War Diaries of M Battery, Royal Horse Artillery



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January to February 1941




War Diary

‘M’ Battery 3rd R.H.A.


To: Officer i/c 2nd Ech


Copy to H.Q. 3/RHA


“Hereunder summary of events and information relating to the unit. Delay regretted.


                                                                                       for Major R.H.A

                                                                             Capt Comdg           .


A Redhead

for Major R.H.A


Capt Comdg

‘M’ Bty. R.H.A.



March 1941



The Battery arrived back at BENI-YUSEF CAMP near CAIRO with the remainder of 3rd Regt. R.H.A. where it remained for a month refitting. Maj. P.T. O’Brien Butler was in the Scottish General Hospital, recovering from wounds in the head and arm received from a Messerschmitt 109 near AGHEILA.


“P” Battery was disbanded in the 3rd R.H.A. and reformed at home with “N” (The Eagle Troop) and “O” (The Rocket Troop) to form the 6th Regt. R.H.A. A number of “P” Bty. N.C.O’s and men were absorbed by the Battery, several of whom had been in ‘M’ before, The N.C.O.’s were Sgt. Miller, L/Bdr Treiks, and L/Sgt. Art. Wheattly.


Major R. A. Eden assumed command of the Battery in the absences of Major P.T. O’Brien Butler, the other offices being Capt. F. O’Neill, 2/Lt. F.H. Weller Poley, 2/Lt G. E. Hewson


The Battery moved out alone to TORBUCH arriving on 3rd April.






War Diary.

“M” Battery 3rd Regt. RHA.


Sheet ii






On arrival at the top of the escarpment EAST of DERNA the Battery received written message to join the Indian Motor Brigade at EL MACHILI where it arrived at dusk.

The R.A.F. lorries were leading our retreat EAST. Brigadier VAUGHAN welcomed the Bty. with open arms and ordered it into Mobile reserve. He had PAVO, the 2nd Royal Lancers (Gardner’s Horse) with him, as well 24 Australian Anti/Tk. Guns.


A message arrived from 12 Corps. “M” Battery RHA will proceed WEST along the track towards GOTT DERNA to Michael Gambier Parry who will be found that way”. General Gambier Parry was commanding the 2nd Arm’d Division withdrawing EAST in the face of the advance of a strong German and Italian mixed Arm’d and motorised force, and was expected at MECHILI, but the Brigadier thought the wording suspicious and wirelessed back, “Confirm last message about “M” Bty. mentioning by nickname”.


During the next morning confirmation came in with the key word Rudolph.

Four officers from 1/R.H.A. arrived and joined forces with the Battery. These were Lt.Col. S. Williams. Maj. D. J. Y. Turnhill, Capt. C. A. Armitage, 2/Lt. R.M. Morrison. The 2nd Arm’d. Div. H.Q. were approaching from the WEST and the Battery moved out to escort it in.


Forward Div, eventually arrived in about midnight, and “B” Troop (2/Lt. G. E. Hewson) brought Rear Div. in the next morning. (of the seventh). The enemy gradually encircled the camp during the day, and many Indian patrols made contact, bringing in German and Italian prisoners. Although Bofors amn. was scarce are guns fired several rounds at enemy sangers and M.G.s established on the crest 1500 yards North of the perimeter. One portee was blown up and Gnrs. OLLEY and KERRIDGE were wounded. Gnr. OLLEY continue to fire with one knee cap smashed. The day ended with a perimeter being shelled from the South. At the evenings conference, the general ordered a move through the enemy to El ADAM at dawn. “M” Bty. were to protect Div. H.Q.


Dawn opened with a thunderous enemy barrage and the enemy attacked with heavy tanks from the South. The whole of Div. H.Q. were captured in the smoke and dust after getting clear two miles West. “M” Bty had to avoid the surrendering as best they could and went about 20 miles west and then five mile North to a lonely little Wadi, were in company with 4 Australian A/Tk. Guns, 90 sappers of the 4 Fd. Sqdn. RE, Maj. Raj Vumar Shri Rajendaringhe and 60 Indians, of the 2nd Royal Lancers (Gardiner’s Horse) the Battery laid up for the day.

APR. 8.

During the afternoon a large force of tanks with seeing about 3 miles South, evidently searching but Luckily they moved away before dark to everybody's relief. Capt. J. O'Neill and 43 men, including the BQMS and the two fitters were missing as well as two guns. Thus 9 guns and a few 15-cwts were left.

      At 2100 hours. the force set out in 3 columns with the object of crossing the enemy line of communication to Mechili in darkness, way going se 450 miles comma and then going to East for about 100 miles, and finally going North till the main to Tobruk-Bardia road was hit. The instructions were to blaze away with all arms outwards, if a shot was fired at the front during the night.

The following office officers were with the column hyphen Maj. R, A. Eden, 2/Lts. J. H. Weller-Pole, and G. E. Hewson. The first five miles were most exacting, as it was a case of finding their way through the wadis down South to the plain. This took two hours after which the going was variable.


White Verey lights flared up on various places on the flanks, and eventually a halt was called at 0530 hrs . After the various vehicles had become detached from the column and only just rescued from the solitary course in the Blue/



Soon after dawn a B Echelon was bumped and about 30 prisoners, mostly Boche, were taken without any resistance. Later in the morning a Henschel flew over and most have spotted the column, but the expected squadron of Messerschmitt’s did not arrive.

Got Bu Ascter near Signali was then recognised by a signboard and it was decided to make EL ADAM, hoping to meet an enemy patrol on the way. Hardly had the column left the Got, then enemy staff car was overtaken enjoy the column but its three occupants an Austrian under officer 2 young Germans in their teens.


Eventually the 11th Hussars (Capt. A. Roberts Sqdn) were bumped to the relief of everyone, and they led the column into Support Group (Brigadier GOTT) & “D” Bty.


“M” joined R.H.Q. in Tobruk, and reformed into “A” Troop with 5 guns 2/Lt. J. H. Weller-Poley and “B” Troop 2/Lt. G. E. Hewson which had its own four guns. 2/Lt. A. S. Robinson rejoined the Battery.


Easter Monday. ‘A’ troop had an open mobile action against 35 German tanks, which had penetrated the outer perimeter, and helped to destroy 7. A/E Bty engaged them over open sights with the five guns of “M” Bty. pirouetted round them to the other side. The tanks withdrew in disorder and only 17 escaped.



2/Lt. A. S. Robertson was killed instantly buy a German 2 pdr. Sgt. Master, Bdr. Holiday and G,r. Potter were wounded none of them badly. Bdr. Sims’s and L/Bd Kingsland's guns were hit and burnt out, and Bdr. Standaloft's portee was hit and burnt out but the gun was saved.

“A” Tp left the 17th Bn A.I.F. (Colonel Crawford) and occupied dug-in positions in the blue (inner) line while “B” tp remained at Ft. PILASTINO in mobile reserve, with the 9th Bn A.I.F. (Col. Martin) The Australians and “M” “mucked in together excellently ever they were. M had nothing but praise for the “Aussies” who are always good for a cup of tea or a cigarette.



The enemy seized 12 posts in the MEDAUR sector and established a salient. Two troops of “J” were in action but M was not involved.


Regtl. H.Q. departed by sea for Alexandra after an unfortunate start, when the kit was lost, after their boat had been sunk in the Harbour. Capt. Redhead, Capt. of “D”, remained with M as Bty Capt.


2/Lt. J. H. Weller-Poley was posted to 107 RHA (South Notts Hussars). News came from Maj. P. T. O’Brien Butler that he had accepted a staff job in Cairo and also that Capt. J. O'Neill how turned up at Sidi Barrani as town major.



   This was very mixed news causing sorrow at the loss of the major, enjoy at the safe return of the Capt. With, as it was assumed, his driver.

  The days went by with the troops interchanging positions within the 1/RHA area comma and the Battery Cmdr and 2/Lt. Hewson lived with the H.Q. Seveb Italian M11 tanks with dug in to thicken up the Anti/Tk defence line, based on the 25 pdrs. Setting these up provided interesting work for “M”s Gunners who were all in the mobile reserve by the end of the month.

    Another amusing side light was provided by some Italian Med. 105 howitzers which Battery H.Q. manned in conjunction with the 11 RHA and 107 RHA. These guns were laid by compass and field in Clinometer, and some valuable shooting was done continuous by day and night, until actually either they recuperator springs broke or the elevating arc’s teeth sheared off.

Less than 50% of the rounds burst however which increased the Battery’ disdain for “Wop” artillery as a whole.




War Diary.

“M” Battery RHA.


Sheet vii






Fire opened with Tobruk still holding out and Crete gallantly resisting a stupendous attack of airborne and parachute troops. 2/Lt. J. A. C. Baxter joined the Battery from the base and took over two guns to form a new a troop T.S.M Sutton kept two guns as C troop nucleus . B troop now had 2 guns as well.


2/Lt. J. A. C. Baxter joined the Battery from the base and took over TWO guns to form a new “A” Troop T.S.M. Sutton kept two guns as “C” Troop nucleus . “B” troop now had two guns as well.



Dive bombers still visited Tobruk about every other day, and now seem to aim at the water point always, ignore the earlier targets, the 25 pdrs. and the harbour although often putting in a deliberate assault on the General Hospital or the Beach Hospital, both of which are clearly marked.

   Mail arrives fairly regularly, which makes all the difference to life within the fortress. Troops can send cables, airgraphs, airletter cards, or airmail letters at very cheap rates, or ordinary see Mail fine. Christmas Mail arrived in May. N.A.A.F.I issues are however very few and far between MP arrives once a week at the quota of half bottle per man. Chocolate biscuits calmer sweets oral welcomed we're not contaminated with lead petrol I was frequently the case. “Kum and get it” very kindly produced a free issue one day in June. Books are very scarce but the ‘Aussies’ have their Pix and Sydney Tribune, and Melbourne times.





TOBRUK, 5 June 1941.

2130 hrs. When is century bombs were dropped on a nearby petrol dump men from the battery HQ spent an hour rolling drums away from the fires. 14,000 gallons of aviation spirit were last.


TOBRUK, 7 June 1941.

1800 hours.  2/Lieut. J. A. C. BAXTER joined the battery from the Dase Depot. He had previously served over a year in the ranks of the H.A.C. He took over “A” Troop. This left 2/Lieut. Hewan commanding “B” Troop and T.S.M. Sutton commanding “C” Troop, each having a nucleus of only 2 guns.


           During the month the battery was not in action at all, and remained as A/Tk mobile reserve of the 9th Australian division still holding Tobruk. There were 6 other Australian A/Tk guns also in mobile reserve. Sea bathing well stopped altogether owing to a petrol shortage. There is no canteen issue at all during the month, and the lack of cigarettes  particularly bore very hard on the troops, who, neverless remained, wonderfully cheerful and healthy.

           Writing competitions of all kinds were held and Colonel Stephen WILLIAMS on his return from sick leave kindly gave 1,000 cigarettes to the battery, which provided a series of prizes for the winners. Debates for also started. Training in the morning in gun drill, Bren and Boyes A/Tk rifle instruction, and semaphore practice were all carried out. Two gunners were attached to the Chestnut troop for 10 days to learn wireless operating. Two Thompson sub-machine guns, the firt to be issued, were received.


TOBRUK, 16 June 1941.

            A holiday Change of Air camp was organised by the 1st regiment R.H.A, and the battery sent 1 N.C.O. and 4 men a time for three days, down by the sea where they could bathe all day, read, play indoor games and meet other Horse Artillerymen. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed their three days, and the camp continued into July, when officers also took part.





“M” Battery, 3rd Regt. R.H.A  

Commanding Officer, Major R.A. Eden, R.H.A.


July 1941.


TOBRUK. 1 July 1941.

            The battery still situated in same area as before, i.e. 2 troops in 1/R.H.A . area, the remaining troop with Battery H.Q.


TOBRUK. 6 July 1941.

            I supply of toothbrushes, chocolate, writing paper in shaving soap was received from the Australian Comforts Fund; these articles were very welcome indeed. Major R. A. Eden sent a message of appreciation to the divisional Comdr (Gen. N. J. Marstead).

In addition a supply of chocolate and cigarettes was received from the N.A.A.F.I. Issue since June.


TOBRUK. 7 July 1941.

            B.Q.M.S. HILLIER received a message of congratulations from Maj. Gen. CREAG, Comdg 7 Armd Divn. on his award of the Military Medal.

Message received from H.Q. 9th Austn Divn announcing the posthumous award of the V.C. to Cpl. EDMONSTON, of the 2/17 Bn AIF, who in one action on Easter Monday , shot 12, bayonetted 5, clubbed 2 and throttled 1, saving his Platoon Comdr; later he should come to twist wounds.

As this was the bn the battery was under command off or Easter Monday, major R Hey Eden sent a message of congratulations to Col. Crawford.


TOBRUK. 8 July 1941.

            Swimming parties for again organised, this time each troop and Bty H.Q. were able to spend a whole day by the sea, every four days.


TOBRUK. 20 July 1941.

            Two N.C.O.s and eight the gunners were sent to the 4th Field Survey Regiment R.A. to assist in Flash Spotting.


TOBRUK. 23 July 1941.

            Congratulations on the award of the Distinguished Service Order were received by Major R. A. Eden from the C.R.A (Brigadier THOMPSON), TOBRUK FORTRESS.

             Major Eden and B.Q.M.S. RYAN (Missing) were mentioned in dispatches, for operations up to Feb 1941. 






  “M” Battery R.H.A.  
August 1941.   Commanding Officer Major P.A. EDEN

TOBRUK. 12 August.

0900 hrs,    A lone bomber dropped bombs from a high level on the old Italian amn dump about 400 yds from Bty H.Q.. This set the whole dump off and for a about 3 hrs the Bty. H.Q. area was under constant hail of flying shells and splinters. The vehicles were all evacuated early except one 8-cwt which was hit at the very start and burnt out. No casualties to men

                   Battery H.Q. and "A" Tp moved the same evening to wadi escarpment 1000 yds south. B.R.A. M.E.F. inspected the Battery during the afternoon

TOBRUK. 19 August.

                  A 250 lbs bomb (HL) fell midway between office truck and cockhouse. No damage.

TOBRUK 24 August.

                  Capt A.P. REDHEAD evacuated sick.


(Sgd) PA Eden.            

Major R.H.A.            


September 1941

Commanding Officer: C.O.: Major P.A. EDEN, D.S.O., RHA

Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Tobruk 1-13   Normal routine, as per training programme.  
  14   A distinct lull in air activity and hostile shelling all the week. Probably due to pressure on the Russian Front, but rather ominous even so.  
  21   Main body left Tobruk at 2335 hrs aboard HMS KINGSTON with “J” Bty and the 3rd Australian A/T Regt. The relieving Bty 433Z  of the 149 Anti-Tank Regt had arrived the previous evening and took over the six BOFORS guns during the day. An advance party of 1 officer (2/Lt G.E. Hewson ) and 2 N.C.Os had sailed on the 18th and a rear party of 1 officer (Major P.A. Eden) and 3 N.C.Os stayed on in TOBRUK till the 27th. The advance party sailed on HMS HASTY and the rear party on HMS KANDAHAR. The only incident in all these voyages was one stick of bombs from such a high level that they fell about a mile from the nearest ship in the KANDAHAR convoy. 2/Lts M.H.H.H. DAVIS and J.A.C. BAXTER accompanied the main body.  
  24   The Battery arrived at ALMAZA having picked up 6 2-Pdr guns from 433Z Bty of 149 A/T Regt with some other vehicles at AMRIYA. On arrival at ALMAZA the Independent (SUDAN) A/T Troop joined the Bty complete. They had originally been taken from the Regt in the summer of 1940 and were warmly welcomed back to the fold having seen service in the East African and Syrian campaigns. Captain H.W. Barbingham R.H.A. and Lt. C.A.H. Grover R.H.A. joined the Battery with this Troop.  
  28   D Bty arrived in at ALMAZA and the regiment was thus together again for the first time since March 1941.
The strength is now 6 officers and 110 O.Rs. New 2 Pdr Portées and other vehicles are arriving every day. The whole Battery is anxious to lose not a single moment in getting out again to the desert and helping relieve TOBRUK and their many friends inside particularly of the 1st Regt R.H.A. which had been fighting alongside the Battery throughout the 5 months in TOBRUK and had enhanced their reputation higher than ever if that were possible. A/E Battery and M Battery have now formed a band of mutual friendship after the battle of EASTER MONDAY 1941 in TOBRUK.



October to December 1941



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