44176 William Donald TARR , RA

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by Skoyen89, Nov 18, 2023.

  1. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    I am trying to find further detail on the military career of William Donald Tarr - he may have used the name Donald.

    He was born 11 July 1909 in Barnstaple, Devon and his father was a surgeon in the Indian Medical Service. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery from the RMA in 1928, with the number 44176, and in 1939 was a Captain at Shoeburyness.

    It is possible he was in Malaya with either 137 or 155 Field Regiments and escaped from Singapore when it fell. Note: Subsequently discovered it was another officer also named Tarr but Aubrey Dennis EC1896 of HQ 11 Indian Div (attached from 4 Prince Of Wales Own Gurkha Rifles)

    In Sept 1943 he was awarded the first of three MIDs - for N Africa and his unit was given as 132 Field Regt RA. At that time he was a Major and Temporary Lt Col. 132 Field served in Operation Torch and 1st Army operations in North Africa.

    He then received a further two MIDs in 1945 as a temporary Lt Col in the Mediterranean so probably Italy.

    He served in the RA after the war and in 1961 was a Brigadier when he left the Army.

    He died on 13 July 1975 and was living at Kearsney, Dover at the time.

    Any help gratefully received!!
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2023
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    This is the first time his name and number have appeared here. I missed that check the other day.

    First the easy hits; which I expect you have.

    Promoted to Acting Lt. Col. 23/9/1943. See: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/36180/supplement/4222/data.pdf

    Made Lt. Col Temporary 22/2/1945. See: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/36950/supplement/1041/data.pdf

    He was W.D. Tarr and promoted to Major from War Substantive Major 1/7/1946. See: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/37635/supplement/3364/data.pdf

    Appears under 'The undermentioned Brigs, to be Supernumerary to Establishment on the dates shown' for him 27/2/1961. See: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/42448/supplement/6341/data.pdf

    Next the harder to find items (pause as attn needed elsewhere).

    He was serving in India in February 1931, as a Lt. when involved in an accidental shooting @ Jubbulpore, Central Provinces, where a fellow officer died. From: NewspaperSG

    You state:
    Re 137 Field Regt.:
    From: 137 Field Regiment RA (TA) - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    I note one 155 Field Regt. Battery did not go to Singapore:
    From: 155 (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA (TA) - The Royal Artillery 1939-45
    and 160 Field Regt. served in Burma & India afterwards. From: 160 Field Regiment RA - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    Wiki has a brief history of 155 Battery (which was at Sidi Nisr, Tunisia so thread(s) here). 155 Field Battery, Royal Artillery - Wikipedia Where the battery was destroyed, with few survivors.

    It was part of 172 Field Regt. See: 172 Field Regiment RA - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    Now to 132 Field Regt., which shows their operations were in North Africa, via Op Torch and Italy. See: 132 (Welsh) Field Regiment RA (TA) - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    Them a "gem" in a press release 14/7/1943 and partly cited:
    From: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu.../1ebd8f7a-6c62-4d7a-bb0d-b465c0848688/content (Note Google found this, though his initials had been corrupted).

    Note the press release refers to 3.7" guns being used, whereas the ever useful 1939-1945 RA site refers to the unit having 25-pounders.

    A wargamer's site for the battle @ Tebourba on 2/12/1942 refers to:
    From: Bob Mackenzie's web Page - Wargames & Scenarios - Tebourba This lists many other sources and two War Diaries.

    The 457th / 457 Light Battery existed as Independent Battery between Dec 40 - Nov 43 and became a mountain battery. From: Battery Finder – Batteries 450 to end - The Royal Artillery 1939-45

    That would explain the 3.7" howitzers. See: QF 3.7-inch mountain howitzer - Wikipedia

    The 457th / 457 Battery had their own C.O., a Major, so it is possible he was not present at Tebourba. See: 457 Light Battery Commanding Officer

    The Army List 15/2/1961 shows him as retired and Inspector of Boy Training. Via Google Books.

    From New Zealand:
    From: http://www.rnzaa.org.nz/sites/all/files/Newsletter 157.pdf

    I am not convinced he served in Malaya. Partly as if he had escaped would he have been sent home to have a role in the 132 Field Regt.?
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2023
  3. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi david

    First - Many thanks for the various extra pieces of information you found to add to the jigsaw puzzle. I will work my way through them.

    As you say he didn't serve in Malaya/Singapore as further research after the initial post suggests this was another officer - Aubrey Dennis Tarr, EC1896 of HQ 11 Indian Div (attached from 4 Prince Of Wales Own Gurkha Rifles). Tarr AD is shown in one of the WO361 files which shows the RA Missing in Malaya/Singapore and given as 'Officially Evacuated 14/15 Feb 1942'.
  4. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    The references to 137 Field Regt and 155 Regiment in Malaya become redundant here.

    I did manage to find a photo of him online which was taken in 1938 when he was at Shoeburyness.

    Tarr WD Portrait 1938 Cropped.jpg
  5. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Quote: Then a "gem" in a press release 14/7/1943 and partly cited:
    https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu.../1ebd8f7a-6c62-4d7a-bb0d-b465c0848688/content (Note Google found this, though his initials had been corrupted).

    I found this hard to see using the link and so I have downloaded and attempted to correct the OCR mistakes. It is when he was with 132nd Field Regiment RA in North Africa in December 1942.



    Many gallant deeds by men of the Field Artillery in the anti-tank role are now coming to light, but for steadiness and unshakeable discipline under fire few engagements can have surpassed that of Light Battery, armed with 3.7" howitzers, at DOUAR BEL AROUSSIA on 1st December, 1942.

    The story is told by Major WD TARR, officer in charge of the Regimental BHQ of 132 Field Regt, which during this action was sited between two- sections of the Light Battery

    “At 1100 hours on Ist December we observed a tank battle taking place on the high ground west of TEBOURBA, between German tanks and British tanks, who retired the direction of TEBOURBA. A large number of vehicles, including armoured cars, American half-tracks, and some Honey tanks came south and passed through our position in the direction of MEDJEZ. About 1200 hours a number of German tanks, afterwards established as 33 or 34, were observed moving south from the ridge west of TEBOUEBA towards our position.

    My party had been somewhat perturbed by the retirement of our units and also by the heavy firing from behind us as enemy parachutists engaged the column proceeding back along the road. We were, however, immensely encouraged by the cool and aggressive bearing of the men of the Light Battery in front of us, who awaited the tank attack with complete confidence. The rear section of the Light Battery started to engage the tanks with indirect fire at 1500 yards. The tanks replied with 75mm fire and several rounds landed in our position. My party then retired to their slit trenches. The forward sections of the Light Battery and Field Battery now opened direct fire on tanks at 600 to 300 yards. The tanks replied with very heavy fire from machine-guns, anti-tank guns and 75 mm, lots of the fire aimed at the forward Light section landed among our vehicles. In spite of the heavy fire directed at them, the gunners of the Light Battery served their guns as though on gun drill parade, and throughout the action the Gun Position Officer and the NCOs could be heard giving their orders calmly and clearly.

    The right-hand gun of the Light section was unable to engage the tanks, being sited behind the railway embankment. The Gunner therefore went forward and lay on the embankment, and directed the fire of the gun by signal and voice control. Very heavy machine-gun fire directed at the gun was coming over the embankment, but the man remained at his post and enabled his gun to score two hits on the tanks.

    At about 1500 hours the tanks withdrew and were actively followed by all four guns of the Light Battery until they disappeared from view. The spirit of the men of the Light Battery throughout the day was magnificent. They had enormous and justifiable confidence in their guns and were ready to take on anything with them. In the intervals between engaging the enemy they laid a minefield with No. 75 grenades between the river and the railway. They also dug in their guns, and sent out patrols to the river and to locate the snipers in the rear. Their cheerful and aggressive attitude was an inspiration to my small party."
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  6. B Cade

    B Cade New Member

    I found this photo amongst papers from my father-in-law's time in South Korea. He was the Canadian Liaison Officer to the Commonwealth Liaison Mission in Seoul, Korea. The photo is dated October 20, 1958. On the back it is stamped 'Brigadier W D Tarr, Chief Commonwealth Liaison Mission, Seoul Korea [sic]'. My father-in-law - John (Jack) D. Cade - was a major at the time and was in Korea from June 1959 to June 1960.
    Brig WD Tarr.jpg
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  7. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    B Cade

    Wow! Thanks so much for looking this out and posting it.

  8. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    The comedian Harry Secombe (later in The Goons with fellow Gunner Spike Malignant (a well known typing error) and Peter Sellers) was a Gunner in 132 FR in North Africa & Italy.

    Last edited: Feb 4, 2024
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  9. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria.

    This photo is attached to his Great Britain Royal aero club certificate on Ancestry.
    31023_A200020-00136.jpg 31023_A200020-00137.jpg
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  10. Skoyen89

    Skoyen89 Senior Member

    Hi Deacs

    That was the source of the photo posted above in #4. I turned it around and cropped it though.

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