81 Assault Squadron

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by Chris L 1948, May 13, 2017.

  1. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member

    Hello all, I'm new to the site so hope I get this right.

    I am researching a friend's father, L/Sgt A J McK Delf who I believe was a member of 81st Assault Squadron that landed on Gold Beach (King Green I think) in the first wave on D Day.

    Alfred was subsequently captured at Tilly sur Seulles on June 11th and ended up in Stalag 357. He apparently maintained that the rest of his crew were summarily shot by the Germans ?

    Coincidentally, there are five men buried in the CWGC cemetery at Tilly all from 81st and all killed on the 11th and I believe that a crew of a Churchill comprised 6 men.

    So far not much is written about the battle on that date (apart from a very expensive French book), and so I'm assuming my next step is to the War Diaries at Kew, (as unlike some WW1 work I have done these aren't yet on line), and MOD personnel records ?

    Any help or advice would be very welcome.

    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  2. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    Hello Chris and welcome to the Forum.
    Have you tried this one
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Both Andy, Drew5233 and Lee, PsyWar.Org both have a war diary copying service.
    Well respected members of the forum who offer a fair price & have many happy customers on this forum.

    Mike, Trux posted some info on 81 Assault Sqn here
    Drew5233 likes this.
  4. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member

    No I haven't but will try to get a copy. Many thanks for your help. Cheers Chris
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

    UK, British Prisoners of War, 1939-1945
    Name: A J McK Delf
    Rank: Lance Serjeant
    Army Number: 2121336
    Regiment: Royal Engineers
    POW Number: 80901
    Camp Type: Stalag
    Camp Number: 357
    Camp Location: Oerbke, Lower Saxony
    Record Office: Royal Engineers Record Office, Ditchling Road, Brighton, Sussex
    Record Office Number: 9


    edited to add:
    Might be worth reading this thread - The Battle for Tilly-sur-Seulles - Normandy - June 1944
    Deacs and Owen like this.
  7. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    Re Churchill crew numbers.
    81 Assault Squadron used Churchill AVREs at that time.
    AVREs had a sixth man (Corporal demolition NCO) assigned.
    More on this here (quite at the end of a long text):

    Assault brigade royal engineers
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  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There are some very well informed people here on the Assault RE, but I don't know how far they go beyond D-Day.
    I have dug into Tilly in the past so should have the relevant bit of the war diary somewhere...
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Chris - I've replied to your PM. Feel free to give me a shout if the chaps on here can't help.

  10. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member


    Thanks for the lead, copy of the book arrived today.

  11. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member

    Hi Thanks for that. Does anyone know the ranks assigned to each role ?. Reason I as is that I know the ranks of the five guys buried at Tilly and maybe able to match role to rank and maybe conclude this is one crew, (although there are four sappers and one L/Cpl), and my man was a L/Serjeant.
  12. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    Go to the link mentioned in post 7, then search for "XIV/900/1" which lists the personal of a squadron. Regarding L/Serjeant, it means Serjeant paid as Corporal.
  13. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member

    Maybe I'm thick, but having reread post 7 what I was after were the ranks assigned to each of the crewmen mentioned in the posts 5& 7.
    Thanks anyway for the response.
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member


    I would assume Aixman means this section:

    Section 1
    Churchill AVRE
    Subaltern, corporal demolition NCO, driver, co driver/loader, mortar man, operator - 6 man team
    Carries 18 X General Wade charges, 14 X Petard bombs
    Churchill AVRE
    lance serjeant, corporal demolition NCO, driver, co driver/loader, mortar man,
    - 6 man team
    Carries 18 X General Wade charges, 14 X Petard bombs
    Churchill AVRE
    lance serjeant, corporal demolition NCO, driver, co driver/loader, mortar man,
    - 6 man team
    Carries 18 X General Wade charges, 14 X Petard bombs

    Aixman and CL1 like this.
  15. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member

    Thanks for that.

    Can I assume then that apart from the Subaltern/Lance Serjeant and the Corporal NCO that all the others would hold the rank of sapper ?

    If so this confirms the probability that the five guys buried at Tilly are from one crew as we have one L/Cpl and four sappers, and my man (L/Sjt) was captured.

  16. idler

    idler GeneralList

    81 Aslt Sqn RE War Diary
    11 June 1944
    1905: The 4 AVRE with 7 Armd Div under comd 7 [sic, should be 2] Glosters attacked TILLY-SUR-SEULLES. One AVRE had trouble with gear box and became out of action. Remaining three got into TILLY. Capt Davis on right had his vehicle put out of action by enemy atk weaponat X-rds in centre of TILLY. Lieut Boulter on the left with two AVRE. One AVRE proceeding towards church in ST PIERRE east of TILLY was hit by enemy action and burned out. Crew all missing.
    2100: Lt Boulter withdrew with infantry withdrawal and took with him the crew of Capt Davis AVRE.
  17. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    War establishments often give totals, here for a troop, leaving within these totals details ruled to the squadron leader. WE VIII/468/2 (effective: 26.10.43) was in force during the Normandy landings.
    It deals with sappers and drivers:

    Lance-Serjeants: 4 (sapper class)
    Corporals: 2 (sapper class)
    Lance-Corporals: 5 (sapper class), 1 (driver class)
    Sappers: 22
    Drivers: 12
    Total, rank and file: 46
    plus 1 Serjeant (general dutyman)
    plus 1 Captain
    plus 1 Subaltern
    Total: 49

    Regarding rank and file, there are 14 trades (39 total):
    2 blacksmiths
    1 bricklayer
    5 carpenters and joiners
    1 clerk
    1 concreter
    6 driver-mechanics (driver class)
    2 electricians, maintenance
    2 fitters
    1 painter and decorator
    Pioneers for duty as:
    - 7 general dutymen
    - 1 motor-cycle orderly
    - 6 signals dutymen
    2 plumbers
    2 sheet metal workers
    as was usual with engineer units, and 2 non-tradesmen classes (7 total):
    drivers, IC, for duty as:
    2 batmen and
    5 drivers of vehicles.

    1 motor-cycle, solo
    4 lorries, 3-ton, 4 x 4, G.S.
    1 carrier, tracked, personnel, starting and charging
    6 assault vehicles, R.E.

    Last edited: May 24, 2017
  18. Yes, normally all crew members apart from the tank commander and the Dem NCO would be Sappers, although the driver would sometimes have the rank of... Driver, which I suppose would only apply to a trooper with a fully breveted Driver trade?

    Of course, some tanks also had one Lance Serjeant among their other crew (especially when the tank commander was an officer or a Serjeant), and/or might also have more than one Driver or Corporal on board...

    On D Day a seventh crew member (a fitter) was even added to some of the AVsRE, much to the displeasure of the elected crews who could then hardly move inside the crowded hull.

    So I agree that the evidence here does point to the five fatal casualties being your Alfred's unfortunate fellow crew members:
    No.2042483 Sapper Ervin DARWENT
    No.1916268 Lance Corporal Thomas FLANAGAN
    No.14308788 Sapper Harold Kay WOOD
    No.6920724 Sapper Jack HOLLAND
    No.1929308 Sapper William Ballantyne McCUTCHEON

    Captain Thomas William DAVIS 162253, R.E. and Lieutenant Edward Henry BOULTER 273448, R.E. were respectively listed as Troop Leader and Troop Officer (i.e. second in command) of No.3 Troop as of 30 April 1944. On 30 May Capt DAVIS replaced the Sqn 2 i/c Capt POYNDER who had gone to hospital, with Lt BOULTER probably taking over as Tp Ldr. This might mean that L sjt DELF was part of 3 Tp?

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  19. Chris,

    Do you happen to know whether L sjt DELF commanded or landed in an AVRE on D Day, and if so with what device his tank was fitted (e.g. bobbin, fascine or else), and generally any information however insignificant it may seem regarding his tank, his crew or others in his LCT? This could help identifying where exactly he was on D Day.

    I have the names of all the 81 Aslt Sqn D Day tank commanders except three. L sjt DELF is not among those I have, so we need more info in order to find out where he was.

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  20. Chris L 1948

    Chris L 1948 Member


    Thanks for your various posts and the information.

    I am certain from both the Delf family and various sources that he was in the first wave as part of 81 assault squadron. So far I haven't established which type of AVRE he was crewing and can only narrow this down to one of 6 LCTs. Thanks to Andy I have just got hold of a copy of the war diaries and am going through them now. It seems that as he was captured at Tilly he was part of the troop involved there which looks to be (I think)) 3 Troop.


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