Major Robert Surridge 1st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, 4th Indian Division

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Mark Surridge, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member

    Major Robert Surridge 1st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, 4th Indian Division

    Like many men of his time my Father spoke little about the war, but when he did, I wrote down a record of what he had told me. He said of his action at Monte Cassino,

    We moved up Highway Number Six and my two batteries were stationed underneath Monte Cassino. Each battery had 4 guns and as each gun had a crew of 6 that meant each battery had 24 men. And as I had two batteries under my command, that was 48 men. Quite a responsibility I suppose.”

    And on another occasion,

    We were advancing across dead bodies into a dangerous position and came under heavy shell fire from the Germans who were just 4,0000feet away. One shells landed so close that we dived for cover and when I suggested that it was safe to leave our cover and move on my two Gurkha soldiers had been killed.’

    One of the Gurkhas was my father’s batman and today I have the kukhri that he brought home from the War.
    Obviously I would love to discover the names of the two Gurkhas who died, and who, in all probability, saved my Father's life.

    I wonder whether anyone can help me understand my Father’s service record :
    His Army Book says :

    He went overseas with BNAF on 17th January 1943
    Presumably British North Africa Force ?

    From dates on letters he sent home I have deduced that he was on Convoy KMS 008G. out of the Clyde on the 21st January 1943, arriving Bone in Algeria on 8th February 1943

    Father’s three years of artillery training in England - Llandudno, Aberstwyth, Catterick, Morpeth, etc was finally over and he was being posted overseas, as part of BNAF (British North African Forces)
    So would he have sailed with his 8 guns and 48 gunners ?
    Or would he have been given those batteries in North Africa ?

    He was with 365 Ind Coast Battery Royal Artillery, 17th January - 27th December 1943
    What is the 365 Ind Coast Battery ?

    His pocket book says :
    R.A.T.D. x iv LIST 27/12/43 - 22/3/44
    Any ideas what that means ?

    Then final entry :
    1st Field Regt RA 22/3/'44 - 12/5/'46

    Then in North Africa when did he see action ?

    In November 1943, he attended a ‘Conversion Course’, stated as ‘Coast to Field’,
    Presumably meaning no longer with coastal battery but being detailed to field artillery, ready for transfer to front line action in Italy.

    I can get nothing form the Army Book, and I have written for his War Record without any success

    When would he have been posted to the 4th Indian Division ?
    When would he have crossed to Sicily ?
    Or would have sailed directly to Southern Italy ?

    I notice that within 4th Indian Division 1st Field Regiment, Royal Artillery there are batteries but I have no idea which was my Father's battery ?

    (H.Q., 11th, 52nd & 80th/98th Field Batteries, Royal Artillery)

    And, presumably still with 4th Indian Division he remembered two moments in Greece :

    "As we advanced into Athens I asked my radio operator to see if he could tune into the BBC and suddenly there was this beautiful singing. It was the Christmas Eve carols being broadcast from Kings College Cambridge. But for that chance discovery we would never have known that it was Christmas.”

    “On another occasion I was advancing into Athens and we were ambushed and as we came under fired from the Communist rebels and but for the quick thinking of one of my men I would have been killed. They were shooting at us from behind but we returned fire and killed them. An American soldier laughed at me saying 'you'll get yourself and all of us killed if you're not more bloody careful, buddy'

    He also said,
    " As I was the most senior officer I had to go to the National Bank in Central Athens and cash the cheque to pay the troops.'

  2. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Puzzled by this, as you are NOK there is no reason why you cannot get his official records, did you apply to Glasgow?

    Info on X lists here:
    X lists (Service Records)

    RATD possibly Royal Artillery Training Depot?
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  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    British North Africa Force(s).

    If this battery was one of 1st Field Regt. R.A., the latter; if these guns were 365 Ind Coast Battery, I don't know.

    1st Field Regt. R.A. were already in action and had been for a few years.

    365 Independent Coast Battery--defending beaches and shelling nearby shipping. It may turn out that they 'converted' to a field battery once invasion was off the menu. Will need to investigate.

    Royal Artillery Training Depot.

    X(IV) List means he was one of the 'unposted reinforcements'


    I can give you a lot more dates and data for 4th Indian Division, but it's a whole lot easier if you can post the documents you have in full; a lot of the figuring out is much easier in context of the whole picture.

    See also your private messages--I've sent you one.
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  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    177423 - Surridge, R. S., Lieutenant, R.A. Taken on Strength 1st Field Regt R.A.: 22/3/44.

    He was sent to 80 field battery on arrival, as a temporary captain, replacing Captain Frank Smith who had been killed in action. As you say, they were located around Mount Trocchio

    He arrived from RATD along with an officer named Lieutenant P. B. Wood.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
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  5. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member

    That's him !
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Captain Frank Smith (who died of wounds) was not with the guns of 80-bty but had an observation post on Monastery Hill.
    He was first on pt.165 with 1/4th Essex, directing fire, but later retreated to the Castle on Pt.193.
  7. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    If you are interested, I am guiding a group to Cassino on 14-17 May 20 and we will be looking in some detail at what 4 Ind Div got up to during the Second Battles. It was pretty gruesome stuff.

    If this grabs you, do get hold of me at


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  8. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Mark.

    I have the war diaries for his time in Greece.

    Start a private conversation withme using the inbox option at the top and include your email address and I'll send you what I have.

    Hope this helps.

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  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    If 80 Fd Bty RA supported 1/4 Essex then that battery would have provided the Forward Observation Officers that made fire available to the battalion.

    If your father was a one for one replacement for Capt Frank Smith then he would have been an FOO up with the infantrymen of 1/4 Essex rather than on the Battery's Gun Line behind Monte Trocchio.


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  10. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member


    Forward Observation Officer ?
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Yep, right at the front with the infantry.

    If you want to get a feel for what the rôle entailed, listen to this in-depth interview with an officer who carried out the task with 11th Field Regt. R.A. (the second of the three field regiments with 4th Indian Division: 1st / 11th / 31st).

    Jephson, Francis Ronald (Oral history)
  12. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member

    Wonderfully clear and articulate helped me gain a better understanding of the role of the FOO...particulalry the testimony on Reel16
  13. Mark Surridge

    Mark Surridge Junior Member

    Listened again to Reel 16...The importance of communications / drills / and instincts and the motto adopted by General Tuker : 'Sweat Saves Blood'

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