115 (N Midland) Field Regiment Royal Artillery

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by trader, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    Greetings everyone and another request.

    On 22 July 1944, Gunners R. M Morris, G. E. Smith, H. A. Fraser and E. A. J. Martin all drowned whilst training at Satpur, India. The Regiment had been undergoing both 'Dryshod' and 'Wetshod' Training over the months before but Satpur is a long way from the sea and they were undergoing mostly practice firing on the Deolali Ranges that month. The War Diary doesn't make any further comment about this incident and there's no note of a 'Board of Enquiry'.or anything similar occurring.

    Does anyone have any more information on what happened, or know where the details of this incident could exist?

    Regards.

    TG
     
  2. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    Greetings to you all and I hope you're all in good health.

    I have just about completed the second part of 115's history and I'm in the process of checking the text for mistakes etc. An announcement will be made to you either by email, if I have it, or on this website when it's ready to read. The second part covers the period from June 1940 to June 1944 when Lt. Col. R. A. G Nicholson took over command whilst they were in India. I thought that this period was going to be a bit tedious but I think that, when you read it, there are some interesting sidelines that have come to light. I'll keep you all in suspense!

    Many thanks to those of you who've sent me other information on actions and personnel. It's always great to be able to include additional information and I've added a postscript to Part One with information I've recently received about the Dunkirk evacuation. Help on sorting out RA abbreviations has been most welcome from recent gunners, or from others related to this website members.

    Publication will be delayed, hopefully for only a few more weeks, as over the past few days some additional research has come to light which needed checking out and including. The internet is an amazing tool! Whilst reading through the text I had come to the War Diary entry on 18 May 1941 regarding Lt. E. S. Packe being killed in a plane crash near Acle, Norfolk. I thought that this was a bit unusual for an Army Officer to be killed in this way so I asked the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) if they could look in the Eastern Daily Press for more details on this, and another death in the regiment due to a road traffic accident near Haddiscoe.

    There was nothing in the Eastern Daily Press but the NRO were extremely quick to come back to me with information on Lt. Packe's death with details from book about RAF crashes in Norfolk during WWII. This included the air-frame ID and the Squadron number. Doing another search on the aircraft ID pulled up a section on flickr.com which had photographs of the gravestones of the airmen who were killed and details of the crash. In one of those comments under the photograph, it mentions Lt. Packe as being a victim on the ground and also that another person from the regiment had been injured. My searching instinct went into overdrive and after quite a long search through the War Office Casualty Records from 18 May, 1941, I found the 'accidental death' on WO 417/013 CL240 p529 (issued on 25 June 1941), of Gunner R. J. Blackett. It appears that, for some reason now under investigation at the CWGC, that this death is not listed in their database.

    Best wishes,

    TG
     
  3. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

  4. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    Many thanks for the reminder High Wood. More information is always welcome. What is your relationship to Arthur Gardiner?

    Regards.

    TG
     
  5. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Interesting to see your mention of Lt. Col. R. A. G Nicholson, TG. Do you have much detail on him or any pictures? He was CO of my grandfather's regiment (the 130th) during the First Arakan Campaign of 1943, leaving the unit after the retreat for a posting at the School of Artillery in India, and I'd assumed he'd remained there for the rest of the war - didn't realise he'd gone on to lead another regiment.

    I'm in the depths of writing a similar account of the 130th (just broke 250 pages, not bad for something I hadn't planned to do!) to be shared on the forum once it's finally finished - although as you've found, there are endless avenues of research that keep popping up so it may be a while yet!

    Nicholson wrote an account of his/the 130th's role in the Arakan, which is available at TNA:
    Account of operations of 130th (Lowland) Field Regiment in the Arakan campaign 1942 Nov - 1943 May, by Colonel R. A. G. Nicholson [CAB 106/23]

    Ronnie Nicholson seems to have been quite the leader, with his finest hour (from the little I know of him) being organising the withdrawal at the Battle of Indin, where he more or less took command of 6 Brigade and got them out of the Japanese encirclement, with his regiment dropping into action on the move during the march out and shelling the enemy in the hills with every round of smoke and HE they could lay their hands on. On the other hand, he also ordered the shelling of the overrun 6 Brigade HQ area which almost certainly killed Brigadier Cavendish, who had been captured, although it was a desperate and confusing time indeed.

    By complete chance, I came across a translated account of a Japanese medical orderly involved in the fighting at Indin which I am pretty certain describes Ronnie Nicholson in action at Indin:

    (from Tales by Japanese Soldiers of the Burma Campaign 1942 – 1945 by Kazuo Tamayama and John Nunneley)

    Account of Tadahiro Ogawa (Medical Unit, 112 Infantry Regiment HQ, 55 Division)

    Late in the night of 5 April, the regiment started to attack Indin. The regimental headquarters followed the 2nd Battalion, while most of the 3rd Battalion remained to hold the hill securely and to protect injured men.

    When we reached the south end of West Village, we saw many British soldiers on the beach retreating towards the north. Colonel Tanahashi, the regimental commander, did not order us to attack them but instead he ordered us to dig trenches there.

    As several soldiers of the 4th Company were wounded we put them in a dry pond and treated them. Then several British POWs were brought from the 4th Company and found to be Brigade Commander R.V.C. Cavendish and his staff.

    Soon afterwards a carrier came at full speed from the direction of Kwason, two men sticking their heads up to look around. While we were watching them, amazed, it ran between Middle Village and East Village and returned by the same route.

    This description fits precisely with the account of Colonel Nicholson, who records that at 6 a.m. he took a carrier forward from Kwason to Indin to try to discover what was happening at Brigade HQ. As he relates:

    I went up the road towards Indin and halted the carrier under a tree about 700 yards from Bde H.Q. I examined the area of Bde H.Q. for about 15 mins through my glasses and could see movement in the whole area. Men were strolling to and fro and no firing was in progress. As all the figures I saw were in K.D. it was difficult to say for certain whether they were Japs or our men. I then saw a figure in unmistakable British battledress, without a helmet. He was surrounded by men with rifles and fixed bayonets. He stopped and pointed towards the arty area and was then led away. From his height and build I think this was Brig CAVENDISH. I was now certain that the area was in Japanese hands and decided to take immediate action.
    Nicholson’s “immediate action” was to contact Major Awdry by wireless to order 130 Field to shell the Brigade HQ area. Ogawa's account continues:

    Soon afterwards shells fell on us... The shelling at Horseshoe Hill had been very severe but this one was much more frequent. First, field guns from the south and mortars shot at us; moreover, heavy guns from Kyaukpaund joined in the shelling. I thought it inevitable that one of these shells would fall on my head, but I prayed that such a moment should come as late as possible.

    Again Ogawa’s very precise account exactly matches Nicholson’s. Two troops of 130 Field were firing on his unit from the north in Kyaukpandu, and three from the south in Kwason.

    Late in the afternoon a hut just behind us started burning; if the fire reached our wood-covered trench it would burn completely. I peeped out cautiously, and saw smoke shells which looked like briquettes with holes lying around us. I was tense, judging that the enemy was going to attack us under cover of smoke, but nothing happened. On the beach enemy soldiers and vehicles were marching in column towards the north, which looked picturesque against the evening glow.
    Once more Ogawa describes events exactly as reported by Nicholson. This is the dense smoke screen fired by ‘B’ and ‘D’ Troops to cover the withdrawal of 6 Brigade across the Indin chaung. In Nicholson’s words: “The smoke screen fired by the guns in KYAUKPANDU was very effective and covered the INDIN WOODS and hills to the EAST with smoke. I learned afterwards that about 1600 rds of smoke were fire by B Tp and officers assisted in relieving the gunners in the detachments during the long period of firing.”

    Nicholson's 'Account of Operations' file lists in detail the organisation of the retreat northwards, which featured three columns: gun tractors and carriers closest to the hills, other vehicles (packed with sandbags and other improvised cover on the side facing the enemy) in the middle, marching troops and mules on the beach. Later in the account, Ogawa describes the examination of the body of Brigadier Cavendish, and judges that he was killed by the shelling:

    Accompanied by the regimental commander, I examined formally the corpse of Brigadier Cavendish who lay about 10 metres away from our Ishikawa. He lay flat in a paddy field which was 20 metres west from the centre of East Village, with his head turned slightly to the right in a south-east direction. His only injury was a great gash through the lung from a piece of shell which apparently had damaged his heart and lung. As he was lying in the same direction as Ishikawa, both must have been killed by the same shell. I judged that he had died about noon (Japan time) when moving from Middle Village to East Village.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
  6. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    Greetings PackRat and many thanks for your post and the information.

    I have Nicholson's Service Record which shows he was in the Arakan before returning to a HQ job and then taking over 115. He has written quite a lot about his service period and several 'articles' are referenced and quoted in 'History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - The Far East Theatre 1941 - 46' which was published by The Royal Artillery Institution in 2000 (ISBN: 1-85753-302-X. I managed to get a loan copy via our local library and then found a second-hand copy in very good condition. He stayed with them for about a year before handing over to the 2 i/c, Major Arthur Denham Foxon.

    As you say, other information comes to light which you feel must be included somewhere. I'm off to the RAF Museum, of all places, next week chasing up some information about a plane crash in May 1941.

    Regards,

    TG
     
  7. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    The Acle Air Crash

    An entry in the War Diary for 18th May 1941 led me to investigate further and a visit to the RAF Museum at Hendon this week brought further information to light regarding this tragic incident.

    On 18 May the Regiment learnt that Lieutenant E. S. Packe (97627) had been killed at Acle, Norfolk ‘in an air crash’. Lt. Packe had been killed when an RAF aircraft crashed at a Battery site at Acle at 1622 that afternoon.The aircraft, a Blenheim IV, L9413/XD-D (serial number and code) of 139 (Training) Squadron was piloted by Pilot Officer A. M. Saunders of the Royal Canadian Air Force who came from Calgary, Alberta and was based at RAF Horsham St. Faith near Norwich. P/O Saunders had been granted his 'Wings' at the Leithbridge, Canada four months previously and had a total of 74 hour flying experience on type, of which four hours were dual. The aircraft had been making a low passes over the battery gun positions and had collided with a pear tree, then clipped the gable end of Wingate’s House causing severe structural damage to the building, before it crashed and then burst into flames.

    The outline permission for the flight was in accordance with 'low flying attacks on villages for the opening of War Weapons Week' but it would appear that the low flying aspects of the flight over the battery were not clearly laid out and detailed permission given. The Blenheim IV normally had a crew of three and along with the P/O Saunders, RAF personnel Sgt. R. L. Ridert-Halbert, Sgt. P. R. Gordon and RAF Cpl. G. A. Acton were killled. Also on board was Lt. E. S. Packe from 115 Field Regiment but his presence on the aircraft had not been authorised. On the ground, and from the Regiment, Gunner R. J. Blackett (816084) was also killed. Following the accident and the deaths, the Air Officer Commanding instigated disciplinary measures against several RAF personnel in the Station Operations branch and the Squadron.. This death of Gunner. Blackett is not recorded in the Regiment’s War Diary but is documented elsewhere. (source: Hambling, (1999), findmypast.co.uk, flickr.com and RAF Museum aircraft document A.M. Form 1180 No. 374 of 18/05/41).

    Lt. Edward Simon Packe was 25 years old and had been born in Rothley, Leicestershire. His parents were Charles James Merville and Ruth Margaret Packe, also from Rothley and he is buried in Rothley Cemetery, Sec. A. Grave 182.

    Gunner Robert Jackson Blackett was 28 years old and had been born and living in Willington, near Durham, Co. Durham. He was the son of Robert Grieves and Margarete Ellen Blackett and the husband of Mary Elizabeth Blackett, all from Willington. Gunner Blackett is buried in Willington Cemetery in a grave in Sec. 4 Row R.

    Regards.

    TG
     
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  8. topofthestack

    topofthestack Member

    Greeting to all followers of this topic,

    I have now completed Part Two of 'A History of 115 Field Regiment (North Midlands) RA which covers the period between June 1940, after they returned from Dunkirk, and June 1944, just before they moved eastwards towards Burma.

    I have sent copies of Part Two to the Imperial War Museum, the Archivist at the 'in storage' ''FirePower', and the Leicestershire Records Office.

    I have had 'conversations' with several of you, but for those who would like an electronic copy, please sent me a message and I will forward you a copy of the latest part, or both parts.

    Regards and best wishes from,

    TERRY
     

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