Help for info- Grandfather served with Grenadier Guards

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by Gary S, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. Gary S

    Gary S Member

    Hi everyone
    I am new to the forum and hope I dont 'burn my bridges' for immediately asking for help regarding information about my Grandfather.
    I lost my Dad this year and whilst sorting his belongings out I 'rediscovered' some extremely well preserved letters and documents from his fathers service in WWII. I remember being shown these as a child but (foolishly) did not appreciate their significance and I am grateful to now be able to look at them again and try to understand what my Grandfather did during the war.
    I now know quite a bit of what my Grandad did but would really appreciate some advice/assistance to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.
    As I have his Army Service Record Book I know that he was:
    2618681 Guardsman Lawrence Frederick Smith, born 04/06/1915 and that he lived in the Isle of Wight prior to the war. He enlisted at Ryde, IOW on 02/04/1940 and his service record states he served in North Africa from 18/07/43 to 08/02/44 with I believe the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
    The next info I have about him is the original telegram sent to my Grandmother stating he was missing on 09/02/44. It does not indicate even the country where he was serving but I know he was serving at Anzio, Italy with the 5th Battalion Grenadier Guards.
    I also am in possession of a letter sent to my Grandmother telling her that on 22/02/44 my Grandfather broadcast a message on Radio Rome stating he had been captured and passing on a message to her. This was subsequently confirmed by a Red Cross telegram that I have dated 21/04/44 that he was a POW.
    I then have the original letter from my Grandfathers commanding officer Captain T.S Hohler to my Grandmother stating he was relieved to hear my Grandfather was safe. This, I believe, was from the same T.S Hohler who won a Military Cross at Anzio on 26/02/44.
    I am in possession of letters that show that he was sent to Stalag XIA POW camp in Germany and he was repatriated back to the UK on 11/06/45. His POW number was 141982. He was subsequently discharged from the Army in September 1945 as he was considered medically unfit. My understanding is that he was injured in the action during which he was captured and certainly he had a leg injury that stayed with him for the rest of his life until he died in 1980.
    I am also in possession of his medals including Italy and North Africa Stars.

    I would be most grateful if anyone can assist in providing any further information/advice that would help me gain a greater understanding of my Grandads service. For example I know little of his service in North Africa from Sept 1943 to early 1944. On his service record it states in December 1943 he was with '1st Battalion (Guards) 1 R.T.D Bn' with possibly the letter A after the word BN. What does this mean? In my service days RTD meant 'return to depot' (I think) and was for those who were injured/sick etc. If that was the case for my Grandfather in Dec 1943 why is it that 6 weeks later he was in the front line at Anzio?
    Finally, can anyone help to establish some circumsances around his action on the 09/02/44 at Anzio and what may have happened to him after capture, i.e. would he have been taken to other POW camps before being sent to Stalag XIA and how he would have been transferred there etc. I am aware that he stated he had to walk a very long distance upon capture despite his wounds.

    Sorry if that was all a bit too long!
    I would be very grateful for any help
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Gary and welcome to the forum.

    I would start by applying for a copy of his service records from the Guards at Wellington Barracks in London.

  3. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Hi Gary.
    Apart from what Drew has suggested if you could scan and post what you have some members here might be able to glean some further clues.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    served in North Africa from 18/07/43 to 08/02/44 with I believe the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
    That's wrong for a start, 1st Bn never served there.
    3rd , 5th & 6th Bn served down there.

    It does not indicate even the country where he was serving but I know he was serving at Anzio, Italy with the 5th Battalion Grenadier Guards.

    You've answered that one yourself.
    Sorry was replying as I'm reading through your post.
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    If you definately know the battalions he served with, the units war diaries will give you a fairly good idea on what his unit was doing on a day to day basis.
  6. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    If your grandfather was reported missing on 9 Jan 44, he was, in all likelihood, in the big 5 GREN GDS battle at Anzio when they were defending the left hand base of the salient that 1 British Infantry Division had driven towards Campoleone. The Battalion were sat up on Buonriposo Ridge and had a very large area to cover. To their left were 2 N STAFFS.

    The Germans infiltrated between the 5 GREN GDS and 2 N STAFFS companies and caused havoc. 2 N STAFFS were largely overrun as were 5 GREN GDS. It was only the outstanding bravery of Maj Philip Sidney and a couple of Guardsmen that prevented the Germans from reaching the all-important Anzio-Albano road - the only direct route to the beaches and port of Anzio. Sidney got a VC for his courage.

    5 GREN GDS's line held but they lost a lot of No 1, No 2, No 3 and No 4 Companies.


  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    EDit Bugger got wrong date & copied wrong pages..I'll get back to you another time with scanning pages from Gren Gds history.

    Capt TS Hohler was in No. 3 Company, it says that on page 396 of Gren Gds history.

    another edit: sorry scanner messing me about, quite a few pages to copy & a map. Anyone got Nicholson's Gren Gds & history fancy doing it?
  8. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Owen is on the ball. No 3 Coy were rear left and took the full force of the German assault once 2 N STAFFS had been overrun. The Coy pushed north to join up with No 1 Coy who were forward left. What was left of No 3 Coy joined up with what was left of No 1 Coy and they moved off down the Bowling Alley to try and link up with No 2 Coy - very few made it.

    The Germans then pushed on to No 4 Coy before reaching the gully where Maj Sidney was established with Battalion HQ. It was here that he held them.


  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    another edit: sorry scanner messing me about, quite a few pages to copy & a map. Anyone got Nicholson's Gren Gds & history fancy doing it?

    Yep and No at this time of night :lol:

    I'll see if you beat me to it tomorrow.
  10. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    few pages from Gren Gds history for 8th-10th Feb 44 & a map showing 5GG posn.
    Took on my phone as scanner playing up.

    Attached Files:

    • 408.jpg
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    • 409.jpg
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  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    May I also suggest asking someone like Drew (or another member Lee aka Psy.War) to copy the 5 GG war diary for January & February 1944. They only charge a small fee.
    Either that or visit The National Archives , as it's not far from you.
    Detecting your browser settings

    WO 170/1350
    5 Grenadier Guards
    Covering dates 1944 Jan-Dec
  12. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    Capt Hohler was No 3 Coy Comd but was wounded defending a group of huts NE of the Factory on 26 Jan 44. His arm was shattered and he lost a large part of his command in the defence.

    At the time of your grandfather's capture on 8 Feb 44, the No 3 Coy Comd was Capt Johnstone. At the time of the German assault on Buonriposo Ridge, No 3 Coy were only a Platoon and two Sections strong.


  13. Gary S

    Gary S Member

    Firstly, thanks for everyone for their replies.
    I have learned that my Grandfather was in all likelihood in 3 Coy and the map I recieved via the forum of the Buonriposo Ridge has greatly assisted in understanding what happened.
    In reply to 'Minden 1759' that Capt Hohler was injured on 26th Jan and that Capt Johnstone was in charge of 3 Coy at the time of my Grandfathers capture (on 9th Feb 44).
    I have found Capt Hohlers citation for his Military Cross and it states he was shot in the arm and wounded on 26th February 44 some two weeks after the capture of my Grandad ( I have posted the citation below).
    If this is correct then he may have been in charge of 3 Coy on 9th Feb?
    Either way I have a signed letter that he wrote to my Grandmother on the 8th May 1944. I hope to dig this document out soon and perhaps scan it onto the forum as well as part of his Army Service Book as I am hoping to clarify what battalion he was in in North Africa in 1943 (seems from replies that he could not have been in 1st Battalion) and the perhaps the telegram from the war office stating he was missing.
    Thanks again for everyones replies

    Name Hohler, Thomas Sidney
    Rank: Temporary Captain
    Service No: 92817
    Regiment: 5 Battalion Grenadier Guards
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Italy
    Award: Military Cross
    Date of Announcement in London Gazette: 15 June 1944
    Date 1944
    Catalogue reference WO 373/6

    24th Guards Brigade, 1st British Division, 6 Corps
    92017 Temporary Captain Thomas Sidney HOHLER, 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS

    In the fighting in the ANZIO Bridgehead this Officer commanded No. 3 Company, 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS while at the CARROCETO factory.

    On 26th February the Germans occupied some buildings which dominated the Battalion's positions with tanks and infantry.

    Captain HOHLER, unsupported by tanks, led two attacks against the Germans in these positions and on both occasions reached the objective but was unable to hold it owing to the fact that the tanks counter-attacked almost immediately. However those attacks prevented the enemy from establishing themselves in this area and gave sufficient time for our own tanks to arrive and finally evict the enemy from the buildings.

    During both attacks Captain HOHLER showed a fine example of leadership and disregard for his own safety, though he knew that even though he should reach his objective he would be unable to hold it without anti-tank defences but that these attacks were essential for the Battalion to hold its position.

    Captain HOHLER had been wounded by a bullet in the arm before the second attack and remained with the remnants of his Company for a further 24 hours when he was ordered back by the Commanding Officer.

    Signed E.J.B. NELSON, M.C., Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS

    Granted an Immediate M.C.
  14. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    It would be surprising if your Granddad wasn't already serving with the 5th Grenadiers in North Africa (as part of British 1st Infantry Division).

    They were in Tunisia from March onwards, and were fighting south of Medjez towards the end of the campaign.

  15. Gary S

    Gary S Member

    Thanks 'bexley84'
    It may be that his service book is stating 1st Infantry Division and I have took it to be 1st Battalion.
    I will recheck.
  16. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    I think that he was in the Guards Reinforcement & Training Detachment of 1 BR Inf Div and was then posted to 5 GREN GDS.

    I have checked the Regimental History. On Page 397, it describes the events that are mentioned in the MC citation but the date was definitely 26 January 1944. No 3 Coy were in some sheds NE of The Factory and were repeatedly attacked by German armour. It was during this event that the Regimental History describes how 'Hohler's forearm was shattered, and he found himself with only one wounded Guardsman out of his entire headquarters'.

    If his forearm had been shattered, he would not have been back in charge of No 3 Coy on 26 Febuary 1944. I think that the citation has listed the wrong month and, given that 5 GREN GDS had four Commanding Officers in the three weeks that they were at Anzio, this is not surprising. I will need to check the citation to see who signed it off before it was sent to HQ 24 Guards Brigade.

    After the Buonriposo Ridge battle and a week's rest, 24 Guards Brigade - including 5 GREN GDS, was moved to the area of the deep overgrown wadis to the left of the Anzio-Albano road, a mile SW of the flyover. Their task, just behind the front line, was to block any German patrols infiltrating towards the artillery gun lines. There the Battalion remained until 8 Mar 44, when they were evacuated to Naples. Tanks, mentioned in the citation, would not have been operating in the wadis. It was impossible for tanks to operate in the wadis.


  17. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    I have had a look at the citation. The date is a typo.

    If you check the top right hand corner, you will see that the citation was logged as arriving at HQ 24 Gds Bde on 19 Feb 44 and at HQ 1 BR Inf Div on 22 Feb 44. The citation could not have been written and submitted prior to date of the event for which Capt Hohler was awarded his MC.


  18. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    Quote -

    22618681 Guardsman Lawrence Frederick Smith, born 04/06/1915 and that he lived in the Isle of Wight prior to the war. He enlisted at Ryde, IOW on 02/04/1940 and his service record states he served in North Africa from 18/07/43 to 08/02/44 with I believe the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.

    I am also in possession of his medals including Italy and North Africa Stars."

    Your Grandather would have been posted to a Battalion in North Africa before 12th May 1943 as if my memory serves me right, that is the last day to qualify for the Africa Star (hostilities ceased that day).


    Steve Y
  19. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    The service records can sometimes be right confusing.. where does the service records suggest that your grandfather was serving before "18.7.43"?

    As mentioned by Steve, he is likely to have already been in Tunisia since the spring of 1943 (at least). His Africa Star, I assume, has the 1st Army clasp.

    On the subject of confusing service records, my Dad's suggest that he was serving "in North Africa" from 11th Nov 1942 to 16th July 1944.

    He landed at Algiers on 22nd Nov 1942 (that's near enough - he left Greenock on 14th Nov).

    But then, I know that he landed just to the south of Syracuse, Sicily on 28th July 1943, disembarked at Taranto, Italy in 25th Sept 1943, and had a lazy ten months at some fun spots across Southern, Eastern and Western Italy before returning to Egypt in July 1944.

    That probably stretches the definition of "North Africa".

  20. Fran Sheldon

    Fran Sheldon Junior Member

    Hi Gary,
    My father was in 5th Bat GG in Italy. I've posted some group photos on 'D-Day Dodgers' you might take a look at - taken in Spoleto, Northern Lazio - in case you recognise a face.
    Good luck with your search,

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