143rd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. War Diary July 1944
1 July 1944 Ducy-St-Marguerite.
A great deal of firing today, both HF and Divisional concentrations to keep enemy from counter-attacking. 70th Infantry Brigade are very tired after their fighting and must be kept ?covered by our putting down HF. See below for Message 1 attached to the War Diary.
2 July 1944
Not so much activity today. Sergeant Raines of 190 Battery to be reduced to the ranks for inefficiency. See below for Divisional Commander’s message – attached as B to the War Diary, and the Army Commander’s message – attached as C to the War Diary.
3 July 1944
11th Royal Scots Fusiliers having party in Juvigny Wood. C.O. at St Pierre was wounded while seeing how attack was going. Wounded in hand and thigh – two signallers with him - Corporal Wooller and Harding killed – Smith seriously injured – Major Rees-Webbe taking command. Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery Cunningham of 11th RSF also killed.
4 July 1944
Guns reset on wear data calibration – nothing to report. Fairly quiet.
Brigadier Mahoney leaving 147 Brigade.
Major Sime appointed Second-in-Command and Captain Childs promoted to Major to take over.
See Divisional Commander’s message as D attached to the War Diary.
5 July 1944
Nothing of importance today.
6 July 1944
Corps Commander of XXX Corps visited the Regiment. Orders to move to come under command I Corps for a party. Representative to CCRA at DOUVRES 13:00 hours. Moved to area South West of HERMAINVILLE to come under command Guards Armoured Division for an attack by I Corps. Had to go twice over road in view of the enemy and were consequently shelled – only one wounded. In our area at 20:00 hours but not in action. No commitment before the Fire Plan – Village shelled and one killed – SYMES 190 Battery.
7 July 1944
Day spent digging and dumping – general activity at night and shelling during day. Fire Plan received and passed out to Batteries. See below for Operation Order attached to War Diary.
8 July 1944 HERMANVILLE.
Aerial activity and small amount of ammunition in the rear sent up in flames. Fired Barrage according to Plan. Attack going well on 3rd British Division and Canadian front – 59th Division meeting trouble. Various tasks fired and also quick barrage in the evening – attack going well but stiff resistance.
9 July 1944
Support given again by means of barrage and cones. Guns firing supercharge as battle getting out of range. More air activity at night.
10 July 1944
Orders to rejoin and occupy original positions, all reported in by 12:00 hours although column got split. No further mishaps. Quiet day and not functioning as yet.
11 July 1944
Passes granted to BAYEAUX – premature in 388 Battery – two seriously injured and gun written off – new gun within two hours.
12 July 1944
One Battery per day resting – 388 Battery commencing 13th normal activity.
13 July 1944
Normal activity – probably moving to Pay du Boie Londe 14th July. See below for 3rd British Division document attached to War Diary.
14 July 1944 HAUT D’AUDRIEU.
Moved to forward areas. Air Activity as RHQ arrived at HAUT D’AUDRIEU – one plane brought down – otherwise establishing and digging in. See below for C in C Message.
15 July 1944
Residue arrived almost complete with Lieutenant Richards in charge. Four men seconded attached to us and two surveyors loaned by us. Red smoke fired – 59 Division doing attack tomorrow. Second-in-Command joined them as representative. 507 Battery had a premature – no damage.
16 July 1944
Attack by 59 Division supported by 49 Division Artillery – local attack by HALLAMS on BARBEE FmE successful – main attack proceeding favourably – fairly strong opposition. 15th (Scottish) Division captured objectives and have reached EVRECY and ESQUAY. (The author's uncle - Lance Corporal John Lawrence QUINN of the 2nd City of Glasgow Regiment, Highland Light Infantry, was killed in the attack on ESQUAY along with the whole of his Section). 59 Division take over responsibilities from our Observation Posts – attack mainly successful but NOYERS still denied to us. 146 Brigade unable to make any progress and withdraw from BARBEE Fme. See below for Cormorant Operation Order and 143 Regiment Operation Order No. 2 attached to the War Diary.
17 July 1944
Operation MANGO laid on to deal with BARBEE Fme and LA PETITE Fme and JUVIGNY area. Representative sent to 185 Field Regiment. Operation PEEL instituted as strength of enemy very uncertain and believed to be withdrawing – MANGO postponed. See below for documents on MANGO including those for 143 Regiment attached to the War Diary.
18 July 1944
Bombing attack on Regimental area 23:15 hours. Bomb dropped 15 yards from Adjutant’s tent. Armour Piercing bombs on 190 Battery area and slight casualties. 4 Other Ranks injured and two vehicles completely burnt out.
Deserters say enemy pulling out of JUVIGNY – Operation MANGO carried out without artillery support and objectives reached and occupied – many mines encountered. Cordite was burnt in 190 Battery building too near to a gun causing a fire with one casualty. 171 rounds High Explosive suspect but gun remains in action.
19 July 1944
190 Battery resting except for Defensive Fire Tasks – Major GROSE going out as CRA’s representative with 59 Division – 49 Division due to come into reserve by 21st but gunners will remain to cover DFs on Corps front.
20 July 1944
Mainly maintenance – ammunition examined – OK’d. 190 Battery ?burnt rounds. Surveyors ? from 4 pen recorder. Preparations for move but postponed 24 hours. 147 Infantry Brigade pulling out and going into reserve. Torrential rain of last few days has turned whole area into a sea of mud.
21 July 1944
C.O. to conference at RA HQ at 09:00 hours. Recce parties for gun areas only to go at 14:00 hours. Second-in-Command and Regimental Signals Officer with Gun Position Officers preliminary recce area GIBERVILLE – very crowded, very open and about impassable for mud.
22 July 1944
Weather has held up move. Recce parties to move afternoon 23rd. Weather improved.
23 July 1944
Recce parties morning via CAEN in parties of five – special passes required. Regiment to move at midnight. RHQ area bombed at 23:00 hours just as vehicles assembling to move followed by shelling at 23:40 hours. No casualties. ? ? of 507 Battery damaged by shelling.
24 July 1944
49 Division comes under command I Corps again. Very dark night – movement without lights – routing was excellent and made a very speedy move. Regiment in action by 11:00 hours in a crowded and rather grim spot. Tanks from G.A.D. is just behind Troop of 507 Battery in full view of enemy. Shelled intermittently. Office roof collapsed on Regimental Signals Officer who was coping with M and U Targets single handed – Oh the language.
CB (Counter-battery?) seems non-existent and enemy mortars most active and troublesome. Royal Artillery are taking counter-mortar measures. 507 Battery area shelled at 21:35 hours – one killed – Gunner McIlwrick – and three wounded including Battery Sergeant Major Banks. HF fired – enemy air activity at night.
25 July 1944 GIBERVILLE.
Captain Frost took on 3 Tiger Tanks with Troop of Mediums through ? ? RHQ. Rounds in target area but ammunition restriction made effective fire impossible. Fairly active on the front – at last Observation Posts can see (and be seen) ? one taking a heavy toll and one an absolute menace.
26 July 1944
388 Battery – Lieutenant Sellars and two Other Ranks wounded. 4 more wounded and exhausted sent to hospital. Repeat of enemy attack but nothing ? CB still unable to cope and reply effectively to this shelling. Everyone now SHELREP –minded.
27 July 1944
Very active day – mortars engaged by Air Observation Post ? ? ? – in a mine field. Sappers clearing assisted by own pioneers.
Aerial attack from 22:50 – 23:10 hours mainly on 507 Battery position. Two casualties – Other Ranks – and several vehicles damaged. Cooks’ 3-tonner burnt out including reserve rations for 507 Battery. Two tanks G.A.D. (?Guards’ Armoured Division) ? up. One bomb within three yards of a bivvy without damage to occupants. 507 Battery Observation Post reports that whereas at first the Boche walked about quite openly but is now taking considerable care and cover in all movements.
28 July 1944
Further bombing at 00:03 hours – no further casualties – ammunition stack at 190 Battery set off and a 15cwt damaged. Battery Commander 507 considered STARWOOD a very probable enemy locality and asked for Regimental target, which eventually became V Target and then was shot up by Typhoons. CRA visited in morning and Brigade Major in afternoon. Mortar activity has slackened considerably due presumably to our own counter-mortar policy which has been very thorough and heavy. QM party joined 147 Brigade B Echelon Group.
29 July 1944
Aerial activity in night but no casualty reported. What appeared to be a new weapon firing in night turned out to be a Boche propaganda shoot. Medium Regiment to engage Church from 388 Battery Observation Post by Captain Frost. ? for time obtained and then shoot stopped for ammunition shortage – Major Weston slightly wounded but continuing. Typhoon again on STARWOOD. C.O. on move to the North.
30 July 1944
Regimental Rest Camp at ROTS established. About 15 men get 48 hours complete rest – Officers sleep in the house where their food is cooked by a mother and daughter – Second-in-Command has organised this and finds it a constant source of interest. 507 Battery area shelled by 17 cm and one round fell in a bivvy and killed the three occupants – Sgt Johnson and Gunner Butler identified, Gunner Evans not identified but believed to have been in the billet. Major reorganisation of Regimental Office progressing favourably – surveyors picking up very quickly. RHQ moving to new location 1,000 yards North West. One Troop of 507 Battery moving into D Troop position and D Troop taking up fresh position. Very active day.
31 July 1944
Fired a Mike Target for two hours – rate V slow to assist Canadians. Active policy again adopted – harassing of enemy Forward Defence Lines.
Appendices attached to the July 1944 War Diary. (That have survived to be included in the original file).
Message No. 1 – 2nd July
This reads as follows:-
Message from Commander 49 Division to Commandant, Royal Artillery. Will you please convey to all your Commanders and Units especially to Lieutenant Colonel Mackay Lewis my thanks and congratulations on the magnificent support given to 70th Infantry Brigade today. The efficient and quick response to calls for fire has played a large part in todays success. I wish to thank them on my behalf and on behalf of the whole Division, not forgetting 217 Anti-Tank Battery who assisted in the slaughter of the enemy tanks.
Message No. 2 – 2nd July.
This reads as follows:-
The following message has been received by the Divisional Commander from the Army Commander –
You and your splendid 49th Division have done the most excellent work since you stared off. BRONAY - Rauray and you are still on top of the Hun. I do congratulate you and the Division on all you are doing.
Message 4th July.
This reads as follows:-
Following message sent by the Corps Commander to the Divisional Commander. Personal for Commander 49th Division from Commander 30 Corps. At close of their arduous and extremely successful defeat of best German SS troops please convery my great-felt and heartiest congratulations to all ranks and especially to 8th Armoured Brigade and 70th Infantry Brigade. Their alert and stubborn resistance will make a great contribution to our Commander’s plan. Jolly good work.
Personal message from the Commander in Chief – dated 14th July 1944.
To be read to all troops:-
1. A great deal has happened since my last message to you on 10 June – one month ago; the battle in Normandy has been fierce and hard since then, and much has been achieved.
2. Our gains have been definite and concrete; and we have held everything we have gained, despite the desperate efforts of the enemy to push us back into the sea.
On the west flank – CHERBOURG.
On the east flank – CAEN.
And much territory in between.
And all the time a tremendous struggle with a skilful enemy, whose good fighting qualities and tenacity in battle cannot but attract our admiration. The pace has been hot, and it was clear that someone would have to give ground sooner or later; it was equally clear that the Allied soldiers would see the thing through to the end and would never give up; and so the Germans have been forced to give ground – which is very right and proper.
3. And today, the Allied armies fighting in Normandy have good grounds for solid satisfaction.
We have taken over 54,000 prisoners. We have given the enemy forces a tremendous pounding, and we know from prisoners what great losses they have suffered.
And we have enlarged and extended our lodgement area, and in that area we are very firm and secure and we are developing our offensive operations in accordance with our plans.
4. And so, to every Allied soldier in Normandy I say:
“Well done. Well done indeed. You have performed a great task in a manner which is fully in keeping with the great traditions of the fighting stocks from which we all come. And your families and friends in the homeland may well be very proud of their men folk serving overseas”.
5. It is the earnest desire of every Allied soldier in Normandy to finish this business as quickly as possible, and to pull his full weight and do his duty until it is finished off. That we all know. And I cannot do better than to conclude this message by quoting the favourite prayer of Sir Francis Drake. “O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory”.
6. Let us fight on to victory in the spirit of that prayer.
7. Good luck to each of you.
Signed B L MONTGOMERY.
Field Return – Officers – dated 1st July 1944.
This Return shows 35 Officers in post as against the War Establishment of 37, leaving a deficiency of two – both Captains’ posts. During that week, Captain D T Roberts had been evacuated to 187th Field Ambulance. The Unit were still requesting the return of Lieutenants Keenan and Povey as well, now, as Captains Berry and Roberts. The second page of the Return, containing the full list of names, numbers and ranks of those in post will be used to refine the personnel list.
This was the final page only of this Operation Order – setting out the place of 143rd Field Regiment in supporting this attack. It is assumed that only this fragment of the Order remained in the file as the full operation was postponed, but went ahead later without artillery support.
Operation Order Number 5 dated 15th July 1944 – Appendix X.
This set out the intention of the 59 Division plan with the relevant codewords and map references – particularly POMEGRANATE, CORMORANT and PHOENIX.
No detail of the role of the Regiment was given in this document.
Operation Order No. 6 dated 16th July 1944. (This was the detailed documentation for Operation MANGO).
The plan for the Division was to attack JUVIGNY WOOD, with 70th Infantry Brigade on the right – 11th DLI right and 1st Tyneside Scottish left, and 146 Brigade on the left with 1/4 KOYLI.
70th Infantry Brigade was to attack – 11th DLI on to the final objective, crossing the start line at H + 15, and 1st Tyneside Scottish attacking in two phases – Phase 1 to seize and clear square WOOD 8566 crossing the start line at H hour and the second Phase to seize and clear the Northern half of JUVIGNY WOOD WEST of RIDE running North and South through 849658.
146 Brigade were to attack LA PETITE FERME from the direction of Tessel WOOD, co-ordinated with the Tyneside Scottish attack.
The Divisional Artillery was to support the attacks by the two Brigades – 143rd Field Regiment in direct support of 11th DLI. As mentioned earlier when the operation finally went ahead it was without artillery support.
Operation Order No. 7 – dated 21st July 1944
These were the arrangements for the Divisional Artillery to take over responsibility for a new area from the Royal Artillery of the Guards Armoured Division, and essentially were timings and locations for the areas to be taken over.
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