11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary July 1940
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.
1st July 1940
Captain Shipley was appointed Training Officer and the training of Officers and NCOs started.
Tavistock 2nd July 1940
70th Infantry Brigade was ordered to carry out a reconnaissance of possible enemy landing points in the area of HOPE’S NOSE – STOKE POINT. This reconnaissance was carried out by Lt.Col. Ware, and the Intelligence Officer – Lt. R.A. Westray - by car.
A note was circulated to Company Commanders of the Evening Classes to be held that evening – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary.
A note was prepared on Field Training and a copy attached to the War Diary. (For details see below).
Amendment No.1 to Brigade Operation Instruction No.1 was issued and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix A. (For details see below). At present, no copy of Brigade Operation Instruction No. 1 itself has yet been traced.
3rd July 1940
A further reconnaissance was carried out by Lt. Col. Ware.
4th July 1940
The following promotions were forwarded :-
2/Lt. C.D. Hamilton to be Acting Captain and to take up the post of Adjutant.
2/Lt. C.A. Smallwood to be Acting Captain.
A survey was carried out with the purpose of extending the Camp area.
A note was circulated to Company Commanders of the Evening Classes to be held that evening – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary.
5th July 1940
A note was circulated to Company Commanders of the Evening Classes to be held that evening – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary.
6th July 1940
At 03:00 hours a message was received from Brigade HQ ordering the Battalion to be at readiness to move.
At 08:00 hours Lt. Col. Ware reported to Brigade HQ for orders and 11th DLI were ordered to take up positions from PAIGNTON to START POINT immediately.
Major McCoy reported from 10th DLI and took over command of A Company.
At 13:00 hours Company Commanders left by car for their Company areas as follows:-
A Company – PAIGNTON.
B Company – TORCROSS.
C Company – SLAPTON.
D Company – STRETE.
Battalion HQ and HQ Company – STANBOROUGH BRAKE area.
At 17:10 hours the Main Body of the Battalion left TAVISTOCK by train via PAIGNTON to KINGSWEAR.
At 21:00 hours A Company arrived at PAIGNTON, BROAD SANDS and GOODRINGTON.
At 23:00 hours the Battalion arrived at KINGSWEAR and proceeded to the allotted Company areas by march route.
Battalion HQ opened at STANBOROUGH HOUSE, HALWELL, 70th Infantry Brigade at TOTNES, 1st Tyneside Scottish at MODBURY and 10th DLI at BISHOP STEINTON.
An Advanced Battalion HQ was established alongside C Company at SLAPTON.
7th July 1940
A start was made on the defences. Some positions were taken over from 8th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, who proceeded to FALMOUTH.
At 17:00 hours a C.Os. Operation Conference was called for Company Commanders at SLAPTON – the details issued then being confirmed by an Operation Order on July 8th. In addition, an appreciation of the situation had already been prepared, at the request of the Brigade HQ, together with a plan for the conduct of the defences – this was attached to the War Diary as Appendix A. (For details see below).
8th July 1940
The General Staff of Southern Command reported enemy preparations for the use of corrosive acid and gas spray. All ranks were informed.
The C.O. toured Company areas and sited Platoon Bren Guns. A Company detached one Platoon to KINGSWEAR.
A Battalion Operation Order Number 1 was issued and a copy was attached to the War Diary as Appendix B. (For details see below).
9th July 1940
2/Lt Westray and fourteen Other Ranks were selected to join the Corps of Military Police’s Road Traffic Control Company No 50 at WARMINSTER.
The following Officers reported to the Battalion on commissioning from the DLI Infantry Training Centre, BRANCEPETH and reported to Companies as shown:-
2/Lt J.A. Cantley
2/Lt V.B. Murray
Lt. T. Cairns
2/Lt T.B. Walker
2/Lt A. Whittaker
2/Lt D.M. Grant
2/Lt G.M. Dunnell
2/Lt J.A. Bruce
2/Lt A.F. Munford
11th July 1940
An amendment to Operation Order No. 1 was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix D. (For details see below).
An addendum to Operation Order No. 1 was issued and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix E. (For details see below).
12th July 1940
Major J.F.M. Sumner reported from the General Staff, Southern Command and assumed command of D Company.
Extensive mining of all posts was started.
Six hour passes began to be made available to 15% of the Battalion. This was covered in a note, a copy of which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix C, dated 11th July.
A start was made on the building of road blocks.
An amendment to Operation Order No. 1 was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix F. (For details see below).
A note regarding the Exercise to be held on 14th July was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix G. (For details see below).
A paper on the forming of a Battle HQ was prepared and attached to the War Diary as Appendix M, together with Administrative Order No. 2 on moving to the Battle HQ. (For details see below).
13th July 1940
70th Infantry Brigade reported a German aircraft bearing the Red Cross flying near the British coast and near convoys.
14th July 1940
Southern Command ordered the Battalion to report any statements and advertisements of value to the enemy in newspapers.
Exercises took place with Local Defence Volunteers at STRETE and TORCROSS. (For details see below).
15th July 1940
Naval patrol boats were seen in the English Channel.
Arrangements were completed with the Royal Navy at DARTMOUTH for inter-Service signals by torch with the Navy and with navy and yellow flags with RAF ‘planes.
Wiring of the beach started at TORCROSS.
The C.O. issued notes on the conduct of a defensive battle to all Officers – a copy is attached to the War Diary as Appendix I. (For details see below).
A report was made to Brigade on the inadequacy of the communication arrangements for a twenty-mile front. Immediate action was promised by the South West Area Signals Officer. A copy of the report is attached to the War Diary as Appendix H. (For details see below).
At 15:00 hours a 70th Brigade Manning Exercise started. HQ Company turned out as a parachute patrol in the STANBOROUGH area.
At midnight, the Mobile Reserve from DENBURY – 50 men from the Devonshire Regiment (or possibly the 50th Battalion of the Regiment – the entry in the Diary is unclear) – moved to FROGMORE. A situation developed on the right flank of B Company. The Exercise is described in Appendix J, attached to the War Diary. (For details see below).
16th July 1940
At 06:00 hours D 4 Naval Battery arrived at STOKENHAM and were inspected by Brigadier Kirkup.
Exercise “stand down” was ordered.
Lt. R.B. Humphreys, 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry, joined from 169 OCTU and was posted to A Company.
Halwell 17th July 1940
Anti-Tank obstacles were completed on the beach at STRETE.
5th Corps reported the use of drawing pins in telegraph poles within Camp areas as directions to the enemy. The Battalion was informed.
Section Posts were completed at STOKENHAM and STRETE. One Pillbox was completed at SLAPTON. The erection of anti-aircraft pylons on the TORCROSS – STRETE road commenced. This consisted of concrete piping, of two feet diameter and fourteen feet high, at about 5 yard intervals.
Orders were issued to the Mobile Reserve.
19th July 1940
At 03:00 hours a draft of 97 NCOs and Other Ranks arrived from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers at FENHAM. The men were poorly equipped.
Later in the morning the draft was distributed between Companies.
At 23:00 hours 70th Infantry Brigade informed the Battalion that the Navy had reported enemy E-Boats in the Channel off PORTLAND. A 66% stand-to was ordered.
A further amendment to Operation Order No. 1 was issued and a copy attached to the War Diary. (For details see below).
20th July 1940
The TORCROSS – STRETE road was closed between 22:00 hours and 05:00 hours each day.
BEESANDS and HALLSANDS became part of the Battalion front. No.2 Stevedore Battalion, Royal Engineers was attached to the Battalion, for the purpose of occupying these beaches.
An Operation Instruction was issued to the Stevedore Battalion, and a copy attached to the War Diary – though it was not given the status of an Appendix (although it clearly links to content of the C.Os. letter to Brigade HQ on the Stevedore Battalion – No.6 Company – attached as Appendix L) – which set out in detail the manner in which they were to carry out their responsibilities for defending the allotted area and the patrolling of the beaches, in co-operation with the L.D.V.
The Battalion Commander’s analysis of the threat determined that the Radio Station was the only important feature in this area. Details of how the Posts were to be occupied were spelled out, as well as the importance of patrolling the beach areas.
21st July 1940
The Section Posts at SLAPTON and HALWELL were completed.
The Royal Corps of Signals from GHQ established a Western Wireless Telegraphy security radio station at BEESANDS. Lt. Ward, Royal Corps of Signals, and twelve Other Ranks were attached to 11th Battalion DLI.
Slapton, Devon 22nd July 1940
Battalion HQ moved from HALWELL to SLAPTON SCHOOL. The C.O., Adjutant, Intelligence Officer, Signals Officer and Orderly Room personnel formed the Advanced Battalion HQ at the School – the rear HQ remained at STANBOROUGH HOUSE. A telephone was to be installed.
23rd July 1940
A visit took place by the G.O.C. Southern Command, Lt. Gen. Auchinleck, and the G.O.C. South Western Area, Major-General Allfrey. They visited the Battalion positions at TORCROSS at 09:30 hours and STRETE at 10:30 hours.
A note covering the area of responsibility of No. 2 Stevedore Battalion was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix L. (For details see below).
A note was issued within the Battalion on Weapon Training Courses, and a copy was filed with the War Diary. (For details see below).
25th July 1940
The Signals Officer started the erection of a Field Telephone Exchange at Battalion HQ.
Three Vickers Medium Machine Guns arrived, one for each of the forward Companies at TORCROSS, SLAPTON and STRETE.
26th July 1940
A further amendment to Operation Order No.1 was issued – a list of telephone numbers – and attached to the War Diary as Appendix N.
An Operation Instruction was issued on the prevention of enemy aircraft landing – and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix O. (For details see below).
27th July 1940
TORCROSS, SLAPTON and STRETE positions were connected by telephone with Battalion HQ. Orders were issued regarding the scales of occupation of positions and the prevention of enemy aircraft landing.
28th July 1940
Code Words were issued – South Devon Sub-Area became RURU and 11th DLI became WIZE. At the same time a note was issued on the re-organisation of the South Western Area and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix P. This was a crucial document in the history of 70th Infantry Brigade and it is surprising that no copy was found in the Brigade HQ War Diary file. (For details see below).
Training Memorandum No. 1 was issued to Companies and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix R. (For details see below).
29th July 1940
A South Group was formed at TOTNES for the purpose of operational control – covering the Docks Group at TORQUAY, 11th DLI at SLAPTON and 1st Tyneside Scottish at MODBURY. The Commander was Lt Col R.F.Ware M.C. and the Staff Officer was Lt R.B. Humphreys. Major Taylor took over temporary command of 11th DLI at SLAPTON SCHOOL.
31st July 1940
No 2 Stevedore Battalion Royal Engineers left BEESANDS for PAIGNTON. The beach was to be patrolled at night by HQ Company, who took over the task from the Royal Engineers.
The Battalion Signals Officer established wireless contact with Sector HQ at TOTNES.
A note was issued on the relief of Macforce – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix Q. (For details see below).
Halwell July 1940
At the end of July the following information was known of the Officers missing from the Battalion during the B.E.F. Campaign in France and Flanders:-
In hospital as a result of wounds in action:-
Captain C.G. Winter
Captain J. Welford
Prisoners of War:-
Lt. Col. J. Bramwell T.D.
Major C.H.R. Gee M.C. Second-in-command.
Captain F.R.M. Martin. D Company.
Captain D. Blackett. C Company
2/Lt. A. Husband. Intelligence Officer and later D Company.
2/Lt. G.E.Wood. Transport Officer.
2/Lt. J.A. Rodgers.
2.Lt. M.A. Kidd.
2/Lt. V.A. Prestidge.
Missing (all subsequently confirmed as having been Killed in Action):-
2/Lt. E.H. Harrison
2/Lt. I. Morrison.
2/Lt. E. Moscrop.
Two hundred and thirty-four men were reported missing, all but twelve being Prisoners of War. The main casualties were in D Company.
During the campaign in France and Flanders the Battalion lost a total of 26 men killed, who are either buried or commemorated there, while one other man died later in 1940 as a PoW from illness. Work is ongoing to identify all those who became Prisoners of War during that period. Details of the men concerned can be found on the database of names from the Battalion.
Appendices attached to the July 1940 War Diary
Appendix A – Amendment No. 1 to Brigade Operation Instruction No.1 – dated 2nd July 1940.
As explained above, the Brigade Operation Instruction No.1 itself has not yet come to light.
The object of this amendment was to provide a plan for operating against enemy landings within the area HOPES NOSE Y38 to STOKE POINT X96.
The paper set out the assumptions made about the likely thrust of any enemy attack into South Devon and concluded that the greatest area of danger lay in the threat of an attack aimed at capturing PLYMOUTH.
The topography of the area was described in considerable detail, dwelling in particular on the presence of rivers and narrow steep valleys as an aid to defence. Comment was made about the state of the local rods, perhaps with a view to their possibilities as a route for armoured penetration.
High ground was identified and earmarked for possible defence positions. The beaches had not been surveyed in detail but opinions were offered as to the most likely route for landings by the enemy. It was concluded that START BAY presented the greatest threat.
Doubt was expressed about the possibility of landing aircraft in the area and the difficulties of the countryside were though to militate against significant parachute landings.
The likely slowness of communications featured in the analysis and the time it would take to assemble a sizeable defence force. The assumption was made that enemy penetration to a depth of two or three miles might well have been achieved before such a force had been collected.
It was recommended that certain petrol stations should be earmarked for military use and fuel stockpiled accordingly.
The L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers – subsequently The Home Guard) were seen as valuable sources of local information and it was suggested that report centres should be established at key points for the transmission of information.
Control of civilian traffic was deemed necessary to avoid road congestion hampering troop movement – a factor which the Battalion had seen at work in profusion in France and Belgium.
The paper concluded that three operations were likely to be necessary:-
A main operation against START BAY after initial assembly in the area of SOUTH BRENT and an advance South of HALWELL.
A separate operation against TORBAY.
A third operation against BIGBURY BAY.
Each of the latter operations was expected to require at least a Battalion, if the enemy landed in any strength.
A Plan was attached to the paper proposing the movements to be made in the event of an attack in the area but also recommending that Observation Posts, Information Report Centres and Headquarters should be established as soon as possible. An Advance Mobile Battalion HQ was envisaged.
Locations were identified and listed. Routes and alternatives were also identified. The high ground to be occupied quickly was spelled out.
Artillery support was expected to be focussed on the START BAY area. A collecting point for Ambulances was identified.
Appendix B – Battalion Operation Order No. 1 – dated 8th July 1940.
This document describes the defensive position taken by the troops of 70th Infantry Brigade and the units acting in support, including Local Defence Volunteers, Coastguard, Royal Engineers, Naval gunnery parties and fixed defences and the Reserve from 48th Division, and a Brigade Reserve of two Companies of the Devonshire Regiment, based at DENBURY.
The paper set out the locations to be defended and the allocation of the various areas to the Brigade’s units. Inter-unit boundaries were specified.
The “Danger Points” for the 11th Battalion were listed as TOR CROSS, SLAPTON SANDS, HIGHER LEY and the beach under the cliff at MANOR HOUSE.
The paper set out the role of the Observation Posts and their locations, including the School at reference 244676.
The tasks to be carried out as a priority were listed as:-
Digging weapon pits and LMG posts, making camouflage arrangements to cover activity.
Improving fields of fire.
Constructing Command Posts.
Digging Slit Trenches near Billets.
Preparing alternative positions.
Arrangements were made to provide road blocks at night, with all vehicles being stopped and checked. Plans were to be made for anti-tank obstacles.
The degree to which posts would be manned and the number of men required at stand-to were set out. All Platoons were to mount Anti-Aircraft Bren Guns during the day, and were to take turns in occupying the various posts. Liaison was to maintained with the Local Defence Volunteers.
Administration arrangements for rations, ammunition, medical services and stores were covered.
The Appendix to the paper set out telephone numbers, Code Word callsigns, arrangements for inter-Company communications and security considerations.
Appendix C – issued 11th July – Six-day passes.
This spelled out the arrangements for making passes available.
Appendix D – amendment to Operation Order No. 1 – Wiring of Posts.
The paper gave instructions that Posts were to be wired for all-round defence, following natural defences as much as possible and making good use of hedges etc so as to conceal the wire.
B and D Companies were instructed to wire the trenches along the front held by the Posts – joining up to natural obstacles wherever possible.
Cliffs in the D Company area were to be wired half-way up the entries.
Priorities were set out for the sequence in which tasks were to be tackled, and arrangements were to be made for the Posts to be covered by fire from rifles, automatics and grenades, wherever possible.
Stand-to timings were set as at 21:50 to 23:05 hours and 03:45 to 04:45 hours each day.
Isolated boats were not to be fired on unless they clearly contained enemy – they should be checked by a small armed party, covered by an LMG ready to fire if necessary.
Appendix E – issued 11th July 1940 – Beach Patrols - (amendment to Operation Order No.1).
This document specified that a Beach Patrol should consist of an NCO and four men, each with a loaded rifle and 20 rounds, and with bayonet fixed.
The Patrol areas were split into three – one for each of B, C and D Companies – and the timetable was to be from 23:00 hours to 03:00 hours each night. Times were varied on different days of the week so as to ensure overall cover.
The patrols were to:-
Observe for signals of distress, or from Naval Coastal Patrols.
Watch for signs of vessels approaching the shore – and alert colleagues by means of Verey lights. Those Posts seeing such a light were to inform HQ immediately. This would also be the signal for all Posts to be manned 100%.
Deal with any suspicious movement of persons on the beach, pending the establishment of a curfew.
Search in the neighbourhood of houses along the beach as necessary.
Patrols were expected to move in tactical formation with periodical halts for listening.
Further Patrols beyond those identified would be organised from time to time by the Intelligence Officer.
Appendix F – issued 12th July 1940 – Road Blocks (amendment to Operation Order No.1).
In the absence of guidance from higher authority, the Battalion Commander drafted this note on his Battalion’s responsibilities as regards the manning and operation of road blocks.
Arrangements were made for clear passage to be afforded to the guns of the Naval mobile battery D 4, who were a key part of the defence arrangements. The area to be regarded as “closed” was clearly specified.
Once blocks were in position, the relevant troops were to cover them by fire from concealed positions, including the siting of anti-tank rifles in certain locations.
Appendix G – Exercise with Local Defence Volunteers.
This paper described the outline arrangements for an Exercise to be held by the battalion in conjunction with the L.D.V.
It was timed to take place on a Sunday afternoon between 14:00 and 17:00 hours. 2/Lieutenants Munford, Nicholson, Dyson and Wait were tasked to act as Umpires with the units of the L.D.V. and the Exercise required the Companies of the Battalion to be available to take up full defensive measures as for a real emergency. The Battle HQ for the Exercise was to be at SLAPTON and the involvement of the Naval Battery D 4 was also noted.
With reference to the preceding Appendix, the Exercise required the road blocks at STRETE GATE and TORCROSS to be closed.
Appendix H – undated but probably produced on 15th July 1940 – Communication Systems.
This document appears to be a one-page report by the Battalion Commander of 11th DLI, describing the difficulties the unit was experiencing with regard to telephone installation at its various posts – some of which were several miles from existing lines – suggestions for overcoming the need for cable-laying, non-working W/T sets and a scarcity of roadworthy motorcycles for his Despatch Riders. Forward Companies were using flags for signalling during the day, and lamps at night.
Appendix I – issued to Officers of the Battalion 15th July 1940 – Notes on the conduct of a defensive battle.
This document was, again, produced by the Battalion Commander for the use of each of his Officers and consists of his thoughts on what form an enemy attack on the UK would take, with reference to the Brigade location in South Devon.
The several pages contained exhortations as to how to deal with every conceivable enemy threat, focussing on the need to keep calm and shoot straight, while remaining cheerful and confident.
Appendix J – issued 15th July 1940 – Instructions for a 70th Infantry Brigade Manning Exercise.
This is a two page set of instructions, with a covering letter addressed to the units involved, including 50th Devons, 2nd Stevedore Battalion, the Mobile Naval Battery and Macforce, as well as the Brigade’s Infantry Battalions.
The objectives of the Exercise were to test out:-
Tactical and administrative arrangements.
Movement of Reserves.
The Exercise opened at 14:00 hours with a warning of an impending enemy attack. This was then followed after several hours by “parachute situations” in order to test local reserves, mobilising Carriers and transmitting information between Platoons and Companies.
Each unit was given a ring contour on which to base themselves and Umpires were required to keep notes of the action taken by each unit as the exercise messages were received.
At 21:00 hours Lt. Cdr. Daintree of the Naval Mobile Battery originated an exercise message indicating that enemy ships had been seen leaving a French post and headed for the Devon coast.
At 23:00 hours the various Umpires originated exercise messages describing raids on the coastal towns – these were not intended to trigger military action but to test communications upwards through the command chain.
At midnight, exercise messages describing landings taking place were originated from the Forward Defence Line locations by the Umpires.
At 02:30 hours Macforce released an exercise message describing the over-running of some forward positions by the enemy, leading to the Battalion ordering reserves into position. Similar messages from 1st Tyneside Scottish were intended to lead to the same kind of deployment, with as big a part of the troops available being made mobile as possible.
The task for the units was to get reserves as quickly as possible to the areas being attacked and to contain the incursions – thus stressing the vital importance of sound communications in appreciating what was happening and how it was to be dealt with.
Appendix L – issued 23rd July 1940 – The Operations of the Stevedore Battalion, No. 6 Company.
These Royal Engineers had been attached to the Brigade and were, by means of this document, a note to Brigade HQ, informed of the area of responsibility they were allocated and the action to be taken.
The area they were to cover was bounded by their boundary with B Company , including the unit billet at SUNNYDALE Point 189 2362, with a Southern boundary at HALL SANDS, including the high ground at the Cross Roads 237599, and a rear boundary of the road, from the Cross Roads to Point 189.
The detachment had not been issued with any automatic weapons, but would be co-operating with an L.D.V. detachment manning a Machine Gun, based in a Pillbox currently under construction. The detachment was controlled from the HQ of 11th DLI and had its own telephone number. See also the notes above on the Instruction issued to the Stevedore Battalion itself.
Appendix K – issued 19th July 1940 – Amendments to Operation Order No. 1 – Degree of Occupation and Action against Parachutists.
As regards manning of posts, forward Platoon Posts were expected to be manned at 20 – 25%. Reserve Platoon Posts would be unmanned except for normal Observation Posts. Stand-to was to be timed a quarter of an hour earlier for the Reserve Platoon in view of their role against parachutists.
In respect of Action against Parachutists the intention was to form a small Mobile Column of one Officer, one Despatch Rider, twenty-five riflemen and two Carrier crews, equipped with two Carriers, a motorcycle, a car and a lorry.
The Column would always stand-to, available for instant deployment, from half an hour before stand-to to stand down at dusk and during the normal stand-to hours at dawn.
The forward Companies would ensure that they always had a Section-sized Patrol available to move at a moment’s notice during the dusk and dawn stand-to hours plus for a quarter of an hour before the dusk stand-to. Company Commanders should be ready to send out a Despatch Rider and a car as a Mobile Patrol for the purpose of gathering information.
Reports of parachute descents should include time of descent and the area involved. Subsequent reports should include information on the movement direction of enemy troops and should be immediately forwarded to Rear Headquarters.
Appendix M – issued 12th July 1940 – Battle HQ, together with Administrative Order No. 2 – Moving to the Battle HQ.
The first document set out the intention of forming a Battle HQ for the Battalion, and specified the staff to be included therein, once it was finally set up.
These were as follows:-
Signal Section – Despatch Riders and W/T Operators as detailed by the Signals Officer.
Anti-Aircraft – one Section of the Platoon with the Platoon Sergeant.
Defence duties – the Defence Platoon.
Clerks – one Sergeant and two Other Ranks.
Mess staff – one Cook and one Waiter.
Sanitation – one Orderly.
Cooks – one Cook.
Medical – Medical Officer and his staff.
Regimental Police – one Sergenat and two Other Ranks.
Pioneers – one NCO and one Other Rank.
Intelligence Officer and the whole Intelligence Section.
This would give an approximate strength of 50 men overall.
In establishing the Battle HQ the Battalion Second-in-Command would arrange to send the above staff by means of any available transport in the priority sequence of communications staff, defence staff and then administrative staff.
The expectation was that at least two hours warning would be given of any emergency requiring the Battle HQ to be established. It was also assumed that the civil telephone system would have collapsed and that therefore alternative means of communication would have to be used.
Arrangements had been made for the Naval Officer in Charge at Dartmouth, to whom landing reports would be made, to be in wireless contact with the Brigade’s Battalions from 13th July 1940.
Despatch Riders were seen as key communications personnel and needed to be familiar with the whole Battalion area.
A rear HQ formed from the remainder of HQ Company, QM stores and the ammunition reserve would stay at HALWELL, around which strong points were being constructed. Companies would hold the maximum ammunition reserve possible.
The associated Administrative Order No. 2, dated 22nd July 1940, set out the details of the move from STANBOROUGH HOUSE, HALWELL to SLAPTON SCHOOL Map reference 244675 on 22nd July. This was a test of the planned arrangements.
The Instructions covered; the support staff who would accompany the party, the signals and communication arrangements, postal services, billets and tentage, accommodation stores at POOL FARM, anti-aircraft defence, rations, pay and transport – which would take care not to create “tracks” to the Battle HQ but proceed no closer than the road junction 150 yards away.
Appendix O – dated 26th July 1940 – Preventative Works against enemy Air-Landing Activities.
The Battalion Commander prepared a paper on the co-ordination needed in respect of preventing enemy forces landing by air. He was responsible as senior military Officer in the area, assisted by the Civil Defence Authorities and the Deputy Commander Royal Engineers (Major Hudson), as well as Brigadier Spencer, commander of the L.D.V. in the area.
The intention was to carry out surveys of likely landing grounds and then decide on appropriate measures to be taken, then arrange for the work to be commissioned.
The Civil Defence Committee of the Rural District Council was to direct the conduct of the surveys and then consult, through their Chairman, with Lt Col Ware, Brigadier Spencer and Major Hudson in deciding what work was required and its relative priority. The implication was that direction of the work was in the hands of DCRE, but execution would lie with the Civil Authorities.
Appendix P – issued 28 July 1940 – 70th Infantry Brigade Operation Order No. 4 – Reorganisation of the South West Area.
This important document included the major change for 70th Brigade to the status of an Independent Infantry Brigade. This was in the context of the change to the organisation of the South-Western Area which was divided into four Sub-Areas – namely:-
Brigadier Philip Kirkup of 70th Brigade was given operational command of the South Devon Sub-Area and all the troops based therein, with the exception of 48th Division.
The Order set out the boundaries of the South Devon Sub-Area in considerable detail.
In addition to the troops already under the command of 70th Brigade the following units came under command of the South Devon Sub-Area at 13:00 hours on 29th July 1940:-
53 Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Devon and Cornwall Corps Troops Royal Engineers.
5th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Rifle Corps.
23 Casualty Clearing Station, HUTTWELL COURT.
6 Casualty Clearing Station CHUDLEIGH.
5 Motor Ambulance Convoy CHUDLEIGH.
6 Motor Ambulance Convoy BOVEY TRACY.
One Platoon of 10th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, based at Exeter Airport.
16 Field Training Regiment Royal Artillery.
Infantry Training Centre, Devonshire Regiment.
Royal Marine Reserve Depot.
2nd Stevedore Battalion, Royal Engineers had amalgamated with 2nd Docks Group, Royal Engineers and had moved to PAIGNTON to re-organise, although the coastal detachments – such as No. 6 Company, remained in situ.
The operational role of the new 70th Independent Infantry Brigade, as South Devon Sub-Area, was to defend the beaches in the sector and defeat any enemy landing that was attempted.
The method of carrying out these orders was, firstly, to create a South Group HQ to control the operations of 1st Tyneside Scottish, 11th DLI, Macforce and the attached troops (2nd Docks Group, G Company 10th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, 187 Field Ambulance) – all under the command of Lt Col Ware, 11th DLI. Secondly, to bring all other units in the area, including 10th DLI, under the direct operational control of the South Devon Sub-Area HQ.
The staff of the South Devon Sub-Area was to be formed from the staff of 70th Infantry Brigade. Administrative control of all the units in the Sub-Area was to remain as at present.
The South Devon Sub-Area HQ was to be formed at HIGHFIELD HOUSE, TOTNES with effect from 12:00 hours 29th July 1940.
The two Casualty Clearing Stations and 6 Motor Ambulance Convoy came under the command of 10th DLI at 12:00 hours 29th July 1940.
Appendix Q – issued 31st July 1940 – South Devon Sub-Area Operation Order No. 1 – Relief of Macforce.
Macforce was commanded by Major C.M.L. McCoy of the 10th DLI and had been occupying defensive positions. This document described the timing and details of the reliefs being used to replace the components of Macforce. Macforce appeared to have consisted of A Company of 11th DLI and B Company of 1st Tyneside Scottish.
The relief at BRIXHAM on 2nd August 1940 meant that troops were being based there for the first time, as Macforce did not have personnel in that location. One Platoon at Paignton was being relieved by two Officers and 60 men – effectively doubling the strength of the force, and the rest of A Company of 11th DLI at GOODRINGTON and BROAD SANDS was being relieved by three Officers and 120 men – again a substantial increase. The final element saw B Company of 1st Tyneside Scottish being relieved by three Officers and 120 men – virtually an equivalent force.
A Company 11th DLI were then expected to move to BEESANDS, KINGSWEAR (one Platoon each) with the third Platoon remaining as a reserve under 11th DLI.
B Company 1st Tyneside Scottish were to come under the command of 10th DLI once the relief was completed – that is by 3rd August 1940.
The command of the Sector would move to the Officer Commanding 2nd Docks Group Royal Engineers, once the relief process was completed.
Appendix R – issued from Battalion HQ on 28th July 1940 – Training Memorandum No.1.
The Battalion Commander was reinforcing the arrangements by which regular training sessions would take place from Monday 29th July 1940 – in the context of the time spent on defensive construction work reducing and therefore becoming available for a variety of training.
The elements to be covered included Weapon Training – reinforcing elementary drills on all the Infantry weapons. On the Bren Gun the training was to concentrate on dealing with stoppages, barrel changing and quick action with the weapon, including Anti-Aircraft preparation. On the rifle, Section fire discipline was to be the focus.
A limited amount of ammunition only had been made available for live firing, thus men were expected to have been thoroughly practised and rehearsed “dry” before being given live rounds with which to practice – even then only five rounds a man were permitted. Short ranges were being constructed. Administrative instructions on Weapon Training were due to be issued shortly.
Other issues covered by the memorandum were; P.T., Anti-Gas training, Molotov and A.W. bombs, Road Blocks, Camouflage, Elementary Tactics and Embussing and Debussing drills.
In respect of Drill the C.O. made the point that much practice was needed as many of the replacements who had recently joined the Battalion were from “heavy” Infantry Regiments. Those not familiar with the differing nature of Light Infantry Drill and marching pace may not have appreciated the urgent need the Battalion would therefore have in, literally, bringing men “up to speed”.
NCO cadres were due to start on a Brigade basis shortly, aimed at reinforcing the importance of managing Sections and gaining their confidence.
Specialist troops were to train both with specialist colleagues and with their other comrades in the Company. A well-planned programme was essential for keeping men on their toes and for developing an offensive spirit. Each Company had to produce a weekly programme and submit it to Battalion HQ by 09:00 each Monday.
A further note on Weapon Training was included within the War Diary file which had originated from Brigade HQ, and on which the Training memorandum described above had been based.
Similarly, Brigade HQ had issued a note on Field Training on 2nd July – a copy of which is in the 11th Battalion War Diary file – which instructed Battalions to get on with providing such training immediately, including reconnoitring airfields and allotted training areas. TEWTs were to be carried out on RAF Landing Grounds to prepare to counter the threat of enemy air-landings. Exercises were to be planned to be carried out as surprises, so as to ascertain how long it took to get units ready to move and on the way to their tasks.
Night moves were also stressed, again to be carried out as surprises, including arranging co-operation with the L.D.V. and training patrols to carry out harassing missions in darkness.
Runners had to be used until the relevant allocation of motorcycles arrived for Despatch Riders and it was stressed that all men should have the opportunity to do this role until the most suitable men emerged from such training.
To contact the author by e-mail with any queries, or to send information - click here.