RA TAC markings assistance

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by sri_130, Aug 17, 2018.

  1. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Apologies if this is in the wrong place.
    If it is, please could you direct me?

    I am researching a motorcycle used in a 1944, for a friend.
    The first part is that I can identify it formed part of the Guards armoured division - as the badge, I knew pretty well, is still visible:


    The rest, I'm not 100%.


    The background looks like a dark-blue, with a 3rd quadrant of a square, being Red. I'd therfore attribute this to artillery and 3rd battery. The H, would denote 'H Troop'? There looks to be something to the right of the H, but I can't quite make that out.

    H (on some websites) denotes a battery command post officer vehicle. But It could also mean troop? So there is a bit of confusion there for me. The front of the bike shows the same H and the same tac sign (blue square and red quadrant), but above it, there is also a Y and it looks like a badge shape, with a red top.
    I've read that the 'Y' could mean Battery survey officer vehicle. Is this likely? were surveys in NW europe conducted on motorcycle?


    Any thoughts?

    Sideline question:

    As this also was attached to the Guards armoured, they were made up for 5 artillery components:
    · 153rd (Leicestershire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery 01/06/42-11/06/45
    · 55th (Wessex) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery 08/06/42-11/06/45
    · 21st Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery 01/06/42-29/05/45
    · 75th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery 01/06/42-11/06/45
    · 94th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery 01/06/42-11/06/45

    I've been trying to find, which of those would have had a 'H' Troop - if indeed, the H means Troop! Early research on the 153rd, shows they didn't have a H troop. The research material for them online is really good. So I've ruled them out thus far. Can anyone else help point the way for this bike's attachment?
    8RB likes this.
  2. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    In my research on anti-tank regiments, from what I have seen, they generally were made up of 4 batteries, each with 3 troops which would often be identified as:

    most senior (lowest numbered) battery: A, B, C
    second most: D, E, F
    third: G, H, I
    fourth: J, K, L

    However this was not a universal arrangement. For instance in 20th Anti-Tank Regiment, the most junior battery had an "O" troop.
    sri_130 likes this.
  3. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Thanks for the reply.
    Is it possible to attain, which of the 5 regiments listed above, would even have a third H battery? This would help me determine in which it served. Or at least narrow it down.
    Or where they all suitably sized to have that many batterys?!
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    If it's on top, could the Y be 5 Inf Div? Gds Armd didn't last long after the war so the bike could have been reissued and rebadged?
  5. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    Sorry, what do you mean by a third H battery?

    edit: sorry, I haven't had lunch yet and dearly need to. I forgot this vehicle has a number 3.

    "third H battery" doesn't make any sense:
    - batteries were numbered units, whose numbering was independent of the regiment they were in. For instance, just making numbers up, a regiment might consist of the 93rd, 94th, 95th, and 202nd batteries.

    But as far as figuring out which regiment might have been involved, I think you would need to do research online or in the archives to find mention of the sub-units.

    Sometimes I have seen Archers numbered as "C1", "C2" and so on, indicating 1st/2nd vehicle within a troop, but I have noooo idea if that might apply to motorcycles.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2018
  6. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Sorry, yes I meant 3rd battery (of whatever numbered unit) H Troop, under any of the 5 that I listed.
    So the term would be 'sub-units'? thanks.

    I've found some literature on the structures of artillery, but nothing to mention if survey's were a motorcycle based activity...

    I'm really seeking clarity, I'm on the right track also!
  7. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    Ahh sorry, no, "unit" is a general term.
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    According to my download from the old 'Trux' site, a Field Regiment in 1944 had 26 motorcycles as follows :-

    Motorcycle 1
    survey serjeant
    Motorcycle 2
    battery surveyor
    Motorcycle 3
    commanding officers orderly
    Motorcycle 4
    second in commands orderly
    Motorcycle 5
    adjutants orderly

    and each battery had the following :-
    Motorcycle 1
    signalling serjeant
    Motorcycle 2
    Motorcycle 3
    Motorcycle 4
    Motorcycle 5
    command post officers assistant

    Lots of detail there...Artillery
  9. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Well generally speaking a 'unit' can be defined in British terminology as an Infantry Battalion, Armoured Regiment or RA Regiment, or any derivative thereof (Motor Bn, Armd Car Regt, LAA Regt, and so on). In those instances subunit would be any element of the Bn or Regt, so a Rifle Company or Platoon or a Field Battery or Troop. Equally a Provost Company would be a unit, as it had no superior Bn or Regt HQ over it. Brigade and upwards are formations.

    Re your particular query on survey and motorcycles, the Survey Serjeant and Bty Surveyor in RHQ of both the towed and SP Field Regts (as would be found in an Armd Div) were allocated motorcycles. In Atk Regts they were mostly for orderlies (and I'm reasonably sure Atk Regts had no need of a survey party).

    I see Rich posted before me on the Field Regt anyway!

    I know there's a whole sub-culture on the study of Tac signs and markings and I've never been sure if it's nicely laid out in War Office documents or manuals or accumulated research by a few dedicated souls. Wargames sites often devote a lot to markings for model makers.

  10. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    Well, wargaming and scale modeling...

    According to the Warpaint books, if there is a 5th Division 'Y' symbol it should be a white Y on a black square. (It had been a black Y on a white square, but it changed in 1942)

    RA do seem to be red/blue, but there's no number like 40 or 74? That then confuses me. Warpaint lists the following #s for units in a division which would normally be shown on the red/blue background:
    40 HQ RA
    73 LAA Regt RA
    74 Field Regt RA
    75 Field Regt RA (the second one in the div, I think)
    77 Anti-tank Regt RA
    78 Counter Battery Mortar RA

    So, I'm mystified.

    Have you tried asking on the Historic Military Vehicle forum? Might be worth a go.
    HMVF - Historic Military Vehicles Forum
  11. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    I haven't tried on that forum yet, that would probably be the best place, thanks for the link.
    On a separate forum however, there has been some progress....

    The idea of the 'H' being a troop number has been nearly fully dismissed.
    The most likely outcome is the bike belonged to: 3rd Battery command post (Tac sign H), Assistant Command Post Officer (Tac sign Y) using a spare Motor Cycle on the establishment. The normal vehicle being a 15 cwt Truck which can soon be fully loaded with kit and equipment and no room for him.

    True enough at this link: http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/field-artillery-field-regiment.35293
    The exerts:

    The Batteries (X3)
    Each of the three batteries was identical and organised as follows.

    Motorcycle 1
    signalling serjeant
    Motorcycle 2
    Motorcycle 3
    Motorcycle 4
    Motorcycle 5
    command post officers assistant

    And an exert at the bottom:

    And that the above was applicable to:
    55 Field Regiment Guards Armoured Division

    That regiment is the towed regiment that made up the Guards armoured.
    The 153rd that also made up the Guards was a self propelled unit and although not listed to have a command post officers assistant to have a motorbike, the markings of H and Y would still apply.

    So still at a conundrum as to which Field regiment it was with - 55th or 153rd. Only problem being, on a motorbike, the only real indication of AoS was on the tank! This one has had it's tank replaced due to damage! Gutted.

    I've disregarded the other units that made up the artillery of the guards, as they didn't have 3 batteries (and this is marked as the third). The 75 Anti-tank did have 3, but I'm assured that they wouldn't have had motorcyles in anti-tank by then (open to debate, however)

    Not sure where to turn now.
  12. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Forgot to add to the above point, anti-tank didn't use the same marking system for vehicles. There was no H or Y.
    Organisation of a Field Regiment 1944
    So pretty much discounted them also.
  13. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I'm curious as to why someone assured you there were no motorcycles in Atk Regts by whenever, 1944-45 presumably? The Army used motorcycles on a massive scale and they remained on Establishments for Atk well into 1945.

    Have you tried contacting Nigel at the site you've linked to above? He might have some info on the possibility.

  14. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    It was from another forum, but I can and have seen the information to show that motorcycles were in anti-tank, for sure. I think they meant, they were less reliant, rather than none.
    From this link: Organisation of a Field Regiment 1944 there was a lot of motorcycles originally (12) in 1943. But they were replaced by Jeeps Leaving only 4 or 5 motorbikes by 1944 - the time this bike was made + delivered + in action with Guards armoured.

    The Letters H and Y didn't seem to show up for anti-tank markings either.
    Although Anti-tank artillery 3rd batteries had a H troop.
    But the Y, just doesn't seem to fit. Unless Anti-tank had a Command post officer assistant or similar post.
  15. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    I think there might be some misinterpretation here. When you say Jeeps replaced motorcycles by 1944, whereabouts are you seeing that from? Your link in the above post does say Field Regt but it actually goes to the Atk Regt pages on Nigel Evans' site, his Fd Regt page 'should' be here -

    Organisation of a Field Regiment 1944

    There was no change in motorcycle usage on the official WE for a Fd Regt (towed) from 1943 to 1945.

    1 Survey Sjt
    1 Bty Surveyor
    3 Orderlies

    Each Bty HQ
    1 Sigs Sjt
    3 Orderlies
    1 Command Post Officer's Assistant (became a Technical Assistant, RA by 1945)

    Each Tp
    1 Signaller

    Total 26 solo motorcycles

    An SP Regt added a m/c for the BSM and a Vehicle mechanic in each Bty HQ (total 32 m/cs overall)

    I'm not really seeing why the ACPO would be evicted from his own vehicle. The original loading table had the ACPO, CPO's asst, a clerk and a driver in the 15-cwt, which by 1945 had become the ACPO, his Tech asst and the driver. The Bty had gained an extra 15-cwt and there were a few seating changes. There's absolutely no reason an ACPO somewhere in Gds Armd might not have acquired a m/c for his use I know, it just seems an unusual solution to explain the markings.

    I'm reasonably sure again there was no command post function in an Atk Regt as was found in a Fd Regt, given their different targeting requirements.

    Sheldrake, who's a member here, should be best placed to give an indication I think, through his RA knowledge.

  16. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Hey thanks Gary,
    I'll drop sheldrake a PM and hope he can contribute.

    I found the info about the reduction of Motorcylces here: http://nigelef.tripod.com/antk42.htm
    I think I posted the wrong link above! I have about 30 different tabs in my browser open, sorry.

    "'Anti-Tank Battery RA' WE II/188/1 effective date 20 July 1943. This WE pre-dates standardization, it has many motor-cycles that were later replaced by 5-cwt. car, 4×4 (Jeep)".

    It showed 12 bikes under the 1943 document, then 5 (I think) on the later one?

    I agree totally, it all seems unusual! I've gone around in circles in my head and notes, that I now cannot understand how the tac sign Y, actually means an ACPO...

    The Trux information is pretty difficult to read in text form, do you know if it was once in a spreadsheet or columns etc?
  17. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    For what it's worth, I was looking at the 55th AT Reg't War Diary this weekend, and they were asked to (I think) comment on their existing WE. One of the things they wanted was 4 more motorcycles, one per battery commander.
    sri_130 likes this.
  18. sri_130

    sri_130 Active Member

    Thanks Seroster, I wonder if they ever got them!


    Today I collated the info from the posts here and another forum.
    The 21st Anti-tank had a 'Y' battery. As posted by Gary (I think on another forum post) the 3rd battery in A/tk has a 'H' troop.
    Thats 3 out of 3 for the markings!
    A promising avenue, just need to find out as much as possible on the 21st a/tk & try to find some anti-tank vehicles with markings - as there isn't much on google image searching.
    Chris C likes this.
  19. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian

    According to this other forum thread, 'Y' battery had M10s.

    21st Anti-tank regiment RA (1939-1945)

    Looks like what I knew about battery identifiers was totally wrong when it comes to the 21st!
  20. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Right, I can see comments re motorcycles on Nigel's site now thanks. That shows the Jul43 WE for a SP M10 Bty, which was superseded by II/188/2 Dec43/Jan44 and did indeed reduce the M/C issue to 4 (Veh mech, Sig Sjt and 2 orderlies in Bty HQ). The towed 17-pdr version also had 4 M/Cs in Bty HQ (1 for the BSM and 3 orderlies). RHQ Nigel has up there already showing 4 M/Cs, all for orderlies.

    I must admit I wasn't really following with the H Troop discussion. RA Btys were numbered so their subunits (Troops, or Tps) were lettered. Somewhat sheepishly I'll have to admit I'm not sure if there was a standardised system for Tp identification within all Regts. A Field Regt would have Tps A-F inclusive for its 6 Tps, while an Atk Regt had 12 Tps and an LAA Regt 9 Tps. I'm trying to recall if the British system would skip J as the US did in lettering units. If not the Atk Regt would be Tps A-L, but Atk gun Tps weren't authorised motorcycles. The LAA Regt should have been A-I inclusive and they did have 5 solo motorcycles for their Tp HQs. H Tp would fall in the third Bty for either Atk or LAA Regts.

    If you've not seen it or similar this was a nice graphic from the long lost RA1939-45 website



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