1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by Baldy000, Dec 1, 2016.

  1. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Hello all, I'm brand new so please be gentle.

    I have started (this week) to research my Grandad and what he did during WW2.
    Thankfully my Grandad survived the war, but unfortunately passed in December 1982 when he was 57 years old and I was 9.
    I knew at the time that he had been in the army but was to young to appreciate what that actually meant.
    I have spoken to my parents and uncles, they said that he had been injured on D-Day, other than that, like many from that time, he just didn't talk about it. I have found that they were mistaken in this, but he was wounded later on.

    My Grandad was Private 14428036 William Ralph Harris. He was born in West Ham in 1925.
    He enlisted at some point and was posted to the 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.

    I believe he possibly served in Sicily and Italy but not 100% sure.

    His Battalion was part of 231 Infantry Brigade and were probably on HMS Empire Spearhead when they sailed to Normandy to assault Gold Beach.

    I found that he is listed 3 times as wounded;
    11/08/1944 Casualty List No. 1522 (Entered in error)
    22/08/1944 Casualty List No. 1531
    04/09/1944 Casualty List No. 1542

    Can anybody shine a light where his unit was on these dates?
    Any help on where I should be looking would be appreciated.

  2. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum, Baldy.

    As he was born in 1925 and assuming he was with the 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment, he could well have been involved in Sicily, Italy (very biefly), D-Day and the NW Europe campaign. His service records will provide this detail; do you have these?

    The 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment was indeed one of the infantry battalions of 231st Infantry Brigade, along wth the 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment and 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment. They served as an independent infantry brigade in Sicily, but became a Brigade of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division sometime thereafter and certainly well before D-Day, and served wth 50 Div for the duration. During his time with 50 Div, his Divisional patch would have been like my avatar.

    I should be able to help you with where he was on those dates, assuming he was with the 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment, but I'm out of the UK at present and my reference material is at home. Unless somebody provides the information to you in the intervening period, I will write again on Sunday evening.


  3. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    Hello Baldy,

    Welcome to the forum. Your Grandad couldn't have been in a better battalion but like all infantry in Normandy they had a very bloody time. By the 22nd August Normandy had passed and the 43rd Division were mopping up behind the 11th Armoured Division. On the 21st August the battalion moved to a harbour area near Ecouche and were ordered to help mop up some enemy reported to be in the Joue-du-Plain by the Free French. Nothing was found and on the 22nd August they moved onto Argentan to the area of Croisilles. Here they searched the St Evroult Forest and piqueted a town called Gace. C and D companies brought in 12 stragglers from 10th SS Division and 331st Division but there is no indication of any friendly casualties.
    On the 23rd they move again onto Vernon where the Division secured the crossing of the Seine until the end of the month. All this is from the book "Three Assault Landings" by Lieut.Colonel Bredin D.S.O M.C their CO.
    The book in paperback is available for the Regimental museum :

    Books - The Keep Military Museum, Dorchester, Dorset

    On the 4th September the battalion was following the Guards Armoured and soon after 07:00 were passing through Tournai. Here they linked up with the Grenadier Guards and resumed the advance to Brussels. The enemy were encountered on the western outskirts of Lessines and there were reports of 300 Germans in Papignes. A and C Companies were ordered to clear Lessines of all enemy. Friendly casualties were 1 killed and 1 wounded from A Company. This information is on Page 116 of the Colonel Bredin's account.
    The wounded man is not named, nor can I find any reference to your Grandad in the list of Honours and Awards.
    The next stage would be to consult the War Dairies and there are a few forum members who can help there.
    A new book about the Dorsets "They Couldn't Have Done Better" is also available from the museum but I haven't read it yet. Good hunting !

    Kind regards,

    Will. aka Billy the Bastard (D Company, 1 Wessex and then 4th Bn Devon and Dorset Regiment and then Mortar Officer The First Rifle Volunteers) 22 years and miss it like crazy.
    stolpi likes this.
  4. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Thanks for the reply Steve
    My Uncle has said that he has his service records in the loft, so I have to go visit at some point and collect them along with his medals and some photos. He doesn't live local unfortunately.
    However both my Uncle and Mother have confirmed that he was in the Dorsetshire Regiment and confirmed his service number. I don't know which Company he was in. I'm hoping that once I get my hands on his records I can find out more information.
  5. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Thanks Will
    After only a few days with the bits I have read I have mixed emotions. I'm filled with pride with what he and his Battalion achieved but sad that he had to go through it. Before it was a piece of history but now it seems personal.
    I have ordered "Three Assault Landings", hoping it arrives today or tomorrow. I'm looking forward to reading it.
    I think I'm pretty stumped until I get his service records and then I can move forward with things.
    Thanks a lot
  6. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    WilliamHarris 1.jpg I have been sent some pictures of my Grandad William. I have since discovered that his first day in the army was 1st April 1943. After his training in the General Service Corps he was posted to the Essex Regiment. I'm not sure where he went. He was transferred to the Dorsetshire Regiment on 14th April 1944. In the picture, my Grandad is wearing the Dorsets flash. Can anyone identify the insignia on the Sgt? Would it be from the Essex Regiment?
  7. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    WilliamHarris 3.jpg William on Guard
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    It that one you can see the wyvern of 43 Wessex Division.
    Under that are 2 horizontal stripes indicating the intermediate brigade of the division. 130 Brigade , made of 7th Hampshires , 4th & 5th Dorsets .

    The photo with the sergeant, insignia looks to me like that of 38th Welsh Division. Yellow cross on a black shield.
    I maybe wrong.
  9. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Thanks for that Owen.
    A Welsh Regiment makes sense as it happens. My Mother thinks the Sergeant is called Bill Evans, however she thought they were in the same regiment. Apparently they were the best of friends.

    The second picture is in Germany and I think was taken in 1946 after he was injured and sent back to Europe.

    The service records that my Uncle had were incomplete, so I have applied to MoD for a copy.
    Hopefully I will get a better understanding then.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The chap at the rear has a wound stripe on his left sleeve.
  11. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Thanks Rich.

    Yep that's Grandad William, the one with all the hair. Never heard of a wound stripe before. I was wondering what it was as its clearly not a good conduct stripe.
  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The British Army wound stripe was only authorised for a short period at the end of the Second World War, perhaps to keep the troops happy. I've heard it said that there was some resentment at American troops swanking around with Purple Hearts after they'd been 'hospitalised for ingrowing toe-nails'.
  13. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    Hello again Baldy,

    I have been looking at those two dates in the books "From Normandy to the Weser" by GJB Watkins which is the War History of the 4th Dorsets and "The Story of the 5th Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment in North-West Europe" by Major GR Hartwell MC and neither Bn were fighting at this time. They were around the area of the Falaise Gap and moving towards Vernon where on the 27th August the 4th Bn crossed the Seine.
    Not much help I'm afraid. There are researchers at the "Keep" in Dorchester who may be able to help further but records for the Dorsets in North-West Europe are not very complete.

    Kind regards,

  14. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    GBM_WO417_079_0496.jpg GBM_WO417_080_0317.jpg GBM_WO417_081_0125.jpg The 3 Casualty Lists that I have.
    Gold and stolpi like this.
  15. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Hi everyone
    I have finally received the service records. Very interesting.
    I'm having a few problems with the abbreviations.

    He was initially posted to 51 Primary Training Wing. No mention of where that is. I think it might of been Warley in Essex.
    Then "Trans to Essex Regt Woum 112/Misc/3819. (MP1B). No idea what that means and no mention of unit.
    Then Trans Dorset Regt auth:woum D/6451/1265 (AG2A) d 9apr44. Again no mention of unit.

    A bit further down in the unit box it says xlist(21AG).

    Any help on what that means would be helpful.

    He had a colourful time. In and out of trouble, little bit of awol here and there for a day or two, it made me chuckle.
  16. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Any chance you can post his service records on here, Baldy? Be easier to help you if we an see them !


  17. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    I'll do my best
  18. Baldy000

    Baldy000 Member

    Here we go.
    I have managed to work some of it out now thanks to this site. But any other views or knowledge is welcome.

    Attached Files:

  19. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    When you come to up load a file, it would be probably wiser to select Full Image rather than Thumbnail. The example you have given is quite sharp. The only thing is, its a File size: of 1.7MB You can only post a max of 2MB per post. You will need to re-size the copy's you have. If you care to e-mail myself with the photos you have, then one will re do & return. I attach a example of a Full Image.

  20. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Baldy,

    He did his basic training at No. 51 Primary Training Wing, as a member of the General Service Corps. As you say he then transferred to the Essex Regiment 4 ? 1943, then the Dorsetshire Regiment on 9 April 1944. I believe that he was in the 4th Bn Dorsetshire Regiment, because if you look at his fist punishment for AWOL whilst with the Dorsets, it shows a '4' in the unit column.

    The WOUM references are orders under which the unit transfers occurred and lead us nowhere.

    He was put on the 'X' List as part of his punishment for insubordination to an NCO, which means he was not on active duty - possibly (FP) field punishment.

    The 21AG reference is 21st Army Group. He was a soldier in the 4th Bn Dorsetshire Regiment, 130th Infantry Brigade, 43rd (Wessex) Division, 21st Army Group, namely, a member of a unit within the Allied Forces army grouping destined to fight in Normandy in June 1944, etc.

    Hope this is of help!



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