Greetings from Wiltshire. Grandad in 4 KSLI

Discussion in 'User Introductions' started by brownvitte, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Hello all

    I have recently finished transcribing my grandfather's personal war diary and thought a little bit more research would be in order and stumbled across this site, so I am just saying hello!

    He served, firstly, with the 9th Bn Royal Berks. Regiment from 1940, sailed to France on the 29th July 44, and was transferred to the 4th Bn, Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. Wounded on 16th August by shrapnel, downgraded to B1 fitness and then transferred after recuperation to a Civilian Affairs detachment, working in Belgium, Holland, and ending up in Germany.


  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. nicks

    nicks Very Senior Member

    Hello William and welcome.
  4. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Hello Owen

    I haven't got the book (yet). I only found out about it yesterday whilst searching for other threads on this forum. I'm sure i'll be buying it soon! I did order a print from the IWM (ref. B 8343, showing tank troops entering Le Bény Bocage on 1st Aug 1944). My grandfather was in the first group of infantry to reach the village (presumably a while after the tanks). Lots to research...
  5. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Hi William and welcome to WW2Talk. It sounds like you have already done a lot of research into your Grandfather's service and his diary was perhaps just the start. Would you care sharing some snippets with the forum members? With the depth of knowledge and experience of the members here I am sure lots of background and contextual information will be offered.

  6. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    I would be happy to share... just wondering which forum to post in? He died in 1975, before I was born, so all I have learnt has come from his diaries and photo albums. He also kept maps and some Dutch liberation documents (still need to scan those). His service records arrived recently and I have begun to decipher those (getting past scribbles can be hard!)
  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    welcome to the forum
  8. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Glad to hear you are willing to share some of your info. I am sure exposure here will result in a huge amount of supporting/additional stuff.
    For the moment I would continue to post on this thread. If, at some future point, you or anyone else feels it beneficial to move to a different area or start a new thread our excellent Moderators will oblige.
    Might I suggest you start with a couple of scans from Service Record? What the guys here can deduce from that is amazing.
    Look forward to your posts.

  9. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    [FONT=&quot]Welcome to the forum

    Paul [/FONT]
  10. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Here are his Service and Casualty forms...

    Attached Files:

  11. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    So he was with 4 KSLI for a very short time, 24th July to 16th August.
    worth looking at war dairy at TNA Kew.
    WO 171/1326
    4 King's Shropshire Light Infantry
    Covering dates1944 Jan.- Dec.

    24th July they were in Buron, they received an intake of reinforcements in men , vehicles & equipment.

    I did order a print from the IWM (ref. B 8343, showing tank troops entering Le Bény Bocage on 1st Aug 1944).

    You'll like this one too.
    In that 4 KSLI book caption says
    The advance southward from Beny Bocage on the morning of August 2nd. Tanks of 3 RTR with infantry of 4 KSLI on the N177 near La Ferroniere cross roads.

    Official IWM caption slightly different.
    B 8487
    Sherman Firefly tanks, trucks and infantry in the village of St Charles-de-Percy during the advance to Vire, 2 August 1944.
  12. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Thanks Owen - looks like i'll be ordering that book today! (plus another visit to the IWM website!) This is my grandfather's entry for D+47 and 48:

    D+47 During the afternoon of the 23rd we embussed and were taken to a Corps reception camp, in T.C.V.s. I met Lt. Lynch who had been Lt. Q.M. of the 9th Royal Berks - he recognized me and spoke (I forgot to say the Lt. Colonel Niven was at the Bayeux R.H.U.). That night we slept under the stars with no tent to shelter us, and fortunately it didn’t rain. We watched a terrific A.A. barrage going up somewhere on the front - the sound of gunfire was becoming just another “normal” sound now.
    D+48 July 24th found everyone quite cheerful - we were being drafted and I, with my Berks’ comrades, was going to the Monmouthshire Regiment. Fate determined differently and six of us went to the 4th Battalion K.S.L.I. [King’s Shropshire Light Infantry] instead. We got to the village of Buron in the evening and were well received. They had been mauled during operations on the River Orne and were pleased to see us.
    The Brigade number I forget but the divisional number was 11th Armoured - and by next morning we were wearing the sign of the bull.

  13. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Does he say what Comapny he was in 4 KSLI?

    extract from that book.

    One of the reinforcements was Private Bob Bignell who records:
    'I joined 4/KSLI on 25.7.44 at Buron, this being my fourth infantry battalion in twenty-eight days! I joined No.7 Platoon of 'A' Company under Sergeant Cahill, so I started with a few days of rest, chatting and listening to the lads who had taken part in the Battalion's previous battles.'
  14. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    I've never been able to find out... until now! Assuming there's only one Bignell...

    D+53 My memory fails me with regard to the name of the next stopping place - however it was on the American Sector and everything was set for a big push. The British and Canadian troops had been holding the attention of German Armour around Caen while the Americans dealt with the Cherbourg peninsular and now the blow was to fall. As we packed up the barest necessities used during the night and got them aboard we were wondering exactly where we were going. We embussed as it got light and started off - whether we passed through Balleroy that day or next I cannot exactly remember. At night we dug in - it was easy going for eighteen inches but after that we struck a thick layer of rocky substance (a feature which I was to know well, and hate too). The names of one or two of the section were Sgt. Cale (Paddy), Sgt. Mansell, Cpl. Everill (a “Bromi”), Bignell, Marlow, McTavish, Smith (who slept anywhere and at any time - even on his feet) - I mention these now because I may refer to them later on - oh, and George Badlan.
    That night’s sleep was the last I was to enjoy for a few days in spite of the American AA unit behind us, giving a display and even though I did my turn at sentry I was unperturbed.
    D+54 The dawn of the 30th saw us ready to move but it was some time before we eventually did so. Dispersed in a field of ripe corn we watched Lancasters bombing targets forward of us - I remember seeing one or two artillery spotting jeeps weaving about and we joked about them.
    We moved on until we received the order to de-bus. The Hun was shelling intermittently and as the missiles came earthward they whistled - how I came to hate that sound!! The Monmouthshires had been caught in a murderous fire from gun and mortar and we were to pass through them. There was a lane bordered by high hawthorn hedges and trees and as we made our way up here the vehicles evacuating the wounded were coming down and to let them pass we had to hug the banking. The walking wounded were coming now, some had been attended and wore their labels, others hadn’t and their wounds were roughly dressed, the blood oozing through the bandages. One poor devil, assisted by two others hardly any better off was sobbing like a child and trembling all over, convulsing now and again as if pulled by strings. We passed a very still form lying under a hedge - the dust was settling on his face and clothes and he was a parchment colour. It shook me! We turned into an orchard higher up - it was mined in parts which had been taped off. Bignell, Marlow and I were crouched close together when suddenly with a hiss and thump a piece of shrapnel fell between us - Old Marlow, forward as usual, picked it up but soon let it drop when he found it to be hot (I said picked it up - I should have said dug it out of the ground). We stayed there only a short time and then continued up the lane. As we came out at the top we found we were nearly on the crest of a ridge which overlooked a main road. Beside a machine gun position lay two figures in field grey. They were very still and face down. Main roads, over which battles are fought, are difficult to visualize unless you’ve actually seen them deserted. This one was dead straight for a good distance and there wasn’t a sign of life anywhere - troops and tanks keep off because Jerry loves plastering such places with shell and mortar, a fact very much in evidence as we crossed over. We travelled through the orchards until striking a narrow lane. We passed a farmhouse against one wall of which lay slumped the figure of a soldier, once again in grey. A horse had fallen victim to either shrapnel or bullets, and had been in the path of a tank which could not by-pass in such a narrow lane. Flies were everywhere. In a field we formed up to continue our sweep - at the last minute seven prisoners were handed to me with the instructions that I was to pass them on as soon as possible. Back I went, past the horse, farmhouse, over the road and past the m.g. post - three miles, I reckon, before I came upon a batch of Germans with escort. I handed over eight, having picked up another en route.
    Alone, I retraced my steps and as, for the third time, I passed the m.g. post I noticed that the unseeing eyes of the late occupants were staring heaven-wards. Somebody had been going through their pockets.
    I noticed that there were rifles with butts in the air, indicating that “here lies a wounded man” - the men had gone but the rifles remained as silent evidence of the fact that they had paid a part of the price of France’s liberation.
    Arriving at the place where I’d parted company with the Coy I found only a carrier. I asked the driver where I’d find the others - he pointed in a direction which seemed unlikely so I took the opposite way. I passed through a farmyard deserted except by one or two scraggy looking fowl - I was a bit scared in case there might be snipers about but at last I managed to make contact with the Battalion, having covered some of the way in a carrier carrying a R.A. forward observation officer (F.O.O.).
    The Coy jeep and carrier were at HQ and neither driver could tell me where the company had gone and I wasn’t going to wander off over fields which might easily have been mined. Anyway, a little later the HQ moved, and with it went our vehicles. I rode on the carrier, cuddling a bren just in case we met anything. Passing enemy trucks which were still blazing merrily, batches of prisoners of various ages, we eventually came upon the troops who had taken up all around defensive positions in folds of the ground in a meadow. Some of the prisoners just mentioned were of forty and over, others young - in fact one lad’s face who’s face was bandaged was hardly eighteen years old but I felt no pity for him in spite of the blood seeping through the dressing and dripping onto his tunic.
    I took up a position on the left flank as we began sweeping through fields of corn, through hedges and orchards.
    That night, just before dark we arrived at our objective, a field on a low ridge along which ran a minor road. The road flanked a whole side and a half of our own field - fortunately somebody spotted a Jerry half-track, so well camouflaged as to merge almost completely with the background - Paddy and some of the lads went after it, used a magazine or two of bren which scared it off. A 17 pounder Sherman, supporting us, didn’t fire for a reason best known by the commander - he had been spraying the hedgerows with belts of browning though, and we were wild to think that the half-track got away scot-free.
    A thatched barn was burning about 300 yards away and the figures of the lads digging in were decidedly ghostly as the flickers of light caught them.
    We had our meal in the dark and, as the ground was rocky, crouched down in the slit-trench, one man as sentinel as the other slept. (Two men were in each trench - and there was always one of them awake.)

    The Sgt. Cale mentioned is, I assume, Cahill. (My grandfather spelt other names incorrectly - for instance he spelt Badlan 'Baddelon', but if you say 'Badlan' in a Brummie accent I can see how you come up with the incorrect spelling!
    Owen likes this.
  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  16. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Well, this is the diary entry for the 16th...

    D+71 Aug 16th Very early next morning we moved through Vassy. The warning signs gave indication of booby traps and we kept to the road. The town was a bottleneck through which vast quantities of transport had to pass to form an attacking force on a wide front - it appears that there was only this “lane” clear and our Battalion had to get on the far side before the flow started.
    The company found itself in a small orchard and having a couple of hours to wait we lost no time in getting down to sleep. The night before I had huddled down in one corner of the trench, with steel helmet and gas cape as sole protection against the storm which broke - the rain simply fell down in torrents.
    Maybe it was about 0800hrs when we climbed onto the tanks and resumed our advance. During that morning we had some laughs at the funny incidents which were happening each time we halted for various reasons. Somebody nipped into a farmyard and pinched some newly-laid eggs - somebody else came back from a recce with a sealed bottle of wine from a cellar. There were various articles of furniture lying in the gardens and orchards (the trees of which bore edible apples, as a change from those horribly sour fruit found earlier) - bedclothes and garments too were to be seen in the oddest places. Onward - through a village from the bridge of which assault engineers were removing dynamite intended to destroy it.
    There were plenty of derelict vehicles, testimony to good shooting from the Typhoons. The Armoured spearhead stopped for a while in a village ( ) while three tanks, complete with 7 platoon, went on recce. The village was sited on a slope and the main road ran along the slope but we turned left and went down into the village valley. It was very hot and dusty, the exhaust from the tanks raising very thick clouds as we progressed warily. We met no opposition and passed through one deserted village - over a railway bridge which was just wide enough to take the tanks’ breadth, to a second village. There were plenty of signs of ex-occupation and hurried evacuation - an allied fighter plane lay in a field in which it had crash-landed, otherwise there was nothing to be seen. We rejoined the column and wasted no time in getting some tea which had been brewed. The sun continued to blaze down mercilessly. A C.C.S. was being established in a field adjoining the orchard in which we were dispersed and tents were being erected as we left. We covered the same ground as that of the recce and went beyond some way before we came under shell fire. The tanks followed the leader as he swung left, through the hedgerow into the fields and made tracks for the direction from which the guns were firing. We clung to anything firmly fixed as we broke through a second hedgerow on a bank. I rather think we were all glad to “de-tank”. It fell the lot of our section to lead the company and we passed along a narrow lane, past the other sections and Coy. HQ. The major was “on the air” getting instructions and we were soon on our way. Along the lane until meeting a road we turned right. All was ominously quiet and tension was rising. Nothing happened until we met a major road and again turned right. Suddenly a machine gun opened up from a ridge on the left - the fire was high and the tracers were in front of us. They thudded into the wall of a cottage, but the second burst hit the no.2 bren in the chest - everybody dived for cover. The riflemen were on the right and the bren men on the left as we started raking the hedgerows with fire - the poor devil who’d been wounded lay on the road writhing with pain, it would have been suicide to go to him. We lay there quite a while and in the meantime Jerry had opened up with shell and mortar. I was scared and remember, as a piece of shrapnel embedded itself a few inches from me, tilting my helmet further back and lifting up my pack further, in an effort to protect my neck. It seemed hours before we moved again. The remainder hadn’t been caught like us and were able to advance under cover in a flanking movement to relieve us of the pressure. The tanks were just arriving on the road and as they came round the corner, the commanders disappeared into the turrets as the hatches were closed. The verges were we’d been laying were safe enough and we rather took things for granted. An explosion ahead caused us to step onto the road as the leading man pitched forward. He’d stepped on a mine but was luckily uninjured, and carried on. Climbing through a wire fence we started going through the field which sloped gently upward. Somebody was bringing down two prisoners - two huge fellows whose pockets were bulging with, probably, bread. I suppose I thought at that moment “well, that’s two less”.
    We came upon the C.S.M. who told us to take up a position on the left side of the lane, he being at the bottom. I say lane, it was actually a cart track with banks on either side. The height of the bank must have been seven to eight feet so that it was necessary to dig a step in which to stand to see over the top. Who touched it off will never been known, but the mine (I assumed it to be a mine - there was no previous sound at all) exploded and even as I felt the stings I was on the deck along with the other six. As I got to my feet I heard George Badlan say “I’ve been hit”. I stuck my rifle bayonet down in the ground and went to help him - somebody else went to the assistance of his new no.2 who lay right next to him. He had been hit in the abdomen and already his trousers were red with blood - I cut them open with my jackknife and plumped my thumb on an artery which was spurting, at the same time trying to bandage his other ugly wounds. He’d been hit, at least, in six places and was in agony. His face was yellow and he was groaning - his lips were dry but I dared not give him water. I let go of the artery, which ceased to spurt, I got my own dressing out and tied his right hand, the index finger of which was nearly severed. The other fellow had been similarly wounded but was now dead, his sightless eyes staring heaven-ward - he’d been unconscious during his last minutes, mercifully. The stretcher bearers had taken away the chap who’d been wounded on the road and it seemed as if they were never coming back. The other lads had been withdrawn and I was alone with George who was still bleeding - he wanted to draw up his legs, but to prevent further damage I held them down - things were becoming automatic but I could still hear the wheee, crump as the shells continued coming over. At last they came and got him on the stretcher. I left and walked down the lane - I was stiff with kneeling and felt numb all over. My face was bleeding and when the C.S.M. asked if I was wounded I replied to the effect that “I didn’t know” - he sent me to join the others on the way to the R.A.P. (out of our section of 8, 1 had been killed, 2 seriously wounded, 2 with shrapnel wounds, and me: a total of 6 out of action). I was without an active brain and don’t remember accurately what followed - I would have killed in cold blood any German I met. We got a lift on the carrier which was carrying George, and met the R.A.P. which was moving up. The M.O. [Medical Officer] got to re-bandaging George while the Padre tried to quieten me. I was put on the same ambulance as my mate - my bren mags were taken away and tossed over a hedge, the same with the rounds in my rifle and bandoliers - my grenades were taken by the Sergeant Major who promised to “get at least one of the bastards with them”.
    We arrived at the C.C.S. which we’d seen earlier in the day - there George had a blood transfusion. The orderly, I remember, wouldn’t leave me alone and lit a cigarette for me while another went away for some tea. The M.O. plied me with questions which received, I feel sure, no intelligible replies. A casualty slip had been removed by the M.O. at the R.A.P., before I was put on the blood wagon, and the C.C.S. chappie writing on the card which had been tied to the flap of my blouse pocket. I was evacuated again and arrived at about midnight in 35 A.D.S. - there again I was questioned and drugged. I could hardly stand as the orderly led me off to bed. That stretcher and blankets I shall never forget.
    Rich Payne likes this.
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    4 KSLI dead for that day.
  18. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I joined No.7 Platoon of 'A' Company

    Just been thinking that doesn't sound right.
    I'm sure this is right.
    A Coy = 1 2 3 platoon
    B Coy = 4 5 6 pl
    C Coy = 7 8 9 pl
    D Coy = 10 11 12 pl

    Wonder if that 7 pl is a typo for 2 pl???
    back to work now.
  19. brownvitte

    brownvitte Junior Member

    Maybe you're right about the platoon numbers: the entry above talks about 7 platoon going on a recce - i'm pretty sure my grandfather wouldn't have talked in the 3rd person.

    I've attached the whole of the diary. Pages 15 and 16 name more casualties.


    View attachment MJB War Diary Book edit.pdf
  20. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Superb diary recollections mate, very 'gritty and atmospheric'.
    I have downloaded the whole diary to read at leisure. Thanks for posting.


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