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Thread: Slightly OT: identifying British Army Unit

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    Default Slightly OT: identifying British Army Unit

    I have been researching a Danish-Canadian pilot, who became PoW (Stalag Luft III, Milag/Malag N). On 2 May 1945 he and other PoWs are liberated by a British Army (Armoured) unit in the German town of Trenthorst south of Lubeck.

    Time and place generally suggests Montgomery's 11th Division, 2nd Army, but I have been wondering if it is possible to identify the unit.

    I know that this is to bring air war to the ground, but would anyone have an idea how to approach this. Any good forums, titles etc.?

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Default Slightly OT: identifying British Army Unit

    Hi Mikkel

    Firstly, it was the 11th Armoured Division (The Black Bull - Taurus Pursuant) and according to their unofficial history "The Black Bull - from Normandy to the Baltic with 11th Armoured Division" by Patrick Delaforce (who served with the Divn.) it states for 2 May "Trooper Ernie Hamilton with 15/19 Hussars liberated a large swastika flying over Bad Oldesloe Post Office: "We found a beautiful Mercedes-Benz saloon car in a garage, poured in two jerry cans of 100 octane fuel and handed it to four RAF officers who had spent some years in POW camps. They were delighted and I hope they managed to motor all the way to England in luxury." The Fifes/Cheshires had liberated at Westerau a prison camp with 1,600 RAF Officers....On the outskirts of Lubeck the 23rd Hussars encountered, according to the Hussars historian: a wild delirious crowd of Allied POW who surged forward, many of them British. They swarmed round the tanks, white, emaciated, hungry footsore but riotously happy..."

    see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Armoured_Division_(United_Kingdom) - so, take your choice, 23rd Hussars or 15/19 Hussars and or 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry/1 The Cheshire regiment - all of 29 Armoured Brigade, except 1 Cheshire regiment who were part of 159 Infantry Brigade. 1 The Herefordshire Regiment (also of 159 Infantry Brigade) were supporting 15/19 Hussars and 3 Royal Tank Regiment.

    My interest in them - 125 Wing supported 11th Armoured Division.

    Hope this helps - please advise if you find the answer, or require more information as the above only takes up about 1.5 pages.

    cheers

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Allan
    Thank you! Definately something to work from. I think one of my problems is that the PoWs were scattered "all over" the area at this point as a consequence of the great marches.

    Regards

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
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    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Have just ordered the book at the library! Thanks again for the reference.

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Allan
    Please excuse my ignorance, but I have never quite understood the naming and structure of the British Army. I find the RAF much easier.

    The "2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry/1 The Cheshire regiment" is that one or two units ?!?, i.e.

    - "1 Cheshire regiment" a sub-unit of the 2nd FFY (does not seem to match the geographical origin) or
    - a single unit constitutet by the combined force of the two
    - or two separate units

    I have the following information that seems to correspond with the incident that I am looking for and your information:

    "...
    2/5/45 British scout car drove into TRENTHORST - Ratcliffe of Cheshire Regiment
    3/5/45 Colonel in charge of British POWs arrived
    ..." (source: http://stalag-luft-3.blogspot.com/)

    Ratcliffe seems to be a K C Ratcliffe (source: http://i.imgur.com/FrnS3.jpg) but I have not been able to find a reference in London Gazette on Ratcliffe + Cheshire

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Default Slightly OT: identifying British Army Unit

    Hi Mikkel

    No problem with you not understanding the naming and structure of the British Army - my knowledge of the Danish army is nil as well, although I understand their service in Afghanistan is much appreciated by the British personnel who come in contact with them!!

    I hope this piece below makes sense to you - but as you have given Ratcliffe of Cheshire regiment I believe it was a mixed 2FFY/1CR battlegroup working together, but not sure if the Cheshire regiment would be using scout/armoured cars as that would normally be the divn. recce unit - 15/19 Kings Royal Hussars (15/19 KRH) - the 15/19 Kings Royal Hussars were part of the divisional troops and not part of 29 Armoured Brigade!!). see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/15th/19th_The_King%27s_Royal_Hussars where it served as the divisional recce regiment, and of course scout cars are used by recce regiments, and presumably had armoured cars as well!!

    2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry is the armoured unit - and 1 The Cheshire regiment was the infantry unit supporting them, so two units.

    In a British armoured division of the time the Armoured Brigade would constitute 3 armoured regiments and one (motorised) infantry battallion.

    In this case, presumably, the infantry element of 29 Armoured Brigade (8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade) was occupied with other matters so it would appear that two battalions of 159 Infantry Brigade (1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment and 1st Battalion The Herefordshire Regiment) were utilised to assist their armoured brethren - 2FFY/1 Cheshires and 3RTR/1HR.

    I also won't go in to why an infantry regiment is called "The Rifle Brigade", but one of my uncles served in 1 RB (in 22 Armoured Brigade/7th Armoured Divn) and came to Kastrup just after my father.

    I agree that 2FFY/1CR doesn't match the geographical areas of origin - apart from the fact that by mid-1945 men would come from anywhere in the UK 2FFY was a Scottish armoured regiment being supported by an English infantry regiment (but it is the British Army after all!).

    The reason you cannot find K C Ratcliffe in the London Gazette could be because he was not an officer, and also not decorated, he could be a corporal or a sergeant in charge of the vehicle, with a lieutenant as his troop commander if in the recce unit, but, no doubt, if the infantry unit was operating scout cars something similar would have been in operation.

    Your link piece below states Armoured car, and you have written Scout car, somebody a bit more up on these matters than me can probably advise as to whether the armoured or scout car was from one of the Armoured units or the infantry element of the time!!

    I will see if I can dig further into the order of battle of 11 Armoured Divn. to see what vehicles individual units were operating at the time if required , but it would appear that you have now solved the question of what person/unit liberated your Danish-Canadian pilot - K R Ratcliffe - 1 Battalion The Cheshire Regiment (159 Infantry Brigade/11 Armoured Divn), operating with 2FFY of 29 Armoured Brigade/11 Armoured Divn.

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Allan
    Thanks again - and for the thorough explanation. The reference to K C Ratcliffe does not relate to "my" pilot, but the reference surely relates to the same incident. I should have been more precise on that.

    My pilot stated in a letter to the family refers to being liberated "by tanks" and having his picture taken "by the tank commander". I guess that would point to the 2nd Fife & Forfar Yeomanry being the armoured unit, or?

    Given the fact that Trenthorst is a short distance from Westerau where your first reply stated that 2nd FFY/CR released a prison camp with 1,600 RAF Officers, I am sure we are up the right alley.

    I am quite sure, that the PoWs referred to as liberated by 23rd Hussars on the outskirts of Lubeck was Oflag X B between Lubeck and Bad Schwartau, and/or the camp just outside this where another part of the Stalag Luft III PoWs ended according to RCAF pilot Robert Buckham's book on the long march.

    Mikkel
    Last edited by Mikkel Plannthin; 22nd December 2011 at 05:57.
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Default Slightly OT: Identifying British Army Unit

    Hi Mikkel

    A shorter reply this time!!

    If the person who had the K R Ratcliffe note was in the same POW group as your Danish-Canadian it would seem to confirm they were rescued by the 2FFY/1CR battlegroup - and best to go with that unless further information appears either from the web or printed sources.

    The only in-depth way of checking unit activity would be to find the unit ORB at the NA, but with thousands of POW being liberated in the area I don't suppose it would be that precise.

    Pleased to help, as always.

    Happy Christmas

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Default Slightly OT: Identifying British Army Unit

    Mikkel

    You might fnd these websites/e-mail addresses of interest:

    http://www.cheshiremilitarymuseum.co.uk/regimental-associations/the-cheshire-regiment-association.aspx -

    Email: enquiries@cheshiremilitarymuseum.co.uk

    http://www.armymuseums.org.uk/museums/0000000033-Fife-and-Forfar-Yeomanry-Collection.htm

    Email: QOY-CSQN-PSAO@mod.uk

    http://www.kerynne.com/games/British11thArmouredDivision.html - the final one shows the actual unit markings that would be on the vehicles, along with the Black Bull divisional sign, and the links to models of different units will explain the composition of those units.

    Although 1 Cheshire is not on the site it would be the same composition as 4 KSLI.

    See also on this site http://www.kerynne.com/games/BritishInfantryBttnTOE.html and
    http://www.kerynne.com/games/BritishArmouredRegimentTOE.html

    I trust this now answers your question as you now have a concise listing of the components of a 1945 British armoured division, the relevant seniority within brigades and an explanation of the vehicle markings.

    If you have any trouble obtaining the book from your library I will happily supply the relevant information.

    Allan
    Last edited by allan125; 22nd December 2011 at 09:01. Reason: Updating information on composition of units within 11AD
    Allan Hillman

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    For what it's worth, my father was one of the prisoners relieved at Trenthorst. He wrote on a scrap of paper and mailed this message to my mother on May 3rd 1945, 70 years ago today.

    Hello dearest was relieved today at I o’clock, was fishing in a lake with a bent pin at the time. Hope to home very shortly. I am very fit and well, have been eating a lot just lately. Cant think of much to say, I guess I am too excited, I’ve gone right off my food. An armoured car came along, gosh were we glad to see it. All my love Walt.
    Last edited by David Layne; 3rd May 2015 at 19:08.
    Researching my father's time with 50 Squadron, 97 Squadron, Dulug Luft, Stalag Luft VI, Stalag 357 and Stalag Luft III.

    http://wallyswar.wordpress.com/

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