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We’re now into 1943 and the Regiment still in N Ireland, though news arrived of a move back to England in February.
They were then informed that the Regiment was to be mobilized for overseas again, only to be informed a little later, that they were no longer required.
The Regiment took part in several large ‘Exercises’, all part of building up the 21 Army Group for its overseas mobilization.
In August the Regiment re-formed its fourth battery again, also receiving a number of the 17pdr guns.  This brought about the re-formation of the Regiment and key officers.

     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.


     The new 6pdr guns were fired at the Banbane Head Range on 6th January.  As this was the first time the Regiment had fired these guns, the results must be considered satisfactory.  Over the next few weeks, the trucks (30cwt) used by the Regt to tow the 2pdr guns were gradually exchanged for 3-ton trucks.
     News was received on 20th January, that the 61st Inf Division would move back to England at the end of the month, and would be stationed in Essex, where it would take the place of 45 Inf Div, who would move to N Ireland.  On 27th January, the Advance Party, consisting of Lt (QM) Lewis, Capt Greenwood, Capt Butler, Lt Powell, and numerous OR’s left for England.
     On 2nd February, the main body of the Regiment started the move to England and completed it at 09.30 hrs, 3rd Feb 43.  The move was made by train and boat.  All guns, vehicles and other G1098 stores were left behind and handed over to the 90th AT Regt RA, who moved into Portrush.  The equipment of the 90th AT Regt was taken over when the Regiment arrived in England.
     The Regiment’s new locations were :  RHQ at “Achnacone”, Braiswick, Colchester (an old manor house);  249 Bty at West Bergholt, close to Colchester, Essex;  250 Bty at Connaught Ave, Frinton-on-Sea;  252 Bty at Hadleigh, nr Southend-on-Sea.
     61st Inf Div is now in XI Corps (Lt-Gen GC Bucknall, MC) and Eastern Command (Lt-Gen JAH Gammell, CB, DSO, MC).  Other locations :-  HQ RA & Div HQ at Hatfield Peverel, Chelmsford, Essex;  XI Corps HQ at Braintree, Essex;  Eastern Command HQ at Luton.
     Lt MI Bailey was attached to HQ Eastern Command as Liaison Officer on 14th February.  A draft of 17 drivers and 35 gunners were posted to Depot RA, Woolwich on 24th Feb.  Then on 27th, 37 potential drivers (all immatures) were posted to the Regt [The term ‘immatures’ was used by Winston Churchill to refer to the underage soldiers.]
     A draft of 5 Sgts was posted from this Regt on 2nd March.
     Over 3rd – 13th March, the Regt took part in exercise “SPARTAN”, the largest exercise ever held by the British Army during WW2.  61st Inf Div was one of the formations composing the enemy.  The “British Army”, consisting of the Canadian 1st Army with British Armoured and Infantry Divisions, had established a bridgehead on the South Coast.  The exercise was intended to practice the advance from the bridgehead into enemy occupied territory, known as ‘Eastland’, and roughly comprising East Anglia and the Midlands.  The “British Army’s” objective was Huntingdon, the capital of ‘Eastland’.  They were much greater in strength than the enemy, and therefore the enemy had to fight a rear-guard action, withdrawing from SW to NE.  The 63rd AT Regt’s batteries were under the command of their assigned Brigades until towards the end of the exercise, when, together with two corps AT batteries, they reverted to Regimental command.  The Regt’s RHQ had been concentrated at North Marston, north of Aylesbury, and on the first day of the exercise, advanced to Fawley, south of Wantage.  They then withdrew successively to Eynsham (nr Oxford), Chesterton (nr Bicester), Alderbury Common (nr Tring), Wing (nr Leighton Buzzard) and finally occupied a defensive position at Ivinghoe.  They were still at Ivinghoe when the “CEASE FIRE” was given.
     News was received on 17th March, that 61st Inf Div was to move into Buckinghamshire, and that the Regiment would go to Hemel Hempstead.  The main body moved to Hemel Hempstead on 25th March.  249 Bty occupied a hutted camp at Felden, while the remainder of the Regt were in billets in Hemel Hempstead.  This was the most unsuitable accommodation the Regt had occupied for a very long time.  Only 249 Bty’s accommodation was satisfactory.  The billets in Hemel Hempstead were very overcrowded, and were a great distance from each other.
     A warning order was received on 5th April from Eastern Command that the Regt, together with the rest of 61st Inf Div, was to mobilise for overseas service, mobilisation to be completed by 10 May 1943.  A draft of one Sgt and 21 other ranks arrived on 8th April.  On the 11th April, 252 Bty received sixteen 17pdr guns.  Detailed mobilisation orders were received on 24th April, and on 29th April, 5 drafts of 61 men in all, comprising drivers and gunners arrived, to bring the Regt up to its War Establishment.  A number of officers had been posted, both in and out of the Regt during April.
     A number of m/cycles and small cars arrived early in the month of May.  16 Armoured OP [observation post] Carriers arrived mid-month and were distributed – 1-RHQ, each Bty HQ and 1 per Troop.  And 14 Field Artillery Tractors (FAT) arrived near the end of May, to complete the number of gun towers required by 252 Bty (the 17pdr Bty).  On 4th May, information was received that 61st Inf Div now forms part of 2 Corps and not 11 Corps as heretofore.  This did not involve a change in Corps HQ personnel, the number only of the Corps having been changed.
     Gen Sir Bernard Paget, KCB, DSO, MC, CinC (Home Forces), paid a visit to the Regt and watched training on 13th May.  Maj-Gen CB Wainwright visited the Regt on taking command of 61st Inf Div, on 24th May, in place of Maj-Gen JO Carpenter.  And on 25th May, Lt-Gen GWR Templar, DSO, OBE, Corps Comdr 2 Corps, visited the Regt on taking up command of 2 Corps in place of Lt-Gen GC Bucknall, MC.
     On 17th June an instruction was received from the War Office stating that from this date the unit would be considered non-mobilised.  There were several officer appointments made which entailed the following moves on 24 June – Capt GJC Priestley relinquished the appointment of Adj and was inter-posted to 249 Bty.  Capt ATM Beaven was inter-posted from 252 Bty to RHQ and assumed the appointment of Adjutant.  Capt J Greenwood was inter-posted to 252 Bty.
     A number of high-ranking officers visited the Regt in June – Maj-Gen OM Lund, CB, DSO, paid a visit to the Regt on 16th June, Brig MWW Selby-Lowndes, DSO, CRA 61st Inf Div on 21st June, with Comandante Jacquamin, Legion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre, of the Fighting French Forces on 25th June.  A small number of officers were posted or returned to the Regt in June.
     The CO went to Wick, Caithness on 3rd July to visit Maj Norbury, OC 307 (Indep) AT Bty, RA and arranged with him for the transfer of personnel to form a Battery HQ for a fourth Battery which will shortly be formed.  The War Establishment has been changed again, from 3 Btys each of four Tps, back to 4 Btys each of three Tps (2-6pdr and 1-17pdr).  It was finally arranged with the consent of the War Office and RA Records that Capt Walmsley, Lts Robinson, Pratt and Johnson, BSM Bayliss and 25 OR’s should be posted to the Regt from 307 (Indep) Bty.  The War Office have numbered the new Bty “251” !  [despite some protest from the Regt due to it being the same ‘number’ as the Battery which were now prisoners of war, held by the Japanese]

     On 16th Aug, The Regt formed the fourth Battery, which was numbered 251, and moved to Wynches Camp, Much Hadham, Herts.  The fourth battery was formed so that the Regt would conform to the new AT Regt establishment of four Btys, each of two 6pdr Troops and one 17pdr Troop, each of four guns.
     The Btys now consist of the following troops,  The first Troop in each Bty is the 17pdr Troop.
          249 Bty:-  A Troop (formerly L Tp, 252 Bty) – Lt S Corbett
                            B Troop – Lt R Stephens
                            C Troop – Lt AF Pratt (ex 307 (Indep) AT Bty)
          250 Bty:-  D Troop (formerly J Tp, 252 Bty) – Lt D Dunn
                            E Troop – Lt D Ginger
                            F Troop – Lt CF Christopher
          251 Bty:-  G Troop (formerly K Tp, 252 Bty) – Lt F Powell
                            H Troop (formerly A Tp, 249 Bty) – Lt JPS Pim
                             I Troop (formerly D Tp, 249 Bty) –   Lt GE Bond
          252 Bty:-  J Troop (formerly I Tp, 252 Bty) –    Lt RJ Butter
                            K Troop (formerly G Tp, 250 Bty) – Lt MA Robinson (ex 307 (Indep) AT Bty)
                            L Troop (formerly H Tp, 250 Bty) –  Lt CF Martin

     The new establishment provided for two Captains per Bty [‘G’ Capt (Gunnery) and ‘Q’ Capt (Bty Capt)], instead of one as formerly, and this entailed certain promotions and rearrangements of officers among the Btys.  The following is the list of officers and new positions held by each :-

          RHQ:         CO –                Lt Col J Thomson
                            2i/c –               Maj WG Bryan
                            Adjt –              Capt ATM Beaven
                            Intl Offr –       Lt AHI Swift
                            QM –               LT(QM) FM Lewis
                            MO –               Lt T Bird, RAMC
                            Padre –           Rev NC Bowron, CF (RA Ch D)
                            Sigs Offr –       Lt TA Youds
                      RHQ Tp Cmdr –   Lt FC Deakin
   Messing, Entertainments –  Lt JL Johnson (ex 307 (Indep) AT Bty)

        249 Bty:      Bty Cmdr –      Maj BG Barnett
                             G Capt –          Capt PT Ashton (new promotion)
                             Q Capt –          Capt GJC Priestley
                            Lsn Offr’s –      Lt JPD Wild, 2/Lt DJ Smith
                            Troop Cmdrs as above

        250 Bty:      Bty Cmdr –      Maj CH Priestley
                             G Capt –          Capt AHR Butcher (new promotion)
                             Q Capt –          Capt R Walls (new promotion)
                            Lsn Offr’s –      Lt RG Gibbs, 2/Lt P Lockwood
                            Troop Cmdrs as above

        251 Bty:      Bty Cmdr –      Maj RAP Butler (new promotion)
                             G Capt –          Capt EB Walmsley (ex 307 (Indep) AT Bty)
                             Q Capt –          Capt CH Grist (new promotion)
                            Lsn Offr’s –      Lt GT Borns, 2/Lt’s NB Cork & HL Wallace
                            Troop Cmdrs as above

        252 Bty:      Bty Cmdr –      Maj CE Brackenbury
                             Q Capt –          Capt J Greenwood
                             G Capt –           Capt T Winser (new promotion)
                             Lsn Offr’s –      Lt’s HV Gibson & MI Bailey, 2/Lt JH Williams
                             Troop Cmdrs as above

        Brigade commitments remain the same, ie
                            249 Bty is affiliated to 184 Inf Bde
                            250 Bty is affiliated to 182 Inf Bde
                            252 Bty is affiliated to 183 Inf Bde
                            251 Bty is in Reserve

     The move to Much Hadham was organised owing to lack of accommodation and training facilities for the fourth Battery in Hemel Hempstead.  Wynches Camp was large enough to accommodate the whole Regt, and both the Regtl Officers’ and Sgts’ Messes were set up for the first time for 2½ years.
     Over 13th to 18th September, the Regt went on Eastern Comd Exercise ‘LINK’, in which the following formations took part:-
          British Side:-  61st Inf Div, Polish Armd Div, 9 AGRA, Canadian AGRA, commanded by 2 Canadian Corps.
          German side:-  Dutch Bde, Czech Bde, and a Belgian formation, commanded by 2 Corps.
     The exercise was set to practice the British side in the approach before contact and the attack.  East Anglia        represented the North East corner of Sicily.  An area to the North East of Thetford represented Mount Etna            and was therefore out of bounds.  A similar area to the North west of Thetford represented the sea.  This left        a narrow corridor to the North of Thetford, comprising the Thetford Battle Training Area.  The objective was          Hunstanton, which represented the port of Messina.
     Over 23rd to 27th September, the Regt took part in exercise PONTOON, a 2 Corps exercise.  Troops taking part:-
          British side – 61st Inf Div, 9 AGRA and a Corps Bridging Unit under command 2 Corps.
          German side – 162 Bde of 54 Inf Div, 27th Lancers, an Armd Car Regt.
          This exercise was set to practice the Div in the crossing of water obstacles and traffic control during the advance.
     During September, the Divisional Commander, Maj-Gen CB Wainwright, in an address to all officers, informed us with regret that the 61st Infantry Division was no longer in the 21 Army Group, but had reverted to the Command of Home Forces, and owing to shortage of man-power it would shortly lose some admin units.  He also said that the Division would become a low-establishment division but would retain the three Brigades and Divisional Artillery.  This did not cast any reflection on the fighting efficiency of the Division, which had been acknowledged and realised in all the exercises in which we had taken part.  It was likely that the Division would move to Kent towards the end of October.
     On 22nd October, the Regt moved by road from Wynches Camp to Folkestone.  Personnel bivouacked for the night in outskirts of Folkestone.  The Regt moved into new billets at Folkestone on the following day.  RHQ, 250, 251 and 252 Batteries at Folkestone.  249 Bty at Wootton Park School, Denton.  RHQ Office at 108 Cheriton Road, Folkestone.
     The Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, Lt-Gen Sir Harold E Franklyn, KCB, DSO, MC (Col of Green Howards) visited the Regt on 16th November.  Over 20th to 25th November, the Regt was involved in Exercise ‘VULCAN’.  The General idea of the exercise was that all available forces in the British Isles had been sent to the Mediterranean theatre of war, except 2 Corps, a Canadian Corps and 55 and 61st Inf Divs, the last of which was training in the Guilford – Dorking area.
     Over the past few months there had been, what was now becoming ‘the normal’, of numerous postings in and out of the Regiment of junior officers.  The Regiment attended many range opportunities during 1943, giving them the chance to polish their skills with the new weapons now issued (6pdrs and 17pdrs).

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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