RAF Mobile Signals Unit 5140 Q William Wortley LAC 1428270

Discussion in 'Back to Normandy' started by Sky, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. Sky

    Sky Member

    I am militarily challenged but would like to understand my Father's experiences 1944/5 after landing on Omaha Beach with RAF support staff and have many questions. A few to start: Family legend indicates that his Unit landed on Omaha on D Day + I. However on the RAF Omaha Beach site a plan made earlier in 44 said they were to land on D. Day +3. Is there any way of confirming when his unit landed? Would it have been attached to a specific American Army Unit? What would conditions on the beach be like at that time compared with the carnage on D Day?
    Recently found his tiny diary for 44 ( June pages missing). He frequently mentions numbers like 15074 or 15087 which again I now believe are other Support units. Does anybody know how the Q units relate to these units?
    How closely did units like my Dad's work with other non-RAF troops?
    There seem to be many types of Units with letters after them J, Q etc. What did they signify in terms of different function.
    If anybody can help me from their own knowledge or a reference to a specific source It would be greaty appreciated. Trying to ensure his experiences are not lost to the next generations in our family.
     
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

  3. Sky

    Sky Member

    Thank you Tricky Dicky for your speedy reply. I will definitely go through the Omaha Beach site. I do in fact have my father's service record and an interpretation of it by the Air Historical Branch of the Ministry of Defence. As they explain, "Unfortunately the date he was posted abroad is not clear". So I am a bit stumped. Like your quotation!
     
  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Re member

    Maybe if you can upload an image of the record re his postingg abroad members will have different opinions but maybe that will provide and answer especially as we all look at things in diffewrent ways - its happened before (and I guess happen again)

    TD
     
  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    15*** units were GCI (Ground Controlled Interception). There may be a typing error in your post. 15082 GC! landed on Omaha on D Day together with a MSU Q.

    A quick look at my disorganised files shows:
    5140 MSU was attached to 15074 GCI which landed on the British beaches.
    5141 MSU was attached to 15082 GCI.
    5142 MSU was attached to 15083 GCI.

    However these may have changed and each GCI had more than one MSU Q attached eventually.

    A problem with all MSU is that they were very small and do not have separate diaries. Type Q I think had only three men. They would set up a truck mounted wireless which would be used by GCI.

    More information as I find it. This will be slow. (I always say that but this time I mean it).

    Mike

    Correction. MSU Type Q was a Signals Type 105 vehicle which was a 15cwt Commer Q2 with a VHF Direction Finding set. 3 men, only two of whom landed initially.

    Commer DF.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2018
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  6. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

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  7. Sky

    Sky Member

    Thank you, TD, Mike and Noel. So appreciate your suggestions... and will spend time going through the sites suggested. I think you are right Mike.. I checked my Father's diary again ( took me two weeks to decipher the tiny writing originally )and the unit I referred to that you thought might be an error is more likely to be 15087. In any case as you can see I am totally at sea with all these things but I know they will eventually make sense. So please keep sending me suggestions. I realise ( and am quite ashamed to say this and that we never asked when my Dad was alive) that I don't really understand the functions of each unit. Definitely my Father's unit was a three person one.
    Thanks to all three of you for your ideas.
     
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Slow going.

    The GCI units and their attached MSU Q Type were not attached to US forces but were a part of 85 Group RAF which was responsible for the air defence of the beach head, particularly at night. The night fighters were still based in the UK in June but they needed the GCI radar control units to guide them to the vicinity of enemy aircraft at night. When close enough the aircraft could use their own radar to complete the interception.

    As far as I can see:
    15081 GCI with 5140 MSU -landed over Omaha in the last week of June.
    15082 GCI with 5141 MSU -landed over Omaha on D Day.
    15083 GCI with 5142 MSU - unknown as yet.

    A 2TAF list shows 5140 MSU still with 15081 GCI on July 25. A map reference is given but I do not at present have the relevant map to hand.

    Any comments?

    Mike
     
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  9. Sky

    Sky Member

    Thank you Mike, The 85 Group RAF makes sense. I had not realised its significance but the interpretation of Father's service record by Air Defence does say " no 5140 (ground) Mobile Signals Unit with a posting date of 21st May 1944. No 5140 MSU type Q was formed in No 60 Group Allied Exped Forces with effect from 13th Dec 1943. Transferred to No 85 Base Group RAF Uxbridge, AE Air Force on 9th June 1944."

    As to his exact arrival date on Omaha I spoke to my sister eight yrs my senior who remembers the telegram arriving saying he was leaving but whether it was the beginning or end of June could not say. So the end of June could be correct ( the D.day plus one thing being a nephew's vague remembrance)
    Regarding the date you mention where you have traced them with a TAF unit I have copied a couple of entries from his diary (which for all intents and purposes begins July 9 1944 as June pages are removed) that may clarify or confuse. It has the entry for July 25th that you mention
    13th July he was in St George De La Riviere, 18th in Carteret 19th Blainville
    25th " Moved to Jobourg 15074 Operational Les Pieux , Beaumont, Hague etc,
    Aug 4th Back to St George 15087 Stay the night then off to Granville Lessay.


    Once again thanks for taking the time ... grateful for your assistance.
    Aileen
     
  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I see why tracing the movements is difficult. The MSU Q units were not permanently attached to a single GCI unit but were moved around. That would answer one question but make it difficult to track any individual unit.

    The locations you give are useful. I have contemporary maps and should be able to match the places with the references.

    You are in fact helping me. I have been slowly collecting snippets of information on the various radar units in Normandy and all might become clear one day.

    Mike
     
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  11. Sky

    Sky Member

    In that case would it help if I jotted down all the entries in my father's diary where he mentions a specific place? (However most of them don't have numbers that relate to GCI units) However the locations would help?
    If you indicate they are any use I can send tomorrow.
    Aileen
     
  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Perfect. Thank you.

    Mike
     
  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    60 Group was the organisation responsible for the development of RAF radars and for the operation of the radar defences of the UK. One a unit was assigned to 2 Tactical Air Force for overseas service it came under that HQ rather than 60 Group.

    It should be possible to obtain copies of the '2 Tactical Air Force Location Statements'. These were compiled weekly and list the location of all units in 2 TAF at the time. They will be in the PRO at Kew and I am pretty sure I can get them.

    Tracing locations can be tricky because:
    Modern maps use a different grid reference system to those of 1944.
    For security reasons the original D Day references were moved a square and a half so that they could not be easily read by the enemy.
    Several places in Normandy have since changed their names.

    Mike
     
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  14. Sky

    Sky Member

    Thanks Mike, The only good thing about all this confusing information is that I can at last stop kicking myself for not being able to find the facts for myself!! I saw some of the other things you had posted elsewhere on the system and am pretty darned impressed! Part of my frustration with the process is that I live in Canada and occasional visits to UK to see family don't seem to allow much time for research when I am there.
    Despite the grid references being different ( who knew that?!!) I will send any place names my Dad had mentioned anyway as follows.. will include a couple of entries that for some reason or other I think are significant. I believe last year when I "transcribed" his diary into something legible I verified the place-names and spelling)
    Sun 16th July ( I didn't include this yesterday because it was more a list of places driven through than a stopping point) Blainville, Les Perques, Bricquebec, Negreville, Valognes, St. Germain de Tallemende, Quettehou, Barfleur. To change for Khaki. ( think this was because RAF uniforms too similar to German?)
    Sun 30 July Change site to Auderville
    Sat 5 August Le Nay, Coutances, Granville.. just two days behind Bosch. Inhabitants very grateful. Free drinks, wine. Operational 4.30 OK
    Fri 11 August La Prevapoint. ( don't know if this a place or?) Watched naval bombardment of Brest Peninsula-all day and most of night. Fires burning two days.
    Weds 16 Aug St Pair. late back.. in rear entrance.
    Mon 21 Aug Avranches, Fougeres, Laval, Le Mans, Reims, Malo
    Mon 28 Granville
    Mon 4 Sept On to St Jullouville
    Tues 5 Sept Commando badges?
    Fri 8 Sept Packed up. To St Pierre Eglise
    Sun 10 Sept Back to St M ( St Malo I assume)
    Mon 11 Sept. Set up. Take down, Off to 85 HQ . whereabouts not known at 8 o clock tomorrow. B6
    Tues 12 Sept, Granville, Coutance, St Lo, Bayeux, Caen, St Creux. To rest camp at Bayeux.
    Weds 13 Sept, N. D1 on vehicles. Refueled.
    Thurs 14 Sept. Still at rest camp. Washed Q tech vehicle down
    Sun 17 Sept. Set up as test as HQ . Waste the day. Guard at night
    Thurs 21 Sept Off to Zeebrugge. Lost convoy. Raining hard. Back.. Caen to Gournay pulled in at 11.o'clock
    Fri 22 Sep N. On to Arras Good reception by people eg eggs and milk etc
    Sat 23 Sept. Wijnendale, Belgium. Stayed night at Ichtegem. Very welcome-like Victory Parade all the way.
    Mon 25 Sep. Stayed night in civil billets at Ostend. On to De Haan, Belgium.
    Tues 26 Sept Set up afternoon Wijnendale.
    Fri 29 Sept Cancelled -lead plane down along dunes. On guard.
    Sun 1 Oct Teeming with rain,. Burial of killed. Marine Co I died other arm blown off and blind... mine.
    Thurs 5 Oct Night duty. Nothing doing. Lancaster in sea. 8 Paras down 2 picked up.
    Sun 8 Oct. Up again. $ barge load Jerries shot up. Just slaughter.
    Fri 3rd Nov. Into La Paine.
    Sat 4 Nov Back to De Haan to pick up kit. Bed gone.
    Fri 10 Nov Bogged in Dunes. Freezing wind again.
    Thur 16. Nov Going to Walcheren Island. 1/3 above water, not yet taken. Issued with leather flying jacket, jerkins, Mae West, Rubber Boots. Looks bad.
    Fr 17 Nov. Supposed to be taking part in assault. Terrible day. Nothing doing.
    Sat 18 Nov. Going back to 5140.
    Sun 19 Nov Back to De Haan, then on duty.200 BISO from coastguard drowned. Ship Blown up off coast.
    Weds 22 Nov. To Zeebrugge and Heist . Walked 10 miles chased ( next word illegible) all the way through Blankenberghe. Supper at Toc H. Smashing.
    Sat 25 Nov Teeming rain. Q now operational.
    Sat 2nd December Brussells
    Thurs 7 Dec Breskens
    Fri 8 Dec Walcheren. water everywhere.
    Sun 10 Dec In dyke. Sleep in dug-out flooded out.
    Tus 26 Dec Still freezing, no mail. Brilliant night. Stand to at 1.20. Parachutists at Bruges and Ghent areas
    Sat 30 Dec. Heard q allocated first for leave. Party for Germany. Party back from Walcheren.

    At the back of the diary tucked in with more personal notes and thoughts were some other references and miscellaneous items as follows.

    .
    1. First Morning Dead pilot buried. Point L'Abbe .. three German prisoners died at the side of the road. Half a dozenJerry bodies
    Chateau de La Crete .. filth in every conceivable place.
    2. Brussels - Louvain- Diest Bourg Leopold-Peer-Bree- Maesyk - Roermond-Venlo ( first seven in Belgium, last 2 in Netherlands)
    Caen-Lisiex-Boisney- Le Neuborg-Louviers, Les Andelys- Gournay-110 ( miles?)
    Marseiles-Crevecouers-Breteuil- 104
    Amiens- Albert- Bapaume-Arras 210
    Douai - Lille- Menin 265
    Roulands- Thourmaut, Passchendale 30 H6903 Zeebrugge 1940 -515
    Ist day 155 miles 2nd day 96 miles, 3rd day, 78 miles, 4th day, 20 miles 54 gallons

    15801

    DUKW Two and a half amphibian
    LC 1 Landing craft.......?
    LC12 Landing craft large
    LCT Landing craft Tank
    LST Maudlanding ship craft


    15081 1540
    H5132-5140 Q 15081

    As you implied elsewhere Mike ... sometimes small details help make a bigger picture!
    Cheers
    Aileen


    .
     
  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Thank you Aileen.

    Great detail. Most of it makes sense and fits in with what I have. We see the unit watching the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, joining the long dash across France and into Belgium and forming part of the defence of Brussels and Antwerp.

    The operation on the Cotentin Peninsular is clear. I will spend some time cross referencing etc.

    Yes. The RAF units were issued with both RAF blue and Army khaki uniforms. The RAF hierarchy wanted them to show the flag and wear blue. The US were worried about small units in funny uniforms wandering about in their area.

    Mike
     
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  16. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Mike is still working on this. I have drawn a sketch map of the Cotentin Peninsular, added a grid and marked the locations of RAF units as on 25 July. I nearly have a good outline understanding of the air defence system but the exact nature and purpose of some units remain unclear.

    I still have no idea what MSU 5140 was actually doing. It seems to have travelled the length and breadth of the peninsular. A sightseeing tour? It went to a lot of interesting places.

    Mike
     
  17. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Funny things brains. As soon as I wrote that I had no idea what 5140 was doing I did have an idea.

    It seems that GCI 15074 was just moving to Les Pieux on the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsular when 5140 was going to the corners of the peninsular. This suggests that it was carrying out a triangulation on the new site of 15074 to coordinate its working with the other GCI units. 5140 had very accurate VHF direction finding equipment which gave accurate bearings while two, or better still three bearings allowed an accurate triangulation to pinpoint the exact location.

    Any thoughts?

    Mike
     
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  18. Sky

    Sky Member

    Hello Mike, as to your first message about sightseeing well I am pretty sure that the sightseeing might include checking out the local calvados and wine establishments as there were a few references to same!! As to what they were doing, as I mentioned I am woefully ignorant of military terminology or strategy so am on a learning curve. As a retired librarian I have looked through so many sources trying to find something definitive about his unit and what was happening generally. This weekend I read the biog of Eric Sykes (comedian) who was in a MSU ( 589A) but like my father he told lots of stories but never really explained what they did.
    As to your second brainwave I do not have the knowledge to provide any coherent thoughts on that. I do have a few ancient pictures my father took of the truck and equipment - the latter after it had been "blown to blazes" in a terrible storm but not too sure if I can upload them to this site.
    I will revisit all the notes I have made in relation to your latest suggestion.
    Thanks for it and your continued interest.
    aileen
     
  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Aileen,

    I imagine that the inhabitants of the Normandy villages were very hospitable. My father was on an RAF Air Sea Rescue launch which operated from Mulberry B and from Barfleur. Strictly speaking they were supposed to get supplies from British depot ships. They were not to go ashore and if they did they were not to purchase food. Many excuses were invented to go ashore and buy eggs, butter and other things not seen in the UK for a long time. They also took every opportunity to visit US ships which were happy to supply all manner of luxuries.

    I am piecing together an account of the work of the GCI units on the Cotentin Peninsular and found the following simple outline useful. (Grossly over simplified and since I wrote it probably inaccurate in detail).


    21 Base Defence Sector.

    Once US VII Corps was safely ashore over Utah Beach its first objective was the clearing of the Cotentin Peninsular and the securing of the port of Cherbourg. The beaches, Mulberry and small harbours could handle a great deal of the requirements but only a large port with rail connections could handle the large amounts of stores and supplies required, as well as larger items such as rail locomotives.

    It was recognised that there was a need to establish an air defence system for Cherbourg as soon as possible after it was captured. The US Anti Aircraft Artillery with 90mm AA guns would be responsible for the immediate close defence of the port, establishing a Gun Defended Area. No friendly aircraft would be allowed inside this area as all aircraft over it would be engaged.

    Outside the immediate area of the port the night time air defence was provided by 85 Group. There was a need to get a group of GCI units in position as soon as possible after the capture of Cherbourg and this was to be ready to land on or after D+9. On that date US forces were a long way off capturing the port and delays in unloading all categories of units and supplies over the beaches was behind schedule. The storm of June 19 to 21 delayed landings even further.

    USAAF did not have operational night fighter units or Ground Controlled Interception units since while in the UK all air defence was the responsibility of the RAF. 85 Group RAF was responsible for the night time interception of enemy air attacks in the US Sector until it could be relieved by USAAF 9 Air Defence Command. When US 9 Air Force night fighters became available they would be operated under the control of 85 Group until they could be taken over by 9 Air Defence Command. 85 Group was to supply information for the night control of Anti Aircraft Artillery. Information was passed from 85 Group Base Defence Wing to 9 Air Force Operations Centre. It was anticipated that 9 Air Defence Command would be in a position to relieve 85 Group around D+45.

    US sources describe the units destined for the defence of Cherbourg as the third group, the first and second being for the defence of the British and US beaches respectively. Details are vague but it seems that the third group of GCI units were preloaded and ready to be sent across the Channel as soon as they were needed and there was room to put them. This was in the last week of June. One US source says that the vehicles, and presumably the personnel, were preloaded on a Liberty ship.

    US forces cut off the Cotentin Peninsular on June 18 and began the assault on Cherbourg on June 22. On June 25 naval forces bombarded the defences and the port surrendered on June 29. However the port facilities had been wrecked and it would be some 6 weeks before it was operational.


    A description of the various units will follow some time.

    Mike.

    PS.
    I know that several knowledgeable people are following this thread. Please feel free to correct or supplement anything.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
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  20. Sky

    Sky Member

    Hello Mike, That is awesome. Thank you so much for this GCI Units 101 lesson which gives me a framework that will greatly assist and puts things in context. Definitely something I can understand and make sense of. I do appreciate all the trouble you are going to on my behalf.
    By coincidence they are showing Castles in the Sky on TV tonight about the steps leading up to the use of radar in the war. So hopefully that will add a little awareness as well.

    Yes like your father mine spoke often of the hospitality extended in Normandy. When he got to Holland the conditions were less great as he had never felt cold like it before or since. He said it was the only place the RAF were issued a rum ration!!

    I did wonder if units like my father's might be expected to be flexible and do other things as needed. This was prompted by that entry I quoted about going to Walcheren and being provided with specific gear and the one where the question of commando badges came up. I assume they all would have had to do some combined training .. watched an old propaganda film on the Internet on that.
    Once again I am in your debt.
    Thank you.
    Aileen
     

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