Family Research & East Surrey Regiment in Italy

Discussion in 'Italy' started by ArtfulCodger, May 20, 2015.

  1. ArtfulCodger

    ArtfulCodger New Member


    I'm trying to carry out some research on my late father's army records and his time with the East Surreys in Italy.

    His name was John William Nicholls and his army number was 5347642.

    After being in the Territorial Army, then the Parachute regiment, then the Royal Berkshire regiment, he was transferred to the East Surreys on 16 Decemeber 1943. His records show that he embarked for North Africa on 28 February 1944 and disembarked on 9 April 1944. I don't know the date he went to Italy. I do know that he was seriously wounded (GSW) on 1 November 1944 and eventually had to have his left arm amputated.

    What I would like to find out is where (geographically) he was wounded. The family oral history is that he was 'somewhere near Bologna" when he was shot. But I know nothing more than that.

    If someone could point me in the right direction for this reasearch I'd be most grateful.

    I live quite near Kew (Records Office) and so could visit there relatively easily but I would not know where to start looking or what to ask for - any advice?

  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The 1st Battalion of the East Surreys were in 11th Bde of 78th Division -try Kew for the War Diary of that time around November when thee 78th Div

    were nearer to Ravenna or the Winter line of the Senio River…that is about where they were in November '44

  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    A number of initial comments -

    - if you haven't already got them, worth getting hold of your Dad's Army records from the MoD.

    - your Dad's army number is a Royal Berkshire one.

    - not sure it would have taken 41 days from Liv/Greenock to Algeria (typically 11 days or so) those dates look odd.

    - there were two battalions of East Surreys in Italy during 1944. 1/6 Bn in 10th Infantry Brigade 4th Div and (as Tom says) the 1st Bn in 11th Infantry Brigade, 78th Div.

    - in early November 1944, 1/6th were close to Forli airfield, and the 1st were in the Monte Spaduro sector...both in action on/around 1st Nov

  4. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Do you know your father’s rank? I have a booklet “The Surreys in Italy” in which there is the following paragraph:

    1/6th Battalion – Cassino to Florence

    On 5th July the Battalion moved by transport to an area in the neighbourhood of Arezzo which town was still held by the enemy ……..

    …… Soon after the tanks arrived and were followed by the Battalion Carrier Platoon who swept up the mountain track amid shell fire to bring more automatic fire in support of A and B Companies. C Company then moved up and assaulted the position from which A Company had been engaged; establishing themselves as firmly as possible although there were still some Spandau positions sharing the ridge with them. These were cleared by a platoon under Lieut. J Nicholls at nightfall.”

    You may also be aware of the ‘The Queen’s Royal West Surrey’ museum at Clandon Park Surrey. Tragically the house was virtually destroyed by fire at the end of April and many artefacts (including Victoria Crosses) feared lost.

    There is a website:

    Under the deaths and obituary section there is mention of J W Nicholls whose obituary was published on page 20 of the November 1988 newsletter. The copies at Clandon are likely to have gone but it is mentioned that there are also copies at the Surrey History Centre at Woking.

    I can also recommend “With the East Surreys in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy” by Bryn Evans, but I must add that your father’s name is not mentioned in the index.

    I will look through the information I have to see if I can find any other references but can you supply any more details i.e. rank to help identify him?

    In the meantime hope this helps.
  5. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Here is the page from the East Surrey Regiment history by Daniell regarding the 1st Battalion on November 1st, 1944.

    Attached Files:

  6. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    Here are the pages from Daniell on the actions of 1st/6th East Surrey Regiment on November 1st, 1944.

    Attached Files:

  7. ArtfulCodger

    ArtfulCodger New Member

    Firstly, may I offer a big "Thank You" to everyone who responded to my original post? I was most pleased with the number and quality of the responses.

    In answer to the various questions and requests for clarifications:

    I do have a photocopy of a photocopy of my father's army record. The problem I have is interpreting the limited and condensed data it provides.

    BEXLEY84 is correct about the length of my father's outward sea journey (Liverpool - Algeria). The dates are really: Embarked 25/3/1944 Disembarked 9/4/1944 [Previously I mistook the "Part II Order - Postings" reference of "28.2.44"as the date of Embarkation!]

    In answer to BEXLEY84 and TONY56; It is my understanding that my father's rank was Private but my reading of his army records show he was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1944 (while he was in the UK) but then reverted to Private on Embarkation (25/3/1944). He was then promoted to Lance Corporal (Local) on 25/8/1944.

    May I also pose another question?

    He was transferred from the Royal Berkshire regiment to the East Surreys on 1/1/1944 but then there is an anther entry under Postings which reads "1/6B" on 24/4/1944. Does this mean that he was internally transferred from the 1st Battalion to the 1/6th Battalion on that date?

    Thank you DRYAN67 - the book extracts were most interesting.

    Once again any help / clarrification gratefully received.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    It'd help if you could upload an image of the service records to the forum so members can see them.
  9. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Partial answer:

    Both 1/6 and 1 East Surreys were overseas by 1st Jan 1944, and I guess your Dad would have been sent as part of a general reinforcement draft badged for the ES - by April 1944,,both 4th and 78th Division were in the Cassino sector and it was only on 24th April 1944 that he caught up with 1/6 Battalion who were out of the line at that time near the Volturno river.

    No doubt you've spotted the 1/6th war diary for the period when your Dad was seriously wounded.

    Reference: WO 170/1486
    Description: 1/6 East Surrey Regiment
    Date: 1944 Sept.- Dec.

  10. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    The Battalion was out of the line because they had been sent back to the Volturno to practice their river crossing drills. They were to form the leading assault Battalion for the 10 Infantry Brigade crossing of the Rapido on 11 May 44. They got across and secured Point 36 and were followed across by 2 Beds & Herts and then later by most of 2 Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

    Their action is immortalised in Terence Cuneo's 'Crossing the Rapido' oil painting that hangs in the Royal Engineers Officers' Messin Brompton Barracks Chatham.

    I have lots of information on the Battalion's action at Cassino but also between Jun-Sep 44 when they moved up Italy. I have followed their route and looked in detail at the role of Maj Walter Brown who commanded D Company and won a Military Cross at Rimini during the attack on the Gothic Line.

    PM me and I will happily send you all that I have.


  11. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    It is worth looking at the Surrey History centre in Woking if you are anywhere near as this does have some records for the East Surrey's.


  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Going back to the above extract from Daniell's book regarding a battle on Monte Spaduro, in which five East Surreys were killed and eleven taken prisoner, does anyone have a list of the missing men? I am now looking for Sgt. Charles Edward Bentley, who died on 3rd November 1944 and is buried in Argenta War Cemetery. He was recovered from behind the lines near a small village called Mezzolara, where presumably there was a field hospital of some kind.



    Edit I have now found him:


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  13. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    P1070808.JPG Hi AC, October '44 diary for 1 E Surry's.
    Sorry that is all I have for them. Only required their info. in researching 2 Inniskillings, and 38 Bgde's attack on Spaduro.
    Included section from Fontanelice [sheet 99 IV N.W.] 1:25.000 map for references, and oblique of Spaduro, on Google maps.

    Attached Files:

  14. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks James. We are still looking to give a name to the unknown soldier found on Monte Spaduro.


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