The Battery for this operation consisted of four Troops 6 Pdr. and two Troops 17 Pdr., and was, less Z Troop (6 Pdr.), under command 1 Para. Bde.
The Brigade Group flew in on 'D' day and was to drive straight for ARNHEM, the Battery supporting the advance, and then to take up a defensive position covering the North of the Bridge.
Late on D-1 we were informed that four gliders would have to wait till D+1 as the four tug planes were required for other purposes. Consequently the Capt. ‘Q’ and each Troop HQ second Jeep and trailer were left out of the first lift. This reduced each gun detachment by one.
One 6 Pdr. and two 17 Pdr. guns failed to reach the R.V., the 6 Pdr. having landed about twenty miles short and the two 17 Pdrs. crashed on landing. The Brigade moved off with A Troop under command 1 Btn, B Troop 2 Btn, and C Tp. 3 Btn. Since this point nothing was heard of B.H.Q. or B Troop except a report that the B.C was at the bridge at ARNHEM.
Of Z Troop, the attached Troop, the Troop commander landed short and joined up with the Americans. 1 gun was also lost, having landed on a Dutch island; - the remaining three guns came under the C.R.A. on arrival.
On D+2 all guns still in action and in Divisional H.Q. area were grouped under O.C. 17 Pdr. Group, a move which more than justified itself later on. As odd guns or detachments came to light they were placed in this group. Towards the end this group controlled all the A.Tk. guns in Div H.Q. area which in fact was the whole of the north half of the bridge-head.
Three 6 Pdrs. and one 17 Pdr. were still in action when the withdrawal was ordered.
Losses of Guns.
To give the details of the loss of each gun would be impossible, but four basic reasons are suggested.
(1) The misuse of the 17 Pdrs. by using them as mobile A.Tk. guns in the forward areas.
(2) The failure of the infantry to realise that the tank must come to the gun and NOT the gun to the tank.
(3) If the Infantry require a gun forward they must stay to see it out again.
(4) The absence of any PIAT or similar projector for the flank or rear defence or for hunting local hulled down tanks.
The only reason any guns were saved was the realisation by the C.R.A. that guns were being misused by the Infantry, and the immediate decision to group those left in Div. H.Q. Group and KEEP THEM THERE. Without this Group it is doubtful whether there would have been any withdrawal.
Even so this is a most unsatisfactory way of providing ones reserve and inner defence. It necessitated taking possibly a troop from each 6 Pdr. Battery and one from the 17 Pdr. Group, together with a Captain from one of the Batteries to command the whole. Would it not be better to have three batteries of 12 Guns and use a complete battery in reserve, which would provide also the defence to the core of the bridgehead which, with the fluid nature of an initial Airborne landing, is most necessary.
Unfortunately most of those with stories to tell failed to get back. Generally however shoots were on the short side - 300/400 yards, but even then observation was extremely difficult owing to the close country. Sabot proved very difficult to observe, though whenever used invariably silenced the opposition. It was never possible to check up the amount of damage done by any one round.
I am of the opinion that if we had studied more closely the type of country we were to fight in, with ammunition performance in mind, a greater proportion of APCBC (as against SABOT) would have been taken.
There was a small call for HE, but if this is used for purposes other than A.Tk. or anti strong point there is a danger of disclosing ones position prematurely.
Note SABOT taken was 75%
25. 10. 44.
H.F. Bear. Capt.
O.C. 1st Air Landing A. Tk, Battery R.A.
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