Welcome to this blog which is intended to accompany a website on how Suffolk was defended during the Second War. The blog will describe my trips out and about looking for the remains of the Second War defences while the Website will concentrate on putting these into context.

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Monday, 5 March 2012

75mm Field Gun Battery Position - Part 3

RA 15th Division Operational Instruction No 28 specified  the movement of certain Field batteries to make "the greatest possible fire power for A.T defence" - E Troop 494 battery was included in this instruction. By 16th April troops were to have completed the following task:

"(a) Registration of primary and secondary defensive fire tasks
(b) Wiring of troop position
(c) camouflage, and track plan
(d) Communications to bring each new position within the Signal Plan of each Sub-Sector".

I had a look for any remains of the new position for E Troop at Tinkers Walks but could find no trace. It is however still easy to visualise the position in the landscape. This post will hopefully illustrate this and also look in more detail at the tasks of this field battery.

The battery and its wagon line was sited in the vicinity of Eastwoodlodge Farm. The main observation post was in Walberswick and described as being in the "house with a tower".

Above: The battery was situated in ground just to the north of Eastwoodlodge Farm. Bottom photo shows Eastwoodlodge Farm in the background, photo taken from Tinkers Walks. An anti-landing trench can be seen on the left hand side.

The battery had predetermined Defensive Fire Tasks and Concentration Fire Tasks. The guns should be able to be fired in any direction, including westwards. To fire westwards would mean running the guns out of their pits - positions were to be marked out for this. 

Defensive Fire Tasks were called for  by the infantry by telephone and / or by putting up the SOS signal (i.e. Golden Rain rockets). This was to be answered by 10 rounds per gun. 

To enable a heavy concentration of fire to be brought down on an enemy attacking the more important beaches, "Defensive Fire Concentrations" were arranged in front of  selected beaches. A Concentration Task was normally ordered by the Brigadier commanding the Infantry in response to the infantry sending the message "HELP" followed by the letter and number of the concentration task. In exceptional circumstances the battery commander could put down concentrated fire on any area in which he was supporting on request of the local infantry commander. The rate of fire for Concentration Tasks was as follows:

Scale C (in absence of orders to the contrary) - 5 rounds per gun rapid
Scale D (when ordered) - 20 rounds per gun rapid
Rapid fire for 75mm's was set at 4 rounds per gun per minute.

After firing on a Concentration, guns were to remain laid on the target for five minutes before relaying on their Defensive Fire Task so as to be ready for "REPEAT" calls.

Above E Troops Defensive Fire (P.D.F 21) and Concentration Tasks (P 74, P77, P80 and P83). Other batteries would also have the same task so for concentration fire D/51 Heavy (two 6" guns) could also engage P.D.F 21 and E Troop could also engage P.D.F 15 and 18. For Concentration Tasks a total of four 25 pdrs and twelve 75mms (including E Troop) would engage P74, eight 75mm and two 6" guns P77, P80 and P83. Note all Defensive and Concentration Fire Tasks were at least 200 yards out to sea from the high water mark.

On June 25th the battery received Operational Instruction No 24 which required certain Field batteries to re-site one gun in an anti-tank role. E troop was to  move one gun to a location in whins 100 yds east of the anti-tank ditch to operate as an anti-tank gun. This gun's task was to enfilade the road and cover the anti-tank ditch north of the road. It's arc was about NW to WSW through West. Instructions were ordered to provide alternative positions to cover the zone (in most cases two alternative positions were to be preapred). Camouflage was of great importance:

"The greatest possible care will be taken over camouflage. Camouflage will be put up before the first sod or brush is cut".

The above, not surprisingly, ties in with manuals of the time. The anti-tank gun was a direct fire weapon and relied upon surprise and concealment. "They must therefore be sited defiladed from the front, be well dug in, and should engage tanks in enfilade in order to avoid striking the tank in front where the armour is thickest. Camouflage must be of the highest order.....a gun spotted by the enemy must be taken as useless...". Once a gun had been located it was German practice to stage an immediate encirclement movement with other tanks to destroy it. As a result anti-tank guns were supposed to be sited in mutual support but there was simply not enough guns to go round for this in 1940/41. Alternative positions were also essential - "if guns are not fully dug in and do not move after a successful engagement, they are in danger of being destroyed before the next assault, or neutralised during it".

Above: Top - position of E troop, Observation Post and anti-tank gun. The location of the anti-tank ditch is marked in red. 
Middle: Photo taken from the approx location of the anti-tank gun. The location of the anti-tank ditch is marked in red.
Bottom: Aerial photo, 1945 showing the anti-tank ditch with the approx position of the anti-tank gun.

The battery was to be manned by sufficient troops to operate the guns in an emergency within 30 minutes during daytime or 5 minutes during night time in normal conditions. On "Stand To" it was to be manned by the full detachment. The Observation post was to be manned permanently by one assistant and one signaller during normal times. On "Stand To" an officer was to be present.

The Wagon lines were sited close to the battery, probably in line with RA 15th Div Operating Instruction No 38. This Instruction stated that on "Stand To" wagons were to be brought up to the battery position if there was adequate cover or to the nearest infantry locality in order to increase the mobility of batteries during active operations and also to provide additional personnel to defend the battery position.

The final post in this thread will look briefly at the 75mm gun.

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