Crossing the Rhine.

Discussion in 'Home' started by Trux, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Sorry to hijack this tread but I have had this from TNA and never knew if it would ever be of use or of interest to any one.



    Data from TNA

    LVT’s, DUKW’s, Storm Boats, Class 9 Rafts, Class 9 FSE Bridges, Class 50/60 Rafts, CDL Tanks, DD Tanks

    LVT’s II and IV

    The LVT Regt has been re-organised for this operation and the new squadron, which lifts an assault battalion, has 38 LVT’s. Two on Squadron Headquarters which are NOT. available for loading. Six troops of six. Four troops all LVT IV’s and two troops each three LVT II and three LVT IV.

    The LVT II has no door and so can only carry personnel normally. Any stores carried have to be loaded and un-loaded from a deep well. It can however, carry a 17 pdr on top and some personnel in the well by a modification which can be put in or removed within half an hour in the LVT Collecting Area.

    The LVT IV has a door which can be lowered like an LCA and can take the following vehicles and NO OTHERS:-

    Jeep, Weasel, Dingo, A/B Bulldozer, Carrier also a 6 pdr

    It cannot take a Windsor Anti-Tank tower. Carriers can be taken with a reasonable load.

    Loading capacity – 4 tons
    Max speed, land 30 mph
    Max speed, water 5.9 mph
    Max gradient 29 degrees


    1. Now all very old and very weak mechanically.
    2. Therefore being reserved only for a Q Lift and perhaps for one or two odd jobs for CAGRE and CSO.
    3. Need a good ferry hard on both banks to enable them to get out of the water at all. Civilian or Boche ferry sites very useful.
    4. Successful hards have been built of 5 to 6 widths of Summerfield Track reaching down into the wateruntil the latter is about 2ft 6 ins deep. The width is necessary because of the current while the extension into the water allows the front wheels to grip as soon as they ground.
    5. Very good for evacuating casualties as they give a much smoother ride than the LVT’s but the latter are, of course, the only craft which will be able to function in the initial stages.

    Storm Boats

    1. Outboard engines very temperamental and each one has its own individual characteristics. Essential therefore that the man who is going to work one on the day must practice on that boat for a week beforehand.
    2. Need 3 feet water under keel before starting engine. Common habit is to start them too near the bank so as to be sure that the engines will be running before the boat gets into the current. Result is a weakened shearpin which breaks half way across. Therefore most desirable to find a lagoon or bit of sheltered water where they can be started without damage.
    3. DON’T overload. One section is really all that it can manage for a trip across the RHINE.
    4. The engine runs on a mixture of gasoline and oil. It is vital to get this mixture right. Very good engine but will only go if kept sweet.
    5. It takes 3 good men to carry the engine.
    6. Engine should never be run out of the water. It does not need warming up but a check up before the party is a good thing if it can be managed.
    7. If you hit an obstacle the natural thing to do is to cut off the engine but actually you MUST keep it running or else the whole boat will get swamped at once by your backwash.


    1. Cannot be relied upon to get across the RHINE under their own power: can be towed ( NOT by storm boats ) but not worth while.
    2. Plenty of Buffalo lift available and so should be taken across in Buffaloes.

    Class 9 Rafts

    1. RE personnel need a great deal of training or else they will make a very poor showing indeed.
    2. A wire hawser or cable for them to run on will add to their efficiency enormously unless the crews are very well trained.
    3. Will take a D4 Recovery Vehicle or a White half-track.
    4. Must be used principally for 3-tonners or 15-cwts.
    5. Have a very slow turn round (about 12 vehicles per hour on the Divisional front in daylight and 9 by night).
    6. Takes about 4 hours to construct after arrival on site.
    7. Can be towed to site on a sledge by a half-track.

    Class 9 FBE bridges

    1. Across a river of this size will need a lot of nursing and must be expected to be out of action for maintenance for 8 hours out of every 24.
    2. Will be wrecked by an overloaded vehicle or any trailer.
    3. Special police or officers needed in Vehicle Waiting Areas to see that no vehicle gets through onto the FBE bridge which is not well within Class 9.
    4. Cannot expect high capacity over this bridge owing to its length and flimsy construction and the psychological effect on drivers. Therefore calculate an overall figure of 100 per hour.

    Class 50/60 Rafts

    1. Very efficient but relies on getting a hawser across the river for it to work on. Run by Assault Squadron RE.
    2. Will only take one tank or M10 at a time but will take 2 Kangaroos or White half-tracks.
    3. Capacity low – about 9 vehicles per hour by day and 7 by night on Divisional front.
    4. Drivers need practice in driving on and off if this can be arranged.
    5. Takes about 4 hours to construct after arrival on sight.
    6. Is towed to site on a sledge by an AVRE.

    CDL Tanks

    1. This is a Grant tank from which the top turret armament (37mm) has been removed and a CDL searchlight substituted. This searchlight is invulnerable to small arms and machine gun fire and can be switched on and off, or made to flicker, at will.
    2. The Grant tank can use its 75mm gun in the right hand sponson on targets illuminated by the searchlight.
    3. Length 19ft. height 10ft 10 ins. Width 8 ft 7 ins.

    DD Tanks

    1. The Sherman DD tank is a Sherman V or Sherman III waterproofed and fitted with a canvas screen which increases the vehicles height to 13 ft when erected. This canvas screen is held in place by rubber air columns and steel struts. The vehicle is completely amphibian when the canvas screen is raised and is then propelled by two propellers driven from the main tank engine. Its speed in the water is 4 ½ knots and a depth of 9 ft is required for flotation. Its performance on land is that of a normal Sherman tank.
    2. FOO’s have to act as crew commanders and need special training as only the crew commander can see and steer.
    3. Once inflated the canvas is very liable to damage from trees, bushes and shrubs, and so they need an Inflation Area from which they have a clear run over open country to the river.
    4. Performance climbing out of a river is very delicate. Preparation of exits is almost invariably needed; anyhow, recce certainly is.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2021
    Aixman, Wobbler, 4jonboy and 5 others like this.
  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    I had not intended to include this but it might be interesting.


    There is a wealth of contemporary literature on the opposed river crossing. The most generally useful is probably Military Training Pamphlet No. 23. Operations, ‘River Crossings’. This is in fact not a single pamphlet but a series. Part VIII ‘Infantry and Armoured Divisions in the opposed crossing of a water obstacle’ is particularly relevant. There are various editions but that of 1940 is least useful since it predates the extensive use of armoured formations, airborne troops and ground support aircraft.

    There are also handbooks dealing with bridging and rafting equipment in general, and handbooks for each specific equipment.

    An attack will normally involve seven phases:
    Preparation and assembly of assaulting troops and bridging equipment.
    Exploitation and establishment of bridgeheads
    Construction of the main bridges and the crossing of the main body
    Continuation of the advance and the improvement and maintenance of communications.

    Reconnaissance falls into two stages.
    The collection of general information on which the commander will base his outline plan.
    The collection of detailed information in accordance with the outline plan.

    In the initial stage air reconnaissance and air photographs are most valuable in providing information about the obstacle and the enemy dispositions. This can be done before the obstacle is reached.

    Leading troops should carry out reconnaissance on as wide a front as possible, both to discover alternative crossing places and to mislead the enemy. It is often possible to carry out reconnaissance on the far bank using reconnaissance boats (rubber dinghies).

    Engineer reconnaissance is essential. Usually the leading troops will be able to give much information, and provide escorts. Engineer reconnaissance at this stage should include information on:
    Existing bridges, fords, locks, weirs and details of any demolitions carried out by the enemy.
    The obstacle itself including width, depth, current, nature and slope of banks, islands and sand banks.
    Any subsidiary obstacles such as tributaries and ditches.

    Reconnaissance parties of units and all arms concerned should visit proposed crossing points and consider:

    Crossing places for assault troops.

    These must be suitable for the assaulting infantry and their craft and sufficiently close to bridging sites selected by the engineers. They must also be close to suitable forming up points, be suitable for exploitation and bridgehead defence, provide good observation points for supporting arms and preferably be in an area with minimum enemy resistance.

    Suitable objectives for the first assault wave.

    These should not be too far ahead but should provide a defensive position, good observation of the crossing places and provide space for subsequent waves to form up and deploy.

    Forming up places. Here the assault troops form up for the attack and assault bridging equipment is prepared for launching. The place and its approaches should be protected from observation.
    Off loading points. These should be behind the forming up point and provide a place for vehicles to be unloaded. Equipment will be manhandled forward to the forming up place so that it should be as close as possible.
    Fire positions for troops supporting the assault. This will include observation posts.
    Assembly areas. These should be some five miles to the rear of the obstacle and should have routes that allow rapid access and forward movement.

    2. PLANNING.
    Planning tends to fall into three stages:
    The plan for the advance to the obstacle and outline plan for the crossing.
    The detailed plan for the assault, establishment of bridgeheads and construction of bridges.
    The detailed plan for the crossing of the main body.

    The plan for the advance to the obstacle and outline plan for the crossing.
    The commander will already have an appreciation of the situation from aerial reconnaissance and intelligence reports.

    The Commander Royal Engineers will prepare his appreciation based on
    Equipment available. This will limit the number and types of bridge that can be constructed.
    The desirability of rafting. This may speed up the early movement of heavy support weapons and armoured vehicles but delay the construction of bridges.
    The availability of approaches and exits. The construction of approach roads is very time consuming.
    The use of sites on or near demolished bridges may ensure good roads but will be known to the enemy.
    Unloading facilities. There must be facilities for unloading bridging vehicles.
    Engineer units available.

    Once the number and types of bridges and rafts has been decided and suitable sites selected the commander will make an outline plan. The leading units and reconnaissance parties will be guided by the outline plan and obtain the information required to make the final plan.

    Divisions will make outline plans based on:
    The composition of leading troops and reconnaissance parties.
    Special orders to leading troops or airborne troops regarding the seizure of bridges or other points.
    Outline deception plan.
    Forward assembly area.
    Number and type of bridges and rafts to be built.
    Composition and objectives of forces detailed to establish the bridgehead.
    Allotment of assault and bridging equipment.
    Position in the line of march of vehicles carrying bridging equipment.

    The detailed plan for the assault, establishment of bridgeheads and the construction of bridges.

    The timing of the assault is crucial. The assault troops will be very vulnerable and generally need the cover of darkness or smoke. It will rarely be possible to conceal the fact that an assault is to be launched but surprise as to the time and place can be achieved. Preparations must be carried out in secret.

    Timing. A night crossing will favour surprise, and provide cover for the assault force. However darkness will tend to cause delays. Alternatively smoke and supporting fire may provide cover. Ideally the first assault should be timed so as to allow all the attacking force to cross and advance to a point that can be held against counter attack. Light bridges and rafts should be in place to allow essential support weapons to cross. All of this should be complete before first light. On the other hand the first assault should not be so early as to allow the enemy to recover and deploy forces to meet the threat.

    Although darkness is desirable for the assault and for achieving a bridgehead sufficiently large to protect the crossing places from small arms fire, daylight will be required for the continuation of the assault and for the capture of second objectives.

    The detailed plan will be based on:
    The numbers, types and sites of bridges and rafts, plus the engineer troops detailed for their construction.
    The bridgeheads to be established.
    The movement of engineer units and bridging equipment to assembly areas forward of the main divisional assembly area.
    Arrangements for anti aircraft and anti tank defence.
    The scale of vehicles which units may take forward of the assembly area before the bridges are complete.
    The outline traffic control organisation.

    The plan for the crossing of the main body.
    Since the precise time at which bridges will be complete cannot be known, plans may be on a zero basis. This means that the plan, with timings, can be made without the actual start time being decided. When the start time is known this becomes zero hour and all other timings relate to it.

    It is vital that support weapons should be across the obstacle very rapidly in order to give defence against the inevitable counter attack. It is also important that the whole force should be across and united as soon as possible. The worst case scenario is to have the force split and unable to re unite. However speed becomes more difficult to achieve as tanks and anti tank guns become heavier and require heavier bridging and rafting.

    The plan for the main body crossing will be based on:
    The plan for exploitation of the assault.
    Harbour areas and dispersal points on the far side of the obstacle.
    Routes and timings for all units.
    Traffic control arrangements.
    Arrangements for defence of bridge sites against sabotage
    Arrangements for the maintenance and improvement of routes, access roads and exit roads.

    Traffic Control.
    To ensure a speedy and orderly crossing efficient traffic control is essential. The organisation needs to provide for:
    Control of bridging material to the selected forward harbours near bridge sites. The vehicles carrying bridging equipment should have priority on the roads and should be escorted by provost personnel to ensure this.
    Control of the movement of units from the assembly area over the bridges to ensure that there is no bunching on the approaches or delays in crossing.
    Control of the movement of units over the bridges in the order that suits tactical requirements. This may change and rapid changes may be necessary.
    Diversion of traffic from one crossing place to another in case of emergency.
    Direct units to bridges in accordance with the vehicle and bridge classification and weight limits.
    Control of returning traffic.

    The traffic control system will cover at least one route forward to each crossing place plus one lateral route on each side of the obstacle. The system will consist of:

    A regulating headquarters which is best sited at or near advanced divisional headquarters and be operated by a staff officer able to give immediate decisions. Regulating headquarters will have direct communication by line and wireless with sector control. These communications have priority.

    A sector control for each route. This will control traffic along the one route and crossing. Usually a second sector control will be positioned at the crossing site.

    Traffic posts will be sited at the junctions of the main routes and laterals on both sides of the obstacle. Communication by line and wireless will be provided between sector control and traffic posts. Traffic posts will be able to divert traffic to an alternative crossing if a bridge is damaged.

    Control extends from the assembly area to the far side traffic post where guides from brigades will lead units to their dispersal point. At actual bridge and ferry sites there should be staff officers, traffic control personnel, engineer officers or NCO’s and officers from the unit moving over the obstacle. Traffic control will regulate the flow and ensure that correct speed and spacing are maintained. Engineer personnel will decide whether a bridge is ready, if it must be closed for repair, what restrictions apply and if individual vehicles exceed the limit. Unit officers will control the movement of the unit and remain until all vehicles have crossed.

    The first requirement is for an assembly area. This will be some distnce from the obstacle, preferably beyond observation and field artillery fire. Its functions are:
    To provide harbour areas where divisional engineers will be joined by bridging equipment.
    To provide harbour areas for MT of units making the assault and support it.
    To provide an area where re organisation, regrouping and preparation of units detailed for the attack.

    Troops are divided into:
    Assault force.
    Supporting troops.
    Engineer bridging parties.
    Administrative units.

    Assault force.
    The assault force will consist primarily of infantry with such close support weapons as can be manhandled and ferried across in assault craft. Anti tank guns will be required. Engineer detachments must accompany the assaulting infantry to clear mines. Tanks should be included if possible, although these cannot normally cross until a bridgehead has been established. The first wave will be infantry only. Close support may include dismounted carrier platoon, mortars and ant tank guns. These may be able to give support from the near bank before crossing in subsequent waves.

    Assault parties and support parties will move to forming up places.

    Supporting troops.
    These will come from the supporting arms such as artillery, machine gun units or smoke units. Their role is to provide supporting fire for the assault, then for the advance from the far bank to bridgehead positions, and to support the assault troops in case of a counter attack. The supporting force should be deployed before the assault troops move forward from the forming up places. Only essential vehicles should be allowed forward of the assembly area.

    Engineer and bridging parties.
    An advanced engineer party for each bridge or ferry site must be deployed forward close behind the leading assault troops to complete detailed ground reconnaissance of the site, and to start on preparatory work before the arrival of the main bodies of field companies.

    Reserves should be maintained for exploitation and to deal with unexpected situations. A proportion of engineers and bridging equipment should be included. Reserves should be held well back in the assembly area, from where they can be moved forward as soon as bridges are completed.

    Administrative units.
    Administrative units and unit B echelon transport should be kept well in rear of the assembly area. They can move into the assembly area when the bridges are completed and the crossing of the main body is well advanced. Usually unit B transport will be held in the assembly area until all F groups have crossed.

    Assault Equipment.
    Assault equipment is intended for operation by assault units and not engineers. Some equipment will be already held in the divisional Field Park Company. Additional equipment will be brought forward from the RASC Bridging Company and delivered to the Field Park Company where it will be checked and reloaded. Equipment will then be guided forward by motorcyclists from the Field Park Company to the Brigade Assembly Area. It may then be transported forward to off loading points where it will be un loaded and handed over to infantry sub units who will carry it forward to forming up places. If the off loading points are some distance from forming up points reserve units may be used to carry equipment forward.

    Bridging Equipment.
    Bridging equipment will largely come from RASC Bridging Companies and Engineer Base Dumps. Vehicles carrying this equipment will have priority on roads. In the assembly area the bridging material is handed over to the divisional engineers who will allot it to field companies and reserve. Bridging vehicles will move under divisional control to forward assembly areas. When the time for commencing bridge construction approaches bridging vehicles will move forward to harbour areas near the bridge sites. Here vehicles will be marshalled and called forward a few at a time. Empty vehicles return to the harbour area by another route.

    Crossing places.
    Apart from the technical considerations listed elsewhere there are three considerations deciding the width of front on which the assault should be launched:
    It should be on as wide a front as possible so that premature disclosure in one area does not prejudice surprise in another.

    It must not be so wide as to risk defeat in detail because units are out of supporting range of one another.

    It must be sufficiently wide to provide a bridgehead large enough to cover the construction of bridges.

    Within units (battalions) crossing places for sub units (companies) must be sufficiently close together to make co operation between parties possible soon after crossing. Crossing points should be concentrated so that a commander can rapidly gain control on the far bank. Individual boats must cross from and too the same points on each trip to avoid sub units becoming mixed.

    A beachmaster should be appointed for each crossing place. He should control the crossing of second and subsequent waves. He will remain on the near bank.

    There are three successive objectives:

    - A position which will eliminate effective small arms fire against the crossing sites.

    - A position which will eliminate ground observation of artillery fire on the bridge sites while allowing artillery fire support from the near side of the river.

    - A position which will eliminate all artillery fire on the bridge site and provide the space for the main body to manoeuvre on the far side.

    In all cases the attack should aim at going forward as rapidly and as deep as possible. Only in extreme circumstances should the initial waves halt and wait for succeeding waves.

    Supporting and covering fire.
    It may be decided that an assault will be attempted without fire support, especially at night, in order to achieve surprise. Fire support should however be available at short notice if surprise should fail. If fire support is required it should be opened on centres of resistance shortly before the assault is launched. Infantry weapons giving covering fire should be sited near to the crossing places so that they can watch the progress of the assault. Covering fire should be at its maximum as the leading section launch their craft. In daylight smoke fired by artillery and mortars will be very effective.

    Engineers in the assault.
    Except in very difficult conditions the infantry must operate assault equipment without engineer assistance. Parties of engineers should follow closely behind assault troops in order that work on rafts and bridges may start as soon as a bridgehead has been established.

    Speed is essential. Assaulting troops must be established before the enemy can launch his counter attack. Once the far bank has been reached and sub units have reformed, they should move forward to their objectives. Some troops should have been detailed to clear the far bank of troops in the vicinity of the crossing places, and arrangements made to gain touch with troops at adjacent crossing places.

    As soon as any troops are established on the far bank they must be reinforced by all available reserves to enlarge the bridgehead. Brigade headquarters must be well forward to ensure that reserves can be rapidly diverted to meet changes in the tactical situation. Infantry close support weapons must be ferried as soon as possible without waiting for the construction of bridges or heavy rafts. Anti tank guns in particular must be got across early.

    Artillery support will be required by assaulting troops. Guns must be sited well forward and Forward Observation Officers should cross with the early waves. Counter battery fire may be required especially if enemy artillery threatens the bridge sites. Air observation should be available. Tactical air support will be useful against targets beyond artillery range, in particular enemy reserves preparing to counter attack.

    Before work is started on bridges and heavy rafts every effort should be made to reach the second objectives. As soon as possible the third objectives should be reached to protect the crossing sites form enemy artillery.

    At each bridge site an officer should be appointed to be responsible for local defence. He will not be an engineer officer and will be able to call upon any troops in the vicinity to assist. Troops must remain in position until a sufficient force has crossed to remove the danger of counter attack. Some local defence will be required against sabotage and attack by airborne troops.

    It will generally be easier to build a bridge on the site of a demolished one. Not only will there be good foundations but there will be good approach roads and exit roads. Construction of approaches and exits can be more time consuming than building the bridge and may require pioneer or infantry as labour. Reserves of manpower and equipment should be provided in order to maintain the approach and exit roads, and to repair damage to the bridge.

    It may be possible to start preliminary work on a bridge site before bridgeheads are established. It may even be possible to carry out some work before the assault is launched. The construction of the bridge should start as soon as the bridgehead is secure.

    The bridging plan may include both light and heavy bridges. Light bridges will be completed more rapidly and will allow most of the transport to cross. However heavy bridges will be required for tanks and other armoured vehicles and the construction of light bridges should not delay the construction of heavy ones.

    A striking force of units not involved in the assault and the establishment of bridgeheads should be organised in the assembly area. If an enemy is retreating this force should cross bridges first so as to carry out a pursuit. This should take priority over all but the most essential vehicles for the assault force. In any case as soon as the bridge is complete the divisional headquarters must be informed and the traffic control organisation should order units forward. If there are light and heavy bridges it must be decided whether it is better to pass entire units over the bridge or to divide it into light and heavy vehicles.

    The capacity of a military bridge is unlikely to exceed 100 vehicles per hour allowing for speed restrictions and spacing. Over prolonged periods 60 vehicles per hour is more reasonable to allow for interruptions and maintenance.

    Arrangements must be made to replace bridging equipment in the divisional field parks. Infantry should salvage the assault equipment that they used and deliver it to the engineers at a pre arranged rendezvous.

    Eventually some of the bridges will be replaced by more permanent bridges with more permanent roads. There will also be a need for heavier bridges to take loaded tank transporters and other heavy loads. Each corps requires a Class 80 bridge. Line of Communication engineers will build both road and rail bridges to carry the supplies for the army.

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  3. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    Do you know the location of this photo?
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    No. I have had the photo a long time and was only interested in the people. It is a IWM photo so will have a caption if you search their photo collection.

    Alex1975uk likes this.
  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    Operation Torchlight.

    15 Division (Assault) Order of Battle.
    15 Reconnaissance Regiment
    1 Middlesex Regiment (Machine Gun)

    131, 181, and 190 Field Regiments RA
    102 Anti Tank Regiment RA
    119 LAA Regiment RA

    20, 278, and 279 Field Companies RE
    624 Field Park Squadron RE
    26 Bridging Platoon RE

    153, 193 and 194 Field Ambulance
    22 and 23 Field Dressing Stations

    44th Infantry Brigade
    8 Royal Scots Regiment
    6 Kings Own Scottish Borderers
    6 Royal Scots Fusiliers

    46th Infantry Brigade
    2 Glasgow Highlanders
    7 Seaforth Highlanders
    9 Cameronians

    227th Infantry Brigade
    10 Highland Light Infantry
    2 Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders
    2 Gordon Highlanders.

    The following additional troops were made available (artillery and engineers are listed separately).

    Under command
    4 Armoured Brigade.
    Royal Scots Greys.
    3/4 City of London Yeomanry.
    44 Royal Tank Regiment. (DD Tanks.)
    2 Kings Royal Rifle Corps. Motor Battalion.
    4 Royal Horse Artillery. Self Propelled 25pdrs.
    129 Self Propelled Battery of 86 Anti Tank Regiment.
    5 Royal Berkshire Regiment plus signals RAMC and REME (Bank Group)
    This battalion had formed the nucleus of 8 Beach Group on Juno Beach on D Day and was assigned this similar role for the Rhine Crossing.

    In Support
    2 County of London Yeomanry (Westminster Dragoons) less one squadron (Flails)
    7 Royal Tank Regiment less one squadron (Crocodiles)
    East Riding Yeomanry (LVT)
    11 Royal Tank Regiment (LVT)
    One squadron 59 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment

    The assault.
    15 Divisions assault was timed for 0200 hours on D Day and by this time 51 Division and 1 Commando Brigade should have already crossed the Rhine and secured the flanks of 2 Army’s sector. 15 Division planned an initial assault with two brigades up and one in reserve. Each brigade was to assault with two battalions up and one in reserve.

    44 Brigade.
    Codeword Poker.
    On the right, to the North East of Xanten, 44 Infantry Brigade would cross with 6 Royal Scots Fusiliers and 8 Royal Scots carried by 11 Royal Tank Regiment with LVTs. The brigade was to capture and hold objectives on the right and then affect a junction with 6 Airborne Division and 17 US Airborne Division. When airborne troops were firmly on their objectives 44 Infantry Brigade was to join the mobile striking force in seizing its objectives.

    227 Brigade.
    Codeword Nap.
    On the left, from the area of Vynen. 227 Infantry Brigade would cross with 2 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and 10 Highland Light Infantry carried by the LVTs of East Riding Yeomanry. The brigade was to capture and hold objectives on the left. When all objectives had been seized and the area was secure 227 Infantry Brigade would relieve 6 Airborne Division.

    Once established the assault brigades were to clear the area between their respective objectives.

    46 Brigade.
    Codeword Whist.
    46 Infantry Brigade with 44 Royal Tank Regiment (DD tanks) of 4 Armoured Brigade was the reserve for the force. It was to move across the Rhine on LVT and stormboat ferries and assemble on the far side. It was then to seize and hold woodland and high ground forward of the assault brigades and effect the junction with XXX Corps. It would then pass into divisional reserve to be employed as the situation required.

    44 Royal Tanks were also to be available to support the assault brigades if required.

    A mobile striking force under the command of Headquarters 4 Armoured Brigade was given high priority on Class 50/60 rafts. It was intended to move forward as rapidly as possible and seize bridges over the River Ijssel. The force was to consist of:
    One Armoured Regiment
    One Self Propelled Regiment RA. 4 Royal Horse Artillery.
    One Self Propelled Anti Tank Battery RA. 129 Battery of 86 Anti Tank Regiment
    One Assault Regiment RE
    One Squadron Armoured Personnel Carrier from 59 Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment.
    One Motor Battalion. 2 Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The Motor Battalion was to be carried on the tanks of the armoured regiment.

    An additional infantry battalion was to be provided from 44 Infantry Brigade picked up by the APC squadron on the far side.

    Phases in the assault river crossing.

    1. Assault Phase.
    This comprises the passage of the Assault Wave (personnel and some jeeps and carriers of the assault battalions) and the Ferry Wave (the remaining personnel and essential vehicles of the assault brigade). It begins when all assault brigades are poised for attack in the Marshalling Areas and before the earliest to move is due to leave. This should be about H – 1. It ends when the last essential vehicle of the reserve battalions of the assault brigades has crossed the river. This should be about H + 4.

    Assault Wave.
    This is the prestowed LVT lift of personnel, vehicles and anti tank guns which leads the assault. It is divided into two flights each of three troops of LVTs. The first flight carries three companies and some mortars. The second carries the fourth company, anti tank guns, machine guns and some more mortars. Both flights include a Royal Artillery Forward Observation Officers party.

    Ferry Reserve.
    This is the reserve battalion of each assault brigade and is ready to cross in LVTs and stormboats as soon as possible after the assault waves have crossed.

    Ferry Wave.
    This follows the Assault Wave and is the second wave of the Assault Phase. It comprises:
    - The remaining essential vehicles and equipment of the assaulting battalions which have not been able to accompany the assault wave.
    - The personnel and essential vehicles and equipment of the reserve battalion.
    This wave is carried in the newly established stormboat and LVT ferries.

    2. Follow Up.
    This phase comes immediately after the Assault Phase and immediately before the Build Up Phase. In fact it may overlap the Assault Phase as the Class 50/60 Ferries may be ready to start ferrying over armoured vehicles of the Follow Up Phase before the Ferry Wave has ended. This phase is the crossing of the Reserve Brigade and Armour with the Mobile Striking Force a high priority.

    3. Build Up.
    This phase comes immediately after the Follow Up Phase and comprises the passage across the river of the bulk of the guns of the assaulting divisions and Army Groups Royal Artillery followed by reserve divisions.

    Recognition Signals.
    Since the troops of 15 Division would link up with Airborne troops some recognition signs and signals were required to avoid friendly fire incidents.
    - Yellow celanese triangles were to be carried by all ranks of the assault brigade groups crossing the river on D Day. These would be waved as a recognition sign.
    - Passwords were issued. These consisted of a challenge and an answer and would change at 1200 hours each day. Lightning/ Thunder, Hither/ Thither, Hundreds/Thousands and Please /Thanks.
    - Wireless Contact Channel No 33 was used for identification.
    - Red berets were to be worn by airborne troops after the initial drop.
    - Fluorescent panels were used for ground to air recognition.

    For security reasons the assault units of XII Corps did not move into their concentration areas until the last moment. Until that time most units remained west of the River Maas. 1 Commando Brigade moved on the night of 20/21 March and 15 Division on the nights of 21/22 March and 22/23 March. However a considerable amount of reconnaissance and marking of crossing points and forming up points had been carried out including areas for:
    - Staging areas for units under the command of 15 Division, plus Corps and Army units due to cross in the early stages and the land tails of the Airborne units.
    - Two Marshalling Areas.
    - Two Vehicle Waiting Areas.
    - Armour Waiting Area.
    - DD Tank Inflation Area.
    - Four LVT Collecting Areas.
    - Four LVT Loading Areas.
    - Two Stormboat Waiting Areas.
    - Forward hides for stormboats and class 9 raft equipment.
    - RE Bridge Park and Stores Dump.
    - Bridge Vehicle Marshalling Areas.
    - DUKW Marshalling and Collecting Areas.
    - Site for Bank Control Headquarters
    - Two sites for Crossing Control Headquarters.

    An elaborate network of cross country routes linking all the above with the river bank had to be reconnoitred. Separate routes suitable for LVTs, infantry, armour and wheeled vehicles were required.

    When the various sites were selected a network of buried telephone lines was laid to connect all the elements to headquarters and control units.

    In addition the Corps Commander Royal Artillery was responsible for selecting gun sites and ammunition dump sites for the large number of artillery units that would be deployed under the Artillery Plan.

    Finally the units of 52 Division which were holding the front line had to be accommodated, and supplied. These units would remain in place until the bridgehead was secured.

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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    It was obvious to the enemy that an assault crossing of the Rhine would take place, but he could not know where or when and this was kept from him till the last moment. The overall plan was to convince the enemy that a crossing in 1 Canadian Army area was most likely.

    1 Canadian Army constructed dummy dumps, carried out a dummy build up of gun positions and ammunition dumps, marked out tracks and laid underground cables.

    Reconnaissance and patrol activity was maintained at an equal level across 1 Canadian Army, 2 Army and 9 US Army fronts.

    In the assault area forward movement of units was delayed as long as possible. Marshalling areas, RE areas, forward dumps, equipment hides and other similar areas were carefully selected so that vehicles might enter and leave them without leaving visible tracks. Work on forward LVT tracks and preparations on the near bank were not permitted until darkness on the actual night of the assault.

    Artillery movement required careful planning. Ammunition was moved into dumps which were then carefully camouflaged. Gun positions were prepared and also camouflaged. Extra camouflage officers were attached for this purpose. The guns did not occupy their positions until the last practicable moment.

    A smoke screen was maintained along the entire fifty mile front for seven days before the assault. This was in the form of smoke pots manned by Pioneer Corps personnel. Extra smoke could be provided by trailer mounted smoke generators towed by the rare FWD 3ton 4 X 4 truck.

    When the bombardment commenced the guns of flanking formations joined in so that even at this late time the precise target of the assault could not be deduced.

    Wireless deception created the illusion that no regrouping had taken place. Signals traffic was maintained in areas previously occupied by assault formations while the assault formations and units maintained wireless silence.

    Underground telephone lines which were needed for communications to from and between headquarters, to gun positions, for traffic control and to avoid using wireless communications until the last moment. The routes for these lines were carefully chosen so that the disturbed ground would not be obvious.

    Forward routes for heavy vehicles and tracked vehicles were carefully chosen to avoid leaving worn areas which could be detected from the air.

    Sound equipment was used to deceive the enemy by broadcasting the sound of movement of troops and vehicles. This was mounted on White Scout Cars and consisted of RCA film sound machinery played through large speakers.

    Since LVTs were noisy and the crossings would use artificial moonlight provided by searchlights, LVT sounds and searchlight beams were produced for a considerable period before D Day so that their appearance on the day would not seem unusual.

    All forward movement was carefully segregated so that in the daytime only normal maintenance traffic was on the roads. All tactical moves were made at night.

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  7. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Good stuff, Trux!
    And quite a few aspects that are new to me. Definitely a valuable contribution to this topic.
    ted angus likes this.
  8. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Hi Trux,
    I am interested to find out which source you used for this bit of information ...

    Thank you!
  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG


    Basically BAOR Battlefield Tour, Operation Plunder, 12 Corp crossing the Rhine 23 - 25 March 1945. Published 1947.

    Information on sonic equipment from two editions of Wheels and Tracks magazine. One is a verbatim report of a conversation between two veterans who served in such a unit.

    Chris C likes this.
  10. alberk

    alberk Well-Known Member

    Mike - thank you!
  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    A very great weight of artillery was made available to XII Corps and placed under the command of Corps Commander Royal Artillery. Groups of artillery units were placed under divisional Commanders Royal Artillery and Commanders Army Group Royal Artillery.

    The role of the senior Royal Artillery officers is seldom mentioned in histories of WW2. The divisional CRA (Commander Royal Artillery) was a brigadier and a key figure in the planning of any operation. Artillery had become such a powerful arm that no operation could be planned without the full involvement of the CRA and in most cases the CRA could virtually veto any plan that he was not confident in being able to fully support. It would be very unwise for a divisional commander to ignore his advice. This put the CRA in a position of great influence and responsibility. In many cases he was a de facto second in command. British divisions did not have a second in command, the senior brigadier assuming command if necessary. However he CRA was fully conversant with the divisional commanders plans and intentions. He worked closely with the divisional commander and placed his headquarters close to divisional headquarters. In addition the excellent Royal Artillery communications network gave the CRA access to information on the activity of other formations.

    The large number of guns, and the large quantities of ammunition, which were to be moved and positioned required careful planning. A clear priority was to site guns as far forward on the near bank flood plain as was practicable so as to obtain maximum range on the far side of the river. It would not be practicable to move large numbers of guns during the early stages of the crossing, and there would be no spare capacity for guns on ferries. Similarly it would not be possible to supply sufficient ammunition on the far bank.

    The forward positioning of large numbers of guns caused further problems. Many guns and ammunition dumps would be in full view of enemy observation posts. Moreover the guns and ammunition would have to be positioned some days before the crossing since the routes would need to be cleared for other units. Large artillery weapons and tractors were notorious road blockers. All the above made the continuous laying of smoke along the near bank a necessity. This in turn made observation of enemy targets almost impossible.

    Although some roads were available they tended not to run towards the river bank since there were no bridges or settlements for them to serve. This made the construction and maintenance of approach roads by engineers and pioneers an important priority. Again heavy guns and tractors could cause damage to roads and to soft ground.

    Some units had considerable distances to travel. Some heavy artillery had to move across the lines of communication from the Canadian sector and at least one AA unit was moved up from Brussels.

    Important as the artillery was it did not have absolute priority in the selection of sites. Forward routes for assault forces and for ferry and bridging units had to be kept clear. These units also needed hides and concentration areas close to ferry sites.

    Two special cases were 4 RHA and the Field Regiments of 15 Division. 4 RHA would be the first artillery unit to cross the river and needed to be sited near to the Armour Waiting Area. It could then continue to fire from the near bank until called forward and would have a short distance to travel to reach the ferries. 15 Division field artillery would move across the river as soon as the bridges were open and needed to be near the bridge sites.

    In all the following were deployed
    24 X 3.7” howitzers with 5,832 rounds.
    336 X 25pdr with 393,120 rounds HE and 105,840 rounds smoke.
    16 X 4.5” with 17,280 rounds.
    160 X 5.5” with 172,800 rounds.
    52 X 155mm with 7,200 rounds (US not included).
    16 X 7.2” with 7,920 rounds.
    2 X 8” with 280 rounds.
    4 X 240mm with 600 rounds.
    48 X 3.7” in field role with 43,200 rounds.
    48 X 3.7” in AA role. Ammunition not known.
    12 X rocket projectors.

    The Planned Programme.
    The Planned Programme would start at 1800 hours on D-1 and proceed through a number of stages. This programme ended at P Hour. This was the equivalent of H Hour for the airborne Operation Varsity. P Hour was 1000 hours on D Day.

    The programme opened with a counter battery bombardment against all known hostile batteries by medium and heavy guns.

    The main effort was then employed in support of 1 Commando Brigades Operation Widgeon. It was thought that the securing of the right flank was essential.

    With 1 Commando Brigade firmly established fire support would switch to 15 Divisions Operation Torchlight.

    Finally support was made available to Operation Varsity, the landing of airborne forces.

    Operation Plunder.
    The XII Counter Battery Bombardment Programme.

    1800 hours to 2000 hours.
    XII Corps Counter Battery Bombardment Programme arranged by Commander 9 Army Group Royal Artillery to cover all located hostile batteries. Resources deployed were
    Eleven Medium Regiments
    Two Heavy Regiments
    One Super Heavy Regiment
    One Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    Three US field artillery battalions with 155mm guns.

    2000 hours to 0100 hours.
    XII Corps Counter Battery Bombardment Programme arranged by Commander 9 Army Group Royal Artillery on the most likely positions of hostile batteries. Resources deployed were
    One Medium Regiment
    Four Heavy Batteries of 155mm guns
    One Super Heavy Battery of 8” guns
    One Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    Three US field artillery battalions with 155mm guns.

    0100 hours to 0400 hours.
    Counter Battery programme continued by heavy batteries only. Commander 9 Army Group Royal Artillery could call on a number of medium, heavy and heavy anti aircraft regiments if required.

    Operation Widgeon.
    In support of 1 Commando Brigade.

    2030 hours to 2130 hours.
    1 Commando Brigade Softening Bombardment Programme arranged by Commander Royal Artillery 7 Armoured Division. Resources deployed were
    Ten Medium Regiments
    Four Heavy Batteries of 7.2” guns
    One Super Heavy Battery of 240mm guns

    2130 hours to 2230 hours.
    1 Commando Brigade Initial Covering Fire Programme arranged by Commander Royal Artillery 7 Armoured Division. Resources deployed were
    Seven Field Regiments.

    2230 hours to 2245 hours.
    A heavy bomber attack on Wesel. If this could not take place one US Heavy Artillery Group was on call for a bombardment of the same targets.

    2230 hours to 0800 hours.
    1 Commando Brigade Covering Fire at call. Resources deployed were
    Two Field Regiments
    One Mountain Regiment
    Two Medium Regiments
    One Heavy Battery of 7.2” guns

    Plunder 1commando fire plan..jpg

    RA Fire Plan to support 1 Commando Brigade.
    Along the river bank is shown, in red, the creeping barrage laid on by the field regiments. Red crosses mark targets which were pre registered and upon which the Commandos might call for fire. Some are probable centres of resistance while others are along routes which a counter attack might take.

    In blue are lines along which smoke could be laid by three field regiments if required. These would mask the river, and the assault units, from observation from the high wooded ground. No smoke was ordered.

    Last edited: Jun 25, 2021
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  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Operation Torchlight.
    In support of 15 Division.

    2330 hours to 0030 hours.
    15 Division Softening Bombardment Programme arranged by Commander Royal Artillery 15 Division. Resources deployed were
    Ten Medium Regiments
    Four Heavy Batteries of 7.2” guns
    One Super Heavy Battery of 240mm guns

    0100 hours to 0530 hours.
    15 Division Initial Covering Fire Programme arranged by Commander Royal Artillery 15 Division. Resources deployed were
    Twelve Field Regiments (three to be available for firing a corps smoke screen if required)
    Nine Medium Regiments
    Three Heavy Batteries of 7.2” guns
    One Super Heavy Battery of 240mm guns
    Three Heavy Anti Aircraft Batteries
    One Rocket Projector Battery

    Plunder fie plan.jpg

    XII Corps Fire Plan.
    In red are shown the pre identified targets on which fire could be delivered. These were already located, surveyed and fire could be called by the use of codenames and/or co ordinates. Along the river bank are linear barrages in support of the assault troops. Elsewhere are areas and fixed co ordinates on which fire could be ordered.

    In blue are the lines on which smoke could be ordered This would be delivered by the three field regiments available for the task. This would lay a smoke screen between the assault troops and the high wooded ground to the north east. It was thought that these areas could be used by the enemy to observe fire on the assault troops and crossing places.

    Operation Varsity.
    In support of Airborne Forces.
    0820 hours to 0920 hours.

    Bombardment Programme on targets selected by Commander Royal Artillery 6 Airborne Division and 17 US Airborne Division. Programme arranged by Corps Commander Royal Artillery XII Corps. Resources deployed were
    Nine Field Regiments (three to be available for firing a corps smoke screen if required)
    Eleven Medium Regiments
    One Heavy Regiment
    Two Heavy Batteries of 7.2” gun
    One Super Heavy Battery of 240mm guns.
    One Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    Three US Field Artillery Battalions of 155mm guns

    This bombardment was intended to neutralise targets selected by the airborne forces. These were mainly known troop positions and defensive works plus artillery which might be in a position to interfere with the airborne troops. It was important that as little damage as possible be caused to the landing grounds needed for the airborne troops so VT (Variable Time) fuses were used. These used a miniature radar to detonate the shell when it was a preset distance from the ground. This avoided cratering on the ground while being very effective against personnel.

    One medium regiment, one HAA Regiment and two heavy batteries were at call for counter battery work if required.

    0930 hours to 0958 hours.
    Anti Flak Bombardment Programme on targets selected by HQ Second Army and 83 Group RAF. Programme arranged by Corps Commander Royal Artillery XII Corps. Resources deployed were
    Eleven Field Regiments (three to be available for firing a corps smoke screen if required)
    Eleven Medium Regiments.
    Two Heavy Regiment
    One Super Heavy Regiment
    One Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    Three US Field Artillery Battalions of 155mm guns

    This programme involved even more artillery resources than the previous one. It was intended to suppress enemy anti aircraft units which might engage the airborne forces. The intention was to either destroy AA guns or make the crews remain under cover while the initial airborne drops were made. The timing allowed a two minute gap between the end of the fire programme and the airborne drop but it was far from being that simple.

    It was laid down that no guns must fire along or across the routes taken by aircraft during the fly in or fly out. Several precautions were ordered to ensure this. Responsibility was placed on each troop Gun Position Officer who was to stop the fire of his guns if he considered that any aircraft was flying into the line of fire. Each troop was to post a lookout to warn of any aircraft approaching the line of fire.

    No anti aircraft guns, except those used in the ground role, were to fire between P-1 and P+4 hours. Air defence and anti aircraft fire suppression was then the responsibility of 83 Group 2TAF.

    Although the fire programme was intended to end two minutes before the arrival of the airborne forces it was realised that they might arrive early. In fact they did arrive eight minutes early. An observer with a wireless set on the CCRA net were posted ten miles behind the gun areas to give early warning of the approach of airborne forces. A second observer was posted with an observation tower in the woods near Xanten. This observer gave the order to stop firing to all corps artillery. They were then forbidden to fire again until so ordered by CCRA.

    The mention of an observation tower is of interest. It is known that a number were manufactured in Belgium and there are photographs of them on Bedford QL and Diamond T 975 chassis but this is the only mention found of them in operation. The tower had three telescopic columns which could raise the observation platform some thirty feet. They were intended for use in the low lying and flat areas of Holland and Germany. A disadvantage was that where they were most needed they were also the most exposed.

    All the above meant that there could be no fire support at the time of landing of the airborne forces and no response to calls for fire support until the fly in and fly outs were completed. In practice some firing was permitted after 1½ hours when the stream of aircraft thinned out and it was possible to see when the line of fire was clear.

    At 1000 hours the Artillery Groups passed under command of the actual formations, initially Airborne Corps or 12 Corps. The guns themselves remained in their positions on the near bank.

    In addition for one hour before each assault (H – 60 minutes to H Hour) all available Light Anti Aircraft guns, medium machine guns and 4.2” mortars were to fire concentrations on known enemy locations. These were known as Pepperpots and were under centralised divisional plans.
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  13. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I know this is really marginalia, and I hope you don't mind me adding this, but for 51 Division, 61 Anti-Tank Regiment's war diary records the pepper pot as a mustard pot (!) and shows an even more diverse set of participants. There is a page with the fire plan as well -- but whether all of this was actually the final plan, I don't know.

    Attached Files:

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  14. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    We like marginalia, minutae, appendices and footnotes.

    Perhaps a musterdpot is different to a pepperpot in that it includes anti tank guns. However I see that your list includes a APC unit which does not have weapons.

    Something else to think about.

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  15. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi Mike!

    I think some still had the left-hand machine gun turret - visible in the example held at Bovington. Anyway, I'm attaching the relevant pages here. :)

    Attached Files:

  16. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Royal Artillery Grouping.
    This is initial grouping as at H Hour.

    XII Corps Commander Royal Artillery.
    Under direct command:
    7 Survey Regiment plus
    B Observation Battery, 10 Survey Regiment
    2 X 4 pen sound location detachments
    Counter Battery Officer and Staff, XII Corps
    344 Mortar Locating Battery
    581 Mortar Locating Battery
    653 Air Observation Post Squadron, less three flights
    A Troop, 100 Radar Battery.

    Commander Royal Artillery 7 Armoured Division Group
    3 Royal Horse Artillery
    5 Royal Horse Artillery
    65 Anti Tank Regiment
    One Battery 15 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    1 Mountain Regiment (from 52 Division)
    B Flight 653 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander Royal Artillery 15 Division Group
    131 Field Regiment
    181 Field Regiment
    190 Field Regiment
    102 Anti Tank Regiment
    119 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    4 Royal Horse Artillery (from 4 Armoured Brigade)
    6 Field Regiment (from 3 AGRA)
    129 SP Battery 86 Anti Tank Regiment
    364/112 Light Anti Aircraft Battery, Rocket Projectiles
    C Flight 653 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander Royal Artillery 52 Division Group
    79 Field Regiment
    80 Field Regiment
    186 Field Regiment
    54 Anti Tank Regiment
    108 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    63 Medium Regiment (from 8 AGRA)
    146 Medium Regiment (from 8 AGRA)
    One Battery 108 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment

    Commander Royal Artillery 53 Division Group
    81 Field Regiment
    83 Field Regiment
    133 Field Regiment
    71 Anti Tank Regiment
    25 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    77 Medium Regiment (from 8 AGRA)
    One Battery 108 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    A Flight 653 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander 3 Army Group Royal Artillery Group
    13 Medium Regiment
    59 Medium Regiment
    67 Medium Regiment
    72 Medium Regiment
    50 Heavy Regiment
    One Battery 108 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    A Flight 658 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander 8 Army Group Royal Artillery Group
    25 Field Regiment
    61 Medium Regiment
    53 Heavy Regiment
    40 US Field Artillery Group with three battalions of 155mm guns
    C Flight 658 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander 9 Army Group Royal Artillery Group
    9 Medium Regiment
    11 Medium Regiment
    107 Medium Regiment
    3 Super Heavy Regiment
    90 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    C Flight 659 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Commander 100 Anti Aircraft Brigade Group
    86 Anti Tank Regiment (XII Corp)
    113 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    123 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment
    90 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    108 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    151 Anti Aircraft Operations Room
    2 Independent Light Anti Aircraft/Searchlight Battery
    One Battery 93 AA Regiment with 20mm SP guns
    One Troop 474 Searchlight Battery
    806 Pioneer Smoke Company
    112 Light Anti Aircraft Regiment (less one battery) (plus one SP troop 15 LAA Regiment)
    399/121 Light Anti Aircraft Battery
    67 Medium Regiment
    72 Medium Regiment
    50 Heavy Regiment
    One Battery 108 Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment
    A Flight 658 Air Observation Post Squadron

    Note: 100 Anti Aircraft Brigade Group was responsible for the defence of the crossing points in all respects including:
    - Anti Aircraft defence. Initially with Light Anti Aircraft units but later the Heavy Anti Aircraft units turned from ground roles to anti aircraft defence.
    - Smoke. Smoke was available to cover the crossings from observation by ground observers and also from air attack.
    - Ground defence. Anti aircraft guns, anti tank guns and three infantry companies were assigned for ground defence of crossing points.
    - Defence against water borne attack. CDL lights and anti tank guns were assigned to identify and counter attack by mines or swimmers.

    Light Anti Aircraft guns were to be employed as a navigational aid to mark the main axes of LVT crossings during the assault.

    Engineers and Royal Navy also maintained booms across the river.

    At P Hour, 1000 hours, the following regrouping took place.
    Passing under command of XVIII Corps (Airborne) were:
    52 Division Group in direct support of British 6 Airborne Division.
    53 Division Group in direct support of US 17 Airborne Division.
    8 AGRA Group in general support.
    These units remained on the west bank and the arrangement lasted only until it was possible for guns to cross the Rhine. 52 and 53 Division Groups would remain in support of XVIII Airborne Corps until they were required to move forward with heir own divisions.

    6 Airborne Division and 17 US Airborne Divisions each had Forward Observer Units. These provided wireless communication between the FOOs dropped with airborne units and the guns of XII Corps. Artillery units had liaison officers attached from airborne units. US units were specially trained to work with British artillery.

    Remaining in support of XII Corps were:
    15 Division Group.
    7 Armoured Division Group.
    3 AGRA Group.

    9 AGRA Group was at the call of either XVIII Airborne Corps or XII Corps.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
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  17. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    With reference to the APC unit mentioned in Post 33. It seems that in both XII Corps and XXX Corps areas APC squadrons rapidly converted from Kangaroo APC to CDL lights, retaining their original designation, 49 APC in this case. More on their use later.

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  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Survey, Counter Battery, Counter Mortar and Air Observation.

    Counter battery work was considered to be very important and in order for it to be effective the artillery needed to know the exact position of the enemy guns. Much work was done in locating these guns in advance but there remained a need to rapidly locate any guns that opened fire during the action. By 1945 the artillery was well equipped for this task. Many of the methods dated to WW1 but there were many improvements and innovations.

    Corps Counter Battery Officer.
    Counter Battery Officer and Staff, XII Corps
    344 Mortar Locating Battery
    581 Mortar Locating Battery
    653 Air Observation Post Squadron, less three flights

    Corps Survey Regiment.
    For Plunder XII Corps had the use of its own 7 Survey Regiment with its two Batteries plus Headquarters Observation Troop and ‘B’ Battery from 10 Survey Regiment from VIII Corps. In addition XII Corps had two 4 pen Sound Location Detachments and ‘A’ Troop, 100 Radar Battery.

    Headquarters Troop.
    The Headquarters Troop of the Survey Regiment was organised and equipped to carry out survey work. It was essential to establish distances and bearings in order to accurately control the artillery fire. The Headquarters Troop established a corps grid upon which all other artillery units based their own surveys to establish the exact location of their own guns, and thus the range and bearing to targets.

    Troop Headquarters consisted of a Captain, Subaltern, serjeant, surveyor, signaller, two driver operators a batman driver, a motorcycle orderly and a driver IC. Transport was a motorcycle, two Jeeps and a 15cwt with No22 set. There were also two 15cwt with cable layers and two 3ton 4 X 4, one with administrative personnel, supplies and stores and one with technical personnel and store.

    There were two sections each with three jeeps with trailers and two surveyors plus a motorcycle orderly, and one section with two 15cwt each carrying a serjeant surveyor, four surveyors and driver.

    The Observation Troop.
    The observation troop located enemy artillery by observing the flashes of gun firing. The four flash spotting posts were spread along the divisional area and linked to troop headquarters. When fully established the posts would be fully surveyed and telephone lines laid. This however could take twelve hours to establish and in the meantime the posts had wireless communication which allowed them to be operational in four hours.

    When an enemy gun fired the bearing of the flash was noted using Instrument, Flash Spotting No4, which was a powerful pair of binoculars with a bearing scale. The bearings were first reported to the troop headquarters reporting centre which made sure that all posts were observing the same gun. This was done by using the Don 3 telephone which had a flashing light as well as a buzzer. When the observer saw the flash he pressed the switch which operated the light and buzzer at headquarters. If all the lines flashed at the same time they were probably observing the same flash. The bearings were then reported to the troop headquarters computing centre which used a plotting board to locate the source of the flash. The troop headquarters also maintained a board showing all known enemy guns.

    As well as flash spotting the observation posts were equipped with powerful spotting telescopes and reported all enemy activity. The observation posts also recorded the fall of enemy shells and were trained to analyse shell craters to determine the bearing of enemy guns and their calibre.

    Unfortunately the extensive use of smoke in the days before the crossing obscured limited the visibility and thus the effectiveness of the observation troops.

    Sound Ranging Troop.
    The sound ranging troop was similar in deployment and operation to the flash spotting troop. It deployed a line of microphones across the divisional front. These were connected to a pen recorder in the plotting centre. It was not practical to have the recorders running continuously so they were switched on when the advanced post reported hearing firing. Each microphone then picked up the sound and transmitted it to the plotting centre recorders. The bearing of the gun could be deduced by the differing times at which the sound was recorded. The recording film could also show the sound from the shell exploding and this gave the time of flight and thus the range. Variations in the recorded patterns could also tell the type of gun and its calibre.

    All information had to be adjusted for wind and temperature which affected the time taken for sound to travel through the air. This explains the presence of the RAF meteorological section.

    The signals were transmitted from the microphones to the recorder by wireless. This was a modified Wireless set No11 which was no longer in general use. It was a sender, or transmitter, located at each microphone and each operated on a separate frequency. At the plotting centre each transmitter had a R105 receiver tuned to the frequency of the transmitter to which it was working. Line communication was needed so that the advanced posts could give the signal to turn on the recorders. This system could link five microphones to the recorder. It took some time to establish a complete network.

    Information was processed by using the plotting board, and ranges were worked out using a mechanical computer.

    Headquarters Observation Troop.
    This was a troop from the Corps Survey Regiment and was for use in ranging friendly artillery air bursts. Normally one observation section would be deployed to each forward division. Its communications were to the Corp Counter Battery Officer.

    There was a small headquarters commanded by a Captain and two Observation Sections commanded by Subalterns. Each section consisted of a headquarters with a Subaltern, surveyor and batman driver in a Jeep, a motorcycle orderly, five surveyors and a driver in a 15cwt GS with trailer and a 15cwt cablelayer. There were three identical observation teams each of two surveyors with a jeep and trailer for their equipment. No wireless sets were used, all communications being by line.

    Corps Sound Ranging Troop.
    This was designed to be an increment to a Survey Regiment RA.

    The first equipment issued to counter mortars was an improved sound locating system. This used a new four pen recorder, Recorder SR No2 MkI, together with smaller microphones and a new control unit. Four microphones were spread over a 100 yard front and connected by wire to the recorder. This effectively recorded heavy mortar fire and enabled a speedy plotting and thus a speedy response. A further refinement in 1945 was to use a multiplex phoneline which allowed all four signals to travel down a single line using different frequencies.

    Two Sound Ranging Detachments were deployed. These reported back to a Troop Headquarters under a captain, who in turn reported to the Commanding Officer of the Corps Survey Regiment.

    A Survey Section surveyed locations for the microphones. This consisted of a Subaltern, a bombardier surveyor, six surveyors, a batman driver and a motorcycle orderly. Transport consisted of a motorcycle, four jeeps and two 10cwt trailers.

    Each of the Sound Recorder Sections consisted of a Subaltern, three driver operators, a serjeant surveyor, a lance serjeant surveyor, a lance bombardier surveyor, four surveyors, a batman driver, a driver, two gunner operators line and wireless and two signallers. Transport consisted of two Jeeps and one 10cwt trailer.

    ‘A’ Troop, 100 Army Radar Battery.
    As Heavy Anti Aircraft regiments were not much needed in their primary role some use was made of their radars for counter mortar work. There were a considerable number of Radar AA No3 MkII sets available and with very little modification these could be used to locate mortars. The moment a mortar round left the tube it became visible on the radar and its bearing and range could be determined very quickly. The limiting factor became the speed with which the information could be sent to the guns and acted upon.

    Troop Headquarters
    Captain Instructor in Fire Control, Subaltern, serjeant technical instructor in fire control, clerk, vehicle mechanic, and two batman drivers. Transport consisted of a motorcycle and two Jeeps.

    The troop consisted of three Sections each with twelve operators fire control including serjeant, lance serjeant, bombardier, lance bombardier and eight gunners, a driver IC, a gunner, a corporal cook ACC, a driver mechanic and three driver operators. Transport consisted of a 3ton 4 X 4 GS towing a generator and a Tractor HAA towing a Radar AA No3 MkII Trailer.

    Divisional Counter Mortar Battery.
    By late 1944 there were sufficient trained personnel and new equipment available to provide each division with a Counter Mortar Battery with sound ranging and radar sections. 15 Division had 344 Battery and 581 Battery was attached from 52 Division. 344 Battery would move forward with 15 Division but 581 Battery would remain on the near bank for some time.

    Battery Headquarters consisted of a Major, two Subaltern Assistant Counter Mortar Officer, four driver operator, four clerks, a batman driver, two batmen, signalling serjeant, quartermaster serjeant, storeman and a cook ACC. Transport included a motorcycle, Car 4 seater 4 X 4 (Humber FWD Heavy Utility), 15 cwt GS, 15cwt FFW and a 3ton 4 X 4 GS. There was a No22 set in the FFW and a No22 Ground Station carried in the 3ton.

    The Mortar Location Troop consisted of a small headquarters, a radar section and a sound ranging section.

    Headquarters had a Captain Assistant Counter Mortar Officer and two driver operators in a scout car, a motorcycle orderly, a 15cwt FFW with a serjeant, two driver operators and a No22 set and a 3ton 4 X 4 with two vehicle mechanics, a corporal instrument mechanic a batman and a driver IC.

    The Radar Section consisted of a Subaltern Assistant Counter Mortar Officer and batmen driver in a Jeep with 10cwt trailer, a 15cwt cable layer with three signallers and a driver IC, a 3ton 4 X 4 with cook ACC and driver IC, three 15cwt FFW each with an operator fire control and two driver operators plus a No 22 set and two MAT Tractors, one towing the radar trailer with Radar AA No3 MkII and one towing a generator, plus seven operator fire control, two telecommunication mechanics REME and two driver mechanic.

    The Sound Ranging Section consisted of a Subaltern Assistant Counter Mortar Officer and batman driver in a scout car, two Jeeps with 10cwt trailers carrying a serjeant surveyor, four surveyors and recorder stores, a 15cwt halftrack with two surveyors and two driver operators plus a No 22 set and five 15cwt GS, two of which were cable layers, two carried No22 sets and one carried a cook ACC, an electrician control equipment REME and a driver mechanic.

    Infantry Brigade Section
    Each Infantry Brigade also had a small section which was located at Brigade Headquarters and usually near the headquarters of a field regiment supporting the brigade. A Captain Assistant Counter Mortar Officer commanded and here were also a Subaltern Assistant Counter Mortar Officer, two clerks, a batman driver and two driver operators. Transport included a 15cwt GS and a 15cwt FFW with No22 set.

    Radar AA No3 MkII
    There were a considerable number of Radar AA No3 MkII sets available. With very little modification these radar sets could be used to locate mortars when they became Radar AA No3 MkII (F). The moment a mortar round left the tube it became visible on the radar and its bearing and range could be determined very quickly. The most accurate use was when it was linked to a 3 pen Westex Recorder, carried in a special body on an Austin K5 3ton, which took bearings from three radars and plotted them. Bearings and range from a single radar was still accurate to 150 yards.

    Forward Observation Officers.
    In November 1944 Fire Liaison Parties were formed. There were four of these, similar in organisation, personnel and function to the forward observation teams. It was the function of these parties to co ordinate fire of artillery units supporting airborne forces from outside the Airborne Division. In the Rhine Crossing in particular the airborne drops were within range of RA units on the near side of the Rhine and could call on them for fire support.

    Personnel were trained and equipped to land by glider. A section consisted of two airborne jeeps towing trailers and each carrying a Captain Forward Observer, a signaller, driver operator and two wireless sets. A third jeep carried a driver operator, two technical assistants RA and driver IC. The jeep carried a hand cable layer and signal stores.

    Also in March 1945 a section of two 25pdr guns were added. These were to fire coloured smoke shells to mark targets for RAF support units.

    Air Observation Post Flight.
    Air Observation Posts remained an important element of the artillery’s armoury. Without reliable observation most artillery fire is likely to be ineffective since there is no means of telling if the fire is landing on target. At closer ranges Forward Observation Officers can observe and correct the fall of shot but they can seldom find a position that gives sufficient height to observe more distant targets. The Air Observation Post can fly in relative safety above its own lines while observing the fall of shot in the enemy’s.

    Air Observation Post Squadrons were provided on the basis on one per corps which gave the equivalent of one flight per forward division. Army Groups Royal Artillery also had flights provided by a squadron at army level. The squadron had mixed Royal Artillery and Royal Air Force personnel. The Commanding Officer and all the pilots were Royal Artillery officers. 55% of the other ranks were also Royal Artillery. The Royal Air Force provided three officers and the servicing personnel.

    A section consisted of an Auster AOP, a 3ton 4 X 4 and a Jeep plus a pilot, a driver operator, a batman driver, a flight mechanic RAF and a rigger RAF. Each aircraft could thus operate independently if required.

    The Auster was based on the Taylorcraft, a high winged monoplane which had been popular with private owners and flying cubs before the war. They were well thought of and had the following basic requirements for observation work, a high wing to give good downward visibility, a low stalling speed, an ability to use unprepared grass landing strips and an ability to land and take off in 250 yards. Auster MkIV and V were used in 21 Army Group.

    Wireless set No22 was fitted to AOPs. This was a standard set widely used by the Royal Artillery. It could be used with the standard wire aerial stretched between the cockpit and the top of the tail fin, and then back to the front spar of the main frame. A longer aerial was carried by some aircraft. This consisted of a 150 foot aerial on a winch drum. A length of aerial to suit the frequency being used could be paid out and streamed behind the aircraft. Throat microphones were used and communication between the pilot and observer could also be provided.

    Aixman and alberk like this.
  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG

    Gun Areas.

    Plunder gun positions.jpg

    The areas shown in red were those where artillery had priority choice of locations. The artillery did not need all of the space allocated but did have 'first pick'. Other units could use the remainng space as long as they did not interfere with the all important guns.

    In black are shown the areas allocated to the assault formations.

    There were many demands for space on the nearbank but guns had a high priority. In general the field artillery was disposed as near the river as possible without venturing onto the marshy areas beyond the bunds. From west to east, or left to right were 15 Division Group, 53 Division Group, 7 Armoured Division Group and 53 Division Group. The composition and role of these groups is given above.

    Behind the divisional groups were the heavier guns of the Army Groups Royal Artillery. Again from west to east these were 3 AGRA, 9 AGRA and 8 AGRA. 8 AGRA had US 40 Field Artillery Group under command and located on the boundary with its parent 9 US Army.

    Closest to the river banks were the Pepperpot units which were all the lighter weapons which did not have a specific role in the early stages but would fire a barrage in advance of the assault units to make the enemy keep their heads down. Included were Light AA guns, anti tank guns, mortars and machine guns.

    Also amongst the artillery units were the variety of survey, counter battery and counter mortar units listed above.

    Wobbler, Aixman, Chris C and 2 others like this.
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Re 1 . I am uncomfortable with the wording of the sentance in red. The V1 bombardment of Antwerp was sufficient call on HAA resources for the reinforced 80 AA Brigade to be deployed there. Perhaps it might be better to say that the counter mortar threat was important enough to divert Radars from the HAA. By the look of it this is a single troop with three radars organised into three sections. From the orbat of the aug 1944 establishment, each HAA troop had a radar, so three troops radars were redeployed for counter mortar work. Heavy anti aircraft artillery

    Was A troop of 100 Army battery in improvised organisation from 100 AA Brigade? There was much less trade for HAA in the forward areas and their guns might well be used in the ground role.

    Re 2 This lists the vehicles carrying the recorder stores but not the recorder itself, although you have named the specific type of recorder used by the radar troop. IRRC this was a four pen recorder for the shorter microphone base used for mortar location. The desert rats site has this as a Recorder SR No 2 Mk 1 and has a picture illustrating.Artillery Equipment page it.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2021

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