War Diary of the 14th Army Tank Battalion (The Calgary Regiment)

December 1941 (Volume 11)

Place

Date

Hour

Summary of Events and Information

Headley, Hants

1/12/41

 

Monday.  Weather: cool, fog, occasional showers.
Blackout: 1715 hrs to 0815 hrs.
Monday the first of December was the regular weekly ‘vehicle holiday’.  Drivers and second-drivers, mechanics and fitters spent the day performing regular weekly maintenance tasks on the wheeled vehicles in the battalion.

   

0800

A recce party composed of Major JA Macdonald MC (Second in Command), Major J Begg (Officer Commanding ‘A’ Sqn), Major A Glenn (Officer Commanding ‘C’ Sqn), Lieut J Dunlap (‘B’ Sqn) and 2/Lieut Richardson (Quartermaster) left to inspect the area about Seaford, Sussex into which the battalion is expected to move shortly.  The party inspected various billets and barracks that were available in the area.
As yet, no official word has been received as to the date of the battalion’s move to Seaford, but it is expected to take place on or about the 15th of this month.

   

1630

A special battalion parade was held to honour Lieutenant Colonel Bradbrooke MC psc, the Officer Commanding.  Word was received three days before that Colonel Bradbrooke is to leave the battalion to go to the Middle East as a ‘military observer.’
The battalion was formed up in close-column of squadrons on the parade ground in ‘The Land of Nod’ (east of the Battalion Headquarters) and as Lieut Colonel Bradbrooke approached he was greeted by three rousing cheers from all ranks.
Colonel Bradbrooke spoke to his battalion expressing his appreciation for the co-operation that the men had given him and his hope that it would continue under his successor, Major JA Macdonald MC.  It was a hard task for Colonel Bradbrooke to say farewell to the regiment that he had commanded since its mobilisation and had brought all the way from Calgary, Alberta to this little village of Headley, Hampshire in England.  The Colonel then added his hopes that he would be able to come back some day to visit the battalion at least should he be unable to command it.
The battalion then moved off in Column of Route led by Major CE Page, and as the battalion passed a saluting base each troop paid its compliments to the Officer Commanding.  At the saluting base, Colonel Bradbrooke was accompanied by Major JA Macdonald and Capt FT Jenner.

   

1900

A special dinner was held in the Headquarters Officers Mess at ‘Headley Mount’ in honour of the Colonel and Mrs Bradbrooke.  Mrs Bradbrooke is in this country with the MTC – a Canadian organisation.  Guests in the Mess were the Officers Commanding the other squadrons in the battalion.
In keeping with the policy of the Calgary Regiment, there were no speeches at the dinner.
After dinner the officers of the other squadrons came to say their goodbyes to Colonel Bradbrooke.  Major Macdonald made a presentation to Mrs Bradbrooke from the Officers of the Regiment and then a small presentation was given to Lieutenant-Colonel Bradbrooke.
Colonel Bradbrooke said his last goodbyes to his officers and then left with Mrs Bradbrooke for Hindhead from where he will proceed to London to leave for the Middle East.

Headley, Hants

2/12/41

 

Tuesday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Blackout 1715 hrs to 0815 hrs.

   

1000

The regular weekly period from 1000 hrs to 1030 hrs during which respirators are worn by all ranks of the Canadian Corps.
As outlined in the previous volume of this diary, the battalion is now in the process of changing from the Mark IIA Star ‘I’ Tank (The ‘Matilda’) to the Mark IV ‘I’ Tank (The ‘Churchill’).  This has resulted in a change in training so that there is no training being carried on with the Matilda tank, while courses of instruction are being attended by personnel of the battalion on the Churchill Tank.  A course for qualifying drivers in the Churchill tanks is being run by the 11th Army Tank Battalion (The Ontario Regiment) who have been equipped with this tank since they arrived in this country in July.
Regimental instruction in gunnery and wireless is continuing.
With the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Bradbrooke, Major Macdonald has taken over the command of the battalion with Major J Begg as Second-in-Command.  Major Begg’s position as Officer Commanding ‘A’ Sqn has been taken over by Capt RR Taylor, formerly second-in-command of ‘C’ Sqn.  No one has been appointed to fill this vacancy.

   

1330

A Court of Inquiry presided over by Capt JPC Atwood MC (Officer Commanding HQ Sqn) was convened to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the damage to the hydraulic brake system on one of the Daimler Scout Cars.

Headley, Hants

3/12/41

0900

Wednesday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Regular training continued.  In keeping with the policy of improving the security-mindedness of all ranks, a series of lectures on ‘Security’ is being given to all squadrons by a member of the Field Security Personnel.  On this date a lecture was given to the men of Headquarters Squadron.

   

0930

Classes of instruction on the Mark IV Infantry Tank (The Churchill) are being given to the officers each morning at 0930 hrs in the Headquarters Officers Mess.  These classes are conducted by Capt CR Eldred, Regimental Technical Officer.
Training is continuing on the Mark IV tank and more of these tanks are being received by the unit.  At the present time the battalion has nineteen of these tanks on charge to it.  As these tanks are received the Mark IIA Star tanks are being returned.

Headley, Hants

4/12/41

0900

Thursday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Ministry of Information films were shown to men of all squadrons in the Headley Village Hall.  These films are put out weekly through the facilities of the YMCA.

   

1330

A special film called ‘Combined Operations’ was shown to Officers and NCOs in the ‘A’ Sqn NAAFI hut.  This film showed the various types of landing craft built for assaulting a hostile coast, and also the various ways in which such a coast may be attacked.

   

1930

At the regular biweekly meeting of the Officers, a lecture was given by two representatives of Vauxhall Motors Ltd, the makers of the Mark IV tank.

Headley, Hants

5/12/41

 

Friday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Regular training continued.

   

1330

A special demonstration of the various types of vehicles and equipment within the battalion was put on on Ludshott Common for twelve officers of the Royal Marines who visited the battalion.  They were given an opportunity to inspect the various types of tanks and vehicles and to ride in them all.

   

1400

Aircraft from #400 Army Co-operation Squadron, RCAF, stationed at Odiham, put on a mock air attack on all the squadron headquarters in the battalion.  The attack lasted for ten minutes.  #400 Sqn is equipped with single-seater fighters – Tomahawks – specially adapted for army co-operation work.

Headley, Hants

6/12/41

 

Saturday.  Weather: cloudy, cool, occasional showers.  Regular Saturday morning routine – clean up of billets and equipment.

Headley, Hants

7/12/41

0900

Sunday.  Weather: clear, cool.  A voluntary protestant church parade was conducted by H/Capt WEL Smith at Headley Village Church.

   

1030

A Roman Catholic Church service was held at the Roman Catholic Church in Grayshott.

   

1500

A demonstration of tanks and wireless equipment was held on Ludshott Common for a group of London factory workers.

Headley, Hants

8/12/41

0800

Monday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Regular weekly ‘vehicle holiday.’  A party of all ranks from all squadrons commanded by Major CE Page proceeded to ‘Ash Range’ just outside of Aldershot to carry out rifle and Bren LMG range practices.

   

0900

A similar party left to fire various pistol practices at the Longmoor Pistol Range at Longmoor.

   

1230

Lieutenant-Colonel JG Andrews arrived at the battalion to take over its command.  Colonel Andrews was formerly Brigade Major at this brigade headquarters (1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade) and has just received the command of this battalion.

   

1930

At the regular Monday evening meeting of the officers, Lieut-Col Andrews spoke to his officers for the first time.  He expressed his pleasure at being able to come to this battalion and outlined roughly what his policy would be for the immediate future.

Headley, Hants

9/12/41

0900

Tuesday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews and Major Macdonald left for a trip of inspection to the new billet area in Seaford, Sussex.
Regular training continued.  Driving and maintenance course at the Ontario Regiment is continuing with a new group of Officers and Other Ranks starting each Monday.
Wireless schools are being run under the direction of the Signals Officer, Lieut HS Roadhouse and the Signals Sergeant, Sgt C Rhinehart.  This course qualifies ‘Driver-operators’ for each tank crew.
Gunnery and general training is being carried out under squadron and troop arrangements.

Headley, Hants

10/12/41

1000

Wednesday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  2/Lieut Richardson, the Quartermaster, took part in an exercise to try out a new system for the delivery of supply and ammunition from the RCASC to Units within the Brigade.  This was a scheme whereby the load of supplies was taken direct from the ASC to the Unit by a Unit driver, thus eliminating the necessity to transfer the load to another vehicle at the Delivery Point.  One series of trucks tried out this system at the same time that another group was trying out the old system to compare the two for time and efficiency.
TQMS Freeman, who was with the battalion in Canada but was left behind in hospital, rejoined the battalion today.

   

1330

Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews and Major Macdonald returned from their tour of the Seaford area.

Headley, Hants

11/12/41

 

Thursday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  The change-over from the ‘Matilda’ tank to the ‘Churchill’ tank continues.  On this day sixteen more Matilda tanks were returned to Ordnance from the battalion.

   

1400

Major J Begg, formerly Officer Commanding ‘A’ Sqn and later Second-in-Command of the battalion left to attend a Commanding Officers, course at a school near Devizes, Wilts.

   

1900

At the regular Thursday evening meeting of the Officers in Headquarters Officers’ Mess at Headley Mount, Lieut Col Andrews talked to the officers on the operational role of the battalion when it moves to the Seaford area.  At the conclusion of the lecture, a meeting of the Officers’ Mess was held.  The following committee has been appointed to handle Mess Affairs for a period of six months starting in the New Year — President of the Mess Committee: Capt JPC Atwood MC; Secretary: Lieut AB Patterson (HQ Sqn); Members: Lieut DH McIndoe (A Sqn), Lieut J Dunlap (B Sqn), Lieut Douglas (C Sqn).

Headley, Hants

12/12/41

0900

Friday.  Weather: cloudy, cool, occasional showers.
Major Glenn, Capt Atwood, Lieuts Dunlap and Cornett left for the Seaford area.

   

1330

The Battalion’s advance party left with a convoy of nine trucks for the Seaford area.  Each squadron is represented by one officer and fifteen other ranks, Regimental Headquarters by the Quartermaster, 2/Lieut Richardson.  The Officers were — HQ: Lieut AB Patterson; ‘A’: Lieut Watkin; ‘B’: Lieut Dunlap; ‘C’: Lieut Cornett.
Preparations for the move of the main body of the battalion to Seaford were begun.  It is now known that the main party will leave for Seaford on Thursday, December 18th.  A rear party will be left behind to check-in equipment and they will proceed to Headley on the 20th December.

Headley, Hants

13/12/41

0930

Saturday.  Weather: cloudy, cool.  Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews left by car for Tunbridge Wells where he will stay for one week’s ‘study period’ with 12 Corps.
The regular Saturday routine was followed, that is, during the morning there was a clean-up of all billets, arms and equipment, and in the afternoon there were no parades.
The course to qualify drivers in the driving of the Mark IV (Churchill) tanks continued all day.  The lectures given in this course are held in the Salvation Army Hut in the lines of the Ontario Regiment, but the driving instruction is given on Ludshott Common, just east of ‘C’ Sqn lines.  All classes in this course have now finished the ‘theoretical’ portion of the course and are now being given driving and maintenance instructions on the tank itself.

Headley, Hants

14/12/41

0930

Sunday.  Protestant and Roman Catholic divine services were held in churches in Headley and Grayshott respectively.  The Protestant service was conducted by H/Capt WEL Smith, unit padre.

Headley, Hants

15/12/41

 

Monday.  Regular weekly ‘vehicle holiday’ for purposes of maintenance and petrol-economy.
Preparations were begun for the move of the battalion to the Seaford area, which is to take place on Thursday 18 Dec.  Squadron and Regimental Quartermaster Stores were occupied in packing their equipment, as were the transport and technical sections.
During the day, unit fitter and machinists, as well as several tank troops, were busy returning their Matilda’s to Ordnance Depots at either Aldershot or Bordon Camp and drawing Churchills in place of them.  Checking tanks in and out from Ordnance is a very long job, for not only does each item of equipment have to be checked, but on the new tanks the greatest care must be exercised in checking the ‘maintenance’, such as lubrication, track tension and the remainder of the suspension, hydraulic lines, etc, before the tank can be driven away.
In the squadrons, training was continued with particular emphasis on ‘maintenance’ so that all tanks would be in shape to be moved to the new area.

Headley, Hants

16/12/41

 

Tuesday.  The mid-month pay parade for all men of the battalion was held at various times during the day ‘by squadrons’.
Word was received today that Squadron Sergeant-Major JB Colloson of ‘B’ Sqn, who has been in hospital for some weeks, will be discharged from the army and returned to Canada for medical reasons.  In his place, Sergeant Ansell ASW will become SSM.
During the day, preparations for the move of the battalion continued.  Regular training is being carried out as far as possible,  The ‘Churchill’ School being held at the Ontario Regiment continued during the day, but it is to be stopped today and will be continued later in the new area if circumstances permit.

Headley, Hants

17/12/41

 

Wednesday.  Cloudy, cool, some showers.  Final preparations were made for the move during this day, and by nightfall all vehicles were ready and loaded for the move to Seaford starting at 0830 hrs in the morning.
Personnel and all equipment except tanks are to be taken by road.  The tanks are to be moved by train – four trains being allocated to the battalion for this purpose.  Three of these trains are to leave from Bordon Camp Station while the last one will leave from Haslemere Station.  The distance from Headley necessitated the tanks for this train at Haslemere being driven to Haslemere during the afternoon so that they would be ready for loading first thing in the morning.

Headley, Hants

18/12/41

0800

Thursday.  Cloudy, cool.  The party for ‘traffic control’ left to place men on ‘point duty’ at various places on the route to be followed by the main party.

   

0830

The main convoy left the village of Headley.  The order of march was ‘C’ Sqn (led by Lieut Stanton), ‘A’ Sqn, ‘HQ’ Sqn and lastly ‘B’ Sqn.  The battalion start line was the main cross road in Hindhead; the brigade start line was in front of Brigade Headquarters on the Hindhead-Haslemere road.  The head of the column passed the brigade start line at 0900 hrs.
Then route followed by the column was as follows: Headley, Grayshott, Hindhead, Haslemere, Northchapel, Petworth, Wisborough Green, Billingshurst, Coolham, Cowfold, Hurstpierpoint, Ditchling, Lewes, Newhaven to Seaford.

Bordon Camp

 

0700

‘B’ Sqn began loading tanks onto the tank train at Bordon Camp station.  Loading was completed by 0920 hrs and the train left for Seaford at 0955 hrs.

Haslemere, Surrey

 

0800

‘C’ Sqn began loading their tanks onto the tank train at Haslemere station.  These tanks had been taken to Haslemere the previous day and had been left in Haslemere overnight.  Loading was completed and the train left the station at 1110 hrs.

Bordon Camp

 

0930

‘A’ Sqn tanks loaded onto another train at Bordon Camp which left at 1230hrs.

Bordon Camp

 

1400

‘HQ’ Tanks and the TCPs from all squadrons were loaded on the last train at Bordon Camp which left the station at 1700 hrs.

Seaford, Sussex

 

1235

The convoy arrived in Seaford, Sussex at 1235 hrs after having stopped on the road for lunch just north of Lewes.  Each squadron was met by its own guides on the advance party who guided the squadron vehicles to the squadron parking area and then directed the men to their quarters.

   

1445

‘B’ Sqn tank train arrived at Seaford station and the tanks were driven to their squadron harbour.

   

1535

‘C’ Sqn tank train arrived.

   

1745

‘A’ Sqn tank train arrived.

   

2225

The train carrying ‘HQ’ tanks and all TCPs arrived at Seaford station.

     

The afternoon was spent in sorting out where everything was to go and where everyone was to sleep.  It was found that a large number of rooms in all the houses did not have ‘blackouts’ which meant great improvisation with greatcoats, blankets, etc.  As is the case in every move the first meal was not very appreciated, for the cooks, faced with new and baffling stoves of all sorts and varieties, did not make out as well as usual.

Headley, Hants

   

A rear party representing all squadrons and commanded by Major Page and Capt Valentine was left behind in Headley to turn back al ‘barrack room stores’ and other equipment on charge to the battalion from Bordon Sub-area, and to clean up all billets, etc, before turning them over.

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