10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, War Diary January 1944

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For a more complete picture of activity this War Diary should be read in conjunction with the 70th Infantry Brigade War Diary for the same month.

Sgt Elliott stated that While at Southwold the news was received that 49th Division was being replaced by 50th Division in the assault role, with 49th assuming the follow-up role. Men were understandably a little relieved but genuinely thought it was hard on 50th Division given their years of battle experience and casualties. In his view 49th Division could have done the assault and would perhaps – as generally untried troops – been quicker. Several references were made to his Dunkirk experiences with 50th Division.

Southwold – This month has been taken up mainly with Company and individual training, inter-Platoon competitions and a week’s night training.

1st January 1944

The Field Returns were submitted as 1st January and that for the Officers showed that there were 35 in post against a War Establishment of 36. There was one Captain surplus and one Major and 2 Lieutenants short of requirements. No changes in the forgoing week were noted.

The Other Ranks returns showed 756 men in post as against an establishment of 809 - a shortfall of one Sergeant, four Corporals and 48 men. The attached ranks were Sgt Beaman, the Physical Training Instructor, and WO1 C.F. Monk, the Bandmaster. The Home Details totalled 159 men, which included two Sergeants and two Corporals - most of whom were of a lower medical category than A1. That figure increased from 159 to 172 by the 8th of January as the less fit men were transferred out of the Battalion, thus causing a demand for reinforcements. The return of Sgt V Chambers - currently on sick leave and in hospital, was particularly requested.

4th - 9th January 1944

Exercise “IBEX” took place. The object of the exercise was to practice all Commanders from Brigadier down to Platoon Commander in briefing their men for an operation. Details of the exercise are included in the Brigade HQ War Diary for January 1944.

10th January 1944

A Field Firing Exercise for B and D Companies took place in the Dunwich area. B Company’s exercise took place in the morning and D Company’s in the afternoon. Each Company had a Squadron of Tanks, one Platoon of Medium Machine Guns and a Platoon of 4.2” Mortars in support.

11th January 1944

A Battalion TEWT on defence for all Officers took place in the area of HALESWORTH.

12th January 1944

A lecture on First Aid was given to all Officers and Sergeants by the Medical Officer.

14th – 15th January 1944

Inter-Platoon competitions for A, B, C and D Companies took place. A Battalion Mines Course was run by the Pioneer Officer from 14th to the 17th of January.

Southwold 20th January 1944

The Mines Course run by the Pioneer Officer visited each Company during the day and carried out demonstrations of both laying mines and breaching minefields.

21st January 1944

A lecture was given by the C.O. to all Officers, Warrant Officers and full-rank NCOs on Battalion Drill for Night Attack and for passing vehicles through a breached minefield at night.

22nd January 1944

The Battalion Exercise “ELK” took place in the area of SUDBOURNE. The object of the exercise was to practice the assault Royal Engineers in their work of breaching minefields and clearing obstacles.

The Field Returns were completed and submitted on this day. The Officers' return showed that, while there was still a "surplus" Captain, an application had been made for a promotion to Major to fill that vacancy. 2/Lt Maugham had been transferred to the DLI from the Green Howards (11th Battalion) and posted to the 10th battalion DLI under a posting order dated 7th January. The return also showed that the Battalion had particularly requested the return to the unit of Lt G.B. Harrison, who may have been on sick leave.

24th January 1944

The Battalion commenced night training – that is, living by night and sleeping by day. A Battalion night exercise took place in the area of South Cove.

25th January 1944

Brigade Intelligence Exercise “BLACKEYE” took place in the area of HALESWORTH. The object of the exercise was to practise Intelligence personnel in map reading by night, preparation of Observations Posts in darkness and bridge and reconnaissance reports in darkness.

26th January 1944

A Battalion exercise took place in the area of WANGFORD and SOUTH COVE. The object of the exercise was to practise the Battalion – during darkness – in forming a bridgehead through a minefield, and then passing vehicles through a gap.

27th January 1944

A Battalion night attack took place in the Dunwich Field Firing area. The object of the exercise was that same as that of 26th January but with the support of a Battery of Artillery, a Platoon of 3” Mortars and two sections of Carriers.

28th January 1944

All Rifle Platoon and the Specialist Platoons were sent out on 36hr schemes. During this period, no-one was allowed to enter any buildings. Company Commanders set various schemes for their Platoons during this training.

29th January 1944

2/Lt Holt, Lt Sanderson and Lt Roberts all reported for duty with the Battalion, having been transferred from Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery.

The Field Returns dated 29th January show, in addition to those three transfers which took place formally on 22nd January, there were similar transfers from the Royal Artillery in respect of 2/Lts Gregg, Ellis and Davey - all under War Office Posting Lists 557 and 558 of 14th January and 19th January respectively. Lt Harrison's return was still being requested. The War Establishment for Officers had increased sharply to 43, and there were 41 men in post - with one Lieutenant post and the one Major post still unfilled.

The Other Ranks return shows a major increase in manpower to a level of 930 against the 809 establishment - leaving the net situation of three Corporals still short but one WOII, two Colour Sergeants, three Sergeants and 116 Privates surplus. This may have been something to do with the way in which first reinforcements and Home Details were counted. The attached ranks had changed in that, which the PTI remained, the Bandmaster had changed and was now WOI J.P.C. Bailey, formerly of the Royal Sussex Regiment and No 4 Infantry Depot. Sgt Chambers' return was still being requested.

The list of first reinforcements showed a shortfall of 87 men, including 3 Sergeants and 7 Corporals - hence the thought that this may be linked to the numbers in post and how they were displayed.

Home details totalled 54, including 30 men of lower medical category and 14 Immatures.

30th January 1944

The night training had now come to an end. The Battalion was now preparing for Exercise “SWOP”. This Battalion is exchanging locations with 6th Battalion of the Green Howards of 69 Infantry Brigade (the War Diary mistakenly has 67 Brigade). That Battalion was, at the time, in the THETFORD area.

The Advance party left at 12:30 hours. The Operation Instructions and the Movement Order were attached to the Battalion War Diary as Appendix A (these could not be found in the War Diary files as attachments to either the Battalion or the Brigade War Diaries, but sufficient examples of similar Orders and Instructions have been documented for readers to have a reasonable idea of what the contents would have been).

Lt Ellis, Lt Davey and Lt Gregg all reported for duty with the Battalion from Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery.

31st January 1944

The day was spent in preparations for the move to THETFORD.

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