Sgt K T Randall

 Ken Randall Sgt RA

Ken Randall Sgt Royal Artillery

5th Survey Regiment Royal Artillery

In 2001 the Centre received wartime material relating to former Sgt Ken Randall who served with the 5th Survey Regiment, Royal Artillery from 1939 – 1946.    Mr Randall died in 2000, and his material was donated to the Centre by his nephew, Mr David Saunders. 

The material includes Mr Randall’s Army release book, service documents and letters, photographs and an interesting collection of German propaganda leaflets.  His service record shows that he was a member of the Territorial Army in Bristol at the outbreak of war, and he was ordered to join his regiment, 3rd Survey Regiment RA on 1 September 1939.  The 5th Survey Regiment RA was formed in 1939 as a duplicate of 3rd Survey Regiment, and it appears that Gunner (as he then was) Randall joined the 5th almost immediately, and served throughout the war in the UK, North Africa, Italy, and Austria before demob in June 1946.

The role of a wartime Artillery Survey Regiment was to map and locate the position of enemy artillery, and thus direct one’s own artillery fire upon them.  Air photography became an increasingly important means of locating enemy artillery positions, but always in conjunction with Sound Ranging and Flash Spotting as undertaken by ground personnel.  Indeed, weather conditions often meant that aerial photography was not possible at all.  Survey Regiments were initially organised into three batteries, one each of Survey, Sound Ranging, and Flash Spotting and later, from November 1943, each Survey Regiment had two batteries each of three troops i.e. an Observation Troop, Sound Ranging Troop, and a Survey Troop.  There were eventually eleven Survey Regiments in all, numbered 1 – 11.


Ken Randall served in the UK with 5th Survey Regiment as part of Home Forces from September 1939 to November 1942.  At the outbreak of the war his regiment remained in the Bristol area undergoing training and then, after the fall of France and at the height of the invasion scare, spent some months on the Kent coast spotting enemy guns across the English Channel.

5th Survey Battery Camp Site - Larkhill jul-Aug 1940

5th Survey Battery Camp Site – Larkhill Jul-Aug 1940

The Regiment had been incorporated into 5th Corps in 1940 and, in the summer of 1942, was stationed in that Corps’ area, between Salisbury and Warminster.  The 5th Survey Regiment’s Commanding Officer during this period was Lt Col E A L Oldfield ( author of the history of the Army PT Corps pub. Gale and Polden – 1955) .  Later that year, in November 1942, a troop from the Survey Battery of the Regiment landed in North Africa with the 78th Division, and conducted survey data for the divisional artillery.  A further Survey Battery troop from the 5th went to North Africa shortly thereafter providing survey support for the 6th Armoured Divisional Artillery initially, and later moved south to Robaa in support of French artillery.  The remainder of 5th Survey Regiment, including Ken Randall, landed in Algiers in early January 1943, and moved east up to Bone (now Annaba) by sea and thence on up to the battle area in the Allied race for Tunis.

After the German surrender in Tunisia, the Regiment remained there until its move to Italy, seeing action on the Ortona Ridge in December 1943, the Anzio beachhead, and the Gothic Line.  Later, in early 1945, it moved north towards Austria and was engaged on post-war occupation duties there from May to November 1945 before returning to southern Italy and disbandment in 1946.

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Gallery Summary


After his demob in 1946, Sgt Randall returned to the Bristol area and was living in Somerset at the time of his death in 2000.

With his material was a copy of the D Day Dodgers song – a bitter, contemporary rendition exemplifying the belief by the Allied troops who fought in the Italian campaign that their hard won contribution was over shadowed by the saturation coverage of the achievements of the Normandy landings.   The third verse goes thus:


‘Naples and Cassino were taken in our stride

We didn’t go to fight there, we just went for the ride.

Anzio and Sangro were just names,

We only went to look for dames,

We artful D Day Dodgers, all over Italy’.


And ends:


‘Look around the mountain, in the mud and rain,

You’ll find the scattered crosses, some which have no name.

Heart-break and toil and suffering gone,

The lads beneath them slumber on.

They’re the D Day Dodgers who’ll stay in Italy’.





Edited by Anne Wickes – The Second World War Experience Centre

July 2016