Royal Artillery in Sicily 1943

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by Frenchgeordie, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. Frenchgeordie

    Frenchgeordie Junior Member

    I am in charge of a family pilgrimage to Sicily to visit my wife's uncle's grave. He was in the RA and was KIA near a place called Agira on July 19, 1943.

    Where can I find a decent history of the RA in Sicily, and in particular the RA's actions on the day of his death?

    My wife's uncle served in an anti-tank battery - 303 from memory. Where can I find out more about what these units did?

    I know that during WW1 units kept war diaries. Was this the practice during WW2? If so, where are they stored?

    Many thanks in advance for any help.

  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    303 Anti-Tank Battery isn't coming up in a search of Royal Artillery 1939-45.

    If you can tell us the regiment listed for him on the CWGC website, there should be a war diary at The National Archives in Kew. The problem with A/Tk units is that they were relatively large but subunits usually operated independently. Still, it will be worth a look.
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    You will find a very large cemetery at Agira containing many Canadians of their 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armoured Bde who were tasked to capture that place

  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    OK, CWGC have at least one entry attributing a 303 Bty to 52 A/Tk Regt and they did spend time in Sicily.

    Here's the war diary: WO 169/9616

    The diary ought to at least tell you which unit/formation 303 Bty were attached to at the time. You can then look up the infantry brigade and battalion diaries to see if they shed any more light on the situation.

    The 52 A/Tk diary could contain a report if it was a notable action, but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.
  5. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Frenchgeordie,

    There are no RA burials at Agira cemetery and none for 19/07/1943 at Syracruse cemetery, but there are eleven for that date at Catania. The only burial at Catania for 19/07/1943 and 52nd Anti-Tank Regiment is for:

    006 GRIFFIN AE 1130611 52 ANTI TANK REGT 19/07/1943 ROYAL ARTILLERY

    Is this who you are looking for? If so, if you click on the '006' the pertinent grave location details at Catania should be revealed.

    If this is not the right man, let us have your wife's uncle's name and we will try to find him for you.


  6. Frenchgeordie

    Frenchgeordie Junior Member

    His name is Lieutenant Barry O'Brien Turner. His regimental details are Royal Artillery, 300 Independent Anti-Tank Battery. My first posting was in error concerning the number and precise designation of his anti-tank unit. Apologies.

    I know that he is buried in Catania and we shall visit there. But the family has a full set of correspondence from the War Office and from his comrades about his death and subsequent burial. He and his crew were killed by a mortar shell near Agira. One source says he was buried where he fell, another says his grave was 'beside a road leading south about 3 miles from Agira' These may or may not be one and the same place. His body was later concentrated into Catania.

    Naturally we should like to visit the spot where he and his comrades were killed, and the site of his first burial, if possible.
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    WO 166/1700 300 Anti-Tank Battery 1941 Oct.

    WO 169/4714 300 Anti-Tank Battery 1942 July- Dec.

    WO 169/9669 300 Anti-Tank Battery 1943 Jan., Mar.- Dec. - Feb is missing

    WO 170/1057 300 Anti-Tank Battery 1944 Jan.- Dec.
  8. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    Not a very good photo of B Turner's Headstone from Catania War Cemetery:-

    (Photo from:-

    Project of 1° Institute “ M. BARTOLO “ Pachino (Sicily)

  9. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer Pearl Harbor Myth Buster

    I used to live just west of Catania, at the Nato air base. If you get to Sicily, I suggest you go up the coast to Taormina, probably the prettiest city on the island.
  10. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    Barry Turner always gave of his best, but his was so modest a nature, that few except his most intirnate friends realised how good that best was. Thus at the outbreak of war he was mobilised from his bank at Harrow into the Territorials, which he had joined in 1938. He proceeded to France with the Royal Corps of Signals and was evacuated from Dunkirk. He was invited to apply for a commission and was gazetted to the Royal Artillery. In May 1942, he proceeded to North Africa with the 44th Division and had been with the Eighth Army ever since. He was with the first wave which went ashore in Sicily on July 10th. His friends found his body, killed by German mortar fire, on July 19, by the side of a forward gun of the artillery troop that he commanded. His end was typical of a very gallant Old Boy whose achievement mingles our grief with pride. His Commanding Officer wrote, "He was one of the best officers I have ever had. Every man in his troop admired him." He would have asked for no greater reward.

    SOURCE: Barbican #19
    Drew5233 likes this.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I don't suppose you know who he was with in France during 1940 do you Phil?
  12. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Frenchgeordie,

    Here are the CWGC deatils for your wife's uncle and two of his comrades:


    I believe your best bet of finding a location for where Lt Turner was killed is via the War Diary for July 1943, which Andy (Drew5233) mentioned at Message # 7. The WD itself may only mention a general locality, but the Appendices sometimes carry a lot of extra and helpful detail.

    NB. It was in this way that I found out what had happened to my dad's oldest brother at Bray Dunes; and hopefully it will work for you and your wife in terms of identifying the location of Lt Turner's death.


  13. Frenchgeordie

    Frenchgeordie Junior Member

    Belcher was Barry's batman. He was killed with him. I think too that Price was part of the team. They were all hit by a mortar shell.

    Thanks to all for the information. A special thanks to Ramacla for the headstone photo, to Drew for the TNA references, and to Englandphil for the Lewes Grammar School cutting. They've given me a way forward.

    Barry's father also died in service during WW2.

    What did an independent anti-tank battery do? In what sense were they independent?
  14. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Hello Frenchgeordie,

    The term 'Independent' usually means that they were not allocated to one particular RA Regiment or Infantry Division. For example, the 102nd (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment had either three or four batteries throughout WWII (two batteries remaining for the duration) and were divisional troops of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division before, during and after Sicily. Whereas, the 300 Independent Anti-Tank Battery, probably acted indepedently of an RA Regiment or Infantry Division, albeit they were probably attached to one or the other or a Corps from time to time.

    I have no information at all about the 300 Independent Anti-Tank Battery so cannot comment other than 'in theory'.

    Are you originally from Newcastle? With a hadle like 'French Geordie' you might even play for Newcastle United these days! :D


  15. Son-of-Thor

    Son-of-Thor Junior Member

    This site gives a review of the Antitank unit organization and tactics.

    Neil T
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    In Dec 1943 300th Independent Atk battery were attached to 2nd Para Brigade in Italy. I don't know their story nor do I have their war diaries, but I have a hunch they might have been attached to 1st Airborne Division in North Africa and Sicily.
  17. Frenchgeordie

    Frenchgeordie Junior Member

    Originally from Newcastle, now in Lille. Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    Thanks to all for the help. Traced the unit diary in the TNA and the RA Museum in Woolwich. The unit diary gives a precise map reference (available in British Library, not the TNA or the RA Museum) for the place where he was killed. The black and white map, has no key, and is at least 80 years old, but using that, Google Earth and Google Map I can now take my wife's family to the exact spot where he was killed and initially buried. Very interesting. I know very little about artillery, but apparently positioning the gun in such a way as to hide the flash from the enemy is important. The spot where he was killed is in the corner of field, next to a road - and just behind what appears to be a small hillock or clump of trees.

    Thanks again.
  18. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Well done with your search... I hope your trip to Sicily goes well.

    It would be great if you returned to these pages in due course with the 'story' of your trip, photographs, etc. It would form a good memorial for Lt. Turner and his men. Also understandable if you wish matters to remain private...

    All the best,


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