143rd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. War Diary June 1944

From 70 Brigade
Jump to: navigation, search

1 June 1944 HEMSBY.

Office Truck again tried and again failed to ? pool. It appears that Ford Trucks are difficult to waterproof. Another truck being used for Office.

2 June 1944

Prospects of being complete except for Second-in-Command’s car. Rumour that 69 Field Regiment are on the move which means our own Advance Party will be going soon.

3 June 1944

Orders for Advance Party to move to Marshalling Area T to be there at 05:40 hours 4th June. Advance Party consisting of C.O., Regimental Signals Officer, S.O. three CPOs and Battery Commander 507 with 5 Jeeps left at 18:30 hours. See Admin. Order No. 3 attached to War Diary – see below.

4 June 1944

Orders for Main Body to be given at 12:15 hours: postponed for 24 hours. Further postponement of 5 hours received. Lieutenant Richards joined to take over i/c Residue. Lieutenant Povey had motor cycle smash at Lichfield on returning from Donnington. Rough weather.

5 June 1944

Orders received to move to Marshalling Area T6 – alteration to time caused a final rush. Regiment moved out 18:00 hours – two Jeeps over and above authorised scale taken. Route revised – Thetford – Newmarket – Epping Forest – Painfleet. See message from C in C attached to War Diary – see below.

6 June 1944

Column arrived at T6 in bits and pieces having been badly cut up en route. Column was sorted according to SHIP sheet and fed into Camp. All vehicles in by 09:00 hours and in proper places. News think D-Day had arrived and our own assault Divisions had landed in NORMANDY. Hectic day at Camp sorting, equipping and arranging. Divisional Operation Order opened and read – maps collected and distributed. 190 Battery vehicles to go to docks for loading 04:30 hours 7th June.

7 June 1944

190 Battery vehicles to docks at 04:30 hours followed by 388 and 507 Batteries at 09:30 and 18:30. Personnel for 190 Battery left at 19:00 hours to embark.

8 June 1944

Remainder of Regiment left at 14:00 hours for Victoria Dock and embarked on T74 (Fort McMurray) – completed by 18:30 hours. Accommodation fairly cramped. Moved out of Dock at 22:00 hours. Weather unsettled tending to rain. Officer Commanding Troops Major E H N Rees-Webbe, also on board 29 F.D.S., 299 Company Pioneers, 1 Workshop ? 180 W SoCS Park Company.

9 June 1944

Anchored off SOUTHEND pending forming of convoy. Accident to ?winch at 11:00 hours and starboard anchor carried away and two Privates of 29 F.D.S. injured – evacuated to Southend – accident to Pioneer also evacuated.

10 June 1944

Weather overcast, stiff breeze – fine – sea smooth. Under way at 07:00 hours and passed through Channel without any incident. A quiet night – weather improved. See Message from C in C attached to War Diary – see below.

11 June 1944

Air Raid Warning 03:50 hours – bombs dropped but no hits scored. Arrived at anchorage off COURSELLES-SUR-MER at 07:30 hours dead on time. Weather fine. No stevedores available for discharging cargo and as no instructions received, Master started discharging with own crane. 50 Naval Ratings arrived 16:00 hours to assist. A few of our vehicles offloaded including 2 Troop Commanders 507 Battery and Captain Mount.

12 June 1944

Fine – discharging continued – Adjutant left ship 09:50 hours – no E80 yet approved for 5169.

Landed on MIKE beach at 14:50 hours dryshod – moved to St GABRIEL and found C.O. and Second-in-Command. Advance Party had not yet been offloaded – Regiment to deploy in area RUCQUEVILLE to support attack by 146 Infantry Brigade – Regiment arrived in pieces and eventually deployed RUCQUEVILLE 8777 – 22 guns in action by 23:00 hours.

Digging in continued. The countryside bears marks of the invasion but is by no means razed. The populace still go about their business and it appears that casualties among them are not heavy. The enemy is giving trouble with a Battle Group in Fontenay-Le-Pesnel which moves out with “FERDINANDS” and causes considerable annoyance and then retires. The Canadians on left flank appear to have had a fairly hectic time.

13 June 1944 RUCQUEVILLE.

Nothing much happening – many aircraft about and a MARAUDER of ours shot down in flames at 10:30 hours.

507 Battery opened up on enemy at BRONAY and fired the first rounds in anger ever fired by this Regiment. Heavy Anti-Aircraft barrage put up by enemy over CAEN and a FORTRESS shot down at 21:40 hours followed shortly by a THUNDERBOLT. 146 Infantry Brigade have taken over from 69 Infantry Brigade  ?

14 June 1944

No big changes. 6 DWR took over from LINCS in LOUCELLES. 185 Field Regiment landing and coming into action. VIII Corps landing and pushing up from behind. George Nedham? Of B Flight 662 Squadron Air Observation Post reported today Officers’ layout leaves much to be desired. 507 Battery did a fair amount of shooting and V Targets engaged in afternoon on Tilly-Sur-Seulles.

15 June 1944

DF task fired during early morning – 147 Brigade taking over from 146 Brigade and endeavouring to clear up BRONAY. Advance Party left to recce new position South of Ducy-St-Marguerite. Regiment moved afternoon and in action again by 20:00 hours.

16 June 1944

Digging in continues. Enemy shelling area near RHQ at midday – baptism very necessary as reactions were interesting.

17 June 1944

Attack by 6 DWR at 14:00 hours supported by barrage from Divisional Artillery plus 2 Medium Regiments and 1 Field Regiment and stonks and smoke screen. Heavy opposition met and tanks moved normal pace but owing to mines and scraping of area did not keep up with barrage. Enemy laid low and came up after barrage, inflicting heavy casualties. KEN McCARG and RONNIE HELM killed (Neither of these were able to be traced in CWGC database). Captain Frost and Captain Berry both had their Carriers blown up and were wounded, Captain Berry being evacuated. Gunners BALDWIN and SIMONS of 388 Battery killed. Very confused fighting and strong resistance from Point 102 on the high ground North of PARC de BOISLANDE. 6 DWR attained objective and a counter attack by a few tanks was driven off by Regiment and Divisional concentrations. Continued resistance from orchards in North East corner.

18 June 1944

Harassing night for Infantry in wood with considerable enemy activity. Very heavy enemy mortaring at 14:00 hours caused a withdrawal from the wood. 7 DWR ordered to attack point 102 which was taken although casualties were farily heavy. Infantry attained objective and extremely strong support was given by Divisional Artillery which largely broke up enemy counter attacks.

19 June 1944

Fire Plan fixed to assist 50th Division otherwise quiet.

20 June 1944

Normal HF – three enemy aircraft flew low over RHQ and Wagon Lines – no casualties.

21 June 1944

Operation Order No. 3 – regarding MARTLET received.  ? machine-gunned. RHQ – small amount of shelling.

22 June 1944

Various targets engaged during day – nothing to report.

23 June 1944

Fixed Red Smoke for RAF – Counter-Mortar Policy now to fire back at known enemy localities if they start mortaring. See 143 Field Regiment Operation Order No. 1 attached to the War Diary – see below.

24 June 1944

Preparation for Operation MARTLET – Anti-Aircraft Policy TEMPEST evolved for opening up on enemy Batteries as soon as own planes appear.

25 June 1944

Fired on Operation MARTLET – objective on right reached by 05:22 hours but very sticky on left – heavy mist came down and made progress very difficult, visibility being zero. 11th RSF eventually took Fontenay-Le-Pesnel but pretty heavy casualties. 7 DWR attacked to clear Fontenay-Le-Pesnel with Fire Plan FORTRESS fired at 21:00 hours – position not clear at evening but own troops just on edge of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Captain D ROBERTS wounded and evacuated.

26 June 1944

DF engaged during night. Recce arranged for gun area South West of PARC de BOISLANDE. 7 DWR attacked and reached St NICHOLAS FARM by 11:00 hours. Own armour at Rauray. See Congratulatory message filed with War Diary – see below.

Fire Plan EZRA to cover attack by 7 DWR on Rauray. 1st Tyneside Scottish attacking from a flank. Enemy shelling Fontenay-Le-Pesnel hourly.

27 June 1944

Regiment to move to BOIS LONDE area – 388 Battery moved at 14:00 hours. C.R.A. ordered return of 388 Battery as position is overlooked by evening.

Durham Light Infantry in Rauray.

28 June 1944

Sappers giving assistance to clear BOIS LONDE position – a lot of tripwires and mines – move still in the air but postponed 24 hours. Half-track and Carrier replaced today.

29 June 1944

Nothing of importance – engaged various targets – heavy fighting going on with Infantry in area Rauray – BRETTEVILLETTE.

30 June 1944

1st Tyneside Scottish defeated a counter-attack by tanks after heavy fighting and maintained their positions. See Message from Commander of 30 Corps – see below.

The end of the month shows us having been in action for nearly three weeks and fighting a very slow battle against stiffly defended country – our casualties have fortunately been light and it seems that we have come out with a satisfactory record.

Appendices attached to the June 1944 War Diary. (Not all the documents mentioned above have survived to be included in the War Diary file at Kew).

Field Return 3 June 1944.

This Return in respect of Other Ranks shows the Regiment fully up to strength at the Establishment level of 636, but with three men held surplus, by arrangement, and three vacancies – all Gunners.

Field Return – Officers – 17 June 1944.

Again, the Regiment was at War Establishment of 37, with no excesses or deficiencies. The unit was still requesting the return to them of Lieutenants Keenan and Povey – both of whom were shown on the Z list. The detailed list of Officer names, numbers, ranks and roles will again be used to refine the personnel list.

143 Field Regiment Intelligence Log 20th to 25th June 1944.

This log would normally be maintained by the Intelligence Staff at Regimental HQ and shows the time of events, time of messages, senders, information sent and action taken. It provides a very detailed background to the War Diary entries and, while not reproduced here in detail, is available to meet enquiries should any reader wish to raise any. Fourteen pages cover this period.

Appendix 1 – Message from Commander 30 Corps.

The message reads as follows:-

“Personal for Commander 49 Division from Commander 30 Corps. Please convey to all officers and men my heartiest congratulations at the splendid way in which 49 Division and 8 Armoured Brigade have fought forward grimly and determinedly over beastly country against the stiffest opposition of the best German forces. You now occupy the key position of the Second Army front and I am completely confident that you will hold it against the severest Boche counter blows. The hottest part of the struggle is brewing and I know you will play a furious and glorious part in a shattering defeat of the best German armies. Well done 49 I am proud to have you with me again”.

Appendix 2 – Message from Divisional Commander.

This read as follows:-

Yesterday the 49 (West Riding) Division was given the task of making the first break in the German defence which, owing to delay imposed on us by weather conditions, he had time to strengthen considerably. We had in front of us a difficult position and it was held by some of the best German troops of 12 SS Pz Division. The result was the success we expected, but the fact that it was a success was due to the magnificent spirit, efficiency and fighting qualities of the commanders and troops that took part. I send them all my congratulations and heartfelt thanks for the part they have played so successfully. I am thankful to know that such a small proportion of casualties were killed, especially in the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers which had such bitter fighting in Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. The infantry bore the brunt of the fighting and have excelled themselves, but success could not have been achieved without the excellent support of the 8 Armoured Brigade and the Artillery of the Division. The administration in the rear both as regards dumping of vast quantities of ammunition and the evacuation of casualties has been equally excellent. The 49th Division has now proved itself in battle against a tough and experienced enemy and results augur well for its future fortunes.

Again my congratulations and good luck.

Signed Major General Barker.

Operation Epsom Fire Plan

This document covered three pages, and was the 8 Corps Fire Plan in support of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.

The objectives were set out as map references, followed by the list of units taking part in the Barrage – 143rd Regiment was a part of the rolling barrage keeping two hundred yards ahead of the assaulting troops.

The co-ordinates and heights were given of 7 locations, followed by detailed timings and the various rates of fire to be used, with HE ammunition as the sole type employed. Each of the Regiments and Batteries were given details of their concentrations linked to the co-ordinates. This phase appeared not to include 143rd Field Regiment. Details of similar nature were also given for phase 2 of the operation.

Operation Instruction No. 3.

This referred to an operation on D + 1, and the 143rd Field Regiment was allotted 340 rounds per gun. Boundaries were set and intentions set out, with the role of 49 Division explained. The main effort in the Divisional Plan was to support 70th Brigade, who would also have an Armoured Regiment in support. The first bound was to be BRETTEVILLETTE. Junction points for the various Brigades were given.

For the advance on NOYERS additional artillery was being allocated in support of the Division. 185 Field Regiment was being put in direct support of 70th Brigade. The Regiment was to send forward a reconnaissance party to the East and SOUTH East of PARC DE BOISLONDE on receipt of Divisional Orders, as well as to the North West.

Movement of guns would not take place until after the capture of CHEUX.

69 Field Regiment were to provide one CRA’s representative with 70th Brigade, while 143rd Field Regiment supplied one to 147 Brigade.

Operation Order No 1.

This was dated 23rd June and set out enemy forces and the Divisional intentions to capture the line between VENDES 8665 and Rauray 8665 (Codename MARTLET) to form a firm base. 70th Brigade was to be in Reserve for the operation. Three phases were described – at the start of Phase B 1st Tyneside Scottish was to move into the area LES HAUTS VENTS – 8669.

Rauray was to be captured. Additional artillery and troops were to be made available, including one Battalion of American V Corps 4.5 guns. 185 Field Regiment were to be employed on smoke duties plus supporting 70th Brigade as necessary. 143 Field Regiment would support 147 Brigade. 190 and 507 Batteries would supply normal Observation Posts with 11th RSF and 7th DWR respectively.

Communications details were set out, with Code signs allocated for the Squadrons of the Sherwood Rangers and task tables for the Batteries.

Operation Order No. 3.

Protection of 70 Brigade.

This first sheet in the file set out a trace of the areas and localities requiring support for the protection of 70th Infantry Brigade. Three tasks were identified with eight targets – all DF.

Barrage Fire Plan.

This diagram of the areas to be covered by the Barrage from 143rd Field Regiment incorporated timings and targets and map references, with each of the tasks detailed.

Barrage Phase A.

This was dated 21st June and was a more detailed version of the Barrage Fire Plan, specifying the role of each Field Regiment.

Final Phase.

Again, a detailed diagram of fire to be brought down on specific areas, but not, it would appear, involving 143rd Field Regiment.

Divisional Task Table – Operation MARTLET – dated 21st June 1944.

This sheet listed the DF tasks following the capture of Rauray.

49 Division Operation Order 3.

This was the detailed order describing the arrangements for capturing the line VENDES – Rauray – essentially Operation MARTLET – apparently as a refinement of Operation Order No. 1 described above.

In this case, 10th DLI were to move forward during the Phase 1 attack – being carried out by 146 Brigade – to secure the Western end of the LA CAUDE RUE spur 850675.

143rd Field Regiment was treated in this Order as “spare”.

The Fire Plan was attached to the Order. 143rd Field Regiment was on call for DF tasks under codes Teddy, Richard and Tommy. In Phase C the regiment would be called for DF tasks in the areas RONALD and WINSTON if needed. In the final reorganisation those tasks were included on Task Table ZZ, covering areas PHILLIP, REX and TUDOR.

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