46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 23 Dec 2020 15:17

Tom
I feel better knowing there was FOO team with each bn. Makes it all look a bit more robust.

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Richard Anderson » 23 Dec 2020 16:06

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
23 Dec 2020 11:21
Not sure to be honest Rich, I'll see what I can dig up.

Edited to add: yes, the LCS are probably these or perhaps the Mk II with an enclosed superstructure:
Indeed, they are, since there are photos of them during AVALANCHE.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 Dec 2020 17:51

Richard Anderson wrote:
23 Dec 2020 16:06
Indeed, they are, since there are photos of them during AVALANCHE.
Thanks, not seen those but will keep eyes more open in future! :D

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 29 Dec 2020 19:17

Much is often made of the impact of Allied air support on the German army in the later stages of the war, but this was not always available at the point of most need. The early stages at Salerno being a good case in point. This extract from the 167 Inf Bde Op Order for the invasion (WO169/8966):
BIGOT – AVALANCHE
MOST SECRET

Appendix B to 167 Bde OO No. 1

AIR SUPPORT AND RECCE AVAILABLE AND METHOD OF CALL.

1. Role.
In the opening stages the main task of the RAF will be to destroy the enemy’s Air Force and maintain air superiority. Few aircraft will be available for direct support and calls must therefore be kept to a minimum.
Regards

Tom

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Dec 2020 19:38

Any air support is better than none. With good planning, good target selection in the moment, and the usual luck factor a few well place attacks can make a important tactical difference. Of course doing everything right is not always the case.

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Dec 2020 12:38

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
29 Dec 2020 19:38
Any air support is better than none.
I agree completely. But the first mention of any air support in the 167 Bde war diary isn't actually until 14 Sep 43:
1130 Fortresses bombed EBOLI.
1230 60 Fortresses attacked BATTIPAGLIA.
Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Dec 2020 20:31

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
29 Dec 2020 19:38
Any air support is better than none.
Carl,

I thought you might be interested in the following appendix to 167 Bde's Op Order for Avalanche (WO169/8966):
BIGOT – AVALANCHE
MOST SECRET

Appendix B to 167 Bde OO No. 1

AIR SUPPORT AND RECCE AVAILABLE AND METHOD OF CALL.

1. Role.
In the opening stages the main task of the RAF will be to destroy the enemy’s Air Force and maintain air superiority. Few aircraft will be available for direct support and calls must therefore be kept to a minimum.

2. Calls for Support.
(a) One tentacle 2/5 AASC will land in the first flight of LSTs. Until it lands calls will be made from Bde HQ on the support wave direct to the HQ ship (HMS HILARY), for transmission to Army/Air HQ in the normal manner.

(b) Once the tentacle has landed, it will take over and calls will be made direct to Army/Air HQ as normal.
In both (a) and (b) Bns will apply to Bde HQ for support, giving relevant details.

[sub-paras (a) and (b) are struck through on the original and amended as follows:]

[2. (amended)
(a) Calls for Support.
(i) Before tentacles are landed calls for support can be passed over normal army channels to Div HQ for retransmission on Support wave. Alternatively calls for support can be made from Bdes ashore via Navval WS 22 at Bde HQ on BCW which works directly back to 10 Corps HQ ship.
(ii) As soon as tentacles land they will open on Support wave. When XII AASC set has landed with 1st Ech V US Army orders will be given for tentacles to close on Support wave + open on AASC frequencies o XII AASC ashore.]


(c) When indicating targets the ref given in paragraph 11 will be used. Bns will apply to Bde HQ for support giving relevant details.

3. Tac/R.
(a) Demands will be submitted to Bde HQ for transmission to “G” at Div.

(b) Results will be broadcast in the normal manner, estimated times being given over AASC tentacle.

4. Photo/R
Demands will be submitted to Bde HQ for transmission to “G” at Div.

5. Arty/R
Arty/R will not be possible until a Tac/R Sqn has been established on the mainland. When this has been done units will be informed.
The signals log is available (once the archives re-open) so that will be my next port of call to see if any applications were made for close air support by the Bde.

Regards

Tom

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 31 Dec 2020 01:57

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Dec 2020 20:31
... Carl,

I thought you might be interested...
DUH

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 01 Jan 2021 19:52

I found these details of casualties suffered by 64 Fd Regt in and around Battipaglia on 10 Sep 43 in the regiment's war diary (WO169/9488) - can anyone read the bottom line?
64 Fd Regt losses 10 Sep 44.JPG
1 Stuart Tank
1 Carrier
And is that "WSCC"? If so, can anyone identify what that is? A wireless set?

Regards

Tom
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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Gooner1 » 05 Jan 2021 13:07

Hi Tom, I came across this letter from Monty to Alan Brooke in 'Montgomery and the Eighth Army' edited by Stephen Brooks.

14th October 1943
"Another factor is that 46 and 56 Divs have both had very severe casualties since 9 Sept – 10 Corps have had some 8,000 casualties, nearly all in 46 and 56 Divs. A Division that suffers such losses requires time to absorb its new drafts, to build up the broken teams, and so on. From what I here of 46 Div it requires a good period for rest and training. I doubt if Dick McCreery understands the Infantry Division."
Do you think that a fair assessment?

The crossing of the Volturno, simultaneous to the letter, proved to be another bloodletting for 10 Corps amd largely avoidable.

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Jan 2021 16:45

Gooner1 wrote:
05 Jan 2021 13:07
I came across this letter from Monty to Alan Brooke in 'Montgomery and the Eighth Army' edited by Stephen Brooks.
Thanks for highlighting that letter for me. By coincidence I’ve been transcribing the war diary of one of the Hampshire Bns which landed with 46 Div at Salerno and they seem to have spent about 3 weeks in November 1943 out of the line resting and reorganising. Alongside a trickle of wounded coming back to the Bn the diary records a series of drafts of reinforcements coming to the bn over that period.There are plenty of ‘Training Notes’ and ‘training programmes’ referred to and lectures on Tank-Infantry co-operation from an armoured division officer.

McCreery was certainly parachuted in to command 10 Corps at short notice after Horrocks had been wounded (arriving to join his Corps on 28 Aug 43 according to the British OH as his troops were assembling for embarkation), would not have been able to influence the landing plans and, as far as I know, did not have experience of commanding a division in combat. I think he was probably selected by Alexander and it may well be that Montgomery felt he had better candidates for the job and was miffed about not being consulted (that’s a guess obviously). Taking a broader view, it was probably good that 10 Corps had a commander well-know to Alexander as that would provide useful support if there was a need to push back against some of Clark’s excessive demands.

Regards

Tom

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Gooner1 » 06 Jan 2021 11:40

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
05 Jan 2021 16:45
Thanks for highlighting that letter for me. By coincidence I’ve been transcribing the war diary of one of the Hampshire Bns which landed with 46 Div at Salerno and they seem to have spent about 3 weeks in November 1943 out of the line resting and reorganising. Alongside a trickle of wounded coming back to the Bn the diary records a series of drafts of reinforcements coming to the bn over that period.
Hopefully the reinforcements didn't still consist of returning sick and wounded from 50 and 51 Divs at this stage?
McCreery was certainly parachuted in to command 10 Corps at short notice after Horrocks had been wounded (arriving to join his Corps on 28 Aug 43 according to the British OH as his troops were assembling for embarkation), would not have been able to influence the landing plans and, as far as I know, did not have experience of commanding a division in combat. I think he was probably selected by Alexander and it may well be that Montgomery felt he had better candidates for the job and was miffed about not being consulted (that’s a guess obviously). Taking a broader view, it was probably good that 10 Corps had a commander well-know to Alexander as that would provide useful support if there was a need to push back against some of Clark’s excessive demands.

Regards

Tom
Yes, bit unlucky with corps commanders at that time, Horrocks wounded in an air raid, Crocker wounded in a PIAT demonstration, Harding still recovering from wounds and in England. Allfrey GOC 5th Corps and designated for of 8th Army, was, I guess available. as was Oliver Leese of 30 Corps who was spare. Choosing McCreery, whose only previous field command was the brief and inglorious episode of 2nd Armoured Brigade in France 1940, seems a little odd (but perhaps typically Italian campaign) as none of the US commanders had any experience either!
With hindsight it probably would have been better to let McCreery learn the ropes under Monty first. Indeed it would have almost certainly been better to give 8th Army the Salerno job.
I think Clark did a better job of resisting Alexander than McCreery did of resisting Clark.

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Re: 46 and 56 British Infantry Division at Salerno

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 10 Jan 2021 20:39

One of the challenges that I have found difficult has been nailing down just what artillery support 56th Division had when it landed at Salerno. Something that has eluded me for a while but I think I've finally cracked it. I had assumed (dangerous I know!) that the division would have landed at full strength in both field and medium artillery (understanding that the latter was provided by an attached medium regiment which would later revert to either 10 Corps or AGRA command). However, this was not the case as shown by these details from the CRA 56 Div war diary (WO169/8815):

On landing at Salerno, 56 Div had under its command:

64 Fd Regt, 65 Fd Regt, 113 Fd Regt.
67 A Tk Regt
100 LAA Regt
69 Medium Regt
506 (SP) Bty (of 142 Fd Regt)

9 September 1943:
6 x 5.5
8 x 4.5
4 Bishops (SP 25 pdrs)
56 x 25 pdr
32 x 6-pdr
16 x 17 pdr
54 Bofors.

4 Bishops had been lost at sea and 16 x 25 pdrs were still at sea.

No further reinforcements were received until 16 Sep 43 when 8 x 25 pdrs and 2 x 5.5" landed.

Then, finally, on 18 Sep 43, 8 further 25 pdrs landed to take the Divisional artillery up to its full strength (well almost - it had lost two 25 pdrs during the fighting) and also a further 4 6 pdrs were landed that day.

Both 65 and 113 Fd Regt were therefore short of a battery on landing and during the initial critical stage of the fighting.

Regards

Tom

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