98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery in Action

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Aug 5, 2010.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The following account is taken from WO 167/128. I Corps Commander Corps Medium Artillery (CCMA) dated 23rd May 1940.

    23rd May 1940


    The Regt. was on the road soon after midnight. RHQ was infront, being again ably led by 2/Lt. Tetley. Major Stewart-Mackenzie and Capt. Raikes pushed on ahead of the main column in the hope of getting some early information and orders at Estaires.

    On approaching Annoeullin, the sound of spasmodic but heavy small arms fire was heard coming from the direction of the town. A deviation was made therefore via Gondecourt and Wavrin, in the course of which a considerable amount of French mounted troops was encountered. Except for odd stragglers, these were the first French troops which the Regt. had seen.

    Estaires was reached about 0530 hrs. Lt Col Bush, CBO, I Corps, arrived shortly afterwards with the information that 10 German heavy armoured cars had been in Bethune early that morning. The Regt. was to go at once to Le Petit Mortier, north east of Estaires, where a position was reconnoitred from which, if necessary, it would be possible to cover the line of Estaires-Armentiers Canal. In the meantime, all round anti-tank defence was to be prepared.

    A quick reconnaissance of Le Petit Mortier was carried out by Major Stewart-Mackenzie, to enable vehicles to get clear of the roads. As soon as the roads had been cleared, a more detailed reconnaissance was put in hand. Three guns were deployed in anti-tank roles to cover the three main approaches, while the area as a whole was organised for all round infantry defences in conjunction with 1 Hy Regt. RA. and some Sappers, who were also in the area. Meanwhile the Bty. Recce Party prepared a position for th ethree troops firing south.

    The night was spent in digging in. It was not until about 0400 hrs. on the 24th that news was received from the Belgian machine gunners that a hostile column of AFV's was approaching. The column was seen advancing down the main St. Omer- Hazebrouck road. The first shot from the gun disabled a vehicle at the head of the column, which halted and withdrew, several hits being scored by the gun in the process.

    After a pause of about a quarter of an hour, the gun was attacked by eleven medium or heavy tanks, which endeavoured to get into 'hull-down' positions, and shell the gun. One of these tanks was put out of action with a direct hit, and it is probable that at least two others were badly damaged. Three direct hits were then scored on the gun. The first shell disabled the layer, and his place was taken by Sgt. J E Morbin, who was performing the duties of Troop Sgt. Major, and arranging the ammunition supply. The second shot wounded Sgt Morbin in the eye, but he carried on, until the third shell killed Sgt. Woolven, the No.1, and badly injured the remaining member of the crew (I believe this man to be Gunner Daniel O'Donnell). At this moment, the reserve trailer of ammunition which had been sent for earlier on, appeared. A tank shell scored a direct hit on this before it could be unlimbered, and it blew up. As the gun was now quite useless, Sgt. Morbin gave the order to withdraw, and although himself in great pain , superintended the removal of the wounded until he collapsed. For his part in this action, Sgt. Morbin was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

    839614 Sergeant Godfrey Woolven 392 Bty., 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

    933632 Gunner Daniel O'Donnell 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:

    855505 Sergeant James Edward Morbin (Mordin) DCM. 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    Acting as 'E' Troop BSM detached from his battery in the defence of Hazebrouck, 27th May observed eleven tanks proceeding across his front. This NCO immediately engaged these tanks with 'E' 2 gun which came under heavy fire from one tank which 'hulled down.' 'E' 2 fired about twenty rounds and several hits were scored, the remaining tanks dispersed and withdrew. It was only when 'E' 2 gun was completely wrecked and four of the detachment killed or wounded did Sergeant Mordin, who although wounded, make arrangements for the withdrawal of the detachment before he collapsed. Throughout this engagement, Sergeant Mordin's conduct was an inspiring example to all.
    LG. 20.12.40
     
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  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    F.2., under L/Sgt. Love, took up position covering the Blaringhem Crossing. This crossing was being held by some 200 French Infantry, two Searchlight Detachments, and some RAOC personnel who had been preparing to open an Ordanance Railhead. The first attack was launched at about 0830 hrs., and was repulsed. In this attack L/Sgt. Love succeeded in scoring direct hits on one tank and two vehicles which appeared to be armoured troop carriers. A second heavier attack was launched about 1100 hrs., and the French began to withdraw. Soon after, the remaining British troops also started to go back. The gun remained in action firing over open sights, under the direction of 2/Lt K. M. Payne, until some 130 rds. had been fired, leaving only, 3 rds. with the gun. As the German Infantry by this time within hand-grenade range, 2/Lt. Payne gave the order to withdraw. The gun was successfully limbered up, but, in pulling off the position, a shell from a German tank struck the engin draught-connector, severing it, and loosing the gun. For his part in this action, 2/Lt. Payne was awarded the Military Cross.


    Second Lieutenant Kenneth Martin Payne MC, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details
    During an attack on the La Bassee Canal 22 May, this officer commanded his troop with commendable skill and total disregard of personal danger. His troop which was in continuing action against tanks, succeeded in scoring a direct hit on one medium tank, one troop carrier and an armoured fighting vehicle. It was only when all ammunition was expended and his troop in danger of being surrounded by the enemy who attacked with grenades and machine-guns that 2/Lieut. Payne gave the order to withdraw in order to save his guns. Throughout the whole of the fighting from 14th - 30th May this officer has set a magnificient to all in his fixed determination to destroy and harass the enemy on every possible occasion.
    LG 20.12.40
     
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    About 0940 hrs. the O.P. was re-occupied by 2/Lt. Palmer, and continued in action until about 1540 hrs. During this period many targets were successfully engaged, including concentrations of tanks and an Infantry H.Q., both of which were dispersed. About 1540 hrs. the line to the Battery was finally cut, and as the Battery was about to move, the O.P. was closed down. For his actions here and earlier on in the search party for Major Egerton, 2/Lt. Palmer was later awarded the Military Cross.

    Second Lieutenant John Philip Carrington Palmer MC, 391 Sussex Battery, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    During the defence of Hazebrouck 27 May, this officer established an O.P. in the church tower and brought the fire of the Battery on to tanks advancing on his front, infliciting considerable damage and confusion. When the church tower came under considerable shelling and his observation in consequence was interferred with he moved his O.P. temporarily, but re-occupied it later.

    Enemy mortars and tanks were engaged and considerable damage done. This young officer showed great coolness and complete disregard of personal danger in doing everything possible to stop and harass the enemy from an O.P. which was constantly under shell fireand which was ultimately destroyed. This officer went out on the night of May 25th towards the enemy lines to try and locate his Battery Commander, who had, earlier in the evening been reported missing, believed killed, but without success.

    LG 27.8.40
     
  4. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Drew
    Enjoyable the details of a fighting withdrawal doing as much damage as possible then moving back, it was interesting to note that the guns stayed after the French and British soldiers had pulled back.
    Then waited until the enemy was in grenade range before moving off.
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    About 1100 hrs. a party of about 15 tanks approached the town of Hazebrouck astride the main Morbecque road, where they came under the fire of the left section of 'A' Troop. A.1. was in action on the road, and A.2. to the south of it. A.1. remaining in action until 1500 hrs. was forced to retire and succeeded in rejoining the Regt. via the bridge over the canal opposite Le Souvrain. A.2. first of all engaged some tanks which were trying to cross the railway line S.E. of Hazebrouck, and caused them to withdraw. About 1130 hrs. this gun, having been shelled, changed its position and re-engaged a heavy German tank and four smaller ones, all five of which were destroyed. The gun was then advanced to a new position in the same field. At 1430 hrs. six tanks advanced towards the gun, and two tanks were knocked out. The rest withdrew. The gun position was again shelled shortly afterwards, and A.2. eventually withdrew to Hazebrouck at about 1600 hrs. The gun team displayed great coolness throughout, and was ably led by Sergt. Art. Hatcher (Since awarded the Military Medal) who was taking th eplace of the usual No.1. who was in the R.A.P.

    After the forward O.P.'s had ceased to be effective, 'B', 'C' and 'D' Troops, working as a combined battery, continued in action until 1600 hrs. Observed shoots were carried out by the O.P. in Hazebrouck, and, under th edirection of R.H.Q. map shoots were fired on the enemy's back areas. As soon as the high ground around Morbecque was lost, all three troops came into direct observation from the enemy, 'B' and 'C' troops were heavily shelled, about four men being wounded. 'D' troop, partly through being the rear troop, and partly through being well camouflaged, escaped, though the enemy made two abortive attempts to neutralise them. One shell landed at the entrance to R.H.Q., wounding Lt. Benn in the thigh and eight other men of R.H.Q., in addition to damaging the CO's car.


    1069603 Lance Serjeant Artificer Gordon Hatcher MM, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    When in charge of 'A' 2 gun which was in action in the defence of Hazebrouck on 27 May, this NCO displayed great presence of mind in manoeuvering his gun in order to bring effective fire to bear on tanks which appeared on his front. L/Sergeant Artificer Hatcher assisted by L/Bombardier Lusted directed operations from a house nearby. One large tank was hit and set on fire and four smaller tanks were destroyed. Later in the day, six tanks advanced towards the gun position - two were knocked out and the remainder dispersed. L/Sergeant Artificer Hatcher and the gun detachment with tractor driver Flint, displayed great courage and coolness throughout.
    LG 27.8.40
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    A.4. gun had to be abandoned under attacks from enemy infantry; Dri. Moore (since awarded Military Medal) displayed great determination in returning to the gun under heavy fire to remove the firing mechanism, when the enemy's infantry were within point-blank range of the gun.

    932312 Driver Arthur William Moore MM, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    Was one of the detachment on 'A' 4 gun in the defence of Hazebrouck on May 27 which had been driven back by enemy infantry. Driver Moore worked his way back to the gun in spite of the enemy being within point blank range and succeeded in rendering the gun useless to the enemy by removing the striker.

    LG 27.8.40
     
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    The head of the column had gone about half a mile up this track and had turned right-handed, when spasmodic machine-gun fire commenced. For a few moments no one took much notice, until very suddenly the fire became very heavy. It was coming from a wood to the North and North-West , and made further progress along th etrack impossible. Some of the rear vehicles were turned around, but owing to the congestion it was impossible to turn the majority. Major Stewart-Mackenzie, who had come forward, then gave the order to leave the vehicles and take cover in the ditch along the side of the track, where a Bren gun was brought into action in reply to the fire from the wood.

    Almost immediately afterwards, 5 German tanks appeared from the direction of Meulenval and La Bertenaere moving East towards the now stationary column, which stretched to the south of the level crossing through the proposed Battery position. There appear to have been three medium heavy tanks, and two light tanks. They advanced on a wide front, firing as they came with machine-guns and with the heavier tank guns. One of the light tanks moved around the north flank of the column, and crossed the road between the level crossing and Godewaersvelde, while two others approached the column from the south of the railway. Finding no opposition except from rifle fire, the tanks settled down to carry out a deliberate destruction of vehicles by incendiary gun fire. In a few minutes, all of the vehicles on the road were ablaze, including several motor ambulances of the Fd. Ambulance which were interspaced with the vehicles of the Regt. and the French vehicles. By this time, all the personnel from the vehicles were sheltering in the ditches alongside the roads, the majority being in the neighbourhood of the level crossing. Major Stewart-Mackenzie, still with the party up the track to the north, led his men back across the open to a house about 200 yds. to the north of the level crossing, were they took shelter in the cellar. Another party from this same area succeeded after a long crawl in gaining the shelter of the town of Godewaersvelde.

    The party with the guns under B.S.M. Baylis were not in view when the firing first began, being defiladed by th ehedge of a small house near the level crossing. Unfortunately, the Nos.1 of the guns were not with their guns at the crucial moment, having gone to the head of the small column to receive orders from B.S.M. Baylis. However Sergt. Art. Boyes at once took charge, and got th erear gun of the three into action, only to find that it was without sights. He was spotted doing this by one of the southern tanks, and as he left the the gun the ammunition trailer wasblown up by a direct hitfrom an incendiary shell. He moved on to the next gun in the column and attempted to get that into action, but was by this time under such heavy machine-gun fire that he was forced to abandon the attempt. Sgt. Starmer, the No. 1 of the leading gun, on finding that he was unable to get back to his own gun, obtained an anti-tank rifle from one of the trucks, and brought it into action in the garden of the house alongside the level-crossing. From this position he was able to fire three shots at a range of about 50 yards into the light tank which had succeeded in crossing the Godewaersvelde road. All appeared to hit the tank and it never moved again.

    At the time when the firing began, there were three guns of 10 Fd. Regt. R.A. in the column, with their head at the level-crossing. The officer in charge, realising that th eroad was completely impassable, at once turned his three guns to th eright along the railway track, and succeeded in getting them down the railway and so round the town. One of these guns was unlimbered on the railway, between the level-crossing and the town, apparently with the intention of coming into action against the tanks. However, no rounds were fired from it, and it was later found abandoned on th erailway line by one of our retiring parties. The vehicles of the 98th Fd. Regt. were prevented from following these guns, as an ambulance immediately in rear of them was one of the first vehicles to be hit.


    1849529 Serjeant, Artificer Henry George Boys MiD, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.


    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details
    Throughout the withdrawal this NCO displayed outstanding courage and determination to resist the advance of the enemy. On two ocassions on 28th May he endeavoured, single handed and under heavy MG fire to bring a field gun into action against enemy tanks which had ambushed his party. Throughout this action and subsequently on the beach at Dunkirk this NCO with complete disregard of personal danger set a magnificent example of courage and cheerfulness to all around him.
    LG 20.12.40
     
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    Meanwhile, Capt. Ellison, having given out the orders for the deployment, had gone back in the direction of Fletre with the intention of meeting the guns at the R.V. and seeing them into action. He was waiting at the gun R.V. when the sound of the firing began. Having seen the situation from the hill immediately to the south of the gun area, he sent off two D.R.'s to inform Major Cubitt that it was impossible to bring the guns into action in the area given as it was in possession of German tanks.

    A Company of one of the battalions of the Cheshire Regt., which was following up the vehicles of the 98th Fd. Regt. at once turned their vehicles round, and succeeded in making their way to the east of the Mont Des Cats. They would not attempt any form of counter-attack, as the officer in charge considered it of greater importance to keep the road clear, and to get his vehicles on to where he had been ordered. However, one of their LMG Guns was brought into action in a house at Le Zand Berg by two privates under Capt. Ellison. A certain amount was acheived by this firing along the front edges of La Bertenaere at the mechanised infantry, who were following up in support of the tanks. After firing two and half belts, however, it was located by one of the heavy tanks and shelled. One of the gunners was killed, and the gun jammed, and had to be abandoned.

    By 1200 hrs. the enemy tanks were in undisputed possession of the field. Most of the vehicles by this time were on fire, with their occupants sheltering in various ditches alongside the road, the majority being in the area of the level-crossing. Movement of any kindat once brought heavy fire from the tanks who continually swept the ditches. To the south the R, Berkshire Regt. who were following the Cheshires, having carried out a very careful reconnaissance of the situation, decided that nothing in the way of a counter-attack could be attempted without the assistance of anti-tank guns.

    Seeing that nothing further could be acheived, the various detachment commanders began to withdraw their parties from the field, using the ditches, and other cover, and making in general for the east, being the opposite direction to that from which the tanks had come. The two largest of these parties were under 2/Lt. Payne and B.S.M. Holl. The former made their way via the wood just to the right of the road south of the level-crossing, and the latter along the railway track. Another party, after lying for a considerable time in a ditch to the north of the railway, was led out through Godewaersvelde by Gnr. Nicholson.

    The parties in the immediate vicinity of the level-crossing were completely pinned to the ground, and, being practically without arms, had to surrender. There were with this party Capt. B. H. Todd, 2/Lt. P. H. Duncanson, and 2/Lt. C. Silverwood-Cope. Lt. J. A. F. Baxendale was in the house alongside the level-crossing, being attended by a R.A.M.C. Doctor. He had been badly burned while attempting to turn a burning vehicle which was blocking the road.

    Major Stewart-Mackenzie, seeing this party being fallen in by the German tank commander, preparatory to being marched off, ordered his party from the cellar of the house to the north of the crossing to make a dash for the shelter of Godewaersvelde. At the same time he made his way down to the tank commander and asked for permission to make some provision for the removal of the wounded. Permission was granted, so a 15 cwt truck was obtained and a number of wounded were placed in it. Major Stewart-Mackenzie then made good his own escape.


    69925 Lieutenant Joseph Alwyne Francis Baxendale 392 Battery, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.
    :poppy: CWGC :: Certificate :poppy:
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Diary continues ...

    Lt. Col. Ledingham with Major Cubitt and a small R.H.Q. party made their way on foot via Watou to Bergues, which they reached by 1900 hrs. Here they reported to Brig. C. M. Usher in command of the Bergues garrison, and assisted in the defence of the town.

    30th May 1940

    The next morning Lt. Col. Ledingham reported to Maj. Gen. H. O. Curtis, and discussed with him the defences around Bergues, after which the party were ordered to make their way to Malo Les Bains near Dunkirk, where they reported to Maj. Gen. E. A. Osborne, G.O.C. 44 Div., on the beach. Under his command the day was spent organising parties for embarkation. Late that night, Lt. Col. Ledingham and his party were able to embark, and eventually reached England the next day. For his part in all these operations, Lt. Col. Ledingham was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

    Lieutenant Colonel George A Ledingham DSO, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.


    Recommended twice. Both citations are below.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details
    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    This officer and his Regt. came under my command on 25 May. During the ensuing days fighting he never failed to bring me accurate news. He kept his Regiment in action during this period, and by his personality, or devotion to duty considerably eased a very awkward situation,

    This officer is one of the cool determined type that inspires confidence. I can't recount any detail of his work under fire but I know he is exceptional in every way.

    E. A. Osborne. Maj. Gen.

    Throughout the operations this officer commanded his Regiment in the most exemplary manner.

    His quite, unassuming efficiency had produced a first class regiment, which, although it had given up over 100 NCO's and men to Officer Cadet Training Units during the winter, never failed to answer any call made on it.

    During the withdrawal from the Dyle one battery was persistently sniped in the dark, the Regimental Commander himself staying with the last Troop until it withdrew safely as dawn broke.

    In the vacinity of Hazebrouck personnel from both batteries accounted for eleven enemy tanks.

    The unit served under four different formations, and all commanders have nothing but praise for the manner in which their infantry were supported by it, even after it had suffered several casualties to officers and men.

    In the excellent service rendered by his Regiment, Lt. Col. Ledinghamis primarily responsible.

    CCMA I Corps.
    LG 20.8.40
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Regimental Mentioned in Dispatches

    Major The Hon. Charles Guy Cubitt MiD, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details

    Recommended for DSO awarded MiD.

    Throughout the advance to and the withdrawal from the River Dyle from the 10th to 30th May this officer has shown what can be acheived by a well trained and disciplined Battery, boldly commanded and fearlessly led - this Battery on several ocassionschecked the advance of the enemy's tanks, inflicted casualties and enabled our own infantry to withdraw in good order.
    LG 20.12.40

    Major The Hon. F. A Stewart Mackenzie MiD, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    Mention in Dispatches not listed online.

    Captain E. B. M. MiD, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    Mention in Dispatches not listed online.

    W.O. II B.S.M. P.C. Francis MiD, 98th (The Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

    Mention in Dispatches not listed online.
     
  11. Groundhugger

    Groundhugger Senior Member

    What Equipment did the 98th have in 1940 , as a Field Regiment would it have had 25 Pdrs and AP or HE for anti tank ?

    apologies for my ignorance
     
  12. idler

    idler GeneralList

    On mobilisation, they had 18/25prs - an 18pr MkIV gun with a new barrel, mounted on either a box trail or split trail 18pr carriage. There's no record of them changing during the Phoney War. They would have used 25pr ammunition but what natures they actually had available is another matter...
     
  13. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    [​IMG]
    A late-model Mk IV 18-pounder with Mk VP split trail carriage being used for training in 1938
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers chaps, I did wonder too, what they were using.

    In case anyone is interested in this Regt. there is a book:

    The Story of 98th Field Regiment (Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry Q.M.R.) R. A. (T.A.) and 144th Field Regiment (Surrey and Sussex Yeomanry) R. A. (T.A.) 1939-1946 by Lieutenant Colonel T B Davis.
     
  15. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Drew
    Interesting point nowhere is there mention of air attacks on them, As a kid growing up both my neighbours had been at Dunkirk one with RE's the other Infantry I clearly recall both when talking with my father complaining of the air attacks on the road to Dunkirk and whilst on the beaches.
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Found in a Cabinet File at Kew last week regarding Artillery v AFV engagements:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  19. tommy40

    tommy40 Member

    I met in 2000 a veteran of the 98th Field regt RA who fight in France in 1940.
    He still alive and send me a part of his account and severals photos of his comrades taken in july 1940. This account will be published in 2011 in France and I will gave details about that publish when it will be print.
     
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Feel free to ask him if he would like a copy of his Regiments war diary from this time-I'm more than happy to send him a copy.

    I hope the book will be in English :)
     

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