Personal Diary 1942 Adjt A.J.S Mackenzie 50th (Northumbrian) Divisional Signals Regiment, TA

Discussion in 'Royal Signals' started by Kev1, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. SignalsJimmy

    SignalsJimmy Junior Member

    Who were you quoting in your post - it seems to be an eyewitness - but according to the War Diary Barry MacVicker was never adjutant. As of 27 May 1942 he was O.C. of 'D' Section.
    Alex MacKenzie handed over to Capt. G.A.H. Jones on 15 April 1942 who held the post until 19 November when Capt. K MacIvor was appointed. He in turn handed over to Capt. Sergeant on 24 March 1943, who kept the Diary until shortly before D-Day.

    I was quoting the personal account of Lt Col R Percival who served with the Regiment (50 (N) Div Sigs) from 1926 to 1942 and again from 1947 to 1950. I'll bring the book of personal account round when I come visit, it's pretty large and I've only dived into it at a few places.
  2. Kev1

    Kev1 Member

    Sadly it appears Mackenzie didn't survive the war.

    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Following a detour on a trip back to London, I closed out Alex MacKenzie's story with a visit to the cemetery in Rennes, where he is buried with his wife. I am posting the photos below, which will enlarge when clicked on. The mystery as to why the victims of the plane crash start with plot No.2 is because Captain Schofield RE is effectively 'right marker' of row B, in plot one. He was one of the almost 200 casualties from the bombing of 1940.
    If anyone wants photos of the other graves associated with the plane crash in 1945 I took them also, as well as Captain Schofield.



  3. rsbwalb

    rsbwalb New Member

    How do I found more about these war diaries posted? A 'Walbridge' is mentioned which is my family name - it is also a very rare name and I can trace nearly all of them to my family line - how can I find out the details of the Walbridge in these diaries? First name, dob etc ?
  4. Hi 'rsbwalb' and welcome to the Forum.

    The name J Wallbridge is on a list of 50 Div Signal Regt and attached personnel confirmed as either KIA or POW during the Gazala retreat in June 1942.
    He is recorded as taken prisoner between 14/15 June 1942 together with four members of 'L' section. He is listed as Driver/Ic attached to UHQ (Unit Head Quarters).
    His service number is given as 2346226.

    Note the spelling with two letter 'L' 's - although this may mean nothing as other entries on the list contain errors of initials etc.

    Can't help any further - can ask my Dad but pretty sure it will draw a blank.

    If he is a relative you will be able to apply for his war records - there are details elsewhere on this site.
    First point of call I would suggest is find an old member of your family and quiz them about it.

    best of luck.

    Mel (junior)
  5. Hi 'rsbwalb'
    Looking at the Signals War Diary I have as an appendix a typed Nominal Roll of Party 'D' which left Port Said for Cyprus on 30 July 1941.
    Dvr/Ic J Wallbridge is shown in this party and again has the double L spelling.

  6. Peter Lenny

    Peter Lenny New Member

  7. Hello Peter, Praise be to the interweb!

    The diary entry reads 13th March 1942

    A full day. Fairly warm & sunny. Air fairly quiet. Spent morning clearing up files & getting on top of routine bumf which had rather filled up during past three days. ....... L/Cpr Price back to ranks . Cpl Robinson – lost watch – charged 14-/3. Sgmn Lenny - shot himself through foot – stopped 14 days pay. (170.)
    If your father spoke about his time in 50 Div Signals I would love to hear anything you have.
    Mel Jnr.
  8. Peter Lenny

    Peter Lenny New Member

    Hi Mel,

    thank you no end for your reply and clarification. I obviously have not yet learned to exploit this amazing resource or I'd have found the mention myself (I did look). I shall now read the whole diary with great interest and attention, before asking any more duh questions.

    Pity the mention wasn't less ignominious, but then again "there, but for the grace of God...".

    So, he was docked two weeks pay..., but his record (for the record) states his Military Conduct was "Very Good" - although he was also "reverted" from "paid acting Lance Corporal" to Signalman on 07.08.40, but whether that was for routine administrative convenience or drunk and disorderly, is not said. My military culture is insufficient for me even to guess at the real significance of these entries - and Dad died in 1985 without ever saying a word about his military service, as far as I know.

    The diary entry falls, of course, in the tantalising hiatus in his military record, from 29.04.40 (Posted to 50 Division Signals) to 14.03.43 (Posted to 51 Division Signals) - the period this diary is all about and the one that really interests. I live in Rio de Janeiro, so have never been able to research it further.

    I seem to remember all sorts of strange snippets from other people's remarks about him and the war - yes, "getting shot" in the foot, being taken prisoner by the Italians, coming home in a kilt - but have no way of knowing whether they are figments of their (or my) imaginations. The received truth doesn't really go much beyond his serving in North Africa and then spending time in Italy (corroborated by his astounding us all by speaking basic Italian with a waiter on a family trip).

    I do have a formal 50th Signals group portrait (about 200 strong), taken - according to my mother, probably in September 1939 - with a stand behind them on the right that reads " *BA* DODG**M SPR* ", i.e., looks suspiciously like a fairgound dodgem car track. I have scanned it and the quality is sufficient for both my sister and I to recognise my father, but no matter how I treat the file, cannot get it below 10Mb. If anyone is interested, I will be happy to send it offlist.

    I also seem to have inherited and ancient photograph album, with no photos, but undated captions in pencil (not my father's handwriting), saying 'Parachute troops landing at Crete', 'HMS Figi [sic] Bombed Off Crete', 'HMS Liverpool sunk by aerial torpedo', 'Survivors from HMS Elypso', 'HMS Glouster [sic] sunk off Crete', ' "15" ammo for shelling off Tripoli', 'Italian sub "Luzzi" sunk off Crete', 'Italian sub "UBI Scabeli" captured and sank off Crete', 'Parachute troop landing at Crete' and then, in the same hand, 'Maidenhead August 1942', which is where my mother's family came from, and several others suggesting a US connection (the writer may have been from the United States).

    All a bit bitty and given here more to put it to some use and get it off my chest.

  9. I spoke with dad yesterday and he did remember the surname Lenny, but he is quite ill in hospital at present and isn't much for talking.
    If you check out the thread 'A short history of 50 Division Signals' their War Diary is summarised from 1939 and takes in the time your Dad was with the unit.
    Being transferred to 51 HD he was in time for the battles of Mareth, Enfidaville and Wadi Akarit.
    This is a great site and there are lots of experts who will step with information and advice.
    In 1939 the Regiment consisted of 3 Companies of 100 plus men each. Each of these had sections which undertook specialist work, some of who were attached to the Division's Infantry and Field Regiments.
    Hope you can join up the dots in your Dad's War service a little bit more with the above.

  10. Peter, from the official War Diary of the unit and associated papers filed at Kew plus the personal memoires of Signalman George Dean. M.M. and Captain Wm Lee; - Signalman Lenny travelled to Cyprus on 24 May 1941 with 'C' Party. This was by far the largest contingent consisting of nine Officers and 139 other ranks plus 18 attached personnel.
    They left Cairo rail station aboard three 3rd class coaches to port of embarkation and were split between HMS Jaguar and HMS Akbar (minelayers). They sailed at speed overnight with the ships hoping to dock, unload and be back underway before first light and curious enemy aircraft.
    As they entered Farmagusta harbour HMS Akbar hit the jetty and the crew unloaded at a breakneck pace. So much so that what kit that missed the quay went into the harbour. Divers were employed later to rescue stores that had sunk.

    This is the only mention of your dad by name in the official War Diary.

    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  11. Quick update on the Diary - I was present at Blandford Camp on 15 October 2019 when Kevin presented the Diary to The Royal Signals Museum. It is now available, initially in their archives for research but hopefully on display at some point.
    No doubt Kev will post some pictures of the hand over to him from Beatrice in Italy, and from Kev to Rob Gray at Blandford.


    (The museum is highly recommended for a visit)
    Steve Mac likes this.

    HWALLBCOM Member

    Hi, this Jack Wallbridge (the driver quoted in the diary) was my husbands Grandad. He was taken POW in the Battle of Gazala and sent to a POW camp in Italy. He remained in Southampton and the New Forest after the war. I believe his family were from Poole, Dorset. Please contact me if you would like further information. I would like to hear if anyone has any further information please. We don't know much about his war service but this diary has revealed so much! Thank you for posting! Kind regards, Helen

    Signals personnel who were captured on the night of 14/15 June 1942 (the first breakout) were 3 Signalmen and a driver from L Section (attached to 69 Brigade) and your relative 2346226 Driver J Wallbridge (attached to Unit H.Q.) together with 4390320 Pte R Scarborough of 4 Green Howards who I believe was Batman to Alex MacKenzie.

    Theory is that as Alex's driver and batman were together then so was some of his personal effects and this is how the diary ended up in Italian hands.

    Below is a narrative of that first breakout put together from official War Diaries, that of an attached Cipher (J Waltho) and my dads memories. It is part of a full history of 50 Div Signals from 1939 to 1944 and is under occasional update and revision.

    If you have any information, photographs etc please post them or give me a private post. Kevin let me know the thread was active and to take a look - many thanks and hope the following is of interest.
  14. Leading up to June 14 there was heavy bombing of Brigade area and the remaining troops of medium guns were shelled. Waltho reports no shelling on the fourteenth of June although mines had exploded during the night and the enemy were reported near El Adem. When orders to move eventually came through they include instructions to burn all papers.

    The War Diary has the Unit H.Q. static in the period to 13 June, but setting up communications to numerous strongpoints behind the Gazala line. One wireless detachment was attached to the Free French at Bir Hacheim. When this Brigade withdrew during the night of 10 June it allowed Axis penetration north and east behind the original Gazala boxes. By the 14 June 50th Division withdrew from the line with Signals split between two columns.

    This night move began heading south-west, passing west and south of Bir Hacheim before turning east for the Capuzzo-Maddalena wire. The Unit made contact with Italian positions and further split before concentrating on Bir-el-Thalata. Ten personnel were reported missing.

    Officially named ‘Operation Freeborn’ 50th Division’s withdrawal from the Gazala line planned to breakout westward through Italian positions before turning south to skirt Bir Hacheim and finally turning east to the Egyptian frontier wire. Undertaken by two groups, Divisional troops including Signals were split between 69 Bde and 151 Bde. Equipment and stores were concentrated in large dumps with time pencil charges variously delayed between 15 hours and three days.
  15. Documentation shows 1 Company and U.H.Q. Signals were assigned to 69 Bde. 5th Bn East Yorks, with 12 tanks in support attacked the area west of B166 to form a bridgehead, holding this open for the Group to pass through or until 0500 hrs. This Group would split into small columns consisting of a third of a battalion together with supporting arms. Forming up near B167 each column would be on its own, taking any route east of Garb El Fachri, east of Rotunda Mteifel, as far south as B831, then eastwards by Bir El Gubi to either of Lybian Sheferzen, El Rabta or Ridotta Maddelena. Three days rations, water and P.O.L. for 250 miles were to be carried. There was to be no communication between columns and wireless silence was ordered after 22:00 hrs.

    Throughout the afternoon a sandstorm helped mask the flurry of activity and the various columns made their way successfully through the enemy defences. The reaction was mostly tracer and highly inaccurate with the Italians having little idea what was happening. Later the columns met little resistence passing through Italian vehicle laagers near Giof Bahut and on Trigh Capuzzo although some vehicles did lose direction and end up in the Rotunda Mteifel minefield.

    The War Diary of the C.B. Section attached to C.R.A. had them in the centre of the Brigade Echelon column with one Signals 15cwt and a 3-tonner carrying personnel. It was a moonless night, but a bunched-up echelon was hit by 105’s and set on fire. The columns were also raked by machine gun and anti-tank shells. Some vehicles appeared to have strayed into minefields when the column turned hard left straight through the Italian Brescia Division. Halting every half hour the groups attempted to keep vehicles together.

    Next day Diary records parties of between six and ten vehicles moving south and east throughout the day towards Maddelena and the Lybian-Egyptian wire. Many carried Italian prisoners. The Signals 15 cwt ws towed for two-thirds of the journey.

    Waltho packed up during the afternoon, before leaving at 20:30. Shelled as they crossed the bridgehead his group detoured to avoid enemy positions and Verey lights.
  16. With rear-guard shelling, the Axis rear positions were overrun and Italians attempted to surrender. Once dawn broke these positions were avoided and by nightfall Waltho’s truck was ditched with a u/s clutch. Linking with other elements of the retreat he travelled east from daylight arriving at Scheffezzen 12:30hrs followed by Bir Ralata by 18:00, totally exhausted. Picking up stragglers during the sixteenth they moved to the main camp next day. He reports six bombs on the airfield that night.
  17. From my father;
    “When the shout came to move
    (14 June) our orders were to head west until we were far enough out then to cut south, turn and follow the Milky-Way. We were told not to stop, not to pick anyone up and not to engage the enemy. We had no armament on the truck apart from our personal weapons. H.Q. were always away first so we set off out into the desert.

    First thing you know we had all these D.L.I. lads crawling all over the vehicle, hanging on the bonnet and in the doorways as well as in the back. So much for not picking anyone up! We went through an Italian leager during the night - they were spread out like ours with dug-outs. The D.L.I. lads were firing at anything but mostly I remember grenades being lobbed. The lad standing in my doorway was shouting ‘here share this’ as he tossed a grenade. So much for not engaging the enemy”

    It seems that the remembed D.L.I. were either Green Howards or East Yorks, but no matter.

    C.O. Ronnie Percival recalled everything was destroyed that couldn’t be carried in dependable vehicles and on the chosen night they set off in three columns, after two battalions of Infantry had gone ahead and formed a bridgehead through enemy forward troops. Orders were to go deep into the desert and turn east and drive as fast as possible for the Egyptian border to a rendezvous point. Losses were light and they regrouped in the area of Mersa Matruh.
  18. G-Branch Intelligence after action report includes the following ‘short notes’ on Divisional Signals; 3.

    “H.Q. and No. 1 Coy 50 Div. Sigs travelled complete with 69 Bde Gp, less 3 wireless dets with the GOC's party in 151 Bde. Gp. Wireless stations were brought away complete together with charging engines and all line equipment. Other equipment including cable and cable laying equipment was disposed of before the move.
    Early in the evening the leading vehicles of the main coln became involved in a mass of slit trenches and five Italians gave themselves up. As there was no room to carry them their rifles and equipment was taken from them. Several Italian positions were run through and the leading vehicles challenged, but no further action taken by either side.
    At about 0200 hrs heavy shell fire was encountered by the coln. The driver of O.C. Div Sigs car was hit in the jaw by a splinter and knocked out, numbers of verey lights went up all round and a hail of inaccurate fire, particularly incendiary bullets, appeared to come from all directions. After a short delay the car was restarted and driven on at a high speed still followed by an amazing firework display and later again by heavier shells. Judging from the height at which the incendiary bullets appeared to be fired, the impression was given that the car had stopped in the middle of a tank leaguer.

    By this time the coln had been to a large extent broken into smaller parties. A number of vehicles had to be abandoned, but owing to the system of pairing vehicles all personnel were picked up, except for two drivers in one truck. THIS COULD BE YOUR RELATIVE?
  19. Dad again;
    “I think it was mid-morning the next day when we leaguered up. The D.L.I. had left us by then and I cannot remember when or where they went. We had lost two trucks and ‘Shufty’ Brad; Q.M.S. Bradford and I drove back a fair distance but nothing was coming, so we decided they must have been nipped and got back to the unit.’Shufty’ said he would go back if I would drive and I think we were both a bit uneasy the further we went back. In the end we said ‘Sod it’ and headed for safety”.

    Hope this is of interest - with the sad loss of Fred Willans a couple of weeks ago we now believe Dad is the last man standing (sitting most of the time) of the original three companies of Signals from 1939.
    HWALLBCOM and Steve Mac like this.

    HWALLBCOM Member

    Wow, thank you Mel, this is really interesting. I'll get back to you with a photo.

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