Interpreting a Service Record Royal Artillery

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by sadamson, May 30, 2014.

  1. sadamson

    sadamson Junior Member

    Dear all,

    I hope that you might be able to help me decipher my Great Uncle's service record.

    In particular, it seems that he deployed to France on 09 June 1944. It was always thought that he was there on D-Day -- is that then not the case?

    I attach below his memories of the war (which I have share here before but attach again for convenience).

    Grateful for any info or guidance.

    Thanks,
    Sam

    WAR
    Even before anything happened, people expected to be bombed. They knew about
    bombing in Abyssinia, and Spain and Japan. Children were being evacuated, and Jack
    was only teaching mornings as other children came to use their building in the
    afternoon. Jack had been a good gymnast since a boy and had organised a display which impressed the inspector. The School Inspector for PE was previously a full time army officer and told the Director at the Bootle Education office how pleased he had been with the display Jack’s children had given. He sent Jack a circular letter sent to people like him, suggesting they become Sergeant Instructors in the army.
    So on Friday October 13 1939 Jack “signed on” to be in the army, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. In the queue for the medical examination he recognised Matt Busby who was then the captain of the Liverpool football team and Jack introduced himself. They arranged to meet and travel together. So the next day they caught the 10am train, the Merseyside Express to
    London, and then went on to Aldershot. Jack thought Busby was a very nice chap.

    WARTIME SERVICE
    He was sent as a Sergeant Instructor to Chatham which was an Army Technical
    Training Establishment, training about 2,000 men - a very big camp. It was the depot
    of the Royal Engineers. He took PE, sometimes having as many as 300 men at a time,
    and having to stand on a table. He organised rugger teams and boxing (he boxed
    himself and won with a knockout in the 1st round). He was with ‘regular’ army men,
    and not accepted at first, as it had taken them years to win their stripes.

    After Dunkirk, Hitler might have invaded, and Jack went to the South Downs, erecting poles in holes hard to dig because of the flints. These were to stop gliders
    landing, and to do last ditch stands, ditches, to wait until the enemy ammo was all
    used up, and pick the Jerries off little by little.

    Overhead was the Battle of Britain, 1st big group in daylight. The Docks and London
    burning. Usually at night thereafter. High up 35,000 feet. One of his jobs was to
    protect Polish airmen who had baled out from being killed by the locals.

    During the May Blitz which began the night of May Day, May 1st. 1941, a Thursday,
    Jack had a weekend’s leave, then being at Alton Towers. He was allowed to leave the
    camp after breakfast on the Saturday morning and went back to Liverpool by train, and then by bus and walked through the devastation. Bootle, like Liverpool was a target as it had docks and factories - for example Bryant and May Matches, and a big shipyard. Gladys and the children were OK. So he got a lift to North Wales. At Porthcawl he met a man who turned out to be the Town Clerk, who told him that all the accommodation was full. His accent was Liverpool, and it turned out he knew Ariel Street and Jack’s sweet and kind Jones Grandmother. He had a car, and took Jack to find a safe place for them to stay near Caernarvon, and helped Jack get a lift back to Liverpool. Jack saw Gladys and the children David, a toddler, and baby Brian (10months old) safely on to the train, the pram packed with their belongings. Jack had to stay on overnight, and during more bombing, helped neighbours in his street. He was a day late back, his helmet dented, and uniform ruined, and there was no punishment for this - the commanding officer understood - said he would have done the same for his family. Another of the men also visiting his family in Liverpool was killed. May Blitz reports - 1st night Thursday night, no incidents in Bootle. Friday night was bright moonlight. No details given.
    Bootle suffered badly on Saturday May 3 rd. (Waves of raiders came over and dropped '50 high explosive bombs and thousands of incendiaries' (Liverpool Echo, Monday April 30, 2001). Saturday night - many factory workers houses between the docks and Stanley Road. the Boys Secondary School was completely burnt out. A German news bulletin said it was the “heaviest raid on any English town” -- The Town Hall, Bootle Cold Storage, Johnsons' Dye Works, Vernon's Pools, the gas works, some timber yards, all damaged. Williams's Toffee Works and Scott’s Bakery gutted. The SS Malakand blew up in the harbour, set on fire by a broken barrage balloon got entangled in the rigging and landed on a deck. She had shells and ammunition aboard. Saturday night - also 200 homes demolished, 400 seriously damaged and a further 3,000 slightly damaged, there were few streets that escaped. 57 killed, and one shelter demolished. For Bootle the 7th night was the worst of the whole week. Street after street was flattened, and main highways, including Stanley Road, Primrose Road and Southport Road, suffered major damage. On Sunday May 4th only 13% of the trams were still able to run -- Sunday night at Bootle was not as bad as Saturday, though again attacked and a fair number of properties homes and industries were wrecked. Fire watching schemes and Anderson shelters had helped save lives and property. By May 9th. 6,000 men clearing up, fire services from all round, 2,680 troops demolishing as opposed to road clearing.

    When the all clear sounded after the May 8th. bombings .... 80% of Bootle's houses had been hit or set on fire .. and 100,000 houses destroyed or damaged in Liverpool. (p.3 Liverpool Echo see above).

    Service
    Jack was sent for, and a commission suggested, so he put his name down, volunteering to be a Commando, but nothing happened so he forgot about it and carried on as usual. It was a good idea to be an officer, as their widows were better looked after. Eventually he was sent to Topsham Devon, did a month in Exeter, and then 5 months in OCTU and was chosen out of 30 to be an Artillery Officer - anti-tank. Then more training in Geordie Land (Northumberland) and by late July he was a raw 2nd Lieutenant with a small group to command. There were about 28 ‘lads’ in his group with 4 anti-tank guns, (his first guns were useless, not powerful enough), a troop sergeant, and a sergeant for each gun. They were Yorkshire men mostly with the Halifax T.A. He had a batman called Sheppard, big, quiet and intelligent, a rugby player for Wigan in the League. He had to be a stand in if a wireless operator or driver was killed or wounded. (Sheppard was later killed). Jack had a good German machine gun in his vehicle, British ones were not as good. The guns were in radio contact, and had a defensive role to help keep conquered territory. They were set up just below the crest of a hill on the rear side. German tanks came over the crest and passed, then after they had gone by Jack's guns opened fire. Jack carried morphine in single use syringes in a special pocket of his battledress - also big shell dressings. The soldiers got their wounded back to a PA post with 2 doctors. Then bandsmen from regiments were stretcher bearers and helped them back to the field hospital, where the RAMC looked after then from there on. They were not on the front line - but could be shelled if unlucky. From there they were taken to safety. Stationed at Lym Castle in Kent. Late 1943. This was just on the edge of a fighter airdrome and No.1 Fighter Squadron were operating there, and they came to Jack's mess, and he got to know some of them.

    Injury
    Jack often told this story. He was sent on an important mission. He was riding a motorbike and there were only two vehicles on the road, himself and a slow moving Canadian army truck. Jack began to overtake it, and had got part way past it, when the truck driver saw an open gateway into a field and turned the truck at 90 degrees towards it. The motor bike hit the truck (the speedometer stuck at 56 mph). and Jack sailed through the air, bunched up, and tried to use the technique he had taught for falling. But despite this he injured his left knee and the muscles down his left thigh. He came round fairly quickly. The Canadian driver and his mate were beside him, and Jack said, 'never mind me now, take the lorry and phone Hythe 67620 and tell the Colonel about the accident because Jack would not be at the rendezvous. The next vehicle by chance was an ambulance and he got taken to a nearby hospital (Sussex?). He could not walk. But he got the wrong treatment, they bound the leg tightly and he knew there was no circulation in the foot, and was afraid he'd lose the leg. A nurse who was a patient in the next ward thought so too, but the doctor knew best and it was no good trying to tell him anything. Jack was in a private ward with a phone in the corridor outside. When he could manage to struggle out of bed to this phone, he rang up Lym Castle in Kent where he was stationed. and got through to Sergeant Cummings (a regular soldier and an intelligent man), and told him that Jack had to escape from the hospital, and that the Sergeant must help him. The back window of his room opened on to a street, and at 8 pm, the time of the 10 to 15 minute changeover of the hospital, Sergeant Cummings arrived with a lorry and a bed roll and helped Jack out of the window and into the lorry. Nobody saw. He lay in the bed roll, the bumps being painful, but got back to the Castle, being back at bedtime. Jack's Battery and another one went on the sick parade of the RAF men. Their medical service was particularly efficient. Jack had to go in the lorry (he couldn’t walk). They unrolled his bandages and though he was in pain and he could bend the knee a bit, he had torn muscles up the thigh and round the kneecap and the bone was damaged from the impact. He was told to retain all the use he could get out of the leg. Major Marsh was his Battery Commander, and the Colonel wanted to know where Jack was. There was the hell of a fuss. He could not do ordinary duties as he was not mobile. The Regimental Doctor sent him to a bone specialist at Canterbury Hospital, who gave the leg a good inspection and put a dressing on it, and Jack was to go there 2 or 3 mornings a week - it was 25 miles away. They tried to resuscitate the leg as the quadriceps muscle atrophies very quickly. They used an electric shock machine controlled by Jack to give shocks to stimulate the flesh, but Jack did not make enough progress. So the Army sent him to a specialist who wanted to do an operation but it would fix the knee joint permanently, no movement, no more Army service etc. etc. Jack would not give permission. The Army said Jack was a damn nuisance. So he was sent to see a panel of Senior Doctors at Leeds Castle which had swans and a moat. They hardly inspected his leg at all, and there was lots of waiting about. They said he had to have the operation. He said he thought his leg could get better. So they threatened him with no pension, said he would get nothing. So he was sent to wait again, and then sent for. "We want you to understand this is the best we can do for you. There is a certain splendid surgeon, a great man, making the best of burned RAF cases etc. It is a great privilege to see him". Jack said he was aware of that and would be very grateful for the opportunity to see him as he was the best man in the land. So Jack was taken 60 or 70 miles, and he went in using a crutch, and holding the wall as steps were difficult. He went into the waiting room. The surgeon showed him the X Ray of another interesting case that was in his hand. He had read the reports on Jack, and said, 'he had made himself a damn nuisance - but I don't bloody well blame you. Quite right too, don't let the buggers chop you around'. He looked at the X Rays of Jack's leg. Then, with Jack 3 paces away, he asked him to put down the crutch and walk to him. Jack tried and fell down. But the surgeon said there was no reason why the leg should not get better. He said Jack had just the thing to help, his steel helmet. 'How did he mean?' For 10 minutes every hour, sit in a comfortable chair, invert the helmet, put the bad leg's foot under its chinstrap and try and lift it up. There will be days when it will not move, then it will. When you can lift it, put a small weight in it and try again, etc. etc'. He said 'most of the muscle will come back. Trust me.' Jack spent weeks and weeks in the Officer's Mess, nothing happened and his fellow Officer's teased him. Then one day there was a very little movement. Then there was steady progress and he got the use of his knee and leg back again, and could go on with his army service. (Though the bad circulation in that foot when he was 88 years old may have been a legacy of this injury.)

    Just before D Day Jack was stationed in Ireland at Drumanan, the nearest station being Poyntzpass - between Newry and another Irish town where there was an anti-tank Regiment. (The eastern coast of Ireland - Ulster). He was there for 6 months, it rained mostly, but the food was much better than in England where there was rationing. (Not clothes rationing then). Going home on leave it took a day and a half to get back to Liverpool. He went by train to the Larne to Stranraer Ferry. On trains at the border, goods being smuggled across were hidden from inspection by dangling them out of the carriage windows on the other side of the train from the platform.

    He wrote a letter to Churchill saying that he thought the 2 pounder guns were useless against tanks. The top brass threatened to reduce him to the ranks. He said that subalterns etc. during the war were professional people and quite intelligent enough to be listened to. He thought his letter probably never got further than Ireland. During this time in Ireland, one wet winter afternoon, when his troop were doing their "logical thought and reasoning" training - with subjects to discuss from the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, a telegram came with three words, 'Granny died. Mother.' (his Jones Granny) Also at that time, he went to a Course at Aldershot, and it was there he learnt to drive. He also got very near George VI. He was not impressed. In some free time, one lunch time he walked over a hill through some trees, and there was a natural amphitheatre with tanks arranged for George VI to inspect (red tabs). The king stopped in front of a tank near Jack, the Sergeant standing alongside got out steps for the king to go up into the tank, and then stepped back and saluted. The King said to him "What, break my bloody neck" and the sergeant went very red.

    Before the D Day Landings Jack was up the Severn Valley and his troop had no leave for months. In April and May it was a hell of a job driving about because there were thousands of American vehicles on the roads. The Yanks were thick, they did not have enough training and they could not read maps. Walter Hobart, a skilled model maker, made very life like models of landing craft and tanks and planes and guns - thousands!- to confuse the Jerry - and they were positioned to suggest a crossing and invasion near Calais.

    At the D Day landings (1944) the Norwegians were fed up because they were going to France and not Norway. Jack was with 28 men. It was raining, there was no moon, and a naval escort but they couldn't see them. They had sea-sick pills. There was a submarine scare - firing - Jack's landing craft had its rudder shot off, and after an all clear the men abandoned the craft and got into another - it doubled up the numbers. There was a cheerful Liverpool chap in the galley. Men went there two by two and were fed including chicken(!) won from the Yanks, and they had had no bread for 6 weeks, just ship's biscuits. Landing - there were cliffs and in the gaps between them there was firing. It was very disorganised - and they were not exactly where Jack's map said they should be. The guns were taken off separately, and they found them OK - not exactly where they were supposed to be either. He remembered first coming off the landing craft seeing a tank roll down off a nearby landing craft over dead bodies. The German posts on the cliffs were faced with concrete, and were shelled by the RN and Jack remembered seeing bits of Germans lying on the concrete. There was only one officer responsible for anti-tank warfare in the whole battalion of troops, Jack.

    At Caen the division had heavy losses, was almost wiped out, not enough men left, so the remaining men were to be sent to other units. Jack did not want to have to fight among men he did not know, and when the army asked for men to apply who could speak French he volunteered as an interpreter, and went to Paris.

    Liberating Paris
    Jack and another chap who knew some French were used for liaison. They followed at the rear of De Gaulle's Free French - the only British chaps - past the Eiffel tower, champs Elysees, at a service in Notre Dame snipers in the gallery opened fire. Jack only had a revolver - useless - so hid behind a pillar until the Huns were captured. After the liberation, Jack had time to write a long letter home, and Gladys sent the parts about the liberation to the News Chronicle who printed it, Jack being one of the few English there that day. After Paris Brussels was liberated.

    Jack was back in an anti-tank corps - 30 Corps, under General Horrocks. There was a quiet time before Hitler re-grouped and fought back. Jack had met 2 'general dealers' one Flemish, one French, who could get hold of goods and provisions etc. Jack suggested that as the men had nothing to spend their pay on for months, they might like some goods, perfume, etc. bought in Brussels, as he'd been offered and about to buy some - and he was overheard by some officer. General Horrocks arranged some money. Jack went with a lorry and got the goods. Very successful, all sold very fast, so he was sent again with more money. Gen Horrocks wanted a pale blue silk nightgown for his wife who was not tall and not fat. Jack got one, and when Jack met him after the war the General said his wife was very pleased with it. He was a pleasant man, liked and able. In the 1st world war when he was a N.C.O. he was interrogated by some rough and rude Germans who'd captured him, and he told one - in German - his mother would be ashamed of him if she could hear his language!

    Capturing Antwerp - not Jack's group, they had good local intelligence of mines, guns etc, from a Belgium man, which saved several weeks and many lives. The port was cleared of mines and became very useful. Then, as part of the march towards Germany, he was with 30 Corps, to back up the airborne landings at Nijmegen and Arnhem. After the landings these airborne troops were holed up badly - some ran out of ammunition and were captured - intelligence did not know that Nijmegen was well defended by Panzers (divisions with tanks) as the Jerries had regrouped, and they almost met their match. But 30 Corps was weeks late rescuing them.

    At Eindhoven they had house to house fighting to clear the Jerries out of the town, and there were lots of casualties. Nijmegen had a long steel bridge over one of the Rhines and was well defended. Jack had some 101 US Airborne Division to feed and look after while they waited for the US Army. He got to know the young Captains - all sure that their equipment was the best, though they said the marching rations of the British was better than their marching rations, though their food back at base was much better.

    About the Germans - they counter attacked immediately - then perhaps there was a gap of 12 hours and a subsequent attack. During the war the 9 pm news on the radio was widely listened to, Jack was interviewed once. War in Europe ended on 8 May 1945.
     
  2. sadamson

    sadamson Junior Member

    Oops, here's the record.
    Ta,
    S
     

    Attached Files:

  3. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    BLA British Liberation Army
    SOS Struck off Strength of the unit
    TOS Taken on strength of the unit
    Adm CCS Admitted Casualty Clearing Station

    Lesley
     
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Have these records been recently obtained from the MoD? Something doesn't look quite right with them unless officer records are different from ORs. It's quite hard to follow what unit he was with. I can make out 88 AT Regt then hospital but get lost after that - The war diary should mention him leaving the unit for hospital in May.
     
  5. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Doesn't like like he was at D-Day
    68th Anti tank regiment R.A.

    Enlisted at Manchester 13/10/39
    Gazetted 2/Lieut RA Larkhill 4/7/41
    Posted to 68th Anti tank regiment RA Wolsingham? 4/7/41
    Admitted to Princess Alice Hospital Eastbourne 6/5/43 (Ashford)
    Discharged from Princess Alice Hospital 9/5/43
    Posted to 103 Rft (REFIT?) Group. Home forces 12/5/44- (42 RHU-Reinforcement holding unit)
    Embarked UK Field allowance? admissable - UK 9/6/44
    Posted to No 4 rest camp to X (i) from X (iv) list 17/1/45
    Admitted to Casualty clearing station (CCS) and SOS-Struck off strength x (i) list (4 rest camp) to x (ii) list NWE North West Europe 6/2/45
    Discharged 8 (?) general hospital and (TOS) Taken on Strength x (i) from x (ii) NWE 6/3/45
    Emplaned BLA British Liberation Army for UK 25/3/45
    Embarked UK for BLA 9/4/45
    Admitted 108 British general hospital to x (ii) list- NWE 19/5/45
    Discharged hospital and TOS x (i) list No 4 rest camp-NWE 27/5/45
    To No 7 welfare equipment depot x (i) list NWE 1/8/45
    To x/8/A List 11/11/45
    Embarked NWE for UK 11/11/45

    more here about x lists
    http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/15663-x-lists-service-records/

    Lesley
     
  6. sadamson

    sadamson Junior Member

    Dear all,

    Thanks for your help with this -- I can see that there's a fair bit of work to do here.

    Yes, these have just been acquired from the MoD.

    If Jack landed in Normandy around 9/6/44, does his account sound accurate? He obviously seemed to remember a fair bit of detail.

    Best,
    Sam

    At the D Day landings (1944) the Norwegians were fed up because they were going to France and not Norway. Jack was with 28 men. It was raining, there was no moon, and a naval escort but they couldn't see them. They had sea-sick pills. There was a submarine scare - firing - Jack's landing craft had its rudder shot off, and after an all clear the men abandoned the craft and got into another - it doubled up the numbers. There was a cheerful Liverpool chap in the galley. Men went there two by two and were fed including chicken(!) won from the Yanks, and they had had no bread for 6 weeks, just ship's biscuits. Landing - there were cliffs and in the gaps between them there was firing. It was very disorganised - and they were not exactly where Jack's map said they should be. The guns were taken off separately, and they found them OK - not exactly where they were supposed to be either. He remembered first coming off the landing craft seeing a tank roll down off a nearby landing craft over dead bodies. The German posts on the cliffs were faced with concrete, and were shelled by the RN and Jack remembered seeing bits of Germans lying on the concrete. There was only one officer responsible for anti-tank warfare in the whole battalion of troops, Jack.
     

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