11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary September 1940

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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.

1st September 1940

An R.A.M.C. Exercise on the evacuation of wounded troops took place at STRETE.

2nd September 1940

The Royal Corps of Signals Radio Station moved from BEESANDS. The RAF West Wireless Telegraphy Security Station was established at STRETE GATE.

At 22:00 hours the searchlight was tested for twenty seconds at TORCROSS. Enemy aeroplanes were overhead.

Lt. G.J. Powell, formerly Company Sergeant Major, 2nd Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, reported to the Battalion for duty as Quartermaster, Lt. Collie having been found medically unfit for service.

Intelligence Summary No. 1 issued – for details see below.

3rd September 1940

The Battalion was ordered by the War Office to mobilise – the process to be completed by 28th September 1940. The Battalion was to be completed to the level of the new establishment by the War Office A.G.2. and the Officer i/c Records at Edinburgh.

A Secret note was issued on a planned Air-Spray demonstration and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix A1 – for details see below.

4th September 1940

At 11:00 hours there was a Gas Air-Spray demonstration at SLAPTON for three Companies and the Transport.

The rate of leave allocations was increased to 25 Other Ranks per Company at any one time.

The A Company Platoon based at KINGSWEAR moved to BEESANDS.

Operation Order No. 2 was issued by Brigade HQ and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix B – for details see below.

6th September 1940

There was a practice held of a 100% stand-to at 22:00 hours. The objective was to find out the time it would take for each Company to man their Posts and Road Blocks.

7th September 1940

At 22:00 hours a Stand-To order was received from South Group. Invasion expected. After the orders had been received Battalion HQ was at SLAPTON SCHOOL and the Regimental Aid Post was set up at HALWELL.

Operation Order No. 2 was issued and a copy attached to the 11th DLI War Diary as Appendix C – for details see below.

8th September 1940

At 09:00 hours Operation Order No. 3 was received, closing all Road Blocks and ordering the distribution of Small Arms Ammunition immediately to the Battalion’s Posts.

At 09:45 hours the situation was quiet, although enemy aircraft passed overhead. They carried out “skywriting” in the form of a Question Mark.

At 12:30 hours there was more “skywriting” – this time in the form of the outline of START BAY.

9th September 1940

After a quiet night, at 08:30 hours a dog exploded a land mine on SLAPTON BEACH.

A further Intelligence Summary was issued, undated but probably on 9th September – for details see below.

10th September 1940

A quiet night.

Administrative Instruction No. 1 for the move was issued – for details see below.

11th September 1940

Another quiet night.

Mobilisation preparation continued and the Medical Examination of the men started.

2nd Battalion Gloucester Regiment’s Operation Instruction No. 2 was issued – for details see below.

12th and 13th September 1940

The quiet nights continued.

A short Intelligence Summary was issued on 12th September and a copy attached to the War Diary – for details see below.

14th September 1940

Arrangements were made for the relief of the Battalion by the 2nd Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. This was detailed in 11th DLI Operation Instruction No. 2 which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix D – for details see below.

11th DLI was to move to Rawlinson Barracks, DENBURY, fourteen miles away – to equip for overseas.

15th and 16th September 1940

The handover to 2nd Battalion Gloucesters continued.

Operation Order No. 4 was issued on 16th September and a copy attached to the War Diary as Appendix E – for details see below.

The invasion threat persisted. The Battalion was given a Mobile Reserve role in the area between SEATON to MODBURY. This was covered by Operation Instruction No. 2, issued on 19th September – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix F (for details see below).

17th September 1940

The change into modern billets was greatly appreciated by all ranks.

A Special Order of the Day was issued – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix G (for details see below).

19th September 1940

The Stand-To order was cancelled.

The Battalion was sent a copy of the Mobilisation Orders from the War Office in respect of No. 9 and No. 10 Mobile Bath Units – a copy of which was attached to the War Diary.

20th September 1940

An order was issued regarding the necessity for the removal of landmarks.

A further note on Defence Precautions was issued on 20th September from Brigade HQ which clarified the state of readiness to be maintained in the context of the Emergency Code Words being issued. To move troops to a state of instant readiness the message “ACTION STATIONS” would be issued from Brigade HQ. All units would come to one hour’s notice and all troops would immediately return to Camp. A copy of the note was filed with the War Diary.

21st September 1940

Details were issued by the RAF on the recognition of aircraft.

A note was issued by the Adjutant – and attached to the War Diary – which confirmed that the Defence Precautions would continue, as far as the Battalion was concerned. This clarified that the Mobile Column and the Parachute Platoons remained at the degrees of readiness previously ordered. Men not directly involved were to be allowed out of Camp up to 22:00 hours, provided they remained within a five-mile radius of the Camp, and were ready to return to Camp immediately if required. This was based on the relevant note issued by Brigade HQ and referred to above.

22nd September 1940

At 11:00 hours a visit took place by Lt. Gen. Auchinleck, G.O.C. Southern Command, to hear of progress with mobilisation.

At 12:00 hours it was indicated that invasion was still expected. Arrangements were made for another operational move; together with immobilisation of petrol apparatus should invasion occur.

23rd September 1940

There were reports of magnetic mine-laying in coastal areas.

24th September 1940

Stand-To was cancelled.

Major B.G. Murray-Shireff, Regular Army Reserve of Officers, BLANDFORD, assumed the post of second-in-command 11th DLI.

Major F. Taylor was posted to the DLI Infantry Training Centre, Brancepeth.

2/Lt J.M. McNicol reported from 8th DLI and was posted to A Company.

Captain W.B. Kirkup reported from 70th Infantry Brigade HQ and assumed command of D Company vice Major J.F.M. Sumner, who left for the Staff College.

2/Lt J. Tait joined from O.C.T.U. but, injuring his leg playing rugby two days later, did not remain on the strength of the Battalion.

2/Lt E.M.C. Wait was also struck off strength through illness.

Captain W.H. Waistell and Lt. C.G. Winter were posted from the Brancepeth I.T.C. and Captain Waistell assumed command of HQ Company.

Captain Morris from 30th I.T.C. assumed command of A Company.

The following Officers were ordered to report to the DLI I.T.C. as the Battalion was then over-strength in Officers – 2/Lts J. Cook, E.M. Harnetty and G.G. Barkham.

These changes were included within Battalion Orders – issue number 26, published on 25th September. This set out the Officer structure of the Battalion, following the moves, other than those of the three junior Officers posted to the I.T.C. at Brancepeth, who were all still listed as Platoon Commanders in those Orders.

It would appear that the first issue of Ship’s Orders were filed in error in the September, rather than the October, War Diary as they are attached as Pages two and three of Battalion Orders. These pages have been separated and will be referred to in the October War Diary.

25th to 30th September 1940

There are no dated entries for this period but several documents relating to the move overseas were issued on the 25th and 30th of September and were filed with the War Diary. They will be referred to within the October 1940 War Diary.

Appendices and documents attached to the War Diary

Appendix A – Mobilisation instructions – dated 31st August 1940, 1st September 1940, and 2nd September 1940.

These instructions were sent as Urgent Postal Telegrams and contain the detailed information on the manning and equipping of the units listed to War Establishment levels. The documents are copied to the various Commands, Stores Depots and Officers in charge of Regimental Records as well as Movement Control Sections.

The units covered by this set of documents includes 70th Brigade HQ, the Brigade’s Light Aid Detachment, the Brigade’s Signal Section, 11th DLI, 1st Tyneside Scottish, 187 Field Ambulance, 10 Field Hygiene Section and 16 Detail Issue Depot.

The Home Details for 11th DLI and 1st Tyneside Scottish were to be posted to the Infantry Training Centres at Brancepeth and Perth respectively.

Men were to be armed and equipped to home war scale and additional special clothing was to be provided (see later). Units were to submit stores requests to bring supplies up to the required level and these would be sent via the Brigade Supply Dump.

Vehicles would be supplied separately but Bren Carriers were to be taken.

Arrangements were identified for records to be collated and forwarded including a nominal roll of those to proceed overseas. (As it happens the 11th DLI roll seems to be the only one which has survived at Kew).

The second telegram gave more detailed instructions on indenting for war equipment.

An Appendix detailed the manning of Brigade HQ as part of mobilisation and listed the number of men required, and their roles.

The third document in this sequence did deal with the specialist clothing required for Iceland (which somewhat gives the lie to the anecdote about tropical clothing being issued initially) and provided for an additional kitbag per man with a Tropal Coat, compartmentalised gloves, snow goggles, Leather Jerkin, woollen stockings, socks, vests, drawers and anti-gas wallets and curtains being provided.

Interestingly, one paragraph indicates that a decision still had to be made as to which pattern of rifle was to be taken – as far as can be ascertained no change was made – and that each Officer was expected to have Binoculars, Compass and Pistol as part of their G1098 equipment level.

Intelligence Summary No. 1 – issued 2nd September 1940 (No Appendix number allocated).

The Intelligence Summaries seem to have been issued relatively regularly covering a variety of topics.

This issue described the nature of E-Boat attacks and warned that crews could well be speaking good English, wearing British Naval uniform and flying the White Ensign.

All identification marks giving the location details of telegraph poles, roads and buildings were to be removed.

German aircraft ammunition had been found in a highly dangerous condition after air raids. These rounds were fitted with High Explosive and were armed during flight, although some had been recovered unexploded. Care was to be taken in handling.

The presence of non-English speaking pilots in the RAF was pointed out in an attempt to avoid such men being treated as hostile should they be shot down.

A comment was made alleging the ineffectiveness of many German air-raids, and the types of munitions used were described.

A regular element of the summaries was the listing of lost service identity cards.

Appendix A1 – issued 3rd September 1940 – Air Spray Demonstration – Secret

The briefing paper describes the purpose of the demonstration – namely;

To show what a low-altitude Spray Attack looks like.

To practice the warnings given for this type of attack.

To practice protective measures on the move.

Commanders were expected to read the relevant paragraphs from the pamphlets on Protection against Gas and Air Raids.

The dress to be worn, and the equipment to be carried were to be normal, with the inclusion of anti-gas eye shields and detectors.

Transport arrangements and timings were set out. The venue was to be SLAPTON SANDS. Road blocks would be in place to prevent traffic or civilians reaching the area. Anti-Aircraft protection was to be mounted using Bren Guns.

Appendix B – Operation Order No. 2 – issued 4th September by Brigade HQ.

This order set out the objectives of countering any invasion by holding SLAPTON BEACHES, BEESANDS and Battalion positions.

Manning of Posts and Patrolling arrangements were spelled out in the “method” section, intercommunication was described and the administrative details of ammunition supply, water, rations and Aid Posts were all covered.

Commanders were instructed to brief their men on why the Order had been issued, and to urge continued vigilance, fire control and gas precautions. Any “slackness” would be severely dealt with.

Appendix C – Operation Order No. 3 – issued 7th September 1940.

This further Operation Order was based on the imminence of an invasion and reinforced the objective of defending SLAPTON BEACHES and BEESANDS.

HQ Company was to prepare their Mobile Column for immediate action and for the Motorcycle Platoon to report immediately to STANBOROUGH HOUSE with three riders detailed to report immediately to Battalion HQ at SLAPTON.

Again, meals, Aid Posts and water supply were arranged.

Intelligence Summary – issued probably on 7th or 8th September 1940 – not accorded an Appendix Number.

This two-page summary set out the information gleaned from Intelligence Reports on the perceived threat of invasion, and in particular the implied threat to the South Devon area. In this context a report into the scale of training in new techniques of assault being practised by the enemy in a large Training School near WARSAW was described.

A lengthy summary of the factors surrounding a possible enemy invasion was given, with favourable dates and potential locations identified. A briefing was included on possible invasion tactics. It was considered that an attack in the South West might take place as a feint, or even as a speculative assault, prior to an attack on the South East. It was expected that airborne or parachute troops might well be used to target communication centres and airfields.

Enemy air activity was summarised, including their cessation of the use of Dive Bombers in the light of losses sustained against British fighters. Comment was also made about the alleged lack of night-flying skills in the German aircrew.

German equipment was referred to – in particular the development of flame-throwers and chemical weapons – especially gas used on a spray basis.

Appendix D – 2nd Gloucesters Operation Instruction No. 2

11th DLI were clearly sent a copy of this paper from the 2nd Gloucesters – the relieving Battalion – on the arrangements for taking over. The 11th DLI’s own instructions are referred to below. The relieving troops were expected to sleep in the Platoon and Section battle positions on the day of handover.

Appendix D – 11th DLI Operation Instruction No.2 – issued 14th September 1940.

The paper described the arrangements for the move of the Battalion to RAWLINSON BARRACKS, DENBURY, and its relief by 2nd Gloucesters.

A small Advance Party was arranged, to include the Quartermaster, with responsibility for moving the QM Stores, rations and kit bags. The Mobile Column was to continue its role during the move, commanded by Lt T.M. Lang, and including Bren Guns for the Anti-Aircraft and Carrier Platoons and 40 riflemen. They would relieve the similar force from the Gloucesters on the morning of 15th September.

The transport taking these troops to DENBURY would return with the Gloucesters’ force.

Similarly, the Motorcycle Platoon would move to DENBURY at 11:30 on relief by the Gloucesters.

Details were set out for the move of the Main Body and their kit and stores.

Details of Operation Orders, liaison with the LDV and Trench Stores would all be handed over to the incoming troops. This included the Vickers and Maxim Guns and ammunition.

Billets were to be left scrupulously clean and in good order and all returns and reports would be rendered up to date before the move. A timeline was that the move was to be completed in all respects by 17:00 hours on 16th September. Sub-units were not to depart for DENBURY until their relief by the Gloucesters had been successfully completed.

Administrative Instructions for the move of 1st Tyneside Scottish – issued 10th September 1940 – not given a separate Appendix number.

These additional notes, filed with the 11th DLI War Diary refer to a move of location, parallel to their own, in that all Companies of 1st Tyneside Scottish were to move from MODBURY to TOTNES, being relieved of present duties by the 50th Battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment on 16th September 1940. It is assumed that 11th DLI were given a copy of these instructions so that they were aware of what was happening in the rest of the Brigade.

The instructions are, in all respects, comparable to those for 11th DLI, only the locations being different.

Intelligence Summary – issued 12th September 1940 – not allocated a separate Appendix number.

This summary refers to the continued build-up of shipping in the Channel Ports – a possible indicator of impending invasion.

Reference is made to the use of gliders at EBEN-EMAEL and the possibility that they could be used in an attack on Britain.

More lost identity cards are listed – none of which related to the Brigade.

Appendix E – Operation Order No. 4 – issued 16th September 1940.

This was a Battalion Order and began with the statement that Invasion was still expected.

Provision was made for the Mobile Column to be detailed in daily orders, and that it would be at 30 minutes’ notice to move at all times. Embussing rehearsals would be held.

The Parachute Platoon – earmarked for hunting down any troops who had arrived by air – had their operational areas designated. Each Company provided one such Platoon for duty in a designated area at 15 or 30 minutes’ notice – dependent on the time of day.

In respect of defending the Camp, areas of operation were similarly designated and this would involve everyone available from the Rifle Companies. A Central Reserve would be commanded by the O.C. of HQ Company using all the available troops from HQ and E Companies.

A Special Reserve of two Carriers with mounted Bren Guns and three motorcycles would be available – again at between 15 and 30 minutes’ notice.

A Duty Bugler situated in the Guard Room would be responsible for sounding the Alarm if necessary – by blowing 4 G’s – at which all troops would report immediately to their alarm stations and Officers would report to the Orderly Room for instructions.

The administrative aspects of the Order included the requirement for the buses, to transport the Mobile Column, being parked on the North West corner of the Parade Ground each evening – with two other buses for each of the Parachute Platoons being parked in the South West corner. One bus would remain in reserve. Officers were expected to make contact with the relevant drivers when coming on duty and remain aware, via the Motor Transport Officer, of how to contact drivers when necessary.

Maps were to be made available through Company Commanders and the Mobile Column was to have access to their greatcoats and one blanket per man in the first instance. The Column would be accompanied by two duty Signallers.

Appendix F – Operation Instruction No. 2 – Operational role of Battalion while at DENBURY - issued 19th September 1940.

This was a Battalion Operation Instruction and set out that the role for 11th DLI was as a counter-attack force in the area being defended by 2nd Docks Group, Royal Engineers and 50th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

For this purpose the Battalion would be split into two halves.

Firstly, Battalion HQ, C and D Companies, who came under the orders of HQ South Devon Sub-Area (Brigadier Kirkup), might be required to operate between the Rivers TEIGN and EXE. Their forward assembly area would be LUSCOMBE CASTLE reference 3798, which would be reached via NEWTON ABBOTT, and KINGSTEIGNTON.

Secondly, A, B and HQ Companies under the command of the Senior Company Commander, who would come under the orders of South Group (Lt. Col. Ware), might be required to operate between the Rivers DART and TEIGN in two possible directions. Their forward assembly areas could be either STOKEINTEIGNHEAD, reference 3492, reached via NEWTON ABBOTT and COMEINTEIGNHEAD, or BLAGDON BARTON reference 2881, reached via OAKCROSS and the main road to PAIGNTON.

Quick action to drive the enemy back into the sea at any required point was the over-riding principle. Information was expected to be scanty and it would be necessary to advance boldly before position consolidation or fire support could be organised by an enemy force.

Transport would have to be organised to facilitate swift advance to the assembly positions, with Carriers providing protection and assisted by motorcycle patrols being used for reconnaissance and patrolling. The importance and complexity of the reconnaissance required by Company Commanders was stressed.

The HQ Company Commander was to remain in Camp initially and organise E Company and any troops not deployed in the first instance. The Signals Officer was to deploy his signallers to columns as necessary, maintaining contact with DENBURY CAMP in the first instance. Any HQs in the operating area were to be contacted.

Appendix G – Special Order of the Day – issued 17th September 1940.

Lt Col Ware, Battalion Commander, issued this note to all ranks expressing his appreciation of the work done in creating and manning the defences of the area.

Mobilisation Orders – dated 19th September 1940

The 11th DLI had clearly been sent a copy of this War Office Mobilisation Order for No.9 and No. 10 Mobile Bath Units instructing them, like the 70th Brigade units, to be fully mobilised by 28th September 1940 ready to move overseas. These units were currently within Aldershot Command. The second page of the telegram had instructions which were also pertinent to the rest of 70th Brigade, but a copy of that page is, unfortunately, not available.

Battalion Orders Issue No. 26 – dated 25th September 1940.

This one-page document sets out the Officer structure, as mentioned above. The details have been extracted and included within the names database for 11th DLI.

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