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

From 70 Brigade
Jump to: navigation, search

1st October 1941 Hafnafjordur

Training Memorandum No 6 was issued and a copy filed with the War Diary as Appendix A – for details see below.

Movement Instruction No 1 was issued as Appendix B to the War Diary – for details see below.

5th October 1941

The CO visited Reykjavik Cathedral service in order to see how the Church Parade was organised, prior to the Battalion taking over this duty from 1st Tyneside Scottish.

7th October 1941

A Force Signal Exercise took place. The Battalion HQ moved out and took up a position about five miles East of ALVIDRA at about 10:00 hours. The day consisted of gradual moves forward.

The Exercise terminated at 20:00 hours. It had been a very bad day in terms of weather and the transport had innumerable punctures.

8th October 1941

The Advance Parties of 1st Tyneside Scottish arrived to begin the take-over process.

9th and 10th October 1941 Reykjavik

The days were taken up with marching to the new Camps.

12th October 1941

A Church Parade took place at Reykjavik Cathedral (technically this large church is not a Cathedral but is often described as such by visitors) followed by a march past, at which Brigadier Kirkup took the salute.

14th October 1941

The CO went out as Chief Umpire to 147th Brigade in the forthcoming Force Exercise.

15th October 1941

The Force Exercise took place. This is described in Appendices C, D, E and F – copies of which are attached to the War Diary – for details of which see below. It was cancelled at 15:30 hours due to the fact that it was pouring with rain and the roads were collapsing. No transport could reach the troops who got no food all day as a result. The final march from the GRAFINSTRETT area was made across country to the Power Station where both Battalions – 11th DLI and 1st Tyneside Scottish – laid up until transport collected them at 23:00 hours.

16th October 1941

The Battalion returned from the Force Exercise at 03:00 hours.

24th October 1941

Battalion Training Memorandum No 7 was issued and a copy filed with the War Diary as Appendix G – for details see below.

28th October 1941

The 1st Tyneside Scottish carried out a Field Firing Demonstration at Kleifervatn, attended by the CO and other Officers from the Battalion.

29th October 1941

The Brigade Commander visited the Battalion Camps and inspected messing arrangements.

A Force Intelligence Exercise was held in the KALDARSEL valley. The Battalion gained first place.

30th October 1941

A Battalion HQ Manning Exercise took place. This is described on Appendix H attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

Appendices attached to the October 1941 War Diary.

Appendix A – Training Memorandum No 6 – issued 1st October 1941.

This single-page document described the advent of a new regime in education – the introduction of five nightly one-hour education sessions each week for all Other Ranks from 1st November 1941.

Lt H Waggott was appointed as Battalion Education Officer, with 2/Lt Notman as his Assistant and Private G. Scane 4466043 as his Clerk. (It is thought that Pte Scane must have been one of the recent reinforcements from the Infantry Training Centre at BRANCEPETH, as he did not appear on the original Battalion embarkation list). The responsibility at Company level would lie with the second-in-command.

Lt Waggott was, in addition to his normal duties, to; advise the CO generally on this matter and liaise with the Army Education Corps, assist Companies with programmes, instructor training and organising a pool of lecturers on specialist subjects. He was also to investigate the possibility of including specialist classes in first aid, motor mechanics, handicrafts, cooking etc.

The general principles were based on improving the individual as a soldier by developing mental alertness. Map reading, compass work, current affairs and other subjects were all to be included in the programmes. Education work would be timetabled after normal working hours and would be in addition to training. Programmes were to be as interesting as possible with competitive general knowledge papers, interesting books and other material. Special arrangements would be made for those men who were not at a good standard of literacy to be coached by Army Education Corps personnel.

This initial instruction was liable to modification in the light of experience.

Appendix B – Movement Instruction No 1 – issued 1st October 1941.

This paper described the arrangements for the relief of 11th DLI by 1st Tyneside Scottish and vice versa. The 11th Battalion was to take over the defence of Reykjavik town while 1st Tyneside Scottish moved to the Hafnafjordur area.

The takeover of command arrangements was timed for 12:00 hours on 10th October. The move generally involved the taking over of each other’s accommodation and stores. Rear parties were expected to be clear of the area by 11:00 hours on 11th October.

In the attached timetable it could be seen that the Advance Parties were to take over the operational role of the unit they were replacing (which would require an adequate level of Light Machine Guns and ammunition) and they would be moved by Motor Transport. The bulk of the troops were to take up their new locations by March Route.

Each Advance Party was to consist of one Officer, two NCOs and ten men from each Rifle Company. Battalion HQ’s sections were to be supervised by the Quartermaster in moving to take up their new positions.

Appendix C – Force Exercise No 12 – General Notes – issued 13th October.

This short Appendix gave the dates of the proposed exercise as 15th and 16th October. The Battalion was being commanded by the second-in-command and was part of OLFUSA FORCE – consisting of 70th Infantry Brigade plus supporting units. The opposing enemy force was represented by 147th Brigade – and called THINGVALLA FORCE.

Guerilla bands were understood to be roaming the countryside, preying on any forces they could find. This was a “blank ammunition” exercise with the only ball ammunition carried being the usual sealed supplies in case of a genuine emergency. As normal, private houses and outbuildings were declared “out of bounds” and damage to crops was to be avoided if at all possible. Cultivated land was not to be crossed.

Arrangements were made for Umpires and the Final Conference was timed for 17:30 hours on 16th October. During the Exercise the defence of the Sub-Sector was to be in the hands of A Company and was the subject of a separate Appendix.

As the Battalion was moving out under the new establishment arrangements, the excess men from Carrier and Mortar Platoons were to assist in guarding the Sub-Sector.

Appendix D – Defence of the Sub-Sector during Force Exercise No 12 – issued 13th October 1941.

The overall aim remained the prevention of enemy landings and penetration into the Sub-Sector.

A Company was to; hold the Harbour defences with one Platoon, the GROTTA defences with one Platoon and the LAUGARNES defences with the third Platoon.

The details from the Mortar Platoon (excess men over the new establishment) were to guard THREE INCH Camp and THORNHILL Camp. The details from R Company similarly were to guard SKIPTON Camp and MEMBASKOLLIN. Movements to take up these positions were timed for the evening of 14th October.

The Sub-Sector was under the command of Captain J Brewis. Two days rations were to be organised by the Quartermaster and transport for A Company was allocated in the terms of one 8cwt truck, one 15cwt truck and one 30cwt lorry. The Battalion Medical Officer was to leave one competent orderly to look after any daily sick while more serious cases, should they occur, would be transferred to 50th General Hospital.

R Company Signals were left behind to form a skeleton staff on the telephome exchanges while A Company would provide their own telephone orderlies.

Appendix E – Force Exercise No 12 – issued 13th October 1941.

This Appendix summarised the “General Idea” which was the background of this Force Exercise – based on the seizure of an artificial hop mine and brewery to secure the production of beer! Essentially this was a cross-country inter-Brigade exercise with Artillery, Engineer, Medical and RAF support – though the latter was “imaginary”, in which ground was to be seized. A warning was included about a strong force of anarchists, well-armed and willing to attack both our own and enemy troops.

Appendix F – Force Exercise No 12 – Orders for Battalion Commander – issued 14th October 1941.

This summarised the detailed orders for 11th DLI with the normal layout of such documents, INFORMATION – on the enemy and own troops, INTENTION – to move to TORFASTADIR 6693, METHOD – by Brigade Column with picquets established which would be withdrawn as the Column passed them and they had functioned as a rear guard. An order of march was laid down and detailed routes were set out, ADMINISTRATION – covered supplies, transport, medical, blankets and dress, INTERCOMMUNICATION – including Code Names and Words and map details.

A sheet setting out the Order of March for both marching troops and transport was included as Appendix A to the document. The March Table set out the Sub-units, vehicle complement and the timetable for passing the Brigade Start Point – with instructions regarding convoy identification, warning lights and flags. The administrative appendix set out the Camps from which the transport would be drawn and the allocation to the Battalion’s Sub-Units.

On this occasion, the Battalion’s B Echelon consisted only of one 15cwt and 4 30cwts for the Cooks, one 30cwt and a 3-tonner for tents and the 15cwt water truck. Much of the movement was taking place in the early hours.

Appendix G – Battalion Training Memorandum No 7 – issued 24th October 1941.

This regularly issued document set out the plans for the next few months as regards Battalion training. Stressing the importance of training, the point was made that the intensity needed to be maintained.

The season from November to February was largely to be devoted to individual training – much of which could be carried out indoors if the weather was inclement, while all opportunities were to be taken for outside Platoon training, with a Company exercise at least once per fortnight, and a Battalion exercise at least once a month.

As regards individual training, the priority was to be weapon training with maximum use of the ranges, under the direction of the Weapon Training Officer, and attention also being paid to Anti-Aircraft duties, Gas training and attacking tanks.

As much drill as necessary was to be included so as to maintain smartness. Three periods a week at least of unarmed combat training and PT were to be included – making full use of the recently allocated Sergeant Physical Training Instructor. Slit trench digging was to be practised in accordance with the latest handbooks and demonstration weapon pits constructed for the education of the troops. Small assault courses were to be constructed by B and D Companies at their Camps and made available to the other Companies – particularly for training in bayonet fighting.

The specialist Platoon Commanders were to pay particular attention to the training of their reserves, held in R Company. Small exercises were to be held frequently on anti-parachute measures – including “enemy” forces.

The study of the German Army – including uniforms, weapons and insignia as well as methodology was to continue to ensure all ranks were conversant with the details of the opposition. With increasing darkness, the opportunity was to be taken for more night work, including night-driving, organised by the Motor Transport Officer in conjunction with Company Commanders.

Current affairs discussions were to continue with Company Commanders taking a keen personal interest. Training Cadres were envisaged as continuing after the New Year, with assistance being given to associated units by the Cadre Officer.

Officer Training would include; the periodical use of cloth models, a regular Thursday evening lecture, some use of the Company Commander’s Conference time and the preparation of lectures by junior Officers – on subjects to be specified. Training programmes would be issued fortnightly.

Appendix H – Battalion HQ and HQ Company Manning Exercise – issued 29th October 1941.

This exercise was due to take place on 30th October, involving; Battalion HQ, Intelligence Section, Signals Platoon, Anti-Aircraft Platoon, the Carrier Platoon (less those supporting A Company) and the HQ of HQ Company.

This involved manning a Battle HQ with the appropriate movement and use of transport, and taking the relevant stores, including Anti-Tank Rifles and Mines, and the establishment of Signals Exchanges and Telephone arrangements. Cooking equipment would also be taken.

Troops and their transport and equipment would be drawn from the various Camps and concentrate at their battle locations.

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