40th Division: 3rd Royal Tank Regt & 3 Commando Brigade

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by Charley Fortnum, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles


    I am working on an order of battle for 40th Infantry Division for the period 1949-51-ish. The division was re-established in 1949 in Hong Kong under (then) Maj-Gen Geoffrey Charles Evans (Geoffrey Charles Evans - Wikipedia) and was quite fluid in composition owing to the fact that many units were sent for service in first Korea and then Malaya. It was originally a First World War Formation with a large proportion of 'bantam' units--hence the cockerel badge--and later a paper formation of some kind in Italy during the Second World War. It was repeatedly reinforced as the Chiefs of Staff had opined that if they broadcast their intent to defend the colony with force, their ability to do so would never be tested by the Communist PLA (and, indeed, this was what transpired, despite the infiltration via refugees crossing the border).

    I have, I think, the composition, commanding officers and assorted notes for the three infantry brigades: 26 Gurkha, 27th Infantry & 28th Infantry, but I know almost nothing about tanks. One source (which I've temporarily mislaid) says that 3rd Tank Regiment was attached and present in Hong Kong, but I cannot seem to find its composition, commanding officer or location.

    I also have the composition of 3 Commando Brigade, but I'm trying to find the name of their commanding officer and their whereabouts in Hong Kong / The New Territories.

    Of course, there were also smaller units attached which I have not yet identified (such as 208 Signal Section, which I have), so if anybody has a publication on the post-war army they could consult I'd be most grateful.

    In the event that anybody else is interested in this period/locale, there is a superb (and enormous: 1.32GB!) map of Hong Kong and the New Territories here. It's 1956 and so a little late, but otherwise perfect:

    Hong Kong and the New Territories [cartographic material]

    The other thing that I'm looking for is a map of post-war Hong Kong showing military locations and establishments: I have names of a number of camps and barracks, but can only locate the major permanent ones.

    All help gratefully received.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  2. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    I know a modest amount about 3RTR in Hong Kong as I'm researching my fathers WW2 Comet tank which ended up being transported, along with the rest of 3RTR, to Hong Kong in 1949. I have various details, including extracts from 'Tank' Magazine (courtesy of the Library at Bovington), covering that period but it may take some time to sort them out into a form you may find useful. Please bear with me. The details include photos and officers names etc.

    As a 'starter for 10', I understand they were based next to the airfield at Sek Kong (need to check that!).

  3. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    No time like the present!

    As mentioned in my previous post I don't have much information but hopefully enough to give you a few leads.

    There is an article by Richard Rinaldi which describes the locations of the various battalions of the RTR post-War. I think I located that on the Internet as a pdf download. A check of that, and other sources, indicates that, in Hong Kong, 3RTR were succeeded by 7RTR who in turn were replaced by 7th Queens Own Hussars and finally 1RTR. There was only ever one tank Battalion/Regiment in Hong Kong at any one time. I can't be sure about 1RTR but I do know (see the photo of Comet 20ZR65) that 7QOH were also 40th Division and that was in the mid/late 1950s (you can see the Cockerel emblem on the tank's nose plate).

    The other information I have is from 'Tank' Volume 32 October 1949 to September 1950. I guess you would also need to consult Volume 33 for the rest of your story assuming that stops, as you mention in your post #1, in 1951ish (corresponding to when 3RTR rotated out?). Please note that I have only scan read Volume 32 and I was looking for information about my 'fathers' Comet, nevertheless the images attached do show some of the information that I think you require (see my Profile for background to my research interests!).

    Tank Vol 32
    page 14 (October 1949): left Mersey July 4th on HMT Orduna. Transited via Gibralter, Port Said and Aden arriving HK 9th August 1949. The tanks loaded (separate ship) at London Docks.
    page 15: 'all tanks have arrived in HK but still at docks. San Wei Camp - 20 miles from Kowloon.
    page 50 (November 1949): 'are in 40 Div'
    page 170-171: visit by the Governer of HK (see attached image)

    Photo 20ZR65 7th Queens Own Hussars. Queens Birthday Parade.
    QOH Museum 12Mar10.jpg

    Photo T335335 Calais 3RTR 1949
    The Tank Vol32 pages 170 171.JPG
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
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  4. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Good stuff and most appreciated.
  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Have found a helpful diagram (in case of use to anybody else):

    Extracted from Malaya and Borneo (Counter-Insurgency Operations : 1) by E. D. Smith

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
  6. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    With that chain of command showing 3RTR as 'unbrigaded', does that mean they were simply part of 40Div? Certainly my research over many years suggests that for that period - I've never come across a Brigade number for that period.
  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    That's what I took it to mean: under direct divisional control.
  8. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    Slightly tenuous but could also explain the absence of a Brigadier in the Tank magazine photo.
  9. Richard Lewis

    Richard Lewis Member

    Hello Charley,

    Not a map but a list of military installations with grid references from The University of Hong Kong Libraries:

    Military Installations Closed Areas (Amendment and Consolidation) Order [17th November 1950].

    Maps to look up grid references: National Library of Australia: Hong 1:20,000 (NB Use 1949 or later editions as grid is slightly different on 1945 maps).

    Two 1:80,000 maps (from the University of Texas) to find a less detailed location before looking at the other maps (Although these are 1945 editions the grid seems to match grid references on the list of installations):

    Hong Kong and New Territory

    Hong Kong and the Lema Islands

    I found the list thanks to this site where you may find other information of interest: Gwulo: Old Hong Kong


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  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Appreciated, Richard.
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Contemporary newspapers were helping with the propaganda it seems:

    Extracted from The Courier-Mail, (Brisbane) 1 Sep 1949

    Troops line China frontier:
    A.A. guns 'like London'

    HONG KONG, August 31 (A.A.P,) --With spearheads of the communist armies thrusting for Canton now within 125 miles of Hong Kong's mainland frontier, this British colony is getting rapidly into battle dress. Lieut.-General F. W. Festing, the G.O.C.-in-C, revealed today that a
    whole army division, the 40th, is now deployed in the mainland New Territories. Anti-aircraft artillery practice would be started soon and 'there will be quite a lot of shooting.' The defensive gun cover when completed would compare favourably with that in London during the war. Further land, sea and air reinforcements were on the way. He had been given extremely good forces and was completely confident that he could resist any aggression that might be launched against Hong Kong.

    Army Building 36 Camps
    GENERAL Festing said that the 40th Division would officially operate as a distinct formation as from to-morrow. This was the first time
    that a full division had ever been built up in Hong Kong and the task had been an extremely big one.The division, which was under Major-General G. C. Evans, was concentrating largely in the Fanling district, near the Chinese frontier. A total of 36 camps for large-scale units were at present under construction in the New Territory. Stores were being brought in from Britain, Singapore, Australia, and elsewhere.
    New military roads were being built and a concentrated search was being made for new water supplies which would avoid tapping civilian and agricultural sources.

    Contrasts With 1941 Position
    REINFORCEMENT of the whole garrison was going and had gone completely according to plan. The position to-day was fundamentally
    different from that of 1941, when the Japanese over-ran Hong Kong. Then the Japanese had complete command of the sea and almost complete mastery of the air. A.A. guns were being sited mainly for the defence of the port area.While Hong Kong was obviously a highly vulnerable area because of its concentration, the same concentration made the place relatively easy to defend. The surrounding hills also
    provided good A.A. and radar cover. More troops for the garrison would arrive shortly. Because of their mobility, some R.A.F. reinforcements might for the present stay in Singapore, where they would complete their training.

    Escape From Reds
    THE official Nationalist Central News Agency said to-day that General Fu Tso-yi, former Nationalist C.-in-C. at Peiping and Tientsin, had
    escaped from the communists. He was now in the north-west province of Suiyuan, of which he was Governor for many years. His return was certain to increase anti-communist resistance in the area. Other Chinese reports say that communist armies, sweeping into Northern Kwangtung from Hunan, are gravely imperilling Nationalist rail communications between Canton and their principal armies under General Pai Chung-hsi in the Hengyang area.

    HONG KONG READY - Troops line China frontier: A. A. guns
  12. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    There were also some very gung-ho films produced by British Pathe. 'Reds at City Gates' being one produced in 1949.

    Note: currently away so apologies I can't post a link.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2017
  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Thanks, got it here:

    It's amazing to me how despite massive development in the past half century or more, Hong Kong remains instantly recognisable.

    Tanatlisingly that newsreel shows both tanks and 25-pdrs, but there's no way of identifying the specific units.

    I have a number of files on order from the National Archives concerning Hong Kong 1947-51, including defence schemes that should provide a lot more detail. I've become very interested in 1949-50, when the Reds reached the border as well as the 'bigger picture' of FARELF in the early cold war and how simulaneously balancing the demands of Hong Kong, Korea and Malaya became possible. My reading so far suggests that despite an earlier narrative among historians that British Forces were overstreteched as a result of war debts and increased domestic spending on social programmes, the current belief is that the Chiefs did rather well in meeting demands and rebalancing commitments.
  15. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    The tank unit in the Pathe film is 3RTR.....and the lead tank is the same one (T335335 Calais) as in the 'Tank' magazine article I mentioned in an earlier post ( notably the very same tank driven by my father during WW2 as T335335 Celerity). T335335 was then renumbered to 20ZR65....which is the tank shown in my earlier post when with 7QOH. Small World! You can't imagine how many hours of research it took to locate all that information!
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  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Sharp eyes, SDP.

    I've just turned up a very interesting read here (free registration needed):

    Hong Kong: The Critical Phase, 1945-1949 on JSTOR

    Hong Kong: The Critical Phase, 1945-1949
    Wm. Roger Louis
    The American Historical Review
    Vol. 102, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 1052-1084

    If anybody requires a copy, please feel free to PM me.
    Edit: I should note that it's much more of a geopolitical than a military essay.
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  17. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Spotted this and wondered about the probable location (to many options to chose between):

    “Closed Area” – Border Area Between Hong Kong & China c. 1950.jpg
  18. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  19. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    That was one of my options.
    25th Fd Regt was in the barracks at Fanling for a while, which is part of my interest in the place.
  20. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic


    Have you checked out the gwulo.com Old Hong Kong website? Lots of articles and photos from that era.
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