State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by MarkN » 01 Nov 2017 12:56

Knouterer wrote: Regarding the Canadians, I found some hard data (finally ...) on a Canadian website: http://www.mapleleafup.net/forums/showt ... 426&page=4

The 1st Canadian Inf Bde, with a field art regt and some supporting units, was shipped to France after Dunkirk and then hastily recalled on the 17th when the French asked for armistice terms. According to the careful calculations on that website the Canadians were lavishly supplied with motor transport and lost:

- 69 vehicles lost by The Royal Canadian Regiment
- 72 vehicles lost by The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
- 74 vehicles lost by the 48th Highlanders of Canada
- 94 vehicles lost by the 1st Field Regiment, RCA
- 6 vehicles lost by the 1st Anti-Tank Regiment, RCA
- 30 vehicles lost by the 1st Field Company, RCE
- 52 vehicles lost by Headquarters, 1st Divisional Signals, RC Signals (including 14 LAD)
- 24 vehicles lost by Headquarters, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade (including 1 LAD)
- 19 vehicles lost by the Anti-Tank Company, 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade

which gives a total of 440 vehicles (including motorcycles) lost by Canadian units in France in June 1940. The AT Regiment seems to have had only a token presence, the six vehicles lost were all motorcycles, while four 15cwt trucks were reembarked.

Canadian military historians make a point of noting that while the artillerymen lost all their vehicles they brought their 25-pounders back.
Try the Canadian OH. It's online too.

The first flight contained the 1CanBde as you point out. The landed at Brest and entrained. Some reached their destination (near Le Mans) and detrained. However, all were turned back. Some returning to Brest, others to St Malo. Very little is known about the ATk Coy, but it appears to have returned via St Malo, the 1st Fld Regt via Brest...
Only, with difficulty were the guns of the R.C.H.A. saved from destruction. It would appear that General de Fonblanque and his staff were apprehensive lest attempts to save equipment might result in the loss of men. Lt.-Col. Roberts went to Garrison Headquarters and, in the words of his unit's diary, "fought hard for nearly two hours to save the guns". The order to destroy them was twice given and twice countermanded; and it is quite probable that they would finally have been destroyed had not the Garrison Commandant, Colonel W. B. Mackie, been an ex-cadet of the Royal Military College of Canada. Mackie spoke to de Fonblanque by telephone and obtained his reluctant acquiescence in embarking the guns. Roberts was told that he could load as many as he could get aboard by 4 p.m. It was then 2:15. By four he had loaded not only 24 field guns but in addition a dozen Bofors guns, seven predictors, three Bren carriers and several technical vehicles belonging to other units. The R.C.H.A.'s tractors and ammunition limbers had, however, to be abandoned. According to its diary, the steamer Bellerophon, on which the guns were loaded, had "still had room enough to take everything that was on the docks". The three vessels carrying portions of the regiment sailed at 5:15 p.m. on 17 June, and docked the following morning at Plymouth and Falmouth. The loss of equipment sharpened the gunners' disgust at having had to scuttle without meeting the Germans. The R.C.H.A. diary commented tartly, "Although there was evidently no enemy within 200 miles, the withdrawal was conducted as a rout." †

†It is a remarkable but incontestable fact that, although one of the R.C.H.A.'s guns had been damaged in a road accident en route to Parce and turned in to Ordnance, so that the regiment returned to Brest with only twenty-three 18/25 and 25-pounders, it brought its full complement of twenty-four back to England.
The 36 guns mentionned above correspond with the 36 returning from Brest I mentionned previously.

I need to do some more digging in my hard drive to see if the return time/date of the ATk Coy corresponds with guns arriving from St Malo.

The second flight arrived at Brest, started unloading, stopped unloading, then left with all brought over less a few vehicles unloaded - eg. 1 Anti-tank Regt. None of their guns are recorded as having returned to the UK. SImilarly, nobody records them as having left the UK or landed in France.

MarkN
Member
Posts: 2549
Joined: 12 Jan 2015 13:34
Location: On the continent

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by MarkN » 01 Nov 2017 13:00

Knouterer wrote:Philson's list is in Vol 5 of his OOB of the BEF, which I do not have myself, but according to the internet it is as follows:

No idea what these numbers are based on, ...
I can immediatly see that the numbers are lifted from documents - not his own calculations per se. Mind you, he may have made amendments to glaring errors. Tank losses are straight off a (questionable) D.AFV document.

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 05 Nov 2017 12:29

Leaving the BEF to its fate for a moment, I have recently read an interesting history of the London Scottish in WWII (by Brigadier C.N. Barclay). This was a territorial unit based in London which formed three battalions in the course of the war. The Gordon Highlanders acted as the "parent regiment" but the LS were it seems rather more independent than other territorials. They owned their own HQ and Drill Hall (59 Buckingham Gate) and as recruits had to pay themselves for various Highland uniform items (and of course had to prove Scottish ancestry), they tended to attract a slightly "higher class" of men.

in 1936 a National Defence Corps (affiliated with the Territorial Army) was formed from men aged 45-55 (later up to 60) with previous service. NDC companies were intended to provide guard detachments for "vulnerable points", thus freeing the younger territorials for training or other tasks. These companies were called out on 25/26 Aug. 1939, and in November the “Groups” of companies became Home Defence battalions. The men of these units had originally been recruited under “limited service” conditions in the expectation that they would live at home even after mobilisation, which in the event was not always possible.

Pictures show the NDC of the London Scottish, before and after uniforms and weapons had been issued. The machine gun mount, like the shoulder stock, looks very much homemade.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 25 Nov 2017 18:30

Another interesting table from the "General Return of the Strength of the British Army as of 30 September 1940". The term "units" referred to battalions or independent companies (such as Field Companies R.E.), while brigades, divisions and corps were "formations."

The infantry of the line numbered 575 battalions (about 36 today ...) of which 451 at home, apart from Northern Ireland. This includes the twelve newly formed Commandos if I'm not mistaken. In addition there were 90 Home Defence and Young Soldier Battalions, plus 5 in Northern Ireland.

The number of Heavy Regiments R.A. is surprisingly large at 57, something to look into. The War Office had been planning for 1917-style trench warfare, but I'm certain the number of heavy and super heavy guns and howitzers available was not remotely sufficient for so many units.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Leros87
Member
Posts: 63
Joined: 17 Apr 2016 00:35
Location: Kent

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Leros87 » 26 Nov 2017 01:02

As Knouterer points out the numbers of RA regiments shown at the end of September 1940 are very suspect. According to my records there were 7 super heavy batteries (2 Canadian), all equipped with either 9.2 or 12 inch weapons, 6 heavy regiments (only 4 equipped) and 31 medium regiments (only 10 largely equipped as such). In addition I can account for 114 Field, 28 A/T, 7 survey and 2 AA/LAA regiments plus at least 16 training regiments. 11 Field and 3 A/T regiments were from the Commonwealth forces. I presume the horse regiments were the RHA regiments, which were definitely not horsed.

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 26 Nov 2017 10:53

Re the Heavy Regiments, it does indeed seem that somebody got confused (again). This other list from the same Return lists only seven HRs (51st, 53rd, 54th, 56th, 57th, 58th and 59th), and 29 Medium Regts.

That previous list puts 29 of the HRs in Eastern Command, which in reality only had four: the 59th (Newfoundland) forming at Ardingly (not "Araingly" ...), the 56th with XII Corps (at Rolvenden in Kent, not "Rolvedon" ...), the 57th with II Corps, and the 53rd with XI Corps.

A possible explanation - but that is pure speculation - is that whoever drew up the lists of units got confused with the "Defence Batteries" then forming in Eastern Command, to man all those 6-pounders mounted in pillboxes. There were some 22 of those in EC at the end of Sept.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Bergedorf
Member
Posts: 39
Joined: 10 Jun 2008 19:35
Location: Hamburg, Germany

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Bergedorf » 27 Nov 2017 02:38

Perhaps number of Coys?

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 04 Mar 2018 13:38

Knouterer wrote:A few notes about armoured cars in service:
In that post (on page 24 of this thread) I omitted the Alvis-Straussler AC3: 12 bought by the RAF in 1937, but apparently all in the Middle East (Aden, Palestine) in 1940, so not very relevant to Operation Sealion:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Sid Guttridge
Member
Posts: 7296
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Mar 2018 18:00

Hi Knouter,

"Unit" generally applies to an organization containing only one arm of service (i.e. infantry battalion, artillery battery, etc.) These tend to be smaller units.

"Formation" applies to organizations that organically contain units of multiple arms of service, such as divisions, corps, etc.

The boundary between the two becomes a bit blurred at brigade. An infantry brigade is a unit, as it is entirely composed of infantry. However, some armies had standing "mixed brigades" which organically contained contain infantry and another arm, (usually artillery), and would therefore be a "formation".

Of course, the Germans confuse the picture a bit with extemporized kampfgruppen of mixed arms, often on a very small scale, but these were temporary agglomerations of troops and so did not have anything organic by definition. American Combat Commands of multiple arms were more systematic and also confuse the issue.

Cheers,

Sid.

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 04 Mar 2018 18:41

Hi Sid,

Yes, I'm well aware of those distinctions. But I don't think that in the British army an infantry brigade was ever referred to as a "unit".

But on that subject, and with reference to the British army in 1940, the Bartholomew Committee (set up to study the campaign in France and Flanders, interview senior officers of the BEF, and formulate lessons learned) recommended that the brigade group should be the basic building block of the army, with a Field Regiment R.A. and a Field Company R.E. (more or less) permanently attached. This was perhaps a matter of necessity as much as of doctrine, as the general shortage of radios and other communications equipment at that time would have made it very difficult for a division commander to exercise effective command and control in battle.

Not everyone agreed of course. When Montgomery - by then commander of XII Corps in Kent - gave a critique of a corps exercise in 1941, he told the assembled officers (I'm quoting from memory, don't have the document handy ...): "I always fought my division as a division in France, and the Germans never gave me serious trouble". In particular, he pointed out that the engineers of one of the participating divisions would have performed more efficiently if they had worked together under the direct control of the division's C.R.E. (Commander Royal Engineers) instead of being split up among the brigades.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 14:39

Not really significant from the military point of view, but it gives an insight in the spirit of the times:

An “American Committee for the Defence of British Homes” was set up in the summer of 1940, with headquarters in New York and 364 local committees in all 48 states of the Union. The aim was to collect weapons, ammunition, binoculars and steel helmets and other equipment (and also money to buy more weapons) to be sent, free of charge, to the British Home Guard, or any other British organization that could make use of them, or even, as they apparently intended, to private citizens defending their homes.

When the campaign was drawn to a close in June 1942, the final tally was 25,343 weapons sent to the UK, comprising 5,133 rifles and shotguns, 6,337 donated pistols and revolvers and 13,763 handguns bought with donations, 110 Thompson submachine guns, 2,042,291 rounds of ammunition, plus 16,322 steel helmets (including many German WWI helmets brought home by doughboys as souvenirs …) and 2,993 binoculars and telescopes.
The enormous variety – as regards makes, models and calibres – of the donated weapons alone, apart from other considerations, would have made any sort of military use difficult. And judging from the fact that some are found in collections with the original label with the name of the generous donor still attached, it would seem that many were never actually issued.

Without wishing to detract in any way from the generosity and good intentions of the donor of the little revolver below, it is hard to imagine what sort of scenario he or she could have had in mind.
(picture from Frederick R. Myatt, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pistols and Revolvers)
Heavily armed German paratrooper knocks on cottage door – brave British housewife (husband away in the Royal Navy) opens the door and smiles disarmingly – then suddenly whips out her trusty .32 Forehand from under her apron and drills him right between the eyes?
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by Knouterer on 19 Mar 2018 08:58, edited 4 times in total.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 14:44

Another appeal:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 14:48

The Imperial War Museum has some of the donated weapons in its collections. There were even some British-made weapons which returned home courtesy of this Committee:

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30036019 (12-bore)

Some might have been useful as props for a Western movie or show but for little else, such as these:

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30035079 (.32 Remington RB)
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30032392 (Springfield Trapdoor)

… others, such as this Winchester, would have been a useful addition to the arsenal of an auxiliary unit (the stay-behind guerilla force); light, adequate caliber but without excessive recoil, easy to handle, can be fired faster than a military Enfield or Mauser, and when taken apart can be easily concealed in a bag or under a coat:
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30035096 (Winchester 1894 Takedown - although the takedown lever seems to be missing?)

And this Remington riot gun would have made a useful HG or guerilla weapon as well:

http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30035033 (Remington Riot Gun)
Last edited by Knouterer on 18 Mar 2018 15:02, edited 1 time in total.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 15:01

A very different weapon, now in the collection of the American National Rifle Association. One of the few to return to its native shores. While it was/is undoubtedly accurate and fired the same .30-06 ammunition as all the "surplus" weapons supplied by the US government, it has no iron sights and the target scope seems a bit fragile and not very suitable for military use.
(from J. Supica et al., The Illustrated History of Firearms)
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Last edited by Knouterer on 18 Mar 2018 17:27, edited 1 time in total.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Knouterer
Member
Posts: 1538
Joined: 15 Mar 2012 17:19

Re: State of British Ground Forces, September 1940, Sealion

Post by Knouterer » 18 Mar 2018 15:15

And here we see a lady on the British end inspecting these generous donations. Apparently somebody has sent his entire WWI helmet collection. The "Mauser Broomhandle" and the "Artillery Luger" on the table are also most likely souvenirs of the Great War.
The weapon partially hidden behind the helmets is interesting, it seems to be an Ithaca Auto & Burglar, a double-barreled 20-gauge pistol. As shotguns with a barrel length of less than 18", under the Federal Firearms Act of 1934 these became subject to registration and a $ 200 transfer tax. So it seems possible that somebody took this opportunity to get rid of an illegally/irregularly owned firearm.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Return to “WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic”