2nd (Oban) Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery, Royal Artillery. WAR DIARY.
Month and year: September 1944
Commanding Officer: Major A.F. Haynes, R.A.
(This report is based on the experiences of Lt E.H. Ellis, R.A. [H-Troop], the only officer of the Battery to return from the airborne party of the operation, and on info collected by him from Other Ranks who took part in the operation)
The Bty in support of 4 Para Bde landed on D + 1 (Sept 18th) in the area West of ARNHEM, HOLLAND. The Bty consisted of three 6 pr troops (E, G & H); and two 17 pr Troops (F & X)
Air passage from Britain to Holland was fairly successful. During the passage to the Landing Zone four gliders fell short; one, containing 2 i/c Bty (Captain. P.R.M. Barron) came down in England. Of the three others, which all contained 17 pr guns and belonged to 'F' Tp, one fell in the North Sea resulting in the death by drowning of "F" Tp Comd (Lt. R.L. McLaren), and two fell a few miles short of the Landing Zone in Holland. All parachute recce units landed in the area of the Dropping Zone, although one Officer ("G" Tp Comd, Lt. L.O. Harding) was wounded. The 2 i/c of the Bty eventually landed successfully along with the Polish Bde Glider Unit on D + 2 (19th Sept).
Mortar and Small Arms fire was experienced on the Landing Zone but by 2000 hrs 18th Sept. all available guns had joined their respective Units. Casualties to this stage included two officers and seven O.Rs.
On landing "E" Tp (Lt. R.D. Glover) along with 11th Para Bn. came under Comd of 1st Para Bde and moved forthwith into the outskirts of ARNHEM via Oosterbeeck.
"F" Tp under comd of Div., proceed to Div Troops Area in Oosterbeeck.
The remainder of the Bty in support of Units of 4 Para Bde; ("G" Tp in support 10th Bn., "H" Tp in support 156 Bn and "X" Tp in support the Bde) proceeded in the direction of ARNHEM.
On arrival in ARNHEM area on late afternoon of the 18th [19th] Sept "E" Tp immediately came into contact with enemy tanks and destroyed four. During the evening of the same day "E" Tp as a result of enemy aircraft attacks lost Tp Comd (killed) seven O.Rs (wounded) and one gun destroyed. On the 19th [20th]Sept as a result of heavy enemy pressure, "E" Tp moved in a westerly direction closer to Div Troops Area, where they remained throughout the latter part of the operation.
In their move towards Arnhem 4 Para Bde, less 11th Bn and "E" Tp., met particularly heavy enemy opposition in the close wooded country of that area. Very fierce fighting took place and finally the Bde had to withdraw on the afternoon of 19th. Sept. During this withdrawal casualties to guns and personnel, including Bty. H.Q. personnel, were very heavy. In all, three guns were lost, and included in personnel reported missing were; - B.C., 2 i/c, L.O., and Tp Commander of "X" Tp (Lt.G.A.Paull). After some delay the remaining guns and personnel succeeded in reaching the area of Div Troops where they were deployed and made only local movements for the remainder of the operation. Altogether four 6pr and two 17pr guns of those supporting 4 Para Bde and three 6pr guns from "E" Tp arrived in Div Troops Area.
The operation now became purely defensive with all the remaining guns of the Bty deployed in the close and built up area of Oosterbeek. Throughout this latter period as a result of continuous enemy artillery, mortar and sniper fire, the personnel casualties slowly increased and many towing vehicles were destroyed, although no further guns were lost.
No enemy tanks were allowed to enter the area and many were engaged, six tanks or S.P’s and one flame thrower being destroyed. The guns were also used to good effect against M.G. posts and houses believed to hold snipers. In addition during this period a fighting patrol of one officer and twenty O.R’s from the Bty operated for 36 hours in the outskirts of Arnhem.
The withdrawal of the Div across the River Lek, which started at 2130 hrs 25 Sept, with the withdrawal of forward elements resulted in further casualties to the Bty, including Bty Capt "G" (Captain. J.R. Elliott). The casualties occurred during the early part of the movement to the rear when heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire was experienced and on the beaches of the River Lek where further enemy mortar and S.A. fire was met. All guns were rendered useless by removing the breach mechanism.
In all, one Officer and 58 O.Rs made the river crossing successfully.
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