Numbering of Platoons

Discussion in 'Trux Discussion Area' started by JDKR, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    I would be very grateful if someone could shed some light on the numbering of platoons. I have a platoon numbered 31 Platoon in D Company 12 Devons. What numbers would the other three platoons carry? Would they be 30 and 32? Additionally, as it is D Company (ie the fourth company) it seems odd that the platoon is not numbered 41 platoon.

    My thanks in advance.

  2. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    The general numbering of Platoons in a standard Infantry Battalion, circa 1943-45, would normally be;

    No.1 Signal
    No.2 Admin
    No.3 (3-in) Mortar
    No.4 Carrier
    No.5 Anti-tank
    No.6 Assault Pio
    A Coy - Nos.7-9
    B Coy - Nos.10-12
    C Coy - Nos.13-15
    D Coy - Nos. 16-18

    Obviously the example you've got there is based on a different system, and not one I've seen before. No chance it's a typo for 13 at all?

    stolpi likes this.
  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Sorry, I just realised you said 12 Devons, an Air Landing Bn so not organised on the standard format as above.

    A/L Bns are very difficult to define in organisational terms; there were three WEs issued for them during the war in Europe and one shortly afterwards, and neither A/L Bde seemed to take very much notice of them. 6 A/L Bde at least stuck a little closer to them, but it still varies depending on when you're looking at, as they rejigged after Normandy and before the Rhine crossing.

    I did receive a very nice bundle of documents re the Devons a few years back, re their time as Air Landing. There's a chronology for March to May 1945 and that does include a few Platoon numbers;

    No.9 in A Coy
    No.19 in D Coy

    An A/L Bn had 16 Rifle Pls across its four Rifle Coys, while the format of the remainder of the Bn was subject to numerous alterations. Some Bns look to have only numbered their Rifle Pls, while others went from HQ Coy through to D Coy. With a No.9 Pl in A Coy I'd say the Devons followed this latter approach, and on that basis there's no obvious place for a 31 Pl.

  4. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Having had a look back at my old work on the Air Landing Bns, I might have found a possible 31 Platoon.

    Long story short, the official WE had the following;

    No.1 Signal
    No.2 Mortar
    No.3 Recce
    No.4 Pioneer
    No.5 Transport
    No.6 Admin

    A Coy - Nos.7-10
    B Coy - Nos.11-14
    C Coy - Nos.15-18
    D Coy - Nos.19-22

    AA Pls - Nos.23+24
    Atk Pls - Nos.25+26

    By the Rhine Crossing the pair of 3-in mortars previously held by each Rifle Coy had been removed and formed into two Pls proper, which I understand were likely numbered Nos.27+28. The three Mortar Pls were then handled as a Group within Support Coy.

    As well as the above, an Air Landing Bn was to form three Rifle Pls from its First Reinforcements, to be held as replacements for any major casualties during take-off on an operation; if you lose a Horsa, you can lose a whoe Rifle Platoon. In theory, that could allow the numbering to reach 31, but not with a direct affiliation to D Coy that I can see.

    Charley Fortnum, Cee and stolpi like this.
  5. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Hi Gary - many thanks for all your replies. Nothing is simple! My source for 31 Platoon is the autobiography by Dudley Anderson, Three Cheers for the Next Man to Die (London: Robert Hale Ltd, 1983). Dudley says he was a section commander in 31 Platoon, D Company, and I have no particular reason to disbelieve him. Any thoughts on what the other two platoons could have been numbered?


  6. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    The 12th Devons are listed down the page in the Normandy Orbat on the Pegasus Archive and platoon ordering seems to abide closely to what Gary posted above.

    6th Airborne Division

    There is also this interesting comment on Anderson's book in a WW2Talk thread (post # 218).

    12th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment

    Regards ...
  7. JDKR

    JDKR Member

    Many thanks Cee, particularly for the 6 AB Div link. Pegasus Archive shows D Company having 19 - 22 Platoons. So, I think it is entirely possible that Dudley's memory, or absence thereof, got the better of him and he wrote '31' meaning '21'. I can't immediately see a date for the orbat but I assume it was D Day/Normandy as names had changed by April 45 - the time in which I'm interested. In particular, I note that the splendidly nicknamed 'Stinker' Reakes (one can only guess at the reasons he was given that!) was OC 19 Platoon, whereas Dudley states that he was OC 31 [sic] Platoon in his book. Presumably he swapped platoon command prior to the Rhine crossing. In his book Dudley gives aliases for names but they are easily deciphered. Perhaps using '31' was an attempt at further obfuscation, for whatever reason.

  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    I haven't read the book so I can't say with certainty what his intentions were, but if he was not using real names he may not have used the actual number of the platoon he belonged to either. Or it could be a case of memory failure as suggested? There seems to be a lot of missing info in the Op Varsity Orbat.

    Orbat 6th Airborne Division Operation Varsity

    Regards ...
  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I looked back at my info for the Devons on Varsity, and it does name 25 & 26 Pls as Atk, and 27 & 28 Pls as Mortar, but other than placing 9 Pl in A Coy and 19 Pl in D Coy, no other Pl numbers are mentioned. Given the link Cee posted to and the info over on Pegasusarchive (which I know I mined a lot from) I'd say there's more likelihood that 31 Pl is a misnomer, be it intentional or accidental.


Share This Page