Royal Artillery in Saméon, Nord-Pas-de-France, 1939: photos & names, help with unit

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by heatherannej, Nov 3, 2020.

  1. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    I have been contacted by a French man who is holding 7 pages of World War Two memoires of his late father-in-law (Henri Morel Senior). His brother-in-law (Henri Morel Junior) wrote down his father’s recollections.

    Henri Morel Senior was only 16 in 1939. His memories are from his home in Saméon, a small village east of Orchies, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The memories describe events focused in the area of the church at the end of rue de Fretin. Three men in one of the two attached photos are Royal Artillery – they are named “Martin, Growell et Allen Jorris”. The man in the second photo is named “J. Willem”. I can’t guarantee the spellings of names, e.g. Jorris may be Norris!

    Henri Morel Senior’s son-in-law is enthusiastic to learn more about the regiment/s but also share Henri’s memoires with anyone who has an interest in the events. Can anyone help ?

    “I was going to be sixteen on November 12, 1939 and was working with my father, a coppersmith, facing Saméon's ordeal when an English anti-tank battery arrived in our neighbourhood.”

    He mentions some people by name: “Martin, Graswelle or Growell, Allen Jorris, Boby Danton, Bobeth: the dog mascot”. “The officers of several units stayed at the ‘Château Emaille’, rue du Bias; the commander was named Pargack, he was assisted by a French translator officer named Cognac.” [Pargac?]

    “Between Saméon and the border*, infantry units, under the orders of the "Royal Engineers", were building blockhouses to try to reinforce the few works erected from 1937 by our North African troops.” *Saméon is not far from Belgium border.

    “twelve guns and their ammunition” were kept in two local warehouses. The soldiers’ kitchens ended up at Henri’s home.

    “A stock of reinforcing bars, corrugated iron sheets and cement had been laid out in the town hall street by the English engineers (Royal Engineers)”

    When the soldiers left – “direction Brittany. Passing through Pont à Marcq” – they left Bobeth the dog with Henri. Henri and his family left the village at one point and became refugees. His recollections hold many interesting antedotes.

    Some R.A. men re-traced their footsteps and returned to Saméon after the war, asking after the family but the person they asked failed to point them in Henry Morel Senior’s direction and i twas always a regret that he never managed to meet these men again.

    My late father-in-law was in the Artillery – Essex Yeomanry and 191st (Herts. and Essex Yeomanry) Field Regiment R.A. I have placed his war-time memories online and, if nothing comes of this particular post, I will place Henri’s memories in a new chapter here: World War Two Memories of a Yeoman

    Many thanks in anticipation that the above clues can help ID/confirm people/regiments etc so that a more complete picture can be created.

    Madame Guérin

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  2. Lobert

    Lobert New Member

    Merci pour votre aide précieuse !
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  3. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Vous êtes les bienvenus. J'espère seulement que nous pourrons découvrir quelque chose - via ce post. Sinon, je m'assurerai que tous les souvenirs d'Henri de 1939 sont mis en ligne. Heather
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  4. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Working soley from the pieces of information quoted and what trivia l have in my head, sounds like either 13th or 21st Anti-tank Regiment RA.

    Sameon was in I Corps sector.
    Only 1st and 2nd Infantry division were in I Corps in November 1939.
    21st Anti-tank Regiment was under command 1st Division.
    13th Anti-tank Regiment was under command 2nd Division.
    12 guns hints towards a battery of an ATk regiment rather than the ATk element in an infantry brigade (only 9 guns total).

    I don't recall which of the two divisions was left and right in the line.
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  5. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    MarkN ... thank you very much for some pieces of the jigsaw. I will read through Henri's memories again and add some more. There is 7 pages of them so I had to be selective. Heather
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  6. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    MarkN ... more specific facts taken from antedotes, that may help with ID...

    "Le Hasard installs an anti-tank battery at Henri Morel's home". Le Hasard these are the French words - I couldn't translate it, I don't know what it means!

    "The officers of several units stayed at the ‘Château Emaille’, rue du Bias; the commander was named Pargac, he was assisted by a French translator officer named Cognac."

    "... After the parade, in good order and at "attention", our artillerymen were busy cleaning the premises and especially their constantly maintained cannons; vehicles were washed with petrol.

    When the parade was over they moved on to manoeuvre and it was not uncommon for me to be invited to the inert mine-laying session in the nearby meadow. ... ... Other units were digging shelter trenches at the ends of the properties to protect themselves from possible aerial attacks. A few machine guns were mounted on anti-aircraft carriages installed in excavations."

    "Between Saméon and the border, infantry units, under the orders of the "Royal Engineers", were building blockhouses to try to reinforce the few works erected from 1937 by our North African troops. These ridiculous “fortresses” scattered across the plains of Rumegies, Aix and Mouchin. Only two were built in Samèon rue de Tournai; one finished, the other barely out of the ground."

    "This monotony of life which, let us remember, lasted more than six months was interrupted by great manoeuvres in the Bapaume region."

    "Six long months went by in the rhythm of this exciting and unusual life for a teenager. But, everything has an end ; on the morning of May 13, 1940, everything was empty; silence reigned everywhere: “our English” had gone, by night, to Belgium; no longer for a "phoney war" but for the real one, the one that would see my friends die on the Dyle or the Scheldt and turn those good times into tragedy."

    "In 1945 we received, through the Red Cross, a letter card from Martin, prisoner of the Japanese."

    1950s: "Boby Danton going to the Brussels exhibition visited my mother and my wife, with his wife and son; traveling for work with my father I could not meet them."
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  7. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Henri Morel, whose father's memories these are, asks "can we take this figure of 12 as a certainty?" ... presumably, to clarify whether he is correct to search for such a regiment, trying to identify it? Many thanks in advance, Heather
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  8. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Hello Heather,

    I think the literal meaning/translation re the "Le Hasard" part is likely "By chance an anti-tank battery is installed at Henri Morel's home", or "Fortunately an anti-tank battery......." etc. Maybe!

    Good luck with the quest.

    Kind regards, always,

  9. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    I really don't think l am in any position to judge whether the accuracy of a specific detail in Henri's father's written memoirs is to be considered certain or not.

    If there is a question over the accuracy of such detail, should we also question the dates, whether it was RA or other, whether they were anti-tank guns or guns for some other purpose - anti-aircraft for example?

    An RA anti-tank regiment consisted of 48 anti-tank guns equally allocated to 4 constituent batteries ie 12 guns per battery. Each infantry division was allocated a single anti-tank regiment as l identified previously. These guns were 2-pdr guns.

    Within a infantry division, there were also 3 brigade anti-tank companies; 1 for each if the 3 infantry brigades in the division. Each anti-tank company consisted of 9 guns and were manned by infanteers drawn from the constituent 3 infantry battalions of that brigade. These guns were either 2-pdr or French 25mm guns but l do not have any documents to hand identify which of two types were held by those particular brigade anti-tank companies.

    Each infantry battalion had sections of anti-tank rifles spread throughout their rifle companies according to the COs chosen organizational plan. These were the Boyes anti-tank rifle. I do not have documents to hand to indicate how many Boyes anti-tank rifles were held by the various infantry battalions of the 2 divisions.
    JimHerriot likes this.
  10. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Thanks for the contribution, JimHerriot, much appreciated. I will handing the actual quest back, I think, although I am happy to add it to a new chapter of my late father-in-law's memories site. Thank you again, Heather
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  11. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    Thank you MarkN. I appreciate that. I am going to pass on all the information you gave. I think it will give the Frenchman a better understanding of how things worked. I know nothing ... Many thanks again, Heather
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  12. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    As a PS to my initial post, Frenchman Henri Morel junior has created a map (from personal research and some help from the Royal Artillery Museum). He has given it the title "British Troops Position End 39 Start 40" ... relating to British units near the Belgium border, at the end of 1939-beginning of 1940. If anyone can confirm or correct any detail, he will be very grateful. He will appreciate any help that can be given, even if it eliminates a detail he thought was accurate. It will get him closer to identifying the unit based at the Morel home, in Saméon (marked). Many thanks in advance. 1939_BritishArtilleryTroops_Position_End1939_BeginningOf1940_ByHenriMorelJunior.jpg
  13. heatherannej

    heatherannej Junior Member

    My Frenchman has narrowed the field to the 4th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company OR the 5th Infantry Brigade Anti-Tank Company being based in Saméon (end of 1939 to beginning of 1940) ... is there anyone who can confirm or eliminate these please? Here is a list he has been working to. Any contribution will help, one way or another. Thanks in advance. FlowChart_ByHenriMorelJunior.jpg

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