War Diary: 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, September 1939 - July 1944

Discussion in 'The Brigade of Guards' started by dbf, Jul 15, 2011.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Have tidied up these diaries and filled in as many gaps as I could. Now in one continuous thread.
    (Some months still to transcribe.)

    TNA Catalogue Ref: WO 166/4104
    .TNA Catalogue Ref: WO 168/57
    .TNA Catalogue Ref: WO 166/8575
    .TNA Catalogue Reference: WO 175/488
    .TNA Catalogue Reference: WO 169/10168
    .TNA Catalogue Reference: WO 170/1354
    .TNA Catalogue Reference: WO 166/15068
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    1939 September 1
    Wellington Barracks
    General Mobilization is declared, and reservists commence to rejoin.
    Sergeant FITZGERALD who had been called up earlier in the year arrived in Barracks dressed in uniform within half an hour of the announcement on the wireless, which was incidentally the first intimation received that mobilization had been ordered.
    We mounted guard in the morning and dismounted in the afternoon for the last time, and this was the last guard to wear some service clothing.
    P.A.D. work continued all day.

    1939 September 2
    Wellington Barracks
    Reservists still rejoining.
    One Company is put at 30 minutes notice of T.F.O.
    No. 2718613 Guardsman CHAPMAN attached Anglo-French Liaison Section proceeded overseas and is the first IRISH GUARDSMAN to do so.
    P.A.D. work continues.

    1939 September 3
    Reservists are still rejoining and Reservists for the Training Battalion are attached to the Battalion.
    An Air Raid Warning took place at 11 a.m. As it happened this was just after a private practice alarm had taken place and it was hard to believe that it was the real thing. The All Clear went soon after; but the Commanding Officer who then went to the House of Commons found that the Members were having a second alarm of their own, and that they were going down into their shelters. It was later reported officially to have been caused by unidentified aircraft, and unofficially by a small GYPSY MOTH flying from HYTHE to LYP?NE.
    Permanent Blackout by night is ordered T.F.O.
    A small party for the Training Battalion went down to COULSDON Common to-day.

    1939 September 4
    Wellington Barracks
    A second Air Raid Warning took place at 2 a.m. The Klaxon horn warning operated by the Barrack Guard, does not seem to be effective enough, since one officer, the Sergeant Major, one C.S.M. and the greater part of one Company slept through most of the proceedings. The All Clear was blown after about half an hour.

    1939 September 5
    Wellington Barracks

    1939 September 6
    Wellington Barracks
    At 6.15 a.m. there was a 3rd Air Raid Warning which lasted two hours, at the end of which time the atmosphere in the basements which are very crowded was almost unbearable. Everyone is getting very bored with these constant Air Raid Warnings which all prove to be a myth. In this case guns just be heard firing; but it was subsequently learned that no enemy aircraft had crossed the coast.
    A party of Officers and N.C.O.s commanded by Major BOWEN conducted 2,000 French Reservists from the French Consulate to SOUTHAMPTON. One German spy was arrested on the train.
    An N.C.O.’s Cadre Course was begun.
    All Specialist Platoons have started training.

    1939 September 7
    Wellington Barracks
    All Companies have started training.

    1939 September 8 - 11

    1939 September 12
    Wellington Barracks
    The N.C.O.’s Cadre Course ends.

    1939 September 13
    Wellington Barracks
    Individual training begins.
    We are now ordered not to take cover on Air Raid Warnings, but to wait for the sound of gun fire or bombing.

    1939 September 14
    Wellington Barracks

    1939 September 15
    Wellington Barracks
    Medical inspection completed. Twenty-four men have been marked unfit for foreign service.

    1939 September 16 - 17

    1939 September 18
    Wellington Barracks
    Inoculation and dental inspection begins.

    1939 September 26
    Wellington Barracks
    Officers and Other Ranks for the Training Battalion move to COULSDON.

    1939 September 27
    Wellington Barracks
    The Colonel of the Regiment visited the Battalion and watched training by Companies and Specialist Platoons.
    The Drum-Major died early this morning in the CAMBRIDGE Hospital at ALDERSHOT from injuries received in a motor bicycle accident.

    2717402 Warrant Officer Class III John James GALLAGHER, 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS who died on 27 September 1939.
    Remembered with honour ALDERSHOT MILITARY CEMETERY
    Grave/Memorial Reference: R. 1.
    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    1939 September 28-30
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    1939 October 1

    1939 October 2
    Wellington Barracks
    The Drum Major was buried in the ALDERSHOT Military Cemetery this afternoon.
    The Commanding Officer, Adjutant and Major HACKETT-PAIN attended the funeral and a bearer party and firing party were found by the Battalion. The Commanding Officer and Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion came over from WINDSOR to attend the funeral.
    No. 4 Company together with the Carrier, Signal and Pioneer Platoons proceeded to INKERMAN Barracks, WOKING for training and shooting at PIRBRIGHT.

    1939 October 3
    Wellington Barracks

    1939 October 4
    Wellington Barracks
    We have taken over the Public Duties for one week. Up to now this has been found by the 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS from CHELSEA Barracks. King’s Guard is a Vulnerable Point and a whole Company have to stand by to protect the Palaces in the event of an Air Raid or Civil Disturbances. Since the Reservists have been issued with drab greatcoats, whilst the remainder have still got blue grey ones it is not easy to arrange for a properly cloaked guard.
    The 1st Recruit Party consisting of 18 men arrived to-day from the Training Battalion.
    Up to now 5 deserters from 9 months to 10 years standing have returned from the IRISH FREE STATE to give themselves up since the outbreak of war.

    1939 October 5

    1939 October 6
    Wellington Barracks
    All inoculation was completed to-day.

    1939 October 7
    Wellington Barracks
    2/Lieutenant D.R.S. FITZGERALD and P.S.M. BINGHAM proceeded on a course to the Small Arms School at HYTHE.

    1939 October 8 - 12

    1939 October 13
    Wellington Barracks
    Lieutenant GILLIAT proceeded on a course to the School of Signals at CATTERICK.


    1939 October 14
    Wellington Barracks
    We have had several concerts given in the N.A.A.F.I. which have been fairly popular; but to-day a Concert party head by Jack BUCHANAN & Elsie RANDOLPH was a tremendous success. The artists were subsequently entertained in the Officer’s Mess.

    1939 October 15
    Wellington Barracks
    Seven Other Ranks proceeded to BISLEY to attend the 1st Course of the BRIGADE OF GUARDS Sniper School. This course is being run by Lieutenant STIRLING, SCOTS GUARDS and Lieutenant GORDON-WATSON went down some days ago to help him start it. They are reputed already to have persuaded an American millionaire to present them with 50 really first class and expensive telescopes.

    1939 October 16
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 1 Company proceeded to WOKING on training.
    No. 4 Company re-joined from WOKING.

    1939 October 17
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 2 Company proceeded to WOKING on training.

    1939 October 18 - 20

    1939 October 21
    Wellington Barracks
    Seven days leave is now allowed to be granted, provided sufficient numbers are left behind for an emergency. Part of No. 4 Company went on leave to-day.

    1939 October 22

    1939 October 23
    Wellington Barracks
    Anti Tetanus inoculation began.

    1939 October 24

    1939 October 25
    Wellington Barracks
    The G.O.C. LONDON Area (Lieutenant-General SERGISON-BROOKE) inspected the Battalion P.A.D. arrangements

    1939 October 26 - 29

    1939 October 30
    Wellington Barracks
    No.s 1 and 2 Companies returned from WOKING. We have been turned out of WOKING at 24 hours notice to accommodate 1,000 militiamen, so No. 3 Company will have to train from LONDON.
    Leave to EIRE is re-opened and Companies will proceed on 7 days leave in turn.

    1939 October 31
    Wellington Barracks
    Half H.Q. Company goes on leave.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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    1939 November 1
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 2 Company gone on leave.
    28 Reservists who have been employed on essential duties returned.
    There has been a considerable scare regarding an attack on this country by enemy parachutists. In the event of such an attack we become part of the 5th INFANTRY BRIGADE.
    1st Battalion Operation Order No. 1 was issued to-day and is attached.
    The 2nd Battalion are to make good any deficiencies we may have through leave etc.

    1939 November 2
    A recce party consisting of Major T.A. HACKETT-PAIN, Lieutenant N.S.P. WHITEFFORD, M.C. and the Intelligence Section proceeded to ELSTREE to reconnoitre and allot billets in the event of a move there, should the parachute attack materialise.
    There was an All Ranks Dance this evening, as a change from the usual Concert.

    1939 November 3

    1939 November 4
    Wellington Barracks
    The 2nd half of No. 4 Company go on 7 days leave.
    The first Snipers Course finishes. Excellent reports were received for the 7 Other Ranks who attended this course.

    1939 November 5
    Wellington Barracks
    The 2nd Snipers Course begins. Lieutenant G.S. BRODRICK and 8 Other Ranks are attending.
    A weapon training course was begun.

    1939 November 6 - 8

    1939 November 9
    No. 1 Company went on leave for 7 days.

    1939 November 10
    Wellington Barracks
    The new pattern double breasted greatcoats were issued to-day, and appear to be an improvement on the old ones.

    1939 November 11
    Wellington Barracks
    A second Section Leading Course begins.

    1939 November 12
    Wellington Barracks
    Captain A.S. LOCKWOOD proceeded to the GUARDS Depot.

    1939 November 13
    Wellington Barracks
    Serjeant COX went on a Master Cooks’ Course at the School of Cookery.
    From now on we find a Platoon in Waiting who have to be ready to move at 10 minutes’ notice.

    1939 November 14 - 21

    1939 November 22 Wellington Barracks The Commanding Officer paid a visit to SANDHURST to see the BRIGADE OF GUARDS Officers Cadet Training Unit.

    1939 November 23
    Wellington Barracks
    The Commanding Officer visited the GUARDS Depot.
    Ration cards were issued to-day.

    1939 November 24 - 25

    1939 November 26 Wellington Barracks In future web belts are not to be worn outside greatcoats in walking out order.

    1939 November 27
    Wellington Barracks
    A Course on practical French for Other Ranks begins to-day at WHITEHALL.

    1939 November 28 - 30
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    1939 December 1

    1939 December 2
    Wellington Barracks
    Permanent leave for Other Ranks had been altered from 1.00 a.m. to 12. m.n.

    1939 December 3

    1939 December 4
    Wellington Barracks
    2/Lieutenant E.D. COOPER has been posted to the GUARDS Depot.

    1939 December 5
    Wellington Barracks
    A wireless demonstration for all Officers took place in Barracks to practice Officers to speaking by wireless.
    Court Mourning for PRINCESS LOUIS has been ordered until December 17th.

    1939 December 6
    Wellington Barracks
    Passports to EIRE are no longer required. Passes are to be stamped at the ports of exit by the immigration authorities. This will save a great deal of trouble.

    1939 December 7 - 10

    1939 December 11
    Wellington Barracks
    A trench revetting demonstration by the ROYAL ENGINEERS was given on PUTNEY HEATH. One Officer and four N.C.O.s from each rifle Company attended.

    1939 December 12 - 17

    1939 December 18
    Wellington Barracks
    Captain J.F.W. TREADWELL, SCOTS GUARDS, gave two lectures to Officers, Warrant Officers and N.C.O.s on certain aspects of the war on the Western Front.

    1939 December 19
    Wellington Barracks
    The Company in Waiting was called out this morning to take part in a LONDON Area exercise.

    1939 December 20
    Wellington Barracks
    The Inter-Company Drill Competition was held to-day, judged by Colonel HAYDEN and Captain PHILLPOTTS of the 2nd Battalion. No. 3 Company under C.S.M. PEILOW were the winners.

    1939 December 21
    Wellington Barracks
    The General Service Medal with clasp “PALESTINE” was authorized to be worn by all Ranks who served with the Battalion in PALESTINE, in 1938.

    1939 December 23
    Wellington Barracks
    25% of the Battalion proceeded on four days leave (Christmas).

    1939 December 24

    1939 December 25
    Wellington Barracks
    The Major General came to see dinners.

    1939 December 26 - 31
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    1940 January 1 - 4

    1940 January 5
    Wellington Barracks
    The “Emergency Platoon” was called out this morning by telephone message from LONDON Area. The Major General was in Barracks to see it. He complimented the Platoon on being on the move in their trucks within 5 minutes of the call being received at the Orderly Room.

    1940 January 6 - 7

    1940 January 8
    Wellington Barracks
    L.M.G. training for M.T. personnel was started to-day.
    A 2-inch Mortar course was started to-day.

    1940 January 9 Wellington Barracks
    The Commanding Officer informed all Officers that the Battalion would be standing by to move at 2 hours notice from 12 Noon on Monday January 15th.

    1940 January 10
    Wellington Barracks
    Packing up for the move has begun. Major BOWEN is to collect as many comforts from the Comfort Fund as can be made available. The move is very secret and none but the Commanding Officer is aware of our destination. Speculation however, has been rife, ranging from ORKNEYS to AFGHANISTAN.


    1940 January 11 - 12

    1940 January 13
    Wellington Barracks
    This evening the move was indefinitely postponed, and most people are very disappointed after so much excitement.

    1940 January 14
    Wellington Barracks
    A Map Reading Course for Warrant Officers and N.C.O.s under the supervision of the Area Education Officer began.
    Two lectures for all Officers on the 2” Mortar was held to-day. We have only just received sights or these, and then only on our expected move.

    1940 January 15 - 16

    1940 January 17
    Wellington Barracks
    The Battalion parade in Battle Dress for the first time. We are wearing cloth titles on this dress, and Officers will do the same.

    1940 January 18 - 21

    1940 January 22
    Wellington Barracks
    An Orderlies course was started to-day.
    The Signallers have been struck off duty, for intensive training for classification.

    1940 January 23 - 24
    Wellington Barracks

    1940 January 25
    Wellington Barracks
    We have now become part of the 4th (LONDON) INFANTRY BRIGADE commanded by Colonel W.F.A. BRADSHAW, D.S.O.
    The 5th COMPOSITE (LONDON) INFANTRY BRIGADE has ceased to exist.

    1940 January 26 - 27

    1940 January 28
    Wellington Barracks
    Captain D.H. FITZGERALD proceeded to the ARMY GAS School for a 3 weeks course.

    1940 January 29
    Wellington Barracks
    A 2nd N.C.O.s W.T. Cadre Course begins to-day.
    Five more N.C.O.s proceeded to the A.P.T. School HENDON for a Course.
    A Handyman’s Course for 5 men per Company begins to-day.
    2/Lieutenant A.L. COLE and 2/Lieutenant J.E. VESEY joined from the Training Battalion to-day.

    1940 January 30
    Wellington Barracks
    Serjeant MURPHY, M.M. and Serjeant SCANLON went down to the Training Battalion to-day as temporary Musketry Instructors.

    1940 January 31
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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    1940 February 1
    Wellington Barracks
    A 2nd Map Reading Course for Warrant Officers and N.C.O.s begins.

    1940 February 2 - 4

    1940 February 5
    Wellington Barracks
    Four Other Ranks have been transferred to the 5th Battalion SCOTS GUARDS which has just been formed at BORDON. They are to be a Skiing Battalion.

    1940 February 6 - 12

    1940 February 13
    Wellington Barracks
    Captain ARMSTRONG-MacDONNELL departed on a 3 days visit to the B.E.F. in FRANCE, to bring back any useful information he could discover.

    1940 February 14
    Wellington Barracks
    Colours were presented to the 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS to-day by the KING. The 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS paraded on 3 sides of a square in front of the GUARDS CHAPEL, and the 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS were lined up under the clock as spectators. The KING subsequently visited the Officer’s Mess and all Officers were presented to him.


    - Screenshot2011-07-24at195630.png

    1940 February 15
    Wellington Barracks
    Embarkation leave begins.
    No. 3 Company went to PIRBRIGHT to shoot.

    1940 February 16
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 4 Company shooting.

    1940 February 17 - 18
    Wellington Barracks
    70 Guardsmen joined from the Training Battalion. They only spent 8 weeks at the Depot as recruits, and are consequently lamentably below standard.

    1940 February 19
    Wellington Barracks
    H.Q. Company shooting at PIRBRIGHT.

    1940 February 20
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 2 Company shooting.

    1940 February 21
    Wellington Barracks
    No. 1 Company shooting.
    All Companies have now shot.
    We have been warned to be ready to move on or about March 1st .

    1940 February 22

    1940 February 23
    Wellington Barracks
    All Boys and 10 unfit Other Ranks were posted to the Training Battalion to-day.

    1940 February 24 - 25

    1940 February 26
    Wellington Barracks
    Companies are training daily in RICHMOND Park. We have been told now that we are unlikely to move before March 10th.

    1940 February 27
    Wellington Barracks
    We have been allotted ammunition to fire 3” Mortars, 2” Mortars and Anti-Tank rifles, which was done at PIRBRIGHT to-day. A party of Canadian Officers and Other Ranks came to watch. They asked the Mortar Platoon to take a tree on the sky line at about 1100 yards as a target, and a direct hit was registered on the 4th shot, which considerably impressed the spectators.

    1940 February 28
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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    1940 March 1 - 4

    1940 March 5
    Wellington Barracks
    Companies have started shooting again, and grenade throwing was practised at PIRBRIGHT to-day.

    1940 March 6
    Wellington Barracks
    We have now heard that we are to move on Saturday March 16th.

    1940 March 7 - 8
    Wellington Barracks
    Captain FITZGERALD, who has just returned from a Gas Course, delivered a lecture to all Officers, and a selection of W.O.s and N.C.O.s.
    Mr. GILLIAT subsequently gave a Fullerphone demonstration. This is a recently acquired instrument, for communicating untapable messages.

    1940 March 9 - 10

    1940 March 11
    Wellington Barracks
    Father CAVANAGH who comes from DOWNSIDE, is attached to the Battalion as our permanent CHAPLAIN.
    We have tried to get Father BROOKES, as an ex-Officer of the Regiment, but DOWNSIDE are unable to spare him.

    1940 March 12

    1940 March 13
    Wellington Barracks
    Preparations are made for the move, administrative instructions issued, and packing up begins.

    1940 March 14
    Wellington Barracks
    This evening the move was cancelled. The SCOTS GUARDS, who were to have moved to-day had loaded most of their baggage on the train.

    1940 March 15
    Wellington Barracks
    We unpack for the 2nd time.

    1940 March 16

    1940 March 17
    Wellington Barracks
    Since everything was packed up, we had to parade in Battle Dress, while the 2nd Battalion paraded in Service Dress. It poured with rain this morning, and the Colonel of the Regiment presented the Shamrock under the Archway. Both Battalions marched through the downpour to Mass in the Oratory at 10.00 a.m. It is a great pity that the weather spoilt everything as this was the first occasion that both Battalions marched together through LONDON.
    Major GILBART-DENAHM, Captain McGILDOWNY and 4 Warrant Officers went to TUNBRIDGE WELLS to-day on a Field Works Course.

    1940 March 18
    Wellington Barracks
    C.S.M. FLYNN is posted to the Training Battalion.

    1940 March 19 - 20
    Wellington Barracks

    1940 March 21
    Wellington Barracks
    25% of the Battalion are allowed to go.

    1940 March 22
    Wellington Barracks
    We mounted Public Duties in Battle Dress to-day. The first Guards to do so.

    1940 March 23 - 28

    1940 March 29
    Wellington Barracks
    The Carrier Platoon was called out to-day with a Company in Waiting of the 2nd Battalion IRISH GUARDS, for a Parachute Landing Scheme at NORTHOLT.
    The Signallers went down to PIRBRIGHT to train.
    The move is on again though the date is uncertain.

    1940 March 30 -31
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    Lieutenant G.S. BRODRICK has been appointed BRIGADE Intelligence Officer.

    1940 April 1
    Wellington Barracks
    The probable date of our move is to be the 10th though this is to be kept secret.

    1940 April 2
    Wellington Barracks

    1940 April 3
    Wellington Barracks
    The Canadians are to mount King’s Guard, and officers and N.C.O’s for guard from the TORONTO SCOTTISH, and ROYAL 22nd came up from ALDERSHOT for a preliminary lecture.
    After to-day we are handing them over to the 2nd Battalion, on account of our impending move.

    From The Times, Friday, Apr 05, 1940

    From The Times, Wednesday, Apr 17, 1940 - article and photo same date


    CANADIANS TAKE OVER - British Pathe

    1940 April 4
    Wellington Barracks
    The KING visited the Battalion to-day.
    He watched training on the Barrack Square, and witnessed lectures on Gas and Anti-Tank mines.
    Both the KING and the Major-General professed themselves very pleased with all they saw.

    1940 April 5
    Wellington Barracks
    Packing up begins again.
    This is the 4th warning we’ve received to move, and whilst many are now sceptical, others consider that it tis the real thing this time.

    1940 April 6
    Wellington Barracks
    The SCOTS GUARDS accompanied by our Advance Party of Captain D.H. FITZGERALD, and 4 Other Ranks, left by train from EUSTON this evening at 8 p.m.
    It appears that we shall go.

    1940 April 7
    Wellington Barracks

    1940 April 8
    Wellington Barracks

    1940 April 9
    Wellington Barracks
    Instructions were received this evening that the Battalion transport was to move at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow the 10th.
    The Carriers were to go to King’s Cross to be loaded at 8 a/m., to be taken to CATTERICK.
    Since we had not expected the transport to be moved for a forthnight it was only with difficulty that they could be got off in time.
    The Carriers all had to fit new tracks.

    Just before leaving Wellington Barracks, 10 April 1940
    From left: Captain the Honourable Brian Arthur O'NEILL, Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Douglas FAULKNER, M.C. Major Cecil Leander John BOWEN
    Screen shot 2011-07-15 at 22.02.22.png

    1940 April 10
    Wellington Barracks
    The Battalion move by two trains from Euston this evening.
    The first with the Commanding Officer in Command, with H.Q. Company, and No. 1 Company left at 2005 hours.
    The 2nd under command of Major BOWEN with Nos. 2, 3, 4 Companies.

    1940 April 11
    The Battalion embarked at King George V Dock GLASGOW on the “MONARCH OF BERMUDA”.
    It has ceased to be even an open secret now, that we are bound for NORWAY, since an allied force has been promised to that country since her invasion by GERMANY.
    We have had to take over 40 sentry posts on board ship, together with 7 Anti-Aircraft posts, and 6 observation or look-out posts for submarines.
    It is generally considered that we are very likely to be attacked on route, especially since German transports have been sunk by the BRITISH NAVY.
    There was a practice emergency station alarm this afternoon; but there are so many troops on board that there is no room for all in the boats.
    We have been issued with Arctic clothing on board.
    Guardsmen walked round the deck and were handed out every few yards articles ranging from rubber boots, kapok coats and sleeping bags to white fur caps.
    The look of astonishment on their faces as the collected each new surprise was vastly amusing.
    We sailed at 3 p.m.

    1940 April 12
    At Sea
    A moderately calm passage so far though quite a few have succumbed.
    Emergency rations are issued, and the new extra container for Arsine gas is fitted to gas masks.
    And uneventful day.

    1940 April 13
    At Sea
    The sea remains remarkably calm; and it is still fairly warm.
    "Our naval escort has increased, and now numbers 12 destroyers, 1 net-laying ship, H.M.S. CAIRO (for Anti-Aircraft defence), 2 heavy cruisers, “BELFAST” and “GLASGOW”, and a Battleship, the ""VALIANT""."
    Also being escorted are the “EMPRESS OF AUSTRALIA”, a German ship re-named after capture in the last war, and two POLISH passenger ships.
    "One is called the BATORY, with the 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS and Captain D.H. FITZGERALD on board, and the other is the ""REINO DEL PACIFICO"". "
    These POLISH ships were built in ITALY for POLAND, and were exchanged against shipments of coal.
    A flying boat cruises overhead, to complete the constant watch against submarines.
    There was a boat-drill practice at 0330 hours.
    Natural history observers noticed one peregrine falcon, perched on the mast-head, and 3 teal were seen flying near the ship.

    1940 April 14
    At Sea
    Mass was held at 715 and 800 a.m. in the 1st Class Smoking Room; and the Senior Chaplain held the Church of England Service at 11 o’clock in the same place.
    A sing song was held at 700 p.m.
    Great excitement prevailed during the evening, as a series of dull thuds, was heard from the vicinity of our escorting destroyers.
    These thuds were followed by fountains of green foam, and the destroyers circled round their prey, hoping for the tell-tale splashes of oil upon the water.
    We heard later that this hunt had been successful.

    1940 April 15
    At Sea
    We awoke to the most beautiful scene, the convoy steaming in formation of “line ahead” down the Fjord towards NARVIK.
    Admiral of the Fleet, Lord CORK AND ORRERY led the convoy in the Cruiser “AURORA”.
    The convoy circled round twice while the destroyers took soundings of the Fjord .
    The scenery had all the attractions of the Swiss mountains, with the added beauty of the waters of the Fjord, down which we sailed.
    The tiny fishing hamlets on either side of the waters took little notice at first of the long line of ships, which was regularly flashing messages down the column by signal lamp.
    Gradually, however, the villagers would gather in groups, and finally they became sufficiently courageous to follow us in their well-built fishing smacks.
    At about noon, six depth charges were heard in rapid succession; and this time the victim was successfully claimed, and six prisoners were landed from one of the destroyers.
    At lunch time the Commanding Officer was told that a destroyer was alongside, ready to take off the first landing party of the Battalion.
    The Battalion disembarked in the order No. 2, 1, 3, 4, H.Q. [Companies]
    In addition to the kit, which the men wore, when embarking, they wore their Arctic coats, pull-overs, gloves, glasses and carried their two additional kit-bags.
    Those men for whom room could not be found on the destroyer, landed in the local fishing boats.

    24th Guards Brigade, Harstad.

    Billets were found for the Battalion, in HARSTAD, a fishing village, on an island.
    Battalion H.Q. and No. 1 Company were quartered with BRIGADE H.Q., and 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS, in the large school, about half a mile from the quay.
    No. 2 Company is about 1/2 mile from Battalion H.Q., with Nos. 3 and 4 Companies, about 4 miles away from the town.
    The inhabitants of the town are friendly, and the Guardsmen themselves lost no time in getting acquainted with the more attractive local inhabitants.
    It must be bewildering for the inhabitants to have so many soldiers thrust suddenly upon them, but they meet every problem with charming courtesy, and a smile will almost requisition anything.
    Force H.Q. are established at the GRAND HOTEL.
    Mr. BORLAND has joined Battalion H.Q. as official interpreter.

    1940 April 16
    The morning was spent in settling into our new quarters, and getting in touch with the outlying Companies.
    An Officers Mess was established in the house behind the school.
    Brigadier FRAZER had a Conference with the Commanding Officer.
    A Battalion Conference had been ordered in the School for 2 p.m.
    In the middle of the orders, being issued by the Commanding Officer, a terrific crash was heard.
    We waited very nervously for the next one.
    All the Commanding Officer said was “Have we too many eggs in one basket?”
    We continued, rather forcing our attention back to our maps, pencils and notebooks.
    The next crash, 12 minutes later at 3 p.m. exactly, forced us all without exception into an undignified but obviously practical plunge on to the floor.
    The performance, if it had not been so alarming, was like a class learning to swim without water.
    The result of this bomb was as follows:-
    Two craters were found on either side of a house, only 50 yards from the room in which the Conference held.
    The house caught fire, but none of the inhabitants were touched.
    The Carrier Platoon on the opposite side of the road had all the glass broken in their billet, and one piece pierced a Guardsman’s S.D. cap without hurting him.
    This fire was extinguished afer hard work by the Carrier Platoon under Lieutenant H.L.S. YOUNG ably assisted by Captain GORDON-WATSON, M.C.
    All the windows of the Officers Mess were broken, and the clock was utterly smashed.
    Seven bombs were dropped in all; and the only check to the Nazi pilot was some optimistic Bren gun fire by the Anti-Aircraft Platoon, which probably did more to draw the enemy fire close to Battalion H.Q. than anything else.
    One of the bombs, which fell near the docks, killed a military policeman, and badly frightened P.S.M. HIGGINS and the Pioneer Platoon, who were unloading baggage from the Quay.
    Operation Orders and continuous conferences throughout the day were badly disturbed by the sky-pilot’s visit.
    Many wondered what would be the effect on local Norwegians at our lack of anti-aircraft defences to deal with such attacks.
    Only two planes came over.
    What would [be] the effect of 50?
    The transport of the Battalion baggage proceeded far into the night, and we mounted a guard on the wharf to protect stores of No. 2 Company under Captain J.R. DURHAM-MATTHEWS, who was to set off on a lone expedition early the following morning.
    Lieutenant G.S. BRODRICK has been appointed BRIGADE Intelligence Officer.

    1940 April 17
    The Commanding Officer went down to the Quay at 9 a.m. to see No. 2 Company set sail in 3 fishing boats.
    Their intention was to land at SKAANLAND, leave one Platoon at EVENES, and work their way up the coast towards LENVIK.
    It seemed that the harbour master was a most suspicious person, as he kept on asking pertinent questions, as to their ultimate place of arrival.
    The BRIGADE Signal Officer had allotted at No. 11 wireless set to Company H.Q. which was operated by CORPS OF SIGNAL personnel.
    In the afternoon Major BOWEN led No. 1 Company and part of H.Q. Company on a route march.
    There had been an air raid earlier in the day, and it was strongly rumoured, although not confirmed that an enemy aeroplane had been shot down.
    No. 2 Company’s billet had been taken over by a Company of the 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS.

    1940 April 18
    No news has come through on the wireless of the movements of No. 2 Company, although faint call signs had been intercepted by the wireless operator.
    Major BOWEN set out with 2 Norwegian interpreters for a reconnaissance of the area of BOGEN BAY, where the Battalion was to land.
    Lorries had been requisitioned to convey the Battalion baggage to the Quay, and buses were chartered to transport No. 3 Company from their billet which was furthest away.

    1940 April 19
    At Sea
    Just as the Battalion H.Q. set off for the Key at 1.45 p.m., enemy aircraft flew over HARSTAD, dropping bombs near the Quayside.
    The move was delayed, until the ALL CLEAR was blown.
    The Battalion was transported to H.M.S. VINDICTIVE, on board a minelayer, H.M.S. PROTECTOR.
    The VINDICTIVE was a converted repair ship, and by 7 p.m. the Battalion was comfortably settled in on board ship.
    The troops were loud in praise of the facilities offered on board to buy tobacco and cigarettes at duty-free prices.

    1940 April 19
    At Sea
    Everybody had a good night’s rest, and the sea was remarkably kind to us.
    At 10 a.m. “ACTION STATIONS” was sounded, and the naval personnel flew to their posts.
    No bombs were dropped on us.
    The Commanding Officer had a Conference of Company Commanders at 2 p.m. to give out orders for landing at LILAND in BOGEN BAY.

    H.Q., 1, 3 and 4 Companies were to be billeted in the area between LILAND and LEROS.
    No. 2 Company had one Platoon at EVENES.
    Major BOWEN and Captain D.H. FITZGERALD met the Commanding Officer and his Staff, who landed first in the fishing fleet of Norwegian boats, which were under the orders of the F.O. NARVIK.
    Billeting and the unloading of baggage was completed by the early hours of the morning.
    It is interesting to note that all the B.B.C. programmes we have heard so far, state that British Forces are in NARVIK.
    From news sent in by No. 2 Company, we know that the German (Jaegar) Ski patrols are active, not 10 miles from LILAND.

    1940 April 20
    At 9 a.m. No. 2 Company, less one Platoon, at EVENES set out for BOGEN (STRAND), a two hour journey on foot, cars and sledges were requisitioned for transport.
    No. 4 Company moved into No. 2 Company’s billets.
    Nos. 1 and 3 and H.Q. Company spent the day in expanding their billets, and making themselves more comfortable.
    At 11 a.m. there was an air raid alarm, but no bombs were dropped.
    Communication was established to Nos. 1, 3, and 4 Companies by telephone and by 6 p.m. visual communication was through to No. 2 Company at BOGEN BAY.
    Later our visual at No. 4 adopted ‘F’ procedure in case their signals might be read by enemy observers.
    In the morning the Commanding Officer visited 2/Lieutenant G.P.M. FITZGERALD at EVENES, and in the afternoon he visited Captain J.R. DURHAM-MATTHEWS at BOGEN BAY.
    The G.O.C. and BRIGADE Commander visited Battalion H.Q. later in the day.
    The Commanding Officer received the following telegram during the day, which makes the attitude of our allies difficult to understand “Telegram from Norwegian Divisional H.Q., stating that Norwegian volunteers at BOGEN must not be used by British troops, as their task is only to defend their homes.”
    The crying need at the moment is expert skiers, for patrolling, and by the time we have learnt to ski, the snow will have gone.

    1940 April 21
    To-day, being Sunday, Father CAVANAGH held Mass at 7.30 and 8.30 a.m.
    Lieutenant D. MILLS-ROBERTS set out SKAANLAND in a motor-car, with mail and dispatches.
    When the BRIGADE Commander had visited LILAND, he had asked us to be ready to open up communication with passing destroyer patrols, and other passing ships.
    No. 2 Company had already communicated with a trawler, which “liaised” between the cruiser “AURORA” and the land.
    Battalion H.Q. had received information from the village of HARSTAD, that there were three packages of medical supplies waiting on the quay for shipment to wounded ENGLISH sailors at BELLANGEN.
    "We contacted one destroyer, and the following conversation took place by lamp:- “Are there wounded ENGLISH sailors at BELLANGEN, please confirm if report correct."" Back flashed the answer ""Information correct. Thank you for taking so much trouble.""
    Later in the evening, the supplies were sent to BELLANGEN in a fishing boat, under Command Lieutenant JACKSON, R.N., supported by an escort from No. 3 Company.
    Throughout the day information had been filtering through No. 2 Company about the movements of German patrols.
    Lieutenant STRAND, Norwegian Army finally evacuated his post at LENVIKMARK, leaving no further protection ahead of No. 2 Company.
    Lieutenant F. LEWIN visited H.M. cruiser AURORA to bring information to the Commanding Officer.
    The Intelligence Officer also obtained valuable information from a photography, brought in by a Norwegian, showing enemy machine gun posts 3 or 4 kilometres EAST of BJERKUIK.
    Commander F.H. HOPKINSON, O.B.E., and his interpreter Captain BEIRE, stayed the night at Battalion H.Q.

    1940 April 22
    2/Lieutenant D.R.S. FITZGERALD had relieved 2/Lieutenant G.P.M. FITZGERALD at EVENES, and the latter re-joined No. 2 Company at BOGEN.
    Captain DURHAM-MATTHEWS had imposed a curfew over his domain, and was virtually Lord and master over all he surveyed.
    His two flank posts were connected to his Company H.Q. by telephone.
    In the afternoon the Commanding Officer went to SKAANLAND for a Conference with the Brigadier, to discuss an operation to take place on the 24th.
    Any Officers Conference was held at 930 p.m. by the Commanding Officer, and it was revealed that a reconnaissance in the destroyer “BEDOUIN” would take place the following morning.
    Lieutenant N.S.P. WHITEFOORD, M.C. and 40 personnel M.T. arrived at 10 p.m. after leaving ENGLAND the day before the Battalion left.
    Their convoy was shot up by a rattled Norwegian patrol boat; but no blood was spilt.

    1940 April 23
    In the morning the Commanding Officer, Major BOWEN, Major GILBART-DENHAM, Captain DURHAM-MATTHEWS, Captain GORDON-WATSON and Lieutenant GILLIAT boarded the destroyer “BEDOUIN” for a reconnaissance of NARVIK harbour.
    At first the weather was misty, and visibility very poor, but as we approached the harbour, the clouds lifted, and the sun poured through, giving the watchers on the bridge, the most perfect view of their objective which they could possibly have.
    Captain McCOY brought us in very close to the shore, and we were within easy reach of machine gun fire of the shore.
    The Captain pointed out to use the exact spot, where he had sunk a German destroyer only a week before, and wrecks of German transport were easily discernible along the shore.
    The BEDOUIN, (a tribal class destroyer, built in 1939), had led the flotilla into the NARVIK Fjord, to take part in the successful action which accounted for 7 German destroyers, and nearly twice that number of German transports and supply ships.
    The plan, explained to us the evening before by the Commanding Officer was briefly as follows:- The Battalion would land, after heavy naval bombardment, at VASVIK Pier, in the order 3, 4, 1.
    Advance Battalion, H.Q., 2 Company, H.Q. Company, No. 3 and 4 Companies would establish a bridgehead, and No. 1 Company would occupy a position astride the Railway, denying all approaches EAST of the Town.
    All prisoners would be collected on the beach, under an armed guard and made to lay down their arms.
    The whole operation depended on the naval decision, as to whether their heavy bombardment with 15” guns, warranted a landing and the decision as to whether we should land, rested with the Naval Staff.
    The reconnaissance was perfect in every way, as Company Commanders had a perfect view of their areas, which is so rarely possible in the average reconnaissance.
    There was no sign of military activity in the town of NARVIK; but all the officers on the bridge wore naval headgear, to avoid a military reconnaissance being suspected.
    A steamer was tied to NARVIK Pier, and orders were given that she should be sunk, if she moved from the pier.
    We returned to LILAND at 1230 p.m.
    The projected naval operation necessitated considerable change of personnel at LILAND.
    Base details, consisting of Company details and 40 M.T. were to take over LILAND and BOGEN.

    1940 April 23
    Major T.A. HACKET-PAIN, remained in charge of the Base Details.
    The Commanding Officer held a Tactical Conference at 0930 hours, at which every detail was discussed, concerning the combined operations.

    1940 April 24
    The Battalion embarked in fishing boats, and in their groups, as laid down in Operation Order No. 2, to be taken on board the “VINDICTIVE”.
    The wind was strong, and embarkation was by no means easy.
    At least one fishing boat was badly crushed against the bows of the “VINDICTIVE”, but by 830 a.m. the Battalion was on board.
    As the last man was heaved on board instructions were flashed to the bridge “Negative Embarkation”.
    What did this mean, and had we embarked for nothing?
    We had.
    The heavy naval guns had been hammering the town of the Naval Staff postponed the landing of troops.
    By 1230 p.m. the Battalion had disembarked and were straight back to BOGEN.
    This timing says much for the efficient way in which Companies went about their business; as it is no easy thing to clamber aboard ship, in heavy equipment with nailed boots; and descending ships ladders in a choppy sea is harder still.
    At 530 p.m. valuable information was brought in by a Norwegian skier, who had escaped from NARVIK, the afternoon before.
    The bearer was most sure of his information, and if the population of NARVIK, is of similar stock, the enemy position in the town, can be no easy one.

    1940 April 25
    The Commanding Officer and Major BOWEN visited BOGEN in the morning.
    The Commanding Officer received during the morning a deputation from local tradesmen, asking to be allowed to send a boat into HARSTAD, to re-stock their deplenishing shops.
    All the time that we have been here, wireless communication has been most inefficient, and the cyphers sent through rarely produce more than an unintelligible jumble of figures and letters wherever the fault is, it is most unsatisfactory.
    Throughout the Battalion the Companies are organising their own lives, and training programmes are in full swing.
    Defensive positions are being strengthened, and facilities created for bathing Colonel STOKES, the C.R.E. has a Section of R.E. here, who are advising about constructional difficulties.
    NARVIK was again bombarded by the NAVY, and 3 large fires reported in the town.
    More information came through about the Germans in NARVIK.
    Other activities throughout the day including an expedition to BELLANGEN to repatriate our wounded sailors there; the Quartermaster’s visit to HARSTAD, and the passing of the POLISH destroyer BLYS through our Fjord.

    1940 April 25
    In the morning the Commanding Officer inspected H.Q. Company billets.
    Brigadier FRAZER lunched in the officers’ Mess and had a conference with the Commanding Officer.
    In order to provide protection for a Battalion of “CHASSUERS ALPINES” who had come under his Command, the Brigadier ordered that No. 2 Company should move to LENVIK, until the “CHASSEURS” had disembarked in BOGEN BAY.
    This was also a gesture, so that the FRENCH would no move straight into the front line.
    In the afternoon No. 2 Copany moved by sea SOUTH to LENVIK; leaving the Base Details at BOGEN.
    The FRENCH are expected to arrive tomorrow.
    Force H.Q. sent a civil telephone engineer to connect the military exchange at HARSTAD, LILAND and BOGEN, to the existing telephone lines.
    The system should work quite well; but tapping-in on the line will be unpreventable, unless the line is cut ahead of LENVIK.
    "The Commanding Officer, Captain GORDON-WATSON, M.C. and Lieutenant YOUNG spent the night on the ""AURORA""."

    1940 April 26
    The Commanding Officer had a thrilling reconnaissance on the “AURORA”, and their target practice accounted for a barracks, a telephone exchange and a chain of lorries.
    As the officers left the cruiser to return to LILAND, three enemy aircraft at a great height dropped six bombs, which landed in the Bay, at very close range to their objective.
    The cruiser’s anti-aircraft fire was very accurate, and kept the pilots at great height.
    The Admiral, who arrived immediately afterwards in his own seaplane, was lucky to avoid this bombardment by so narrow a margin.
    Throughout the afternoon arrangements were made for the reception of the FRENCH CHASSEUR Battalion, and a liaison officer arrived at LILAND during the evening.
    BRIGADE H.Q. were to move in tomorrow.
    Another visitor was a naval officer who arrived in his “degaussing” kit, to examine an enemy magnetic torpedo.
    Captain DURHAM-MATTHEWS had had an encounter at LENVIK with a reconnoitring ski patrol, but no casualties were recorded.

    1940 April 28
    Father CAVANAGH held Mass at 7 o’clock this morning.
    Throughout the past few days a heavy pall of smoke has been noticed lying over the mountains in the direction of NARVIK.
    Our own reports suggest that the Germans have set fire to the iron ore deposits and the Navy’s daily visits must be held accountable for some of the smoke.
    BRIGADE H.Q. arrived at LILAND during the day.
    At 6.30 in the evening, a Norwegian naval commander telephoned to say that 5 enemy submarines had been sighted in the area of RAMSUNDET.
    This was confirmed ten minutes later by another telephone message to say, that they were submerged, and continuing on their way to NARVIK.
    Messages were flashed by the signallers ot the A.S. trawler “MELBOURNE” off LILAND, and to the “AURORA” lying at anchor in BOGEN BAY.
    Ten minutes later we had to apologise with “For submarines, please read whales”.
    The FRENCH arrived, and are “liaising” with No. 2 Company at LENVIK, and the Base Details, under Captain D.H. FITZGERALD at BOGEN.

    1940 April 29
    The Commanding Officer and the Adjutant set out early for BOGEN to attend a Conference with the Brigadier. As the Brigadier was going on a two days reconnaissance, the Commanding Officer assumes temporary command of the BRIGADE.
    No. 2 Company returned from LENVIK after completing their job of protecting the landing of the “CHASSEUR ALPINS”. There is no question that No. 2 Company has been the hardest worked company to date.
    There is still no trace of our transport; and even our local fleet has melted into thin air, to transport other battalions from one part of the Bay to the other. This lack of transport is a very serious deficiency to an advancing force.
    The snow is gradually thawing, and it seems as though the aspiration of our ardent skiers may remain unattained until next winter. It is hoped that the snow may remain a while longer to enable our French allies to frighten the enemy patrols out of their skins.

    1940 April 30
    A quiet day to-day, with the Commanding Officer still commanding the BRIGADE from BOGEN.
    The S.W.B.s landed at ANKANES, and a message reached us in the evening to say that the Brigadier had been slightly wounded while making a reconnaissance. Colonel TRAPPES-LOMAX will come up to take over the BRIGADE.
    During the afternoon’s fishing No. 3 Company discovered, floating in a thick pool of oil, a complete German Davis Escape apparatus marked U.B. 64.

    See also 1st Battalion Irish Guards, April 1940
    for images which were in possession of Eric C Deverell who was a Merchant Navy officer on the Monarch of Bermuda.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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    Lieutenant-Colonel. W.D. FAULKNER, M.C. - Commanding Officer
    Major C.L.J. BOWEN - Second-in-Command
    Major T.A. HACKET-PAIN - Company Commander
    Captain the Honourable B.A. O’NEILL - Adjutant
    Captain D.M.L. GORDON-WATSON, M.C. - Intelligence Officer
    Lieutenant N.S.P. WHITEFOORD, M.C. - Transport Officer
    Lieuteannt H.L.S. YOUNG - Carrier Platoon Commander
    Lieutenant J. GILLIAT - Signals Officer
    Captain Reverend C.V. CAVANAGH - R.C. Chaplain
    Lieutenant A.D.F. O’NEILL - Medical Officer
    Captain T.D. McCARTHY, M.B.E. - Quartermaster

    No. 1 COMPANY
    Major V.V. GILBART-DENHAM - Company Commander
    Captain B.O.P. EUGSTER, M.C. - Company Officer
    Lieutenant E.C. FITZCLARENCE - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant D.R.S. FITZGERALD - Company Officer

    No. 2 COMPANY
    Captain J.R. DURHAM-MATTHEWS - Company Commander
    Captain D.H. FITZGERALD - Company Officer
    Lieutenant F.R.A. LEWIN - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant G.P.M. FITZGERALD - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant J.E. VESEY - Company Officer

    No. 3 COMPANY
    Captain L.W. ARMSTRONG-MacDONNELL - Company Commander
    Lieutenant D. MILLS-ROBERTS - Company Officer
    Lieutenant I.H. POWELL-EDWARDS - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant D.M. KENNEDY - Company Officer

    No. 4 COMPANY
    Captain H.C. McGILDOWNY - Company Commander
    Lieutenant C.A. MONTAGU-DOUGLAS-SCOTT - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant D.L. COLE - Company Officer
    2/Lieutenant J.S.O. HASLEWOOD - Company Officer

    Lieutenant G.S. BRODRICK - BRIGADE Intelligence Officer
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    To:- DEMI.

    A Norwegian named KARE HUNSTAD accompanies this letter. He lives near VASVIK PIER. He escaped from NARVIK by means of the pass attached, which was produced for him by the help of a Norwegian Officer in plain clothes. He escaped by boat from NARVIK across BEIS FJORD thence by ski, until he got in touch with H.M.S. FALCONER, who passed him on to PAWN. He left NARVIK on April 23rd at 1500 hours. His information is as follows:-

    1. TROOPS
    German troops in NARVIK are about 3,000, of which up to a third are marines or sailors off destroyers (with Norwegian rifles). Several of the remainder are Austrians.

    2. MORALE
    He says that the Germans’ moral is bad. During shelling soldiers (most of whom are young) endeavoured to get to the hills and leave their posts. They were stopped by Officers with revolvers. He says executions of German troops are frequent. Norwegian spirt it good. They patiently await the arrival of British.

    The Germans at present have plenty of food, though a shortage is likely. Civilians are closely rationed by civil authorities.

    6,000 of the 10,000 inhabitants have left. No more are allowed to go.

    The British Consul was taken prisoner, but he has not been seen since.

    Transport planes fly over most days. They drop supplies on the Stadium (marked on map), six or seven parachutes of ammunition failed to open and crashed on the ground.

    7. GUNS
    The Germans have no field guns but have some mortars.
    M.G. posts on the North shore are disposed as per map attached.
    These posts are in trenches in the snow, a little over a 100 yards from the shore.
    There is a landmine belt in front of the posts.
    The Royal Hotel and railway bridges are mined.
    VASVIK Quay is mined.
    TARALDSVIK Pier is probably mined.

    8. RAILWAY
    German marines hold the stations near the frontier.

    9. H.Q.
    German H.Q. have moved to South of FARGENES. A seaplane has been seen outside the H.Q.

    10. HARBOUR
    There are no ships or warships in the harbour. The explosion at 0230 hours April 23 was near the Ore Quay.

    11. SKIING
    Ski troops are poor. 200 crossed to OIJORD before the ferry was sunk. Ski troops can only approach LILAND through BOGEN.

    24th April, 1940
    Signed D.M.L. GORDON-WATSON, Intelligence Officer, PAWN.
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    At 9 o’clock on Friday night the Commanding Officer, Captain GORDON-WATSON and Lieutenant H.L.S. YOUNG left LILAND by car for BOGEN whence they reached H.M.S. AURORA by naval cutter. On reaching the AURORA, they were hauled up on a crane. Two sailors still with sphinx-like faces standing at the stern of the cutter.

    The object of the journey was to reconnoitre in particular the triangle of country around OIJORD as the BRIGADE had in mind to land us in that area. However, the main reason in the minds of the “military” was to watch a bit of shooting in the morning.

    At 3.00 in the morning AURORA sailed from BOGEN BAY, the chief engineer having reported to the Commanding Officer (who was sleeping in the Captain’s bed). ‘Engines present and ready to march off’ or words to that effect.

    Captain GORDON-WATSON and Lieutenant YOUNG were on the bridge at 4.30 and the Commanding Officer arrived soon afterwards.

    We sailed down towards NARVIK and before turning North East into HERJANGS FJORD exchanged a few signals with the Polish destroyer whom they called “WHISKERS”. ZULU could be seen farther over towards NARVIK.

    As we passed TROLDVIKEN we saw the remains of a German destroyer which had been chased ashore off the point. BYERKVIK seemed deserted at about 5.30 in the morning. However, on the road to GRATANGEN we could see a column of stationary M.T., ie about 5 vehicles. We opened fire on these at 2, 400 yards with 6-inch guns. As the first shot fell a little short GORDON-WATSON and YOUNG both let out a subconscious “Short”. However, the third shot set one lorry on fire and before long at least three of the vehicles were in flames or complete wrecks. A charabanc which still remained was demolished later in the morning.
    Right down by the beach were about 15 vehicles and two petrol pumps. Unfortunately they were surrounded by houses and we could not shoot. We then tried to demolish a bridge but the target was too difficult for flat trajectory and we gave it up.

    The cold was intense with a 55 m.p.h. East wind and we all decided it was time for a hot bath and breakfast, the very best of both of which we had.

    At 10.00 a message came to the WARD ROOM, “Parachute plane sighted, action stations.” We rushed up to the bridge only to find it was a false alarm. The Pole, “WHISKERS” now arrived with us. In the meantime we saw several Germans (up to about 30) moving in extreme open order (about 20 yards between each man) across BJERKVIK. They all moved into about two red houses and eventually moved up the road and disappeared near the shuttered ?s. They presented a very poor target and must have realised it as they did not seem to worry much about the bombardment.

    After this we turned to the major gunnery task of the day - a large school house about 3,500 yards off which was reported to be used as a barracks. Three shots and then a salvo of four sent the whole building up in flames 300 feet high. ZULU who had by now joined us, demolished a telephone exchange and the lines with 4.7s and pom-poms.

    As we sailed past NARVIK, AURORA with her 4-inch guns demolished a hut in which an M.G. post was supposed to be. After three shots the signal came down “hut demolished”.
    That was the end of the morning’s shooting and about 40 shots were fired. The 6-inches made a terrific crash and cotton wool was very necessary.

    We then went down for lunch which was an excellent one. GORDON-WATSON was especially pleased as he was given a tin of ship’s tobacco without having to “angle” for it. He promised the Navigation Officer a white fur hat in exchange.

    So AURORA returned to BOGEN and the recce Party went ashore. As far as the reconnaissance was concerned, it was decided that the OIFORD area had no merits, it was very exposed and the coast was a rock one to land on.

    Having landed in a naval cutter, the Commanding Officer hoisted his flag in one of his 7 1/2 knot fleet and chugged past the AURORA and round the island for home.
    No sooner had the fishing boat passed AURORA than the 4-inch guns pointed skywards. A flash left the barrels, two puffs of smoke in the sky, and the “crump” as a bomb landed unpleasantly near AURORA.

    The air raid which was carried out by three German bombers at a great height, lasted half an hour. It seemed rather incongruous to watch a bomb shine in the sun almost directly overhead of the little fishing craft. This bomb dropped on the island but failed to explode.
    AURORA was undamaged by the bombs but the Bay was full of fish which pleased the inhabitants of BOGEN.

    *As the “Flagship” reached LILAND, the seaplane from the SOUTHAMPTON sailed low overhead carrying the Admiral of the Fleet to AURORA.

    *see next post
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    From The History of the Irish Guards during the Second World War, FitzGerald, page :

    Three German bombers were overhead. The cruiser’s guns kept the aircraft up at a great height, but some of the bombs fell unpleasantly close. In the fishing boat they could clearly see the bombs glittering in the sun directly overhead and called for more speed from the engines. Thousands of stunned fish floated up to the surface. When the bombers had gone the Norwegians scrambled into rowing boats and had the easiest day’s fishing in their lives.

    The “puffer” reached LILAND pier just as a seaplane flew in low over the village. It was an old Walrus from H.M.S. Southampton, carrying the Admiral to Aurora. The anti-aircraft post by the pier greeted it with a sharp burst of Bren gun fire. The seaplane climbed steeply and then came down again and circled round for recognition. The Bren gun opened up again.

    “Who is in charge of that post?” asked Colonel FAULKNER.
    “Lance-Corporal LUDLOW, sir.”

    Lance-Corporal LUDLOW (generally known as “Twenty to Four” from the angle of his feet) was marched into the Commanding Officer’s Orders the next morning as “idle in the recognition of aircraft.” Sympathetic friends were waiting for him outside the Battalion H.Q.

    “What did you get?”
    “What for?”
    “Missing a low-flying admiral.”
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    1940 May 1
    Nothing to report.

    1940 May 2
    No. 3 Company went to LENVIK to take over position held by 12th Battalion CHASSEUR ALPINS, Base Details returned to LILAND from BOGEN.

    1940 May 3

    1940 May 4
    Sinking of Polish Destroyer “GROM”. It went down in 2 minutes; casualties very heavy.
    “AURORA” was bombed - turret hit - 10 killed, 10 injured. There has been continuous bombing of warships in our fjord.

    1940 May 5 - 6

    1940 May 7
    Recce carried out on “AURORA” by the Commanding Officer (Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. FAULKNER, M.C.) at NARVIK. The NAVY could not provide water transport for the position chosen by the military advisers for the landing, and the position chosen by the NAVY was not suitable to the military.
    A wreck was visited by some Officers and the Pioneer Platoons. It was a 5,000 ton German transport vessel completely gutted by fire. There were hundreds of sets of horse-shoes, carriers guns and motor-cycles on board.

    1940 May 8

    1940 May 9
    Our first mail arrived from ENGLAND.

    1940 May 10
    Battalion called out on an hour’s notice to proceed to BJERVIK. An intercepted message from the Admiralty stated that the town was being evacuated by the enemy. No. 1 Company with the Commanding Officer and Captain GORDON-WATSON, M.C., went first in the “BEDOUIN”, the remainder of the Battalion were to follow in the “AURORA”. Lieutenant FITZCLARENCE and 4 Other Ranks and BRIGADE Interpreter were to land first in a A.L.C. and seize the first civilian they met and try to find out whether there were any enemy still in the town. The landing in the A.L.C. was to be covered by pom-poms of the “BEDOUIN” who were under the command of Captain GORDON-WATSON, M.C. At the last moment a message was flashed to the “BEDOUIN” that the operation was cancelled on information received in the meantime. The BRIGADE Commander who knew nothing about the operation turned up at the last moment. It appeared that the responsibility of turning the Battalion out rested with the BRIGADE Major.

    1940 May 11
    Recce of SKJOMNES by Commanding Officer. No. 1 Company take up position there behind the S.W.B.s. SKJOMNES badly bombed during recce.

    1940 May 12
    Fleet led by “RESOLUTION” with FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION sail up our Fjord to capture BJERVIK. This was accomplished successfully by the FOREIGN LEGION, who landed in magnificent style and showed how highly trained and what fine troops they were.
    The Battalion were disappointed that they were not chosen for this task. The Commanding Officer had reconnoitred BJERVICK and we had considered that this was our job.

    1940 May 13
    The Battalion leave LENVIK and LILAN on steamers to proceed to SKAANLAND and then to embark on the Polish motor liner “CHROBRY”.

    At Sea
    By 0300 hours May 14th the Battalion loaded and embarked on H.M.T. “CHROBRY”.
    Severe air attacks in SKAANLAND Harbour on H.M.S. “CAIRO”.

    1940 May 14
    At Sea
    Orders issued for disembarkation at MO and later changed to BODO (Appendix A).
    0830 hours Bombs dropped 300 yards from H.M.T. “CHROBRY”.
    1700 hours Severe bombing attacks in Fjord.
    1715 hours “CHROBRY” and “RESOLUTION” narrowly missed by two bomb salvos, 4 and 8 bombs respectively.
    1800 hours Arrival of Staff Officer from HARSTAD with no plans or excuses. Ship delayed six hours.

    1940 May 15
    At Sea
    0015 hours H.M.T. “CHROBRY” bombed and set on fire. Ship abandoned. (Appendix B)

    0930 hours Arrival of “STORK” and “WOLVERINE” at HARSTAD.
    Battalion move into billets. H.Q., 1 and 4 Companies at KICHOUS, No.s 2 and 3 Companies at ERVIK.
    Captain GORDON-WATSON M.C. commands the Battaion.
    Lieutenant YOUNG Adjutant.
    1430 hours Visit of G.O.C. to all Companies.
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    Predecessors - TSS STEFAN BATORY - Polish Ocean Liner 1968/ 1988

    MS CHROBRY, 1939-40 Fire and sinking of the ship; vision of marine artist Adam Werka


    Photo taken of Chrobry on fire.


    Chrobry as filmed in August 1939. Shots of lifeboats, cabins etc; gives some idea of what it was like to be on her.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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    From The History of the Irish Guards during Second World War, FitzGerald, pages 42-47:

    The “Chobry” [Chrobry]

    On the morning of the 13th, the Polish Carpathian Brigade took over the Ankenes peninsula. From all round the fjord the scattered units of the 24th Guards Brigade converged on Skaanland. The orders were for the battalions to sail at four-hour intervals, the SCOTS GUARDS first in the two destroyers, then IRISH GUARDS in the Chobry, and finally the SOUTH WALES BORDERERS in H.M.S. Effingham. Three old river boats and one flat-bottomed barge put in to LILAND to transport the Battalion and three times the normal reserve of ammunition. The barge was dangerously overloaded. The steamers were unseaworthy and so top-heavy that men and kitbags had to be packed as ballast into the water-logged holds. Bodies are less perishable than bullets and bombs. All three steamers and the barge left LILAND together and arrived together alongside the Chobry at five o’clock in the afternoon. Part of Brigade H.Q., a battery of field gunners and some Fleet Air Arm officers were already on board, but no preparation had been made to load the Battalion. It was three o’clock in the morning before the last man and last box of ammunition were loaded.

    The SCOTS GUARDS sailed that morning. “We should be under way in four hours‘ time,” Captain BRIAN O’NEILL sat smoking ’like a piquet officer’ - one Balkan Sobranie after another - waiting for the operational and sailing orders. He waited all day. “The Chobry now remained at anchor within 400 yards of the Resolution, Cairo, and other warships, until 1830hrs., 14th May, thus endangering the troops to an unnecessary risk from air attack.” At six o’clock a Liaison Officer arrived at HARSTAD. “Chobry will sail immediately.” He brought no other orders - nothing except a vague apology for keeping the Battalion waiting. Captain O‘NEILL dispatched him with the cold professional rudeness of an Adjutant. “Five hours you’ve kept us waiting. During that time we’ve been bombed three times and it was pure good fortune that the ship was not hit.”

    “It is a hard thing to say,” wrote Captain GORDON-WATSON later, “but it is possible that this delay contributed to the loss of much valuable life when the ship was again bombed and hit.”

    At half-past six the CHOBRY steamed slowly down the fjord, followed by a German observation plane. When she reached the open sea, the CHOBRY was sailing alone through the peaceful evening sunshine. The German aeroplane had disappeared; the naval escort, the destroyer WOLVERINE and the sloop STORK were out of sight over the horizon. As the evening grew chilly, the Battalion went below to eat and sleep. The CHOBRY was a new Polish motor ship, comfortable and well-provisioned. “This is the way to go to war,” said one officer. “It‘s all very well,” said Colonel Faulkner, “but it only needs one bomb. It would go through this ship like a hot knife through butter. Also, I have no information at all. I do not know whether our landing will be opposed or not, but I think it will be pretty sticky, particularly if the German aircraft spot us. We will land about four o‘clock, so I will advise you all go to bed early and get some sleep while you can. Nobody ever gets enough sleep in this country.”

    At midnight three Heinkels bombed the ship. The entries in the War Diary are laconic:

    0015hrs 15th May, H.M.T. CHOBRY bombed and set on fire. Ship abandoned.
    0930hrs Arrival of STORK and WOLVERINE at HARSTADT.

    Naval reports are notoriously brief and unemotional. The Commodore, Rear-Admiral BURKE, R.N., wrote to the Admiralty:

    The calm courage shown by the troops can hardly - if ever - have been surpassed and is best illustrated by the following: -
    Embarked 2a.m.; under frequent bombing attack all day cooped up at anchor - 300 or more were collected on the forecastle - whole midship part of the ship a raging furnace - enemy planes overhead - 50 tones of ammunition in the hold - rescuing destroyer alongside. Not a man moved until I gave the order, which was not until I judged that men from the rest of the ship had got off. When they did move, they did so at a deliberate walk, some even refusing to part with their rifles. It was naturally not possible to single out anyone particularly, but I did notice the very admirable conduct of the Roman Catholic Chaplain.”

    “I turned in about 2230hrs,” said one of the Fleet Air Arm officers, Lieutenant COMPSTON, R.N., “and went to sleep almost immediately. The next thing I remember was the crack of machine-guns and the roar of aircraft engines overhead. Familiarity truly breeds contempt, and my cabin companion and I decided it was no good getting up and hoped the enemy would miss us as he had done for the past few days. Unfortunately this was not the case, and no sooner had we turned over to go to sleep again than there was the most deafening roar I have ever heard or want to hear. The ship had been struck abaft by large calibre bombs - one at least incendiary. My cabin collapsed immediately, and the lights went out. I left the cabin and ran through the adjoining dining saloon - the floor of which was covered with glass and debris - cutting my feet rather badly, and on reaching the port side of the ship saw that she was already ablaze."

    Lieutenant J. GILLIAT shared a cabin with Lieutenant C.A. M.-D.-SCOTT. “He had the bottom bunk, because I am more agile than he. At about 1130hrs I was awakened by a bang, not a big one, as I thought it might be stores being moved. As my feet touched the floor, the lamp burst and glass flew around the room. I grabbed my watch and life-belt, put my feet into boots (unlaced) and went out into the passage, followed by ANDREW SCOTT in similar undress. I must have looked like a slightly obscene pantomime dame. The passage was dark and a thick with acrid smoke gripped one‘s throat. I thought we were done for.” The boots belonged to Lieutenant C.A. SCOTT.

    “It was the unluckiest thing in the world that the bombs all landed near by the senior officers‘ cabins,” wrote Captain M. GORDON-WATSON. “I‘m afraid the first one must have killed JACK D.-MATHEWS and FREDDIE LEWIN and the second or third the COMMANDING OFFICER, JOHN BOWEN, TOMMY H.-PAIN and BRIAN O‘NEILL.”

    “The cabins collapsed like a pack of cards,” said one of the Brigade Staff Officers, “lights went out, the whole of the top decks amidships were immediately ablaze and very soon the main staircase seemed to have disappeared.”

    Guardsman DRAPER, the sentry at the head of the stairs, was killed at his post. Of the servants and orderlies sleeping in the corridor outside the cabins, Guardsman O’CONNELL had his arm broken and ARMER was pinned to the ground badly burnt. Guardsman ARMER, the C.O.’s orderly, extricated himself from the wreckage and struggled through the smoke to his cabin. There was no trace of Colonel FAULKNER. Guardsman ALLEN dragged Major GILBERT-DENHAM out of his cabin and carried him up to a life-boat. Captain D.H. FITZGERALD was having a shower when the first bomb exploded. He and his servant, Guardsman O’SHEA, were trapped in the bathroom and had to get out into the sea through a port-hole. Lieutenant F. LEWIN, who shared his cabin, was killed in his sleep.

    The fire spread rapidly, for the explosion had wrecked the sprinkler system. P.S.M. MORROW, and Guardsman SULLIVAN, the Battalion Fire Orderly, struggled to get the hoses working, but there was no water in the hydrants. “Theirs was a very creditable performance,” said Lieutenant I.H. POWELL-EDWARDS, “since this task appeared almost hopeless from the start.” The crackle of .303 and the red and green flares of exploding Very lights mingled with the steady firing of the A/A barrage. The Heinkels circled overhead at a respectable height, “waiting to machine-gun the boats,” thought Lieutenant J. GILLIAT gloomily. So, too, thought Lieutenant COMPSTON, R.N., “but to our surprise they were gentlemanly enough not to machine-gun us in the water as we expected. Their main interest seemed to be to take photographs.”

    After the first explosion the Battalion was ordered up on deck. The fire divided the ship into two halves, with the result that the most of the men had to go forward and most of the officers aft. The companies filed up from their mess decks, in full kit, carrying their rifles and Brens. “Get on parade - face that way.” At the sound of R.S.M. STACK’s familiar voice the companies formed up in mass, D./Sergeant HOEY in front, D./Sergeant PEILOW in rear. The sentries already on deck acted as markers. Only one man jumped overboard; he broke his neck on his lifebelt.

    The lifeboats forward could not be lowered, for “the power was cut off and the electric winches were unworkable; the Herculean efforts of the Guardsmen on the hand winches proved of no avail.” There was nothing to do but wait till the escorting destroyer came alongside. Father Cavanagh began to recite the Rosary. On a burning ship in the Artic Circle men said the prayers that they had learnt in the quiet churches and farmhouses of IRELAND. Rescue parties searched the burning wreckage and brought the wounded up on deck. Sergeant JOHNSON, the Medical Sergeant, cleared an area on the promenade deck for an R.A.P. and there collected and tended the casualties. His first two casualties were the doctor, Captain A.D.F. O’NEILL, and Captain R. McGILDOWNY both of whom were unconscious. Only four men were now reported missing - Guardsmen J. O’DONNELL, WIDDISON, P. KILLIAN and R. TWEED. Guardsman CALLAGHAN - “Mushy” CALLAGHAN of No. 3 Company - knew that they must be trapped by fire down below in the hold. He threw a rope over the ship’s side and swung from porthole to porthole till he discovered them, and hauled them out one by one up on to the deck.

    The winches aft were still working, so the Polish crew lowered the first flight of lifeboats. These were already full with mixed loads of soldiers, sailors and wounded. Lieutenant COMPSTON, R.N., with his boat load, “cast off and drifted away from the CHOBRY to see the escorting destroyer, H.M.S. WOLVERINE, approaching fast to come along the starboard side. We headed for the other ship - the sloop STORK. At this moment I must praise the courage and devotion to duty of the men of your Regiment who, in spite of finding themselves in an element which is certainly not their own, showed the greatest calm - many of them carrying their kitbags and rifles to the lifeboats and waiting patiently to embark - without the slightest sign of panic. We had great difficulty in parting them from their weapons.” No mere naval disaster could shake the effect of the Depot, reinforced by a Sergeant shouting at them, “Take care of those rifles, they are government property.”

    “In the lifeboat,” continues Lieutenant COMPSTON, “they were magnificent, and once they had been told to obey orders of one officer, they never faltered. I shall always be grateful to one Guardsman who gave me his battle-dress tunic to put over my cold and wet silk pyjamas which was all I stood up in. Another Guardsman gave me his scarf and they all did their best to keep the most scantily clad of us from freezing in the incredible cold. We had rather difficulty in getting the Polish crew to row and do as they were told - possibly this was because I was a British officer and they had their own ideas - but on the whole they were calm. Eventually in the crowded life-boat we managed to get Guardsmen to man the oars. They did as we asked them and after about thirty minutes in the water we managed to row alongside the sloop STORK. They still behaved with the greatest reserve, obeying every calmly given order of the N.C.Os. Because as the boat was crowded there was a great possibility that if they disembarked too quickly she might have overturned.”

    The crew lowered the second flight of boats aft while they could, and then slid down the rope after them. Some men, led by the Quartermaster, who ruptured himself, followed them, and swam to the half-empty boats.

    Lieutenant B.O.P. EUGSTER, M.C., also started to go down a rope, very slowly in the orthodox P.T. style, hand over hand. A solid block of six Polish sailors slid down on top of him an swept him into the sea. He was wearing bright pyjamas when he went into the water; he came up stark naked. Lieutenant H.L.S. YOUNG could not swim; Lieutenant P.M. FITZGERALD did not like the look of the water; Lieutenant C.A. SCOTT, questioned the Polish Captain and learnt that it would take the ship twenty-four hours to burn herself out and sink, though she might blow up at any time. The three of them decided to stay on board and stop anyone else from sliding down into the water. If the ship blew up, everyone would go into the water anyway; if it did not, they might as well keep warm and dry.

    By the time the escort came up there were some twenty heads bobbing about in the sea, for the fire amidships was spreading and forcing isolated men overboard. The STORK launched the whaler to pick them up. She herself stood off astern, engaging the bombers with her guns, and taking on board the lifeboats. H.M.S. WOLVERINE came alongside starboard.

    “We closed on their burning and sinking ship,” said Commander CRASKE, R.N. “I never before realized what the discipline of the Guards was. We got a gangway shipped forward and the men were ordered to file off on to us. There was on confusion, no hurry, and no sign of haste or flurry. I knew that there might be only a matter of minutes in which to get them off. I had four ropes fixed so as to hurry up the transfer. They continued to file steadily off in one line. I cursed and swore at them, but they had orders to file, and they filed. I saw someone who seemed to me to be a young officer and in no measured terms I told him to get them off by all four ropes. In a second they conformed to this order by one of their own officers, still steadily and without fuss or confusion. Their conduct in the most trying circumstances, in the absence of senior officers, on a burning and sinking ship, open at any moment to a new attack, was as fine as, or finer than, the conduct in the old days of the soldiers on the BIRKENHEAD. It may interest you to know that 694 were got on board in sixteen minutes.”

    Two years later Admiral CRASKE wrote to the Regimental Lieutenant-Colonel:
    “You will not know me. My son, Commander R.H. CRASKE, R.N., was in command of H.M.S. WOLVERINE in May, 1940. He lost his life in H.M.S. BARHAM in November, 1941, and amongst the papers he had treasured is your letter to him referring to the rescue of the Battalion from the CHOBRY. He never mentioned the affair till the following December, when he was awarded the D.S.C., and then told us very little, except that any rescue would have been impossible but for the superb discipline of the men of the Battalion.”
    CWGC :: Casualty Details
    Gazette Website: PDF Navigator
    Gazette Website: PDF Navigator

    The “letter” was a message from Officer Commanding, 1st Irish Guards dated 16th May, 1940:
    “I wish to convey to you the deepest gratitude and admiration of all ranks for the bravery and skill displayed by officers and crews of H.M.S. WOLVERINE and STORK. It was entirely due to your gallant action that so many lives were saved.”

    “The sailors were wonderful,” wrote an officer, “and made coffee and cocoa and gave us clothes. We had a seven-hour journey back to HARSTAD and were bombed all the way. Not a good ending.”

    The destroyer WOLVERINE arrived at HARSTAD first and discharged its load of survivors on the quay. “What a funny feeling it is to have nothing except what you stand up in.” They came ashore wrapped in blankets and naval greatcoats over pyjamas and dungarees. Stretcher-bearers carried the wounded off first, and laid them in a little tin shed. From there, the worst cases, Major GILBERT-DENHAM, Guardsman CORBETT and Guardsman SLINEY, were taken straight to the Base Hospital. D./Sergeant PEILOW jumped ashore and doubled away to look for a square. He found one and put out company markers, while R.S.M. STACK ordered the men straight on parade. They fell in - “a proper Battalion parade” - and waited for the other boat to arrive. The SCOTS GUARDS R.Q.M.S., still at HARSTAD with their Base Details, with real charity, sent down containers of tea and mounds of ‘wads’. The Officers and the Company Sergeant-Majors waited on the quay for the STORK to come in. Everybody was desperately hoping that Lieut.-Colonel FAULKNER would be on board.

    As the STORK came in, they saw Captain M. GORDON-WATSON in pyjamas standing on the bridge, and shouted enquiries.

    “Where‘s Colonel FAULKS?”
    “No sign.”
    “Never seen.”

    And so on, I almost cried.”

    The Company Sergeant-Majors collected their men off the sloop and called the roll on the square. “We were surprised to find so few men missing.” The Battalion marched out of the town to the village of ERVIK.
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    30705 Dudley Somerset Erskine WEST, M.C., The CHESHIRE REGIMENT
    [At 0015 hours] on 15th May, H.M.T. "CHROBRY" was bombed, set on fire ad subsequently abandoned. The bomb, or bombs, dropped in the cabins occupied by the senior officers of the 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS [six Officers including the Commanding Officer and 4 Other Ranks being killed].

    Captain WEST, who was the senior unwounded surviving officer quickly took command of the situation. He organized the lowering of boats and the transfer of men in them to destroyers, [an operation rendered very difficult by the Polish crew being the first to leave the ship]. After the boats were full he organized ropes for those remaining, to escape to a destroyer. It was largely due to his coolness and resource that so many lies were saved.

    The National Archives | DocumentsOnline | Image Details
    Name West, Dudley Somerset Erskin
    Rank: Captain
    Regiment: The Cheshire Regiment
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: Norway
    Award: Military Cross
    Date of Announcement in London Gazette: 27 September 1940
    Date 1940
    Catalogue reference WO 373/15

    Attached Files:

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    SUBJECT:- Report on the sinking of the Polish Motor Vessel “CHROBRY” off the coast of NORWAY on 15th May, 1940, whilst carrying H.Q. 24th GUARDS BRIGADE, 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, Detachment 230 Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS, and other British and Norwegian Troops.

    To:- Force H.Q.

    As, I believe, the senior unwounded military survivor from the “CHROBRY”, I have to report the following for the information of the G.O.C. British Forces in NORWAY.

    At, I am told, about 0015 hours on 15th May, 1940, three German Heinkel aeroplanes approached; one flew very low over the ship and secured direct hit or hits amidships. There was one violent explosion or explosions evidently from “Molotff bread-basket bombs”. The luxury state rooms containing most of the senior officers collapsed like a pack of cards, lights went out, the whole of the top decks amidships were immediately ablaze and very soon to extricate themselves and rescue others from beneath the wreckage of the cabins, but further rescue was out of the question owing to the dense black smoke which made both re-entry and visibility impossible.

    Troops came up quickly to the promenade and boat deck assembly stations, and the Polish crew helped to lower the first flight of boats, principally the ones aft owing to fire amidships, and one boat on the starboard side fell empty and was water-logged. Some military personnel were able to get into these boats, but the moment they were ready for lowering, the Polish crew made a wild rush and got into them leaving the military personnel almost without aid to lower any more boats. Here I would say that I was aft at No. 3 assembly station on the boat deck, and that my account can be verified by Captain GORDON-WATSON of the IRISH GUARDS and Lieutenant PAYNE of the FLEET AIR ARM, ROYAL NAVY, as I have already heard the Commodore state he saw no panic on the part of the Polish crew, but he was forward on the bridge.
    Efforts were made to lower the second flight of boats with the aid of one Polish Officer or Petty Officer, but power was cut off and the electric winches were unworkable; the herculean efforts of Guardsmen on hand winches proved of no avail. At this point, I think, Lieutenant PAYNE gave me valuable advice not to attempt further to lower these boats. Some rafts were thrown overboard and the men admirably controlled by the junior Officers of the IRISH GUARDS were prevented from jumping into the water, as the ship did not seem to be in imminent risk of sinking, unless of course she exploded, and escorting vessels H.M. Destroyer WOLVERINE and sloop STORK were approaching fast from astern, whilst at the same time keeping the Heinkels, which were still attacking, at bay.

    STORK stopped astern, firing her Anti-Aircraft guns and taking up occupants of such boats as had been launched whilst WOLVERINE came alongside starboard abaft the bridge. Several seriously wounded men had by now been brought up and were lying on the deck; everything that could be done was being done to make them comfortable. We now removed a section of rails from the promenade deck aft and attached and lowered all available ropes, hawsers and baggage slings over the side of the ship to enable men to climb down to the destroyer’s deck many feet below, at the same time calling a large party of men up to the boat deck to make use of the boats’ falls for the same purpose.

    The problem of the seriously wounded still remained, and Lieutenant PAYNE devised a means of lowering them by attaching ropes round both men and stretchers. Several were lowered in this way until the destroyer Commander announced that he would have to cast off. The only remaining living seriously wounded man, I think Major POTTER, the ship’s Staff Officer, was therefore carried up along to where the destroyer’s bridge was level with the deck, and the stretcher bearers passed across to it. A hasty search of the decks revealed no more men, so after throwing down all spare clothing and blankets that could be found, we cast off. WOLVERINE now launched her whale boat to pick up any further survivors who might appear.

    Throughout the whole of the abandon ship operations the conduct of both officers and men was admirable, despite the fact that at one time after the ship’s crew had gone and the second flight of boats could not be launched, the situation seemed pretty serious. Of course I can mention specially only the names of those officers and men that I particularly noticed in a very busy period, during which the conduct of all was praiseworthy, but I must mention the conduct of Lieutenant PAYNE, ROYAL NAVY, Fleet Air Arm, whose advice was of the greatest value when the Polish crew had gone, who devised and helped to operate a method of lowering the seriously wounded, and with Captain GORDON-WATSON, assisted to extricate Major GILBART-DENHAM from the wrecked and blazing cabin area with extreme disregard for his own personal safety. Besides the gallant conduct of Captain GORDON-WATSON, I also noticed the cool and gallant conduct of Lieutenants YOUNG and GILLIAT, IRISH GUARDS, and the IRISH GUARDS’ Medical Offficer’s Orderly Sergeant, who with the aid of others whose names are unknown to me, were constant in the care and attention of wounded in complete disregard for their own safety.

    I believe Captain GORDON-WATSON who went aft in the first flight of boats, can give an account of the gallantry of a man who shinned up to the davits from a lowered boat in order to release the falls, and venture to suggest that reports of gallant conduct be called for from the Acting O.C. IRISH GUARDS and his officers who know the names of the men whereas I do not, and must have seen and notices many more acts of gallantry.

    Captain GORDON-WATSON could probably give a full account of how STORK took aboard the boats’ complements. Regarding the gallant conduct of the Commander and ship’s complement of H.M. destroyer WOLVERINE who brought the vessel alongside the blazing ship which was in imminent danger of blowing up, with small arms ammunition exploding and Heinkels attacking all the while, and the subsequently brilliant seamanship displayed in the recovery of the gallant crew of the whaler with their boat and further survivors, I hope the Commodore, with whose name I am not acquainted, will make a full report. I can only express our grateful thanks.

    Aboard the WOLVERINE everything humanly possible was done to make survivors comfortable and succour the wounded, the crew even stripping their own clothes to clothe those who had been in the water, and all the while maintaining their anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defence. On arrival at HARSTAD, the survivors were disembarked and I got the E.S.O., Lieutenant CUMMINGS, to take particulars of those survivors who did not belong to H.Q. and Signal Section, 24th GUARDS BRIGADE, or the 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, and full particulars can be gleaned from him regarding survivors.

    I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
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    From Appendices War Diary, July 1940:


    As one of the four FLEET AIR ARM Officers taking passage in the ill-fated Polish Motorship “CHOBRY”, it occurred to me that it might be of interest to you to hear my version of the story and at the same time pay tribute to the courage of all ranks of your regiment who were on board.

    She was a fine and modern ship of 11,000 tons and must have looked a pleasant sight indeed as she sailed down the Fjords at 16 knots on the 14th May, 1940, accompanied by her escort of two warships.

    After the usual daily air raids, the Germans left us alone about 6 p.m. and we all hoped we were in for a quiet night. I turned in about 23.30 hours and wen to sleep almost immediately. The next thing I remember was the crack of the machine guns and roar of aircraft engines overhead. Familiarity truly breeds contempt and my cabin companion and I decided it was no good getting up and hoped that the enemy would miss us as he had done for the past few days. Unfortunately this was not the case and no sooner had we turned over to go to sleep again than there was the most deafening roar I have ever heard or ever want to hear. The ship had been struck abaft by large calibre bombs - one at least incendiary.

    My cabin collapsed immediately and the lights went out. I left the cabin and ran through the adjoining dining saloon - the floor of which was covered with glass and debris - cutting my feet rather badly and on reaching the port side of the ship saw that she was already ablaze. (I gathered from enquiries afterwards that the fire fighting appliances were put out of action - when the ship was struck.)

    People seemed to be abandoning ship immediately and one or two were foolish enough to jump in the water and break their necks with their life jackets.

    After looking round, I returned to my cabin in order to get my lifejacket and my reefer by found it was already on fire and I therefore gave up the attempt.

    By this time people were abandoning ship as rapidly as possible and with a Guards Officer I attempted to rescue a badly injured man from the debris. We carried him to a lifeboat which appeared to be one of the last ones and got into it ourselves. We cast off and drifted away from the ship to see one of our escorting destroyers which I think was the H.M.S. WOLVERINE coming along the starboard side of the “CHOBRY”. At the same time we noticed that the other ship - a sloop - which we were attempting to reach proceed to get under way, which we interpreted as a sign that the enemy bombers had returned. This was indeed true but to our surprise they were gentlemanly enough not to machine gun us in the water as we expected. Their main interest seemed to be to take photographs.

    At this moment I must praise the courage and devotion to duty of the man of your regiment, who, in spite of finding themselves in an element which is certainly not their own, showed the greatest calm - many of them carrying their kitbags and rifles to the lifeboats, and waiting patiently to embark - without the slightest sign of panic. We had great difficulty in parting them from their weapons.

    In the lifeboat they were magnificent and once they had been told to obey the orders of one officer they never faltered. I shall always be grateful to one Guardsman who gave me his battle tunic to put over my cold and wet silk pyjamas which was all I had stood up in. Another Guardsman gave me his scarf and they all did their best to keep the most scantily clad of us from freezing in the incredible cold.

    We rather had difficulty in getting the Polish crew to row and do as they were told - possibly this was because I was a British Officer and they had their own ideas, but on the whole they were calm. Eventually in the crowded lifeboat we managed to get Guardsmen to man the oars. They did as we asked them and after about 30 minutes in the water we managed to row alongside the sloop - H.M.S. STORK. They still behave with the greatest reserve, obeying every calmly given order of their N.C.O.s because as the boat was crowded there was a great possibility, if they disembarked too quickly, she might have overturned.

    I should say after a crowded and unpleasant night in the sloop - which I again believe was H.M.S. STORK - we disembarked at the British Headquarters at HARSTAD, all very thankful to be alive.

    I left for ENGLAND the next day and have not seen any of them since.

    In conclusion I can only say how sorry I am that so many gallant Officers and men were less fortunate than myself.

    Signed P.M. COMPSTON.
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From Appendices War Diary, September 1940:


    ... The calm courage shown by the troops can hardly - if ever - have been surpassed, and is best illustrated by the following:-

    Embarked at 2 a.m., and under frequent bombing attack all day copped up at anchor, 300 or more collected on the forecastle, whole midship part of ship a raging furnace, enemy planes overhead, 50 tons of ammunition in the hold, rescuing destroyer alongside. Not a man moved until I gave the order, which was not until I judge that men from the rest of the ship had got off. When they did move, they did so at a deliberate walk, some even refusing to part with their rifles.

    It was naturally not possible to single out anyone particularly, but I did notice the very admirable conduct of the *Roman Catholic Chaplain.

    *Father CAVANAGH

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