Artillery FOOs embedded with the Infantry on D-Day

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by IanTurnbull, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Can anybody help me understand how this might have worked. My father was a Wireless OP/Signaller from the 147 Field (Artillery) Regiment who had SP Sextons. He travelled over with "A" Company of the Hampshires (the only Gunner from his Battery that did) and landed with them at H+10. His Captain and Battery Commander did not land for another 15 mins, & his intended OP Sherman and SP Guns were not on the beach for another hour or so. Would he be coupled with an Officer from the Hampshires temporarily? Initially the Hampshires had no armoured support due to the delay in landing the DD Shermans, but they did have Naval bombardment support as well as Artillery after about an hour. How would Naval bombardments be called in from the front line in those early hours and what part might an Artillery FOO have played in this? Thanks Ian
     
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    The Landing Tables for 'A' Company, 1 Hampshires are not as detailed as some.

    Serials 2035 to 2044 were 10 LCAs from LSI(L) G64 Empire Crossbow carrying
    276 men from ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies, 1 Hampshire Regiment
    25 men from 295 Field Company RE. Includes Reconnaissance Party.
    2 men from 147 Field Regiment RA
    6 men from 50 Division Provost Company.

    However there are two men shown for 147 Field Regiment. Presumably a Forward Observation Officer and a wireless operator. The FOO became a casualty.

    Headquarters 1 Hampshires landed around H+35 minutes.
    Serial 2090 was an LCM from LSI(L) G63 Empire Arquebus. Battalion Headquarters 1 Hampshire Regiment.
    2 Jeeps with 2 crew from 1 Hampshire Regiment
    8 men from 1 Hampshire Regiment
    2 men from 61 Reconnaissance Regiment. Contact Detachment.
    3 men from Forward Observer Bombardment Unit
    1 man from 231 Infantry Brigade Signals
    6 men from 147 Field Regiment RA

    3 men are shown for the Forward Observer Bombardment Unit. Presumably the Forward Observation Officer and two signallers. The FOO became a casualty.

    Thus 1 Hampshires could not contact either 147 Field Regiment or naval units for some time.

    The RA Forward Observer and the Forward Observer Bombardment worked independently, although both should be at Battalion Headquarters and linked to the Battalion Commander.

    Calls for naval fire support would go through the Forward Observer Bombardment using a naval frequency. Field Artillery FOO would not be able to access this. Calls from a Forward Observer Bombardment went to a headquarters ship which assigned a unit, destroyer or cruiser, and direct contact between observer and ship would be established. RA had no involvement in this.

    Mike
     
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  3. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Thank you Mike this is very helpful. I know that the 2x147 Regiment soldiers on Empire Crossbow with "A" Company of the Hampshires were L/Bdr Turnbull (my Father, a wireless operator - 431 Battery) and Gnr Gentry (511 Battery). I have this from the 147 Regiment loading tables and in the case of my father personal accounts. And Gnr Gentry is not listed as KIA, so I am wondering who it was that became a casualty? Are the Hampshires loading tables accessible online?
    Also its perplexing who my Father was supposed to couple with; his Battery Commander (Gosling) landed with Hampshires HQ and had his own wireless team, and promptly got wounded and took no part, and his Troop Captain (Munro) landed 20 min later with "C" Company of Hampshires. There were at least 2 other FOOs from 431 Battery I know about (Foreman & Beale) and the latter took over Battery command & stayed with the SP Guns initially (according to his own account). Is it feasible that he was intended to support an Officer from the Hampshires?
    I take it that it was the job of the Forward Observer Bombardment to call in Naval gun support? Because I have personal accounts that Captain Munro (431 Batt "D" Troop Captain) calling in Naval guns to help the exposed Hampshires so presumably he was supporting the FOB?
    Trying to piece this together is interesting, and I hope not futile given the confusion caused by casualties, loss of wireless kits, and by all accounts "useless" wireless networks due to interference. Thank you again
     
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  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Ian,

    This was a very confused action certainly.

    In attempting to be brief I may have been misleading. It was the role of the Forward Observer Bombardment to call in naval gunfire support and to report the fall of shell. The personnel were an RA observation officer, RA signallers and RN signallers.

    It was my assumption that the two 147 Regiment men were an officer and a signaller. You know better.

    My thread on Gold Beach has transcripts of all landing tables. There are some 150 posts. My thread on Sword Beach has good photos of the Forward Observers Bombardment.

    Mike
     
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  5. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Thanks enormously to Michel & Mike for their help with this. Ultimately I can only speculate as to the role of the two NCOs from the 147 RA Field Regiment who landed with the 1st wave with "A" company of the Hampshires. The 147 Regiment's FOOs landed between 15 and 60 minutes later. As there was no Regiment FOO with them perhaps they were supporting an infantry officer to call in naval support? Perhaps they were there so that they could communicate to the FOOs when they landed where "A" company were? If you have any other thoughts on this they would be most welcome? Thanks Ian
     
  6. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Certainly confusing. My only guess from experience is that an unescorted NCO RA Wireless Op with an Infantry Bn or Company (almost certainly with HQ sigs) is to ensure contact with the following RA assets - FOO Sherman especially. H+10 had potential to be well off the plan so a dedicated 'embedded' radio with the unit would help know where the unit was for physical contact to be made without the 'noise' of traffic control or going through a probably disfunctional system.

    Does anyone here (Mike?) have details of the Hants vehicles on the day? Usual Sigs carriers and 15cwt? Some units got upgraded to 15cwt Armoured - M14.
     
  7. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Artillery Objectives differed between run-in and ashore. Having a means of communicating back to the guns if objectives were over-run early was planned for. It's been a while since I looked into the Green Howards moving from the objective of the 'House with the Circular Drive' to Creuley and the significant loss of their Bn. RA communications M14 by drowning at an early H hour. I'll try to find my notes
     
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Still thinking.

    Some possibilities:
    The landing table shows 3 men from landing from Forward Observer Bombardment with Battalion Headquarters around H+35 minutes. Since the FOB team should be 5 men the two in which you are interested might be from this unit.

    The tables for 90 Field Regiment show almost identical groups landing, but some give more detail.

    The CO land with the early infantry and two regimental signallers. Communication from CO to Batteries is normally a Royal Signals responsibility.

    The Unit Landing Officer lands at the same time. Does he need signallers?

    Two signallers and a No22 set land for Royal Navy liaison.

    For both regiments OP Carriers land with the LCT(A) carrying RM Centaurs. These all have a full 4 man crew.

    Mike
     
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  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I had a look around in case I could find anything that might add to the above, but couldn't turn up anything much.

    My understanding was in line with the above, that a Battery supporting an Infantry Battalion (or equivalent unit) would generally furnish two Forward Observer parties, the observers normally being the two Troop Commanders. That would allow one FOO per leading Rifle Company when working with two Companies up, which was a fairly common occurrence. Similarly I would have described the FO party as at least one officer and two signallers; the description in WEs from 1943 to 1945 of an armoured OP (Universal carrier) within an Infantry Division is invariably a Captain, two driver-operators and a driver-mechanic. Previously it was a Captain, 2 signallers and an observation post assistant.

    Obviously there were differences for the Normandy assault landing, which saw the Field Regiments using SP guns and tank OPs, but still having to get personnel in the LCAs alongside the Rifle Companies. Again generally speaking the principal was for the FOO to liaise with the Rifle Company commander, and bring down such fire as was requested by the infantry. As such the FOO would normally gravitate towards the Company HQ.

    Who the FOO could speak to would usually be governed by the communications he could access, and advancing on foot would limit what sets could be carried. I don't know what wireless sets the FOB parties had; your example of the RA FOO calling in RN guns would indicate he was able to access the wider fire support net, but he may have been using the FOB set up in the event the FOB observer had become a casualty.

    The RCA Field Regiments with 3rd (Canadian) Division should have adhered very closely to the RA in terms of their assault organisation and deployment of FOOs. The war diaries for the four RCA SP Regiments can be accessed here;

    http://lmharchive.ca/canadian-war-diaries-of-the-normandy-campaign/

    That for 14th Field Regiment, RCA, does give an outline of how its officers were disposed among the Infantry Brigade units. Note also (regarding the previous discussion on OP tanks) that the WD for 19th Field Regiment, RCA, mentions their OP Shermans were most definitely armed with 75-mm guns.

    There's an interesting use of terminology in the diary for 12th RCA; it says that their first personnel to land were two OP parties, and refers to one including "Captain Else and his able Gnr Robinson". Both were wounded and his signaller, Gnr Holtzman, is credited with calling in fire himself from 2 RMAS (presumably the RM Centaur Battery). I thought that 'able' was a description of the proficiency of the gunner in question, but the same term is applied later to another FO party. It may have been something particular to the RCA, or even the 12th itself, but it's not a term I've heard before.

    Gary
     
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  10. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    Could this be 'Able' as in the pre-NATO radio-telephony alphabet for the letter 'A', here standing for 'Assistant'?

    In British field arty war diaries and memoirs I've seen the term 'OP Ack' used as shorthand for Observation Post Assistant ('Ack' being British radio-telephony for 'A'). If the RCA were using 'Able' for the letter 'A' by this point possibly their variant was 'OP Able' for Observation Post Assistant, shortened further to just 'Able'. So "Captain Else and his [Assistant] Gnr Robinson".

    OPack.jpg
     
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  11. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Yes, that does make sense thanks, and fits in with the transition from the pre-war phonetic (Ack, Beer, Charlie, Don, etc) to the one I can remember (Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, etc). I'd heard the term 'OP ack' but really didn't know it stood for Observation Post assistant.

    (Similar failing with Don Rs, as in despatch riders, as in the old film Dunkirk I was sure one of the characters referred to them as Donnards; spent years thinking that!).

    Gary
     
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  12. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    With regard to the 2 ORs Signallers from 147 Field (SP) regiment 431 and 511 Batteries who landed with the Hampshires "A" & "B" companies, I have tried to pull together a possible scenario from all of the very helpful contributions above. I can only deal specifically with 431 Battery as I have studied them in a lot more detail as my Father was one of the ORs concerned, from "D" Troop. It is speculation mixed with known information so I would appreciate any further comments. Here goes:

    - the two were advance members of two FOB (Forward Observer Bombardment) teams, one man allocated to "A"
    company and the other to "B" company. I know my father was with "A" company and he was allocated to LCA serial
    2036 (from the range of serials 2035-2044) from Empire Crossbow

    - they were embedded with the Hampshires unaccompanied by Officers from their Batteries, in order to locate the
    leading platoons once these Officer FOOs landed a few minutes later. As such I presume they would have tried to stay
    with the platoon commander from their LCA. The 431 Battery OR signaller should have landed around H+7

    - The 431 Battery Commander landed with 1st Hampshires Battalion HQ, with his own team of 5 (incl. 2 Sergeants &
    L/Bombardier) around H+20. The LCA serial should be 2061 I think, but there are confusing annotations in my copy of
    the "D" Troop loading table owned by "D" Troops 2nd in command suggesting it was # 2087, but I cant find this serial in
    Trux's monumental Gold Beach thread - see attached pic).
    He was wounded on the beach, along with the Hampshires Battalion Commander and took no further part in the
    action, his team eventually sent to find the 431 Battery's 2nd in command due to land at H+90 with his M2 Carrier

    - 431 Battery "D" Troop Captain should have landed at H+25 on an LCA with "C" Company Hampshires (serial 2061 if I
    interpret the attached landing table correctly, which means he should have landed on the same LCA with his Battery
    Commander above). He landed with 2 ORs (I know one of whom at least as a Signaller) and would eventually team up
    with the advance unaccompanied signaller to form one of the FOB parties for the Hampshires

    - Once the communications networks and wireless equipment was sorted this FOB would be responsible for calling in
    naval gun support for the Hampshires assault on Le Hamel. The unaccompanied OR had a bullet in his wireless set
    on landing and had to retrieve another from the beach at some point (I have 1st hand evidence of this which is
    corroborated by personal testimonies and obituaries)

    - 431 Battery "D" Troops' guns landed at H+40 on LCT serial 2179 and were in action from the Beach at H+60. This
    landing is over an hour earlier than the planned timetable in Trux's thread.

    - The FOOs directing their fire were from 511 Battery, Captains Lyon (with the Dorsets) & Taylor (with the Hampshires)
    who should have landed at H+20

    Let me now what you think as to the plausibility of this taken as a whole. Thank you. Ian
     

    Attached Files:

  13. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Gary
    Thanks very much for this. I agree that the 1st June entry in the WD for the 19th RCA Field Regiment is quite specific about the armaments on their Shermans, but it also mentions they had 5 radio sets on board. From an article I have from a Battery Commander in the 147 Field Regiment, they had to remove the breach of the main 75mm gun to accommodate the radios so I am not sure now what to make of the contradiction. Ian
     
  14. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

  15. Ian,

    Re: your scenario in your post #13 above, I have the following remarks:

    The 431 Battery Landing Table which you kindly posted is a very interesting and rare document. The base typed document (before the handwritten corrections were made), because it still mentions the initial Beach names of JIG GREEN and JIG WHITE, later replaced with JIG GREEN West and JIG GREEN East, must be anterior to the 231 Infantry Brigade Group Landing Table transcribed here, which is dated 12 May 44, amended 15 May 44:
    D-Day : Normandy 1944 - GOLD BEACH : British Troops

    The two documents are however compatible, as this simplified comparison shows:

    LTIN 2013 – both docs list 1 Carrier with 4 men
    LTIN 2035-2044 – both docs list 2 men
    LTIN 2060-2069 – both docs list 6 men
    LTIN 2087
    431 Bty : 3 men
    231 Bde: 6 men of 147 Fd Regt + 3 men of FOB Party.

    Note: the above LTINs or LTIN blocks do not appear as such on the 231 Bde LT transcription, but can be inferred from a number of other docs.

    Since LTINs 2061 and 2087 have been exchanged by the handwritten corrections, the 6 men from 147 Fd Regt in LTINs 2060-2069 (in 231 Bde LT) must have been made up of the 3 listed in 431 Bty Loading Table plus 3 more from other sub-units of 147 Fd Regt.

    I do not think that either your father or Capt Munro were part of an FOB Party, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the FOB Captains RA were not identified by their original unit, so if Capt Munro had been detached from 147 Fd Regt to No. 51 FOB Party attached to 1 HAMPS, he would not have appeared in the 431 Bty Loading Table. For more information and debate about FOB Parties see these threads:
    Captain Jack Lee 14 Medium Regt RA D-Day+1
    My great uncle: John 'Jack' Rogerson

    Secondly, Capt Munro is clearly identified as a FOO in his recommendation for the Military Cross (attached).

    Thirdly, an FOB Party comprises just five men, i.e. the OC (a Captain RA) as FOB, an NCO as OPA, 2 Naval Telegraphists and 1 Naval Signalman. It might be that your father, being a L/Bdr and thus an NCO, was the OPA, but the fact that he was a wireless operator pleads against this role, since his signals skills would have been redundant with those of the two Naval Telegraphists.

    The later handwritten corrections to the 431 Bty Loading Table are interesting. It seems that the pencilled ones were made first, and that the blue inked ones are the latest. Unfortunately some of the characters, both handwritten or typed, are not too legible. Do you have a better copy of this (and of any other similar pages) that you could post?

    I am particularly intrigued by the fact that some of the handwritten LTINs have five digits in lieu of the normal four, e.g. the crossed-out pencilled 20613(?) and 20663, and the inked 20613. It looks like the digit '3' has been added to the LTIN in all three cases, but for which reason or to what purpose I do not know.

    In summary, I think that the 431 Bty Loading Table, with its handwritten amendments, should be considered as reflecting the actual loads, and that your father did land with LCA LTIN 2036 from LSI(L) SS Empire Crossbow (G64), Capt Munro with LCA LTIN 2061 from LSI(L) SS Empire Arquebus (G63), and Maj Gosling plus five others from 147 Fd Regt, as well as three men from (probably) No.51 FOB, with LCM(1) LTIN 2087 from Arquebus too.

    Finally, the landing time for LCT LTIN 2179 was indeed planned for H+120 (as per 231 Bde LT). Does the 431 Bty Loading Table say otherwise? Could you post that part (and any other) too?

    Michel
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  16. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Wow thank you for this! I need some time to think this through. In the meantime I attach page 2 of the 431 Battery loading table. It is from a different source but appears to be from the same original. Unfortunately I don't have the tables for the other 2 batteries, 413 & 511, nor any other I am afraid
    Another thought could the extra digit at the end of the LC serial # be platoon #?
    Regards
    Ian
     

    Attached Files:

  17. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    Another thought I also have various post-war testimonies asserting that Captain Munro was involved in calling in Royal Naval guns e.g. this one from Major General Richardson which appeared in the Essex Yeomanry journal. As my Father was his signaller I assumed therefore that his role was in an FOB. Could they be responsible for this communication and attached as Field Regiment FOOs? The reference at the end of the note about the D Troop guns confirms they were in action at H+60 and therefore landed earlier from Serial 2179
    Ian
    upload_2019-7-3_13-44-47.png
     
  18. Thanks for posting the second page of the 431 Bty Loading Table. There appears to be more fascinating pages in the photographed document...

    I am quite certain that the "H+ 20" for LTIN 2179 is a typo, because all Landing or Loading Tables were typed in the landing sequence. Here it appears between H+90 (top of page) and 2nd Tide (LST LTIN 2925). All other docs I've seen for LTINs 2177-2179 show H+120 as the planned landing time.

    I believe that the statement by T.A. Richardson that D Tp was in action by H+60 might come from the planned landing time (H+60) of the other Troop (C Tp) in 431 Bty, or simply from taking at face value the "H +20" in 431 Bty Loading Table.

    It is still possible however that the landing time was amended to H+60 for all of 147 Fd Regt, but I have not seen anything to confirm this.

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  19. No, I don't think so. FOsB was an entirely different organisation made up of RA and RN personnel, while FOOs were purely RA. Again, if you look at the 231 Bde Landing Table (as well as in any other Landing Table) you will see that the FOsB are identified distinctly from the RA Regts.

    It is however entirely possible that an FOO might have taken the role of an FOB if the need arose. This is clearly what Capt Munro did. But the "poor fellow lying on the beach with a similar wireless" was more likely the Naval Telegraphist from an FOB than another FOO signalman. The account by Capt Munro as reported by TA Richardson admitted tends to say otherwise: "he

    Michel
     

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