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    War Diary: 1st Battalion Buckinghamshire Regiment

    Month and year: December 1944

    The 1st Battalion Buckinghamshire Regiment December 1944 war diary covers their time at Saint Jean Barracks including Christmas celebrations, Jeeps stolen from transit car park and dealing with a gang.

    National Archive Reference: WO 171/1269

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    Page 1 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    BRUSSELS1amOrders received from HQ Brussels Garrison that all except one coy and tp of tanks can now stand
    down. One Mobile Coy left at 1 hrs notice. Tks remain under Bn control pending further instrs.
    pm"A" Sqn 52 Recce Regt ordered to move tomorrow.
    Colonel of 52 Recce Regt arrives to join up with "A" Sqn.
    2am"A" Sqn 52 Recce Regt move out.
    pmNormal routine. Bn hockey team play Leopold Club (Belge) . Result 1 - 4 - Good game.
    All clubs very keen to loan hockey and all sports grounds for Bn training in sports.
    3amOrdered to pick up tpt to complete to WE. We are still short of certain tpt and 3" mortars. No G1098 equipment approved.
    pmNormal routine. Sjt Fowler (Pnr Sjt) posted to 16 ITC.
    4amLetter received from 1 Corps saying they have asked for men from 104 CRC to be posted back here as
    their job there has now finished. If this comes off it will straighten out the mess over these
    people as although they have been officially struck off our strength to other units, these units
    have not taken them on strength as they have never joined them. If they come back here that will
    sort everything out.
    pmSjt Fowler departs, after all these years to go back to UK on compassionate posting. Very sad at
    leaving. We are very sorry to lose him. Sjt Carr promoted Pnr Sjt.
    Regtl W.T. Cadre programme issued commencing 11 Dec under WTO. Rooms prepared for running offrs
    transit mess and quarters. Staff appointed to man it.
    Appx "A" Appx "B"
    5amGeneral STAND DOWN ordered and we have to take over all duties once more within these barracks and
    outside commitments as well. Decided to absorb one coy for semi-permanent external duties and one
    coy for all daily duties with a third coy as Mobile Coy and internal working parties, and one coy
    free for training.
    Appx "C"
    pmNormal routine.
    6amLeave announced in the papers. No army instruction issued at present.
    SSI Rider required by 4 L of C as PT Instr on a course for 14 days. Sjt Parsons takes over his
    duties in his absence.
    pmMeeting of childrens' party committee to tie up the details. Chief Belgian LO Comd DAEIMANS has
    arranged everything. Decided to purchase as much decorations as possible and hold the party on
    15 Dec in the dining hall.
    7amPAD course commences in Barracks run by Brussels Garrison. Capt Borton attends as rep from 1 Bucks.
    pmone officer and 12 extra men from "D" Coy sent to supplement guard at Prince Albert Barracks -
    officer for adm only.
    Page 2 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    BRUSSELS7pmVisit by Capt Thompson (ex 12 OBD) who is now part of the Ord Inspectorate checking up on surplus
    arms, vehs and eqpt held by formations and units in 21 Army Gp. More as a social visit than
    official, but in any case we are not guilty as at present we are very short of material and have no
    8amBrussels Garrison instr us to take over certain outside semi-permanent duties from Pnrs, involving
    about 12 men in all. Apparently these jobs should not be done by Pnrs - DADOS helpers and infm
    bureau men - very odd. We await the list and then will discuss the matter with the Brigadier as
    very shortly we shall have more than a whole coy split up in penny packets throughout the town.
    pmLegal Aid Section opened in BRUSSELS. Capt Tait appointed Welfare Officer of the Bn. Leave
    confirmed and return called for from Brussels Garrison. Only check possible on when men landed
    over here is via Echelon, as AB 64 does not show service as most people seem fondly to imagine.
    Nominal roll sent to O2E for completion of dates and return urgently. Meanwhile temporary check
    is being made by coy comds from man's own account.
    1100 parcels despatched by Welfare Gift Shop for whom we supply the censoring officer - a record to
    Appx "D"
    9amJeep stolen from 1 Bucks Car Park.
    Pte Wilkins displaying a strong tendency towards dumb insolence elects trial by FGCM on a trivial charge,
    and when given 24 hrs to think it over, is still of the same opinion.
    pmSummary of vidence taken on Pte Wilkins who gives much trouble and really requires putting over
    someone's knee, Under Rule of Procedure 104.
    Court of Inquiry convened over lost Jeep and HQ Brussels Garrison and APM told of the loss.
    10amNormal routine.
    pm37 OR arrive as draft. Mostly A.1 incl 1 CSM and 2 Colour Sjts, 2 Sjts, 2 L/Sjts and 3 Cpls.
    They are from 50 Div att overnight to "D" Coy who have available space.
    Letter received from Reforsec saying the men at 104 CRC who we had asked for were not available
    in view of the fact that they were A.1
    Long 21 Army GP screed on leave received giving full details which are shortly to be published in
    A.G.R.Os. Fascinating reading matter!
    11amComd offr and Adjt visit REFORSEC to sort out the question of these senior NCOS being posted to us.
    See AAG who explains that they have to post them to us to place them and we must show them as surplus
    until they are posted away. Draft of 37 posted to coys, Evening out the various strengths.
    pmLetter received from HQ L of C regarding SIW cases from 111 (Br) General Hospital. We are to take
    them in and attach them to us pending investigation by JAG's dept.
    Page 3 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    BRUSSELS12am21 SIWs arrive from 111 Hospital. Attached to "B" Coy.
    "B" Coy supply one officer plus whole pl to act as Defence P1, or Guards P1 rather,
    at HQ 11 L of C. who are moving to MALINES in place of HQ L of C.
    These SIWs will help to replace this 'lost' pl for duties etc.
    Leave Instr No 1 issued.
    Appx "E"
    pmAmendment to Leave Instr No 1 issued.
    Normal routine.
    Appx "F"
    13amDuchess of Kent's birthday. Letter written five days ago to Colonel Sale asking
    him to send a telegram. Normal Routine.
    pmMobile Coy put at three hours notice.
    140915Conference for Coy Comds to discuss training. Decided that with existing duties
    each pl can get in one and a half days training per six days. Training Programmes
    to be submitted weekly to HQ Brussels Garrison.
    We are to be relieved of duties at 21 Army Gp HQ which is now being taken over by
    Defence Coy starting Monday. RSM goes around all posts etc with Defence Coy OC,
    Major Blackett.
    1200Final committee meeting re Childrens' Christmas Party. Dining hall is decorated
    and all arrangements now completed.
    1230Arrangements made with OC 58 Garrison Regt RA to train a cadre of their offrs and
    pmTalk by Col Stamford RAOC on 'Misuse of army equipment'. Very interesting talk
    and very revealing also - the QM was seen to change colour several times during the
    talk! Comd Offr orders a 'bring out your dead' decree, and it is understood that
    providing it is handed in now no questions will be asked:
    The only way in which the Bn will be affected is as regards G1098/36 - a certain
    portion of which was retained originally whilst in foxholes in France, such as
    tentage - one per coy was kept and other minor items from Beach Grouping days.
    These are now being handed in. Otherwise we are not offenders.
    15amC-in-C Certificates announced for CSM Rous for Gallantry and to the following for
    Good Service :- Capt Flower, Cpl Nason, L/C Towers. Adm Instr No 1 re 58 Garrison
    Regt RA issued.
    Appx "G"
    PmChildrens' party held in dininghall, and enormous Xmas tree had been procured from
    one of the local forests by Capt Low and the Comd Belge LO, and had been well
    decorated by willing helpers from the Bn. The local townsfolk under the authority
    Page 4 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    BRUSSELSof the Burgomaster helped decorate the room. Approx 300 children turned up and a
    small sprinkling of teachers to keep good order and military discipline, plus a
    host of photographers who snapped everyone in every possible position. Only about
    3 of the children were sick on the spot, but it was felt that many more would be
    later on! Hot chocolate was issued as a drink which went down extremely well
    and every child had two cakes to eat.
    Some local entertainers performed a children's play which was a roaring success
    and then the inevitable songs were sung - 'Tipperary and 'Hanging out the washing
    on the Siegfreid Line' - strongly rumoured that the locals think 'Tipperary' is
    our National Anthem!
    The highlight of the party was the QM dressed up as Santa Claus giving away all the
    presents, one per child, plus two bars of chocolate - without 108s. All the
    troops had given up their chocolate for the children so that they all had plenty of
    it. The party finally broke up about 1800 hrs.
    pmLeave Instr No 2 Issued.Appx "H"
    16amInformed we were to supply guards for Daily Mail Exhibition to be held at
    L'Innovation, rue de Neuve, BRUSSELS. OC "D" Coy went to investigate with Mr
    Alexander Clifford of the Daily Mail. All weapons for the exhibition collected by
    QM and held on our charge - panic in the QM stores and urgent requests to be allowed
    to put it all on a coy charge.
    Certain weapons discovered to be on 'Secret List' - much hasty phoning 21 Army Gp
    followed by many worried calls etc. Some one had blundered it appeard - this is a
    new departure for 21 Army Gp: Offending weapons struck off list and to be kept in
    QM store.
    pmProgramme for training cadre, 58 Garrison Regt issued.Appx "I"
    2145G2 phoned to say 20 men with revolvers were pinching coal from the coalyards at
    AVANT PORT, BRUSSELS. They were civilians. We are to send one pl fully armed
    with Officer IC to disarm them and break up the racket. Adjt reluctantly agreed
    to lay it all on and warned one pl of Mobile coy to stand by. This seemed to
    smack of gross interferance with the liberty of the individual by the British
    Authorities - Belgians had been pinching coal for years! Visions of Mr Shinwell
    rising in the Houses of Parliament and denouncing this action as outrageous and
    Mr Walter Winchell announcing that US and Britain ceased to be allies w.e.f. 2200
    hrs 16 Dec 44:
    Page 5 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    2200G2 arrives in person to say he has reconsidered the matter and thinks the local
    Gendarmes ought to be called in first as otherwise it might cause a political
    incident - great minds obviously have the same nightmares! Comd offr sighs with
    relief as prospects of Bowler Hat recede into the background - based on the fact
    that its always the man who orders the first shot whose fired!
    G2 and Pl Comd go out together and check up. Pl Comd turns out at midnight to
    say its all been a mistake - and so to bed.
    17amG2 phones to apologise for last night's 'flap'. Didn't concern us at all.
    Result of W.T. Cadre published.
    2 Cpls and 9 OR arrive on posting. All posted to "B" Coy.
    Appx "J"
    pm5 more SIWs arrive and are attached to "B Coy.
    Adjt and Major Marshall meet IO from Brussels Garrison at Exhibition and decide on
    the guards etc required.
    Instrs for 'Daily Mail' Exhibition issued.
    Appx "K"
    18amCourse for 58 Garrison Regt RA commences today. Normal Routine.
    1500Daily Mail' exhibition opens. Adjt and Major Marshall attended to rep 1 Bucks.
    Very lavish scale.
    1530Ammunition being unloaded into armoury. Whilst parked outside it exploded - no
    injury to personnel or material luckily. Fire fighters and PAD squad quickly on
    the spot and fire extinguished in record time. This has always been expected to
    happen before as ammunition is brought in here in every sort of condition.
    Letter written by Comd offr complaining that BADs only accept amn after it has been
    examined but we have to accept it in an appalling state - primed grenades etc etc;
    Inlying Picquet officer no longer required at Ecole Militaire.
    Training begins for pl at a time - training programme attached.
    Appx "L"
    2350Brussels Garrison phoned to say there was danger of paratps landing in this area!
    Comd Offr put mobile coy at 30 mins notice.
    19amMobile coy back to 3 hrs notice pending any written instrs from Garrison - very
    foggy day!
    Normal routine. 5 men break out of detention block at 1630 hrs.
    1800Leave ballot drawn in dininghall. 145 names in the first draw which consisted of
    all men who embarked prior to 'D' Day ie up to Jun 5th. First name out of the hat
    was Pte Payne - the Adjt's batman, luckily the Adjt was not first of the offcers.
    Page 6 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    or else undoubtedly the whole affair would have been considered 'framed! Not very many people
    attended the ballot which was drawn by a private soldier and called out by the Asst Adjt. All men
    who were eligible up to 3 Jan were drawn for.
    200030AQ Brussels Garrison arrived to say there was a 'flap' on in view of the enemy break through on 1st
    American Army Sector. Mobile Coy was at 30 mins notice at once. All necessary measures taken.
    0845Comd offr goes to conference at 4 L of C. Everyone placed at 30 mins notice.
    0900Extra tpt ordered - 12 3 tonners - to lift necessary coys in an emergency.
    0915Coy Comds conference - position explained - defence of Brussels planned.
    1100Comd Offr goes to further conference 4 L of C
    1315Comd offr's conference with Coy Comds. Op Order given out verbally for action when necessary.
    Bn is in reserve role. Carry on as before at present but all ranks confined to billets and at 30
    mins notice. Recces made by A.B. and C Coy comds for their counter attack role, which means in
    effect burning along the road in tpt and debussing before contacting the enemy. Everything
    buttoned up.
    Another Jeep stolen from Transit Car Park. Court of Inquiry assembled. Looks like a gang at
    21amCourt of Inquiry on Prison break. still at 30 mins notice.Appx "M"
    pmOrders to stand down received at 1600 hrs. Leave Instr No 3 issued. Leave has now been buttoned
    up completely and all is ready for Jan 1st. Luckily, by borrowing an advance copy from someone else
    we managed to complete all our arrangements before the official dope came out. As it has only just
    arrived today and there is a lot of it, it is just as well, as otherwise there would have been a
    last minute rush. We now await final local instrs from Brussels Garrison showing allotment and
    train timings etc.
    Appx "M"
    22amConsolidated training programme forwarded to Brussels GarrisonAppx "N"
    pmMobile Coy put at 30 mins notice again.
    23amNormal routine and fresh 'Standing Orders for Guards at St Jean Barracks' issued.Appx "O"
    pmWarning order received about German infiltrators dressed in American uniforms. All guards advised.
    2345Attempt by 5 or 6 men to break into Transit Car Park - successfully frustrated by local Pioneers.
    casualties one Pioneer unconscious, one of the gang wounder, both removed to hospital.
    240030The gang force entry into Detention Block and gold up the guard. Some of the guard escaped upstairs
    and then a shooting match took place inside the block between the guard and the gangsters.
    No-one hurt - gang finally beat it and managed to get away. Police informed at once. 2 French
    officers and Dutch civilian also found in Car Park - put in Detention Block overnight to be
    questioned in the morning. Released later after investigation.
    Page 7 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    24pmLeave Instr No 4 issued giving allotment for January. 7 officers and 40 OR drawn. Bad allocation
    of OR somewhere. We hope for better results next month (Feb).
    Late passes issued up to 0200 hrs for OR in view of lifting of curfew in Brussels.
    APPX 'P'
    25amThe old established custom of officers taking batmen tea was put into effect in some quarters -
    cheerfully it is understood because the arrival back in Barracks of the officers concerned coincided
    with the sounding of reveille! A day off for the Bn.
    pmXmas dinners served in dininghall. Plenty to eat, plates etc had been procured for the occasion
    and beer seemed plentiful too. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Many men were asked out
    afterwards by civilians who are still extremely hospitable.
    Capt J.L. Iremonger posted to us, arrives just in time for the celebrations. This makes us one Capt
    in excess of WE. Authorised to carry this by REFORSEC.
    26am7 SIWs arrive from 11 (Br) General Hosptl. Preparing of summaries etc swung on us by JAG Branch
    in four cases. +Causes a lot of work. Maddening.
    pmThe man who was shot in Transit Park on 23rd and who was taken to 108 (Br) General Hosptl escapes.
    The one link with the gang has therefore gone. Everybody hopping mad. Charges preferred by
    hospital against our guard there. Summary taken immediately, results of summary discloses a
    certain amount of unsatisfactory orders on the part of the hospital. Case put up to Brigadier.
    27amNormal routine.
    pm50 German prisoners (protected personnel - medical) had to be put up overnight in these barracks.
    A large room in the basement cleared and guards put on - bren either end of tbe corridor. No
    excitements and they pushed off on the 0635 hrs train to OSTEND the following morning.
    Second course for 58 Garrison Regt started in the barracks.
    28am4 L of C asked us to run PIAT course for Pioneers starting tomorrow 29th. Arranged for RA course
    instructors to instruct on PIAT in afternoons, running two day courses.
    pmSome of our ACC cooks and our own regimental cooks who have been frequenting certain cafes in the
    poorer areas round here reported that gangs have been frequenting these cafes all carrying and
    that they believe they constitute the car thief and arms thief racketeers. One cook was fired at
    by one of them. Reported to DAPM HQ Brussels Garrison.
    29amOne man from "A" Coy reported he had heard what he took to be a transmitter in a house by the Gare
    du Nord last night. SIB called in and were told all about it and were shown the house.
    pmDAPM asked for assistance of our RP and RSM in carrying out a raid on the cafes mentioned above.
    This was given. Raid produced a bag of four but one got away.
    1300"Stand Down" given at 1300 hrs. Mobile Coy at 3 hours notice remainder cease to be at 6 hours notice.
    Page 8 of 8
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    30am pmNormal routine.
    pmAt 1600 hrs notified by Garrison that we are to find a complete Rifle Coy at WE plus all G1098
    to come under comd 4 Commando Brigade at GOES in SOUTH BEVELAND. Their task is not known.
    "A" and "D" Coys are to privide the necessary men OC "A" Coy will be in charge with "D" Coy officers
    under him, leaving "D" Coy Comd to look after the rest of "D" Coy. Promised Pioneers to replace
    deficiencies in men so that Mobile Coy and duties can be carried on as before.
    All preparations made and a composite coy made up.
    2100Brussels Garrison send message stating that a rep must report sonnest to 7 BSA at ANTWERP.
    Told to send him off at once. Adjt phones 7 BSA who say dont worry - 0930 hrs tomorrow will do,
    proving once again that unofficial direct contact is the only way to avoid a 'box up'!
    310830Force moves off complete with light recce cars section of six cars. Presumably instructions
    will be given to rep by 7 BSA as to what they are going to do on arrival. No-one knows down here
    or so it seems anyhow - they certainly won't tell us if they do!
    10005 Sections plus HQ of Pioneer Coy promised to replace men and 8 - 3 tonners to replace tpt as we
    had to use our own tpt to lift the force.
    pmNo word from Garrison about Pioneers or tpt coming to relieve us for the duties etc.
    On visit to HQ Brussels Garrison further information (vital) gleaned from their files about
    leave instructions. Notes taken so as to save time. Proposed to issue our own order in view
    of the shortage of time.