110 Field Regiment Royal Artillery: 207 Battery- 208 Battery-475 Battery: 25 pounders

Unit No.43

 

The history of the Regiment, as posted in the Regimental Magazine "Fuze 110" 1952-1953

Recounted by the late Lieutenant-Colonel P.A.Grant and set down by Gunner E.W.Hill.

 

3 October 1944: On the morning of the 3th I started of with the 2IC, Survey Officer and Signals Officer and we arrvied at our destination, thus Z parties near Beek who had motored over 400 miles in two days. When we arrived at the RV CAGRA told us that there was no very definite news yet but he thought it would be likely that we would be supporting the Armerican Airborne Division and that it was unlikely that we move into action until the 7th October. Z parties of all regiments, therefore went forward to the area just south of Grave. The following day, no orders for a move were received until midday, when a RV was ordered at the cross roads Wolferen at 16.00hrs. We were then told that it was likely that we would take over from 79 Field Regiment of 52 Scottish Div. which was left-hand Field Regiment in the Nijmegen bridgehead. Again it was said, probably not until the 7/8 october. A further RV was ordered at 43 Div HQ at 10.00hrs  on Thursday the 5th. On arriving there I was pleased to meet Brigadier Boylan again. At 10.30hrs General Horrocks, commander of 30 corps, came to conference and at 11.20hrs CAGRA announced a complete change in plan so far as 110 Field Regiment was concerned. Instead of taking over from 79 Field Regiment, we were to take over from 112 Field Regiment of 43 Div. whose sector lay south of Doorwerth right in the tip of the Nijmegen bridgehead. I was further told that my guns were crossing Nijmegen Bridge at 13.00hrs that day. 61 Field Regt were not so hardly placed as they were taking over from the Field Regiment that they had intended to take over in the first place and as 116th were in reserve, they did not arrive in action until the 8th.

My difficulty was that I was in a jeep with the Assistant Adjudant and had no means of communication with either my harbour area or the advance parties as the distance was too great for wireless. Fortunately, however we had ordered the advance parties, under Major Sikes, to go round the 79 Field Regiment area and by sending an officer from 112 Regiment to stand on Nijmegen bridge we were able to catch the advance parties and divert them to the new area. To cut a long story shorty, twenty-four guns were in action by 19.00hrs, the evening of the 5th. OPs took over from 112 Field Regiment by night and by first light take over was complete. 112 Field Regiment had pulled out under cover of darkness. The OP areas for this position were not at all pleasant as the country was very flat and was entirely overlooked by the enemy. Four OPs were deployed in this first position: Captain Johnson on the right, in a very isolated OP near the railway embankment south of Oosterbeek, Captain Webster in the church tower of Driel, Captains Husband and Deuchar on an embankment south of the river, south of Doorwerth. We were in support of 501 Regimental Combat Team of the American Army. This was the first time that I had had an opportunity of working with the Americans and I found them very good indeed. Furthermore they showed a most agressive spirit and during the two days in this sector, Friday the 6th and Saterday 7th between the Americans and our Regimental fire, we managed to keep the Boche well under control.

The American Artillery set up was two 75mm Battalions and one 105mm Battalion to the R.C.T. Their range was rather short owing to the fact that their guns were specialy made for airborne work and their methods of fire control were not so flexible as ours.

 

7 October 1944: Colonel Johnson commanding 501 R.C.T,  a full Colonel in the American Army, was very badly wounded whilst visiting the forward areas and died that same evening. His place was taken by Colonel Ewell who had commanded the 3rd Battalion.

 

8 October 1944: CAGRA called a conference at our HQ at 06.45hrs and there he let us know certain new dispositions had been ordered for the defence of Nijmegen bridgehead, which were to greatly strenghten it, and the layout would be: right 53 Divsion, centre 50 Division left, 101 st Airborne Division. As that ,meant that a great deal  more artillery would be going in, it would entail certain changes in our layout. Once again 110th got the heavy and the stick and had to be moved. Our last gun position having been north-east of Valburg, we moved to an area south of the railway, southeast of Zetten. The move was controlled by the time it took 79 Field Regiment, who had to get out of the bridgehead, to get into action, but finally, zero lines were recorded in the new positions by 14.15hrs on Sunday the 8th. In this position we were working with 907 Battalion American Artillery, Colonel Nelson, who armed with 105mm guns and liaison between two regiments was very close. Defensive fire was put down both by day and night and also some harrasing fire.

 

9 October 1944 On the night of 9 october ,we in common with the other two regiments in the AGRA and 3rd AGRA , fired on an enemy attack coming in from the west, scale 30 and this concentrated artillery fire completely broke up the threat. We remained in action in this same area until Friday the 13th, when we handed over to the 6th Field Regiment On Wednesday the 11th A Troop OP, Captain Davies, engaged enemy infantry and three Panther tanks with the fire of the Divisional Artillery. This caused casualties among the enemy and stopped two of the tanks, both of which started to burn, This was in the evening. The next morning, it was reported that the Boche was trying tp put these tanks in order and once again the Regiment fired at them, this had the effect of making them en go into the tanks, in which the fires were now out. It was decided therefore, to engage them with mediums and Captain Davies registered one gun of a medium troop correctly on the tanks and thereafter brought the troop in. This had the effect of destroying one of the Panthers.This shooting was conducted bu communications from OP to Regimental HQ by line and thereafter to the medium regiment on the CRA's net.

 

14 October 1944: The Regiment pulled out of the Nijmegen bridge head. We had had a mst succesful week with our allies the Americans, for whom we enterained feelings of the greatest respect. That they were pleased with the support we gave them is borne out by a letter which was sent to me by the CO 501 PIR. This was forwared through American and Divisional channels and British Army channels. The Colonel also made me submit twelve names for the award of the Bronze Star. The Regiment moved to Belgium.

 

17 October 1944: 09.30hrs, I called on the CRA 3rd Canadian Infantry Division ,and he ordered the Regiment to go into action in support of 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade and grouped with 14th Field Regiment RCA in the area of Biervliet. The CRA hoped that the Regiment would be in action by 18.00hrs, ready to take over iver the nights Harrasing fire tasks. Acutally we were in action by 16.45hrs and Major Robertson joined the CO of 14 Field Regiment. Captain Johnson went to 14 Field Regt HQ.The same day we reveived news that our C.A.G.R.A had been captured and this was later confirmed with the news thar Captain Whitehorn had been killed. They had a hand grenade lobbed into their jeep by a German patrol whilst on recce (no info/grave could be found on a Captain WHITEHORN). It may be well at this stage to digress a moment to give a picture of the type of country in this part of Holland, nor4th of Leopold Canal. The entire country is completely flat and, as can be seen from the map, is criss-crossed and interspersed with dykes. Partically every dyke was a German strongpoint and the enemy had to be winkled out of these dykes one by one in order to get on. It was a tremendously lengtly process. Visibilty, from the point of view of the enemy, was good, he had long open field of fire.

 

19 October 1944: We made our first move, wich was carried out quite expeditiously.

 

21 October 1944: The 9th Brigade took Breskens, with a zero hour of 10.00hrs. For this attack we supplied 475 B.C and two OP's with H.L.I. They had a diversionary role of attacking Schoondijke.

 

22 October 1944: The Regiment was ordered into direct support of the 9 Infantry Brigade as 14th Field Regiment had now been put in direct support of 7th Infantry Brigade, had now been put in direct support of 7th Infantry Brigade, who were to pass through, and we were in direct support for three days, the chief interest being the attack on Fort Frederik Hendrik which took place firstly on the 23rd and again on Wednesday the 25th. For this latter assualt a very heavy artillery programme had been arranged, including the fire of two 8inch guns and two 240mm guns. The boche however, did not wait to receive this dose and the fort fell on the 25th pratically without a fight.

 

23 October 1944: Breskens OP parties of 207 and 208 Batteries were shelled very heavily indeed but fortunately suffered no casualties.

 

25 October 1944: On the afternoon of Wednesday the 25th, 9th infantry brigade went into divisional reserve and we came back to our orginal role that of being grouped with 14th Field Regiment RCA. The Regiment moved into another area near Schoonedijke. This move was made having two batteries always in action and went very well. The next two days were spent in action with no events of any particular consequence to note, the mopping up of the pocket still continuing.

 

28 October 1944: We moved yet to another new location, which the C.R.A. had told me was probably as far west as we would require to go.

 

29 October 1944: I went to Brugge with Captain Handford and Captain Johnson who had been detailed to go as F.O.O. for a special role. We assembled at the grand Hotel at Brugge and it was then confirmed that they were to go as F.O.O.'s for the Regiment in support of 155 Brigade of the 52nd Lowland Division, which was to take part in the assualt on Vlissingen. Colonel Christopher C.O. of the First Mountian Regiment, briefed these F.O.O.'s that evening. It was then learned that zero hour for the attack on Vlissingen was on 05.45hrs on Wednesday, november the 1st and it was called Operation Infatuate I.

 

30 October 1944: The regiment was ordered to go forward unexpectedly to a position, where we could engage Knokke and I was ordered, as C.R.A respresentive, to 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade. This attack went in early in the morning of the 31st and was completely succesful and by Friday, the 3rd november, the last of the Boche had been cleaned up in the pocket south of the Scheldt. We did not see anything of this final phase of Canadian 3rd Division Operation Switchback when they captured over two thousand prisoners, making a total of some 12.000 in all.

 

31 October 1944: On the afternoon, the regiment moved back to the area of Schoondyke and came under command of 2nd Canadian Division Artillery, and went into action with its guns facing due north, to support the attack on Vlissingen, due to go in the next morning. The story of the attack on vlissingen is best told by Captain Handford, who took part in the actual assualt,but broadly, the opposition in the early stages was fairly stiff, the assaulted enemy  strong points holding out and giving a great deal of trouble, By midday on sunday the 4th, it may be claimed that the port had been liberated. Duting this attack, our role was purely one of giving moral support to the infantry and sending back information, as owing to the nearness of our own troops, coupled with the height of buildings, it was quite impossible to bring down any fire by observation, Indeed unfortunately, a good many casualties were caused by 155 Brigade by our artillery falling short, but this could not be avoided owing to the buildings intervening.

 

3rd November 1944: Captain Davies and Captain Webster went across as relief OP's, though, in fact, the relief was not effected until the following day\as it was not possible to cross the channel on Friday the 3th owing to the roughness of the sea.

 

4th November 1944: Captain Webster went forward with the 5th KOSB's armed with an 18 set, to control the fire of the Medium Artillery. The situation when I went was across with the Brigade Commander, was that the Vlissingen area was completely under control and that the German Commander at Middelburg was willing and anxious to surrender if he could get half a change. Sniping, on this day, had completely ceased. Looking at the fortifications of the town, I felt convinced that had the Boche had the heart to go on fighting he could have done so and kept us at bay for several weeks. On this day I met Brigadier Crossland, commanding the 9th AGRA and learned that 61 Field Regiment our own were now under their command, the 2nd Canadian Division havnig gone off somewhere.

 

5th November 1944: On Sunday 9th AGRA gave us orders that we were to move into the Eindhoven area. The orders were very untidy though that was not their fault. We were not allowed to pull our guns out of action until after 1600 hrs. and the Regiment was due to move past the start point the following morning at 0740 hrs. In the ordinary course of events this would have seemed to be ample time but in fact it left only two hours of daylight to pull out of a very difficult position and it had a bearing on the unsatisfactory march of the Regiment the following day.

 

6th November 1944: Z parties and CPO's parties left Schoondijke at 0645 hrs., along with the same parties from 61 Field Regiment, and arrived the other side of Eindhoven about lunch time to find that the area allotted to the Regiment to harbour was Budel, south-east of Eindhoven. It was expected that the Regiment would arrive about 1800 hrs. but is was four or five hours after this before te alst of them were in. This was due to three things. First,  207 Battery were an hour late in getting out of their position in the Schoondijke area and thereby blocked the remainder. This had the effect of putting the time table wrong and we clashed with a super-heavy regiment who had to winch their guns over a canal bridge. Finally, on the Regiment's arrival at Antwerpen it was found that the tunnel was closed for two hours and this further disorganised the march.

 

7th and 8th November 1944: Tuesday was spent in the same harbour area but on Wednesday, in view of the big concentration of troops arriving in the vicinity, we had to move to Maarheeze, where we spent the next five days reorganising and brushing up. During this period, everyone was able to get a bath in Eindhoven and at long last the Q side started to function more smoothly and issues were made of winter underclothes, blankets, gloves and a start made on denims and boots. Since we had come from France at the beginning of October the administration had been very unsatisfactory, not through the fault of our own Q Department but due to the fact that we had made so many moves and were in danger of being nobody's baby. It was therefore cheering to find that coming back under 12 Corps we were getting more done.

 

13th November 1944: We moved into action in a gun area north-east of Weert, and here our role was to fire in support of the attack of the 51st (Hightland) Division, due to go in at 1600 hrs. on Tuesday the 14th. The Regiment had here a very good gun position though is was rather close to the enemy. They were holding the other side of the Canal du Nord. Furthermore, the area was the forming up area for the infantry attack though this did not disorganise us in any way. Operation Ascot, as the first phase of the Highland Division's attack was called, started at 1600 hrs. on the 14th, and our role was to fire a smoke screen 2,000 yards in length, 700 yards on either side of the canal. 61 Field Regiment had a similar role on the side of the Canal Bois Le Duc, south of the canal junction at Hulsen. Thereafter we fired various concentrations at the order of 51st (Highland) Division. The attack of the two Brigades which we were covering,  152 and 154, went according to plan, our smoke screen was effective and allowed the infantry to cross the canal unseen and, together with 61st's was, in fact, mentioned on the BBC news the same evening. It had been expected that the Boche reaction to this attack would have been energetic but, in fact, although a number of rounds did fall in or near the gun areas, they were comparatively few in number. No damage was done although the chief clerk had a serious fright. Our only casualty was Gnr. Waters of B. Troop who was wounded. He was most unfortunate as his gun had a premature. The same evening we received a warning order that we were to move into a positioon slightly further east, to support an operation by the 15th Scottish Division of 8 Corps in our new gun area.

 

16th November 1944: (This is the last entry in the Colonel's Diary. On the 16th November, 1944, he died of wounds received in action the previous evening). We are proud to reprint the following extract from the obituary notice which appeared in "The Times":

"Lt. Colonel Grand died of wounds on November 16th. He had held command of the Regiment for just over two years, having joined from the Ayrshire Yeamanry with whom he had served for 16 years. All ranks of the Regiment feel they have lost a personl friend as well as a Commanding Officer  for whom they had a profound respect. "Perhaps the qualities most apparent were his generosity and his sense of duty. Whilst demanding only one standard, the very high one which he set himself, he was always sympathetic towards, and prepared fully to back up, anyone merely guilty of an error of judgement. No duty was too onerous and nothing would deter him from carrying out any task which he considered to be in the interest of either an individual or the Regiment for which he worked so tirelessly. "Largely through his efforts and drive, a most succesfull Comrades' and Families' Association had been formed. His work in all spheres of social welfare will be sadly missed in the post-war period."

 

Postscript: Concerning the Regiment's work in support of the 101 Parachure Infantry Division, the United States Commander wrote the following "commandtion":

1. It is desired to commend every officer and man of the 110th Field Regiment for superior performance in support of this regiment during the period 6-13th October on the Nijmegen bridgehead.

2. This regiment took over a very wide sector along the Nederrijn in which the enemy had two bridgeheads as well as direct land access to our flank. His intentions, as disclosed by prisoners, were to force us to the rear. The 110th Field Regiment was placed in direct support on the 16th of October. Rapidly organising an effective system of observation and liaison, the artillery at once massed heavy tank and effective fire on our front and flank. By constant 24-hour support, skilful use of massed fires, and close liaison with infantry troops, the artillery forced the enemy to adopt a defensieve attitude and withdraw north of the Rhine.

3. The co-operation and devotion to duty of the Regimental Commander and all other liaison and observation personnel was exemplary.