56th Reconnaissance Corps

Discussion in 'Recce' started by Recce_Mitch, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Starting a thread on 56 Recce. I am researching it because my father was in 56 Recce from 9.2.1941 til 13.6.1944 when he was invalided out of the army due to war injuries. His name was Thomas Heald Mitchell No. 1873128.

    Quotes from my father

    "You had to be smart to join the Recce. As soon as I entered the interview room they fired a maths question at me to which I immediately replied with the correct answer."

    "In the campaigns of North Africa, Sicily and Italy, the soldiers were always on the move (Reconnaissance Unit) and did not sleep in a bed or under shelter for months. The men of 56 Recce were just as well disciplined and as well turned out as any Guardsman, I should know, I served with both"

    This poem traces the activity of the 56th Recce Regt.
    Poem by Ex.Cpl.E.T. (John) Newton.


    In the year of 1940 the War Office said you must form
    A brand new Regiment so the Recce was born
    The "Black Cat" Division was therefore told
    "Send men to the Recce fold
    Loaded with Rifle and Kit we went to
    Cranbrook, High Halden, Bethersden in Kent
    We gathered together Cap badges by the score
    Later reduced to one - The Recce Corps
    Training with Mortars, Radio cars and carriers
    we learnt to scout and run like harriers, by
    the end of the year we were somewhat skilled
    In our job it was to observe not get killed.

    Our move in August 1942 was sudden
    To a camp in Scotland called Buddon
    There we were told the facts
    We were to join the Division “Battleaxe”
    At that time little did we know
    How soon we were to meet the foe
    The First Army we were to be
    Our job was the 78 Div. Recce

    In October 1942 we sailed down the Clyde
    Algiers was to be the end of that ride
    Later when North Africa came into view
    Jack Forshaw set off with his motley crew
    For a Recce along those roads and hollows
    Seeking the Jerries to “Feel their collars”
    Five days later we came to Algiers Docks
    Watched by the Arabs in what looked like frocks
    Later "B" & HQ moved to the fray
    Which was then around Medjez way

    Doc Du Bed valley harboured “A” Sqdn.
    Always remembered, never forgotten
    Names like Mateur, El Arousa and Medjez remain
    Longstop, Kasserine, Tally Ho Corner and Goubellat Plain
    May 1943 brought peace and we went to the
    coast to enjoy the sea
    Sousse will be remembered for its heat
    Our stay alas too short to enjoy the treat.

    Monty then said, “To Sicily you go”
    Wonder what he would have done if we had said “NO”
    LST's took us to the beaches and we started
    to enjoy grapes and peaches
    Unlike Africa this fight was a short haul
    But names like Centuripe, Bronte, we recall.

    Again fate beckoned and we
    Commenced a further journey to Italy
    Taranto, Bari, Foggia went under the wheels,
    Later we moved up and down “them there hills”
    Termoli is a name the Regiment well knows
    Its here the Division stuck in its toes
    "C" Sqdn. crossed the Sangro and had a rough ride
    Cassino then cast its horrible spell
    To all concerned it was just sheer Hell
    The weather improved and the Rapido we crossed
    No longer by the Monastery were we bossed.
    After a month we came to Trasimeno
    And at Cortina we finished and now for a “beano”

    Egypt with sun, sand, wind and wogs
    Gave us a chance to use our best togs
    Also the Sphinx we still recall these things
    Groppis, Brown Trams, Pay books on strings
    Italy called again and so we went
    Along familiar roads where we’d spent
    Our time chasing the Tedeschi
    Until we came to a town called Assisi,
    Florence beckoned but we went past and
    those hills we walked at last.

    The rains came down and made quagmires
    Wish we could have had some fires
    Snow followed and those patient mules
    Came up to provide us with our meals
    Then we moved to the banks of the Senio
    Soon we were across and through Lugo
    Then on to Portomaggiore and the River Po.

    The end of hostilities was then very near
    And for us we moved to Austria
    The journey we started in 1942
    Was now almost through
    And instead of surviving in Bivvies
    We were soon to be in Civvies.

    So let us not forget those men
    Whom we would never see again
    Troopers, NCO's and Officers too
    Who are now memories to me and you
    So may I ask you all to stand
    And with your glasses in your hand
    Toast past and present members of this Happy Band
    Gentlemen the “56th Recce Regiment”.

    Attached Files:

    CL1 and von Poop like this.
  2. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Heres a Start;-
    The Organization of a Reconnaissance Regiment

    When the Reconnaissance Corps was first established in 1941 it was organized, (like the infantry), into battalions, companies, platoons and sections. According to a directive issued by the War Office at the time, the normal staffing for a reconnaissance battalion was to be 40 officers and 733 other ranks divided into the following components:

    - 1 Headquarters Company composed of:
    1 Admin Platoon
    1 Anti-Aircraft Platoon
    1 Signals Platoon
    1 Anti-Tank Platoon
    1 Mortar Platoon

    - 3 Companies, each consisting of:
    3 Scout Platoons, each composed of:
    1 Armoured Reconnaissance Car Section (5 LRC's each)
    2 Carrier Sections (3 Carriers each)
    1 Infantry or Assault Platoon of 4 Sections.

    [/list][/LIST]After June 1942, in recognition of the Corps' unique role as the fast moving "eyes and ears" of the army, (a job once done by mounted horsemen), a new ethos was adopted and recce units were henceforth referred to by cavalry designations: Battalion became Regiment; Company became Squadron; and Platoon became Troop.

    The 56th Reconnaissance Regiment, which dubbed itself "Chavasse's Light Horse", was structured, like all Recce Corps regiments, along the following lines:

    For more information like this please follow the link to an excellent Web site dedicated to 56th Recce
    A British Soldier Remembers - Logistics of 56th Recce Regiment.
    CL1 and Recce_Mitch like this.
  3. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Just dug out a Military Cross Citation Details For Lt J K Edwards 56 Recce;
    "At Consandolo on the 19th April 1945, Lt John Edwardswas commanding a Scout Troop of 56 Recce Regt R.A.C. At first light he wasordered to seize and hold a road junction Northwest of the Town. On approachingto within 300 yards of the Road Junction the enemy opened up at close range onthe leading armoured car from the flank with spandaus and small arms fire. LtEdwards immediately went forward on foot under fire and personally directed hisarmoured cars into fire positions. Within half an hour casualties had beeninflicted on the enemy and a number of prisoners had been taken. By this timeLt Edwards had discovered that the enemy was holding the Road Junction area inat least 2 Company strength. It was reported to him that approximately 30 enemywere covering the Road Junction from the left flank. Lt Edwards appreciatingthat the enemy were dug in on the reverse slope of a bank, decided to maneuverhis armoured cars around their left flank and engage them from the rear. Thismove was carried out with great skill and determination under fire, resulting infurther casualties on the enemy and the capture of 30 prisoners. During theremainder of the morning, his own armoured car went out on a number ofindividual patrols to clear up isolated pockets of resistance. By the afternoonthe enemy had been driven back to a line about 400 yards beyond the RoadJunction, where he had re-inforced his positions with Infantry and S.P. Guns. Lt. Edwards then ordered his armoured cars into fire positions covering thisRoad Junction. In the course of the afternoon he went out on 8 dismounted Reccepatrols to enemy occupied positions. These patrols brought back valuableinformation regarding enemy dispositions and also accounted for a further 15Prisoners and 2 enemy killed. During the days operations Lt Edwards Troopinflicted many casualties on the enemy and accounted for 60 Prisoners inaddition to a great deal of information. In this action Lt Edwards showed greatdash, determination and leadership. He has been a fine example and inspirationto his troop under fire, and his devotion to duty has been of the highestorder.
    Hope this fits into your thread,I am assuming it is all things Recce related?
    CL1 and bookwormwmb like this.
  4. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Yes I don't have that information
  5. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    A good post, thanks.

  6. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Authors: Ronald A.Tee & Ken C. Dowsett.
    Publisher: Epic Press, Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Copyright: 2001, 199 pp.
    Nicely illustrated, these are the reminiscences of Sgt Ron Tee, who served with the 56th Reconnaisance Regiment, 78th (Battleaxe) Division, during WW II. Of interest to the North Irish Horse is the fact that the Regiment was attached to the 78th Division during two important actions - the capture of "Longstop Hill" in Tunisia and the assault on the Gothic Line in Italy. Additionally, as many from the 56th Recce, when it was disbanded in October 1945, were transferred to the NIH, I got to know Ron when we both were members of the Sergeant's Mess.

    Cheers, Gerry
    Recce_Mitch likes this.
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  8. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member


    I have that book already, Ron was instrumental in helping me obtain a Recce cap badge. Do you know what has happened to his web site. I have also read a lot of your postings on your site.

    Cheers Paul


    Thanks for those links. Wish that I could get back to England so that I could get to Kew. It would be too expensive to get copies via post.

    Cheers Paul
  9. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Ronald Arthur Tee was born in Portsmouth, England on the 1st December 1919 . When he was a boy, the family left Portsmouth and moved to Pinner, a small town in the Greater London area.
    At the age of twenty, he was drafted into the Army. On February 15th, 1940, he was enlisted in Guildford where he served with The West Surrey Regiment. After completing his infantry training in West Surrey, he was transfered to Newcastle. On January 22nd, 1941 he volunteered for the Reconnaissance Corps (which became part of the Royal Armoured Corps later on) and became a member of 56 Reece Battalion (later Regiment). He would stay with his unit until the end of the war. Ron Tee was part of 16 Troop C Squadron under command of Major Jack Forshaw.
    In October 1942, he was posted to North Africa , Algiers. His first encounter with the enemy is in November 1942 near Djebel Abiod in the Tunisian campaign. He served in Tunisia for six months and subsequently took part in the invasion of Sicily.
    After Sicily he was embarked to the eastern coast of Italy in support of the Canadians near the river Sangro. The advance in Italy was slow and on numerous occasions, Sgt Tee and his comrades assume the role of the infantryman to fight and hold positions during the advance along the east coast of Italy. This takes 56Recce from Foggia and Lucera to Termoli .
    From here they were sent further inland, reaching the small mountain village of Vastogirardi on December 31st, 1943, where they were bogged down by a fierce snow storm. At the end of three weeks they were again relieved by American and Canadian troops and advance further inland. In February 1944, Ron Tee was involved in the battle for Monte Cassino where he is in action three times; twice to defend the front line while other units launch an attack, the third time, supporting the 78th Division, he takes part in a frontal attack by the British and the Polish divisions. This time they bypass the monastery and cross the Rapido River. This was a successful but costly move, as far as casualties were concerned When the Poles entered the monastery, the Germans had gone, leaving behind only casualties. The Germans had withdrawn across Highway 6 to Rome. Monte Cassino was ultimately captured.
    In a village south of Rome, Ron Tee was injured in a minor accident . As a result he is forced to stay in hospital for several weeks to recuperate.
    In the fall of 1944, conditions in the mountains deteriorate, slowing them down in the thick mud. In December he was granted a month's leave and returned home to England,where he remained to celebrate Christmas and New Year before rejoining his unit on the frontline
    In early May, after advancing further into northern Italy, into the Italian Alps, When they reach Austria, the war is over.
    On May 8th, 1945, Ronald Arthur Tee was awarded his Italy Star
    On September 11th, 1946, he was discharged from the British Army. In 1953, he emigrated to Canada with his wife and children where he began a new life..............................

    Found this short biography of Sgt Tee on the internet and thought you may like it posting here.

    World War 2 Awards.com - TEE, Ronald A.
    gpjeuken likes this.
  10. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    56 Recce related ;-
    Remembered at Bab Gargaresh Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery,Tripoli, Libya: 10602202 Trooper L.R. KEMP 56th Regiment Reconnaisance Corps. 25th October 1943 age 21 "Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee"
  11. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    You wouldn't have access to any memorials at Medjez el Bab War Cemetery as 3 of dads comrades who were killed when he was injured are remembered there.

    "After our rest our CO decided to give these blokes some experience at driving Portees. We were all on the same gun but instead of me driving I was in the back with the rest of the gun crew. If I were driving I wouldn’t be here as he died of his wounds when I got wounded. You’re in a confined bloody space in those vehicles; they were only made for a certain crew. It was made to tow an Anti Tank Gun a Portee was. There was only so much seating. I wasn’t the only driver changed to give the new guys night driving and war time at the front experience. There were 6 of us on the vehicle." These are my Dad's words
  12. martinb

    martinb Member


    I have that book already, Ron was instrumental in helping me obtain a Recce cap badge. Do you know what has happened to his web site. I have also read a lot of your postings on your site.

    Cheers Paul

    Latest link for Ron Tees site A Soldier Remembers is: www.geocities.com/Pentagon/9656/56index.htm

    Dad (Robert James Biddle) was a proud memeber of the 56th Recce through North Africa and Italy through to Austria. Sadly passed away in 1977
  13. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    You wouldn't have access to any memorials at Medjez el Bab War Cemetery as 3 of dads comrades who were killed when he was injured are remembered there.

    Sorry none relating to Recce lads the only thing I have in relation to Medjez El Bab is a memorial notice which I found some time back whilst searching for unrelated items I have posted it in case this is of interest to yourself and other 56 Recce boys.
    In Memoriam
    Trooper Frederick Ernest James,. No 6349620.
    56th Regiment Recce Corps. Royal Armoured Corps. who died 27 February 1943. Aged 22. The son of Ernest and Alice Lilian James of Boughton Corner, Bilting, Ashford, Kent.
    He is commemorated on the Ashford, Kent, Civic War memorial, and on Godmersham, Ashford, Kent, Second World War memorial plaque, located in the parish church of St Lawrence the Martyr.
    Buried Medjez El BabWar Cemetery, Tunisia. Grave Ref: 5. H. 3.
    Originally enlisted in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment in 1940.
    Frederick had taken part in ‘Operation Torch,’ the amphibious landings in Morocco and Tunisia, North Africa in November 1942, and lost his life as the result of enemy bombing in Tunisia, North Africa. For a year 1933-1934, Frederick had been a pupil at the Ashford North County Modern (Boys) School. His brother Arthur George James who fortunately survived the Second World War served in the Royal Navy on Minesweepers and had also been a pupil at ‘The North’ from 1937 to 1940.

  14. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    The 3 people I am interested in are:

    "HQ" Sqn
    who died on Monday 30 November 1942 . Age 24
    MEDJEZ-EL-BAB WAR CEMETERY Tunisia 6. H. 13.

    Lance Corporal
    "HQ" Sqn
    who died on Sunday 29 November 1942 . Age 22 .
    Son of Walter and Josephine Christian.
    MEDJEZ-EL-BAB MEMORIAL Tunisia Face 33.

    Lance Corporal
    "HQ" Sqn
    who died on Sunday 29 November 1942
    Son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jopling, of South Shields, Co. Durham; husband of Christina Jopling, of South Shields.
    MEDJEZ-EL-BAB MEMORIAL Tunisia Face 33.

    "You never got familiar with them (replacements). Blokes just out from England, never met them in your life before, never had a chance to get to know them. With Christian and Jopling it was different, you came out with them, and you knew them off pat as you’d been with them for a while…they were me mates. But once they’d went and were replaced you weren’t together long enough to get to know them. Faces changing so fast you couldn’t keep up with it…hundreds of bloody soldiers …you only got to know a few of them. A Geordie was Jopling. He used to make us laugh. Geordies always strike me as being funny." My Dad's own words.

    That Geocities site is the old one, http://www.britishsoldier.com is the site I don't seem to be able to access.
  15. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

  16. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Haven't heard of Find a Grave Site. Thanks for posting.
  17. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    All three are included on the Find a Grave Site but the photographes included are general views;

    Find A Grave - Millions of Cemetery Records

    Thanks for the post.
    I tried this summer to visit, but would have taken most of the day to get there by bus and after seeing the standard of driving I decided not to hire a car!

    The Cemetery looks to extremely well kept, as is the case with CWGC's.


  18. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Whilst doing a bit of research on Ancestry recently I came across this listing,

    The Cassino Doll
    Bridging the generations
    By Janet Penn 2007

    The Doll

    50 years ago my grandmother Alice Bull gave me a doll as a souvenir of her trip to Italy. Not a very surprising event really just a normal everyday occurrence. Alice, aged 73 was a nervous traveller, she had never flown before she was about to visit her son’s grave in a foreign land. This was not an everyday occurrence.
    The Grandmother
    My grandmother Alice Bull nee Frampton was born at Burton Road, Christchurch, Hampshire in 1883 into a family with strong connections with Highcliffe, Hampshire. Alice’s grandfather James Frampton born in Milton in 1825 was one of the first inhabitants of the new village of Slop Pond later thankfully to be called Highcliffe. Alice’s father Frank b 1851 had a building firm in the village. Her uncle John and his wife Jane started the Highcliffe Methodist Church.
    Alice attended the local village school before working as a housemaid in Highcliffe Castle. Following a relationship with a local lad Alice went to London where she found herself aged 19, pregnant and destitute. She was fortunate that a doctor came to her rescue. Her first child was born in 1902 and she later went on to marry and raised another 5 children.
    The Airport
    As a 10 year old in 1956 a visit to Heathrow airport to see my grandmother and her daughter Lily on their way to Italy was a very exciting thing. The whole family turned out. My Uncle took as many as he could in his car, the rest of us had to go by bus and train but we did not care it was a great adventure as far as we were concerned. We were not really in tune with the real events that were taking place. The great emotion my grandmother must have been going through.
    Heathrow was a more open airport in 1956. Heathrow, then known as London Airport, opened in 1946 with old Army Surplus Tents being used as the Terminal. The Queen opened the new permanent terminal in 1955. Today this is still in use as Terminal 2. You were allowed to go on the roof to see the planes take off, there were even swings up there for the children. I remember clearly waving them off from the rooftop before making the long journey home.
    The Visit
    My grandmother had been invited to visit her son’s grave in the Cassino War Cemetery, Italy and also to attend the unveiling of the Cassino Memorial on Sunday 30th September 1956. Overlooked by Mount Cassino mother and daughter made their pilgrimage to Corporal Sydney ‘Johnny’ Bull’s grave. I can only imagine what must have been going through my grandmother’s mind as she stood at the grave of her youngest son. Just 23 years old with his whole life ahead of him.

    The Soldier

    Corporal Sydney Bull was born 19 Oct 1920. Syd was working as a clerk when war broke out in 1939. He first joined the Royal Fusiliers later transferring to the 56th Regiment Reconnaissance Corps. He soon found himself in the thick of the fighting. According to his letter to my parents dated 26 September 1942 he had got engaged to his girlfriend Kathleen the previous Saturday. He was shortly to be posted abroad. A later letter I have finds him with his regiment posted in the Central Mediterranean. The date was 26 August 1943. He states he had been there a year so he must have been posted soon after his engagement. He does not give much detail for obvious reasons but he does say that things were very quiet at that time as the campaign was over.
    According to History of the 56th Reconnaissance Regiment, by Robin Dowsett the Campaign my uncle spoke of was the Sicily Campaign. Robin Dowsett states in his article ‘Following the end of the Sicily campaign, the Recce Regiment rested and recuperated for a few weeks at Gioiosa Marea’.Poignantly he finished the letter date September 1942 with a message about my
    brother wh had been born just a month before ‘hope the little nipper isn’t too grown up when I see him’. Syd never got to see his nephew. Sydney William Bull died from a head wound on the 25 Apr 1944 when his patrol was hit by mortar fire. Photo’s of ‘the little nipper’ were found with his possessions.
    The Battle
    The Germans set up the Gustav line (100 miles south of Rome) to defend their occupation of Rome. The invasion of Italy and the push north to the Gustav Line was used by the Allies to distract the Germans attention away their forces in France as the Allies prepared for the Normandy Landings.
    Part of the Gustov line passed through Cassino. Monte Cassino or Monastery Hill as it was called in 1944 overlooked the major road that runs from Naples to Rome. The hill is dominated by the Benedictine Monastery of Cassino, which was built as a fortress to guard the road. Cassino was a bottleneck that needed to be breached if Rome was to be reached.The river Rapido one of two rivers meeting at Cassino flooded during the winter months. Although only 30 feet wide the flooding made the crossing more difficult.Four times the Allies tried to take Cassino and the Monastery. Although the Germans had not occupied the Monastery, the Allies as part of the third attack bombarded the Monastery with wave after wave of 500 and 1000 lb bombs and incendiaries. The Monastery was left a shell with many civilians being killed. The Germans crawled out of their hideouts and occupied the ruins before the ground offensive startedThe third battle found the town of Cassino flattened by an intensive bombing and artillery bombardment.
    The last battle was to be along a 20 mile front. The attack began on 11 May 1944. By the 13 May the Allies had broken through and were on their way to Rome.
    Cassino had fallen. Rome followed but this took second place to the news of the D-Day Landings in Normandy.
    The Regiment
    In September 1943 following their recuperation at Gioiosa Marea the 56th Reconnaissance Regiment were again on the move. This time to Italy .Encountering heavy fighting the Regiment slogged its way northwards. By November 1943 the Sangro Line (a German line on the River Sangro half way up Italy) was broken. With the Allies occupying the north bank of the river. The Regiment were snowed in on the mountains in the area of Pescopenetaro, North East of Cassino for Christmas 1943 and much of January and February 1944. Supplies had to be air-dropped or brought in by ski patrol.
    By February 1944 the regiment had arrived at Cassino. The regiment were involved in several attempts to take the Monastery Hill eventually being relieved and sent to the Capua area near Caserta.
    The Cemetery
    The Cassino War Cemetery can be found in the Commune of Cassino in the Province of Frasine. 86 Miles South East of Rome, Italy. Overlooked by Mount Cassino. Here lies 4,266 Commonwealth servicemen of the 2nd World War buried or commemorated. There are 284 servicemen unidentified.

    Corporal SW ‘Johnny’ Bull 6476614 is buried in plot XIV.F.10 Son of William Pitt Bull and Alice Kate Bull, of Hackney, London

    The Memorial[​IMG]

    The Cassino Memorial was unveiled on the 30th September 1956, at 12 noon by Field Marshall the Right Honourable The Earl Alexander of Tunis. My grandmother and aunt were among the guests at the unveiling.
    The Abbey

    The Abbey of Monte Cassino was built by St Benedict c529. During the years since that date the monastery has been destroyed and rebuilt four times.
    The Abbey was first destroyed c577 and rebuilt in the eighth century by Pope Gregory II. The Saracens burnt it down during the invasion in 883.
    Various Abbots governed Monte Cassino in the 11th century. During this time the Abbey was again restored. Only to be destroyed again by an earthquake in 1349. The Abbey was rebuilt with many additions and embellishments.
    During the second world war, with the Germans dug in around the Abbey it was destroyed for the 4th time by allied bombers on the 15th February 1944.
    The damage was so extensive it took a decade to complete the reconstruction.
    The Conclusion
    The story of the Cassino Doll has been told. A small gesture from a grandmother to a granddaughter has helped to tell the story of the death of a young man and the grief of a mother. A story similarly told millions of times around the world.

    Anyone wishing to see the original text and images then click here
    The Cassino Doll
  19. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Very moving story.


  20. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Just before leaving for England I found Ron's website down - unfortunatley I omitted bring my book with his and his daughter's telephone numbers with me.
    While here, as I am visiting Kew several times, I will photograph the 56th diaries.

    Cheers, Gerry

    Cheers Paul[/quote]

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