The Coleraine Battery - Italy
1939 - 1945
1939 - 1945
|Battery Roll Call|
Personnel Movement Although the Battery was not posted to Italy, many individuals from the Battery ended up there. In some cases these individuals were attached to other units because they had were specialist skills required by that unit. In other cases the individuals were attached to other units because the Battery had moved on and left them behind. This part of the history of the Battery will follow the fortunes of two Battery members, Sergeant Norman Irwin and Bombardier Robert McDonald. Both these Battery members left the Battery when they were serving in Egypt.
Sergeant Norman Irwin's Story
Egypt When the Battery was at Bur Taufiq we were ferried ashore by lighter and went to Cairo. We stayed there a couple of days and then we were operationally deployed on the Anti Aircraft Defence of the Suez Canal. We were using the Bofors Gun for this task. It was reported that when the foundations for the Gun Emplacements were being dug along the Suez Canal, Turkish Army uniforms from the First World War kept turning up.
Many of the Battery swam across the Suez Canal during the day. There was little chance of any enemy action during the day. Most enemy activity ocurred at night, as the enemy aircraft attacked our positions and attempted to drop mines in the Canal.
No 7 (REME) Workshop Tel el Kabir It was at this stage I left the Battery. There was a shortage of qualified Engineers in the British Army serving in Egypt. They checked my pay book and noted that I was an engineer, so I was posted to the Port Workshops in Port Said. This was a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) location at Tel el Kabir. It was a huge location manned by 40,000 service personnel and 32,000 civilian labourers.
I was put in charge of No 7 Workshop. Our main task in the workshop was to ensure that all the equipment coming into the Desert campaign was ready for use. This included Jeeps, trucks and tanks. On many occasions this equipment had been sabotaged before it reached us. It was impossible to determine where or at what stage of the journey to Egypt the equipment had been sabotaged. There were four possibilities;
At the factory of manufacture
En route to the docks
While on board the ship
At the Egyptian docks
On one occasion, the spark plugs had been removed from a truck, the engine was filled with peat and then the spark plugs were replaced.
Workshop Security The workforce were only searched on leaving the Camp, never on arrival. The Camp did not have a perimeter fence, just a token strand of wire to denote the Camp boundary. There were very few main roads into the Camp area. When the civilians finished work, they simply walked off into the desert from all points of the compass. At the end of the day, civilians were searched within each workshop before they made their way home. Part of my duty was to supervise the searching of the civilian workforce. The searches were carried out by a Sikh Regiment and supervised by a British Army Senior NCO.
On one occasion an Arab store man was searched. He was dressed in Western clothes, including a Trilby hat. Nothing was found, but he was called back and the Sikh soldier lifted his Trilby. Balanced on the store man's head was a bar of army issue soap. On some occasions an army unit would put on a show of strength by encircling the camp area at closing time. All civilians were then searched for a second time before they were permitted to leave the camp area. Despite the initial searches within each workshop, these surprise searches left the open areas full of quickly discarded stolen equipment.
Italy During a late shift, the Orderly Sergeant came looking for a volunteer to go to a Regiment stationed in the Western Desert. There were two takers, Harry 'Smudge' Smith and myself. We tossed a coin and I won. I was transferred to the Army Ordnance Corps and then attached to the 201st Guards Brigade until the end of the war. My task was to organise the recovery of damaged vehicles and equipment from the battle fields as the Brigade fought their way from Salerno to Monte Cassino. Salerno was difficult, the Axis defence was so strong we had to make the landing 2 miles further down the coast than planned. I was second off the landing craft. This was because I was in command of a Recovery Wagon. I had to position myself so that I could recover any damaged vehicles and allow the landing to go smoothly. We lost more men at Salerno than we did on D-Day.
I was pulled out of the line at Monte Cassino and sent down to Sorrento. There, we gave all our equipment to the Canadian Army, boarded the Capetown Castle and made our way home.
I did not realise that our 9th HAA Regiment was at Salerno until 50 years later when I met Walter Richardson from Tobermore. I was telling him how I had been deafened by heavy gun fire going over my head at Salerno. He informed me that his Battery had gone home and he had been posted to the 9th Londonderry Regiment. The 9th had been sent to Italy and provided covering fire at Salerno.
(More to follow)
Bombardier Robert McDonald
On June 21st 1944, Bombardier Robert McDonald was posted as a Radio Operator to a Field Artillery unit. This was the 32nd Battery 22nd Field Regiment (Royal Artillery) 4th Army Division. His War Diary contains forty nine entries for the movement of this unit through Italy until the war was won. "Every day there was a river crossing. We would reach the river in the evening, get some sleep and then cross over in the morning". Robert McDonald 2004
"My task was to act as a Radio Operator for the Unit Fire Control Officer. We would go forward and spot the fall of shot from the artillery. We then relayed back the results as well as corrections needed to hit the target."
Italy 1st Feb 1944 Arnold Warren and Smudge Smyth at Bombardier McDonald's Radio Wagon
Bobby McDonald - Italy - 1944
4th Division Taranto Italy 1944
Lewellyn, Whitefoot & Robinson - Italy - 1944
The Personal War Diary The diary reads as follows;
|Move No||Location||Date||Move No||Location||Date||Move No||Location||Date|
|12||M' Varce||200744||29||Mon David||020944||46||Pescara||111244|