4th & 5th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company - end 1939/start 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by heatherannej, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Does anyone know where the 4th and 5th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Companies were at the end of 1939 to the start of 1940 please? I have a Frenchman trying to identify who British Artillery soldiers were, who were based at his father's farm at Saméon, France (27 km NE of Douai/3 km SW of Belgian border). He has narrowed it down to those two Companies - is he right? His father was a boy at the time and his memories of that time have been written down by the family. Some British soldiers returned to the farm after the War finished.
    Many thanks in advance. Heather
  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The Brigade anti-tank companies were manned by troops from within the brigade so they were not Royal Artillery. Their HQ would have been located alongside Brigade HQ. The intention was that the guns would have been located in blockhouses along the Gort Line and along the Brigade reserve line. Precisely where men were billeted prior to the completion of those works will be difficult to ascertain.

    4 Bde HQ was at Rosult and 5 Bde at Landas. 1 Corps Diary includes a map and lists of locations as at 10th October 1939. At that time, Saméon was located just in front of the guns of 16 Field Regiment RA whose location is also shown as Rosult.

    It's not the exact detail that you're looking for, but there may be some clues. I probably have more information in 2 Div diaries, but it's not always that easy to find.

    Attached Files:

  3. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member


    Anything helps to put the jigsaw together Rich, so thank you. Anything else you can let me have will be much appreciated - I am just the go-between. I think the Frenchman would love to speak and understand English as I think he would love to be able to do all this himself. My Frenchman has the bone between his teeth and is trying hard to ID this. He has created this map ... is it correct?
  4. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    The Frenchman's father was sure it was anti-tank "pieces" at the farm. They never left the farm to occupy a blockhouse, except to go on a manoeuvre, e.g. in this case, to Bapaume, where some of the men had photographs taken.
    "... Two of our closed warehouses, of a hundred square metres, housed twelve guns and their ammunition; in the seventies, one could still make out/see, on the door, inscribed in chalk “Danger explosives. ...” Perhaps, if you think it would be beneficial, I ought to upload the memories which I have translated in a Word document.

    Henri is now wondering whether it was the 4th infantry that was in Saméon instead of Rosult .. Many thanks, Heather

    P.S. I have just seen the two attachments, Rich, thank you ... I will pass them on.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2020
  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I'll have a look through some other diaries, although I don't have Brigade HQs..but I do have those of the RE Field Companies who were engaged on the defensive works....Dave Thurlow's book 'Building the Gort Line' might have some clues too, but it's so packed with information that I can't quickly flick through it to find half-remembered data.

    It would be interesting to see what you have.

    The War Diaries that are likely to give the most detailed information are as follows :-

    WO167/352 - 4th Infantry Brigade HQ
    WO167/353 - 4th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company
    WO167/354 - 5th Infantry Brigade HQ
    WO167/355 - 5th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company

    I'll make some enquiries.
  6. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Heather, I missed your earlier thread trying to pin this down. I see from the photograph there that they were definitely Royal Artillery which I think has to point towards their being part of 13 Anti-tank Regt. RA. (Diary no. WO167/575)

    You have the name of an officer and he will definitely appear in the Nominal Roll of Officers. I have no doubt that it will be possible to pin this down entirely.
  7. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    THANK YOU SO MUCH, Rich. That is much appreciated. I find I cannot upload the Word document I have created so I will add the English translation here. Apologies for its length. Interestingly, on page 4, Rosult is mentioned. The is a literal translation, with the help of Google, so apologies for any errors. (I have never had a page 8). I have not been able to ID any men mentioned. I do have images of the men, taken in 1939/40 with names marked. Also a few taken when one of the men visited the farm after the War ended.


    On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland; French and English declare war on Germany.

    On September 9, an English expeditionary force was formed to confront the enemy on French territory; it will be called BEF (British Expeditionary Force).

    From mid-September 1939, this strong force of ten infantry divisions and their attached units, will settle along the Belgian border of Lecelles included at Mont des Cas in Flanders. By mid-October 160,000 men and 25,000 vehicles will have crossed the Channel; the great Headquarters will be set up near Arras.

    Distribution and installation of troops.

    Each region has a division, each major town has a brigade, each town or village a regiment, each quarter a company, each house has a group of men.

    The enlisted man lives in barns, attics, outbuildings, party rooms.

    The officers courteously requisition the available rooms; some verandas or lounges are transformed into mess or company office. The welcome is warm, the memory of 14-18 is still close.

    Le Hasard* installs an anti-tank battery at Henri Morel's home [*Le Hasard is the French, I do not know how it translate!]

    I was going to be sixteen on November 12, 1939 and was working with my father, a coppersmith, facing Saméon's ordeal when an English anti-tank battery arrived in our neighbourhood.

    Two of our closed warehouses, of a hundred square metres, housed twelve guns and their ammunition; in the seventies, one could still make out/see, on the door, inscribed in chalk “Danger explosives”.

    The group's kitchen occupied our neighbours' barn for a few weeks, a bit like the winds/les vents elsewhere.

    Very quickly, with the interest that a teenager can bring to such an environment, I fraternised with some soldiers who would become my friends for many months: Martin, Graswelle, Allen Jorris, Boby Danton, Bobeth: the dog mascot and many others. Nothing like learning to speak English which was not always pure.

    He was 16 in 1939


    Village life.

    The village was crawling with khaki uniforms from end to end; several units have been installed there; even the patronage hall accommodated a hundred men.

    The bell tower served as a watchtower to give the alert in case of an air attack which, moreover, would not take place for many months. Today, we can still see some names engraved in the joinery by some idle sentry. A stock of reinforcing bars, corrugated iron sheets and cement had been laid out in the town hall street by the English engineers (Royal Engineers)

    Although business activity increased, it was difficult to work among the ubiquitous troops; even papa's forge had been made available. The customers themselves, uncertain in the future, no longer undertook any work.

    My father hooked up the motor driving his machine tools to a wooden washing machine and improvised a launderette to the delight of the “tommys” who for a few pennies saw themselves getting rid of a thankless task. The packages of laundry were piling up and it was necessary to mark the effects with Indian ink in order to return them to their owner.

    In the evening our stay was transformed into a dining room where a good number of soldiers preferred the “steak and chips” or “pork rib omelette” to the prescribed ration. What movement, what intense life!

    An untimely move.

    When winter arrived, the Major told me about the inconvenience of having such a poorly sheltered kitchen. With the confidence of my sixteen years, I took the liberty of offering him a solution: “Cannons at Mme…., kitchen in our buildings”; It was then that the idea struck him as a great idea and within an hour the move was made to the dismay of the neighbour who saw some advantages disappear.

    The guns were sheltered in the barn, the wood stove, always on, and the food reserves, carried by sturdy fellows, took their place in our outbuildings.

    He was 16 in 1939.


    Life and occupation of the “Tommys”.

    The officers of several units stayed at the ‘Château Emaille’, rue du Bias; the commander was named Pargac[k], he was assisted by a French translator officer named Cognac. The enlisted man slept in a sleeping bag on the ground or in straw for the “tenants” of the farms; the more resourceful made themselves a bedstead with a few recovered planks.

    At home, ablutions were done at the pump, under a lean-to, in all weathers and in underwear. Considering the number of boarders, this one worked non-stop; the water was analysed there every day and the manager was happy to tell me “good water”: “the water is good”.

    The toilets were simple holes dug at the end of the garden covered with a board intended to accommodate the feet of the users. After the parade, in good order and at "attention", our artillerymen were busy cleaning the premises and especially their constantly maintained cannons; vehicles were washed with petrol.

    When the parade was over they moved on to manoeuvre and it was not uncommon for me to be invited to the inert mine-laying session in the nearby meadow. For fun they taught me how to cut the grass without dirtying the perimeter with soil and to replace the grass in an impeccable fashion. Other units were digging shelter trenches at the ends of the properties to protect themselves from possible aerial attacks. A few machine guns were mounted on anti-aircraft carriages installed in excavations.

    Between Saméon and the border, infantry units, under the orders of the "Royal Engineers", were building blockhouses to try to reinforce the few works erected from 1937 by our North African troops. These ridiculous “fortresses” scattered across the plains of Rumegies, Aix and Mouchin. Only two were built in Samèon rue de Tournai; one finished, the other barely out of the ground.

    Traffic, especially heavy vehicles, being intense; the aisles of the Aix pavement were reinforced by the troops with precast concrete blocks. Before the appearance of the tarmac, these were still visible; they are still in front of the marsh farm in Aix. This monotony of life which, let us remember, lasted more than six months was interrupted by great manoeuvres in the Bapaume region.

    He was 16 in 1939


    The “distractions” of the English soldier.

    Every day, for people who were not on call/duty, the evening was spent in improvised messes. Each district had its own: a veranda, a large room not occupied by the owners acted as it. The game of darts had a lot of followers. On pay day, my father was asked by a few to take them to Rosult station to take the train: direction Lille. The purpose of this trip was permission in the city: "soldier's rest" in all its forms.

    When driving off, the old Ford T could be seen to be packed; in gratitude: twenty litres of petrol had been deposited by the requestees in a corner of the workshop. The return was always laboured, sometimes drunk, but always broke, our friends had only to wait for the next pay.

    On Saturday evening, cinema day in the army, in Flines les Raches, one of my friends asked my father for permission to take me there. We left by truck, with all the volunteers, my place being reserved between the driver and the skipper. A one-way street being established by and for the English troops, we left via Rosult and Marchiennes to return via Orchies and Landas late at night.

    Knowing that I already owned a moped at the time, I was sometimes asked to do some shopping: sic “Henri motorbike Cherry Brandy in Aix”; translation “Henri take your motorcycle and go get Cherry Brandy in Aix”. I went to Place d'Aix at the Nouvelles Epiceries du Nord (NEN) and brought back the precious merchandise. I only wanted to be of service, but despite that five litres of petrol awaited me: enough to do the route twenty times!

    Discipline in the British Army.

    One day I was walking out of the dining room towards the hallway of our house; I saw a soldier rushing up from the cellar; he fled to the courtyard with a piece of meat. Was he hungry? During the day, I took the liberty of talking to the commander who came by the house regularly; in the next quarter hour: the whole battery was assembled, to attention, in the courtyard, as for the report. The commander spoke up and questioned the troops in a martial tone to find the perpetrator: the honour of His Majesty's army was at stake.

    A man spontaneously left the line by two jerky steps; the officer stood in front of him and, looking him in the eye, gave him two strokes with the whip in the face; without flinching, our man fell into line. Despite my protests, the officer gave me to understand that this was the rule in the English army; feeling responsible: what regrets felt.

    He was 16 in 1939


    Professionalism, rigor in relaxation.

    These professional soldiers accepted discipline and demonstrated professionalism; This is how I could see the commander toss a tin can as high as possible and lodge the six bullets from its barrel in it before it fell to the ground.

    Paradoxically, he sometimes accompanied me to hunt blackbirds with my 9mm rifle. This state of affairs sometimes created a certain mistrust of me on the part of the troops.

    The humour of friends

    In the kitchen: the help: Hatcher was a bit of a "pick-axe head"/a stubborn person amongst his comrades. A bit plump, he was often employed in the most thankless tasks. While he slept in the "kitchen" some would go up to the attic and run water through the floor to make it look like his bunk was under a leak. It is obvious that, thereafter, the leak moved with the bedstead !!

    Another day, tins were stacked unsteadily near Hacher's bunk, while he was sleeping. As this stack collapsed with an infernal noise, one of the cronies was shouting “Air raid! Air raid! ”. Surprised, the unfortunate man ran, in his underpants, through the snow to the shelter trench, to the laughter of his comrades.

    Another collective laugh: as the Scots, in kilt, passed the house on their way from Aix, their garrison village; some called me “Henri command: many misses” and the mockery was rife. "To leave is to die a little": sometimes for real.

    Six long months went by in the rhythm of this exciting and unusual life for a teenager. But, everything has an end ; on the morning of May 13, 1940, everything was empty; silence reigned everywhere: “our English” had gone, by night, to Belgium; no longer for a "phoney war" but for the real one, the one that would see my friends die on the Dyle or the Scheldt and turn those good times into tragedy.

    All our outbuildings were tidy, swept away, only a mound of full tin cans remained in the centre of a room: thanks to our unforgettable cohabitation. The mascot Bobeth, the bitch, was there, her owners judging her to be safer with us. She would remain my dog until her death in the early 1950s.

    He was 16 in 1939


    "The exodus".

    A few days after the departure of the troops, given the events and the reflux of refugees, dad decided to evacuate.

    The old Ford was loaded with essentials, the dog Bobeth, canned goods and petrol left by our friends: direction Brittany. Passing through Pont à Marcq a control post was installed in the centre, on the bridge spanning the small river; two tanks flanked the device.

    A French officer, checking us, noticed my stature; I must have looked older than he was. He spoke to my father, “This young man can be mobilised; we'll take him to Lille!". Dad, a 14-18 veteran, was enraged and made him understand that at this time the French army had other concerns than enlisting kids; we continued on our way.

    Arrived at Seclin, after information the enemy had overflowed the region and was in Gondecourt which seriously compromised our plan. We settled a few kilometres further on in Houplin-Anscoines with one of my aunts. We spent several months there, sharing our preserves; for mom, the uncertainty of the future was easier to live with as a family near her sister.

    The return.

    Back in Saméon, desolation awaited us: the house and the workshop had been looted; good neighbours returned some items they had saved from looters, and life resumed.

    Months and soon years passed without the village really being occupied by the Germans. Old enough to be required for the S.T.O (Mandatory work) I decided to decline the “invitation”. Mr. Thieffry, Orchies Resistant, through daddy who "dabbled" very discreetly in Intelligence, got me a fake ID; I was now called Pierre Hermant and slept with neighbours under a staircase.

    Without a hitch, and with great luck, I was able to see the release arrive despite the disapproval of the local authorities who "sucked" me on my food stamps.

    He was 16 in 1939


    The last contacts with “our English”.

    In 1945 we received, through the Red Cross, a letter card from Martin, prisoner of the Japanese.

    In the 1950s, an officer, on a mission in France, visited us, driven by his driver. He had risen up and turned down the invitation to have a coffee that I had given to his assistant.

    Boby Danton going to the Brussels exhibition visited my mother and my wife, with his wife and son; traveling for work with my father I could not meet them.

    Around 1992 an old Englishman came to the rue de l'Eglise and asked for Mr and Mrs Mocq; his interlocutor confirmed that they were deceased without specifying that I lived 600m away.

    It was the last missed meeting with one of those English people who brought so much to my youth.

    (Written in May 06 by Henri Morel’s son based on anecdotes told many times by his father, with the greatest concern for accuracy in the facts and the feelings expressed.)
  8. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    No problem, Rich. See whether the whole translation give you any more clues. MANY THANKS AGAIN. Heather
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    The diary for 11 Field Company RE who were allocated to 5th Infantry Brigade was located at Vieux Condé which now makes up part of Saméon which suggests that if they were brigade a/tk guns, they were with 5 Brigade.

    P2930024 (2).JPG
  10. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    THANK YOU again, Rich. I will pass that on to Henri. If he cannot understand it, I will transcribe it and send it to him in French. Bye for now, Heather
  11. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Attached are 2 pages of a French Order of Operation, dated 6 October 1939, which Henri has sent through. As the messenger, I have no idea if it helps you help the cause (if you get my drift). I will attempt to translate if it doesn't help in its current form. Please let me know if a point has been reached where it is pointless continuing ... in reality, we may never discover the answer through any documentation?
    Henri's translated thoughts are:
    I think that, at the beginning this battery, for some reason did not occupy the pre-planned military camp and that this fact has not been corrected in the writings.
    The fact that the 13A/Tk Regt moved to Bapaume on February 21, 1940, does fit with soldiers' photographs taken at Bapaume.
    Did the Infantry Brigades participate in these manoeuvres? if not: the answer is the men are from 13A/tk
    Is the infantry Brigade's cap badge the same as the artillery? if not: the answer 13 A/tk

    Many thanks for your help and patience, Heather OrderOfOperation_1939.10.6_1.jpg OrderOfOperation_1939.10.6_1.jpg

    Attached Files:

  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Heather, I'm trying to access copies of some relevant war diaries. I'll keep you informed. The information in the French instructions pretty much confirms the 1 Corps documents.

    I'm confident that we'll be able to take this enquiry further....The only complication might be if the three in the photo had been detached from their unit. They are definitely badged as Royal Artillery and the men taken from the infantry battalions (1/3rd from each) to form the Brigade anti-tank companies would have continued to wear the badge of their parent unit....Warwicks, Dorsets or Cameron Highlanders. I'm not sure though if experienced R.A. NCOs would have been allocated to supervise. If so, then they may have come from 13th Anti-Tank regiment...The war diaries should show 'other ranks attached' and they may well be identified by name if that is the case..It had to do with rations and kit issue etc. so it was well documented.

    I've looked through the London Gazette on-line listings and can find no trace of officer commissions in the name of Pargac(k) or anything similar. It seems to be a Hungarian name...Possibly someone with access to 'Find my Past' or similar could look further. There may also be prisoner of war reports listing Martin. 2nd Infantry Division did indeed go to India but 13th Anti Tank Regiment were then sent to the Middle East and didn't fight the Japanese.

    Don't give up yet !
  13. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    THANK YOU Rich ... I/we appreciate your help in all this. I am on Ancestry and have tried, in vain, to see if I could find anyone ... with variations of spellings. You can just imagine British men giving names and Henri's father/grandfather mishearing and mis-spelling them. I will have another look though. I will pass your reply on, it will reassure Henri that he is not in a cul-de-sac and we are keen to continue helping. Thanks again. Seasonal greetings, stay safe. Heather
  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Henri will probably know this image....

    Le Miroir.jpg
  15. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Thank you Rich ... I will pass it on. As, probably, the last word from Henri before Christmas, he says he tell you he admires your willingness to achieve his goal and thanks you for it. He writes that his personal conclusion is: "Battery 44 of the 13th Anti-Tank was at SAMEON and not at AIX as a document indicates" and he has sent through two more attachments. One shows the back of the photograph taken at Bapaume (I have not seen this until this morning) and his map, with theory. Anyway, I admire your willingness to achieve Henri's goal too ... thanks again. Seasonal greetings to you and yours. Stay safe. Heather WW2_Morel_Image_Artillery_Text_shrunk.jpg

  16. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Hello again,

    I see you've given up on your original thread ( Royal Artillery in Saméon, Nord-Pas-de-France, 1939: photos & names, help with unit ) and trying with a new one.

    In the previous thread, the request seemed to revolve around RA personnel with 12 anti-tank guns.

    That rules out both 4th and 5th Brigade Anti-tank Companies since each would have had a maximum of 9 guns and they were infantry troops not RA.

    13 Anti-tank Regiment certainly seems the most likely given that they were an RA unit, the nearer of the two in the general area and each battery had 12 anti-tank guns. The excerpt from the war diary you posted above seems to tally with the Bapaume connection.

    However, picking 44 battery as the one seems a bit random. It could just as well have been 2, 8 or 82 battery that moved or was located incorrectly.
  17. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Hello MarkN ... not so much given up but I am at a disadvantage, being the go-between and this second post has performed better. I had passed on all the feedback to the Frenchman and the previous post of images was the conclusion that he had arrived at. I will, certainly, put your information through to France. It will, no doubt, be another piece of the jig-saw for him.

    Thank you so much for the trouble you have taken on this. I appreciate it a lot, as does the Frenchman. Watch this space.
    Bye for the moment, Stay safe, Heather
  18. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    There is, regrettably no 'Pargac' or anything similar shown amongst the officers of 13 Anti-tank regiment during the phoney war period. That would have been too easy, I suppose. I've failed to find him in the London Gazette as well. The search continues.

    13 Anti-Tank.jpg
    Drew5233 likes this.
  19. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Thank you Rich, for taking the time to look for me. Sorry for late reply, just picked your post up. I suppose it all comes down to phonetics between the French lad remembering a name that someone English said??!! Thank you again, for taking the trouble. Heather
  20. shamus2d6

    shamus2d6 New Member

    Many thanks for sharing this, I have been researching a grandfather who was a gunner in 16th Field Regiment and based at this time in Rosult I believe the Battery he served 34/86th Battery was stationed adjacent to the Railway Station to the south the other 27/72nd Battery adjacent and to the North of it. The Batteries' wagon line was to the south west and ammunition dump at Orchies. The information provided has given a greater understanding of life in this time and around these villages. His name was Robert Wareing and survived to fight in North African and up the Italian peninsular. The regulars of the 2nd Division seemed a close knit bunch and one of the reasons why the BEF escaped from Dunkirk despite heavy cost.

    Football seemed to be a thing as well and respect paid to the locals in 16th FR War Diary for their knowledge and skill in this.

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