Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by Jaeger, Jul 13, 2009.

  1. Jaeger

    Jaeger Senior Member

    A request to our british veterans.

    Did you attend battleschools in the war, or was the battledrills taught at the regimental depots?

    I have studied the "battledrill movement" spawning from Wigram at Bernard castle till the end of the war, but I have heard few accounts from veterans on how it was like to be at one.

    Thank you in advance.
    von Poop likes this.
  2. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    I was sorry to see that no one has been able to add to your thread.

    If you have not read it, I strongly recommend the book "To Reason Why" by Denis Foreman ISBN 978 1 84415 792 1. Besides being the best book that I have read this year it is immensely funny.

    Major Denis Foreman was a pupil, instructor, comrade and personal friend of Wigram.

    Wigram sent a report on ways in which British forces could improve their effectiveness following the "successful German rearguard action in Sicily". Montgomery took this to be a criticism of himself and demoted Wigram who by chance joined Foreman in 6th RWK battalion part of 47th Division in Italy.

    I see that Ron Goldstein on this site is a veteran of 47th at Termoli. Maybe he can help?
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    I see that Ron Goldstein on this site is a veteran of 47th at Termoli. Maybe he can help?


  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Missed that thread back in 2009 -

    When training on Tanks at Barnard Castle in 1943 we lobbied the Horse Guards Captain of training to have a go at the Battle School on the other side of the valley.

    he did just that and we spent a whole day running and jumping like dervishes but only one memory stands out for that day - and that was throwing grenades - with 11 second best friend Frank Alison was up first and so we had the other 30 odd trainees attentively listening to the instructor - "pick up Grenade - ensure the pin is in correctly - hold in the right hand - withdraw right arm to the rear - the left arm and hand pointing to the target - throw grenade with an overarm movement - drop down below parapet - look over parapet to the flight of the grenade - the grenade will explode and your head had better not be in the way - RIGHT - pick up the grenade "

    Now Frank Alison was a big chap - a Staffordshire police cadet who finished up as a Detective Chief Inspector - but had never met a corporal with such a loud voice - so when he took his right arm back prior to throwing - he dropped the damn grenade in the slit trench !

    Never in the field of human conflict have 30 odd men moved so fast and so far inside 11 seconds - to paraphrase another warrior......

    that was the end of our day at the Battle School at Barnard Castle as we were then back to knocking down innocent houses in the immediate area, with a succession of Covenanter - Crusader - and Valentine Tanks.
  5. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    It's just after 5:00 am here in the UK and I am re-looking at the response I made to your comment on this thread late last night.

    I see that I said "?????".

    I want you to understand that I was not being intentionally rude, but rather to being utterly baffled by your suggestion that I was connected to the 47th Div.

    For the benefit of others who may be similarly bemused I did some GOOGLING and found the following reference to Wigram & Foreman at Barnard Castle:

    Born in October 1917, Denis Forman began studying at Pembroke College, Cambridge before the outbreak of war, quickly becoming aware of its inevitability. He read avidly about military tactics and wanted to join the Army although it became apparent to him that Britain was preparing for the wrong type of war. From the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Dunbar, a posting was arranged to the 11th Argylls. In 1940 a promotion to Captain was followed by an enthusiastically received transfer to the 47th Division's Battle School at Barnard Castle, where Denis met his Chief Instructor, Lionel Wigram. This man proved an inspiration and his views coloured Forman's own during his time as Chief Instructor at the Battle School at Voxter on Shetland and as Commandant of the school when it moved to Bonar Bridge on the mainland.

    My only connection with a Battle School was at Haltwhistle when the Ack Ack unit I had just joined in late 1942 was in the middle of a few weeks battle training. I will go to my notes and see if I can dig up any comments that I have made on the subject.



    Mustn't trust my memory :(
    Just found this correct date in my records
    Feb ’43 Haltwhistle, Northumberland. Posted to 112th L.A.A. Regiment
  6. Jaeger

    Jaeger Senior Member

    Ah you lovely men ! This topic seems to have made quite a stir in it's day, and to get direct input from the horses mouth is great !

    I will look up the book you suggested SamuelBurke.

    Ron, we wait with bated breath ;)
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Ron, we wait with bated breath :wink:

    From my records and specially for you :)

    February 1943

    February found me at my first 'proper' regiment then located in Haltwhistle in Northumberland, way up North, I believe it was the 112th L.A.A Regiment

    Any dreams I had of using my new found radio and driving experience were soon shattered as the regiment had been sent to this G-d forsaken spot for the sole purpose of taking a battle course and I soon found myself crawling through the mud and wading through icy streams .

    Amongst the store of useless information that I have collected in my lifetime is one piece that I picked up on this battle course.

    It goes as follows:-
    If you are ever fording a river at night in complete darkness and want to know which way the river is flowing feel the pebbles on the bed of the river and the smoothness and shape of them will provide the right direction of the flow!
  8. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    My apolgies Ron.

    I have read a posting by a Vet, who cites his personal experience at Termoli with 47 th Division. Could not find the article again and thought it was you (sorry bad memory).
  9. Jaeger

    Jaeger Senior Member

    Thank you Ron.

    Did you ever use the drills during the war, or did you figure out better drills yourselves?

    Alex championed the battledrill movement by comparing it to learning a new cricket player the "basic strokes", and later when he gained experience he could expand his game.
  10. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    Gave the Book to my father today and it turns out that he did participate at Barnard Castle on three occasions. Twice during the war and once after.

    He was a Vickers machine gunner with the Cheshire Regiment and typically they would create a rolling barrage for the Infantry to "Lean on", usually firing dummies and tracer but occasionally live stuff - so the Infantry never really knew what was whistling over their heads.

    Pretty sweaty stuff as they had to port the gun to keep up with the infantry attack. Although after the War they got tracked vehicles to fire from.

    Normally it was small stuff but occasionally they had a full Divisional attack at night which was more realistic that the real thing. Amazing sight and noise.
  11. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Am I right in thinking that the Battle Schools trained unit instructors, who would then go back to their units and spread the word? That's my understanding of 'school' according to the British Army.
  12. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Idler -
    you are possibly right in that many instructors went back to their own units and spread the gospel - but not always the case -as too many saw the permanent staff opportunities - the Battle School concept was mainly promoted by Alexander after Burma - and Alanbrooke went along with it - but Monty had no time for it as he felt that all Infantry should be trained at the regimental level by people who would be going into battle with them.

    Two sides to everything of course as the Germans were ahead of us in reinforcing Infantry by having a standard training to allow replacements to fit into any units of older and more actual battle experienced men - cooks - and other non fighting men were able to fight as Infantry with the German units whereas our Cooks - were Cooks (sic) period !
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The 47th Division was not activated in WW2 as a fighting unit but were active in the first WW.... as #2 London Division -they were the parents of the Battle Schools in order to give them a "Home and Address"

    The main participants at the Termoli Battle in Italy - Oct/Nov '43 was the 78th Battleaxe Division of which Ron was a member - with assists from #2 SAS and Kiwi's latterly
  14. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Ok to bump this, can someone explain to me the year Battle School was introduced? Just running into this as a slight problem atm. Who forwarded and why? As I thought it was 41 it appears, or is it rebranded?

    Just a bit confused by your comments on 'after Burma' for date Tom.
  15. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    I don't know if this is an answer on not but the inspiration for Battle School was Alexander, as mentioned above.

    The origins lay in the first modern tactical battle skills which were codified by Haig's Inspector General of Training in 1918. The then Lt General Alexandre ran a battle drill school in the last months of 1918 war and in 1919 as commander of German forces fighting in Latvia against the Bolsheviks, he established a Battle School for NCOs.

    In the Autumn after Dunkirk, Alexander as commander of I Corp, published tactical notes and tactical drills were taught at a Corps Platoon Commanders School at Lincoln Barracks.

    This idea was taken up by General Utterson Keso, 47 Division (previously Brigadier, 131st Brigade, 44 Division at Dunkirk) in July 1941 with the launch of a Divisional Battle School at Chelwood Gate. Lt General Paget, C in C Home Forces was impressed and set up the Barnard Castle Battle School using Major Wigram, previously commandant of Chelwood, as the the Chief Instructor at Barnard Castle. Wigram is generally thought have been the driving force behind the movement. Can't nail down the date but I think this was December 1941.

    There was a stiff anti-battle school movement which came from those whose thought that tactical training would limit individual Platoon Commanders initiative. And surprising also from Montgomery who (if I understand correctly) was a great believer in training but wanted this done at Battalion or lower level by Officers themselves and not at a centralised School (and standardised methods).

    In fact, Montgomery sacked Wigram but this might be because Wigram criticised the tactics used in Sicily. But it seems that Wigram's general idea of Battle School teaching tactics won out in the end.

    It aslo has to be said that Wigram's ideas were closer to those taught in the German Army.
  16. idler

    idler GeneralList

    A bit more detail: Paget wanted every division to have a Battle School so Barnard Castle was set up to train the divisional instructors. Wigram may also have been inspired by his brother-in-law who was an instructor at I Corps's school and subsequently went with him to Barnard Castle.
  17. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

  18. idler

    idler GeneralList

    There's this one (which makes Raising Churchill's Army look like a bargain):

    Military Training in the British Army, 1940-1944 by T Harrison-Place

    There is a paperback edition, as well. The book covers infantry and armour doctrine and training. Not sure I agree with the five stars it gets on Amazon but as far as I know it is the book on the subject.
  19. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    I think a trip to the British Library may come in place for that one :huh:
  20. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    There are very few books on this subject and does not seem to be a "good" one.

    You just get snippets, here and there, and a general feeling that the Germans were so much better than everyone else in their training methods. And superior training and initiative on their part seems to overcome so many deficiencies in their equipment in both 1939 and in Russia (early part).

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