143rd Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. War Diary September 1943

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1 September 1943 NEWMILNS, Ayrshire.

Heavy rain.

2 September 1943

1st Self-propelled Course finished. C.O.’s conference 17:00 hours. Showery.

3 September 1943

Voluntary Service for National Day of Prayer.

4 September 1943

Ceremonial. Regiment to be considered as non-mobilised unit with effect from 2 September 1943.

5 September 1943

Guard mounted at Division – Divisional Commander said it was the best he had yet seen and called it a first class guard.

6 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

7 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

8 September 1943

Adjutant goes on leave; Regimental Signals Officer takes over.

9 – 11 September 1943

Exercise “Uncle”. Firing U and M Targets with 25 pdrs borrowed from 185 Field Regiment. One gun for troop out. Weather fine and a number of lessons learned.

12 September 1943

C.O. congratulated on good guard provided at Divisional HQ and given photographic picture.

13 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

14 September 1943

Light Aid Detachment intend to mobilise by 27th September. Visit by ? Doctor from Edinburgh ? Office.

15 – 17 September 1943

Exercise Contact III with 147 Infantry Brigade. No guns out, but represented by 3 trucks on the ground.

18 September 1943

Regiment returns from Contact III. Again, much of this page in the War Diary was photographed inadequately – probably due to the speed at which the images had to be taken, resulting in a blurred, largely unreadable result. The Regiment appeared to be working with 147th Infantry Brigade during this period.

19 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

22 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

24 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

29 September 1943

Nothing of importance. Captain ? Watson? Arrested on a charge of fraud.

30 September 1943

Nothing of importance.

Appendices attached to the September 1943 War Diary.

Appendix 1 – Exercise Bridgehead – Exercise Instructions.

The object of this Exercise was to discover what degree of congestion was likely to take place in the covering position on D-Day and to find out what steps could be taken to remedy such congestion.

Secondly, to practice Assault Division in seizing and holding a bridgehead after a successful assault landing and dealing with Counter-attack by enemy mobile forces.

The Regiment was taking part at assault scales as part of 147 Infantry Brigade.

The Exercise made assumptions about the positions which the assaulting Division would have reached, and this was traced on Appendix A to the document. Certain areas – such as airfields – were treated as out of bounds for the purposes of the Exercise. Cross-country travel was allowed in the Exercise, subject to care being taken over damage to crops and livestock, and gates being closed wherever possible.

Vehicles were to be marked with their landing serials. Troops and vehicles were to be in simulated Landing Craft loads – the aim being to make the movements as realistic as possible. Rations were arranged and cooking arrangements were to simulate battle conditions as closely as possible. Water supplies would begin with full water bottles and unit water carts being available during the exercise – water points to be set up. Assessments of strength diminution by casualties were made and treatment and evacuation facilities were to be included – with AYR Racecourse acting as a Reception Camp for “wounded”. Arrangements also were included for any real casualties which occurred during the Exercise (the author recalls exercises during the 1970s when messages about real casualties were preceded with the message “no duff” when requesting medical assistance). Umpires would also declare vehicle casualties requiring recovery and repair.

Details of dress and equipment were included on Appendix A, with Assault Scales set out on Appendix B and Landing Tables on Appendix C.

Appendix A to Instructions.

Men were to be dressed in Battle Order with; 2nd best battle dress and denims over the top, rolled gas cape, no respirator, cardigans under battle dress, steel helmet, anklets, full scale ammunition, field dressings – not to be used on “exercise” casualties - no documents other than AB 64 Paybook. Tank crews would wear cap comforters in the vehicle and steel helmets outside. Self-propelled guns crews to wear crash helmets and carry steel helmet.

Each man would have his small pack containing Mess Tins, washing and shaving kit and towel, cap comforter, spare socks, knife fork and spoon, rolled gas cape on top.

Blanket and greatcoat would be rolled in groundsheet and labelled for each man, being carried in a three – tonner until needed. One night would be spent without access to these bundles.

Appendix B to Instructions

This page set out the Assault Scales of equipment, wireless sets, water and fuel to be carried in the individual vehicles. Each vehicle carried 8 gallons of water and 9 gallons of fuel in jerricans. Each vehicle in the Regiment, and its load, was listed on this page.

Appendix C to Instructions

Each vehicle and its load of personnel and the relevant tactical signs and serial numbers was listed, grouped according to the Landing Craft in which they were expected to be travelling during the assault. These were not definitive lists but would be adjusted in the light of the Exercise experience. The list does show that the Regiment was then equipped with 105mm self-propelled guns, with tanks used as armoured observation posts.

Appendix 2 - Exercise Bridgehead – Further information in amplification of Instructions.

This document provides extra information linked to the sections and paragraphs of Appendix 1.

This began with rations and cooking arrangements as Tommy Cookers would not be available – making it necessary for cooking utensils to be carried in addition to assault scales.

A note was included of the allotment of Forward Observation Officers – most with 6th and 7th Battalions of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, with the Troop Commander of 190 Battery, together with two radio sets, supporting 70th Infantry Brigade.

A casualty element had been introduced with one of the Serial Landing Craft “sunk” by bombing, with the loss of 53 men, who in the Exercise would be used to fill gaps or loaned to other Batteries.

No rifles were to be loaded, unless specific orders were give, as live ammunition was being carried to full assault scale.

Appendix E detailed the Movement Order to get the Regiment to the Concentration Area – giving route details, densities and speeds, as usual.

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