WAR DIARY (edited and abridged)

 

2/4th Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment

May 1940

Place

Date

Hour

Summary of Events and Information

Southwold

1

 

Strength Total 995

 

 

 

"A" Company Walberswick; "B" Company Kessingland; "C" Company Walberswick; "D" Company Wrentham; HQ Southwold; QM [Quarter Master], MT [Motor Transport] and Admin Halesworth '(the rail-head).

 

10

 

German invasion of Holland and Belgium.

 

 

0300

Warning that invasion was possible received. Code Word (a) issued.

 

 

0350 to 0410

Air Raid warnings "Yellow" in force in Kessingland, Wrentham and Southwold.

 

 

1540

Emergency platoon of "A" Company took up position at Darsham.

 

 

1754

"C" Company road block party in position at Point 904939 (Ref. Sheet 77 O.S. 1 inch)

 

11

0700

Conference of Company Commanders at Battalion HQ. Issue of orders to take up war positions.

Bulcamp

11

 

Battalion occupies war positions: Battalion HQ retires to Red House, Bulcamp; "A" Company {less Emergency Platoon) retired to Bulcamp; "B" and "D" Companies took up positions in Southwold; "C" Company at Walberswick.

 

12

 

Battalion commenced to dig in and wire.

 

12

 

Battalion standing to every day for half an hour at 0330 and 2115 hours.

 

13

 

Only 25% of Battalion to stand to.

 

18

 

Emergency Platoon of "A" Company withdrawn from Darsham.

 

18

 

"A" Company moved to Wrentham.

 

20

 

Flooding of marshes commenced at Walberswick and completed satisfactorily. Bridges over dykes removed or destroyed.

 

20

 

Entrance to River Blyth at Walberswick blocked by means of block-ships.

 

20

 

Work on F.D.Ls [Forward Defended Locality]. steadily maintained throughout the Battalion.

 

25

 

"A" Company moved to Dunwich.

 

30

 

On orders received from Brigade the Battalion manned all positions and road blocks during the hours of darkness.

 

31

 

Bridge mined at Point 906933 ( ref, Sheet 77 O.S. 1 inch)

 

31

 

Strength 901

Bulcamp

June 1

 

All companies are still busy digging and wiring their defensive positions. We have had uninterrupted sunny weather for a month and the morale of the battalion is good in spite of the long hours of work.

 

9

 

Battalion completed firing of the Bren Gun and every man has now been through the Gas Chamber.

 

12

 

New hours of work adopted by forward companies. These companies now get eight hours uninterrupted sleep from 0300 hours to 1100 hours instead of being continually disturbed by Air Raid Warning "Red". Their day now runs from 1100 hours to 0300 hours and several visiting officers have been much surprised at being greeted with "Good morning Sir" at 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

 

12

 

Battalion goes on R.A.S.C. [Royal Army Service Corps] rations.

 

14

 

All companies report that they are in favour of keeping to the new hours.

 

15

 

72nd Medium Regiment R.A. arrived at Henham Park, they set up two O.P.s [Observation Posts], on e in the Lighthouse at Southwold, the other on top of the church at Walberswick.

 

17

 

Beach Mines arrived for use in the Battalion area.

 

18

 

Each company sent two or three men to Fornham Park to be trained in the use of the Lyons light. One light was brought back and allotted to "A" Company.

 

19

 

New Home Defence Scheme issued, copies of the original scheme destroyed by fire.

 

Night 21/22

 

Air Raid. Two small bombs fell in Henham Park near the M.T. but no damage was done and several souvenirs were obtained. Three large bombs fell in the field by Wangford Farm and eight of which one failed to explode, fell in the low ground by Bulcamp Farm.

 

26

 

Prime Minister Winston Churchill visited area. The Commanding Officer had lunch with him at Southwold. In the afternoon "B" Company were honoured by an inspection by the Prime Minister who also visited some of "D" Companies positions.

 

Night 28/29

 

No Air Raid Warning "Red". However ten H.E. [High Explosive] bombs were dropped on Dunwich but one of them did not explode. No damage was done except to a graveyard and a chicken run. In addition nearly one hundred Incendiary bombs fell in this area. Several fires were started but were quickly extinguished by the original but effective fire fighting qualities shewn by "A" Company. 

 

30

 

The Battalion, as a result of a really hard month's work in which every man has played his part is now fully prepared for any eventuality. We can assure any prospective visitors, whether they are coming to protect us or not, of a warm welcome. All forward companies have completed very good defensive positions. In the interior there is plenty of room and the men are very comfortable when they have to sleep at their posts. On the exterior there is a diversity of camouflage varying from rubbish heaps to innocent looking fishing huts. Along the beach both at Dunwich and Southwold, also Walberswick, there is an imposing array of concrete Anti-tank obstacles, which in some cases pass right in front of the section posts.

 

 

 

All personnel have fired their rifle and L.M.G. [Light Machine Gun] courses and each company in turn fired at toy balloons by way of A.A. [Anti Aircraft] practice. Several balloons were shot down. D. Company with four were the top scorers. As many men as there were ammunition for fired the Anti-Tank rifle. They found it to be far less frightening than they had expected. It has now been found possible to allow one platoon of each company to go out training locally each day.

Battalion Strength 912.

Bulcamp

July 17

 

Amended and completed Defence Scheme for East Anglia issued.

 

20

1400 to 1600

An exercise was held with the 66 A/T [Anti-Tank] Regiment. HQ Company took part. Carriers and Motor Cycle Platoon acted as enemy.

 

21

 

Captain Rhodes, The Green Howards, gave a lecture to Officers on his experiences with the BEF in France and Belgium and the lessons to be drawn from there with particular reference to dive bombing.

 

23

 

In the early morning eight bombs were dropped in the sea off Dunwich (North). It is thought possible that it was a British plane unloading in difficulties.

 

26

 

All personnel have two suits serviceable and two pairs of boots, All anti-gas equipment up to war scale. Unit holds full complement of Bren guns (50) and twelve 2 inch Trench Mortars with bombs.

 

30

0300 to 1800

An exercise was held in which all companies took part, the enemy being purely imaginary until the afternoon: then "C" Company and two sections of the Motor Cycle Platoon were treated as enemy who had captured Walberswick - and were attacked by "A" Company and the Carrier Platoon.

 

31

 

Strength 897

 

 

 

General: the defended positions are now all finished. Moreover there are no less than fifty concrete pill boxes either complete or under construction in the Battalion area - of these 42 are manned by the Battalion, 6 by the LDV (Local Defence Volunteers) and 2 by the Royal Artillery. Concrete Anti-Tank blocks have been erected all along the Battalion front at all points where the enemy might conceivably attempt to land A.F.Vs [Armoured Fighting Vehicles]. And in addition Anti-Tank mines have been laid on the beach at South Dunwich, North Dunwich and Southwold. Under water obstacles are being set up at Dunwich. There are also anti-personnel beach mines at Dunwich South and Walberswick. The Battalion is taking energetic steps in the question of salvage - cardboard, paper, tins etc are collected daily for dispatch.

Bulcamp

Aug

 

During the month ... an interesting acquisition was the Thompson Sub Machine Gun firing .45 bullets and 4 Hotchkiss Guns. The 2 3' Trench Mortars arrived at last but we are still awaiting another 8 anti-Tank Rifles ... Towards the end of the month we received 7 Bedford trucks and three vans for the Motorcycle Platoon.

The Battalion was honoured by being the only one in the Division to which Officers of the Dutch army have been attached...

 

Sept 1

 

Strength 908.

 

2

 

"C" Company move into reserve at St Felix School, Southwold and "D" Company go to Walberswick.

 

7

 

Battalion exercise for "C" Company Motorcycle Platoon, Carriers and Mortars. Code Word "B: received.

 

9

 

Weekly leave stopped but daily leave continued.

 

11

 

"C" Company, Motorcycle Platoon, Carriers and Mortars took part in an attack. Enemy was provided by 361 Battery of 66 AntiTank Regiment, 1 Platoon of H Company, 2 Platoons Ks and 1 troop of 348 Battery 136 Field Regiment. Private Kay of Carrier Platoon received a gunshot wound from which he died in Norfolk and Norwich General Hospital, Norwich.

 

14

 

"C" Company, Intelligence Section, Mortars and Motorcycle Platoon take part in a small Battalion exercise. 6 Anti personnel bombs in Southwold.

 

16

 

German plane flew very low over Bulcamp. Later it machine gunned streets of Halesworth and Holton.

 

21

 

Battalion scheme. "C" Company attacked "D" Company in Walberswick.

 

22

 

2 High Explosive Bombs fell in marshes south west of Walberswick

 

23

 

Unidentified plane (believed to be British) crashed in sea off Southwold. Pilot observed baling out, his fate is unknown.

 

25

 

2 High Explosive Bombs fell in Tinker's Marshes, North West of Walberswick.

 

26

 

144 Beach Mines exploded between Walberswick Jetty and the Lifeboat House. 1 Royal Artillery Officer was injured.

 

27

 

"B" Company moved into reserve at St Felix School, Southwold. "C" Company go to Dunwich. Heath fire at Walberswick, put out by "D" Company.

 

30

 

Strength 866.

General: All defence positions are in good order, and it is certain that the enemy would meet with a very warm reception should he care to test them.

The past month has been marked by increase in the number of 2 inch and 3 inch Mortar Bombs... the receipt of U.S. Army Smith Wesson Revolvers (8)... and the full establishment of compasses liquid.

The unit has been issued with shoulder titles for use on great coats and indents [orders] have been submitted for winter underwear. An additional two blankets per man have been issued prior to 1st October owing to inclement conditions, and so many personnel sleeping in exposed positions. 

A very gratifying feature has been that many friends have come forward to offer gifts of fruit and vegetables for the use of the troops, and in certain cases the unit has been allowed to help itself to orchards.

The weekly day leave recently instituted has been very greatly appreciated by all concerned, and it can be said that the morale of the troops is of a very high standard. 

 

Oct 2

 

110 men joined the Battalion from I.T.C. [Infantry Training Centre]

Blythburgh

4

 

Machine gun fire heard above Bulcamp.

 

9

 

Heath fire at Dunwich Common.

 

10

 

Gas spray demonstration on Westleton Heath. A practice was made with Golden Rain Rockets.

 

15

 

Body of German airman washed up on beach at Eastern Broads.

Week leave and day passes suspended until further notice.

 

16

 

Body of British airman found on beach at Walberswick south of dummy guns by Coastguard. The body was taken to the Towers at Walberswick and Civil Police searched body, fractured skull, left arm and leg broken. No identity discs or papers. A black object washed up on the beach at Southwold in front of No. 8 Platoon positions. It was 3 feet long and had a spike on each end. Naval authorities at Harwich warned, on investigation found to be a buoy. 

 

18

 

Body of German airman washed up at Gun Hill Southwold in full flying kit and taken to Southwold morgue and searched by Civil police, all his documents were on him, age 23 born in Danzig, was an observer.

 

19

 

R.E. [Royal Engineers] blow up old explosives on the Flats below Walberswick, terrific explosion and broken windows at Walberswick - one man received slight concussion.

 

24

1830

The body of a German airman was washed up in front of the Ladies lavatory position Southwold, taken to the morgue and searched by police. They took his badges off. He seemed to have been in the water for some time. Name Heinz Schmitz, No. 7/60028, rank Flight/Sergeant, age 26/28.

 

28

1350

Naval patrol vessel "Harvest Gleaner" sunk by enemy action off Southwold. Attacked by a Junkers 88 and sustained direct hit down funnel casing and was afterwards machine gunned. Three dead left on board. Survivors taken to Lowestoft. Aircraft engaged by A and D Companies fire.

 

29

 

Three or four small bombs at Walberswick - plane fired on.

 

31

 

Strength 951

In April when the Division moved to East Anglia the Battalion comprised approximately one third Territorials, one third 1st and 2nd intake and one third April intake. The latter had not even finished their recruit training when the crisis in May drove everyone to strenuous defensive work.

There was no Carrier platoon, no Motorcycle platoon and the Mortar platoon had no Mortars. Rifle companies had not got their 2 inch Mortars, Ant-tank Rifles and the transport was primarily old hired vehicles. On leave East Anglia the Battalion moves with all ranks equipped ... Transport not up to strength.  Every man exercised in Rifle, Bren and Ant-Tank Rifle with some experience of 2 inch and 3 inch Mortar firing and a very considerable experience of night work and active service conditions even if primarily defensive. 12 Tommy guns have been added to its equipment and a Motor Cycle platoon added...

Physically the Battalion is extremely fit and if not yet marching fit (a test of the reserve company in this last month has shown that the company would do 15, 15 and 13 miles on consecutive days without strain at 3 miles in 50 minutes).

 

The Battalion moved from Walberswick in early November.


This war diary was edited and abridged from the original WO166/4680 held at The National Archives.