Python & Lilop Leave

Discussion in 'Service Records' started by Rob Dickers, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Just had a look at the 4th QOH Regimental diaries and notuced something that I had previously overlooked.

    29/3/1945
    A Sqn carried 6th RWK in exercise HOSANNAH, the Armd protection supplied by 9th Lancers.49 WOs, Sgts and ORs departed on PYTHON. Shoot carried out by B Sqn 105’s on enemy positions. 1Tp engaged enemy positions on SENIO bank at 355336 with success.



    What I find of significance is that on the day that I joined the regiment, who I would remind you were in the line at the time, 49 "other ranks" were pulled out of the line to go home on Python leave.

    It is only now that I realise that my tank commander, SSM Busty Thomas did not take up his entitlement at the same time, probably because it was put to him that he could not then be spared.

    It also ocurred to me that he (and probably I alongside him) could have been killed in the closing stages of the war through his decision not to go home on leave :(

    Just a thought for today, 66 years after the event.

    Ron
     
  2. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Watched this one with interest never knew what either meant to be truthful...one thing bothers me with this leave business example ;- Durham Light Infantryman joins 1932,Serves in India 33-34,Sudan 1935-37,China 1937-39,Hong Kong 1939-40.Egypt 1940-42,Malta 1942-43,KOS 1943 ...10 years overseas,eight continuous returned to England with 21 other men January 1944,HOME,16 of these men are posted to 50th Division,Why?(we are told they were experienced NCOS and they were needed to steady the replacements ..Possible? Yes but the Battalion they had left had just escaped Kos with less than 100men?Would they not require experienced NCOs) June 1944 D-Day June to October 6 are Killed/Wounded in Action.When 50th Div is sent home the remainder(Survivors!) are posted to 9 DLI ?...if they had done their time originally anyone know why they were posted back overseas after completing 8-10 yrs abroad?I`ve never been able to fathom this one out was that Lilop?.

    50th Division were tired Steve take a look at their casualty lists for Normandy see how many `True` DLI numbers are listed sadly not many mate a lot went into the bag in the desert and Sicily took a heavy toll.The soldiers from that Division still fought on in other units very few actually went home...the Division was broken and a lot used as replacements.


    Tom...Nearly right mate 9th DLI soldiered on with large numbers of replacements coming from the disbanded 10th and 11th Battalions together with 8th and 6th DLI personnell but they were far from a composite battalion.I believe a lot of 11th DLI went to the Cameronians


    Jim
     
  3. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    So, most of 231st Infantry Brigade (the 1st Malta Brigade), although not in the thick of the fighting in N Africa like 150th, 151st and 69th Infantry Brigades', would have been entitled to PYTHON, or am I missing something in the detail!?!

    Hi Steve,

    I'm not sure if I entirely understand the question ... but as I understand it, the situation was this. Until 1944, there was no guaranteed rotation from overseas at all, no matter how long you'd been there. If your unit happened to return to the UK for operational reasons, all well and good; but if not, then you stayed put. Then PYTHON was introduced. The idea was that personnel who had been continuously stationed overseas for a long period would have the right (subject to service requirements) to be rotated back to the UK.* Length of qualification for PYTHON varied. It began as six years, then fell to four years and nine months for those in Europe/the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and three years and eight months if you were in the Far East. At the end of the war the qualifying period was shortened further.

    Does that help?

    Best, Alan

    * This didn't preclude the possibility that you might be posted overseas again eventually - only that you would have at least one period of home service in-between.
     
  4. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Watched this one with interest never knew what either meant to be truthful...one thing bothers me with this leave business example ;- Durham Light Infantryman joins 1932,Serves in India 33-34,Sudan 1935-37,China 1937-39,Hong Kong 1939-40.Egypt 1940-42,Malta 1942-43,KOS 1943 ...10 years overseas,eight continuous returned to England with 21 other men January 1944,HOME,16 of these men are posted to 50th Division,Why?(we are told they were experienced NCOS and they were needed to steady the replacements ..Possible? Yes but the Battalion they had left had just escaped Kos with less than 100men?Would they not require experienced NCOs) June 1944 D-Day June to October 6 are Killed/Wounded in Action.When 50th Div is sent home the remainder(Survivors!) are posted to 9 DLI ?...if they had done their time originally anyone know why they were posted back overseas after completing 8-10 yrs abroad?I`ve never been able to fathom this one out was that Lilop?.

    50th Division were tired Steve take a look at their casualty lists for Normandy see how many `True` DLI numbers are listed sadly not many mate a lot went into the bag in the desert and Sicily took a heavy toll.The soldiers from that Division still fought on in other units very few actually went home...the Division was broken and a lot used as replacements.

    Tom...Nearly right mate 9th DLI soldiered on with large numbers of replacements coming from the disbanded 10th and 11th Battalions together with 8th and 6th DLI personnell but they were far from a composite battalion.I believe a lot of 11th DLI went to the Cameronians
    Jim


    Hello Jim,

    Was your uncle Billy one of the unlucky NCO's in Para 1 of your note? If so, this is exactly what I am trying to get to the bottom of... was PYTHON et al universal, compulsory, etc. Ron's message #21 above suggests not!

    I know that 50 Div was tired and that its casualties were high - twice as many as the 9th Australian Div, which also had a bloody hard war. However, I still do not know why a division that had out-performed the 51st (Highland) Division in Normandy and had subsequently done very well, was suddenly mothballed.

    Yes, it had lost the 150th Infantry Brigade at Gazala in 1942, but the 51 Div had lost the best part of two brigades in France in 1940. So, I don't think that factor is relevant to it being mothballed.

    Churchill wanted its casualties replaced by a battlion of Commandos i.e. fresh troops, but Monty wouldn't have it.

    Instead, a lot of the tired troops were dispersed to other divisions, for what purpose? They were still tired and possibly not in as an effective division as 50 Div.

    Overall, I am trying to understand how PYTHON et al worked in reality and why 50 Div was mothballed. The answer to the first matter is evolving, but I am still nowhere near understanding the latter twist to the same theme (the main official reason for it being mothballed was the 'leave' entitlement of a long serving Division).

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  5. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hi Steve,

    I'm not sure if I entirely understand the question ... but as I understand it, the situation was this. Until 1944, there was no guaranteed rotation from overseas at all, no matter how long you'd been there. If your unit happened to return to the UK for operational reasons, all well and good; but if not, then you stayed put. Then PYTHON was introduced. The idea was that personnel who had been continuously stationed overseas for a long period would have the right (subject to service requirements) to be rotated back to the UK.* Length of qualification for PYTHON varied. It began as six years, then fell to four years and nine months for those in Europe/the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and three years and eight months if you were in the Far East. At the end of the war the qualifying period was shortened further.

    Does that help?

    Best, Alan

    * This didn't preclude the possibility that you might be posted overseas again eventually - only that you would have at least one period of home service in-between.

    Alan,

    Your original post, message #14, suggested that 50 Div was not entitled to PYTHON. I was merely pointing out at message #17 that a lot of the 231st Infantry Brigade probably were.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Steve -
    what you might be missing here is the fact that XXX corps- VIII Armoured Bde and 231 Bde's were home for close to eight months in some cases prior to D Day - enough time to get in a bit of leave - and start again - whether or not was PYTHON - LILOP - or LIAP.

    The main reason that 50th outperformed 51st and 7th Armoured had a lot to do with the man at the top - who were replaced very soon after D Day -O'Conner in charge of VIII corps was "let go" later as he could not handle a corps after nearly three years as a POW after being captured after his famous victory at Beda Fomm in wiping out a whole Italian army - Ritchie in XII did better and lasted after his unsuccessful leadership of 8th Army at Gazala - whereas Leese didn't do so well with 8th Army in Italy - and was moved out to Burma. Horrocks did extremely well as a corps Commander in the Desert - Tunisia - until wounded and spent a year in hospital coming back to take on XXX corps.
    So a great deal depended on the man at the top - such as Dempsey a corps commander in the Desert and Sicily - to 2nd Army...
    Cheers
     
  7. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Then PYTHON was introduced. The idea was that personnel who had been continuously stationed overseas for a long period would have the right (subject to service requirements) to be rotated back to the UK.* Length of qualification for PYTHON varied. It began as six years, then fell to four years and nine months for those in Europe/the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and three years and eight months if you were in the Far East. At the end of the war the qualifying period was shortened further.

    Does that help?

    Best, Alan

    * This didn't preclude the possibility that you might be posted overseas again eventually - only that you would have at least one period of home service in-between.

    If someone qualified for Python post war, could they still have returned home during the war under Python or was this a one off thing?

    Jules.
     
  8. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    If someone qualified for Python post war, could they still have returned home during the war under Python or was this a one off thing?

    I expect it would have been a one-off thing - remember that PYTHON was a relatively short-lived programme (it began in 1944 and I think was wound up at the end of mass demobilisation) and the qualifying period was pretty long.

    Best, Alan
     
  9. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Hello Jim,

    Was your uncle Billy one of the unlucky NCO's in Para 1 of your note? If so, this is exactly what I am trying to get to the bottom of... was PYTHON et al universal, compulsory, etc. Ron's message #21 above suggests not!

    I know that 50 Div was tired and that its casualties were high - twice as many as the 9th Australian Div, which also had a bloody hard war. However, I still do not know why a division that had out-performed the 51st (Highland) Division in Normandy and had subsequently done very well, was suddenly mothballed.

    Yes, it had lost the 150th Infantry Brigade at Gazala in 1942, but the 51 Div had lost the best part of two brigades in France in 1940. So, I don't think that factor is relevant to it being mothballed.

    Churchill wanted its casualties replaced by a battlion of Commandos i.e. fresh troops, but Monty wouldn't have it.

    Instead, a lot of the tired troops were dispersed to other divisions, for what purpose? They were still tired and possibly not in as an effective division as 50 Div.

    Overall, I am trying to understand how PYTHON et al worked in reality and why 50 Div was mothballed. The answer to the first matter is evolving, but I am still nowhere near understanding the latter twist to the same theme (the main official reason for it being mothballed was the 'leave' entitlement of a long serving Division).

    Best,

    Steve.

    Hi Steve,
    Yes sadly he was.From what I was told he didnt want to return to the UK he was a regular soldier who`d served in both regular battalions and was happy to remain so..but wasnt given the choice .Then he was posted to 6DLI (an original territorial battalion) and sent over to France and killed my Grandmother was very bitter and believed had he been with his own Company in 1st DLI he would have been OK. (Mothers reasoning I know).

    I noticed another reference the other week to `28 other ranks to be posted to repatriation camp (Time expired) ITD ??` is this something completely different again I initially assumed they may have been wounded but with `Time Expired` does this fall under any of the leave catagories

    Jim
     
  10. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    I noticed another reference the other week to `28 other ranks to be posted to repatriation camp (Time expired) ITD ??` is this something completely different again I initially assumed they may have been wounded but with `Time Expired` does this fall under any of the leave catagories

    'Time expired' I think refers to regular soldiers whose term of service (usually 12 years: 7 years in the colours and 5 years 'reserve') had run out. During the war this didn't necessarily mean that they were released from the Forces - they usually had to wait their turn in the demob queue along with everyone else. But it may have been grounds for repatriation back to the UK.

    Best, Alan
     
    Verrieres likes this.
  11. RosyRedd

    RosyRedd Senior Member

    Thanks Alan.

    When troops left the UK, did PYTHON start as soon as they were out of British waters or would it be from the point of embarkation?

    Jules.
     
  12. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    When troops left the UK, did PYTHON start as soon as they were out of British waters or would it be from the point of embarkation?

    Dunno ... that's a level of detail I'm not familiar with.

    Bear in mind that these calculations were retroactive: PYTHON was only introduced in 1944 and the troops who were eligible to take advantage of it had left the UK years earlier.

    Best, Alan
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Jules/Alan

    Knowing something of the army I would hazard a guess that PYTHON - et al started when you had reached wherever you were supposed to be going - there were occasions when troopships were known to sink by one means or other .....more paperwork then saved !
    Cheers
     
  14. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    The main reason that 50th outperformed 51st and 7th Armoured had a lot to do with the man at the top

    This is an old thread, but since I wrote a book about 50th Div I thought I might jump in.

    You're right, Tom, much of the reason for the 50th's relatively greater success in NWE than the other desert divisions was due to the man at the top, but that man was not the corps commander but the division commander. Except for a few weeks on the 'Island', 50th Div was led in Northwest Europe by Douglas A.H. Graham, a fine and under-appreciated division commander. Despite the fact that he was an alumnnus of the Highland Div, he became popular in the 50th and often visited his units in the line. Graham was a tough, blunt man and he was known as a simple fighting soldier, but he worked well with his staff. After a very rough start in Normandy Graham made many tactical improvements that contributed to success in Operation BLUECOAT. When Montgomery and Dempsey swept XXX Corps command clean in August '44, the 50th Div was exempted from the purge. Graham's last battle in command of the 50th, Aam-Bemmel, was also a tactical success. Montgomery seems to have been very pleased with Graham right up until the moment when he decided to break up the 50th. Then, Graham suddenly became "too old" for an active command--psychological defensiveness on Montgomery's part, I think. In any case, I don't think many men could have gotten more out of a tired outfit like the 50th than Graham did.
     
  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Steve:

    I've been looking at this old thread and thought I might contribute since I covered the subject in a chapter of my book.

    The story of the 50th's breakup is complex, and I think there were several reasons for it. The LILOP/PYTHON matter was part of it, I think. Except perhaps in 231st Brigade it was less a matter of the numbers of eligible men than the fact that many of them were 'key men'--NCOs, WOs, and so on. Casualties among all 50th Div units had been heavy in the Med and they went into Normandy with a high proportion of recent drafts from strange regiments and the General Service Corps. Casualties were high again, and by the autumn not many old hands were left. In a patchwork outfit (which the old 50 Div bns had become by then) the removal of the few remaining veterans can cause a lot of damage. On the other hand, many of the veterans were at or near the end of their mental and motivational tether. Good leadership, rest, and retraining can make up for a lot in such a case. This was shown in the 9th DLI, which John Mogg kept in fine shape. Yet 21 Army Group was stretched very thin in late 1944 and all its divisions needed time out of the line to get back in shape. Key men often WERE retained despite long overseas service (Verrieres' uncle was one of these, and there were others) but keeping them in the line was risky because they were often so tired that they were in danger of folding up at any time. You could see why Montgomery would not want to take a risk like that.

    Other factors entered into it too, though. That autumn some of the divisional officers were dissatisfied with the state of morale, and outside observers (including Horrocks and some tankers) did not like things either. Graham got hurt and went back to the UK to recover, and A.O. Lyne took over to try and get the div back into shape. He had a lot of energy and good ideas, but he had barely gotten started when Montgomery decided to break the division up. Horrocks' reports may have played a role, but that is guessing. The 50th had a hard fight at Gheel in September, when the 151st Bde was caught virtually by surprise and briefly kicked out of the town. The 50th retook Gheel, but the DLI had not all performed well and some prisoners and anti-tank guns were lost. The 50th did well again at Aam-Bemmel, but Gheel may have blackened the division's reputation at higher HQ.

    Finally, you cannot leave personalities out. Montgomery had always respected the Northumbrians' fighting qualities, but he had a history of bad relations with the 50th's commanders. Montgomery had a low opinion of Giffard Martel (whom he rightly called 'too nice'), and he and W.H.C. Ramsden became enemies. Crasher Nichols may not have been a genius, but Montgomery chose to make Nichols and Brigadier Beak of 151st Bde the scapegoats for the disaster at the Wadi Zigzaou. (Montgomery and Leese had a much heavier responsibility for that failure, but neither ever acknowledged it.) Wadi Zigzaou also ruined Montgomery's reputation in the 50th Div; the troops began to call him 'Fling 'Em in Monty,' and when he tabbed the 50th to make the GOLD Beach assault the men booed him.

    Montgomery was a professional and he could put personal considerations aside when he made a decision--but sometimes he didn't, and he made many scapegoats. His treatment of the Free French after Himeimat and the Poles after Arnhem are examples of this, and I think the 50th may well have been another. The 21 Army Group had three Scottish infantry divs in late 44 and three English, so breaking up 50th Div did not make organizational sense; but when Montgomery sat down to decide on who had to go and weighed it all up, I think the personal factor might have finally tipped the scales against the 50th. Despite some problems, I don't think the 50th's performance alone justified the breakup.
     
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    TTH
    would agree completely about Graham - came into his own at the Divisions failure at Mareth - but that failure had been forecast by Monty in sending the Kiwis around in a left hook towards El Hamma - when the Mareth proved too strong - then Monty sent Horrocks
    along with the Kiwi's and left the Mareth to wither - main problem was the failure to halt the escape of 15th and 21th Pz Divs at Gabes

    The fighting in Normandy came as a big shock to the Desert Divisions as the prevailing attitudes appears to have been that they had done their share of fighting - which - of course they had - and the top men had to go as they couldn't shake off that attitude.

    Cheers
     
  17. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello TTH,

    You wouln't happen to be the author of 'Armies of Empire: The 9th Australian and 50th British Divisions in Battle 1939-1945' would you? If so, I enjoyed the book, albeit I don't agree with all of the conclusions.

    I would like to reply with a considered response, so not now, but thought I should at least acknowledge your message(s). However, I agree with you about Wadi Zig Zag (Zigzaou/Mareth); despite what I have read in the past I can't believe the 50 Div assault was ever meant to be the main assault, for if it was the Infantry, who achieved their objectives in the main, would have been far better supported. If it was the main assault, then Command failed to properly support the bravery, sacrifice and gains of the Infantry, and that means someone in high command was negligent and ultimately responsible for the eventual failure (and higher in the chain of command than 'Division' HQ).

    I will write again ASAP.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  18. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Yes, I did write "Armies of Empire." I am glad that you enjoyed it, and I'd be interested to know what you disagreed with. I'd like to do some more work on 50th Div sometime, and as you seem to know quite a bit about the division I'd value your opinions.

    It's been a while since I read about Mareth, but as I recall the books I read (Ronald Lewin, Hamilton, and some others) all maintained that the assault across the Wadi was intended as the main blow and that the flanking operation through the Tebaga Gap was originally secondary. The terrain around the wadi was constricted and it was difficult to employ large numbers of troops there because the Germans still had observation from some high ground to the left of 50th Div's assault point. The wadi and the anti-tank ditch restricted movement not only of armor, but of battalion support weapons including anti-tank guns. The artillery positions weren't ideal either, being vulnerable to enemy small arms fire in some areas. Given all this, the wadi should not have been the main point of attack, but the authorities I consulted said it was.

    I agree absolutely that the support for the troops was inadequate. The plan was a bad one, and while Nichols and Beak (151 Bde) made some mistakes the real fault lay with Leese and Montgomery. In my view, the operation showed Montgomery's methods at their worst; typically, he accepted no blame for himself or his favorites and laid all the responsibility on his subordinates.

    I may be picking people's brains here about 50th Div in the future, so stay in touch!

    Best,
    TTH
     
  19. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello TTH,

    All I've read also suggested the Wadi was the main asault but if so, why was there no bridging equipment - which was absolutely essential for getting tanks and more importantly anti-tank guns across the Wadi, why had the enemy mines on the west bank not been identified and neutralised, why were the few tanks available outdated and undergunned instead of Shermans, why was there no air cover, etc., etc.

    On this latter point, the 50 Div were told that the RAF could not fly because of the weather conditions, but the Axis got aeroplanes into action.

    I recall that Eisenhower once commented that Monty only knew one tactic, a right jab and a knock out left hook (this is not a berbatim quote). Whereas I don't agree with Eisenhower about the extent of Monty's abilities, Mareth has all the halmarks of such a tactic. One day I will make time to research this subject in the detail it deserves...

    The 'official' reasons for 50 Div being reduced to a Training Cadre do not make sense and they certainly didn't to Churchill. It could and should have remained in action; indeed, as you have pointed out the 9th Bn Durham Light Infantry did - with 7th Armoured Division - and I don't believe any British Infantry Battalion had a longer, harder war than it did.

    Happy to assist you with 50 Div, and perhaps discuss the foregoing and Gheel by PM (private message).

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  20. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Steve mac

    "why was there no bridging equipment" at Mareth ? ever consider that Monty might NOT have had any ? - as I recall the FIRST Bailey bridge was built in North Africa - I have forgotten when but it could have been in early '43 - the ONLY FOUR 17 pounders were used at Medenine - then shipped back to the Uk for a new platform- but 8th army did have some baling wire and string at that time to keep the tanks going
    Cheers
     

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