143rd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. War Diary May 1944

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1 May 1944 HEMSBY.

Warning Order for Exercise “FABIUS” at 6 hours notice. Fine.

2 May 1944

Fine and windy. See Appendix A – Exercise FABIUS Admin. Order.

3 May 1944

Awaiting orders to move FABIUS. Fine.

4 May 1944

Second-in-Command to Division at 14:30 hours for orders to move. Left for London at 17:00 hours.

5 May 1944

Reasonable night march, arrived at WOODFORD about 06:00 hours. Zz smashed when towed. Camp staff very helpful but Movement Control parking was very bad. All vehicles had to be shifted in the afternoon, very wet during the day.

6 May 1944

Moved to King Albert Docks in the afternoon and returned to using T7 by 17:00 hours – very interesting. One man broke out of Camp after segregation but was apprehended by Field Security Police.

7 May 1944

Marched back to Camp. A very pleasant day but very cold in the morning.

8 May 1944

Preparations commenced for Exercise “SHISHAH” due on 11th May.

9 May 1944

Nothing of importance.

10 May 1944

Nothing of importance.

11 May 1944

Advance Part left for SHISHAH – fine.

12 May 1944

Main Body left for SHISHAH – concentrated area NARFORD for night.

13 May 1944

Moved through to assembly areas and went into action 3 miles South of SWAFFHAM. Wet at night.

14 May 1944

Preparation for a move forward. See Operation Order attached as Appendix C.

15 May 1944

Moved forward and came into action again. 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers attached at night.

16 May 1944

Morning attack by 7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Exercise ended and returned to Camp. Part II Admin. Order received and Regiment now concentrated. See Appendix attached below.

17 May 1944

Preparations for waterproofing put in hand.

18 May 1944

Nothing of importance.

19 May 1944

Nothing of importance. Office truck B.C.R. (Beyond repair?)

20 May 1944

Nothing of importance. Waterproofing commenced.

21 May 1944

C.O. and Second-in-Command to HQRA for briefing in some original detail.

22 May 1944

Nothing of importance.

23 May 1944

Leave completely stopped except for compassionate and 24 hour passes within 25 miles.

24 May 1944

Nothing of importance. Stores arriving in great quantities.

25 May 1944

“CORNELIUS” received 12:45 hours. Several vehicles deficient still.

26 May 1944

Busy day cleaning up and trying to get ready. Office truck being replaced. Vehicle which arrived ordinary GS 15cwt. No use.

27 May 1944

C.O. to Conference on Exercise BREAKER III.  ? to collect new Office Truck.

28 May 1944

Regiment reported ready at 6 hours notice, less 1 Humber 4 by 4 and 1 Office Truck. Office Truck arrived – a Ford. Waterproofing started on it.

29 May 1944

388 Battery waded a Jeep and had trouble with exhaust and also a half-track. Admin. Order No. 4 attached as Appendix E – see below.

30 May 1944

Office truck failed to get to water splash through engine trouble.

31 May 1944

? unable to compete with Office Truck , this time it drowned when going through.

Appendices attached to May 1944 War Diary Several of the Appendices mentioned as being attached did not survivie to be included in the original file at The National Archives.

Field Return – Officers – dated 20th May 1944.

The return showed 30 Officers in post against the establishment of 37 – a surplus of 2 Officers (one Captain, one Lieutenant). During the week, Major Howorth had left to go to Hospital and a request had been made for Lt Keenan to be returned to the regiment from Z list.

The detailed list of Officers shows one of two changes from ealier weeks and these will be reflected in the personnel list.

Appendix A - Preparatory Admin. Order Part 1.

This document dealt with preparations to be made before concentration was ordered and also that to be taken after concentration had begun.

Drill ammunition to be returned to Ordnance and training Ammunition to be disposed of as previously ordered.

RASC were arranging a supply of jerricans – 531 per regiment – to meet the need for 1st and 2nd line holdings, supplies for each vehicle at an appropriate scale together with arrangements for kerosene and lubricants.

Ration scales were to be set down and issued from the date of concentration. The BRASCO of 147th Infantry Brigade had organised additional ration packs for all personnel, emergency rations for everybody, tommy cookers and hexamine tablets for everyone and a personal water sterilising kit. Cigarettes would be issued with ration Packs on the scale of a tin of 20 for each two Ration Packs. Demands would be made for a supply of Compo Ration Packs.

To cover the period before NAAFI stores might reasonably be made available post-invasion each man was expected to carry seven days’ supply of essential toiletries, such as razor blades, toothpaste and soap plus matches in waterproof containers.

All unit water vehicles and trailers would be filled, as would water bottles, immediately before departure, plus a suitable number of jerricans made available sufficient to supply half a gallon per man.

Vehicles unfit for use were to be immediately reported to REME to enable them to be brought up to Class II readiness or replaced. Vehicle waterproofing would only be started once specific orders were issued. Sheets were to be supplied to cover motorcycles being taken ashore loaded in other transport to prevent them being splashed with sea spray. Those stowed loose would be accompanied by their drivers.

Troops would be clothes in fully serviceable clothing to Scale 3 of War Clothing regulations 1943 plus a second pair of boots, plus canvas shoes if possible. AV battledress would be worn when ordered. Anti-Gas equipment would be carried on a personal basis.

Battle batteries for 18 and 38 wireless sets would be taken – at least four per set with more if room were available. Bivouac shelters would be available. Stationery stocks were to be kept up to date.

First reinforcements would be withdrawn from units at a date to be notified. Paybooks AB64 would be entered with clothing and boots sizes for each man. Outstanding invoices from Imprests were to be settled before leaving the UK.

Appendix D - Preparatory Admin. Order Part II.

The Regiment was regarded as concentrated as of 16th May – as mentioned in the War Diary.

Accommodation was to be handed over in a clean and tidy condition – with no accommodation stores removed from the Marshalling Area. NAAFI stores would be available in the Marshalling Area – ranging from cigarettes and chocolate to darts and radio sets. Attention should continue to be paid to concealment strategies.

Detailed instructions on recording the state of waterproofing on individual vehicles were given – a staged process.

Arrangements were described for sending personal effects home and storing clothing not needed for the assault in marked kitbags. Instructions for disposing of surplus kit and G1098 items were still awaited. Details of the latest times for requesting replacement vehicles were set out with warnings of the impossibility of last-minute replacement – and the consequent need for great care with vehicles.

As regards clothing – the date for wearing AV Battle dress (incorporating Anti-Gas protection) would be from 18th May, together with Polar Bear Divisional insignia and arm of service stripes. Remaining suits of battle dress would be withdrawn.

Postal arrangements were described with a clear warning to prevent troops from using civilian post boxes once the unit had left the concentration area.

Full overseas documentation processes were to be followed once the unit had arrived at the marshalling Area. Full nominal rolls and vehicle loads showing the vehicle and ship in which each man was travelling were to be completed. Men admitted to hospital after 1st May would be posted to the 30 Reinforcement Holding Unit, Cowley Barracks, Oxford, on discharge, regardless of which hospital they had been treated in. That unit would also look after the kit of the men concerned.

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