5th Ski Battalion Scots Guards, 1940

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by dbf, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    This is a little known and very short-lived unit, which was formed in response to the plight of the Finns in the Winter War with the Russians. While it came under the umbrella of the Scots Guards, it was made up of volunteers from many regiments, apparently all branches, and indeed from civil life.

    As there doesn't seem to be much about it on the internet, I thought I'd try and collate a few snippets. It'd be great if others could add whatever they have found in the course of their own research.
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  2. dbf

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    ORBAT from The Scots Guards, 1919-1955, David Erskine, pg 557:

    5th (Ski) Battalion Scots Guards
    29th February, 1940 - On Embarkation for France

    N.B. * Denotes SCOTS GUARDS Officer or Warrant Officer

    Lieutenant-Colonel J.S. COATS, M.C., COLDSTREAM GUARDS - Commanding Officer
    *Major B. MAYFIELD - Second-in-Command
    *Captain W.D.M. RAEBURN - Adjutant
    Captain M. LINDSAY, Royal Scots - A/Adjutant and i/c Ski equipment
    *Major A.F. PURVIS, M.C. - Liaison Officer

    *Lieutenant J. QUINN - Quartermaster
    Lieutenant E.H.L. WIGRAM, R.A.M.C. - Medical Officer
    Captain C.E.V. ROOKER, M.M., R.A.P.C. - Pay Adviser
    *A.K. MADDEN - Regimental Sergeant-Major
    *A. WILFORD - Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
    *L. PARSONS - Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant

    *Major A.D.B. CRABBE
    Lieutenant K.R. ASHBURNER, Royal Fusiliers
    Lieutenant N.E. MacMULLEN, 10th Royal Hussars
    Lieutenant P.M.G. ANLEY, Royal Fusiliers
    D.H. STACEY - Company Sergeant-Major

    Captain J.L.M. GAVIN, Royal Engineers
    Lieutenant J.P. HALL, Middlesex Regiment
    Lieutenant C.W. SUTER, London Rifle Brigade
    Lieutenant F.G. GOUGH, London Rifle Brigade
    J. ROYLE - Company Sergeant-Major

    Major L.C.D. RYDER, Norfolk Regiment
    Lieutenant R.N. CHARRINGTON, Suffolk Regiment
    Lieutenant D.C. BAYNES, Queen's Regiment
    ?. RUSSELL - Company Sergeant-Major

    *Captain R.D.M. GUROWSKI
    Lieutenant P.S. CHAPLIN, King's Royal Rifle Corps
    Lieutenant M.R.G. HOWARD, King's Royal Rifle Corps
    J.R. FRASER - Company Sergeant-Major

    Captain C.J. STONE, East Surrey Regiment
    Lieutenant J.R.G. BIRD, Sherwood Foresters
    Lieutenant A.G. DICKSON, Cameron Highlanders
    Lieutenant M.R.E. KEALY, Devonshire Regiment
    J.A. LINDSAY - Company Sergeant Major
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2022
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  3. dbf

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    From The Scots Guards, 1919-1955, David Erskine, pgs 21 - 26:

    The second Scandinavian problem was that of Finland. In August 1939, to the utter discomfiture of Britain and France, Soviet Russia had signed her unholy alliance with Nazi Germany. Such a marriage de covenance did nothing to make either partner less suspicious of the other, and, on her part, Russian set about strengthening her defences against her new ally, particularly around her main naval arsenal of Leningrad. Demands were successfully made on the smaller Baltic States, but Finland refused to comply. Russia attacked her in December 1939, entirely miscalculating the military force required, and underestimating the stubbornness of the Finns. Their gallant defence excited the admiration of the free world, and several idealistic and impractical schemes for volunteer armies were bandied about in the sincere though ineffective desire to help Finland in her struggle.

    Any expeditionary force sent from the west in winter have to traverse Norway and Sweden. The French, who had their celebrated Chasseurs Alpins to call upon, were the prime movers in this venture, but a British contingent of two divisions was earmarked to accompany them. It was deemed essential that there should be a small British unit trained in ski and winter warfare to supplement our contribution. This unit was the Fifth (Special Reserve) Battalion, Scots Guards. The whole affair was rushed and improvised and the history of this remarkable and unique formation (inevitably nicknamed "The Snowballers") must be read with the atmosphere of hurry and bustle constantly in mind.

    Instead of teaching a trained and disciplined body of soldiers to ski, the War Office chose to recruit its new battalion from already experienced skiers, and with this object in view volunteers had already been called for during January 1940. On February 3rd telegrams were dispatched all over the world directing the volunteers to report to Quebec Barracks at Bordon on the 6th, an order which must have caused some amusement to those who received their telegrams in such places as India and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, an advance party and skeleton staff, found from all Regiments of the Brigade and including a strong section from Regimental Headquarters, were moved to Bordon to prepare for the arrival of the unknown snowmen. Lieutenant-Colonel J.S. Coats, M.C., Coldstream Guards, a distinguished wintersports expert, was selected to command the Battalion, and, for his Adjutant, Captain W.D.M. Raeburn, Scots Guards, also a well-known skier, was flown home specially from the Second Battalion in Egypt. Major B. Mayfield, also from the Regiment, became Second-in-Command.

    Colonel Coats was told to have his battalion ready and equipped for service overseas by 1st March. Thus, from the outset, no more than twenty-three days were available for the assembly, organisation, military training, equipment, inoculation and general preparation of a force of men collected at the shortest notice not only from all ranks and branches of the Army throughout the world, but from civil life as well.

    One thousand volunteers had responded to the appeal sent out in January, and when they arrived at Bordon on February 6th or in small parties during the following three weeks, each was interviewed by Colonel Coats or by one of his senior officers and closely examined as to his qualifications. During these interviews several were found to have only the unwanted experience of lumbering, or of snow-shoe work, or of mountaineering, and therefore could not be accepted, many more had only negligible experience of skiing, and these, with a few undesirables, had also to be rejected. From the remainder the Battalion had now to be formed, and the choosing of the officers proved to be the most difficult problem.

    Six hundred commissioned officers had come forward as volunteers from all arms of the Service, including many Majors and Captains, some of whom had been commanding companies in the B.E.F., and from all of these only four Company Commanders, and Assistant Adjutant and fifteen Subalterns were required. Once the final choice had been made, those who had not been selected were asked to relinquish their commissions and to remain with the Battalion in the ranks. The process was to be known as "de-gazetting", and those who agreed to the proposal were to continue to receive their existing pay as officers and to be eligible for time promotion in the normal way, although absent from commissioned rank; at the end of their period of special service they would be free to resume their commissions. There were many who declined to accept these terms, but one hundred and sixty-seven officers including three from the Regiment [Second Lieutenants A.H.C. Maxwell, A.D. Stirling and C.O'M. Farrell], agreed to serve in the ranks as non-commissioned officers or Guardsmen; a further seventy-two Officer Cadets transferred from their various Training Units under similar arrangements to become Guardsmen.

    The majority of the non-commissioned officers were drawn from this commissioned source and, in the main, de-gazetted officers carried out their new duties as Sergeants and Corporals with success. The same applied to the Company Sergeant-Majors and Company Quartermaster Sergeants of the Ski Companies, although the latter, who were assisted throughout the first weeks at Bordon by regular non-commissioned officers, later proved to be one of the Battalion's weaknesses.

    Of the remainder, one hundred and eighty came direct from civil life; the Battalion roll contained the names of men from all parts of the Empire, Regulars, Territorials, veterans of the Spanish War, soldiers of fortune, undergraduates; in fact any man who could ski with a modicum of competence - provided he was aged more than twenty, and less than forty.

    Amongst the strange assortment were several whose pre-war experience on Arctic or Himalayan expeditions was to prove invaluable. Four of these, all of whom had been members of Greenland expeditions led by Gino Watkins (whose brother also served in the Battalion), were given charge of the special Arctic equipment as Instructors. Captain M. Lindsay, Royal Scots Fusiliers, commanded this section and was appointed Assistant Adjutant; under him F. Spencer Chapman [previously known the the public as the hero of the ascent of Chomolhari (24,000 feet) in 1937and subsequently as the author of The Jungle is Neutral, a book which all officers joining the Second Battalion in Malaya from 1948 to 1951 were ordered to read.] (who had helped to design much of the equipment at the War Officer earlier in the year), J.M. Scott and Q.T.P.M. Riley, all served as non-commissioned officers. The Medical Officer, Lieutenant E.H.L. Wigram, R.A.M.C., had also been a member of the 1936 Everest Expedition; frost-bite and snow blindness were not new to him.

    The volunteers were organised into four Ski Companies; Right Flank, W, X, and Left Flank; there was a small Battalion Headquarters, the meagre equipment of which lacked even a wireless. Soon the Battalion was increased to five companies by the arrival from the Training Battalion at Pirbright of a company of trained Scots Guardsmen; these became Y Company, commanded by Captain R.D.M. Gurowski (Count RICHARD DUDLY MELCHIOR GUROWSKI who later died having volunteered with Captain MICHAEL DAVID CHARLES HANBURY-TRACY to help with Op Dynamo in their own boat, also co-owned by J.O.E. Vandeleur); none of them had even seen a ski before. The loan of a company from the First CBattalion to do the fatigues about the camp enabled the new Battalion to concentrate on its worries, undistracted by the cares of housekeeping. Equally valuable to Colonel Coats was the loan of Captain C. Rooker, R.A.P.C., to help solve the pay puzzle of this bizarre Battalion; not surprisingly, there was a multitude of such problems.

    Life at Bordon during the second half of February was hectic. Volunteers were continually arriving and requiring to be interviewed and kitted out, while the rest of the Battalion spent its time in suitable Physical Training, watching demonstrations and listening to a comprehensive course of lectures on such subjects as sledge loading, snow camping and the avoidance of frost-bite. It was not until the last days of the month that their sole armament, the new Number 4 Lee-Enfield rifle, arrived, and it was then that the alarming fact emerged that many of the rank and file had never before handled, let alone fired, a service rifle. There were no Brens.

    On the 29th February Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Bertram Sergison-Brooke, Major-General Commanding the Brigade of Guards, and Colonel E.W.S. Balfour, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Regiment, visited Bordon. In his address to the Battalion the Major-General bade them "God-speed and a victorious return". On the 2nd March in deepest secrecy, their destination known to the Commanding Officer alone, the Battalion embarked at Southampton and landed in France the next day, somewhat to the confusion of those who had predicted a voyage to Scandinavia or even to the North Pole, though to the satisfaction of those of favoured the Caucasus. The riddle was solved, after a non-stop train journey across France, by the sight of Mont Blanc as the train arrived at Chamonix, an event which was immediately broadcast by "Lord Haw-Haw" of the German wireless, reported in the French Press the next day, and even quoted in the London Daily Telegraph. But, as usual, the troops themselves were expressly forbidden to mention their whereabouts in their letters home; one Guardsman was taken before his Company Commander for writing: "I must not tell you where we are for fear of endangering the Fleet."

    The companies were billeted in great comfort on the many hotels; the heavy baggage meandered across France for two days in a goods train, and it was not until the third day after their arrival that ski equipment could be issued. This short period of inactivity revealed an unforeseen defect. Cooks, trained or natural, are rarely to be found among parties of volunteer skiers; it turned out that hardly a man had ever been inside a kitchen for a useful purpose in his life. In consequence the first meals prepared in billets were mostly uneatable. To the joy of the local patrons, the majority of the Battalion forsook their cooks and fed in the nearby restaurants and cafes.

    The advanced season of the year made for many difficulties in ski training. Not the least of these was the fact that the Commanding Officer of the 199th Battalion of Chasseurs Alpins (a reserve and not particularly energetic unit stationed in Chamonix) to whom Colonel Coats looked for guidance, had forbidden his men to leave the valley for fear of avalanches. This seemed over-cautious, as the local civilians had no such qualms and were still enjoying their winter sports. As a result the only demonstration which the Battalion were able to see during their stay was one of a small and exceedingly simple attack by two French platoons against a third, carried out on the flat at the bottom of the valley. In other ways, however, the Chasseurs were most hospitable. They lent ski instructors, which enabled the Battalion to organise its own training programme, which was blessed by glorious weather. The also lent cooks.

    In the Ski Companies all sections were organised both as ski and sledge troops, an unsatisfactory arrangement which necessitated every man being trained both as a scout and as a member of a sledge-hauling team, for on patrol both jobs would be expected of him. This was asking a lot, especially of the men of Y Company, none of whom had ever before been on skis. However, under the able instruction of two well-known amateur skiers, Sergeant W.R. Bracken and Corporal E.W.A. Richardson, they picked up the technique so rapidly that some French officer who saw them after four days' training found it hard to believe that these young Regular soldiers were beginners. The more proficient companies went off on cross-country treks with full equipment, or were instructed in the difficult arts of sledge loading and the use of man-hauling harness.

    On the 9th March, as they were about to embark on their more advanced training in tactics and movement, a telephone message was received by Major A.F. Purvis, Scots Guards, the Battalion's Liaison Officer, asking him to find someone who could speak Hindustani, as orders would be passed in that language later in the evening. The Battalion had no difficulty in finding such an interpreter, but his ruse must have put the Germans to some inconvenience to get a Hindustani monitor on the line with such speed. On the following day the news went out from Berlin that "the Fifth Battalion Scots Guards will leave Chamonix by train at seven o'clock on the morning of Monday, March 11th". The prediction was only ten minutes out; that was the fault of French train. This hurried departure was the result of the desperate military situation of the Finns. The Red Army had planned its spring attack with overwhelming force, and their troops were now making decisive headway. On 2nd March the French had decided to sent a force of fifty thousand "volunteers"; the British were to land on the Norwegian coast to assist them in their passage. The first landing was to be on the 20th.

    Throughout the long train journey across France rumours improved; they were off to Greenland, to Murmansk, to Bordon for disbandment. No-one really knew. The gloom of this period of uncertainty was deepened by lengthy waits of many hours' duration in drafty warehouses at each end of the Channel crossing. Once in England, hope was renewed. Those who had failed to come up to standard in France were sent back to their units and the remainder entrained for the north. Thursday, March 14th found them crossing the border; on the same day they embarked on a Polish liner at Glasgow Docks. Here they found themselves no longer Britain's only Arctic troops, for all around them was a complete division, said to be suitably equipped for winter warfare. But the Russians forestalled the expedition. In the train on the journey north, the Adjutant had heard over the wireless the news that the Finnish Prime Minister had gone to Moscow to seek terms. While loading was still in progress at Glasgow, the order cancelling the venture was received. An armistice had been concluded; the Fifth was no longer required. They returned to Bordon, and, in less than a week, had been dispersed in all directions.

    The history of this Battalion is an example of the amateurish improvisations to which British Governments are forced to resort at the outbreak of our wars. It was truly a unique Battalion, the value of which was never tested in battle in a terrain and climate for which it was intended. It is perhaps ironical to observe that when, later in the war, the 52nd (Lowland) Division was thoroughly trained for mountain and winter warfare, that formation first entered the line in - Holland! And it cannot be judged wise to have concentrated in one poorly equipped and untrained unit so many leaders and potential leaders. It was indeed fortunate that these men were not flung away in an altruistic and ill-prepared side-show, but were saved to go forward to many and varied exploits in decisive theatres of war.

    [n.b. my 'bold']
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  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From War Diary, 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, 1940

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  5. dbf

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  6. dbf

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    From Imperial War Museum interview with David Carol Macdonell MATHER (details below)

    REEL 1 & 2

    Now you eventually decided to volunteer for the - what was the 5th Scots Guards, the Ski Battalion.

    What was it that moved you to volunteer, was it a sense of adventure, or?
    Well I was a skier and I’d had - by that stage I had about six or seven years on skis every winter and the war in Finland was the only thing that was happening; there was no other active war going on during the time of the Phoney War. So it was partly a romantic idea but newspapers were full of nothing but the from pictures of the Ski troops, and the Russians, you know, frozen Russians, corpses of Russians and everything. I’d been to Finland before the war on a schoolboy expedition so I knew the country and several of us who were keen skiers volunteered.

    When you were skiing had you specialised in downhill skiing or cross-country?
    Well you see in the days when I started skiing you were on skins. You weren’t any ski lifts so you climbed the mountain on skins. So in a way you were doing a lot of cross-country, and in deep snow. But they recruited anyone who could ski, had experience of skiing, most obviously were officers because skiing hadn’t become a popular sport in those days and most of the Officers had to drop their rank and become Guardsmen. The whole thing was a fairly crazy idea.

    I mean did they suffer from difficulties because they did that, did you find ..?
    Difficult - in what way?

    Well difficult to adjust to reverting from being Officers to being Guardsmen.
    I think they found it rather strange actually but it was all you know, good fun really as far as they were concerned.

    Gentlemen rankers.
    Gentlemen rankers yes, that’s right.

    You were young, fairly unformed, not used to having rank and authority ...
    ... no because I was a cadet you see ...

    Exactly but for them it would have been different.
    For them yes. I mean many of them were Captains, that kind of rank and they came down to being private soldiers.

    Now you say you think it was an error to disband the Ski Battalion.

    Why was that? Did you think at the time, or was this a reflection ..?
    We we were, of course, all bitterly disappointed because it was a very big let-down. Well, I think I’m right in saying if I’ve got the timescale right, that the Norwegian Campaign happened fairly shortly after that.

    It started on the 9th April.
    Yes you see we were disbanded in probably early March and there was obviously snow on the ground in Norway then and although we couldn’t anticipate this, as it turned out, troops with the knowledge of mountains - we had professionals with us you see, we had a lot of people who had been with Gino Watkins in Greenland and places like that before the War - sledgers and mountaineers. There was a lot of expertise, there was a lot of amateurism, but there was a lot of expertise too.

    Did you have at that time any idea that there might be a campaign in Scandinavia?

    It came as a surprise when Norway came into the war?
    Yes. It was all part of the Blitzkrieg, wasn’t it really ...

    ... You mentioned the ...
    ...and the Swedes were very windy because ... they wouldn’t help the Finns.

    I think you were saying you did not know how you were going to get to Finland?
    Yes. We never, we never knew and I don’t think the history books have revealed how we were going to get there but we finally embarked on our ship, our transport, at Glasgow I think it was, about to sail. But of course everything was kept frightfully secret; we weren’t told anything at all. Whether we were going to sail through the - past Norway, what we and sail on what we were going to - we had no idea. You see it was Winter, the middle of winter and the research I’ve done on it there’ve been no clues at all.

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  7. dbf

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    From Imperial War Museum interview with George Patrick John Rushworth JELLICOE (details below)


    REEL 1

    I do remember - I can’t have been very good, I do remember when I was actually drilling my Squad or Platoon, they professed not to hear my words of command and marched themselves into the lake there. And I also remember I think it was somebody in the Coldstream a Captain or Adjutant or something telling me he didn’t think I would be any good in the Coldstream and I think he was probably quite right too. So I don’t think I was much good at Sandhurst and certainly I don’t think I learned a great deal there.

    But you had to interrupt it because of pneumonia?
    Oh, what?

    You had to interrupt it because of pneumonia?
    Oh yes and then I saw an opportunity of not going on with a thing that I was getting rather bored with, so I joined a unit called the 5th Scots Guards which was a Ski Battalion. I’m a very keen skier and I found that much more exciting and enjoyable and we had - a great number of my friends joined it and we went off to train at Chamonix, which I had no objection to, and I think in the same way as the Russian Fleet when it went out to eh, round the Cape of you know - through the North Sea sinking some fishing boats on the way, and then round the Cape of Good Hope and then to Tsushima where they were destroyed really by the Japanese under Tōgō. It was always said you could follow their route by the number of champagne bottles. I think you could have followed the route of the 5th Scots Guards to Chamonix by the number of champagne bottles which came out of the train. We were there for a fortnight only.

    Where they destined to go to the Winter War between Finland and Russia?
    That’s right, but via Norway, Sweden and the ?. I’ve never quite understood what it was and we in fact embarked in the port of Glasgow onboard a rather fine Polish liner the Batory to go off, and we were all set to go when the Finnish Armistice came. It was an extremely lucky thing for us that there was that armistice I think. Our bones would be bleaching on some sort of tundra very quickly. But it was a rather pleasant interlude and I went straight away from that to our Training Battalion at Pirbright.

  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From Imperial War Museum interview with Thomas Cockayne HARVEY (details below)


    REEL 1

    Did you ever consider before you actually went to Norway, the possibility of fighting in Norway?
    There was quite an amount of talk going on because the Scots Guards created their 5th Battalion and this was a Ski Battalion designed possibly to go to Finland. It was recruited rather like 601 Squadron largely from the bar of White’s Club, consisting of well-known skiers, and they trained at Chamonix. The whole object was to do a dash into Finland and save the gallant Finns. But in fact of course, it came to nothing but their beautiful white, furry equipment was eventually bequeathed to us [1SG] who had no experience of snow or ice or the ability to traverse it.

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  9. dbf

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    From the Imperial War Museum interview with Robert Samuel WYNFORD (details below)

    REEL 1

    Now if we can jump ahead please to 1940 because I think that you were due to be involved with the Winter War between Russia and Finland.
    Yes I was serving at the time with the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the British Expeditionary Force in northern France and we were preparing a defence line which was contiguous with the Maginot Line. A message came to the Battalion that volunteers were required for a Force that was being assembled to go to the aid of the Finns, who were threatened by the Russians. I put my name down because one of the conditions of volunteering was that the volunteer should have skiing and snow experience.

    I left the Battalion immediately, returning to UK and went to Bordon in Hampshire where the 5th Battalion of the Scots Guards was being formed up, for the purpose explained. The battalion was specially formed and I found something like, I think, 50 officers who had been with me at Sandhurst who were doing the same as me. In addition to them, there were in the B.E.F. who had had some snow experience and fancied the idea of a change to what looked being a more active role than what we were performing at that time in northern France.

    The Battalion was made up of one company of Scots Guardsmen proper and their Officers, and three companies of those like myself: volunteers for service. The Bordon episode were short, we were prepared very soon and introduced to the equipment which we were going to have to use for snow warfare. The next move was to entrain the whole Battalion to go down the French Alps and to carry out snow training with this equipment. We were only there, I think, about a fortnight and after that time we entrained again and went up again to northern Scotland to the port of embarkation and required to load the equipment with all our arms and other stores, in a ship which was destined for Finland. I can’t quote the date, but it was at that very moment that the Finns gave in to the Russian demands and they were therefore taken over. Having loaded our ship we were then immediately told to unload it and returned eventually to Bordon for disbandment of the unit which was too late to do anything for the Finns.

    Had you taken much notice of the war between Russia and Finland at that time, had it been of much interest to you?
    I don’t remember, I don’t remember hearing very much, if very many details of what was going on in that northern - in those northern areas. The possibility is that there was already even at that stage in the war, less information going about than normally there would be today in press and on the radio. However we were all aware that there was this position between the Russians and the Finns and we took it for granted that the High Command in London had examined the problem and had thought it was just feasible to move in and try to back up and stiffen the Finnish resistance.

    Did you and your brother officers feel much commitment to the cause of the Finns?
    I think not. I don’t think that was foremost in our minds. The country - the High Command had obviously considered this with care and had come to the conclusion that it was a possibility which ought to be taken.

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  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    There is another interview but it seems to be unavailable online at the moment.

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  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    There also seems to be a published account at IWM:



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  12. dbf

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  13. ethan

    ethan Member

    There's an interesting chapter of Mike Calvert's Autobiography 'Fighting Mad' where he describes his brief service in 'The Phoney Fifth'.
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  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    There are two TNA War Diary references for the 5th Battalion Scots Guards, but I think the first one only is appropriate to this particular Ski unit. (I don't have either of these, BTW.)

    WO 166/4110 INFANTRY: 5 Scots Guards. 1940 Feb.- Mar.

    WO 166/4111 INFANTRY: 5 Training Battalion Scots Guards. 1939 Sept.- Oct.
  15. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks Ethan, any chance of a paragraph or two, just for flavour - anything about the training itself, or about the actual proposed route to Finland?
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  16. ethan

    ethan Member

    Sure! Just as soon as I get home :)
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  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    That's pretty interesting. Have you searched for other files on them Di. Memo's and the like from the WO or other MOD depts. who decided to put the unit together?
  18. dave1212

    dave1212 Junior Member

    I know of at least seven Canadians who at the time were serving with the 2nd Manchesters in France who volunteered & were accepted into the unit. After it was disbanded in March 1940 six of the seven had returned to the Manchesters & were in France at the time of the German Offensive May 10, 1940. Interestingly I'm in communication with the families of 6/7 & not one could ski at the time they volunteered but were accepted anyway due to the fact it was assumed all Canadians must be able to ski!

    I have attached a clip from a 1940 Halifax, NS newspaper. Caption reads:
    Canadian volunteers have had training during the last winter such as would fit them for service in Norway’s mountain areas, especially in winter. Here is a group of the first ski battalion in the history of the British Army. It was taken in the French Alps on the slope of Mount Blanc and included in it are Don Morrison of South Park Street, Halifax, Jack Foster, Halifax and probably other Nova Scotians. The training which also took place in Scotland was to fit the men to fight in the expeditionary force which was to have gone to Finland.

    Hope this helps.


    Attached Files:

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  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Hi Andy,
    I don't think I've done a TNA search for them other than for 5SG under WO. It was so long ago; I copied those 2 WD links from my Gds how-to thread.

    Apparently an idea from 'on high', though no doubt some of those consulted would have been as keen as mustard to get involved in some fighting.

    From post 3, first para, has an interesting reference to 2 Divs !! but this may have been the usual preliminary chatter... most interviewed thought it a mad scheme (but fun), and given the high ratio of officers / cadets in its make-up, and the names associated with the battalion, it would indeed have been a pity for their 'bones to be bleaching on the tundra' as Jellicoe so eloquently stated in his interview.
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  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks Dave I saw the very same on the Rootschat link I posted earlier (was it yours there too?); some great photos on that thread.

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