment. They were all O.K. and reported one or two patrols around that area but no tanks or vehicles had been seen. After giving final orders I returned to the blockhouse, picked up the stores with the other two chaps and started back to S.6. As we neared S.6 we could see a number of flares going up in the Acroma road area. We lay down and could hear movement of vehicles. We went on again; when we were about 50 yards from S.6 a flare went up and the enemy opened fire on S.6 from all sides. Welay down, the I told the other two to follow me. We crawled away in the direct of S.10. after being fired at we reached the wadi overlooking S.10. Here we rested a few minutes and I found that only one of the two fellows was with me. So we started off to S.10 to report the situation, which report I gave to the platoon Cmdr, who informed Bn H.Q.

At about 0200 hours on 1st of May I went off from S.10 to see Sgts. BRANNEY and BROOKS. There was still a certain amount of small arms fire from the Acroma road area. They were O.K. and I returned to S.10. I was held down all day by the shelling and small arms fire on S.10. As soon as dusk I crept out along the pipeline to Sgts. BRANNEY and BROOKS to see if everything was still O.K. At 0200 hours in the 2nd I returned to S.10. The post was under heavy fire all that day. I was informed by Major LEWIN that two gun positions had been overrun by infantry at night and the men had escaped. At night I visited the other two detachments, who told me that had seen tanks and vehicles but they were out of their range and in another area.

On the 3rd May Sgt. BROOKS arrived at S.10. He told me  that they had been driven out of their gun pit by night by enemy infantry. He had taken all the working parts out of the gun before leaving. It was impossible to move gun and vehicle at that time so we decided to wait until dark that night. However this was impossible owing to the attack put in by the 18th Bde that night.

On the 4th of May things were very quiet. A few shells and mortar bombs were dropped around gun position and also S.10, one a group of us, killing one and wounding six others. When dark came on I crept out of S.10 and went along the pipeline to S.12 and found a fresh detachment for Sgt, BROOKS – we went out and got the gun and vehicles out safely. I returned to S.10 about 0430 hours on the 5th. On the 5th the post was shelled and the enemy seems to have fixed lines across the post. This was rather a bad day. Sgt. BRANNEY and detachment had lucky escapes. At night I went down the track to S.12 and met Major LEWIN, who told me the gun in rear of S.10 had to come out and go in position near S.13.

So I went up again to the detachment and got the vehicle out. We brought it to S.13 where it was dug in, much work was put in all that night in building and camouflaging the gun pit. After this I returned to S.12.

 

 

 

REPORT BY OF SGT. CARLEY, “B” TROOP, “J” BATTERY R.H.A.

 

The enemy attack on the “B” Troop area started at approx. 7 p.m. 31.4.41. First by aircraft, followed by a heavy barrage concentrated on the outer perimeter. This barrage gradually lifted towards the second line of defence. The bar rage kept up until dusk. This was followed by the sound of movement outside the wire. Machine gun fire was heard at intervals during the night on our right flank. At approx 5 a.m. 1.5.41 Mr. HATCH sent a message by phone to me a Post 8 from Post R.6, instructing me to expect an attack by AFV. Accompanied by infantry. I immediately went round to the two guns in my area and warned them concerning the attack. I then proceeded to R.8. to await further instructions. At approx. 6.30 a.m. Mr. HATCH sent another message telling me to inform Sgt, BETTSWORT H on the mobile gun that six tanks were approaching Bdr. LANE’s position from the right of post R.6. I went to convey the messaged. While on my outward journey an enemy machine gun opened up on me. I gave the message to Sgt. BETTSWORTH and set out to return to Post R.8. I was again machine gunned. I took cover in a small hole. From here I saw Sgt. BETTSWORTH and his crew man their gun. He opened fire in the direction the tanks were coming from. The tanks could not be seen clearly owing to a thick ground mist. On the mobile gun opening fire machine gun fire was drawn from me to Sgt. BETTSWORTH and his crew. I returned to R.8 safely and tried to get in contact by phone to Mr. HATCH but by this time the line of communication had been cut. I looked across to Sgt. BETTSWORTH’s position, who was still engaging the tanks under heavy machine gun fire. By this time I could see Bdr. LANE’s position, which appeared to be overrun by tanks. I counted seven tanks around his position also enemy infantry. The next thing I notices was the mobile gun being driven away towards R.10 (I later learnt that all the crew less the driver were wounded by machine gun fire). By this time Bdr. RUDD had seen the tanks and had open fire (they were still in the vicinity of Bdr. LANE’s gun). I then saw one of the tanks leav e the formation and drive right up to Post R.6 and open fire onit. Bdr. RUDD was so keen on firing at the other tanks that he was unable to see this movement. It was impossible for me to attract his attention to the fact by shouting because of the noise. I then asked the infantry Cmdr at R.8 to give me covering fire while I went out to Bdr. RUDD’s gun. This was given and I arrived safely, finding the crew of the gun intact and still engaging the tanks. I called Bdr. RUDD’s attention to the tank at R.6 and he then opened fire on it. The tank appeared to be hit turned around and went slowly back out of effective range. Two more tanks tried to approach R.6 but were driven back by our gun fire. We then continued to engaged the tanks around Bdr. LANE’s position. Four of them we knocked out and the crews of two baled out. These were fired on by Gnr. DEANE with the Bren gun. They all went to ground and most of them appeared to have been hit. By this time two tanks that had be driven back from R.6 had back gone to the ridge by ridge for reinforcements (there were approx 65 tanks on the ridge). Almost twenty tanks then lined up and advanced towards us firing at the infantry posts on the way. We still continued to fire until I realised that we were outflanked. I then instructed the crew to lay low with the idea of re-engaging the tanks from the rear after they had passed by us, but the machine gunned us from the flanks and one tank scored three direct hits on our gun with its heavy gun. The first went through the shield and glanced off to the left catching Bdr. RUDD in the stomach. He lived for about five minutes (before he died he spoke to me saying “All the best. Goodbye”). The next two rounds put the gun out of action; Gnr. LEE was injured in the ankle. At about this time I was hit in the head by a machine gun bullet which glanced off the edgeof the gun pit. I was stunned for a few seconds. I heard a tank coming right up to our gun. I told the crew to lay still as if they were dead; the tank appeared to be satisfied and drove away. (I was told later by the infantry at R.8 that the crew looked at us from thetank turret). We laid in the gun pit for a further two hours until our artillery opened up on the tanks that were around us. I could tell by the barrage lifting that the tanks were being driven back. I looked across in the direction of R.8. The officer there gave me to understand that it was all clear to try and get to his position.  I took the firing mechanism of the gun wi th me and with the crew went to Post R.8. There Gnr. LEE and myself had our wounds dressed. Gnr. DEANNE and Gnr. SINNETT were not wounded. I then walked to Post R.10 under the cover of a small dust storn accompanied by Gnr. SINNETT, leaving Gnr. LEE at R.8 with Gnr. DEANE as he was unable to walk. On arriving at R.10 I found Sgt. BETTSWORTH and his crew (Sgt. BETTSWORTH injured in the knee), L/Bdr TELFORD wounded in the stomach and in great pain, Gnr. MARRIOTT in the legs and Gnr. DUNK in the foot. Gnr. TREEN, the driver, was not injured. They put L/Bdr. TELFORD, who was on a stretcher, on the mobile gun, also Gnr. MARRIOTT. There was not enough room for all the wounded so I went with the mobile gun to try and get transport for the other wounded. I could only get to Post R.11 as the portee tyres were flat causing L/Bdr. TELFORD great pain. The Infantry Cmdr at R.11 sent a runner for transport for the wounded. This being done I told Dvr. TREEN to take the mobile gun and try and get to Battery H.Q. Our transport did arrive until after dark and already had some wounded on it so it was unableto get the wounded from R.8 an R.10. On arrival at A.D.S. an ambulance had set out to go to R.10 and R.8.

                                  (Sgd)    G. CARLEY.       Sgt.

 

Mr. HATCH (Troop Cmdr) and Sgt, PLATT were with Coy H.Q. in R.6, and there was no information concerning any of them. The “I” tank which went to R.6 never returned,

The only news of Bdr. LANE’s detachment (apart from Sgt. CARLEY’s) report is from Sgt. THURMAN of 2/24 Bn, who was in R.8. He said, when questioned by me later – “They were magnificent, and remained firing until the last”.  He said they were hopelessly outnumbered and were soon overrun but not before they knocked out 5 tanks. But some of these may have been the 4 that Bdr. RUDD knocked out.

                                  (Sgd).   H.L. LEWIN.      Major R.H.A.

 

 

 

 

“J” Battery 3rd R.H.A. Battery History.

(continued)

 
 

June 25th - 30th.

            Practically no change in any sector – air activity very slight and only slight shelling.

 

July 1st - 5th.

            3rd Armd Bde exercise, carried out in SOLARO area. Air activity considerable increased. Large scale “Circus” about every other day. Shelling greatly increased by both day and night in all sectors. 2/48th relieve Pioneers in our sector.

            Increased shelling thought to be due to “wind” on part of enemy having Intercepted W/T messages during 3rd Armd Bde exercise.

 

July 6th - 9th.

            No change in ground situation.

            Rear H.Q. moved near sea to West of Wadi Auda.

            Advanced H.Q. accurately shelled, causing great inconvenience and casualties to visitors.

            Only slight air activity. System of reliefs started for gun detachments so that every man gets three days at Rear H.Q. per fortnight.

 

July 10th - 17th.

            Ground situation unaltered. Patrols in southern sector do good work and inflict considerable casualties on enemy. Enemy shelling decreased in our sector – usual mortar fire on forward posts.

            Third gun arrived for “A” troop and is sighted in tank trench about 200 yards West of old position manned by Sgt. Broad. The detachment under L/Sgt. NORTH live in the wadi, under cover, about 70 yards in rear.

            Air activity limited to three or four high level bombing attacks by single planes per day, chiefly on town and harbour area. Also raids by single planes at night. The area recently vacated by Rear H.Q. was well plastered one night.

            A few isolated machine gunning attacks by two M.E.109s.

            20th Infantry Bde relieved by 24th Infantry Bde in Salient Sector. Bde H.Q. moved back to original position well behind Blue Line, and Battery H.Q. wadi is left in peace once again.

 

                                                                        (Sgd) L. H. LEWIN

18.7.41.

 

 

 

 

 

August to October 1941

Missing 

 

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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