143 Coy TT RASC looking for all new elements

Discussion in 'RASC' started by Johan Van Damme, Jun 3, 2018.

  1. Hi ,
    First of all I'll want to thank Tom and Graham

    My story begins in 1939

    "The idea of forming 143 Coy RASC (Tank Transporters), or to be more accurate, 12 Sub Park, was conceived in 1940 after the fall of France, but its actual history dates from the beginning of the war, and it is advisable therefore to give a brief sketch of what, for want of a better word, might be called its ancestry.
    The Coy, is in derict line of descent from 2nd Corps Troops Ammunition Coy, which was formed in mid-September 1939 at Shorncliffe, Kent,with Major Horton as the Officer Commanding.
    Equipped with 3-ton Bedfors, 2nd Corps Troops Ammunition Coy. embarked for France at the end of September 1939 and set up its HQ at Mazingarbre. Their job was to supply 2nd Corps with ammunition and it was then that the Coy first became an operatinal unit."
    So gegins the Bookled "The Long Trailers" written by Cpl J Sinton
    The History and Travels of the Coy
    Can you help finding the man an war diary's?
    I'll tell you the rest of the story
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  2. Me again,

    "Neither France nor Belgium had become embrroiled in the struggle at that time and a few members of 2nd Corps who are still with the Coy, are the first to admit that they had a "cuchy billet". The was, measured in miles, a long way off. They fraternised with the local inhabitants, produced a concert party and dance band and made quite a hit with the leaders of the town's social life.
    Active operations came when the German invader crossed into Belgium on 10 May1940. The Coy moved forward to Opwijk near Brussels, but was obliged to redraw to Amiens. After four days however, it again went forward, this time to Ypres.Two days later it made another withdrawel in face of the rapid advance of the Germans. Forty kilometers from Ypres it received orders to burn or distroy all vehicles. Onlyone truck a 15-cwt was left intact? The Coy then marched in platoon order, from Dunkirk, the 15-cwt bringing up the rear to pick up casualties and stragglers. German aircraft bombed ans strafed the marching column but it is believed there were no casualties, and eventually the men reached the Dunkirk beaches."
    from "The Long Trailers" 1946 written by Cpl J. Sinton

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  3. Back again,

    "While they waited for evacuation they lived in foxholes and slit trenches in the sand dunes for five days. In the confusion of evacuation the Coy was inevitably split and there were some casulties when the boats on which they had found refuge were attacked by enimy planes. A few of the man actually swam to the boats and it is believed, though not confirmed, that others did not get away. The remnants of 2nd Corps Troops Ammunition Coy reached England, suffered an unknown number of casulties in kille, wounded and missing.
    At this part it is interesting to recall the exploits of Cpl Pat Hanley, later a sergeant in 14 Sub Park and subsequently a sergeant-major in India.Cpl Hanley, big-hearted and big-fisted, was taken prisoner, but after two weeks in captivity, he escaped with six Frenchman.He attacke his German guards with only his fists as wapons and after evading them, obtained a suit of sivilian clothes and made his way to Calais. From Calais he set out in a small rowing boat to cross the Channel, and was eventually picked up by a destroyer."
    from "The Long Trailers" 1946 written by Cpl J. Sinton 2014-02-11 13.11.50 (2).jpg
  4. Hi,

    "Meanwhile the Coy was being re-formed at Lambourn, Berks. In November 1940 at Morley, Yorkshire, it was re-destignated 11 Sub Park, and became an integral part of 13 Corps Ammunition Park, in company with 12, 13 and 14 Sub Parks. As is the way of the Army there were postings and cross-postings. The Core of 12 Sub Park was formed of men of the 2nd Corps Troops Ammunition Coy. Around that nucleus 12 Sub Park was built up and reinforced by very young and green soldiers, wh were drefted in from the various training centres, notably Matlock and Sheffield, and who three months before had been treading the primrose path of sivvy street. 143 Coy, was still unknown, but perhaps we can say that at this point of history proper of the company begins"
    Next time : XIII Corps Ammunition Park
    Can somebody help me finding the names of the men?
  5. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Hi Johan,

    The" Long Trailers" were there many copies printed ? it looks an interesting read.
    Also do you have any photos you might like to share ? forum members are always interested in photos.

  6. Hi Graham,
    Major Hartharn said in his Personal Message
    "I am hopeful that every single man who has ever owed allegiance to my Company will receive a copy.There are still whit us orignal members who have travelled the long, hard road from 1940, there are others who have been with us only for a few short weeks. It was the old members who gave the Company its heritage, but I am happy and proud to say that the new men have maintained its high traditions."
    So I don't know how many copies are maid an yes I have a few photos
    first one is made by Timothy Scrivens "Western Dessert
    second is made by T. Scrivens Sint-Gillis Oktober 1944 Steenweg op Brussel (watch the little yellow man on the door of the truck) the symbol of 143 Coy TT RASC also on the cover of "the Long Trailers"

    Attached Files:

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  7. Hello,

    "XIII Corps Ammunition Park
    The early days of 12 Sub Park are irrevocably linked with the other Sub Parks in 13 Crps Ammunition Park and if references are concidered irrelevant, it should be remembered that it would be almost impossible to leave them out. Inparticular must there be allusion to 14 Sub Park for when that Coy , ultimatery fell a victim to the relentless Tahag Mincing Machine, many of its personnel were absorbed by 12 Sub Park.The Park was commanded by Lt. Cononel Hopper and itd H.Q. was in the Towers, Churwell, as also was the H.Q. of 14 Sub Park whose Officer Commanding was Major Denis. Personnel of 12 Sub Park were quartered in Moley itself and the other Sub Parks 11,13 and 14 were in the immediate area. During the building up period discipline was taken lightly, but in the transitional months of inactivity ripened a spirit of camaraderie which was to become a Coy tradition in its desert campaigning. As traditional as the abhorrence of "bull"
    From "The Long Trailers" by Cpl J. Sinton

  8. Hi,

    "After tedious months of preparation 12 Sub Park said a fond farewell to Morley on 17th March 1941 and entrained for Gourock. Tropical kit had been drawn some time before and despite the wishful thoughts, of the sceptical few, there was none who had any doubts about his destination. Some six weeks or more before, 14 Sub Park had gone to Irvine in Scotland and had been engaged in ferrying vehicles up and down the country to and from Egliton Park and Rooken Glen. 11 and 13 Sub Parks had been living a life of comparative idleness. All of them were reunited on the SS Strathaird, 20.000-ton luxery liner, converted into a trooper, which swung at her moorings in midriver off Gourock. Clyde pleasure steamers which in the halcyon days before the war, had carried many of the men on cruises to Rothsey and the Kyles of Bute, now ferried them from Gourock pier to the Strathaird. We will draw a discreet veil across the scene aboard ship. The thought and the awful memory of bedlam and confusion leave us cold."
    From "The Long Trailers"
    photo SS Strathaird

    Attached Files:

  9. Hello,
    "Most of the men were in their hammocks and their bunks and asleep when the decks and plates vibrated to the monotonous beating of the ship heart. The Strathaird glided downstream and through the submarine boom into the Atlantic in the darkness of the night of 26th March 1941. She was in a big convoy of ships whose names had made news and, to the several thousand souls aboard, she was bound for an unknown destination. At a rough guess anyone would have told you that the destination was Egypt, but no one could say for sure. There were one of two optimists, who believed we were bound for Canada to form part of the defence of that dominion! Clammy wisps of sea fret spraying the decks with fine beads of salt water and the ocean was grey and glassy when early risers crept above from the stifling confines of the converted holds to refresh their starving lungs and have a glimpse- as last glimpse- of the receding mainland. Now had the night not been so dark, and had the bows of the Strathaird not been so pointed, there would have been no mainland. The ship had been steaming for several hours and it is simple arithmetic that under normal circumstances, she would fallen far below the arc of the horizon. But Fate decreed that she would not sail for that unknown destination; In the darkness as the great ships jockeyed into position the Strathaird was in collision. Her bows were damaged. Campbelltown light was flashing from the hazy promontory as the giant trooper steered a course for the Clyde."
    From "The Long Trailers" by Cpl J. Sinton
  10. Hi,
    "Back to Gourock. Everybody was happy, apart from the exceptinal few who felt they had been cheated of their voyage of exploration to the mysterious land of the Pharaohs, of whith, a few months later, in the light of first-hand knowledge, a certain lance-corporal was to write : "Land of wogs and dirty dogs....." The voyagers who smugly considered themselves as "survivors," were taken off the Strathaird two days later. Aboard the little steamers they raised gleeful voices in a discordant "Bless Em All" . At least to the folks who watched from the shore that is what they sang. The tune was the same. On desembarkation, 12 and 14 Sub Parks went to Bellahouston Park. For the minority there was a spot to leave. For the majority it was fire wachting at Liverpool. We will not enlarge on the Subject. Even to this day there is an unpleasantness whith is best forgotten"
    from "tThe Long Trailers"


    Attached Files:

  11. Hello,
    "The Voyagers
    There were no hitches when the Coy , re-embarked on the 22 April 1941. The Strathaird had been made seeworthy again and she weighed anchor on the26 April. The complete Ammunition Park was not aboard, but only 12, 13 and 14 Sub Parks. In the interim period of disembarkation and re-embarkation 11 Sub Park had been withdrawn from the Park, but many of that Coy's personnel had been absorbed by the remaining units. 12 Sub Park was under command of Major J.T. Neve. As the great ship slid away on the tide on a voyage which was to take seven weeks emotions were mixed. Sadness and home-sicness filled the hearts of the majority yet, pervading all, was a fatalistic resignation. For everyone it was to be "an awfully big adventure" They gazed longingly at the little red-roofed cottage on the sheltered hillside until it passed from view around a bend in the river. The weather was cold and wintry. It was goodbye.......
    Fourteen days later the convoy sailed into Freetown. Tropical heat was oppressive. Everyone sweltered in the humid climate. Only at meal times were the mess decks toleable. Otherwise they were abandoned for the open decks and the amusement provided by sundry banana vendors and scantily clothed black boys, who sang "Sow me the way to go home" and god-blessed or cursed the patrons who pitched " Glasgow tanners" overboard."
    from "the Long Trailers"

  12. Me again,

    "Fuelled and replenished the ship set her course for the Cape after five days. An important nobleman was aboard which necessitated the Strathaird leaving the convoy and proceeding alone to Cape-town. The wind had freshened and the rocky green sea was flecked with white when the great bulk of Table Mountain loomede through the grey f the horizon. Even the mighty Louis Pasteur, pride of the French merchant fleet, which passed on our side, pitched and rolled and seaspray licked across her towering bows. Trere was only time to say hello and goodbye to magnificent Table Bay, for within two hours of dropping Lord Harech the Strathaird was steaming into an adventure which was to be unforgettable. An unbroken cloud belt which blotted out a struggling sun hung low and ominous over a sea being rapidly whipped into a frenzy by a half gale. With every cchange of course the ship rolled drunkenly and shuddered under the steam-hammer punches of vicious waves. Sleepers, clinging tenaciously to their "claims" on the weather decks, awoke in the darkness to find rivulets of water scudding about their beds and snatching with wet fingers at their blankets. Dragging their sodden bedding the Spartans scrambled own the slippery companionways into the stuffy sanctuary of the messdecks, rigged their hammocks and tried to continue their interrupted slumbers. Water splashed unmusically down the ventialtors, cascaded down the steps. Hammocks swung in unison with every heave roll of the vessel.
    Sunday morning found the Strathaird tossing like driftwood in a wild, turbulent ocean. With every fantastic, sickening plunge the stern reared high out of the water and resistance gone, the giant screws screeched their delight."
    From "The Long Trailers"
  13. Hello again,
    "Below decks breakfast was being eaten without appetite. Suddenly the vessel heeled over alarmingly, balanced precariously for one agonising second, then rolled back on to an even keel. Crockery crashed to the floor, kitbags and packs tumbled from the racks. Unwary, unhappy men, some of them about to sample their first spoonful of porridge, others to devour their last bite of bread and jam, were hurled violently across the messdecks. Noise and confusion prevailed. The wave which had caught the Strarhair on one leg was the father and mother, the grandfather and grandmother of all waves that ever cocked a snook at an ocean greyhound. others were to have a crack, but none was to shake the vessel quite so much. The storm maintained ifs furious tempo for another two days. At long last, after an aeon of time, the moderated and the sea cast off its angry mood beneath the warmth of a sub-tropical sun. There was only a crinkle of movement on the surface of the water, sprankling with the red and gold of the morning , when the good hip Strathaird glided gracefully towards Durban. Misty shapes, resolving themselves into multi-storeyed, ultramodern buildings which give distiction to this most fashionable of all the South African coast resorts, fired the imagination of the several thousand men who forsook their morning meal to catch a glimpse of the mainland after their nerve-racking experiences of the past few days. This was civilisation, and with luck they might soon be painting the town red-or as near to red as was possible on ten bob they had been promised. Everyone thrilled to the prospect of a few hours ashore.
    There is no need to describe the happy memories created in Durban. The townpeople lavished hospitality on the "Tommies". There were car rides to the Valley of a Thousand Hills, conserts, free feeds, dances in the open under twinkling fairy lights. Picked troops marched past the Lord Mayor. The dream ended on the fourth day. As the shinning whitness of Durban slipped beneath the horizon, live aboard ship assumed a reality even more grim and irksome. Lewis guns were assembled and dismantled with monotonouss regularity; the system of replenishment was taught and re-taught. Even the leisure hours were dull. Abrief stop at Port Sudan revive interest. Next day began the last lap of the journey. It was uneventhul and archor was dropped at Port Tewfik on 14th June. Disembarkation was completed on the 15th and, after a hot, dusty ride in trucks and buses across the 60-odd mile Treaty Road, the voyagers were introduce to that vast, desolate, soulless place known as El Tahag."
    From "The long Trailers"

    Attached Files:

  14. Hi,
    " Tahag Mincing Machine
    On 29th June Capt. W.H.T. Fisher succeeded Major Neve as Officer Commanding 12 Sub Park. By this time XIII Corps Ammunition Park was in the toils of the relentless Tahag Mincing Machine and ultimately was disbanded in Juli. Not a single round of ammunition had been carried. Rumour had it that the sshipment of the Coy. to the land of the Pharaohs had been all a ghastly mistake. It was a rumour which was to become traditional with almost every single unit which found its unfortunate way to this ast, ungodly, uninspiring stretch of nothingness on the insalubrious banks of the Sweet Water Canal. There was considerable juggling with the companies of the erstwhile Ammunition Park. 12 Sub Park became a Reserve M.T. Coy and took over new three-tonners. 13 Sub Park formed the nucleus of a tank transporter company (later "C" No 6 and finally 144) without vehicles and 14 Sub Park was re-designated 14 Independent Infantry Brigade Coy. R.A.S.C. While this transformation was in progress a section of 14 Sub Park was operating with 5 Bridge Coy. between Suez and Port Said, and when it was eventually recalled to the fold the section was absorbed by 12 Sub Park. 14 Independent Infantry Brigade Coy had departed for pastures new.
    Major R. Hartharn assumed command of 12 Sub Park on the 1st August and had as Second-in-command Capt. (now Major) G.H. Summerfield, popularly known among the rank and file as "Georgie." Company disciplinarian was C.S.M. Sharp, affectionately but clandestinely ubbed "Slim" Capt. R.G. Paine was then a very young second lieutenant. After the advent of Major Hartharn the unit was subjected to little change and grew into something as nearly a^^roching a family affair as it is possible to achieve in the Army. Only the name seemed to be in doubt."
    From "The Long Trailers"

  15. Hello,
    " Overnight it was changed two or three times and then it was a toss up between a Mobile Bath Unit or remaining a Reserve M.T. Coy. The Unit was kept as a Reserve M.T. Coy though it appeared to have no fixed appellation. It was variously known as 12 Sub Park, 12 Sub Park Reserve M.T. Coy., 12 Reserve M.T. Coy and 56 Reserve M.T. Coy. To the members of the Company it was still 12 Sub Park and under that name it took part in one of the longest road concoys ever undertaken by the R.A.S.C. up to that time-the 2400 miles return trip to Kirkuk in Iraq. The pending detail had been kept a fairly close secret. While the men marched and counter-marched with and without rifles, attended the daily Adjutant's parade looking rather ridiculous in their brand new sun helmets of previous war pattern, trudged wearily but stoically through the dust to the Catholic Hut for weak shai and a wad, sought fighting Australian beer in the ill-lighted, sweating confines of the NAAFI, sat uncomfortably on brokendown chairs of Shafto's and generally chafed under the continued routine, the movement of the 5th Idian Division was being planned.
    Every vehicle in the Coy was needed for the move and while the bulk of the unit proceeded to Burg El Arab onthe edge of the Western Dessert to pick up units of the 5th Indian Division, resting after strenuous campaigning in Eritrea end Abyssinia, a section carrying out on an odd detail at Suez was hastily instructed to return. This section picked up the personnel and aggage of No. 3Indian C.C.S. at Tahag.
    As a point of interest it might be mentioned that M.T. Sergt. H.R.F. West, of the Essex Battalion later to become Capt. ("What Goes On") West, of the 143 Coy R.A.S.C. (Tank Transporter) trvelled as a passenger on one of the trucks. Approximately a year later he joined this Coy"
    From "The Long Trailers"
  16. Back again,

    "The First Operation
    The "Irac Run" as it came to be unknown and talked about ever after was the Company's first operationel move. There was not a man who did not relish the prospect of turning his back on the monotonous Tahag square bashing and spit and polish and escaping from the tentacles of the Mob Centreoctopus. Knees were not the only things which had assumed a deep shade of brown. Visions of adventure were conjured up in the depressed minds of the men who for sso long had considered they were merely wasting their valuable time playing at soldiers. Eyes brightened as spirits heightened. Where the hell Iraq was many of them had only the vaguest idea. But if they did not know they cared less. The prospect of shaking even for a little while the dust of Egypt from their boots was exhilarating.Very primly and demurely the great train of vehicles headed for the Suez Canal. Proper convoy distance was kept. Arms were thrust rigidly and religiously out of the cab windows in the best training centre style as each truck moved off; they flopped up and down as they stopped. Those of course were the early days. The new gloss ha not even begun to wear off. By the time men and vehicles had traversed the 2400 miles of soft gooey, pot-holed roads, dusty, choking desert tracks, and stony, rocky hill tracks, it had become somewhat shop-soiled.
    It was the enthusiasm of the drivers which made the trip a success. For endles hours they droe in the sweltering heat ; at night they slrpt on the ground in the bitter cold. Yet there were no complaints. From the start they made friends with the indians. At nights they foregathered at their vehicles and drank the sweet, syrupy tea provided by their new-found comrades and sampled gingerly the staple chuppattis baked while they waited"
    from "The Long Trailers"
  17. Hazel Martell

    Hazel Martell Member

    Hi Johan - I've just seen your posts about 143 Company (Tank Transporter) RASC and am replying because my father, Graham Martell, served with the company from 1940 to July 1946. I can probably tell you quite a lot and provide you with a few names, as there was a small group of men who served all the way through and my father kept in touch with them long after the war was over. All of them spoke fondly of Sint Gillis, where my father was billeted with a Mr and Mrs Claessens who had a son called Andre (and I am still in touch with Andre's son, Eric). I also have a copy of The Long Trailers, plus some photos which don't appear in the book (though it will take me quite a while to find the photos, as they are among things I am currently sorting out from my late mother's house). I also have a wonderful letter which my father wrote to my mother (then his fiancee who he met in December 1940 when the company was billeted in Morley, near Leeds) and I can eventually send you a copy of that as well. I met Jim Sinton (who wrote The Long Trailers and was a newspaperman, working on the Shields Gazette, in South Shields) and have been in contact with his son Robin a few years ago to ask permission to quote from the book when I was also thinking of doing something similar to you. At that time I also went to the National Archives at Kew and did some research on the records they have there, but Major Hartharn was a man of few words and his war diaries that I saw didn't reveal very much - but I ran out of time that day and know there are more to be seen, but I have never had time to go back and look again. That's all for the moment as it's getting late, but I'd be delighted to exchange information with you, especially as this September will mark the 75th anniversary of 143 Company's arrival in Sint Gillis. Kind regards, Hazel (Martell)
  18. Hazel Martell

    Hazel Martell Member

    P.S I've just looked at the photo taken in the Western Desert and am fairly sure that my father is the second man from the right on the back row.
  19. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Hello Johan has not been on the forum since Jan 2019
    I have sent him a message re your reply

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  20. Hazel Martell

    Hazel Martell Member

    Hello Clive - and many thanks for your message and for letting Johan know about my reply to his request. I hope he gets in touch as I have quite a lot of information/anecdotes that I can pass on to him. Kind regards, Hazel
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