80th (Lowland-City of Glasgow ) Field Regiment: 317 Battery 318 Battery 458 Battery- 25 pounders
29 October 1944: The Regiment moved from Belgium to area near S´Heerenhoek in support of the Walcheren operation.
31 October 1944: The fire plan was to start at 23.35hrs amd this was the first time at which the regiment was to fire its first round at a real enemy.Regiment had taken position Nieuwdorp.
3 November 1944: OP party moved with the 6th Camerons. As time went on the enemy fire continued and their nfantry lost many men and the gunner OP had also lost two killed (Gunners Smith and Owen) and L-Sgt Quinn wounded.
5 November 1944: During the advance to Middelburg, passing through the village of Nieuwland, an officer of 458 Battery acting as FOO with 6 H.L.I gained the distinction of being the first officer in the Regiment to fire his rifle, his target was an enemy infantryman, too far away to use a pistol and too close to use a 25pdr, needles to say he missed!.The regiment moved to area est of Arnemuiden.
6 November 1944: Harrasing fire was put down on Veere harbour and its land approaches during the night.
7 November 1944: The Regiment moved to another position in the area of Kleverskerke, so as to get within range of the northern most point of the Island.
8 November 1944: Covering fire was put down for the Commandos from 05.50Hrs on certain selected targets such as lines of withdrawal and known mortar and gun positions. By noon all resistance on the island had ceased. The only enemy left unaccounted for were a few odd parties marooned by the floods on the first floors of houses and farms between Middelburg and the Northern most point.
9 Novermber 1944: A recce party went off from the Regiment to the villlage of Heinkenszand that afternoon, the main body moving there for a period of rest and refitting.
10 November 1944: 458 Battery was ordered back into action at Kleverskerke, to be prepared to deal with any enemy parties who were marooned and who refused to give thermselves up to 156 Bde. The Battery was not called upon to fire a shot and rejoined the Regiment on the 12th. Thus ended the Walcheren operations.
19 November 1944: The Regiment moved to Belgium.
25 November 1944: The Regiment moved to the villlage of Nieuwkuijk. The front to be held was a very long one.79 Field Regiment covering 155 Bde from about Heide and 186 Field Regiment covering 157 Bde from about Nieuwstraat, the Regiment were superimposed in the centre. OPs were maintained, two per battery, along the line of the river in the case of 458 and 317 Batteries, and in the houses along the main road cum-front line by 318 Battery. Except for 318 Battery OPs which were the acme of comfort in houses, most of them were of the unpleasant and wet variety in slittrenches. 458 Battery had one if the former, whichwas an uninviting spot in the persistently wet weather then being experienced. 317 Battery had a good OPin a house in Heusden right on the river bank, they took great pains to conceal it, smoking in the OP not being permitted lest the smoke blow out of the window. The approach to this OP was alleged to be fraught with danger. It was an unpleasant walk out to 317 Battery second OP in Doeveren on a wet day along a very muddy track, draped in a gas cape and carrying a rifle. Of the batteries in the Regiment 458 were in action in Vlijmen, 317 with RHQ in Nieuwkuijk and 318 in Drunen. The approach to the regimental area ran north from Helvoirt up a country lane, crossing the Afwateringskanaal by a bailey bridge nicknamed "Sagging Susie" a fearsome affair which one was glad to get across. Gujnpits were ap roblem as the country was completely waterlogged. This was particularly the case in 318 Battery who were forced to move D Troop position to the north side of the village, rather to the relief of the inhabitants who did not like the guns firing over their houses at less than 50 yards range. 458 Battery also moved F .Troop to a new position in Vlijmen station yard where they were able to dig a proper postion in the slight embankment on which it stood Physical communication between 318 Battery and its OPs was apt to be difficult. Both the road and railway bridges over the Canal at Baardwijk had been destoyed by the enemy. The former had been replaced by a Bailey bridge, this was in full view of an enemy artillery OP.
3 December 1944: The regiment was relived by 15 Field Regiment RCA and moved to Boxtel. All three batteries were accomodated in a very large convent school. RHQ in a smaller school nearby.
5 December 1944: Regiment moved to a concentration area north of Beek. RHQ was in an empty house, the men were billetted in twos and threes on the local dutch population. BC of 318 Battery had a house next to a church,
6 December 1944: The Regiment moved to Germany.
12 January 1944: The regiment moved from Germany to Limburg, 318 Battery had a troop each side of Etsenrade, 317 Battery was in the orchards north of Jabeek, while 458 Battery was near the crossroads at Bingelrade. RHQ was established in the village school of Jabeek. The Regiment would be in close support to 156 Brigade for operation Blackcock. 317 to 4/5th RSF, 318 to 6 Cams and 458 Batery to 7 Cams. In the meantime a very large ammunition dumping programme was being carried out in the gun are, in which both our own ammunition lorries and those of the Ammo Coy. RASC were used. The amount required was 600 rounds per gun. During these days of prepartion a new weapon appeared on the scene in the form of a rocket projecting battery, it was manned by Canadians, and put itself in action just in front of 317 Battery.It had a range of 8000yards and a salvo was equivalant to what a Medium Regiment could fire only over a period of hours.
17 January 1944: The Operation starts, RHQ was established beside Tac 156 Bde in a house in Broeksittard.
19 January 1944: The Regiment moved up to Stein, a very small and battered village already occupied by the troops that had captured it. The guns occupied three positions during the ten days of the operation, fired over 40.000rounds between them, about one fifth of this amount just over 8000 rounds was fired between 06.00 and 10.00hrs on the 18th.
6 February 1944: The regiment moved back to Neerbeek. The trip qas hard as it poured with rain, and at times 317 and 458 in particular, each had ten out of twelve quads bogged.
9 February 1944: The Regiment left Neerbeek and went to Horst. The roads were deteriorated rapidly and some had very bad tracks, we took over for 7 Field Regiment, and on the whole things might have been worse. Billets were reasonably comfortable, and in the case of 317 Regiment, excellent wagon lines were available. RHQ was at Kastenraal , 317 at Oostenrijk, with OP at Blitterswijk, and Bn HQ Meerlo, 318 at Tienraij, with OP east of Tienraij and 458 at Zandhoek.
14 February 1944: The Regiment moved to area of Malden on the Mook-Nijmegen road.
15 February 1945: The regiment moved to Gennep, the guns went into action south of Gennep on the edge of the flood water of the Maas.
17 February 1945: The Regiment fired in support on the attack on Afferden, a counter battery strafe started at 14.10hrs.later that day the Regiment moved up to positions near Afferden. The Regiment was a piece of sandy heath land slightly higher than that surrounding it. Each Battery had a farm as CP (458 got two!) and digging was very easy. RHQ was poor, the annoying part of it all was that 79 Field Regiment, had a much larger and better house as RHQ close by, and one suspected the two 2ICs had settled the issue by tossing a coin, probably a double headed one produced by the 79 Field rep.
26 February 1945: OPs of 458 Battery moved with 6 H.L.I. to capture Groote Horst, they were to be supported by a barrage.
28 February 1945: The Regiment move to Germany.
The War Years 1942 Onwards: FROM A BOY TO MAN (Don Edwards)
In July 1942 I was called up into the Royal Artillery to the 34 th Signal Training Regiment RA at Bamber Bridge near Preston, a young lad of 18, never been away from home before, sitting in a Nissen Hut wondering what was in store for me. Later that first day my future colleagues arrived in dribs and drabs, but who should come in but Melvyn Hughes. We spent our first six months training together. First it was square bashing then to the serious business of wireless operating, driving, semaphore and communications. At the end of 6 months we “passed out” as qualified “driver/operators”. Another of my colleagues was Jim Hallsworth who also came from Bedford . Several of us, including Jim, were posted at Xmas to 318 Battery, 80 th City of Glasgow Field Regiment , Royal Artillery, stationed at Forres.
Another of my colleagues at the training regiment was Gordon Lusher (later professionally known as Don Lusher), a brilliant trombonist featured on television conducting a big band and as a soloist. He was a desperately unhappy lad and I remember he would march on Sundays with the local Salvation Army band. I enjoyed those three months at Bamber Bridge .
The 80th Field Regiment was in the process of reorganising and expanding hence our postings there as part of a reformed regiment. Here we underwent intensive mountain warfare training with a 3 week mock operation over the Cairngorms and Grampians. This was a real toughening up time for us all. During the period I spent 3 months at the army winter school at Dalwhinnie (Drumochter Lodge). Here we were taught to ski by Norwegian instructors - this with full packs as well. We also had to do night marches towing 8-man sledges full of equipment and we had to dig snow holes to sleep in. We had some fun as well as the flogging part of the training. I remember one incident with one of our lads who couldn’t quite get the hang of skiing. We were coming down through a narrow pass with a drop over the edge into an icy stream. We were travelling single file when all of a sudden from the back came a yell. It was Jimmy the non-skier out of control. Over the edge he went and landed in the stream which was shallow, fast running and not very wide. A howl of laughter went up but Jim was not happy. His skis had crossed and he couldn’t get up but worst of all he was lying in the water with his pack as his “rest”. He did not see the funny side. We helped him out and I said to him “Never mind Jim, you have a clean change of clothes in your pack”. When we got back, he opened his pack and found it full of water. We dried everything out in the end by the brazier we had.
That Brazier….. At the ski school we lived in a large marquee with 3 bell tents inside of it. We had excellent sleeping bags and at night we put our socks and clothes in the sleeping bag with us as it was freezing at night and sometimes our boots froze. To keep us warm we had this brazier, where we acquired it, I do not know but the health and safety people today would have had kittens if they had seen it. Who ever in their right minds would have put an open fire by tents inside another tent! Fuel? Where did we get it? There were 7 wooden ski huts way down by the railway where or skis etc were stored. The huts were double lined with wood. So periodically we would break into the huts and divest them, piece by piece, of the wood for our fire – so we were able to keep warm. Getting up in the morning was a bind. Our ablution area consisted of a marquee - no sides – with wooden benches and bowls for washing and shaving and cold water. We washed in the cold water but to shave we broke the ice, rubbed it on to our faces and hacked away before the numbness wore off!! Those were the days.
We had moved to Old Meldrum and Montrose. At both of these places we were billeted on the granary floors of whisky distilleries. The one at Montrose was a working one and the dust from the conveyor belts used to cover our beds and equipment. We spent Christmas 1943 at Montrose. Christmas lunch in the Army was something to look forward to. This day we had an ENSA party coming to entertain us and they were staying to lunch. The officers served the OR’s with lunch and I really enjoyed mine: I was well filled. It was then that an officer approached me and said he would like me to help entertain the ENSA to lunch. I protested that I couldn’t eat a thing but I had to go. Compensation was that I was the envy of all as I had a lovely girl on either side. I suffered with indigestion later!
It was here in the late spring that we turned “airborne”. We had a “mock" Dakota and we had to practice diving up ramps into the aircraft. You could drive them in so far, make sure you didn’t drive out the other side and wait to be manhandled into position. The Gunners sweated blood practicing dismantling 25 pdr guns and manhandling the parts into the plane. They had competitions to see how fast they could dismantle and reassemble. The speed in the end was incredible.
In June 1944 the invasion came and we moved to Berkhampstead to join up with the Americans. The plan was to fly to France and land S.E. of Paris to cut off the Germans moving back from the invasion coast. However the Germans were caught at Falaise and the operation was stood down. As soon as this happened we had a rapid move north to the Lincoln area following the moves in France . This move was made on 3 rd September 1944 – my 21 st birthday – we passed through Bedford but I was unable to call on my parents. What a 21 st !!
In September we had another “panic” on (as we called each stand to). Destination Arnhem . We were briefed. The paratroops and Airborne troops would go in first to create an airstrip. Then we would land with our 25 pdr guns in the area as they had a 360 o traverse. One of our brigades, already moving up in France , would link up with us.
I remember well being lined up on the road to the airfield, my plane number chalked on the jeep, with hundreds of others. Some of our people were already on the airfield being loaded. Time passed and we waited. I can see that despatch rider coming down now and telling us it was off: they couldn’t hold the airstrip and we know what happened at Arnhem . “Panic over”.
We immediately drove to Gosport to be transferred to France by landing ship. We were told we would get our heavy equipment back in France . It wasn’t until we got to the Dutch border that the big equipment arrived.
Our first action was to take the island of Walcheren , a fortress island holding up the Allies use of the port of Antwerp vital for the transport of equipment and supplies instead of the mulberry harbours - the original harbour in France .
Walcheren . A partly flooded island with lots of dykes and heavily mined. It was successfully taken, we had our first casualties and we tasted war at first hand. We were a highly-trained Division, trained in mountain warfare fighting our first action below sea level. Strange! It was November.
There followed months of warfare in Holland and up to Germany . Christmas was spent on the Dutch/German border. It was a hard winter with ice and snow. All kinds of warfare were met and eventually we arrived at Xanten on the Rhine . It was here that Churchill arrived to have a look over the Rhine .
Everything was assembled for an assault across the Rhine . The guns were at it night and day. It was here that my mate Jim Hallsworth was injured by a German shell and was returned home and discharged. We saw the American Airborne fly over to attack, and the assault across the Rhine by boat. One of the American planes was damaged going over the Rhine , got disorientated and flew back. Thinking they had properly crossed the Rhine the paratroops dropped onto our lines. We had great difficulties getting them not to fire on us, but we managed. The interesting thing was that those parachutes disappeared like lightening and lots of the lads “acquired beautiful pieces of silk parachute which eventually arrived home for wives and girlfriends to make good use of. Our route across the Rhine eventually took us up to Bremen which we captured. An interesting sight unveiled itself one day at Bremen . We heard the skirl of the pipes and we looked down from our high position to see the “Jock’s” pipe band in full regalia marching up and down the football pitch with hundreds of German prisoners sitting in the stands forced to watch this early parade.
In May, we moved up into final action as far as south of Luneburg Heath where the Germans surrendered to Montgomery .
With the war in Europe at an end we had a period of civil administration near Magdeburg . Then we moved to a rest area at a place called Herzele near Brussels and were billeted with local Belgian families. I was with the De Groote family with my friend Maurice Binns. Next door was Stan Morris. I liaised with Germaine De Groote as we could both speak French. This was an enjoyable, relaxing time and we all had leave to the UK for the first time since setting foot in France . There was a small millinery shop along the road from the De Groote shop where I was and I got friendly with the family. The daughter was a ginger-headed girl and when they knew I was going on leave I was loaned a bicycle and with the girl (I am ashamed to say I have forgotten her name) we cycled to her uncle’s orchard where I was given a lovely box of cherries which I duly took home to my mother. I also had a 24 hour leave to Brussels and weekend leaves with several of my mates to Blankenburg. I have a photo taken at Blankenburg with the lads. The De Grootes were over the moon that they had been released from German domination and treated us like lords and for a lad of 21 coming up 22 it was an honour. They insisted in taking a photo of me sitting in the prime seat with all the family around. I still cherish that photo.
We moved to Sennelager, a prison camp which had originally held Russian P.O.W.’s, now filled with German P.O.W.’s and our job was to run and guard the camp, with interesting results on some nights. I was patrolling the outer wires of one of the compounds one night when I heard a strange rattling of the wires. I could see P.O.W.’s inside the compound lurking in the shadows. When the rattling occurred I saw them sneaking out and picking up what I thought were packages. I looked around and found one or two packets between the two rows of wires, obviously packages which had missed the target and hit the wires, which was the noise that I had heard. I picked one up and opened it. Inside I found a small pack of cigarettes, tobacco and a tin of food. I called the lurking figures over and passed the tin in; it was pathetic. What puzzled me was how the packets were arriving. I worked it out: there was a wood 50 yards away with a clearing from there to the camp. Some ingenious person had made a substantial catapult and was shooting the packages over. At one corner of the compound we had a fire; lights shone all the time down the length of the wires. I was chatting to my colleague who was with me when a young lady appeared. She desperately wanted to go in to see her husband. We sympathised but had to persuade her to go back the way she had come, reassuring her that nothing serious would happen to him.
My 22 nd birthday passed in September, then came the call to return to the UK . We thought we were being returned pending “de-mob”. We ended up at the barracks at Exeter where we were informed that we were going on 14 days disembarkation leave and 14 days embarkation leave. This was a blow: where were we going? It hit us that 28 days brought us to Xmas day. When we were about to go off to the station to get the trains home we said to the officers we would NOT be back on Xmas day: extend the leave. They said no way, but our parting words were “You will not see us back”. Whilst on leave we had telegrams giving us an extra two weeks.