1/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers

1941-1943

WW2


A
B
C
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This is Jim Hearne
he was 1/5th then (108 Regt R.A.C) on disbandment he went to 43rd Reece Regt
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Jim Hearne with
43rd Reece Regt after the disbandment of 1/5th Bn



Alfred Horspole,
whose niece is trying to trace anyone who knew him.
if you can help click on photo


Sent in by
Robert Le Chantoux
who is researching
108, 109, 143 RAC
which the 1st/ 5th and 1st/ 6th Bn and 9th Lancashire Fusiliers became part of.


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Trooper Robb. There is a trooper G Robb listed in the 1/5 LF (108 RAC) 1946 booklet as a member of HQ Sqn, so I believe him to be the same individual. His regimental number 7881646 indicates that he was RTR. Not surprising as once converted to RAC an influx of experienced RTR trooper, NCOs, WOs and officers came to bring their expertise to the converted infantry battalions. As you will see from the photo he is still wearing the LF cap badge he wore when in 108 RAC. It is an extract form a group photo of G Wing, 100 OCTU (Sandhurst) taken in April 44.

By the way on that very interesting list in the 1946 booklet I found at least three ex 108 RAC officers: Lt Clark, Hird and Moxon who were KIA in 1944 serving in armoured regiments. One in Italy and two in N.W.E.

1. Set of photos linked to Corporal J G Hofton. You might be interested by the following to add to your site. There are photos of the MT section of 1/5 Lancs Fus taken sometime between I believe end of 1940 and before conversion to a RAC regt i.e end of Oct 1941. In fact I noticed that it is the photo listed in your 2bn section. I can say that because the photo I am sending you is on a frame with at the top the mention "1/5 Lancashire Fusiliers MT section". To get a better resolution I unframed it. The title is attached if you can reunite them.
The reason for those dates is the fact that some of them on the photo are wearing the 42 Inf Div flash, a red Arm of service strip for 125 Inf Bde and the bn flash (difficult to see but badges are there when using a magnifying glass). Set of badges which were not worn as such before end of 1940 early beginning of 41. But I am opened to any other information. Fourth row extreme right is J G Hofton.
By the way I would be interested if you had any information on Platoon Sergeant Major (WO III) F Hawkins and the two sergeants seated in front. They were probably either regulars coming form an active LF Battalion or were recalled to the Colours! PSM Hawkins hs at least two ribbons (India?).

2. Photo of five Fusiliers. Fusilier (then) 3451299 J G Hofton is front row extreme left. He is listed in 108 RAC booklet as C Sqn. His AB 64 mentionned him qualified and employed as a Motor Mechanic. He was by trade as a civilian a lorry driver. Something less common in 1939 than to day.
3. The man in the middle front row is (to be confirmed) 3456815 Fus W Furnevall. He is also listed in the 1946 booklet as HQ Sqn 108 RAC. Extreme right is 3457314 Fus E L Thomas. Listed as HQ Sqn 108 RAC. Standing behing Thomas is Fus 3452335 C Button , listed in HQ Sqn 108 RAC. I could not identify the last man. The four identified men are in the large picture.

4. Photo of Fusiliers J G Hofton probably taken early after joining given the way he is dressed i.e. BD blouse a bit loose and not very well fitted.

Once published in February 2009 I will forward to you a copy of the magazine. The article is not specifically around the Lancashire Fusiliers but I believe will interest you as it is part of the history of the Infantry battalions during WW II which has been quite forgotten.

Hoping that it is of some interest to you
Best regards

Robert


"This is a short account of the 2 year period 1941 to 1943 when the 1/5th LF
(now re retrained as an Armoured Regiment and known as the 108th Regiment RAC)
were to spend their last 2 years in the UK before disbandment"
1/5th Bn. (the 108th Regt. R.A.C.) The Lancashire Fusiliers Bulletin.


DRAFT 1941 - 43

In the following paragraphs my purpose is to write the last chapter, the tragic end, of a noble tale in all many years long.
As 1941 began, we were defending the coast in the neighbourhood of Southwold, Suffolk: the positions were considered important. We were "next to the Navy by the sea." Looking at a seven or eight hundred-yard platoon front, it seemed just as well that the Navy was there. We dug, delved and sandbagged; rabbits were found wandering about lost in one labyrinthine position; one isolated post known as Hitler's Doom was no miscalled. The key point required the pier to be breached. With great expenditure of energy and tools, for the operation was difficult, the R.E.'s cut the hole necessary. A few days later, with much greater speed and energy, an errant sea mine carved a precisely similar hold ten yards further to landward, causing quite sympathetic reactions on the part of countless beach mines, but quite unsympathetic ones on the part of numerous persons, then asleep, a-shave or a-breakfast, who had quickly to concern themselves with the identification of the explosion. However, pitchpine burns very well.
It was here that B.H.Q. occupied a Girls' School (evacuated of course), where there was found the notice:
"If you do not feel well in the night, ring for the Mistress on duty."
The Signal Platoon was detailed to repair the bells.
In February we shuffled southward and to some, at that time a Swastika meant not only a Nazi emblem. There was the vital outpost of Minsmere, a beauty spot, some said; others said otherwise. Many and great were those who inspected that delectable spot, though highly-polished field boots went ill with underground emplacements deeply muddy, particularly if trodden on in the dark. Was it in that station that the idea of a movable barbed wire on rollers was thought of (though never put into practice) to satisfy the differing tactical views of the hierarchy, which made inspecting visits? In summary, it may be said to have been one of the many places, which we have occupied in winter, which were reputed to be delectable resorts in the summer months.
Then we pulled out for training in Colchester. Some knew that garrison town from previous sojourns there. The Camp had things in its favour and things against it. We lived as a Battalion. The band played N.A.A.F.I. We marched cheerfully, knew well a certain reservoir and the watery fields surrounding it. Decrees from on high sent us on exercises we seemed to do adequately. One observer claimed to have counted 231 different dogs in the camp on the same day, and the county constabulary intervened, not (as was inferred from the number of sausages in the rations) the Ministry of Food.
For a month we went to the sea at Clacton, again with Companies separated. A pleasant place but a cold May. We saw for the first time that beach scaffolding said to be designed for the Boche to tie up his barges. The Second in Command (Major Whowell) left us.
Then back again to Colchester and more exercises and training, but for a short time only. By June, we were living near Thetford (Norfolk) in holes, in trees, in tents, and by great good luck the weather until almost the end of out stay was uninterruptedly fine. We found places to bathe. Exercises on the grand scale took place, and those who adjudicated praised us highly for our part in them. We were a happy Battalion, and it seemed we were well thought of. Major Hutchinson came back to us as Second in Command, which seemed a good augury as well as a happy-occasion.
About this time a very strange rumour was heard faintly. We did not go back to Colchester, which was what we had imagined we would go, but stopped so to speak, half way. And some very pleasant weeks passed with half the Battalion at or around the Elizabethan hall at Long Melford, and half some four miles to the south at Sudbury. It was good weather. The people were very pleasant. C.Q.S.M. Waltis joined the Battalion at this time, and thus we were richer by a grand old Lancashire Fusilier of many years service. Carrier driving became a fashion, and some attempted motorcycles. Scientific persons with children's puzzle games, known, perhaps for reason of security, as "Intelligence Tests." Visited us. We were amused, for we would not be ruffled, through the rumour was now a great tact known definitely, portentous for the future, and we were prepared to explore a new world with keenness and interest, without too much pleasure, but rather doggedly determined to "have a do." We began in the manner of keen amateurs to use wireless sets: there was, indeed, something known as wireless security, but it troubled us a little: was it our fault if we used the first of half a dozen or more different procedures, which were to occupy our working hours in time to come! About now some left our Battalion; it was an evil omen.
Our next move was back once more to Colchester, but this time to an old barracks whose named showed what we Englishmen can do with French Language when we really try! Strange courses were attempted in the Battalion, and there began a great exodus to courses elsewhere. We lived partly in on place and partly in another, for some of the Battalion were left in Long Melford, and we were short of some important personnel because of the external courses. Without a murmur, to their eternal credit, one or two of the remaining Don R's did day and night duty for three days, riding anything up to two or three hundred miles in the twenty-four hours. The drummer on duty sounded the calls; the band, of whom a pleasing photograph remains, taken on a successful Minden Day at Long Melford, played the Battalion to Church (if not always to the right church!) The future of the old B Coy., became a sorrowful thought, and then Major Hutchinson, deemed too old, left us; it was an unhappy augury and a sorrowful occasion. We regarded him as the Father of the Battalion.
One gloomy October morning, stumbling about in the mist before dawn, with everything, regular and irregular equipment, packed somehow into the transport, we set off for a two-day journey to the North. The North sounded a pleasant change, even if it was, as usual, on the "wrong" side of the Penning Chain. We were undeceived pretty rudely by the cold, half-constructed camp near Barnard Castle, which we were the first to occupy. The external courses claimed more and more of our N.C.O.'s and men, and very creditably, by and large, did they acquit themselves in the process. As the Battalion gradually re-assembled, a great spate of Technical courses was attempted; with rather less equipment than was necessary for adequate success, but undertaken nevertheless with gusto, and with some measure of proud determination to conquer fields quite foreign to our previous Army training. We were keen. Major Chester Master had come to us as Second in. Command, and the great bulk of Captain (as he then was!) Stewart filled the Adjutant's Office, and this contributed notably to our strength. A depressing instruction arrived in March or thereabouts, showing what training we should be doing in September and October. Some of us had had hopes of being ready for action, or even of being abroad before then. It was disappointing. Some young soldiers were posted to us, and some older ones went. We had no reason to view the matter with dismay; happily the future was hid from our eyes.
A Gallipoli Day stand out in our memory of Barnard Castle, complete with a football match in which the Sergeant's team was surprisingly worsted; and another day when a great and impressive soldier dealt in a very few and very cogent words with the future of the Brigade. It was our second change of role, not invalidating our recent efforts in training indeed, but a rather less striking future was unfolding before us, and there would undoubtedly be further delay involved in the change of equipment. Delay is the enemy of morale, but our spirits were high enough yet and the new equipment was impressive. One last Picture lingers of a stoutly built stone cottage which "sat down on all sides" of one of our earlier vehicles. Well, what might we not do with the newer ones? The Concert Party came into being, and that was to beguile our leisure hours in months to come, keeping us, as we remained to the end, a happy unit, prepared to look the world in the face. But the Band had gone, disintegrated; it is easier to pull things to pieces than to build them up.
And one fine summer day, using trains and road convoys, we set off again southward, to Rufford Abbey, a huge mansion which housed a large part of the Battalion itself with the rest grouped in huts around and a park which was to constitute one of several small but good training areas. We had been too long at Barnard Castle; we were to be longer here. Distant now from any town of size, the leisure hours of the Battalion were passed largely in the villages at hand, and it may be said that we adapted ourselves successfully to village life. Not long after our arrival, Minden Day was celebrated. On the previous Minden Day, there had been a small fire, which may account for the readiness in which the fire hoses were kept on the 1942 anniversary!
Some went far a field and gazed with admiration on Cathedrals and Ministers, or enjoyed the more mundane pleasures of town life, while very many will remember with pleasure and great gratitude the villages which made us welcome to all their functions and sports grounds.
More drafts left us and we complained bitterly; our chances of action were being reduced; we were losing men we knew, liked and understood, who were unlikely to be as happy away from their own Unit. It was December that the great, the crippling draft was taken. We knew that we should not be the
same without it; there was never quite the same tone with those men.
Our numbers were made up and we began to work happily and pleasantly with other victims of policy; we were, after all, trying to do our job of work. Great intakes came to us, and individual training began yet once more, with the Unit organised in Wings. The work was done thoroughly, if rather bitterly. Major Chester Master left us, also Capt. Hopson, for so long and so successfully Adjutant, to be heard of later in the gallant exploit. "S Commando Bridge." An Assault Course brightened a drab existence and helped us to keep our military self-respect.
Spring slipped by into Summer, Minden Day cam again, we Trooped the Colour. It was a gesture, and a noble ceremony, loyally practised and performed adequately. Lt.-Col. Smith had gone; he had commanded the Battalion in France and since, and had sought for long to see active service again. Lt.-Col. Eveleigh assumed command, but he too was gone all too soon.
At the end of September, we moved at last. The last act of the tragedy was at hand. North again to Wensleydale, Yorkshire. A beautiful valley and pleasant villages, but very inaccessible. Major Allen was commanding, and to him, for twenty-one years an Officer of the Battalion, it fell to pronounce the blessing over the corpse.
We shall go forth upon our several ways the better for having belonged to this Battalion. We have had good times and we have had bad; these days we shall never forget, nor the spirit, which animated them, and, if we shall meet again, we shall laugh over the stories which will be told of the happy comradeship.


 

" The Last Minden Parade of 1/5LF(108 Regiment RAC)
August 1943.
Note:-Lt Westmore was the Ensign of the Colour Guard and was the author of these original notes"


Rufford Abbey
1943


Rufford Abbey
Today

"The Last Minden Parade of 1/5LF (108 Regiment RAC)
August 1943.
Note: - Lt. Westmore was the Ensign of the Colour Guard and was the author of these original notes"
MINDEN DAY 1943

By Capt. Michael Westmore

Before beginning to describe the happenings on this eventful day I must describe to you, who may have never seen the place, the appearance of Rufford Abbey grounds where we had then been stationed for over a year, and it's surroundings.
This is a part of Nottinghamshire where old and New England have mingled and as yet the issue as to which will leave its stamp on the countryside the longest is not decided. To the traveller who keeps to the great roads leading North is presented a long succession of plough land and pasture with every now and then a great house in the distance surrounded by it's parks and lawns, it's hedges and bridges, and it's wide approaches of meadow and ornamental lakes. A green, damp, peaceful countryside, where man has only interfered in his most stately and munificent moods.
It is only when he turns off these great roads and travels some few miles to the East of West that the traveller begins to discover the true nature of the country. In the distance he will se the great dominating grimness of the slagheap and the spidery headstocks of the pits. Below on either side stretch the new mushroom village-towns that supply the miners with shelter and rest. A very different picture to that of the stately houses that lie beside the great road.
From the summer of 1942 to the autumn of 1943 he would have found, billeted in the village, and the Nissen huts in the grounds of the Abbey, the Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps which concerns us, together with it's tanks, vehicles, and equipment. Many of those he
Questioned would have told him, a little ruefully, that those he saw about him were the remnants of what must have been the happiest, most friendly Battalion of infantry in the British Army - the 1st/5th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers.
Such was the setting were, at the end of June, 1943, Lt.-Col. J.K. Smith, who had commanded for more than three years, left the Battalion for service overseas. The command passed to Major T.B.J. Eveleigh, who later was promoted to Lt.Colonel. I think I must try and describe the state of the Battalion at that time. Please understand that these are my impressions. I do not attribute them to anyone else, and it may be that many will disagree with them. But unless my account is coloured with my own partiality and affection it may become too stereotyped, too much like a newspaper report or even regimental orders.
Two years before we had been selected for conversion from infantry to armour. That is, we who had formed for so long part of the 42nd Division were thenceforth to wear black berets and travel about in tanks instead of on our march hardened feet. At that time many felt it was a bad things to become grease monkeys and garage hands, and there was much talk of being hard infantry, footsloggers and what you will. I may be putting it too strongly when I say that this conversion made us, for a time more infantry-minded that we had ever been before. But his stage passed, and it must be placed, on record that the whole Battalion applied itself with energy and not a little skill to becoming a tank regiment. Results on courses, not that they are infallible but they are at least concrete evidence rather than hearsay, were excellent. Many were not concerned how they fought, whether they fought in tanks or on their own feet, but they would have preferred, if with the Brigade, with the Division, that they had known and served so long as infantries. However, we sang:

"We don't want to march like
the Infantry,
Ride like the Cavalry,
Shoot like Artillery;
We don't want to fly over
Germany.
We are the R.A.C. (L.F.)."

… never forgetting the "brackets L.F." which was always the part of the song that was bellowed with the most conviction.
To cut a long story short, for you will certainly hear it from many an old member of the Battalion told in much greater and more accurate detail (and possibly in more brightly descriptive terms) than I can hope to do on paper in the short time at my disposal - to cut a long story short we ceased to belong to the old 42nd (East Lancashire) Territorial Division of Infantry, and eventually it became apparent that soon the Battalion would disappear, or die a lingering death, according to the will of those above us.
This then was roughly the position in July 1943. To the senior officers and warrant officers and N.C.O.'s, and to a great number of the men who had served so long together, the position was deplorable and horrible. To those of us who had not been in the Battalion long it was not quite so hard, but I can say that the succession of events was extremely irritating and the sympathy we felt for the older members of the Battalion was very sincere. Also during our short stay with the Battalion we had been made so much at home and so much a part of it that the impending events held the promise of very personal loss. Somehow everybody felt that we had had rather a raw deal.
It was in these circumstances that Major T.B.J. Eveleigh took command.
He proceeded to prepare for the most remarkable Minden Day I ever hope to see. He decided, I think that if this was to be the last fling it should be a damned good one. Major J. H. Fielden was despatched to Bury with a colour party of veterans (including S.S.M. Bentley, S.Q.M.S. Wallis and S.Q.M.S. Lomax) to bear back the Regimental and King's colour from Bury Parish Church. The party returned and the colours were placed in the Officers' Mess.
Meanwhile the rehearsals for the great day had begun. The soft air of early morning was made horrible with the shouting and drilling, and the whole Battalion was on parade shortly after reveille every morning to perfect the ceremony. For Major Eveleigh had decided to Troop the Colour and, despite the murmurings of the old soldiers about "it taking all of three months in peace-time with proper soldiers and struck off al duties," and the murmuring of young soldiers about blanco-ing and associated evils, the preparations went forward. It was significant that many who had seldom been seen in the open air before could now be watched at all hours of day or night pacing up and down paths and lawns, oblivious of their surroundings, immersed in deciphering the mysteries of the "Manual of Ceremonial." Even members of the convert party slowly became aware that there were other things to rehearse, and their representations of the original Minden Day paled into insignificance beside the task now confronting them. Officers could be seen slowly marching over the cricket field (shortly to be the field of Minden) under the sometimes-exasperated eyes of the R.S.M. He (R.S.M. Ramsden) worked and scolded, pleaded and thundered until the whole affair began to take shape.
The Depot Band had come to us and joined in the rehearsals. It put a new complexion on the whole business. You and I do not march naturally
Perhaps like ducks taking to the water. But put us behind a band of this sort and nothing can stop us. And so it was.
Thus Minden Day approached. It fell this year on a Sunday, and the preliminaries included a performance by the Regimental Concert Party and an All Ranks Dance on the Saturday night. As sleep closed those weary eyes on the last night of July, belts and gaiters, Sam Brownes and chinstraps, boots and butt plates glowed in anticipation of the morrow.
But only for a short while, for with the first light of August 1st round the buildings marched the band and drums playing the rousing sequences of the Minden March. The dead could not fail to be stirred by this most exhilarating of all marches. Minden Greetings! Minden was here. Perhaps the last, but certainly, if we know anything about it, the best, Minden Day, 1943.
The Trooping of the Colour will be most difficult to describe, and before I begin I must give you a list of the most prominent people among those present.

The General, Major-General Hunter
(Commanding North Midland District).
The C.O., Major T.B.J. Eveleigh, The Adjutant, Capt. K.S. Roberts.
The Second in Command. Major G. Allen, T.D.
The Regimental Sergeant Major, R.S.M. Ramsden.
The Colour Sentry, Sjt. Crew. Sjt. Wilson.

The Colour Guard.
The Captain, Major H. J. Webb.
The Subaltern. Capt. W. A. L. Coulburn.
The Ensign, Lt. M. N. Westmore.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Courtier
The Guard, "C" Squadron.

No. 1 Guard
The Captain, Major J. H. Fielden.
The Subaltern, Capt. A. H. H. Christmas.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Wood.
The Guard. "A" Squadron.

No. 2 Guard.
The Captain. Major D. B. Stewart.
The Subaltern, Lt. T. M. R. Knowles.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Bentley.

No. 3 Guard.
The Captain, Capt. A. E. Bellhouse
The Subaltern, Capt. W. A. Webb.
The Guard, "H.Q." Squadron.
The Bandmaster, B. M. Wright.

The day was very hot and bright and the field had been prepared by Sergeant Kelly, the Provost Sergeant, and the unfortunates under his supervision, to give a gay though dignified appearance to the parade. In the centre of the north side was the platform where shortly the General would take the salute, and to each side of him a great crowd of relations and friends and many of the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages. For, to the neighbourhood, during the time that we were at the Abbey, we had to a high degree become "their" Regiment. There seemed to be some quality the men possessed for making themselves part and parcel of these villages. And here the villagers all were to see the parade. The field, usually rather a dull place behind the M. T. lines, had taken on a new splendour for this one great day.
You may read in the "Manual of Ceremonial" what happens when the Colour is Trooped. I cannot begin to describe it without entangling myself in details of who should be at one flank of the other at a given time. But the band, the roses, the precision, and somehow the friendliness - the understanding that seemed to flow from the font part of the procession to the rear, and the Colours themselves - all these things are deeply impressed on my memory. And the flies! The field adjoined a far and when standing at attention, great bunches of horse flies attached themselves to all parts of you and particularly to the lobes of your ears. Captain Bellhouse, with usual forethought, had purchased small bottles of a special liquid which when daubed freely over the face and body, gave some immunity. This helped a bit, but the flies, combined with the heat of the day, demanded Herculean efforts of control and poise from those taking part.
When the Colours had been marched off there was a drumhead service. I did not attend this, and while it was taking place, I have to confess that I was replacing some of the liquid I had lost involuntarily on the parade.
There was a sense of relief and not a little pride at the successful conclusion of the tricky part of the day. The C.O., after showing the General the colours, brought him to the Officers' Mess, which had been established for the day in two large marquees on one of the lawns.
Then the round of visiting began. From the mess to C.O. was borne along to the Sergeants' Mess and round the Squadrons to give and receive Minden Greetings. He was accompanied by Lt. Col. J. K. Hopkinson and Lt.-Col. E. A. North, two former members of the Battalion.
You have seen dining halls on Minden Day. You know how a hut is transformed from it's usual prosaic self, with the smell of grease and green vegetables in the background, into a rosy arbour, a military fairyland. So it was this day. I cannot say which Squadron excelled the other in the decoration it had achieved; I can only recall my surprise at the ingenuity that had been displayed and the wealth of vanity.
Officers and Sergeants lined up to serve the men with their dinners and beer. Noise and greetings, hand claspings, the clatter of cutlery and pots, and then silence for the Commanding Officer, for Minden, for the Loyal Toast. Then cheering and speeches that were not speeches at all, but mostly musings and reminiscences of past Minden Days. A collection of all the small memories that form the basis of Battalion tradition. Then rather sleepily to lie for a moment or two in the sun and allow the effects of a large dinner and some pints of beer to wear off.
I have known very riotous afternoons on previous Minden Days. I regret that I took this one easily and connate tell you much about it. All I can readily say is that it was reputed to be well up to usual standard.
Then the band seemed to be playing, somewhere again and the Officers' Dinner was about to start. At the head of the Marquee behind the C.O. were the two Colours with the rose wreath in the centre, and in the artificial light the tablecloths and silver shone with a particular brilliance. The meal too its course while the band played outside - marches, waltzes, selections from musical comedies and after toasting His Majesty, "Those who fell at Minden" were remembered in silence, as is the custom of long tradition. Finally came the ancient ceremony of eating the Roses, and ordeal that must be passed through by all officers attending their first Minden dinner. Thirty-four Officers sat down to this, the last Battalion Minden dinner for some time to come, and each felt the solemness of the occasion.
But victories must be celebrated, and this was Minden Day! The mood quickly changed, and the before long the Officers were joining in the gaiety of the Sergeants' Mess dance in the Long Gallery of the Abbey, decorated so effectively for the occasion. Seldom could the ghosts of the old monks have looked down on a happier, gayer crowd of maidens and men. If they raised a frown it could only have been due to the reaction of their old-fashioned conceptions to the "Hokey Pokey," and surely they must have laughed with us as we laughed, and approved of us as they heard the silent vows made by many a Lancashire Fusilier that day. It was a day worthily spent.