Introduction – Artillery – Journal 42

This issue’s cover theme introduces a few of our Second World War veterans who served in the Royal Artillery (RA). ( Issue 42)

We begin with the retelling of extraordinary survival against the odds by two gunners, both of whom were victims of atrocities committed by enemy forces.

Gunner Brian Fahey of 52nd (6th London) Anti-Tank Regiment was in rear-guard action at Dunkirk in May 1940. He was one of around 100 captive soldiers who were taken for execution by Waffen-SS during the Wormhoudt Massacre. Fergus Anckorn of 118th Field Regiment was captured by the Japanese at the Fall of Singapore in 1942. He survived the Alexandra Hospital Massacre and the The Thai Burma Railroad.
Also in Burma is Ian Wallace, captain of an Indian artillery mountain regiment. Ian gives a highly detailed account of the assault of Point 551 during the Second Arakan Offensive, and the storming of the hill by the Gurkhas – a sight which he describes as the ‘most exhilarating moment in the war that I ever experienced.’

From the Far East we move to Russia, through Albania and into Italy with the wartime experiences of Anton Hoch, a German artillery signaller.

Polar Bear Butchers takes us to the battlefields of France and the Netherlands in 1944 through the diary of T. Bentley who served with 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment, RA, of 49th (West Riding) Division. To conclude our cover theme, we have a description of Breendonck internment camp from a secret report ‘Underground Resistance in Germany’, donated to the Centre by D. Goddard of 112th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. This is illustrated with rare, original photographs from the collection of A. Barnes.
A wide range of articles follow, including fighting with the Polish Underground in Warsaw. Mike Roland (previously Mieczyslaw Rzewinski) recalls the Seige of Lwów (Lviv) in which, aged seventeen years old and armed with a rifle, he defended the Army cadet corps buildings against the German occupiers. In his interview with Peter Liddle, Mike recalls in vivid detail his work with the Polish Underground in Warsaw as a smuggler and executioner, and his participation in the Warsaw Uprising as a platoon leader with Company Ambrosia.
From the archives we have the story of the SS City of Cairo which was sunk by German submarine U-68 in November 1942. Six overcrowded lifeboats laden with survivors set sail for the nearest land, St Helena, 480 miles away. We hold information on three of the ship’s passengers, and through their material we relive the tragedy of the Cairo
and learn of the fate of those who endured up to fifty-one days lost at sea.
Victoria Cross recipient Eric Wilson, King’s African Rifles, formed seventy-five Somali conscripts into a company of machine gunners with the Somaliland Camel Corps. In the Battle of Tug Argan, Eric recalls the action on Observation Hill at Tug Argan in British Somaliland. Under heavy enemy fire, and despite suffering from malaria and wounded in his face and shoulder, Eric remained steadfastly at his post until the defence was overcome. Missing and presumed killed, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous gallantry. Months later he was discovered alive in an Italian prisoner of war camp.
The development of flame warfare on Britain’s Home Front is the subject of David Barton’s article, discussing the early developments of flame barriers on the sea and the use of Wasps and Churchill Crocodiles in Normandy on D-Day. The Crocodile flamethrower also features in Ernie Cox’s memoir. Ernie served as a wireless operator in A Squadron, 141 Royal Armoured Corps, in the first flame throwing tank unit in the British Army. He saw action in the invasion of Normandy in ‘Stallion’, A Squadron’s Crocodile. His article, drawn from his extensive memoir, describes the conversion of his tank into a flamethrower and his action at Le Bon Repos in July 1944 as part of Operation Greenline during the Second Battle of the Odon.

Our contributors for this issue have donated articles ranging from James Goulty’s overview of the 25-pounder field gun; Bernard Ineichen’s From Alexandria to Austria which compares the wartime motorcycling experience of two British soldiers; and The Foreman Went to France by Graham Bebbington who tells the story of Welsh engineer Melbourne Johns whose wartime exploits became immortalised in a 1942 British Second World War film, The Foreman went to France.
John Larder, historian and researcher at the Yorkshire Air Museum, has corrected an error in Bruce Vibert’s aircraft production figures in the last issue (pg 32). John’s research shows that 2,573 Swordfish and 2,350 Seafires were produced. Of interest, John also mentions that most Swordfish were built by Blackburns at a new factory at Sherburn in Elmet, Yorkshire,  but many of the parts were made in a virtual cottage industry off North Street, Leeds; hence why one of the surviving Swordfish is called ‘City of Leeds’.