45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

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Richard Anderson
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Richard Anderson » 09 Jan 2022 07:14

Excellent, thank you.
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Knouterer
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Knouterer » 12 Jan 2022 07:44

Notes on 29th (Independent) Infantry Brigade (Group) (overlapping what Leros wrote):

In July 1940, two independent brigade groups were formed in England as a mobile reserve. These brigade groups were self-contained and, in fact, miniature divisions, each consisting of three/four regular infantry battalions and the usual supporting arms, gunners, sappers, signallers, R.A.S.C., Ordnance, etc. Both brigade groups were highly mobile with sufficient transport to move quickly to any area threatened by invasion. They were the 29th Independent Brigade Group (commanded by Brigadier Oliver Leese) and the 31st Independent Brigade Group (commanded by Brigadier H. E. F. Smyth). The infantry units were regular battalions recently recalled from India, the artillery units had been to France and were newly equipped with 25pdrs.

By September, the 29th IB consisted of the following:
• 1st Bn, The Royal Scots Fusiliers
• 2nd Bn, The East Lancashire Regiment
• 2nd Bn, The Royal Welch Fusiliers
• 2nd Bn, The South Lancashire Regiment ()
• 29 Independent Brigade Group Anti-tank Company (1 September 1940 – 18 January 1941)
• 204 Anti-tank Battery, Royal Artillery (16 July 1940 – 5 May 1941)
• 17 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery (16 July 1940 – 5 May 1941) – (had been to France with 4th Inf Div)
• "E" Company 5 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (Machine Guns) 16 August 1940 – 11 June 1941)
• 236 Field Company, Royal Engineers (16 July 1940 – 25 January 1943)
• 29 Independent Brigade Group Company, Royal Army Service Corps 1 August 1940 – 5 May 1941)
• 154 Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps (16 July 1940 – 25 January 1943)
• 29 Independent Brigade Group Workshop, Royal Army Ordnance Corps (27 April 1940 – 10 July 1941)
• 29 Independent Brigade Group Ordnance Field Park, Royal Army Ordnance Corps (29 April 1940 – 5 May 1941)
• 29 Independent Brigade Group Provost Section, Royal Military Police (18 July 1940 – 15 January 1943)

WD of the HQ of XII Corps (WO 166/344), 2 Aug. 1940:
“29 Inf Bde comes under command 12 Corps as Corps Reserve and were placed in area East Grinstead – Buxted – Haywards Heath – Horsham.” Bde HQ was at Staplefield.
Tasks were defined as follows:
“3. In the event of an enemy invasion in the areas specified, 29 Inf Bde. will be prepared to carry out the following tasks: -
(a) Under command of 45 Div. to recapture Newhaven.
(b) Under command of 1 M.M.G. Bde. to recapture Shoreham.
In addition to the above primary tasks, 29 Inf. Bde. will be prepared to operate in support of 45 Div. in any part of that divisional area, particularly with a view to destroying or limiting any enemy penetration in the Pevensey or Royal Military Canal areas.
4. In emergency, 29 Inf. Bde. may be required to occupy a sector of the Corps ROTHER LINE. Recce of this line will be carried out with a view to occupation of any sector at short notice.”

In contrast to other formations and units, the brigade did not have to spend time on constructing defences and guarding “Vulnerable Points”, and could concentrate on training and full-scale brigade exercises, as on 16, 22 and 30 Aug. and 12 Sept.
For the 16 Aug. exercise, the objective was to recapture Rye and Winchelsea (Operation Orders No. 1 and No. 2 of 29th Bde Group).
For a subsequent exercise, the less aggressive/ambitious intention was to occupy the Corps Reserve Line from Bucks Green to Lindfield, about 10 miles north of the Worthing-Brighton coastline.
Another one (Bde Exercise No. 7) involved concentrating north of Worthing with a view to a further advance towards Shoreham on the coast.
For the next one (Bde Exercise No. 8, carried out 12-13 Sept.) the aim was “to hold the sector of the Corps and G.H.Q. line from incl LINDFIELD to excl MAYFIELD”, again about 10 miles inland.

If such exercises can be taken as an indication of what the brigade group would actually do in case of an invasion of the south coast, it seems possible – assuming the Germans would break through the coastal defences and gain a foothold – that a strange lull in the battle would have developed in that sector, and possibly other sectors as well, with the Germans working hard to bring troops, vehicles and supplies ashore, and the British waiting for them ten miles or so inland, behind the Corps line and outside field artillery range.
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Knouterer
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Knouterer » 12 Jan 2022 07:47

Further to the 29th Inf Brigade group:

204 A/Tk Bty (WO 166/1675) (at Uckfield):
As noted in this WD for 5 Aug., the battery was “re-organised into four experimental 3 gun troops” (to support the four battalions in the Bde Group). This organization (J, K, L and M troop) was maintained for a couple of months at least.
11 Aug.: “Bty. training attention being paid to use of A.W. bombs (industrially produced molotov cocktails -K), hand grenades and the placing and fusing of A.Tk. mines”.

17th Field Regiment (WO 166/1473)
(10/26 Bty and 13/92 Bty)
18-26 July: “Vehicles, guns and equipment starting pouring in and the strain on the “Q” staff became terrific.”
30-31 July: “Stores still pouring in but still masses to come. Orders received that the Regiment would leave Aldershot for East Grinstead area on August 1st. (…) At midnight on 31st the Regiment, Signals Section and L.A.D. were complete in vehicles, guns and ammunition, but still entirely deficient in all communication equipment, i.e. wireless, telephones, cable, etc. We were told that we were to expect them in our new area.”
3-7 Aug.: “The Regiment spent these days in settling in. Stores continued to arrive intermittently and spasmodically, but still no wireless sets.”
10-12 Aug.: “Regimental Training continued but at the present, owing to operational necessity, this had to be carried out backwards, i.e. Bde. Training, Regimental Training, Battery Training, and finally it is earnestly hoped one day Individual Training.”
14-15 Aug.: “Wireless sets arrived and Batteries hurriedly put on charge to be ready in time for 16th. Still no gun stores.”
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Huszar666
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Huszar666 » 16 Jan 2022 08:41

Excelent info, as ususall!

Do you have any info what kind of guns 204 A/Tk Bty and 17th Field Regiment had? I assume from the post, that they were fully equiped, but with what?

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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Knouterer » 10 Feb 2022 17:26

As far as I can find out, the AT companies of those two brigade groups both had a full complement of twelve 2pdrs, and the field regiments twenty-four new 25pdrs, indicating their "elite" status; even the 1st Armoured Division had to make do with 18/25pdrs.

The AT Regiment of the 45th Division (the 69th) was, as of 14 Sept., organized as follows (WO 166/1641):

273 Bty: HQ Lydd 8 x 4” guns (static & mobile) in coastal positions
274 Bty: 6 x 6pdr under command of 5th Loyals
275 Bty: 4 x 75mm guns, “& has prepared posns for 4 2pdrs”. At Lydd on 20 Sept.
276 Bty: 7 x 2pdrs in prepared postions on the coast.
Furthermore “X Squadron has 9 A.F.V.’s (Malcolm Campbells) – Role to be defined later.”

The Regt had been promised more 2pdrs soon and the plan was to equip 274, 275 and 276 with 8 each, and hand in (most of) the 6pdrs and 75mm guns again. 273 would then become part of the Div reserve.
According to the plan, 275 would then have one 2pdr at Scotney (SW of Lydd), one at Lydd, two at place I read as “Cauldergate” – possibly Caldicott Farm between Lydd and New Romney, two at Northlade (NE of Lydd; strangely, that would be in front of the Main Sewer that had been made into a major tank obstacle?), and two at Brenzett.
276 would have 2 at Newhaven, 2 at Cuckmere Haven, 2 at Pevensey and 2 at Lockhurd (? handwriting…) plus two 6pdrs at “St Anthony’s Cross outside Eastbourne” (probably meaning St Anthony’s Hill).

274 would have 1 at Winchelsea, 2 covering approaches to Rye, 1 at Camber castle, and 4 in Div reserve “on wheels”.

The 16 x 2pdrs needed to re-equip 274 and 275 arrived at Regt HQ (Mayfield) on 25.9 and distribution to the batteries took place over the next couple of days.

Strength at the end of Sept. was 27 Off 427 ORs, about 100 under W/E.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Huszar666
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Huszar666 » 10 Feb 2022 18:22

Thanks again for the effort you made!
276 Bty: 7 x 2pdrs in prepared postions on the coast.
+
276 would have 2 at Newhaven, 2 at Cuckmere Haven, 2 at Pevensey and 2 at Lockhurd (? handwriting…) plus two 6pdrs at “St Anthony’s Cross outside Eastbourne” (probably meaning St Anthony’s Hill).
It does look like 276 Bty was almost fully equiped on the 14th and not much changed after the 25th (?). I assume, the guns were at the same position on both dates. The change was just getting the 8th gun and those two 6pdrs.
However, those two 6pdrs...
There was a "AT-Training Centre" mentioned for Eastbourne (with 6*6pdr?) and that strange Downsforce with having an "AT Gun BTY" (i.e. 8 guns). But, since the mention for both (?) was for October, and strangly, 45th Div just handed in 6*6pdr at the end of September, could I hazard the possibility, that that strange "AT Training Centre" was raised after the hand-over from handouts from 274 Bty? That would only leave the equially strange "Downsforce". Those 2*6pdrs with 276 Bty could be read as a Battery (the pdf from where the mention came was a bit iffy on British nomenclature, so who knows?) but where would they come from? "Downsforce" as a separate entity already in September (with what troops?) and 276 Bty just "inherited" the guns?

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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Knouterer » 12 Feb 2022 09:34

I have been puzzled too by the mysterious "Downsforce" which is mentioned often on the pillbox.org.uk website. The suggestion there is that it was some kind of permanent fixture in that part of Sussex, for a longer period, existing independently of whatever brigade and division occupied the area at any given time. However, unless it was part of the Home Guard, that sounds unlikely. The British army wasn't organized that way.
The Defence Area 14 (Cuckmere) and 66 (Pevensey) reports give WO 166/4354 as reference for the existence of "Downsforce".
That's the War Diary of the 9th Battalion King's Regiment, which in 1940 was part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division in Suffolk, later Essex. The division moved to Sussex in February 1941, when the 9th KR was indeed stationed in the Cuckmere area.
My (provisional) conclusion therefore is that Downsforce was simply a (reinforced) company of that battalion, and did not exist in 1940.
If there was such a thing as "Downsforce" in 1940, I would assume that it was (part of) the abovementioned 5th Loyals, a motorcycle battalion that constituted the 45th Division's mobile reserve. But that's just speculation of course.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Huszar666
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Re: 45th Division and Seelöwe/Sea Lion

Post by Huszar666 » 12 Feb 2022 12:16

My (provisional) conclusion therefore is that Downsforce was simply a (reinforced) company of that battalion, and did not exist in 1940.
If there was such a thing as "Downsforce" in 1940, I would assume that it was (part of) the abovementioned 5th Loyals, a motorcycle battalion that constituted the 45th Division's mobile reserve. But that's just speculation of course.
Thanks, that clears it up a bit.

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