Snippets from 5 RHA Journals

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by redtop, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Having just joined the forum thought I might put a few snippets from my father’s journals to see if it is the type of thing that members might want He titled them a Gunners View wanting to record what life was as a Gunner, not how a General saw the War.
    He served with G Battery (Mercers Troop) 5RHA

    On Board the Troop Ship SS Borinquen
    Every day lectures on discipline with nice little reminders like;
    ”If an order is not carried out, I will shoot you“from an Officer or
    ”If you move or leave your gun we will shoot you“just like that!
    ”Yours is not to reason why, yours is just to do and die“.

    Arriving at the Front
    It took 12 days from landing to reach the Quator Depression, Bari Ridge and its soft sand. We dropped into a position recently vacated by the New Zealanders (Smashing chaps) to our extreme right were the Australians. We were shelled before we uncoupled our limbers and my friend Butch Revel was killed in two minutes of being in action. Our CO. Bill Norman went crackers, our GPO. Had put us in an observed position, we quickly moved to another area

    Jock Columns

    We had a short spell on what’s called Jock columns. One gun one soft truck and one GPO.We would make a detour behind the enemy lines going down into the Quator Deppression.Get as near as possible and belt off as many rounds as possible on their convoys at about 1000 yards and get out as quick as you can, and woe and betide if you get stuck in the soft sand as we once did.

    El Alamein
    In the evening we began to move, not a word to us of what we were about, as we moved a coloured Battalion’s troops erected a decoy in the position we were situated ,they put up canvas mock-ups in our place.
    The area was thick with traffic Valentine, Sherman, Honey and General Grant tanks, all moving in the same direction Alamein. We moved under a black sky, as we approached the minefields of Alamein, the Sappers in front were clearing a path with mine detectors.

    Tank Battle
    We saw the first batch of Italian prisoners brought in, in the morning.
    From the ridge we saw the most amazing sight, a terrific tank battle. Tanks were milling about like huge ants, emerging from clouds of dust and firing at point blank range, some at ranges of 20-25 yds. The noise of the battle was terrific.
    As we moved forward on the 10th day we saw hundreds of German and British tanks that were left, burnt and burning, turrets ripped off. Stripped of tracks, guns hanging, bodies lying squashed inside tanks and where shells had penetrated armour, bodies splattered against the tank walls and millions of flies around the bodies A terrible destruction and a waste of life in its prime.

    As we went deeper into the desert we saw patches of German and Italian prisoners, then there were thousands of them. We were moving down the moon track towards El Birka, we were amazed to see an Italian Bi Plane (I think it was a 1914/18 vintage) appear, and at about 200 feet the pilot dropped a bomb over the side of his cockpit and if it had not killed an officer (WO11) in a jeep it would have been comic. The Wellington bombers of our lot gave the Ities and Jerry’s a good pasting.
    4jonboy likes this.
  2. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    Redtop, I am enjoying reading your dads journals. Really appreciate you sharing them and I look forward to more . Thank you Elsie
  3. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Absolutely the sort of thing we enjoy here - first hand accounts.

  4. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Redtop-thank you for posting. Look forward to reading more of your father's journals

  5. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member

    redtop, very interesting and more please. If you have dates for the extracts that would help put them even more into perspective. Brilliant, cheers Brian
  6. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Great stuff Redtop look forward to more
  7. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Very interesting reading.

  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I know it's a bit of an assumption, but there's only one 5 RHA WOII coming up in Geoff's Search Engine: BSM Foster
  9. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    The dates are a bit wrong for BSM Foster The follow vup from Alamein restarted on the 9th Nov/after the rain,and he was killed 12 Dec Just before the Battle of El Agelia it was around this date that my Father was wounded.
    My Father did not include many dates ,the only datum are he Major Battles.Read in sequence the dates do not matter so much but it does run for 60 pages I will post my fathers report on his wounding and Casevac
    We were subject to heavy retaliatory fire as we approached El Agheila casualties were very high.
    We were still in the desert and with four others I caught a packet, shells were bursting close, and as was the drill I had thrown myself down in the sand beside the gun. The wheel of one of the 25 pdrs was blown off and part of the shrapnel from shell hit me as it were in a straight line Through the base of my shoulder blade through my back the base of my bottom and the back of my thigh taking a large lump with it then went on to puncture the tyre on another gun. There were others hit, one had the bottom of his leg hanging off, although being shelled everybody knew what to do, it had happened before. First aid was applied, blood everywhere. I and the chap whose foot was nearly off were put in a jeep and driven about a mile back where a tent was being set up, to patch up the wounded.

    I don’t remember the journey I had lost a lot of blood but I remember being put on a stretcher with about 20 others outside the canvas tent. I saw a medical bloke bury the foot of the chap that went in front of me his foot and leg was shattered. The MO and squadie never had time to put overalls on.
    I was the second in after the foot was taken off, then somebody stuck a needle in my arm and I knew no more. I about came too being put in a small van two chaps strapped either side ,this was driven by American Volunteer drivers. The van was rolling all over the place because of the sand track. The chap that had lost the bottom part of his leg began to come round and cussed everybody and the driver, the track was terrible and every roll brought a scream. And a wounded tank driver was shouting orders.
    We got back to Agedabia and were laid out on the sand next to an airstrip, then four of us put aboard a small plane, a Lockheed Hudson, two strapped to either side I don’t remember the journey as I was out cold.
    I woke up in a hospital casualty tent in Tobruk and had another operation they pulled Vaseline gauze right through thewound, shoulder, bottom and thigh, when I came round I remember I was singing it must have been the jabs I had. The tank driver badly wounded was still screaming orders as if in battle, “Right driver,left,left,right driver “his tank had been knocked out, and he had been dragged out.
    Three or four days in this hospital then put on a train to Alexandria. And then to Casa siv? Number 6 Scottish Hospital near the Suez Canal. I was at a pretty low ebb and do not remember the journey as an infection had started in the wounds. I was put in an emergency ward,

    we were attended by Italian POW’s I can remember having to take 6 M&B’s every 3 hours and drinking gallons of water.
    A chap opposite me an Australian named Hook was in a bad way, he had been in a Bren gun carrier and a star shell had hit the centre, and he had lost an arm and a leg, he was still bleeding despite pints of blood put into him. On the 24th December a Brigadier told him they must remove his other leg and Hook said “Yes sir but can I keep it till after Christmas” they agreed and it was done and after a week he was taken back home.
  10. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    This section really does show the horrors of war, they were all so brave. Please keep sharing as these stories need to be read so that what they went through is never forgotten. Thank you for continuing to share your fathers account of his part in the war Elsie
  11. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Note the American volunteers ,I was unaware of them working with the 8th Army.
  12. Our bill

    Our bill Well-Known Member

    Were there a lot of volunteers in a war zone and why did they not just join the army . I do hope you will continue to share your brave dads journal with us. Elsie
  13. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member

    A fascinating read, more please
  14. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Not much heard about, the American Field Service did great work in both world wars, before america came into the wars. More about them here;
  15. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    I highly recommend the book by Scott Gilmore entitled "A Connecticut Yankee in the 8th Gurkha Rifles: A Burma Memoir". Gilmore started out the war in the American Field Service in the Western Desert and later joined the 4th Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles for service in Burma. He went to high school in nearby Greenwich, Connecticut. I taught for eight years in adjacent Stamford, Connecticut.
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Quite a selection of war diaries for this regiment at the National Archives:

    WO 166/1457 ROYAL ARTILLERY: ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: 5 Regiment. 1939 Nov.- 1940 Mar., July- 1941 Dec.
    WO 166/1458 ROYAL ARTILLERY: ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: CC Battery 5 Regiment. 1940 Nov.- 1941 Dec.
    WO 166/1459 ROYAL ARTILLERY: ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: G Battery 5 Regiment 1939 Nov.- 1940 Feb., July- 1942 Feb.
    WO 166/6961 ROYAL ARTILLERY: ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: 5 Regiment. 1942 Jan.- Apr.
    WO 166/6962 ROYAL ARTILLERY: ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY: 5 Regiment 'C.C.' Battery 1942 Jan.- Apr.
    WO 167/4645 Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) 1940 Apr.-June
    WO 169/9459 5 R.H.A. Regiment 1943 Jan.- Dec.
    WO 169/9460 5 R.H.A. Regiment C.C. Battery 1943 Jan.- Dec.
    WO 171/1012 5 Regiment 1944 Jan.- Apr., Dec.
    WO 171/1013 5 Regt. 'CC' Battery 1944 Jan.- Apr.
    WO 171/1014 5 Regt. 'G' Battery 1944 Jan.- Nov.
    WO 171/5082 5 Regiment 1945 Jan., Feb., Aug.
    WO 171/5083 5 Regt. 'G' Battery (Mercers Tp.) 1945 Jan.- Dec.
  17. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

    Sorry these post are now out of sequence.
    5 RHA manned 25 pounders.,I have not changed his wording I am not sure if the number of rounds fired referred to one gun or the troop.

    In the evening we began to move, not a word to us of what we were about, as we moved a coloured Battalion’s troops erected a decoy in the position we were situated ,they put up canvas mock-ups in our place.
    The area was thick with traffic Valentine, Sherman, Honey and General Grant tanks, all moving in the same direction Alamein.
    We moved under a black sky, as we approached the minefields of Alamein, the Sappers in front were clearing a path with mine detectors. We followed directly inside the tape they laid.
    Everything moved quiet, for that’s what it’s all about, everybody moving with that same quiet determination knowing what was about to happen.

    We dropped into action in the middle of the minefield. Set our aiming post, range on at 1100 yards, for a creeping saturation barrage with a lift of 25 yards at 5 minute intervals, and we were the target gun. The ammo truck had ,had a front wheel blown off by a mine 50 yards back and they could get no nearer than that.
    That meant trouble for us as we had to unload it there so they could move a potential target before the barrage. And the ammunition had to be carried up to the Gun. Three were on the gun and three carried two cases of 100 lbs each, 4 shell at 25 lbs each 4 to a case, two cartridge cases, 8 cartridges at 28 lbs each.
    At around 2130 on 23rd October all hell broke loose, hundreds of guns broke the silence, The range was short, charge one was used ,an accumulation of cartridge cases and charges had to be salvaged and put in their cases and carried 50 yds to the rear because of the mishap with the lorry.
    And then a lull as the firing stopped And then we heard the skirl of the bagpipes as the Highland Division went in with covering fire. How proud it was to be British.
    Then the ladder ranging as the troops needed additional fire-power. On that first day we fired 868 rounds in 24 hours and all the stuff carried 50 yds out and 50 back in a loaded minefield. And we carried a new gun muzzle barrel of 7cwt over the same distance because the old barrel got so hot it distorted. All this without sleep and very little to eat. This went on for number of days till the sappers widened the gap and the supply trucks got nearer. It seemed like years but I think it was about 9 or 10 days.

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