76th HAA Regt RA, (236, 237, and 349 Batteries)

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by HAARA, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. Bill F

    Bill F Member

    Ive had the following from the RA Museum recently...which does confirm my dad being in Libya....further info may be of interest so some...


    upload_2019-12-12_18-25-39.png
     
  2. Bill F

    Bill F Member

    ...of interest TO some...
     
  3. Ben61

    Ben61 New Member

     
  4. Ben61

    Ben61 New Member

    Hi, I’ve recently found out my great uncle Harold John Garland of 236 btu 76HAA died on 25 5 43 with CM Murphy. This is 2 weeks after the surrender of axis forces do you have any info on an action in that day please?
    Ben Garland
     
  5. Ben61

    Ben61 New Member

    Hi Des
    I wonder if you have any info on my great uncle Harold Garland who died on 29 5 1943 with CM Murphy.
     
  6. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Hi Ben, It seems that both were killed as a result of bombing, as reported in attached War Diary report.
     

    Attached Files:

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  7. Ben61

    Ben61 New Member

    Thank you so much for this I will be able to let my family know
    Ben61
     
  8. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    My grandfather, Henry (but known as Bill) Stanley as in No. 4 Section, 237 Battalion, 76th HAA and stayed with them throughout the war. His first posting at the outbreak of war was covering Filton Airfield (I think near where Snow and Rock is now) then on to Portbury Camp for a few months. Early 1940 he was at Tangmere and hen near Portsmouth before returning to Bristol at Rockingham. In early 1941 he did a tour of the south coast (no further details) before training at Blandford Camp in April 1942 before being posted to Dover Castle and was stationed in the castle itself at times. Then up to Greenock for Operation Torch. I'm working through his war diary for 1943 so hopefully I can provide more detail soon although it is only a line a day so we'll see. I have attached a photo of No.4 Section at Portbury Camp in December 1939; my grandfather is 5th from the left on the back row.
    Oliver
     

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  9. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    In your original post from 2013 you asked for details of any aircraft that the 76th brought down in North Africa. Thanks to time afforded by lockdown my mother has transcribed my grandfather's diary from 1943 (it's very difficult to read!). It's brief and I've removed the more personal and general comments but have included any details about raids and movement while he was at Maison Blanche:

    Tuesday 26 January 1943 - 3 brought down one was “ours”
    Wednesday 27 January - 7 brought down 4 by AA one of which was “ours”
    Thursday 28 January - No alarm
    Friday 29 January - 2 down by fighters
    Saturday 30 January - Just fired day time 2:30
    Sunday 31 January - Stand to afternoon
    Tuesday 16 February - Started 3am for Bougie: Fondouk ,Palestro, Bounva, Maillot, Aklon ,Sidi Dich, El Kseur and Bougie. Climbed a large mountain at Maillot. Arrived at Bougie at 8pm. Slept @ R.H.9. Was it cold! Dinner @ Bouniva
    Wednesday 17 February - Left Bougie @ 10 0’clock. Arr. Bouira for dinner @1.30pm Thousands of children. Arr. Algiers @ 6.15pm. Damn cold.
    Monday 22 February - Alarms @midnight, 5am and 6am
    Tuesday 09 March - Fired heavily this evening. Wonderful barrage over Algiers
    Wednesday 10 March - Saw “Marauder” crash on Algiers Harbour. All supposed safe. It came down like a stone.
    Saturday 20 March - Alarm all night. Didn’t fire.
    Sunday 21 March - Alarm all night. Didn’t fire.
    Friday 26 March - Ju.88 flies low over house
    Saturday 27 March - Alarm at night
    Sunday 28 March- Alarm at night
    Friday 09 April - Left Algiers.
     
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  10. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Thanks for this HBS, very interesting! Thought that you might like this as an illustration of life during such activity from one of RSM John Kemp's letters home from North Africa, dated 5 April 1943, describing the scene of a battery of 76th HAA Regt during a flap (enemy aircraft alert),

    " This afternoon, it being so pleasant with a bright blue sky, I chartered a motorcycle and in shirt sleeves, trousers battle dress, and spectacles tinted No.2, I went for a tour, and visited George Bishop first. There was flap on there as I arrived, and Old George was just getting excited when it faded out. Looked most conspicuous with a steel helmet and nude torso, displaying huge hairy bosoms which have now become so fat that they flap in the breeze. Sweat was running in little rivulets down the channels in between the rolls of fat. George has put on perhaps more meat than anyone, but all the same looks disgustingly well."
     
  11. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    Thanks HAARA, that's quite a description! I had the pleasure of visiting the Portbury site yesterday and there was lots to see. You mentioned in your first post about having the records of where each battalion was stationed. Do you have the dates and locations for 237? My grandfather mentions in his memoirs being at Portbury and Rockingham but my mother says he'd said he was at the Gordano site but I don't have any details about this. Can you help?!
    Thanks,
    Oliver
     
  12. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    I'll see what I can find for you Oliver, this being from the 76th's war diary rather than 237's. It may be a while before I come back to you on this, as it's a page by page project!
     
  13. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Here are dairy entries for Nov '39-Dec'41. Not particularly detailed compared with battery diaries. Regrettably I do not have battery diary for 237.
     

    Attached Files:

  14. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Gordano aerial view.png
    I visited Gordano some time ago. The gun pits are in a very poor state, regrettably, whilst the ammunition stores seem in good condition, but then not much use for livestock. The site was not obvious from the road, so I enquired from the pub which is right opposite, but they were unaware of its existence. Here are one or two pics from my visit. Gordano-1-web.jpg Gordano2-web.jpg Gordano4-web.jpg Gordano-5-web.jpg Gordano-6-web.jpg Gordano-10-web.jpg Gordano-11-web.jpg Gordano-web.jpg
     
  15. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    Thanks HAARA, this is just fantastic. It's so interesting to read especially when it starts off quite jovial and descends into concern as the Battle of France is lost. It fills in a lot of gaps from my grandfather's memoirs and it does look like he was at the Gordano site for a month in late 1941 before being transferred to Dover at short notice. Thanks again in your effort for posting so many pages of the war diary. I have found more photos, which I will post soon.
     
  16. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    As promised, more pictures. The house in Bari is where my grandfather was stationed from which he witnessed the December 2nd attack on the harbour. He saw the explosion of an ammunition ship followed seconds later by the windows shattering.
     

    Attached Files:

  17. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    Great photos Oliver! Do you have any more? Yes, the Bari raid was pretty awful, and there has been a lot of inaccurate information published about what happened. I was prompted to research this in relation to 76th HAA Regt after reading the following diary description by BSM John Kemp of 236 Battery, which would no doubt echo your grandfather's experience,

    "Then there was the night of 2 Dec. when we experienced our first raid in Italy. It happened that I was at A Tp (located to the south of Bari), and had been induced to stay for supper, which was fortunate as it happened. We were just about to start eating when we heard a plane diving. The engine was as unmistakably Jerry as ever I have heard. There was that old familiar whistle. Hell was let loose, and when we got outside the hut we were greeted by flares and one concentrated mass of tracer, shell bursts, and searchlights. Then came the order from the C.P.(command post) and the guns started firing, but there was such a hell of a noise it was impossible to hear any orders. Bert Owen and I worked on unloading ammo. It has been said of this much discussed raid that the A.A. did not fire. I cannot understand this. It was not the conception that I drew. That something went wrong with the warning I will agree. Something drastically wrong. I have formed some very firm ideas on that raid, and cannot say that I am entirely proud to have had any association with Bari. The day of the raid I had to pass the harbour on my way to A Tp, and I remarked as did many others that the amount of shipping in was phenomenal, and that if Jerry did not bomb it he’d missed his chance. Sure enough it came, and the inevitable result – with shipping packed as tightly as that it was impossible to miss. The Hun has learned a great deal from our raids obviously, and there was a definite tendency to copy our methods. First with flares, the primary target, and the light fighter bombers which he undoubtedly used, and the varying ceilings. All very different from previous raids. In all there were probably not more than 25 planes. Now in the case of the A.A. who have undoubtedly have been under very stringent criticism, out of all those ships in the harbour only two were hit by bombs. The catastrophe occurred because one of those ships contained explosives. I pray that I may never again witness or be participant in anything like that again. It was just enormous beyond words and for up to four miles outside town roofs and windows had “had it”. This of course set off one or two more of the tightly packed ships with the result that an hour later when I came by the whole harbour seemed alight. It was a gruesome sight where one was just powerless to help those in those crippled ships. Things were not helped when a second ship blew up. I can only surmise that this was a petrol ship. At the time I was on a M/C returning to B.H.Q. when a vivid orange tongue of flame suddenly reached skywards silhouetting buildings, telegraph poles, and people as distinct black forms. In that split second I could just determine odd pieces flying in the air. Knowing blast would follow I ran the bike to a wall and alighted quicker than possible only just in time to feel the heat pass over. Then pieces started falling. I imagine some were plates from a ship (the US John Motley) from the thickness. Apart from the chaotic state from broken windows all over town and doorframes wrenched from walls, I saw no other damage at all. I believe there was one bomb dropped in town which speaks well for Jerry’s bombing. A few nights later there was another raid, but on this occasion no damage was done. A stick of five bombs dropped in the sea much too near for my liking, and there was a hail of odds and ends dropping. I made myself very approximate with the ground."

    There is no doubt that the Luftwaffe raid was well planned, and that they had had a trial run not long before. The Allies were of the opinion though that the port was unlikely to be raided as they had assumed the Luftwaffe's ability had been diminished through the ravages of war, but they were wrong. The port was crammed, boats being moored stern to along the docks, and lit during darkness, this being so into the raid. Immediately prior to the attack two aircraft approached Bari from the north east at low level before gaining altitude and dropping ‘Window’ to the north of Bari to confuse the Allies’ defensive radar. The R.A.F. G.C.I. (Ground Controlled Interception), a R.D.F. (Range and Direction Finding) station north of Bari at Barletta, seeing the
    resultant radar interference at approximately 19.08hrs believed this initially to be either electrical interference as had been experienced earlier in the day, or to be Allied Halifax bombers returning from an operation. The potential for this to be ‘Window’ was subsequently realised and the S.O.R. (Sector Operations Room) at Grottaglie notified, but the radar plots were, at 19.17hrs, still only classified as ‘doubtful’, not being reinterpreted as ‘hostile’ until 19.25hrs, this being after the raid had begun and anti-aircraft guns at Bari had commenced firing. The Air Defence Commander for the area had been managing both defence and offensive operations since taking responsibility on 26 October, and was ill with jaundice. He had no experienced subordinate to whom he could delegate any major duties, and had since October relocated Sector Operations from Taranto to Grottaglie, having little time to visit Bari with the result that his knowledge of the port’s defence arrangements was limited. The A.A.D.C. (Anti-Aircraft Defence Commander) on duty was a replacement for the Commander due to the Air Commander’s sick leave. Although an experienced L.A.A. officer, he was new to the I.A.Z. and unused to the system of H.A.A. control. To compound matters, the direct reporting line from the S.O.R. to the G.O.R. (Gun Operations Room) at Bari controlling the guns had been out of order since 1 December, the common user line to G.O.R. Taranto also being unusable. With no alternative system available, no orders or formal warning could be issued to the G.O.R. in Bari. G.O.R. had, however, been monitoring unfiltered conversations between G.C.I. and S.O.R. by means of a tee into their direct line, which although faint were heard to describe a “mass of responses” at 15-20 miles but which could not be confirmed as aircraft: whilst able to listen on this line, G.O.R. could not act on any information overheard, as it was classified as ‘unfiltered’ and therefore unactionable. By the time the G.C.I. plots were confirmed as a ‘Red’ warning, one of the H.A.A. battery duty G.L. radars (E Troop, 349/76th Battery), working on a lower frequency from the R.D.F. (G.L. radar operated at approximately 60m/cs, and R.D.F. at 209 m/cs; the ‘Window’ released appears to have been targeted at the R.D.F. radar wavelength), had already registered approaching aircraft, G.O.R. immediately on receipt of this alert issuing a ‘Red’ warning to fire and orders for smoke to be generated (had ‘Window’ been recognised earlier, standing orders instructed that smoke would have been “immediately ordered by night on any indication of ‘Window’ anywhere or on receipt of any filtered or unfiltered plots of 3+ or more hostile or unidentified aircraft within 40 miles of Bari”). 236/76th Battery’s own radar identified “two hostiles” at 22,000yds – effectively 3 minutes warning - immediately prior to the attack. No ‘Red’ warning, however, reached the naval vessels in the harbour prior to bombs falling. The failure of communications also meant that Allied fighters were only ordered up to intercept after the raid reached Bari, routine dusk patrols in the area recently having landed from their duties. Due to ‘Window’ interference only one of the Beaufighter aircraft scrambled located the raiders but was unable to engage them. ‘Window’ also badly affected radar control on British searchlights, making it difficult to illuminate raiding aircraft as targets for the guns. Italian searchlights using sound locators proved more effective.

    The real problem arising out of Bari was that one of the ship, the US John Harvey, carried mustard gas, this being brought to Bari to be kept as a retaliatory weapon should the Germans use the same. The boat was not given any priority to unload, partly because it was not seen as a risk, and partly because ship's manifesto for the port seems not to have been properly registered or recognised. It was hit early in the raid, conventional ammunition on board, including white phosphorus, catching fire. It drifted from its mooring, exploded, and then sank. Whilst the gas bombs were not fused their casings were thin, the explosion of conventional munitions throwing some thirty ruptured bomb cases onto an adjacent mole, depositing a large patch of mustard gas, this subsequently mostly burning off in a fire on the quay that lasted a further thirty-six hours. Many casualties saved from the water were taken on board the badly damaged HMS Vienna, which was used as a casualty clearing station, but it was not until 10.30hrs on 3 December that the ship was informed by N.O.I.C. that one of the damaged ships had contained mustard gas and the necessary decontamination procedures should be taken. This led to a delay in treating patients, and by then affected crew, appropriately. Many civilians in Bari were also affected by gas burns and suffered breathing difficulties. There were over 1,000 military and merchant marine casualties. Eight hundred were admitted to local hospitals, 628 suffering from the effects of mustard gas. Of these 69 died within two weeks. Seventeen ships were sunk as a result of the raid. Of the ships lost 5 were American, 5 British, 2 Italian, 3 Norwegian, and 2 Polish, totalling 75,936 tons, whilst the tonnage of ships damaged was 27,289 tons. The port was closed for three weeks with resultant delays and loss of supplies, in particular to the U.S. Airforce.

    General Eisenhower ordered that letters from troops be censored to remove any reference to mustard gas. Later, on 2 January 1944, he sent a message to the Adjutant General, War Department (Washington), and copied to the War Office (London), stating:
    “Following instructions have been issued concerning documentation and reporting of these chemical casualties: following nomenclature will be used for reporting purposes
    (A) Skin affections – enemy action (B) Lung and other complications – Bronchitis etc. enemy action (C) Death – shock, haemorrhage etc. enemy action.
    Consider these terms will adequately support claims for those injured for disability pensions etc.”

    Many victims who survived continued to suffer from problems as a result of the contamination, without ever knowing the real cause.

    For your interest 237/76th batteries were located some way south of Bari.

    You can read more detail about the raid, and the 76th's activities in Italy in the book "Ever your own, Johnnie, Sicily and Italy, 1943-45", from which some of the above are extracts, published by Lulu.com, ISBN 9781326598921.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2020
  18. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    Thank you for that account, that's really interesting. The cover up must have been very effective as I have a copy of correspondence from my grandfather to a researched in which he is surprised to hear about the mustard gas.

    Here's my last few photos that aren't badly blurred.The names that my grandfather mentions, should they mean anything to anyone, are:
    Captain Freddie Dyer, Joe Walton, Chas Payne, Charlie Summers, Tom Conner, Joe Walton, Syd Core, Percy Ashton, Reg Hibbed, Tommy Birch, Freddie Clarke, Maurice Limfright, Fred Morton, Joe Archover, S/Sgt George Cohen.
     

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  19. HAARA

    HAARA Well-Known Member

    I don't, sadly, recognise any of the names at present. I am interested though that in the photo near Milan that there appears to be a BSM, as he is, from what I can see in the pic, wearing crowns on his sleeves. Does the photo name him?

    I'm sure that John Kemp would have been known to these men and your grandfather, as from November 1942 to September 1943 John was RSM of the regiment, until he contracted jaundice in Sicily prior to being withdrawn to Algiers to recover. Regrettably he had not completed the required year in this rank for it to be substantiated, meaning that it had to be relinquished, Charlie Butler (from 236 battery) being promoted to the post in his absence. John reverted to BSM, his previously substantiated rank, firstly posted at RHQ, and then to 236 Battery.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  20. HBStan

    HBStan Member

    I've just looked back again at my notes on the photos and it says 'RSM Du Kamp' Maybe it was BSM; reading my grandfather's writing is a challenge!
     

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