Artillery FOOs embedded with the Infantry on D-Day

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

  1. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Thanks so much for this.
    It seems 2013 with Lt Ridley might have arrived on or around H-Hour, unless as Arty queries "..73 Fd Coy RE who had an M14 halftrack onboard the same LCT reported an M14 not arriving until 1500 hrs (TBC!)"

    I am sorry but a couple of (probably stupid) questions occur to me:
    1. Was the intention that these Troop Leaders act as FOOs to provide support to the incoming infantry from the Centaurs, or were they also meant to provide support to the breaching teams clearing the beaches (or both)

    2. Do you think the idea was they could also call on the Navy ?

    3. Judging by the losses from amongst even those that landed (trux says "they landed four Centaurs, a Sherman and a Crusader AA. ...Of these vehicles the Sherman was hit and burnt out, the Crusader was bogged down and two of the Centaurs broke down") did they actually contribute, or were they so badly bombarded they could not fulfil their orders

    4 Is there a significance to the 2 lone signallers having the same base affix as the TL FOOs with the Centaurs (with "A" & "B" added)? Does it infer they were 2 parts of the same eventual OP? I presume an "affix" is appended to a signal to identify the sender?
  2. Arty

    Arty Member


    It would be nice to see some account/report that actually confims Lt Ridley on the beach on 06June. The fact that the 73 Fd Coy RE M14 did not marry up with it's unit until 1500hrs may just be because it got stuck on the beach. Although the M14 had pretty good cross country performance it wasn't immune from getting bogged, or perhaps it just threw a track - but this is just conjecture by me.

    To your questions...

    1. No, the Troop Leaders, acting as FOO's, were just there to call in fire.
    2. Yes, had they arrived, they were on the same artillery radio network ie. able to call in fire support via the Artillery Advisor/DSOAG onboard LCH 100, or, from the Regiment's guns once they arrived (as previously discussed).
    3. Jig Green was a mess. Again, we would need to dig up (somehow) some specific account/report on Lt Ridley's efforts that day...
    4. The suffix simply confirms the troop these guys belonged to. If you look at the full info posted by Danny (post #90), you can see there's a logical sequence to the numbers (Batteries, Troops, FOO parties et al). That is 61 apparently indicates A Troop, 62 indicates B Troop etc. Thus 64B was apparently the identifier of L/Bdr Turnbull of D Troop, 431 Bty. And 65B apparently indicated Gnr Gentry of E Tp, 511 Bty.
    Though I'm not 100% sure as to why the the Tp Ldrs had two identifiers eg. 64 & 64A. And, in theory, I would expect to see Lt Van Hasselt, who belonged F Tp to be "66" not "65". However there were quite a number of unusual arrangements on the day, and it's a moot point anyway, as Lt Van Hasselt didn't arrive...

  3. One of the many precious new pieces of information in Danny's post #90 is that LGL(L) were indeed accessible directly on the Regimental Net of 147 Fd Regt (Affix 9, Red & Blue flicks), which means that they might have been contacted directly (i.e. without going through the D/SOAG) for fire support during the assault on Le Hamel. Of course this does not mean that they actually were, but at least the material possibility existed.

    Looking at the log of LCG(L) 17 or 18 might tell us more, of only we could find them...

    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
  4. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    I confess I am missing the significance of much of the information in Danny's post because all of this is new to me, but coming at it from my selfish 431 Batt lone gunner P.O.V, it seems to me:
    1. The 1st character of the affix denotes a grouping e.g. 1n is Regiment HQ, 2n is Battery Commanders, 3n is Troop Commanders incl those with the infantry, 4n is Command Posts (which looks like 2nd wave & standby?), 5n is Battery Captains & 6n is Troop leaders with the Assault Cos. So grouping the 2 lone signallers with the latter i.e. Lt Ridley & Van Hasselt suggests they were destined to team up?
    2. The Centaurs ("RM Support") get their own affix - who would this be? Up until now I had assumed the Troop Leaders were intending to be acting for them as FOOs.
    3. As the Troop Leaders with the Assault Cos could not call on their own Regiments SP guns for over an hour, they would have depended on the Navy for fire support, and as no such requests came in during the early stages of the battle for Le Hamel they cant have unloaded from serial 2013 successfully even if it did land on time. I will try and get something on Lt Ridley to confirm this but I am not optimistic
    4. The affixes with "A" appended seem to denote "68" sets. Are these the "Man Packs" carried on the back? Presumably the lone signallers (suffix "B") would also have carried these?
  5. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  6. These would be the GPO Sherman tanks of the Centaur Troop commanders I suppose.

    If so, it would not be incompatible with the RA Tp Leaders acting as FOOs (OP Parties) for them, although it now looks like the latter were intended to act as FOOs for the "assaulting infantry", which I now think was understood as also including the reserve companies of 1 Hamps and 1 Dorset, perhaps not exclusively (i.e. also acting as FOOs for the Centaurs Troops)

  7. Arty

    Arty Member


    My thoughts....

    1. This complex arrangement of FOO’s et al was for the assault phase of the Op. At some point L/Bdr Turnbull & Gnr Gentry would marry up with their respective Troops Leaders/Commanders. Perhaps the 147 Op Order has some info (or it might just have been part of a verbal briefing at the time).

    2. I concur with Michel S. Each troop from 2 Bty RMASR consisted of 4 Centaurs & the Troop Commanders Sherman. The Troop Commander was a Captain, who was also the Troop’s GPO. From D-Day 147 Fd Regt & 90 Fd Regt each had two troops of 2 Bty RMASR under command. Hence each regiment was temporarily to have 8 troops of guns. A Tp to E Tp had the affix 1 to 6, and the additional RM troops were 7 & 8.

    The fact that the LCG’s were given the affix “9” may indeed mean they could be contacted directly. However, we have to keep reminding ourselves things went wrong…

    3. Yes it looks like there was a very pregnant pause between H-Hour and fire support getting involved. Meanwhile A Coy Hamps, in particular, was decimated. L/Bdr Turnbull did well to keep alive.

    4. I think you’re spot on Ian (with a nod to Gary K), it seems likely that the 68 set was probably being carried by everybody on foot. Which answers one of my questions (from post #102). That is, I’m thinking that the two universal carriers (manned by Lt Ridley & Lt Van Hasselt) were probably both fitted with radios (in 1944 terminolgy that's "FFW" ie. Fitted For Wireless), with each of them carrying a 68 set for dismounted action.

    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
  8. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Thanks for this. I attach Lt Ridley's Obit from the Essex Yeomanry Journal. It is interesting but inconclusive I think. It was written by Tony Richardson GPO of "D" Troop 431 Battery at the time. Confirms that 2nd Lt Ridley was an Assistant Team Leader and infers his LCT(A) with the Centaurs arrived later than expected as "He was one of the 1st to land.....", not the first which means he was sometime after the Hampshires with L/Bombardier Turnbull. Also mentions he was an FOO with the infantry in his time in Normandy, wounded at the end of July and repatriated Ian

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
  9. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    I don't know whether these have been posted anywhere. Ist is an excellent account by Lt Peter Stanley MITCHELL, TL then GPO of "A" Troop during DDay, 413 Battery, and the 2nd a tribute to Tom Gepp, RA Adviser to the D/S.O.A.G and Senior Captain of 511 Battery. Ian
    The Essex Yeomanry
    D-DAY: The 75th Anniversary - Gepp Solicitors
    DannyM likes this.
  10. I made an error in my post #80 It is Peter Sydney MITCHELL (271127) and not Peter Stanley. Post now edited accordingly.

  11. Arty

    Arty Member

    Not quite...

    Peter Sidney Mitchell 271127
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  12. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    According to his son, Marc Van Hassalt was the descendant of opne of the officers of the 2nd (Dutch) Lancers of the French Imperial Guard; a survivor of the retreat from Moscow.
  13. Arty,

    I clearly had an "I" problem because however hard I tried, I could not see "Y" you repeated what looked to me exactly the same name...

    I was focussing on the last name and completely missed out on the first!

    Thanks to your PM meye problem seems to have been corrected and Eye now see the lyght!

    Sidney it is then. I've (again) edited my post #80 accordingly.

    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  14. Some more bits and pieces regarding the possible function of some 147 Fd Regt officers.

    2/Lt CL KEELER is shown in the Army List as "spec. emp" (Special Employment), usually implying some sort of intelligence work. His 1966 MBE award (attached) confirms that he was already in the Intelligence Corps in NWE, so he probably was either the IO or part of the IO org in 147 Fd Regt:

    : W/Lt (spec emp) Christopher Leo KEELER (243334)

    Lt GFH GIRLING's 8 Dec 45 award (attached) says:
    Capt GIRLING, as a subaltern until 1 August 1945 has been Battery Command Post Officer throughout the N.W. European campaign, apart from a short period when he was wounded. Starting on 'D' Day when his Guns were among the first to land, he set a very fine example of efficiency and initiative during all the Normandy Battle and the advance across France and Belgium.

    431 Bty:
    : W/Lt Gordon Francis Hulbert GIRLING (155833) – in 'H' half-track (Affix 43, Red & Blue flicks) in LCT 2142.

    Lt PNM ROLLES is identified by Lt TA RICHARDSON (GPO D Tp, 431 Bty) as his Troop Leader (and also apparently his preferred depth sounder!) in his IWM interview (Reel 2 around 00:45):
    "When we hit the beach, my Troop Leader, Peter Rolles, I said “you get off, and if you disappear, it’s too deep.” But however he was all right, he got off the front of the LCT and we then drove off, and I got everything ashore without any problem at all and we were in fact somewhere about a thousand yards to the left of where we should have been. We were on a piece of beach which they thought we shouldn’t normally have landed on, but however because the tide was fairly well in we didn’t have any problem."

    D Tp Ldr: W/Lt Peter Nathaniel Marshall ROLLES (293111) – in LCT 2179

    This means that Lt PD RIDLEY was indeed D Tp's Assistant Troop Leader as per his Obit by the same TA RICHARDSON posted by Ian.

    D Tp Assistant Tp Ldr: W/Lt Patrick Dawson RIDLEY (299341) – FOO with (A Coy?) 1 Hamps, with Carrier TLD (Affix 64, Red flick) and Wireless Set No.68 (Affix 64A, Red flick), in LCT(A) 2013


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  15. I thought that the arrangement of the assault and reserve companies of 1 HAMPS was as follows:

    Assault companies: left (LTINs 2044-2040) = B Coy; right (LTINs 2039-2035) = A Coy
    Reserve companies: left (LTINs 2069-2065) = D Coy, right (LTINs 2064-2060) = C Coy

    This would match L/Bdr Turnbull on LCA 2036 supporting A Coy as per the 431 Bty Loading Table, and would be the same arrangement as 1 DORSET.

    However, this doc gives A Coy as the left assault company and C Coy as the right assault company, with B & D Coys as the reserve companies:
    WO 223-39  - 1 Hamps - The Landing p1.jpg
    WO 223-39  - 1 Hamps - The Landing p2.jpg
    WO 223-39  - 1 Hamps - The Landing p3.jpg

    Where is the truth? :unsure:

  16. Re: my previous post, the author of the report must have mixed up companies, because the account by Maj Warren, OC C Coy 1 HAMPS, leaves no doubt that A & B Coys were the first to land, with C & D Coys landing later.

  17. Arty

    Arty Member


    Regards the above account (WO 223/39), I've previously attempted but failed to identify the author. Unfortunately, not only did he mix up the companies, but there are factual errors. Aside from Major Warren (who had to take command of the Hamps), Maj ARC Mott, the commander of B Coy, also left detailed information on the events of the day. Maj Mott confirms, for example, that it was his own B Coy HQ that was hit by indirect fire on the beach (his own batman Pte Dossor being mortally wounded). Maj Mott's B Coy was responsible for the assault on Asnelles, where he lost all three of his platoon commanders (not just one, according to the confused account). Maj Mott also confirms that it was A Coy that was decimated in attempting to take Le Hamel.

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  18. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    I researched The RA Commemoration Book 1939-1945 at the BL today and the "article" by Captain J P Cook of the 90th Field Regiment entitled "A FOO on D Day" casts a little light on how the Field Regiment's FOOs were organised across their landings with the Royal Marines Centaurs, Infantry & then their own Batteries. (Attached). He refers to the "Armoured OP " with the Centaurs upon whom they relied for the initial artillery capability, but who had not landed at H-Hour as expected due to the poor weather conditions delaying the RMs LCT(A)s. The original intention was for his OP party to link up with this "Armoured OP". Could this be the "Universal Carrier" mentioned in the landing tables (on serial 2019)?

    As has been reported in an earlier post there are also several references to calling for fire from the Navy to support the Dorsets, but the Navy guns were busy engaged on other higher priority targets.

    The 147 Field Regiment also had a Universal Carrier OP party with the Centaurs, but unlike the 147 Field (with the Hampshires) the 90th Field had no "lone gunners" on the LCAs, but in Captain Cook's case a full OP party with "C" Company of the Dorsets due at H+20.

    It seems both the 90th and 147 Field Regiments initial FOOs intended to call on fire support from the Centaurs but of course this was not forthcoming due to
    a) most of the RMs LCT(A)s not landing on time, or being disabled on beaching
    b) FOO casualties or wireless communication problems.


    Attached Files:

  19. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Is Major Mott's account available? Ian
  20. Arty

    Arty Member


    The private papers of Maj Mott are held at the Imperial War Museum (not online). What I believe are excerpts from Maj Mott's papers have been published in various books (eg.The D-Day Landings by Philip Warner). One of these days I'll get round to transcribing them...


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