Royal Artillery & 8th Army Photos - Help please with Grandads history

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by ColtBrown, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    31st were attached to 8 AA Bde in Oct 43 covering Taranto, Brindisi and the airfields at Lecce and Grottaglio.

    By late 44 they were supporting the Yugoslav partisans at Vis along with 64 HAA Rgt. In Sep they had Btys in the frontline supporting the partisans in the ground role.

    I'm afraid that's it for Italy, I will start checking on markings for the vehicles now.
    4jonboy likes this.
  2. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member


    Learnt more in a couple of hours than 18 months of trying to research thankyou! Places to visit in Italy now.

    It does indeed mention 131 HAA Reg also and 207th and 20 ARTY when he first enlisted. Also Xii and XIV.

    224 Battery would have been the third battery in 31 LAA Reg then? Do you think the 224 Battery would have stayed intact throughout the Sicily/Italy campaign?
  3. Jandodd

    Jandodd Member

    Hi this is amazing! I'm new to all this .
    I've applied to the MOD historical records and I'm in the process of filling in forms so I can get all my grandads records , it costs £30 and takes about 9 months , I can't wait. Unfortunately I don't know much about my grandfather in the war . All I know was he was in the 8th army as a gunner in elamain , he went to Italy and was blown up in his truck and was very poorly but survived...
    I've spoken to mum and she's looking into this
    My grandfather was from Hertfordshire ( stansted abbots )
  4. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member


    That's actually incredible if its your Grandfather, not only did they serve together in a small LAA Battery but my Grandfather was also blown out of his Bedford QL truck in Italy, he landed in a bush, was blinded in one eye and had a broken back but made a full recovery apart form the eye. If it were the same explosion or series of explosions I would be truly breathless!

  5. Jandodd

    Jandodd Member

    This is amaizing !!!!
    He was in Sicily , blown up , I'm 100% so is my mum that my grandad and yours were together :)
  6. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Correct. They may have been split into Troops at times to cover a specific area, but in general they probably stayed together as a unit.

    On to the vehicle markings. There are a number of problems in deciding the markings carried, so a certain amount of guesswork will have to be used. I will deal first of all with the Tac Sign. Remember these are guidelines and could be varied by the CO as long as he kept to the spirit of the instructions.

    A Tac Sign was an 8 inch square in blue with a red quadrant. The red portion denoted the Bty with the senior Bty using the top right corner and then moving round clockwise for each subsequent Bty. The sign carried a Letter(s) and number in white to indicate the specific vehicle. For AA units these were on the blue portion of the square. The sign was usually carried on the front of the vehicle but could also been found on the rear and sides.

    A LAA Bty would have had 2 jeeps in Bty HQ and 2 in each Troop. The 2 in BHQ were for the Battery Captain (BK) and a subaltern. The BK's vehicle was K or K1, I don't know what the other one was but if K1 was used it could have been K2.

    The 2 in each Troop were for the Troop Commander and a subaltern The TC's vehicle was R and the Tp letter and 1. So the TC of A Troop would be RA1. The subalterns was the same but with 2 - RA2.

    This is where we hit the first problem with 224 Bty. Troops should have been lettered sequentially across the regiment so the Tps in 224 should be G,H and I or K. However the photos clearly show a B Troop. It is possible that the regiment decided to letter the Tps in each Bty the same - A, B and C. I have seen this done in other regiments.

    I will let you digest all of this and answer any questions before moving on to the formation and arm of service signs.
  7. Jandodd

    Jandodd Member

    Hi colt , been talking to my mum today ...the first picture 2nd from left at the back is my grandad . Next to him and your grandad is Percy walker , he was from saffron walden , Essex ...they did there training together and got separated for a while then met up again...they left the war and stayed great friends :) image.jpg
  8. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

    Derek thank you for explaining that very interesting.

    I will assimilate over the weekend and bound to have some questions, presumably the RA2 would be in place of the S2B in the above photo? I am just doing the basic white markings and stars at the moment in time for the War and Peace show in 2 weeks.

    Jan that's amazing thank you for the photo. So the above photos are the only ones you've seen of your Grandfather in service?
  9. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    Yes it would. Presumably, from the photos, your Grandfather was in B Troop so you would probably want to go with either RB1 or RB2.
  10. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

    Thanks Derek.

    I think probably RB2, rather than a commanders vehicle. What does the R stand for? Subaltern meaning ranks below the commander? Possibly a Jeep that would have been used by others in the troop?

    Would there also have been a basic plain red over blue sign with a 31 painted on it?? (31 LAA)

    The other sign I had considered was an Eighth army shield but this may be going into the area of Formation and arm or service signs as you mention so I will let you explain this as I've not much idea.

    Many Thanks
  11. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

  12. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    R is the tac sign for a Troop Commander. The list gives the second jeep as a Subaltern's vehicle but it could well have been used as a general runaround. A Subaltern is a Lieutenant or 2nd Lieutenant.
    A full set of markings would include the formation sign, in this case 8th Army, an Arm of Service sign and for artillery the red/blue tac sign.
    Yes and no. The red over blue sign was the standard Arm of Service plate for artillery units. On this, in white, was the unit's AoS number. This number was allocated from a list held by the formation the unit was attached to. It was NOT the regiments number.

    These numbers indicated the type of unit within the formation and were changed from time to time during the war. Different number systems may also be used in different theatres. To find out which unit carried a specific number, you need to know the formation from the formation sign and have the AoS list for that formation to see which unit that number was allocated to.

    For example, in NW Europe in 1944 a red over blue tac sign with the number 44 would indicate the 3rd Field Rgt in an Infantry Division. The Div sign would tell you which division the unit was in and looking up their AoS list would tell you the specific unit. For example, if the vehicle had a 3 Div sign then consulting the 3 Div AoS list would tell you that it was 76 Field Rgt. The same number 44 and a 43 Div sign would be 179 Fld Rgt.

    If you can understand my explanation of the AoS system, then I will move on to the 8th Army system. A large amount of educated guesswork will have to used in finding a number for 31 LAA as there is not a full list of numbers for 8th Army that has been seen yet.
  13. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

    So to do the AoS sign we'd ideally need the AoS numbering system for that period and Regiment.

    Yes keen to hear about the 8th Army system thanks.
  14. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    The first thing to note about Army level AoS signs was they carried a 2 inch white bar below the sign. The problem with 8th Army is there is no list of AoS numbers for them. It is possible that for Sicily, 8th Army may have been using numbers issued by 15 Army Group.

    A 15 Army Group letter of July 43 states that all formations were to be standardised as soon as practical on the basis of a War Office letter of Feb 43. Apart from some changes to mostly Corps units, in effect the numbers were those already in use by 1st Army.

    We are on somewhat safer ground by the end of 1943 as a letter of 4 Dec 43 finalises a decision to move to the UK standard.So by 1944, units in the Mediterranean theatre should be using essentially the same numbers as 21 Army Group in NW Europe. We can reasonably assume therefore that 8th Army were using the same numbers as 2nd Army and those we do have a list for.

    For now, we have no idea of the actual number used by 31 LAA but you can select from some possible numbers known to be used by other LAA Rgts in other formations. We can also discount 3 numbers for LAA Rgts known to issued to specific units in the only partial list given for 8th Army.

    What you need to do is decided the time period you wish to mark your jeep for and I can then look for some possible numbers.
  15. Jandodd

    Jandodd Member

    Hi Colt, yes these are the only photos I have seen. X
  16. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

    Thanks Derek.

    My Grandfathers most active period spent in 31 LAA 224 Bty was June 42 - Sept 44 with the Sicily and Italian campaigns being most active July 43 - July 44. Based on your info above the late stages of 43 and early stages of 44 would probably be best and easiest to replicate and a period of much activity. Sometime after June 44 he was in hospital.
  17. Derek Barton

    Derek Barton Senior Member

    If we go with early 1944, 8 Army should have changed to the UK serial numbers. This should have given them the same serial allocations as 2 Army in NW Europe. While there are still some blanks in my list for this formation, I do have the following serials for five LAA Rgts.

    162, 163, 206, 1102, 1109

    So any of the above on a red over blue square with a 2 inch white bar below is a possibility.
  18. Alanst500

    Alanst500 Senior Member

    This may be a long shot, after reading posts by Derek Barton (20 + 21) I came to the conclusion that during the invasion of Sicily and Italy your Granddad and my Dad crossed paths or met each other have a look at my Dads Diaries of 75 LAA from this page onwards .

    Then I looked at picture 5 of your post and thought that looks like my Dad I have joined the two together for your scrutiny.

    Look alike.jpg
  19. ColtBrown

    ColtBrown Junior Member

    Sorry for the delay due to War and Peace show.

    Very interesting Alan, quite hard to read, do you have higher res pictures?

    Derek, you gave 5 numbers, does this mean that any one of the 5 could be used for any LAA reg?? Or does it mean that only one would be used for a specific LAA reg? This begs the obvious question which was used against 31LAA?


  20. Alanst500

    Alanst500 Senior Member

    Carleton thats the best I could with res.

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