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1941 – 1942

1941 - 1942

Continuing with the Regiment’s exploits, this page covers the era from January 1941 to the end of 1942, with the Regiment still in N Ireland.  The Regiment saw a few changes in this period;  they lost 251 Bty – transferred into the 85th AT Regt;  a new battery (301 Bty) was formed to replace 251 Bty;  then 301 Bty was lost, transferred into the 97th AT Regt.
The new 6pdr gun arrived towards the end of 1942, replacing the 2pdrs which went to Infantry Battalions.  There was also a lot of junior officers and other ranks posted both in and out of the unit, these were drafted to overseas units as replacements with the new blood arriving from training depots.

     The following text has been taken from the War Diaries.  Italicised text enclosed in ‘square’ brackets – [text] – is usually text added by myself, for clarity and extra information.


     In January, four officers had been posted into the Regt (including Capt Ben Barnett), with another four posted out.
     A further 60 other ranks had been posted in during February to make up the strength of the Regt.  On the 12th February, WOI (RSM) Sinclair was posted away to 74th AT Regt [a newly formed Regt in Nov 1940] and BSM 251 Bty, WOII Allinson was promoted A/WOI (RSM).  Two more officers were posted into the Regt in February.
     On 6th March, 2/Lt FW Deakin left the Regt to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and selected by Churchill to work with Marshal Tito and the Yugoslav Partisans [in 1944 he became head of SOE Middle East at Cairo, receiving the DSO, and received his KGB in 1975].
     A practice camp was held at Hog Park Point [a range built by the Regt] for the 2-pdr AT guns, in March.  The Regt was informed that they would come under command of 53(W) Division on 1st April 1941, and inspected by the GOC [General Officer Commanding] of 53(W) Div, Maj-Gen BT Wilson, CB, DSO.
     Capt FWF Smith, 2nd Earl of Birkenhead was posted out of the Regt to the Depot RA, Woolwich on 15th April pending a Staff Course [he was promoted to Maj and assigned to the Foreign Office’s Political Intelligence Department, popularly known as the Political Warfare Executive.  He saw action in Yugoslavia and Croatia.  Son of a former cabinet minister and Yeoman, FE Smith, and godson of Winston Churchill].
     Ben Pritchet, who had been a Sgt in 250 Bty, was promoted to A/WOII (BSM) 251 Bty on 1st April, replacing WOII Allinson.
     The Regt took part in a 61st Div exercise in April, leaving Lisburn for Coleraine, Dunloy and Ballymena, arriving back in Lisburn on 17th April.  While away on this exercise, Belfast had a very heavy Air-Raid.  Immediately upon return the Regt were asked by the ARP Authorities to assist in the evacuation of the civil population.  Getting authority from RA BTNI, they sent several 30cwt lorries to assist in the moving of many homeless people.  This went on until about 02.00 hrs.  They assisted in this way for several days until the evacuation was completed and all assistance that was possible was given.
     On 24th April the Regt paraded for inspection by HRH, the Duke of Gloucester.  Parade formed up in Wallace Avenue and marched to Barbour’s Playing Fields, Lisburn.  The 2i/c, Maj Stockton RA was in charge of the Regt as the CO, Lt-Col AC Brooke, DSO, RA was in charge of the whole parade, several other units being inspected at the same time.  After the inspection of the parade, it marched up into Lisburn behind the band of the 3rd Mons Regt.
     2/Lt’s Reid and McNeill were posted to Woolwich Depot RA on 2nd May in preparation for service in India for which they had volunteered.
     All batteries had taken part in various Brigade exercises with which they had been assigned.  In the last few days of May, the Regt moved to Drumbanagher House, Poyntz Pass to take up a new station.
     In early June 1941 the Regt took part in the 53(W) Div Exercise ‘Cuckoo’.  On the 18th June the Regt was instructed to transfer four 2-pdr equipment’s to 286(Ind) AT Battery RA and a further eight 2-pdr equipment’s and sixteen 15cwt Gun-Towing vehicles to 52nd AT Regt RA.  On this same day they were also told that they were to change stations with 71st AT Regt RA, at Portrush and Portstewart.  On completion of this move they would return to the command of 61st Div.  Also 252 Bty would cease to come under command of 148 Inf Bde Gp for operations.  On 21st June, the Main Party left Drumbanagher House, Poyntz Pass, in convoy for Portrush and Portstewart, with 249, 250 Bty’s and RHQ going to Portrush, and 251, 252 Bty’s, QM Stores and LAD going to Portstewart.  On 21st June, 16×2-pdr equipment’s and 3x15cwt Gun Towing Vehicles were transferred to 71st AT Regt RA.  Also 2/Lt MI Bailey, 2/Lt F Powell, 2/Lt JJ Hatchett, and 2/Lt HV Gibson were posted to this unit on the same day.  2/Lt DA Usher and 2/Lt C Watson were posted to this unit in early June.
     On 19th July, Lt (QM) JCJ Day was posted to 38th Light AA Regt RA.  2-pdr AT Gun firing practice took place at Hog Park Point.  At the end of July Lt-Col AC Brooke DSO relinquished command of this Regt on 28th, with T/Lt-Col (Maj) John Anthony Edward Hirst, posted to this unit in command on 29th July.
     Two more officers were posted to the Regt in August.  At the end of August, four more 75mm guns arrived.  The equipment of each battery now consists of  6 x 2-pdrs and 4 x 75mm.  As the strength of each battery is about 120 (including up to 6 on long courses and not likely to return), it is not easy to find the personnel to man these new 75mm.  Batteries are affiliated to Brigades as follows:-  249 Bty to 184 Bde;  250 Bty to 182 Bde;  252 Bty to 183 Bde;  251 Bty is the Divisional Reserve battery. [As it turns out, this decision decides which battery was to eventually become Japanese prisoners of war when the Allied Forces at Singapore capitulated]
     On 4th September, 252 Bty moved to Toome Bridge to a hutted camp at Brecart Lodge, in order to train and maintain a closer liaison with 183 Bde.  They are to be there for a month.
     2/Lt’s CA Papworth, HJL Osbourne, FW Hobbs were posted to the Regt on 6th Sept.  On 15th September, a personal note, from the CRA was received by the CO, Lt-Col JAE Hirst, to say that it would probably be necessary to send one battery overseas in the near future.  The CO has decided that if this becomes necessary that 251 Bty shall be selected, as 251 Bty is the Div Reserve battery, it will re-act less on the Division.  On the 27th Sept, 251 Bty (at a strength of 8 officers and 136 OR’s) left the Regt in N Ireland, travelling (with just their personal equipment) to Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Clacton-on-Sea, becoming one of the batteries making up the newly formed regiment of 85th AT Regt RA.  The officers were Maj JP Turrill, Capt RCB Greville, Lt W Major, 2/Lts WP Carpenter, JJ Hatchett, FW Hobbs, D McKenzie, and HJL Osbourn.  [see the webpage for “85th AT Regt & 251 (OY) Bty” for a more informative account of their activities]
     There were a few changes to the Regt’s officers taking place on the 1st October – Maj J Thomson was appointed Regimental Second-in-Command;  Capt BG Barnett was granted acting rank of Maj becoming the Commander of 249 Bty;  Maj J Stockton was appointed Commander of 301 Bty (a new battery being formed to replace 251 Bty) and relinquishing 2i/c of the Regt.  Five more new officers were posted to the Regt on 4th Oct.  On the 11th Oct, Lt(QM) FM Lewis, joined the Regt, having been posted from 36th Signal Training Regt, RA.  A further three officers were posted into the Regt during this month.
     In November, 2/Lt Ginger was posted to the Regt from 53rd AT Regt RA, he formerly served in the Regt with the rank of Bombardier.  The Regt received an intake of 20 men from the 6th Fd Training Regt.  These men were distributed between the batteries.  The Regt has been busy with a Winter Training programme throughout November.  This included an Officers ‘fortnight’ from 3-15 Nov, and between 17 Nov-6 Dec, the first of a series of Junior NCO’s classes under the Second-in-Command.  Another three officers joined the Regt at the end of December.
     On 7th December 1941 Japan entered the war with its attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.  Then on the 8th December Japanese forces land in Malaya.  These two events were to determine the fate of 251 Bty which had been sent to Clacton-on-Sea to help form the new 85th AT Regt.  At this time, they were at sea off the south-western coast of Africa, supposedly en-route to Basra, Iraq.
     During 1941 the Regt had visits and inspections from numerous high-ranking officers – GOC 53(W) Div, Maj-Gen BT Wilson, CB, DSO in April;  CRA 53(W) Div, Brig CM Christie, MC, RA in April;  HRH, the Duke of Gloucester and GOC British Troops in Northern Ireland (BTNI), Lt-Gen Sir Henry R Pownall, KBE, CB, DSO, MC in April;  Inspector of RA, Field Branch, Brig Findley, CB, CBE, MC in May;  Divisional Commander, Maj-Gen C St Q Fullbrook-Leggatt, DSO, MC in November;  Army Commander, Lt-Gen HE Franklyn CB DSO MC in December.


      With the Regiment still based at Portrush and Portstewart, about mid-January 1942 the Regiment received an Intake of 103 men from 14 ITC [Infantry Trg Centre], 18 ITC, and 3 Depot Bn R Sigs.  These men were distributed between RHQ and all Batteries.  They had received about 6 weeks military training.  There were 6 junior officers who had joined the Regiment during January.  At the end of January, the Regiment moved, with 61st Inf Div, to new Stations;  63rd (Ox Yeo) AT Regt RA (less 2 Btys) at Moy; 249 Bty at Lisnaskea; 252 Bty at Gortin.  All these locations are between Dungannon and Armagh.
     The Regiment is now (in February) at Derrygally Camp, just outside Moy and during February Junior NCO’s classes were held.  There was a further intake of 32 men, but the general standard of this intake was very low, and many had to be posted away owing to them being below the required medical category (A1 or A2) for an Anti-Tank unit.  2/Lt CA Papworth posted to the Depot RA, Woolwich on transfer to RIASC [Royal Indian Army Service Corps].  At the end of February, the Regiment was visited by Maj-Gen C StQ O Fullbrook-Leggatt, DSO, MC., GOC 61st Div.
     During March, there were further postings, in and out, of the Regiment of several junior officers. The CRA, Brig FCF Cleeve, DSO, MC inspected the Regiment on 21st March.  15 RAF NCO’s were attached to the Regiment during the period 15 Feb 42 – 8 Mar 42 for instruction in Anti-Tank work with the 75mm gun.  They fired the gun at Hog Park Point on 20 Feb 42.  During the present football season, the Regimental football team won the Southern Area Championship.
     Also in March 1942, the entire Regiment took the War Office Selection Board, or WOSB.  [These were a scheme devised by British Army psychiatrists during World War II to select potential officers for the British Army.  They replaced an earlier method, the Command Interview Board, and were the precursors to today’s Army Officer Selection Boards.  Some of the methods used at WOSBs were used by the Army psychiatrists in early investigations of problems with repatriated prisoners of war].
     On 7th April the CO, T/Lt-Col JAE Hirst had been selected for appointment as GSO I [General Staff Officer (Gde 1)], HQ Nigerian Division retaining his T/Rank.  He relinquished his appointment of CO of this unit.
     Maj John Thomson was promoted to the A/Rank of Lt Col  on 9th April, relinquished his appointment of 2i/c of this unit and assumes appointment of CO.  T/Maj WG Bryan was appointed 2i/c of the Regt on the same day.  Three junior officers were promoted to W/substantive Lt’s during April, with a further intake of 13 gunners.
     On 1st May, T/Capt CE Brackenbury relinquished appointment of Adjutant, promoted A/Maj and assumed command of 252 Bty, in place of Maj Bryan, appointed 2i/c as above.  Lt Jim Priestley assumes appointment of Adjutant with the rank of A/Capt on the same day.
     Part of 252 Bty, under command of 2/Lt AM Webber, with Sgt Mullinger, and Sgt Sharman, as gun No’s 1, fired at an A/Tank demonstration given at Tyrella Range (Co Down) before the CIGS [Chief of the Imperial General Staff] and other high-ranking officers on 20th May.
     Over the 22nd/23rd May the Regt was engaged on exercise “Tank” set by the CRA (Brig FCF Cleave, DSO, MC, RA).  The main object of the exercise was the ferrying of 2pdr guns across the River Blackwater at night.  This was done by means of Recce and Assault boats.  A further intake of 24 ORs arrived on 23rd May.
     At the end of May the Regt was moved to new locations again.  The main body of the Regt went to Portrush, with 249 Bty to Toome Bridge (35 mi S/East of Portrush), and 252 Bty to Magilligan (15 mi west of Portrush).
     Early in June the Army Commander, Lt-Gen HE Franklyn, CB, DSO, MC, visited each Battery.  This visit was followed shortly after by a visit from the Inspector R Artillery (Brig CB Findlay, CBE).  Over the 11th – 14th June, the regiment fired at practice camp at Hog Park Point.
     Maj J Stockton (301 Bty) was posted from this unit to 51st Anti-Tank Training Regt RA on 19th June.  T/Capt M Hope was granted the rank of A/Major, and assumed command of 301 Bty.  W/Lt FG Beynon was granted the rank of A/Captain on the same day.  A further 9 junior officers joined the Regt in June, along with an intake of 50 ORs.
     Their Majesties, the King and Queen, visited troops in Northern Ireland.  On 26th June, 249 Bty had the honour to give a demonstration of rafting guns across the river at Toome, which was watched by their Majesties.
     Over 1st – 8th July the whole Regiment took part in exercise “ATLANTIC”, the largest yet held in N Ireland and the first in which United States troops had taken part.  The climax of the exercise occurred in the last two days when the 1st (US) Armoured Division attacked prepared positions occupied by the 61st Division.  Practically all the guns in the Regiment had good shots at American tanks.  This stage of the battle was watched by the Polish Prime Minister (Gen Sikorski), the CIGS (Gen Sir Alan Brooke) and other high officers.
     On 9th July, Major (A/Lt Col) John Thomson was promoted T/Lt Col.
     At the end of July, the Regt was told that 301 Bty were to be posted to the 97th AT Regt RA and would be renamed “S” Bty.  This decision came about due to a change in Artillery doctrine and change to a 3 Bty/4 Tp regiment.
     Throughout July, 2pdr courses for infantry had been organised by the Batteries and many officers and men have been instructed in the use of the 2pdr.  The regiment was greatly excited at the beginning of this month by the news that they were moving back to England shortly, and there was very great disappointment when the move was cancelled.  The Regiment has been in N Ireland for two years now.
     At the beginning of August, 2 Junior officers had been posted to Depot RA, Woolwich for overseas draft.  A further 6 officers had been posted to various Field Regts.  Two drafts, comprising in all, 34 gunners, 20 drivers, and several tradesmen, were posted from this Regiment to Depot RA, Woolwich for overseas draft.  The Regiment has been hit very hard by these drafts, and the attachment of officers to Field Regts, plus the posting out of 301 Bty.  Also, on 6th August the 75mm guns were sent away, and the 2pdr guns of 301 Bty distributed among the 75mm Troops.
     Over the 4th – 8th August, the Regiment took part in exercise “DEFIANCE” and, as on exercise “ATLANTIC”, many guns have good shoots at US tanks.
     On 22nd August, Capt LP Hodgson, RAMC, who had been attached to the Regiment for more than two years, was posted to the School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool.  Lt Jolly, RAMC, was attached to the Regiment in his place.
     The main body of 301 Bty left for England on 24th August; the Battery now becomes ‘S’ Battery, 97th AT Regt RA [97 AT Regt RA was formed from batteries of 63 & 64 AT Regts at Liburn Towers, Wooler, Northumberland.  It served with 15 Infantry Division].  [Due to this posting the Regt lost many of its original officers and men, as it did when 251 Bty was posted away into the 85th AT Regt back in September 1941 (the Battery which 301 Bty replaced)]  The Regiment is now composed of three Batteries, made up of four Troops of four guns in each troop.  The officers who left with 301 Bty were :- Maj M Hope, Capt FG Beynon, 2/Lts MI Hore, M Brennon, HS Campion, E Tebbitts, JH Duffy, and PHA Clarke.
     On 25th August, 249 Bty moved from Brecart Camp, Toome and took over the billets in Portrush, previously occupied by 301 Bty.
     Over 1st – 4th September, the Regiment went to Tyrella for practice camp.  ‘B’ Troop, 249 Bty won the inter-Troop competition, with 55% hits.
     On 7th September, Maj-Gen C StQ O Fallbrook-Leggatt, DSO, MC, paid a short visit to the Regt to say farewell, on relinquishing command of 61st Inf Division.  Lt Jolly, RAMC, was posted away, and Capt Lavertine, RAMC was attached in his place.
     Over 21st – 28th, the regiment took part in exercise “PUNCH”.  As the enemy possessed no armoured forces, the Batteries did not have so much to do as on the two previous exercises.  249 and 250 Batteries successfully rafted guns across the River Bann.  On the last two days the whole Regiment had, at short notice, to adopt an infantry role, in order to ward off a threatened attack on the bridgeheads on the West bank of the Bann.
     Capt Lavertine, RAMC was attached to another unit, and his place was taken by Capt Hodgson, RAMC who returned to the Regiment on 24th September.  An intake of 33 gunners and 5 drivers arrived and were posted to RHQ and the Batteries on the 29th.
     Brig AA Middleton RA, Brigadier RA, BTNI in his comments on exercise “PUNCH”, specially commended the Regiment for their quiet efficiency in rafting across the River Bann on the night 25/26 September.
     Maj-Gen John O Carpenter, CBE, MC, GOC 61st Inf Division [new Divisional Commander] inspected the Regiment on 13th October.
     W/Capt LP Hodgson, RAMC left the Regiment (again) on posting to No 11 Depot RAMC, Beckett’s Park, Leeds, for overseas service on 15th October, and was replaced by Lt Maleam, RAMC.
     252 Bty moved from Magilligan to Portrush on 21st October, and thus the Regiment was concentrated in one place for the first time for well over two years.
     At the end of October, after many false alarms the new equipment began to arrive at last.  36 – 6pdr guns arrived today, but without any stores at all.  Two separate drafts of men (40 in total) joined the Regt this month, with one junior officer leaving and two joining the Regt.
     On 4th November, A draft of 88 men arrived, almost all were under 20.  The remaining 12 – 6pdrs came, and stores for them arrived a day or two later.  It is understood that the stores for the other 36 guns are on the way.  The transfer of 2pdr guns to Infantry Battalions had begun on the 8th , and completed about three days later.
     Brig FCF Cleeve, DSO, MC, CRA 61st Division paid a farewell visit to the Regiment on 13th October, before taking up an appointment in England.  Lt RG Stitt, RAMC was attached as MO on 27th, in place of Lt Maleam, RAMC.  Two more Junior officers arrived at the unit at the end of November.
     17 men completed their Signalling Course under the Signals officer, Lt Youds, on 16th December.  It was expected that in time they would replace “H” Section, 61st Inf Div Signals, who would return to Div Signals.  On 19th December, Lt CB Cartwright was attached to RA Mechanised Transport School, at Rhyl.  Lt JK Henderson returned to the Regiment after two years attachment as ADC to a General in England and India.  He was attached immediately to HQ RA, 61st Div on 21st December.  Two more junior officers had been posted away to drafts for overseas service.

Please also look at the further pages which depict :

19391940;     19411942;     1943;     1944;     1945;     1946.

     The 1944 page also details the merger with the 91st (A&SH) AT Regt.
     In the 1946 page can be found more information as to what happened to 250 and 252 Bty’s post the merger.  There is also a list of the Commanding Officers of the 63rd AT Regt.

     One part of the Regiment’s history in WW2, covering the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp and its liberation, involving 249 Bty, 63rd A/Tank Regt, RA, has been covered more fully on the pages of the QOOH/OY website – Liberation of Belsen – qooh.org.uk

     A further page will cover the outcome of the 85th AT Regt RA at the hands of the Japanese when Japan  entered WW2 on 7th December 1941 with the attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, and the invasion of Malaya on the 8th December.  Then with the fall of Singapore on 15th February 1942, and Japanese forces capturing all the Allied Forces there.  251 Bty, 63rd A/Tank Regt, RA had been transferred into the new 85th A/Tank Regt RA in September 1941, being formed (along with batteries from three other regiments) at Clacton-on-Sea.  The 85th AT Regt had been in a sea convoy heading for Basra, Iraq, then re-directed to Singapore to reinforce the Garrison there.

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