Jock Columns

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by redtop, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Below is an excerpt from my Fathers Journals whilst serving in North Africa with G Battery 5 RHA.
    I can find no mention of them in the war diaries as such, would these Jock Columns class as patrols? And if so did they come under the control of an Int. Officer as in Infantry Battalions?
    If this was the case and co-ordination was from the Regiment rather than Battery would they be recorded in a Regimental War Diary?
    I can put a rough date on them by 5 RHA’s arrival in Africa and them being stopped by Monty.

    We had a short spell on what's called Jock columns.
    One gun one soft truck and one GPO .We would make a detour behind the enemy lines going down into the Quator Depression .Get as near as possible and belt off as many rounds as possible on their convoys at about 1000 yards and get out as quick as you can, and woe and betide if you get stuck in the soft sand as we once did.
    Again all procedure followed the drill. Every man could do the other man's job and all play a part. When you got stuck every man in the team worked like a Trojan to the drill that followed. Four steel stakes about 4 feet long, knock them into the sand at an angle, uncouple the limber and gun, run out the hawsers from under the Quad, hook onto the spikes, reverse and pull yourself onto firmer ground, then tow off the limber and gun, all this with your rifle on your back.
    And of course you then travel on a sun compass as there are no marks or trig points. A round disc on the front of the motor’s bonnet marked 360 degrees. A centre point sticks up, the sun throws a shadow across the angle you travel, and this is adjusted every five minutes for the movement of the earth…………..
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  2. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    More than just a patrol I think. Named after Jock Campbell who lead them, they were a combined arms unit, similar to other "private armies" that sprang up in North Africa.
  3. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

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  4. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    So the "one gun"would just have been the Artillery part of a larger group?
    I was thinking that one gun on its own would be out on a limb.
    Or may be one gun provided by his battery amongst others.
  5. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Totally off topic I can empathize with your broken ankle,I was on sticks several weeks last year from falling out of my loft ,don't go there :D
  6. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    I think a "patrol" would have been more than one gun. Not sure if the Jock Columns had there own war diaries, but some forum members on here are experts in that sort of thing. I have had great help from Drew5233 in the past.
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    They weren't private armies as they were drawn from (and therefore weakened) regular formations. Here's a useful summary:"jock+column"&source=bl&ots=zA3IezL_Ez&sig=dj5Gt4MiGhQ1IO5ODk9u52sEVjg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDEQ6AEwBWoVChMIooXTyYfoxgIVC7cUCh2b3QgG#v=onepage&q=%22jock%20column%22&f=false
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  8. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    Some Armoured Brigades in North Africa had a 'Support Group'.

    The ‘Support Group’ was organized into four mobile columns. The striking power of each column was a 12 or 16 Gun Battery of 2-pounder Anti-Tank Guns. Attached to each Battery were 12 to 15 armoured cars, one or two Coys of motorized infantry, and at least a troop of light Anti-Aircraft guns, providing reconnaissance and security. During the daylight hours, these columns would move out and approach the German positions. They would then harass and observe the German defences, whilst attempting to destroy any German columns or vehicles seen with artillery fire. At night they would withdraw 8 to 10 miles and laager.

    Jock columns sound more like a mini-support group column.

  9. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Monty seemed to think they were a diversion reducing the strength of the Divisions,so they may have been quite large or numerous.
    In his book Alamein to the River Sangro he states that after his takeover :-

    "I ordered that Divisions should be concentrated and fought as such;this ended the employment of Brigade Groups,Jock Columns,and the tactical methods which caused Divisions to be split up,but to which recourse had been made because of shortage of troops.
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    The Jock column emerged from the conditions of the Western Desert. They were a motorised patrol formed around parties of motorised infantry, armoured cars and artillery, (Field, anti tank and Light AA). Sometimes tanks were included, but reliability might preclude this. They undertook a motorised form of aggressive patrolling which is a part of British defensive doctrine.

    Just as there is no standard organisation for a trench raid or fighting patrol, there could be no standard organisation for a jock column.

    For parts of the desert war jock columns were the only kind of offensive action which was possible. E.g June-Oct 1940 oe APR-June 1941. It also became a fall back method of operating if the situation was confusing or the tide seemed to be turning against the British. At the very least these groups did comprise a mix of arms which could fight better together than apart. However, jock columns are the opposite of the concentration of force that underlies offensive action. They were a tactic for irritating and distracting an enemy and could not deliver the concentration of forces to destroy enemy units.

    Jock columns were not a million miles conceptually from the battalion sized battle-groups championed by the advocates of dispersion as a solution to Blitzkrieg. These same chaps advocated penny packeting the artillery under command of brigades and battalions and the disestablishment of CRAs. They clearly lacked any understanding of the subtleties of RA procedures or the ability of the gunners to control fire using wireless. This heretical dogma was opposed by Brooke, Lund (MGRA Home forces) and Montgomery. It should be soundly pilloried by history, especially on the forum dedicated to the Royal Regiment.

    Montgomery wanted to fight divisions as divisions, not least because of the ability to concentrate the divisional artillery under the CRA. Artillery in Jock columns is simply wasted.
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    gmyles old chap, what is the source of the structure you quoted for the mobile columns formed from "the Support groups of armoured brigades?

    Support Groups were the home of the non tank elements of the 1939 British Armoured Division. As the name suggests, this envisaged an auxiliary role in support of the tank brigades, relieving them from defensive and reconnaissance tasks. These included protecting the tank brigades and their B echelon, seizing defiles and bridges, mopping up enemy positions attacked by tanks and forming a defensive leaguer. In Feb 1942 the establishment for Armoured Divisions in the Middle east abolished the support group and each armoured Brigade received an RHA Field artillery regiment of 24 25 Pdr gun howitzers and an anti tank battery of 16 guns, as well as an infantry battalion and an engineer troop. Technically, armoured brigades did not have a support group.

    The heart of a Jock column was a troop of four or a battery of eight or twelve 25 Pdr gun/ howitzers. These were the only long range weapons in the armoury. It would make sense for a support groups to form four mobile columns, as there were four units within the 1940 support group. (RHA Regiment, Atk Regt, LAA Regt and Lorried Infantry battalion)

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