10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, War Diary May 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.

Thetford 1st May 1944

The Battalion carried out a night river crossing at reference 76/4199. The object was to practise the Battalion in crossing a river on a two Company front, and passing Carriers and Anti-Tank Guns on to the objective. A Company – in reserve – were used to carry the Anti-Tank Raft Mark 2 to the river, and also to provide covering firepower. Full scale ammunition was carried. The 3” Mortars were man-handled. Two crossing points, each with three Mark 3 Assault Boats were used to ferry the personnel.

Sniper and Intelligence personnel acted as enemy and were “logging” all movement seen from their Observations Posts.

4th May 1944

There was an administrative inspection by the Brigade Commander. Personnel of the Battalion were inspected in Battle Order during the morning and Company, Platoon and Men’s’ kit inspected in the afternoon. The Brigade staff inspected all accounts and office administration.

6th May 1944

Battalion Administrative Order No 3 was issued on 6th May. This contained the detailed instructions for the work on vehicles, covering waterproofing, markings, recovery of "crocks" and the arrangements for getting to the marshalling area.

The Field Returns were completed and submitted as at 6th May. A significant change had taken place in the Officer strength in that the War Establishment had been reduced back to a level of 36 - and there were no vacancies or surpluses. Of the earlier total of 43 Officers, six had been posted to Reinforcement Units - namely Lts Gregory, Holt, Johnston, Seggie, Seymour and Swannell. Captain Reverend W. Coupe was attached to the Battalion as Chaplain on 31st January 1944 and this was now recorded on the Return for the first time. Chaplains were included on the Brigade HQ Field Returns but shown as attached to units.

The Other Ranks return showed a strength of 876 as against the establishment which was back down to 809. It does appear as if there were several changes over these weeks in how numbers of first-line reinforcements and Home Details were accounted for. There continued to be a substantial list of men whose return to the Battalion was being sought. The HOme Details were reduced to only 9 in number, while 29 men were held deliberately surplus to establishment.

8th May 1944

The Battalion’s Mortar Platoon demonstrated short-range firing without the use of secondary charges. The Platoon Commander then explained to all Officers and NCOs the means of locating enemy mortars by the examination of bomb craters.

9th May 1944

Battalion Exercise “LOLO” took place. The Battalion was at full War Establishment in vehicles and personnel. The objects were; to practise the Battalion in moving to a concentration area under special conditions, practise the Advance Party in their duties, practise the operational loading of vehicles, practise loading Vehicle Party personnel, practise Troop Carrying with Main Body vehicles, to consider final adjustments to Loading Tables and the composition of the various Parties of personnel.

It was found that the personnel of the Battalion could be carried on vehicles for short distances.

After the exercise, the final Loading Tables were issued in Battalion Administrative Order Number 2. This was a most extensive document - detailing the loads of effectively every one of the vehicles in the Battalion - some 91 in all. This also gave a good indication of the strength of certain specialist sections of the Battalion as they were allocated as passengers to the various trucks and lorries. It would be possible to lay out a diagram of the contents of each of these vehicles as the documentation brings home the plethora of equipment, clothing, kit, weapons and ammunition carried in the Battalion's transport. It also shows the extent to which spares and stocks of uniform, for example, were carried as a matter of routine when the vehicles were fully loaded for War. Jeeps were carried in the body of ration trucks, and cycles and motorcycles carried in various vehicles, rather than being ridden. It must be recalled that this was in preparation for an assault landing.

10th May 1944

Battalion Administrative Order Number 4 was issued on 10th May. This dealt with the composition of the various parties of men and their allocation amongst the battalion's transport as part of the move overseas. The Vehicle Party totalled 8 Officers and 218 Other Ranks. A separate Appendix covered the "Increment" vehicles. The Order helpfully identified several of the drivers and passengers - allowing checks to be run against the names database. It was also noted that Loyd Carriers were employed as gun-towers for the Anti-Tank Platoon.

Battalion Operational Instruction Number 1 was issued - dealing with the business of getting the Battalion overseas - including shipboard behaviour and the process of de-waterproofing.

13th May 1944

Divisional Exercise “SHISHAH” was held – details of which can be found in the Brigade HQ War Diary.

The objects of the exercise, included within the War Diary as Appendix C, were to; practise the move forward of the Division from the Marshalling Area where Craft Parties were formed, thence forward overseas and re-concentration prior to advance to contact, and to practise the advance to contact.

The 2 i/c, with the Advance Party, had left THETFORD on 12th May. The Battalion, embussed, with vehicles loaded for the sea voyage, reached the Marshalling Area at 15:30 hours, to join the 70th Infantry Brigade Group at the West of SWAFFAM.

After shell scrapes were dug, the Companies amused themselves with football tournaments and camp-fire concerts.

14th May 1944

70th Infantry Brigade Group moved in jumbled order to JIG and KING beaches where landing tickets were handed to a Sector Control representative on the exercise by the Divisional Provost staff. Craft loads of vehicles embarked at KING beach and personnel at both KING and JIG beaches.

Routes from the disembarkation beaches to the concentration areas had been taped and the Battalion was all present at 12:00 hours, East of GOODSERSTONE, reference 66/2320.

The move from the Marshalling Area to the Concentration area was orderly and simple, and in action will clearly not be the same.

15th May 1944

At 09:00 hours the Battalion moved out of the concentration area behind 1st Tyneside Scottish, who were in the vanguard. The enemy had cratered the road at CROXTON 3205 which delayed the advance, and in the evening the Brigade Group took up position East of THETFORD, sending out patrols to the River LITTLE OUSE.

147 Brigade were on our left and 146 Brigade were in reserve. 147th and 70th Brigades had advanced on different axes and minor adjustments had to be made to the front in the evening. Two reconnaissance patrols sent out from C Company down to the LITTLE OUSE failed to make contact with the enemy.

16th May 1944

11th battalion DLI were sent South of THETFORD to take a lightly held enemy position and reported their objective clear at 10:00 hours. The exercise concluded at mid-day and the Battalion marched back to Camp.

17th May 1944

Battalion Administrative Order Number 5 was issued as Appendix G to the War Diary. This dealt with the process of moving the Battalion from the Marshalling Area to the Concentration Area.

18th May 1944

A general “let-up” on training was ordered and the Rifle Companies each spent three days camping. Recently joined Platoon Commanders were able to live out with their men and the non-tactical setting was a chance for Companies to organise recreational P.T.

20th May 1944

The Battalion's Anti-Tank Platoon left for the Marshalling Area reference 98/4438.

22nd May 1944

The Battalion held a sand model exercise, “Village Fighting”, for all Officers. The role of Tanks in street-fighting was discussed and also the equipment required by a Rifle Company for such an operation.

23rd May 1944

The first stages of the waterproofing of vehicles began today.

27th May 1944

The “Increment” vehicles left for the Marshalling Area today.

28th May 1944

The Divisional Commander addressed the 70th Infantry Brigade Group this morning. He spoke of the reputation of the Division and reviewed its history since he had taken command just a year ago.

29th May 1944

The Commanding Officer addressed all Companies and passed a message on from General Montgomery, who had confidently prophesied the end of the campaign against Germany by Christmas 1944.

30th May 1944

The Battalion carried out a 14 mile route march in full Battle Order and carrying the full scale of ammunition.

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