11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary June 1942

From 70 Brigade
Jump to: navigation, search

1st June 1942 HAVERFORDWEST.

A draft of 30 Other Ranks arrived from No 4 Infantry Training Centre, Brancepeth.

Captain Reverend R.N. Craig M.C. – Royal Army Chaplains Department – was attached to the Battalion in place of Captain Reverend J.J. Sheehan.

2nd June 1942

An Advance part of Royal Marines (2 Officers and 36 Other Ranks) arrived.

3rd June 1942

Lieut Col Sandars returned from leave and then assumed temporary command of the Brigade from 4th to 6th June in the absence of Brigadier Kirkup on leave.

Major C.D. Hamilton and Lieut P.A. Johnson attended a night bridging exercise conducted by 756 Field Company, Royal Engineers.

4th June 1942

Movement Order No 2 in respect of the move to KINGTON was issued, and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix A – for details see below.

5th June 1942

An amendment to Movement Order No 2 was issued and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix B – for details see below.

A draft, reference RBAAC, of 2 NCO’s and 41 men was dispatched to No 4 Infantry Training Centre. The draft was played out of the station by the Battalion Band.

6th June 1942

Lieuts W.B. Kirkup and A. Whittaker were struck off the Battalion strength on their embarkation for overseas.

7th June 1942

The Battalion moved to KINGTON by rail overnight. The CO, Second-in-Command and Adjutant proceeded by road.

Lieut R.S. Dyson was struck off the strength of the Battalion on his embarkation for overseas.

Range firing was continued right up until the time of departure from HAVERFORDWEST and the results showed a distinct improvement in the Battalion’s standard of shooting.

The weather improved at the beginning of June and augured well for the move to a Camp under canvas.

8th June 1942 KINGTON

Settling in to the new Camp. A pleasant situation, but Royal Engineer works not yet completed. 70th Brigade was concentrated in close proximity for the first time.

Orders were issued in respect of the Mobile Column and a copy was attached to the War Diary as Appendix C – for further details see below.

9th June 1942

An amendment was issued to 11th DLI Standing Orders for Operations – for the details see Appendix D attached to the War Diary. Appendix F to the Standing Orders parts i – viii was issued - more information can be found below.

Captains W.H. Waistell and T.B. Walker, Lieut Nicholson and two NCO’s were attached to a formation undergoing Mountain Warfare training in North Scotland.

10th June 1942

Company training – chiefly Company Battle Drill – took place.

12th June 1942

A 30 yard range was set up in the Camp area and training of the “bad shots” continued under Captain T. Cairns.

12th June 1942

Battalion HQ took part in a 24-hour Brigade Signal Exercise named “Charlie”. The Exercise consisted of a Motor Transport move to an area South of CAMARTHEN and a dawn attack.

2/Lieut Metcalfe reported for duty with the Battalion.

14th June 1942

2/Lt Jones reported in, on attachment to the Battalion from the Intelligence Corps, for three months’ training.

15th June 1942

Battalion Exercise No 1 took place. This was described on Appendix E attached to the War Diary – for further details see below.

A Demonstration Section from the Battalion reported to the 49 Division Battle School.

16th June 1942

Lieut E.S. Newport was posted from 11th DLI to the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment.

17th June 1942

Battalion Exercise No 2 took place and was described on Appendix F, a copy of which was attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

Parts ix – x of Appendix F to the Battalion Standing Orders was issued and attached to the War Diary as Appendix G – for details see below.

18th June 1942

Brigade Exercise “DON” took place and was described on Appendix H attached to the War Diary – for further details see below.

19th June 1942

Captains K.C. Johnstone and J. Brewis reported to the 49 Division Battle School for duty as Instructors.

20th June 1942

A lecture was given to the Officers of the Brigade in KINGTON by the Royal Naval Liaison Officer, Western Command, on the subject of Combined Operations. The Divisional Commander – General Curtis – was present.

22nd June 1942

Students reported to the 49 Division Battle School for the first Course. The following vacancies were allotted to the battalion:-

From the Rifle Wing – one Officer and three NCO’s.

From the Carrier Wing – two NCO’s.

From the Mortar Wing – two NCO’s.

RSM Poole and CSM Brunskill were attached to the Training Battalion of the Scots Guards at PIRBRIGHT for five days of instruction in their methods of training and administration.

23rd June 1942

The Battalion took part in the Divisional Signal Exercise “CRASSUS”, information about which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix I – for details see below.

25th/26th June 1942

Battalion Exercise No 3 took place – the description of which was set out on Appendix J, attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

26th June 1942

Amendments Nos 6 – 9 to the Battalion Standing Orders for Operations were issued together with Parts xvii of Para 26 of Appendix F to the Standing Orders. These two pages were filed with the War Diary as Appendix K – of which further details are set out below.

27th June 1942

The Commanding Officer attended a Model Exercise on Combined Operations at Divisional Headquarters.

28th June 1942

Eight unit Pioneers proceeded on a one week’s Course on all branches of Pioneer work, including explosives, mines and demolition tasks. The Course was run by 756 Field Company, Royal Engineers.

29th June 1942

180 men of the Battalion visited a showing of training films at KINGTON Cinema. The performance included one film on Combined Operations.

30th June – 1st July 1942

Battalion Exercise No 4 took place – the exercise included the crossing of the River WYE at night by two Companies and Battalion HQ, using assault boats. The exercise description was filed with the War Diary as Appendix L – for further details of which, see below.

The weather was fine during the month and all training was done in shirtsleeve order.

Appendices attached to the 11th DLI June 1942 War Diary.

Appendix A – Movement Order No 2 – issued 4th June 1942.

This Order covered the arrangements for the move to KINGTON by rail overnight on 7th/8th June – utilising two trains – one for personnel and one for baggage, with a later specialist train for the Carrier Platoon. The personnel train was to be taken over by Lt Hadden and the baggage train by Lt McNichol, assisted by 2/Lt Sayce – Captain Smallwood was to be Officer Commanding the train.

Arrangements were set out for; dress for the journey, loading and unloading, rations and feeding, and working parties.

The Battalion’s wheeled vehicles were to move as either part of the Advance Party on 7th June, or as the Main Body on 8th June, under the command of the Quartermaster.

The usual handover arrangements were put in place regarding the Camp from which the Battalion was departing, including security of documents and leaving the billets in a clean and tidy state.

Appendix B – Movement Order No 2 – Amendment No 1 – issued 5th June 1942.

This amendment to the above Appendix set out the arrangements for the transporting of the Carriers by rail, changed the arrival times for the two main trains and amended the numbers of vehicles in the Road Parties.

The Anti-Aircraft Platoon was to protect the Personnel Train, while the men of the Carrier Platoon who were not travelling with the Warflats taking the Carriers themselves, would provide Anti-Aircraft protection for the Baggage Train.

Appendix C – Mobile Column – issued 8th June 1942.

This document revised and updated earlier documents on the arrangements for an “immediate action” Mobile Column.

The Column consisted of a Rifle Company, supported by; a Section of Carriers, two Sections of Mortars, an NCO and five Signallers with a No 18 Set, four stretcher-bearers and a Despatch Rider detailed by the Signals Officer – the whole commanded by the Company Commander.

The duty Company acted in this capacity from Reveille on Sunday to Reveille on the following Sunday – that is, a week at a time. The men, during their week of duty, would be issued with a personal supply of ammunition. 48 hours rations would be loaded each night on to the Company transport, ready for any emergency, while G1098 scale of equipment would be held on the transport, ready to be moved.

The detailed drivers would be allocated tented sleeping quarters close to the vehicle park, which would itself be close to the Camp entrance. The full scale of Company transport would be made available by the Transport Officer and parked, ready loaded.

On receipt of an Order despatching the Mobile Column the Orderly Officer would immediately inform; the Adjutant, Rifle Company Commander, the duty Company, Headquarters Company Office, Motor Transport Office and Signals.

HQ Company Office would then send runners to inform; Carriers, Mortars, Stretcher-bearers and Signals.

The Motor Transport Office would then alert their drivers.

Company and Platoon Commanders involved in the Mobile Column would have to ensure that their personnel were equipped with the relevant maps.

The remainder of the Battalion would be allocated Posts for the defence of the Camp while awaiting further Orders.

The document concluded by allocating the duty weeks for the succeeding month to Companies, and then in rotation.

Appendix D – Amendment to Standing Orders for Operations – issued 9th June 1942.

This document notified changes to; the volume of ammunition carried, altered the Battalion vehicle marking from 66 to 68, the dress to be adopted for Operations – which was now as described in “Battle Drill”, the use of code names in communications, and covered the loan of Appendix E to the Standing Orders – on Battle Drill – to be held by Platoon Commanders.

A copy of that Appendix E was attached to the document when it was filed with the War Diary and is a lengthy document, aimed largely at the junior leader, and consisted of the following paragraphs (contact the author using the link below if more information on the contents is required):-

Principles in training.

Use of live ammunition.

Battle Discipline.

Contents of Appendix E –

Part 1 – Fieldcraft –

Principles, including observation.

Individual movement - without arms.

Individual movement - with the rifle.

Individual movement - with the Bren Gun.

Movement with Platoon weapons.

Concealment and camouflage.


Part 2 – the Battle Drills for –

Preliminary organisation, dress and equipment, including the detailed distribution of weapons and ammunition, the loads for each man of the Platoon and the signals to be used.

All round protection.

Movement formations.

Section and Platoon Battle Drill attacks – including parade ground drill –

Battle Drill for the Attack.

Section Infiltration.

Drill for the Section Assault.

Parade Ground Drill for Section Attack.

Drill for Platoon Attack.

Parade Ground Drill for Platoon Attack.

Parade Ground Drill for Platoon Flank Attack.

Company Battle Drill –

Drill for Pincer and Flanking movements by Companies.

Patrolling –

Drill for Day Patrols.

Drill for Platoon Patrols.

Drill for Night Patrols.

Street fighting –

Drills for Village fighting and House Clearing -

Drills for clearing a Village.

Drills for clearing a House.

Wood fighting.

Drill for attacking a pillbox.

Platoon in defence.

Assault and Reconnaissance Boats.

Appendix E – Battalion Exercise No 1.

This exercise was due to take place on 15th June and was aimed at practising:-

Motor transport movement – embussing and debussing.

Battalion deployment.

Company Battle Drill.

The Battalion was tasked as the Brigade Advance Guard and was due to move in accordance with an attached March Table. D Company were acting as the enemy force.

Arrangements were included for; route marking, traffic control, dress, rations and ammunition (emergency supply only).

The attached March Table set out the speed and density to be observed, the route points and the form of embussing and debussing to be used. The Order of March was the standard form described for earlier exercises of this type – Advance Guard, R Group, O Group, F Group, A 2 Group. The appendix B to this document set out the numbers of vehicles, and their loads, in each of the Groups, followed by a sheet setting out the Group timings and the allocation of No 18 wireless sets throughout the Column.

Appendix F – Battalion Exercise No 2.

Only the March Table related to this exercise was filed with the War Diary – the background and description page were missing, as far as could be ascertained.

Appendix G - Parts ix – x of Appendix F to the Battalion Standing Orders.

These covered the following topics in considerable detail:-

ix – Drill for observing the enemy.

x – The use of the 2” Mortar.

Appendix H – Brigade Exercise “DON” – issued 18th June 1942.

The purpose of the exercise was to practice the Brigade in Motor Transport movement, including embussing and debussing, deployment, and the function of the R, O F and T Groups. This was exactly the same as the description of Battalion Exercise No 2 – referred to above.

The troops taking part were:-

70th Brigade HQ (less the Light Aid Detachment).

178 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

756 Field Company, Royal Engineers (skeleton HQ).

1st Tyneside Scottish.

10th DLI.

11th DLI.

F Company, 2nd Kensingtons (Machine-gun Battalion).

A Section of the 49 Division Provost Company CRMP.

55 Troop Carrying Company RASC.

This Brigade exercise followed closely the arrangements experienced in Battalion Exercise No 2. Code names were issued for the various units in the Brigade. Transport scale was based on one ‘bus per Platoon and embussing was taking place in the same location as previously.

This was a 24 hour exercise. Two separate routes were used, with half the force on each.

The scenario of the exercise was that of the Brigade having been ordered to destroy a recently landed enemy parachute force.

Movement was in accordance with the March Table which included, as usual, key points and information about speed, density and detailed routing. A rendezvous point was identified for the various R Groups within the Brigade. B Echelon – in the person of the Petrol and Water trucks was included in the exercise.

Appendix I – Divisional Signals Exercise “CRASSUS” – issued 22nd June 1942.

The purpose of this exercise was to practice Commanders and Headquarters units of the 49th Division in command, movement and control over ground over which they might have to fight.

At Battalion level the troops taking part were the Battalion HQ staff (less the stretcher-bearers), Medical Officer, Signallers to man two No 18 sets, and the Anti-Aircraft Platoon.

Normal scales of ammunition would be carried but would be carried centrally, rather than on the man, other than for the Anti-Aircraft Platoon where the ammunition would travel with the guns, but magazines would not be put on the weapons. Rations and cooking facilities would be taken and the Intelligence Officer was to arrange for the relevant maps to be issued.

The exercise scenario postulated heavy enemy air-raids followed by a seaborne invasion and landings at St BRIDES BAY, followed the next day by more landings in the same vicinity. The 49th Division had been ordered to pin down and destroy the invading troops. A detailed list of the unit locations was given.

Appendix J – Battalion Exercise No 3.

This exercise was timed for 25th/26th June and was intended to:-

Practice rapid embussing and debussing.

Practice the Drill for withdrawal, occupation and preparation of defensive positions at night.

Practice dealing with a surprise situation.

Practice distributing food to men in the line.

The exercise scenario was based on an invasion of WALES by ENGLAND. The Division had only been allocated enough troop carrying transport for two Battalions so 11th DLI were in Camp, ready to move at 11:30 hours, but transport had not, at that stage, yet returned to collect them. The O Group was awaiting Orders at the Orderly Room.

Instructions were set out for dress, rations and timings. A hot meal was to be fully cooked in the field (rather than being part-cooked in advance).

D Company were to act as enemy on arrival at the debussing area.

Major Humphreys was to act as Umpire for the first half of the exercise, and then command the enemy force. Lt Col Sandars was to act as Umpire for the second half.

Appendix A to the document set out the Order of March.

Appendix K – Amendments to Paras ixx – xxvi of Appendix F to the Battalion Standing Orders.

These changes covered the part of Standing Orders dealing with the action to be taken against enemy aircraft in various circumstances.

Appendix L – Battalion Exercise No 4 – issued 29th June 1942.

The objectives of the exercise were to practice:-

For own troops –

March discipline, air and ground protection.

The Battalion in the encounter attack and Company and Platoon Battle Drills.


River crossing at night.

For the “enemy” troops –

Delaying action and withdrawing.

Covering and making a river crossing by day.


Defence of a river line.

The troops taking part were:-

11th DLI (less one Company, a Carrier Section and two Mortar detachments).

366 Field Battery Royal Artillery (represented by an Artillery Officer).

One troop of 68 Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery – represented by the Senior Umpire.

187 Field Ambulance.

4 Reconnaissance boats.

6 Assault boats.

The enemy was represented by:-

A Company 11th DLI – commanded by Captain Cairns.

One Section of the Carrier Platoon.

Two detachments of the Mortar Platoon.

4 Reconnaissance boats.

3 Assault boats.

The exercise scenario was related to an invasion of Europe – with the River WYE representing the SEINE and HEREFORD representing PARIS. The exercise was based on an advance to a river crossing in order to outflank PARIS.

Lt Col Sandars directed the exercise assisted by Major Prickett and Lt Col Grylls. Umpires were listed for each force.

The British troops were to march, or be carried by transport, to a designated rendezvous – the marching party under the command of the RSM. Alertness for aircraft attack, and close attention to March discipline and Standing Orders for Battalion movement, was expected.

Transport, including the boat equipment, was to move by bounds – signage for the route to be arranged by the Provost Sergeant – and night markings were to be displayed on the vehicles. Arrangements were made for the two forces to mess separately.

The normal restrictions were placed on ammunition – no live rounds on the man but an emergency supply held in the relevant transport.

There would be special instructions issued to each force in respect of the conduct of the exercise. That for the British force was set out on Appendix A to this document and set out that the enemy force was expected to make a stand at the River SEINE. The remainder of 49 Division was a day’s march behind, engaged in “mopping-up” operations, and the rest of 70th Brigade had been delayed by a Panzer counter-attack so could not join up until 1st July.

(This briefing note could be seen as remarkably prescient by the author of those instructions as, exactly two years later, the Brigade was heavily attacked while defending the Normandy village of Rauray – earning a Battle Honour for their destruction of at least 30, if not more, Panzers and accompanying infantry).

The Battalion was briefed that; speed was essential, risks could be taken, in view of the closeness of the rest of the Brigade and the Division, details of the river were as noted, and that their attack was to be expected by the enemy.

The briefing for the enemy force was contained in Appendix B to the document and instructed the force commander to hold the river line with the supporting Carriers and Mortars positioned on a forward ring contour with a view to forcing the British troops to deploy – and they would then fall back to the river line in their turn. The force was to carry out a holding action until the remaining part of the enemy Battalion could be reorganised into a defensive position. In view of this, counter-attack of the invading force was not possible.

To contact the author by e-mail with any queries, or to send information - click here.