11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary December 1941

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1st December 1941 Reykjavik

A further leave party left for the UK.

Lieut.Col. R.F. Ware M.C. left the Battalion to take up the post of G.S.O.1 at Northern Command. Major Murray-Shireff assumed command of the Battalion.

Lieuts Keymer and Cantley returned to No 4 Infantry Training Centre at Brancepeth.

4th December 1941

The first liaison visits took place by members of the United States Army to the Battalion Defensive Area.

6th December 1941

A 3” Mortar practice shoot took place at Kleifervatn.

10th December 1941

Orders were issued for the Battalion to return to the UK. These were summarised on Appendix A – a copy of which was filed with the War Diary – for details see below.

11th December 1941

Flight Lieutenant Holtby, RAF, completed the twelfth and last of his series of lectures on aircraft recognition.

12th December 1941

The Battalion’s heavy baggage was loaded at Hafnafjordur on to S.S. BOLSTA.

14th December 1941

The Battalion was expected to embark.

The Advance Party of the U.S. Army arrived and the Battalion was visited by Major-General Bonesteele.

17th December 1941

The Battalion Advance Party embarked on S.S. SOBIESKI at Reykjavik.

18th December 1941

At 09:20 hours tactical “hand-over” of the Battalion’s positions took place with 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Brigade (Regiment), U.S. Army. This is described on Appendix B – a copy of which was filed with the War Diary – for details, see below.

At 23:00 hours the remainder of the battalion embarked on S.S. SOBIESKI.

19th December 1941 S.S. SOBIESKI.

Loading of the remaining baggage was completed.

Captain Johnstone, Lieuts Rowell and Newport remained behind in order to attend the 2nd Winter Warfare Course (probably at AKUREYRI).

Four Other Ranks remained behind as they were in-patients at 30th General Hospital.

20th December 1941

Sailed from Reykjavik at 03:00 hours.

At 16:00 hours the ship passed the WESTERMANN ISLES.

90% of the Battalion’s personnel were down with sea-sickness.

22nd December 1941

At 16:30 hours the Hebrides were sighted, and the ship arrived in the Clyde after a rough crossing.

23rd December 1941

At 19:30 hours the Battalion disembarked and entrained at midnight.

24th December 1941 Pembroke Dock

At 22:00 hours the Battalion arrived at LLANION BARRACKS, Pembroke Dock.

25th December 1941

A strange Christmas Day. The troops were supplied with a good Christmas dinner, served, as tradition demanded, by the Officers and NCO’s.

26th December 1941

The Battalion were visited by the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Philip Kirkup D.S.O., M.C.

28th December 1941

The first Church Parade was held at Pembroke Dock.

31st December 1941

Four hundred men of the Battalion departed on leave for 14 days disembarkation leave.

Appendices attached to the December 1941 War Diary.

Appendix A – Movement Instruction – issued 10th December 1941.

This detailed appendix set out the arrangements and timings for the embarkation of the Battalion, including the provision of loading parties and details of the timings and locations of the baggage handling. The whole process was organised to take place over three days – starting on “X” Day, when that date was eventually decided.

Arrangements were made for guarding baggage at the various stages of embarkation – weapons, 1st line ammunition and G1098 stores were loaded at the latest stage. Troops were expected to be able to be embarked at the rate of 300 per hour.

Once loading was completed the remaining transport was to be driven to HALOGOLAND Camp, from where the drivers would be taken for embarkation at the quay.

Appendix B – Operation Instruction No 9 – issued 10th December 1941.

This appendix deals with the arrangements for the relief of the Battalion by 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army.

Companies would host the Advance Party of Americans, of approximately 4 men per Company of the American Forces.

By the time the first echelon of the relieving troops arrived at each of the 11th DLI Camps, at around 07:00 hours, all DLI kit and equipment was to have been stacked in one hut, ready for collection and transport to the quay.

Battle positions were to be manned by 09:00 hours. Guides were to be left to see that incoming units reached the correct positions, which they were to take over at 09:20 hours, or as soon thereafter as weather and visibility conditions permitted. Once the hand-over was completed the DLI troops would proceed to the quay as detailed in the Appendix A timetables.

The relief was to be carried out on a fully tactical basis, with all defensive posts manned at no less than 50% strength. The hand-over would be on an operational basis and each Post Commander was to brief his relief thoroughly on:-

The task of the Post and the fixed lines of fire for the Light Machine Guns.

The location and task of neighbouring Posts.

The location of Platoon and Company HQs.

The location and tasks of neighbouring supporting arms.

The task of the local mobile reserve.

All Camps were to be left in a clean and tidy state with no litter or salvage of any kind left lying in the Camp areas. All Camps were to report completion of their relief to Battalion HQ and send in handing-over certification.

Arrangements were to be made for the parking and turning of the transport of the incoming units.

The relieving U.S. troops were to be fully supplied with tactical, topographical and other information related to their new operational role.

All maps were to be returned to the Intelligence Officer by 11th December, while Operation Orders, Passive Air Defence Schemes and Defence Schemes were to be handed over, on signature, to the relieving forces.

As mentioned earlier, many of the stores and munitions were regarded as “trench stores” for the incoming forces. These included anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, Molotov bombs, surplus Signals stores, reserve wiring and defence stores.

Arrangements were set down for closing the local financial accounts and exchanging stocks of Icelandic kroner.

Those men going on Courses in Iceland were to assist in the tactical hand-over and then form the Battalion Rear Party, including CSM Mawson A Company, Cpl Handy B Company, Sgt Hutchinson C Company, Lance Sergeant Roberts D Company and Lance Sergeant Shotton of HQ Company, under the command of Captain Johnstone. This group would be accommodated by 10th DLI after the hand-over.

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