Can anyone help, please? 3RTR at Alam Halfa

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by clive_t, May 2, 2017.

  1. clive_t

    clive_t Member

    Hi all, a very long time indeed since I last posted on here - no real excuse, apart from various other things contriving to get in the way of my research into my father's military service.

    Anyway, conscious as I am of the fact that the 1st September this year will be the 75th anniversary of my father being wounded in action at the Battle of Alam Halfa, I am hoping to do the one thing I feel able to do to commemorate that event. I am in the process of creating a model diorama involving him and his comrades, at rest at the end of that day.

    I am prepared for the likelihood of a large amount of conjecture in this project. At the moment I only know he was a 'driver/operator' with 3RTR at this time; I can only assuming that he was driving a US-manufactured M3 'Grant' tank.

    At the moment I am unsure what Arm of Service or tac-signs his tank would have borne, but the more I am able to find out, the less 'guess-work' will be needed. I am given to understand that the fluid nature of divisions being formed and re-formed meant that often there was not the luxury of time to overpaint previously-applied markings etc, so it could be that his tank was carrying markings from its previous assignment at the time.

    I don't know what's involved when a tank crew are 'at leaguer' - did they set their beds up next to their tank, did they dig a slit-trench to offer some kind of protection from surprise attack, or did they stay inside it?

    I don't know, and I have to accept that I probably never will, to what extent he was wounded. I am planning to portray him as being 'slightly wounded', so that I can have him being 'patched up' with some bandages and a mug of tea! That may or may not be a realistic scenario, but it's what I want to try and portray.

    I envisage that the terrain will be sandy, stony with some sparse scrub vegetation - definitely no date palms!

    So there, in a nutshell, is my project - if anyone can shed any light on the unknowns I've mentioned above, I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    Clive
     
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    3 RTR War diary 1st September 1942
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  3. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    From what I've read, tank crews at leaguer (sp?) slept next to their tanks. The phrase also tended to go hand in hand with the tank unit withdrawing from the very front lines so that they wouldn't be vulnerable to night attack.

    The whole unit probably had some sort of nighttime formation. I think there might have been a description in Cyril Joly's book and I'll try to look tonight if I can.

    If you look at the IWM online photo collection you should see lots of examples of tank crews at rest. e.g.

    Just sleeping in blankets next to the tank
    Home

    Shaving - evidence of a shelter of some sort
    Home

    A more elaborate shelter near the tank
    Home
     
  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian researcher

    Also, Grant tank crew having a brew:

    Home
     
  5. clive_t

    clive_t Member

    Thanks Drew and Chris, that's really good of you.

    I have the transcript of the WD for the months of July-September, but it's nice to see the handwritten pages as well :)

    Great photo links too, thanks again!

    Cheers,

    Clive
     
  6. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Hi. I was in 2 RTR in the 1990's, and a leiger was basically a box formation that the wagons went into in open ground. Soft skin vehicles in the centre. Crews would sleep / eat etc next to the tanks on the inside of the box formation. I'm assuming the practice was the same back then!
    Alex
     
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  7. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

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  8. clive_t

    clive_t Member

    Thanks, Alex and idler, for your very useful responses. My diorama won't be big enough to show the 'box' formation, but nevertheless it's useful to know in the future.

    Thanks,

    Clive
     
  9. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    It might be worth emphasising that there was a lot of work to do in the leaguer. A crew would be responsible for carrying out routine maintenance on their vehicle. When the echelons came up, they would also have to draw fuel and ammo, then refuel and bomb-up the tank. Officers and NCOs would be making sure things got done, and then attend orders groups. Wireless ops would have to sort out frequencies etc. for the next day. Food and sleep weren't the priorities!
     
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  10. clive_t

    clive_t Member

    Thanks for that little insight, Mr Idler, much appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Clive
     
  11. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    You forgot stagging on as well !!!!
     
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  12. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Were they still with 4th Armoured Brigade at the time, or had they transferred to 8th Armoured Brigade?
     
  13. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    Hello Everybody,

    The Battle of Alam Halfa raged from 31st August to 3rd September 1942 and the 3rd RTR was in the 4th Armoured Brigade from 31st July 1941 to 7th June 1942. On 12th July 1942 it was transferred to the 8th Armoured Brigade (information from Joslen) so they were 8th Armoured Brigade at this time and still in Grants.
    Regarding Leaguer at night the formations used were very much determined by the threat so for example if way back behind the frontline then the threat was from aircraft so the tanks would be well dispersed to probably the limit of night visibility, but closer to the enemy when the greater threat is from ground forces they would be much close together with arcs at all point of the compass. Crews would sleep beside their tanks in makeshift bashas. if attacked they would mount their tanks and drive away not huddle in a trench like the PBF had to endure.

    Kind regards,

    Will.
     
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  14. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Hi Will.

    I knew that B & C Squadrons were Grants, but thought that A Squadron still had Honeys or Crusader MkII until September? I'm happy to be wrong!

    Also, at that time were 8th Brigade the Senior or Junior Brigade of the 10th Armoured Division?
    And 3 R/T/R, were they the Senior, Junior or Second Regiment of the Brigade?
    As I'm trying to work out their likely AoS Number.

    Thanks,
    David.
     
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  15. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    Hello David,

    You are correct about the Crusaders and Honey's. I have the numbers somewhere

    The 8th Armoured Brigade consisted of the 3rd Royal Tanks, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry and the Staffordshire Yeomanry.
    The 3rd Royal Tanks were senior so their AOS was 40 on a Red Square and their squadron markings would have been Red.
    The Nottinghamshire Yeomanry were next AOS was 67 on Red Square with Yellow markings.
    The Staffordshire Yeomanry were AOS 67 on a Red Square with Blue markings.

    The other Armoured Brigade in the Division were 24th Armoured Brigade with 41, 45 and 47th RTR with AOS 40, 86 and 67 on Green respectively.

    Whether all the tanks had the new marking is conjecture and most pictures of desert tanks have such eroded paint that a lot of the markings are missing.
    If you get the opportunity read Major Bill Close's Book "A view from the Turret" which is his history of the 3rd RTR in the Second World War and a proper soldiers eye view.

    Regards,

    Will.
     
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  16. DavidW

    DavidW Well-Known Member

    Thanks Will.
     
  17. clive_t

    clive_t Member

    Thanks Will, David, Alex for your excellent responses.

    I notice from the images of the War Diary that there are several grid references - from my school days I seem to remember these were referred to as 'eastings and northings'. I presume these refer to a specific map, however I was wondering if it is possible to work out their equivalent 'GPS'-type latitude/longitudes?

    Thanks again, everyone for your excellent help.

    Cheers,

    Clive
     

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