Roly Poly.

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Trux, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I am still poking into the dark corners of Gold Beach.


    The use of Roly Poly by the Breaching Teams on Gold on D Day is well documented. I have tantalising references to the use of Roly Poly elsewhere. Very little definite and I cannot find mention in Landing Tables, War Diaries, Reports etc. Rather like vague sounds or catching a glimpse out of the corner of your eye.

    Unit Landing Table for 183 Field Company RE lists two teams each of six Roly Poly men landing from LST Serial 2817 at H+6 hours.

    Mention in Landing Tables of some LCT fitted with rollers.

    Max Hastings in ‘Overlord’ reports on the account of a gunner who landed in vest, shorts and plimsolls to unroll a Roly Poly from the LCT carrying a troop of guns of 147 Field Regiment on Gold. The Roly Poly of course floated away on the current and the gunner got into a halftrack and recovered his clothes.

    Does anyone have hard evidence or more snippets which might solve this mystery.

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  2. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    Just a quick answer, being seperated from my library for the moment. I might have more elsewhere.

    Charles Wilson, Trooper, regimental survey party, 147th (Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment, in
    We shall never surrender: British War diaries 1939 - 45:
    Gold Beach: "I was one of the "roly-poly team", whose job it was to drag out to the shore a huge roll of matting and wire mesh which was intende to prevent following vehicles getting bogged down in the sand. The "roly-poly" was about eight feet in diameter, with an axle to which ropes were attached. Most of us stripped down to vest, pants and gym shoes."

    I remember it mentioned in combination with AVREs and decribed like something comparable to and for the same purpose as bobbin.

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  3. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Thanks Aixman.

    For years I doubted Max Hastings' account since some of his other eye witness accounts are very wrong. One says he saw five Sherman Flails land from an LCT and form an echelon to flail up the beach. Another says he saw and heard a Churchill Crocodile flaming a bunker on Sword. Both may have an original grain of truth of course.

  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Much the same here - vague references to something that was easily confused with Bobbin led me to investigate...

    Kew holds an annoyingly-bound set of Combined Operations Bulletins, one of which has a report on the Roly-Poly amongst other goodies. Will see if I can dig it out. I recall getting a few hits on Google but the last-minute nature of their deployment plus being more hindrance than help seems to have condemned them to obscurity.

    NB member MLW(?) sells a copy of the Combined Ops bulletinssourced from NARA which I keep meaning to take advantage of in the hope that they are flat scans.
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    There is a file note on RolyPoly's in the Arty 2 Army files. The impression the notes give is that they were developed for the RAMSG Centaurs and may even be an improvisation . They look as if they may have been an attachment for any AFV and therefore not assigned a separate slot in the loading schedule

    Attached Files:

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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Thanks Idler. I will look at the bulletins if I can.

    Thank you Sheldrake. That solves some mysteries. The Assault Engineers had one AVRE per LCT described as a pusher but I have never before seen any suggestion as to how it worked. I wonder if the RA developed their own Roly Poly. I have not seen them mentioned for Centaurs before. If 147 Regiment had them then I suppose the other field regiments did. Lots to look at.

  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Chatting to another NW Europe enthusiast this morning, he recalled a reference to some of them being dumped on the way to the beaches because no-one had practised with them and concerns that they could block the ramps.
  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I see from Sheldrakes document that the procedure for the LCT(A)s carrying Centaurs was to lower the ramp at a distance between half a mile and a mile from shore and get the Roly Poly ready. It is quite possible that some later craft had trouble with the Roly Poly once the ramp was down, given the rough seas at the time. I wondered if the later waves had heard of the problems with Roly Poly encountered by the LCTs carrying AVREs but looking at the communication nets this seems unlikely.

    Presumably all three SP Field Regiments had Roly Poly on their LCTs. If engineers and artillery had them did the armoured regiments have them? Did Rhino Ferries have them. The LST mentioned in post 1 had 12 Roly Poly men so possibly had a Roly Poly. Perhaps other LSTs had Roly Poly men who are not identified as such on the landing tables.

    Sheldrakes document shows Centaurs fitted with rollers on the hull front. These were to push the Roly Poly. None of the photos I have of RMASG Centaurs show these.

  9. idler

    idler GeneralList

    A couple of mentions:

    86 Fd Regt Roly-Poly

    RE's View from the Black Country Bugle:

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  10. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have flights of LCT each with one sapper on board. Now we know why.

    I will sleep on all these thoughts and when I wake up tomorrow all will be clear. Maybe.

  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

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  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Thanks again Idler. I have a lot to digest now so I will have to sleep on it again tonight.

    Thanks to all those who have sent information either here or by other means. Two days ago I knew nothing. Today I could write a book. I am not going to write a book but eventually will post something. All the snippets are falling into place.

  13. Magnificent find Idler, including the first photo I've ever seen of a Pusher AVRE!

    One more testimony, from The War of the Landing Craft [Paul Lund and Harry Lundlam 1976] pages 170-171 of the NEL Books edition.
    Lieutenant Gregson RA, GPO A Troop, 147 Fd Regt RA (SP):

    "Now with 30 minutes to go we turned shorewards again and made our final preparations - the dial sight angles to be set on the guns, the coconut mat to be manned. This was a huge roll designed to prevent vehicles getting stuck in the sand. Six hefty gunners had volunteered to be the first into the water unrolling the carpet as they went.
    The craft lurched and we were aground, down slammed the great ramp and away went the mat party up to theis armpits at first.
    Our coconut mat was already stretched away to the left"

    It appears that the Roly Poly was only used on GOLD, that all LCT of the first waves had one, and that all were of the single drum, tube-coir mat type. Conversely all Bobbin Carpets on GOLD seem to have been of the roller blind (steel shuttering) mat type only.

    I don't think that LST had any, because they were not supposed to beach but to unload their vehicles via Rhino Ferries instead.

  14. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I'm disappointed, I was hoping you'd all be sharing much better pusher AVRE photos... ;)

    Glad it was of use. Compared to other articles in the bulletins, the Roly Poly one is very brief. Either there's more in another issue, or the very short cycle of requirement, development, employment and embarrassment means that's all we're going to get.
  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I still have some material to look at but here is a working hypothesis.

    Roly Poly was developed when patches of peat and blue clay were found under the sand on Gold Beach. Either of these could trap a vehicle. There is no evidence of Roly Poly on other beaches.

    All the LCTs of the first wave, including those carrying Breaching Teams with a AVRE pusher and LCT(A) with Centaur pusher, were fitted with Roly Poly. There are very full accounts of their use by AVRE and they were not very successful in the rough seas and strong current. No reports of their use by Centaurs have been found.

    All LCTs scheduled to land after the first wave and up to H+120 minutes are listed as carrying one sapper from one of the Beach Group Field Companies, 183 on King, 69 on Jig with smaller numbers from 280 and 623. It is assumed that these are the sappers responsible for preparing and checking the Roly Poly.

    We know from the various personal accounts that the actual operation of the Roly Poly was left to the unit being carried on the craft. This was not popular. Who would fancy getting into the cold sea with wind, waves and current. It was not successful. A report says that while the mechanical laying of Roly Poly was technically successful the manual laying was not a success. It seems that no matter what method was used the Roly Poly always drifted eastwards in the current and did not do the job for which it was intended.

    A careful adding up of numbers shows that although 183 Field Company Landing Table seems to show twelve men listed as Roly Poly men on an LST these are not in fact on board. Both the unit Landing Table and the Brigade Landing Table show 65 men in total from 183 Company on the LST while the 12 Roly Poly men would make 77. Conclusion is that these are shown on the table for convenience but are in fact carried one per LCT.

    Despite the shortcomings a considerable number and variety of similar devices were developed.

  16. D-DayDodger

    D-DayDodger Member

    Interesting stuff as usual!

    Richard C. Anderson Jr.'s book "Cracking Hitler's Atlantic Wall" has a photo of an abandoned Roly-Poly (picture credited to The Tank Museum). I'll scan and post it if anyone's interested (and if it's allowed) ?

    The book also has the after action reports from the tank commanders, e.g.:

    King Red: Lane 6 - Successful
    Birkbeck reported:
    The Roly-Poly was pushed sideways by the current so that L sjt [Lance Sergeant] Simpson's AVRE had to mount it with one track and was nearly turned over...

    King Green: Lane 2 - Successful
    Performance of Roly Poly
    It failed to unroll on ramp of craft, therefore I had to push it down. A strong wave then swept it away from the tank and as it still refused to unroll I climbed over it.

    There's plenty more of this in the book, which I think is well worth the money.

    Hope this is helpful.

  17. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    This is forum is amazing! First a picture of an AVRE log carpet and now this thread with details of Roly Poly and a picture of a pusher tank.
    My flabber has never been so gasted :)
  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Very true Noel. This is one of the things that the forum does well. If everyone puts in a little bit of information it soon builds up a complete picture.

    You would think that Idler would be pleased to know more about Roly Poly than any one else in the world. Disappointed indeed!

  19. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I will admit to a small degree of smugness...

    For the sake of completeness: the RE staff history 'Military Engineering (Field)' is sadly lacking when it comes to Roly Poly:

  20. Arty

    Arty Member


    A tad more in the attached pics...

    Some preliminary guff on the operational use of the Roly Poly in para 14...

    And a photo of a deployed Roly Poly...


    Attached Files:

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