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    War Diary: 1st Battalion Buckinghamshire Regiment

    Month and year: October 1944

    The 1st Battalion Buckinghamshire Regiment October 1944 war diary their move from Normandy to Brussels, finding their instruments at Wahagnies which they had left there in 1940 along with the graves of two missing officers.

    National Archive Reference: WO 171/1269

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    Page 1 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    PORT EN BESSIN1amNormal routine. Voluntary Church Services.
    pmInter-Coy soccer competition, A Coy v HQ Coy. Very good and close game. A Coy won 4 goals to 3.
    Allotted one offr vacancy on SA Course at Bisley! Lt H.Rees nominated.
    200012 L of C say we are to send 2 Offrs for some unknown reason. Explain this just isn't on in view of
    offr position and one WTO per Bn should be sufficient at this stage of the war. Lt M.H.Rees to be
    flown home early tomorrow, from air-strip at ST LEGER leaving 0845 hrs.
    20745Lt M.H.Rees departs on his course taking with him 44 lbs of luggage.
    pmNormal routine
    3amNormal routine. Notified by 36 Brick that Regtl Band of East Lancs will be playing for us on Friday.
    Programme issued accordingly.
    pm37 RHU phoned to say that Lt D.H.H.McGee has now been posted to us, but asked permission for him to go
    first to Dieppe to see FMO re his lost kit. Permission granted and agreed to take him on strength
    when he finally joins us later.
    1500Capt A.G.F.McDonald a CANLOAN offr posted to us recently arrives and is posted to B Coy. This now
    makes us 1 Capt surplus (Capt W.L.Binns) to proposed Gn WE
    1600CSM Birch returns with crocks from D Coy - posted equally to A.B.C Coys. Sjt Fowler also returns with
    party having found 13 of our original band instruments at WAHAGNIES: It appears that when they were
    left there in 1940, the occupiers of the house in whose garage they were left removed them from the
    box in which they were packed - on the arrival of the Boche - and had them in the house where they have
    been ever since. Apparantly the Bde Dump where the balance of the instruments were stored was
    destroyed by the Boche and although they took away the box from the Garage and severely questioned the
    occupants of the house as to what had been in it and where were the contents now, they got no change
    from them. It seems that they were convinced that the occupants of the house had hidden them and they
    kept them short of food hoping that they would confess for 4 days. They also searched the house high
    and low but despite this they never found the instruments which were kept in a special cellar.
    The instruments are all in good condition in their original cases and merely need cleaning. Sjt
    Fowler who was billeted there in 1940 was welcomed like one of the family and the whole of the town
    turned out to welcome him - the first British soldier they had seen since 1940 apart from those that
    passed through. Everyone remembered the Bn and were overjoyed to see a member of it again after all
    these years. Whilst there Sjt Fowler met Capt A.W.Lee and Cpl L. Toogood who were passing through.
    Capt A.W.Lee stated that he had just been to HAZEBROUCK and seen the graves of Capt Ritchie and
    Major Heyworth. There were in fact two graves both marked Major Heyworth. Great excitement caused
    among the original members of the Bn by this discovery of Band instruments and relief at the discovery
    of the graves as at last this seems to have cleared the question of the "missing" officers.
    Page 2 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    PORT EN BESSIN31700DDMS 12 L of C calls to see Comd Offr re our Categoried men. Very sympathetic but very doubtful
    whether he can do anything about it. Still the more the merrier or, to parody a well known song
    "Tell ' em all."
    1730Pte Rhodes,declared an absentee by C of E 3 weeks ago, turns up having surrendered himself to an
    4amAdvised by 36 Brick that Bn must concentrate by 7 Oct 44 and be relieved of Guards, commitments etc.
    Advised DAQMG that we should require 50 3-tonners to move Bn at present.
    pmVisit by GS 12 L of C to button up prospective hand over here. Still don't know any details of move.
    5amNormal routine. Pte Rhodes remanded to Court Martial on the charge of desertion. The Bn's first
    case since D Day.
    pmNormal routine.
    6amCSM Birch appointed CSM IC WT and programme for regtl WT cadre issued.Appx "A"
    pmBand of East Lancs give two performances in NAFF at 1500 and 2000 hrs.
    7am"B" Coy do 2" mortar training on range close by - state of training of these new intakes is rather
    lamentable on the whole.
    pmAdvised by 36 Brick that the Bn will now not move before 10 Oct. Orders for move will be given as
    soon as accommodation oan be found.
    8amNormal routine.
    pmAdvised by 36 Brick that attached C of E Padre (Revd H.F. Hawkins) is to proceed to Brussels on Monday
    9 Oct.
    9amFGCM in respect of Pte Rhodes at 36 Brick HQ.
    pmNormal routine. Comd offr goes to hospital at BAYEUX to have his teeth out.
    Advised by 36 Brick that Comd Offr is to meet Comd HQ L of C at HQ 12 L of C on 10 Oct.
    10amVisit of Comd Offr to Comd L of C postponed until 11 Oct.
    pmENSA party cancelled through sickness of artistes. 37 RHU phoned to say 30 ORs and 2 Offrs (1 Sub
    and 1 Maj) awaiting collection. Arrange to collect 1700 hrs. Comd Offr returns from hospital -
    feeling down in the mouth!
    11amSuggest to 36 Brick that C of S canteen be permanently attached to 1 Bucks - very doubtful whether
    this will be allowed in view of shortage of canteens in 12 L of C area.
    pmTry once again to remunerate Orderly Room clerks for their good work during the Beach Gp days. Wrote
    to regtl paymaster and applied under article 865 of the Pay Warrant. Draft of 33 ORs arrive plus
    2 offrs - Major F. Kershaw and Lt D.H.H. McGee. ORs posted evenly to "A" "B" "C" Coys. Officers
    postings not yet decided.
    Appx "B"
    120700Comd Offr goes to HQ 12 L of C to see Comd 12 L of C. Hope to hear news of Bn's future role on his
    Page 3 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    PORT-EN-BESSIN12pmComd Offr returns with news that we are to move to Brussels in approx ten days time and that we
    should already have received movement orders. Needless to say these have not yet arrived - 36
    Brick and 12 L of C denying all knowledge! Comd Offr saw ADMS 12 L of C regarding the proposed med
    board on our 191'ex guards' members of the battalion. Arranged for board to come here at once and
    live here for a few days and board each one. Object of board will be to check their categories
    and state specifically whether or not they can do guards and if possible to state whether fit or unfit
    for duty in a garrison battalion. Latter statement is considered an outside chance only as no-one
    has yet laid down the duties of a garrison battalion. 'Who shall be the first?' is the prevalent
    13amNormal routine. Advised by Reforsec that 6 subalterns are to be posted to us from 37 RHU. Also
    further sub from 38 RHU. Further mysterious message from Reforsec stating '3 Post Officers to 1
    Bucks via 37 RHU' addressed to 1 Bucks and 37 RHU for infm and no-one for action, so the whole thing
    is a bundle of mystery. However this is nothing new and we just wait until they arrive or are
    within striking distance when we collect them. Posting order received for 29 ORs to be posted to
    37 RHU. This is first instalment of the 90 cases already recommended by our RMO.
    pmComd Offr and Adjt visit 37 RHU and arrange to collect the 6 officers at 1000 hrs tomorrow. Also
    arrange for the 29 ORs to be returned to 37 RHU 1000 hrs Monday 16 Oct 44.
    1800Orders received that Capt A.R. Bruce (Sigs Offr) is to become sigs instructor at Catterick and return
    to UK immediately.
    14amMessage received from Reforsec posting a temporary Captain to fill vacancy as SO in the Bn. Replied
    that we already have two SOs and request order be cancelled. Capt M. Cabeldu who has already had
    experience as Sigs Offr both in UK and out here appointed Sigs Offr vice Capt A.R. Bruce now posted
    and transferred to HQ Coy from "C" Coy accordingly. Lt M.R. Borton promoted A/Capt and transferred
    from "B" Coy to "C" Coy as 2 IC. The 6 new offrs arrived amongst whom is one Lt QM! No doubt
    someone has blundered! Phoned 37 RHU whence came the Lt QM and arranged for him to be returned
    pronto. Comd Offr takes him back to 37 RHU! and then there were 5! 5 new offrs posted to coys,
    2 are earmarked to join "D" Coy as soon as they have been kitted up. 2 CANLOAN offrs included in
    the 5.
    pmSinister message from Reforsec addressed for action to 185 Inf Bde and for infm to us and ECHEXFOR
    OXFORD stating whereabouts of Capt J.M.S. Knott (RAMC) our RMO. This sounds like a pending posting!
    Comd Offr phones ADMS 12 L of C to put him in the picture. As RMO is probably the most valuable man
    we have at present in view of all these psychiatric cases and categoried men generally, it is felt
    that his loss at this time will be disastrous. Effort will be made to frustrate these evil
    machinations of Reforsec even if it means a visit to Brussels specially to do it. SSI Rider also
    posted away. Fantastic! Just as he is really being used to the full for the first time since D Day.
    Page 4 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    PORT-EN-BESSIN14pmAnyhow he is not available for posting at once so there will be time to give battle over this one too
    before we part with him. This vast distance between sender and receiver is making things very
    difficult but we hope it won't be long before we are at the enemy's doorstep once again and can use
    our rocket firing typhoons!
    15amMovement started by Revd Cameron C of S Padre, to attach existing personnel working at local C of S
    canteen to 1 Bucks, so that they move with us and set up shop wherever we go. The canteen is
    extremely popular and provides nightly entertainment for the men in the way of sing-songs, local
    talent shows, cinema shows and brains trusts.
    pmStill raining!
    16830Capt Bruce, our Sigs offr, departs for UK to take up his new duties as Sig Instr at School of Signals,
    Catterick. Extremely sorry to lose this offr after 3 1/2 years with Bn. We are now left with our
    minimum cadre of 9 original offrs, all the others having been posted away to various units or fmns.
    Comd Offr goes to 12 L of C to try and find out something about our move. Result NIL. 12 L of C
    teleprint HQ L of C and promise to phone tonight if anything breaks. Meanwhile we have indented for
    50 3 tonners to lift the Bn lock, stock and barrel. 28 men despatched to 37 RHU to be SP'ed - this
    is a start on the 'unsuitables' and leaves a total of 54 still for disposal with new ones pouring in
    all the time. 1 Sjt, Sjt Sanders, transferred from 5 Kings to us as he was originally with 1st Bn
    Oxf Bucks. In return we send two Ptes to 5 Kings as they had previosuly served with Kings Regt.
    Message from 36 Brick stating that wef 1800 hrs today we came under 5 L of C Sub-Area as 36 Brick
    move tomorrow. We are to be relieved of all guards immediately.
    pmWedding of Marine Jones to Pte Baskerville ATS arranged at C of S canteen. Senior Chaplain of 12
    L of C officiating.
    1930Informed by 37 RHU that a Staff Capt from Reforsec is with them and proposes to post to us two drafts
    tomorrow - one of 400 and the other of 150 - making 550 in all. Though quite accustomed to nonsenses
    these days, this seems to be carrying a joke too far. This will now make our total OR strength 1282!!
    Somebody, it is feared, is not quite in the picture, and it is heavy odds on Reforsec at present.
    Comd Offr and Adjt asked to go to conference at 37 RHU tomorrow at 1000 hrs to discuss position with
    Reforsec. Adjt spends profitable hour collating all past and outstanding inexplicable orders etc
    from Reforsec. Ready to take them to task at 1000 hrs tomorrow. Within grasp at last! Comd
    Offr retires early to polish up his revolver drill!
    171000Comd Offr and Sdjt visit 37 RHU for conference with Reforsec. Discover that 21 Army Gp have now
    at last laid down certain basic qualifications for men drafted into this Bn, limited also to certain
    Appx "C"
    Page 5 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    PORT-EN-RESSIN17amSuggested that we at once return all our 'unsuitables' to 37 RHU and get immediately replacements.
    On receipt of replacements they must at once be put through the various tests and any unsuitable
    will be returned by the next post to 37 RHU! and so on till we have a complete Bn of 'suitables'.
    This seems a very good proposal and arrangements are made for us to send in 200 odd bodies tomorrow - 1
    8 Oct and pick up the equiavlent number of replacements plus an extra 55 to make us up to WE (Grn)
    also learn that our 6 officers attached away are finally to be posted to X(iv) list to reinforcement
    groups - remaining attached as at present. This will simplify matters considerably, as we laan strike
    off our strength as soon as the order arrives.
    Managed to cancel the posting order of Capt Wright who was recently posted as Signal offr to replace
    Capt Bruce - now left Bn for UK.
    Promised 5 more subalterns tomorrow and the balance of 4 as soon as possible.
    1400Conference of coy comds and RMO explained position and coy comds go off to prepare lists of
    unsuitables for handing in to Bn HQ by 1800 hrs for collation.
    1800Names collated 227 in all. Psychiatrist's report and medical reports attached where applicable.Appx "D"
    190037 RHU plioned to say that out of the 500 men they had just received from England for grn duties only
    approx 50 were fit to draft, on this new order. They would, however, find the balance of 200 odd
    out of their existing resources provided that they were given an extra day.
    All arrangements postponed 24 hrs and no move now till 0900 hrs 19 Oct 44.
    They will send us in return for our 227, 282, which will complete us to WE (Grn).
    2000Infmd by 5 L of C that our move to BRUSSELS is now cancelled! Confirmation will follow.
    18amChurch of Scotland canteen orderly charged with stealing goods and money valued £80 from the canteen
    during the course of his duties there. Investigations are proceeding.
    pmMessage received from 5 L of C stating that our move will NOT now take place till relieved by French
    troops - no approx date given. 37 RHU phoned to say they had received instrs for- 2 of their sections
    to move on 20 Oct and had also had in a new daft from England and could not take any bodies in.
    Proposed to send us 55 men to make up to WE.
    Comd Offr agreed to take these men.
    Instrs re move of 241 unsuitables cancelled.
    191000Comd Offr and Adjt visit 37 RHU and see Reforsec who explained difficulty of accn but ask if we will
    take another 150 bodies. Comd Offr agrees. Agreed with Reforsec that we will dispose of our
    'unsuitables' to 35 RHU up to 150 and take in new batch of 150.
    1200New draft of 55 arrive from RHU - 5 immediate rejects who are in wrong categories! posted to coys.Appx "E"
    180037 RHU phoned to say quite impossible to take a single man in 35 RHU as new draft from England just
    arrived. Asks if we can take 150 still. After much rapid thinking and not a little sharpish
    talking, Comd Offr finally agrees but gets promised from 37 RHU that as soon as they have space at all
    Page 6 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    191800they will let us know and will take in our 'rejects'. Obviously some or should tell the War Office to
    stop sending these chaps out here as they are quite useless, and merely clutter up the place.
    pmDecided that 'B' Company must move to VILLIERS SUR PORT tomorrow - place has already been recced and
    and 'X' Coy must be formed consisting of 'rejects'. Instructions issued accordingly.
    4 new officers arrived from 37 RHU and are posted to Coys. Maj Kershaw posted to 'B' Coy and assumes
    command. Arrangements made to collect 150 bodies from 35 RHU tomorrow.
    Appx "F"
    200700Capt McDonald, Lt Kinnley and Lt Oates proceed to BRUSSELS to join 'D' Coy are posted to 'D' Coy
    accordingly. Lt Pennington accompanies them to call in at DIEPPE on way back to try and locate his
    and other officers kit with the MFO there.
    amC of S Padre - Rev Baillie also accompanies party to try and sort out whether they are to be attached
    to the Bucks or not. Draft of 155 arrives from 35 RHU. Only 5 rejected by RMO remainder posted
    to Coys.
    Appx "G"
    pmB' Coy move to VILLIERS SUR PORT completed by 1400hrs. 'X'' Coy formed in old 'B' Coy lines under
    Capt G.H. Tait.
    1930Stars in Battle Dress' give performance at C of S Canteen on very improvised stage of tables etc;
    great success including tap dancing - the crowd roared! Total Strength has reached the dizzy height
    of 957 bodies.
    21amRonnie Dix (The Padre) phoned from CAEN to say that he had just been told that he had been appointed
    Garrison Chaplain of BRUSSELS and wondered if we were going there too.
    Unfortunately we have no news of move as yet but we have been told we shall eventually go up to
    BRUSSELS. This is great news as we shall once more have our old Chaplain back with us, something we
    have been pressing for ever since he went.
    Coys are sorting out their new arrivals and preparing rolls and returns etc.
    pmComd Offr goes to 5 L of C Sub Area at 1415hrs to see Deputy Comd L of C and try and get some news
    of our move out of him.
    Very nice letter received from Lt Col Hickei OBE, AQ 6 Airborne Div thanking us all for our assistance
    given to 6 Airborne Div in their Advance towards the SEINE. Copy of letter is attached as App "H"
    We finally lost all our Carriers and drivers in this effort as when 6 Airborne Div returned to UK all
    our drivers were posted to a Rft Gp and have never been heard of since. We also lost all our Carriers.
    However it was all in a good cause and apparently appreciated. The whole arrangement was purley local
    between our Comd Offr and Lt Col Hickie unbeknown to any higher formation. The matter was obviously
    urgent so we said "Take Them" which they did.
    Page 7 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    21pmS Capt Q 5 L of C rang up and said our move is now imminent and that we had been allotted 30 3-tonners
    for the move. No date yet fixed but will advise us as soon as possible.
    22amWarning Order issued to Coys re Advance Party,Appx "I"
    pmNormal Routine.
    23amInstrs received from 12 L of C that we are to move as soon as possible. How many vehs do we require?
    Reply 39 if we leave 'X' Coy behind.
    Comd Offr arranged with 37 RHU to transfer 'X' Coy yo them but that we will house them temporarily at
    pm12 L of C phoned to say we were to pick up 100 15 cwts from local AOD which had to go to BRUSSELS
    anyhow and were to convey the Bn in them.
    Appx "J"
    Movement Order No 1 issued.
    Route given to us, all other arrangements left to us. Decided to move in two parties A & HQ Coys on
    Thursday 26 Oct and B and C Coys 27th Oct staging twice on way.
    240830Advance Party to leave early.
    0900Comd Offr conference re move.
    1000100 15 cwts picked up. We are to provide drivers! T.O. reports we can just do it.
    amMessage received that 100 Belgian civilians Dvrs are coming down to drive us up. This sounds too
    dangerous so arranged that we would pick them up at CAEN on 26th and allot them 12 15 cwts for their
    own convoy. The thought of our own inexperienced drivers is alarming enough but 100 Belgian
    Civilians driving a military convoy tends to make the blood run cold with horror. The time has come
    to lay down the law and say 'despite your instrs: you will ride in the back'.
    pmMovement Order No 2 issued. Maps prepared and all final arrangements made.Appx "K"
    25amNew drivers all being tested by TO who is having a very hectic time. Final 'X' Coy list now
    1100Adjt and Capt Tait visit 37 RHU with final list."Appx "L"
    pmLoading stores for HQ and A Coy and Bn HQ.
    Final postings to 'X' Coy which now ammount to 275 in all.
    26amColumn moves off to schedule. Guide party 0745hrs Cooks Trucks 0800hrs Main Column 0900hrs. Route
    card attached as appdx Column is not all that the Dr ordered in view of type of driver (temporary)
    who have had to be employed. However column arrives safely at first staging camp at TILLY by
    1700hrs. Excellent billets in farm houses found by Capt Low (Guide Party). One or two trucks never
    arrived owing to various causes - none serious.
    Twelve vehs delivered empty to 14 AOD to be driven up by Belgian Civilians for Civil Affairs. One
    truck damaged en route to CAEN and towed to AOD.
    Appx "M"
    Page 8 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    27AMConvoy gets under way at 0830 with the same guide party on ahead and the cooks trucks. Guide left
    behind for B and C Coys.
    B and C Coys started 0900 from PORT EN BESSIN. Filled with Petrol at POIX and one or two blocks got lost in AMIENS sign posting was poor. Also
    our DRs (The Regtl Police) went on ahead to BRUSSELS to prepare for our arrival, so we were without
    DRs virtually.
    pmCapt Low Guide Party contacted local Belgian 'FFI' just short of MONS and put up HQ Coy in FFI HQ -
    a large drill hall and A Coy in convent nearby at village called ELOUGES
    Tremendous reception by the locals who literally could not do enough for us. They
    wanted to give everyone a bed even. FFI guarded the tpt overnight and sounded reveille on a
    trumpet at 0700hrs next morning.
    Last block arrived about 1100hrs. This left one block short and 2 3-tonners.
    28am1 missing block arrived for breakfast 0730hrs having put up for he night on the road side just short
    0930Column moved off amidst much cheering from the population. Guides left behind for B and C Coys.
    1300Arrived at ST JEAN BARRACKS.
    pmB and C Coys arrived at ELGUGES . Civilians there to meet them. Every soldier was taken off
    by a civilians and given a civilian billet for the night!
    29amB and C Coys left amidst much cheering from the population.
    1200B and C Coys arrived at ST JEAN BARRACKS.
    Bn settling in. AllFvehs now arrived only one truck written off on journey up!
    ST JEAN BARRACKS BRUSSELS30amBn assumes comd of all troops in the barracks but the 168 Coy Pnr Corps continues the transit side of
    the Brks. We take over Det Barracks also which is a complete shambles at present - no system or order,
    no discipline and the place in a filthy condition. Men there with no charges been there for 3 or 4
    weeks - quite scandalous. Place cleaned out, men bathed and given a haircut and proper system
    adopted at once.
    We take over all guardds on the Brks except transit car parks.
    pmTpt details and demands pour in from Gr HQ Brussels Garrison who are our immediate superiors.
    31amBn takes over guard at HQ Brussels Gn. Our total duties within the barracks now amount to 23 NCOs
    and 85 ORs daily!
    3 Belgian LOs permanently attd to this HQ proving very useful as there is a lot of civilian labour
    employed here and many enquiries from people who can't speak English - very trying!
    Page 9 of 9
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    31pmBn settling down to new routine and cleaning up. For the first time since the war started we are in
    a large town and enter first town of any sort since D Day. It's refreshing to get away from the
    mud at PORT EN BESSIN to the present clean streets of BRUSSELS and also to experience free rides on
    the Trams!
    Everything is very expensive though no doubt the novelty will wear off soon and the men will welcome
    from local entertainment, within the Brks.
    3008s and 3009s attached as AppendicesAppx 'N'