Ken Brooke
Sounds Like The Enemy
The Wartime Memories of Kenneth Brooke
Ken Brooke

Appendix A

The 4th [Durham] Survey Regiment


1  Background

A Royal Artillery Survey Regiment had 2 Batteries, each of which had one Troop for each of the following functions: Flash Spotting, Artillery Survey and Sound Ranging.  The flash spotters would stand on gantries, typically 4-m high in the desert but considerably higher in Europe where trees and buildings were more likely to block the line of sight.  Equipped with an instrument similar to binoculars and a theodolite, they would report to headquarters the bearing of the enemy guns; information from 3 or 4 spotters enabled the position of the gun to be determined.  This technique was more accurate than sound ranging because light does not bend or distort.  The Artillery Survey Troop was responsible for producing maps and maintaining the 'bearing pickets' (establishing the exact positioning of friendly guns).

For more information on flash spotting, see Phyllis Crossland, On Active Service p 74, [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991,
ISBN 0-9517498-0-3], or click here.

2  Operations

Ken Brooke was in the Sound Ranging Troop of B Battery of the 4th [Durham] Survey Regiment.  His troop was designated 'S' Troop, while that in A Battery was 'R' Troop.  There were about 60 people in 'S' Troop, which consisted of 2 forward headquarters units (one for each shift), 5 line parties each of 4 men, and 2 Advance Posts (APs), again each of 4 men (click here for detailed organisation).  Five microphones were positioned along the front line, each of which was linked to a recorder at the forward headquarters.  The 5 microphones were used to give 4 time differences; they were supposed to be 1000 m apart, but the desert terrain was not as obliging as Salisbury Plain and in practice they were more like 800 m apart, giving a front of some 3.2 km.  The connecting wires were strung along the desert surface, so the installation stood little chance if tracked vehicles were moving through the area.  Click here for a more-detailed explanation.

An AP was stationed in front of the microphones; a soldier there pressed a control button (starting the recorder) when he heard an enemy gun firing.  The recorder used film marked with lines signifying the passage of time; the Film Reader could pick out individual guns and measure the time difference of the sound's arrival at the various microphones.  The height of the trace was an indication of distance.  Each type of gun had a characteristic signature: that of an 88-mm gun had a sharp up and down shape, while a 210-mm gun had a slow increase followed by a slow decrease.  Also, the heavier guns were more difficult to move, making their position easier to track.  This information could be plotted, again allowing the location of the gun to be determined.

By estimating the bearing and distance of the enemy artillery, the APs could determine the length of time for which the recorder needed to operate and they would also radio in the number and type of guns to assist in analysis.  The recording unit would be switched off as soon as possible to conserve film.  The film would then be developed in the same way as conventional photographic film.  The meteorological office supplied a wind chart, which was used to correct the measurements before plotting on the artillery chart.

If a neat intersection was made with all 4 time differences on two occasions, that meant an accuracy of 50 m or less (a Z grade).  Measurements rated A were such that the gun could be anywhere within a 100-m radius.  Trees and other aspects of the environment could distort the sound to degrade the result in this manner.  If such a gun were particularly troublesome, a Lysander would be sent by Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA) headquarters to spot the artillery from the air.  No matter how well camouflaged a position might have been, it would always leave a shadow - in fact, it was more effective to camouflage the shadow than the hardware, but that meant moving the shadow to follow the sun.

'S' Troop was always in the front line and therefore worked alongside a number of combat units - the 7th Armoured Division, the 51st Highland Division, the Indian 4th Division, Australians and New Zealanders.  When a division withdrew to rest, the Troop carried on with whomever took its place.  It was in a similar region to the Flash Spotting Troop and reported to the same AGRA, so the men of the two Troops would occasionally encounter each other.  There was no contact with the Artillery Survey Troop though, and some men from Survey accompanied the Long Range Desert Group on its missions.


At El Alamein 'S' Troop started in the central section of the line.  On 23 October 1942 one complete battery was assigned to 30 Corps, attached to the South African 1st Division along with the 7th & 64th Medium Regiments (with eight 4.5" guns and eight 5.5" guns) and 69th Medium Regiment (with sixteen 4.5" guns), also of the Royal Artillery.  'S' Troop then moved to the extreme south.  In his memoirs, Ken recalls being at the extreme south near some Free French 5.5" artillery.  The two Free French Brigade Groups at El Alamein were in 13 Corps associated with the 44th Infantry Division, which was indeed at the southern end of the line.  The Free French 1st Artillery Regiment had sixteen 25-pounders and four 5.5" guns.
Lieut-Col H F Joslen, Orders of Battle Second World War 1939-1945 reprint pp 570 & 574, London 1990 [London Stamp Exchange]

When the initial barrage started at El Alamein, the Troop members watched the fireworks for half an hour and then went to sleep as the artillery went to work on the positions that the surveyors had plotted during the previous 3 months.  Each gun was allocated either a designated position or devoted to the creeping barrage supporting the advance.  The enemy gave way in the north and south, so 'S' Troop returned to its original position in the centre on 25 October.  It stayed there until the breakthrough and then moved through the minefields with the advancing troops.

Under barrage conditions it was impossible to distinguish between the guns on the film, so little could be done other than spot the bearing of the flash and time the 'flash-to-bang' interval.  When a gun is pointing directly at a position, that position hears two bangs - one from the firing of the charge and the second when the shell leaves the muzzle (the 'shell wave').  This technique relies on experience.  The surveyors worked better when there were just 2 or 3 guns.

3  Deployment

3.1  Order of Battle

The following information relies heavily on Lieut-Col H F Joslen, Orders of Battle Second World War 1939-1945 reprint, London 1990 [London Stamp Exchange], to which the quoted page numbers refer.


In May 1940 the Sound Ranging unit moved to Urchfont and the Flash Spotting and Survey Batteries moved to Bromham.  On 13 November most of the Regiment travelled by rail to Liverpool and embarked for the Middle East.  The force disembarked at Port Suez on 24 December and went to Beni Yusef Camp in Egypt.  The Middle East forces from 31 January 1941 to at least 6 August 1941 in the Nile Delta, Cairo Base sub-area, were as follows (pp 479 & 482).

Royal Artillery Historical Trust, letter to Andreas J Sarker, 14 October 1998
  Royal Artillery 25/26 & 27/28 Batteries
7th & 64th Medium Regiments
4th Forward Survey Regiment
  Royal Engineers 295 & 551 A Troops Company
  Infantry 2nd Battalion Scots Guards
2nd King's Own
Polish Brigade Group

Around 30 March 1941, the Regiment was deployed to Greece but the Greek army surrendered soon afterwards.  Between 24 and 29 April more than 50,000 troops were evacuated to Crete but over 10,000 of their comrades were left behind.  There was no air cover and the navy was only able to approach the shore during darkness.

On Crete there was little Allied artillery and the Regiment fought as infantry.  The Regiment returned to Egypt on 1 May, so it should have escaped the German airborne assault.  (The only obvious Royal Artillery forces present on Crete on 20 May were 87 troops supporting four 3.7" howitzers.)  Nevertheless, the 4th [Durham] Survey Regiment was replenished by members of the 8th Survey Regiment when the 8th arrived in Africa (some of Ken Brooke's colleagues in 'S' Troop served in Crete).

The 8th Army was formed on 9 September 1941 with 13 & 30 Corps; 10 Corps was added to its command in June 1942 (p 485).  Elements of the Regiment were briefly detached to 10 Corps of the 9th Army in Palestine from February to July (p 486).  B Battery supported Tobruk from the beginning of 1942, but was lost following the port's defeat on 21 June 1942 (soldiers were mostly killed or captured, but some were torpedoed by friendly fire while offshore in a landing craft).

Yannis Krontiras and Marina Galkin, 'RASC clerk puts the record straight' in The New Crusader vol 5 no 17 p 7, March 1998 [Eighth Army Veterans' Association]
Stephen B Patrick, 'Paratroop - A History of Airborne Operations' in Strategy & Tactics 77 pp 10-11, November/December 1979 [SPI]
Eric Goldberg, 'Descent on Crete' in Strategy & Tactics 66 pp 33-34, January/February 1978 [SPI]
Phyllis Crossland op cit, p 75

Regimental Headquarters joined 13 Corps in October 1942 and moved to 30 Corps on 7 July 1943.  The 4th Survey Regiment was the only survey unit in the 8th Army until at least 29 May 1943.  By 10 July 1943 the 3rd Survey Regiment had joined the 8th Army.

The 8th Army became part of 15 Army Group, which was composed as follows (p 467).  Under this command the Regiment went to Sicily and then Italy.  In October 1943 the Regiment was at Messina.

  8th Army 5, 10, 13 & 30 Corps
including Royal Artillery 3rd, 4th, 5th & 8th Survey Regiments (on 30 September 1943) 
  US 5th Army
  Canadian 1st Div

30 Corps ceased to be under this command on 5 November 1943 when it began returning to the UK and joined 21 Army Group (formed on 9 July 1943).  The broad composition of 21 Army Group until 15 May 1945 was as follows (p 463).

  2nd Army 1, 8, 12 & 30 Corps
including Royal Artillery 4th, 7th, 9th & 10th Survey Regiments (from 23 May 1944 or earlier)
  Canadian 1st Army

3.2  Places

Ken noted that it was rare for 'S' Troop to come in contact with other members of the 4th Survey Regiment, but there is a high correlation between the places he visited and those visited by Private Harold Fearnley.  Harold was in D Observation Post of a flash-spotting unit of the 4th Survey Regiment.  He went up to El Alamein in July and was positioned at the edge of the Qattara Depression; Ken reached this position at the end of September.  The observation posts were static towers, 20-m high and sandbagged.  Harold stayed there until 22 October and noted that there was a gentleman's agreement that these towers, on both sides, should be left alone.  Needless to say, during the El Alamein bombardment the sky was lit up to such an extent that no flash spotting could be done.

Phyllis Crossland op cit, pp 71, 76-83

After El Alamein, the flash-spotting unit advanced to the Mareth line.  There, D Observation Post went round to the south with some Gurkhas.  Subsequent movement was as follows (see also excerpts from the Troop Diary and Cpl Johnson's meteorological diary).


Harold Fearnley Kenneth Brooke
Sailed to Malta, then to Sicily Sailed from Sfax, North Africa, to Sicily
Sailed from Messina to Algiers on 8 Nov Sailed to Algiers on 11 November
Sailed to England on the Franconia, landing in Liverpool the week before Christmas (two other troopships sailed back to Liverpool at the same time) Sailed to England on the Franconia on 27 Nov, landing in Liverpool on 9 December
Spent much of the next 5 months in Manningtree, Essex Spent much of the next 5 months in Manningtree, Essex
Went to Clacton-on-Sea a week before 6 June Went to Clacton-on-Sea on 29 April; embarked at Tilbury on 5 June
Sailed to France on 7 June Arrived at Gold Beach on 7 June
Travelled through Brussels and Antwerp Travelled through Brussels
Travelled through Nijmegen, crossed the Rhine, continued to Cuxhaven, Hamburg and the Ardennes Travelled through Eindhoven and Nijmegen, crossed the Rhine, continued to Cuxhaven, Hamburg and the Ardennes
Leave Leave
Hanover, Sandbostel concentration camp Hanover, Sandbostel concentration camp
Sailed to Dover in April 1946 Demobilised 25 January 1946

3.3  The Landing at Gold Beach

Gold Beach was a 30-km stretch of sandy beach from Ouistreham at the mouth of the River Orne to Arromanches, where there was a small fishing harbour.  Cliffs interrupted the beach.  Between Luc-sur-Mer and Lion-sur-Mer the cliff was sheer and 10 m high.  Just east of Arromanches, the land rose and the cliffs ran straight down to the sea from a height of 30 m.  The cliffs also rose sheer to the west of Arromanches for 12 km to Fox Red, the eastern edge of Omaha Beach.

Stephen E Ambrose, D-Day pp 514-515 [London: Simon & Schuster, 1994, ISBN 0-7434-4974-6]

The landing area was therefore mostly smooth and flat, but heavily protected by mines and obstacles.  Heavy field guns were positioned on the heights above Arromanches.  At Riva Bella, a village just west of Ouistreham, an emplacement housed twenty-two guns, including twelve 155-mm cannon.  At Longues, halfway between Omaha and Gold Beaches, four 155-mm Czech guns were set back about one kilometre from the coast, with a steel-reinforced concrete observation post on the edge of the cliff.  Extensive emplacements along the beach held 75-mm and 88-mm guns, mortars and machine guns.  The embrasures opened along the beach, rather than out to sea.

Stephen E Ambrose, ibid p 517

There was a large population in the area around the beach, and many of the sea-facing villas and small hotels had been seized by the Germans, reinforced with concrete and equipped with guns.  "Just as it was getting light, a tremendous bombing attack was delivered inland and fires which appeared to come from Ver-sur-Mer and La Rivi�re could be clearly seen.  Apart from some flak, there was no enemy opposition of any sort, although it was broad daylight and the ships must have been clearly visible from the beaches.  It was not until the first flight of assaulting troops were away and the cruiser HMS Belfast opened fire that the enemy appeared to realise that something out of the ordinary was afoot.  For some time after this the anchorage was ineffectually shelled by the enemy coastal batter situated about [1 km] inland.  Shooting was very desultory, and inaccurate, and the guns of only 6- to 8-inch calibre."

Warren Tute, John Costello and Terry Hughes, D-Day p 197 [London: Pan Books, 1975]

The crack German 352nd Division defended both Omaha and Gold, assisted at Gold by a second-rank division, the 716th that drew one third of its men from Soviet Georgia and Russia.  One general staff officer remarked, "We ask a lot if we expect Russians to fight in France for Germany against the Americans."  At dawn only two infantry battalions and one artillery battalion were in a position to defend against the invasion.  Many were sleeping in the resort houses that dotted the coat, concentrated at Le Hamel (right-centre of Gold Beach, holding the 1st Battalion, 916th Regiment of the 352nd Division) and La Rivi�re (left flank boundary with Juno Beach).  The division reserve (Kampfgruppe Meyer, named for the commanding officer of the 915th Regiment) was mobilised at 07:35, but it did not arrive until noon.

Paul Carell, Invasion - They're Coming! p 89 [New York: Dutton, 1963]

Stephen E Ambrose, op cit p 342

Men from the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) and the Royal Engineers began to land on Gold Beach at 07:35.  It was one hour later than the American landings because the tide moved from west to east, so low tide came later on the British beaches.  The wind at Gold came from the north-west, piling up the water to such a depth that the outer line of obstacles was underwater before the UDT men could reach them.  The specialists were followed immediately by the first wave of landing craft carrying tanks and infantry assault teams.  Once the ramp went down, the men and vehicles rushed off the craft.  A commando explained, "The reason we stormed Normandy like we did was because the soldiers would rather have fought the whole German Army than go back on the ships and be as seasick as they were going over.  My God!  Those soldiers couldn't wait to get on dry land."

Stephen E Ambrose, ibid p 519

Tute, Costello and Hughes, op cit p 175

The men landing in the first wave were from the British 50th [Northumbrian] Infantry Division and 7th Armoured Division.  Their objective was to penetrate the German defences between the small seaside resorts of Le Hamel and La Rivi�re, and advance inland to take Bayeux and Arromanches.  The latter port was a vital first-day objective since it was to be one of the sites for the Mulberry Harbour to be towed across the Channel on D+1.

Lieutenant Ian Munro of the 112th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment recalled the following scene on 9 June just off Le Hamel: "Cliffs lined most of [the French coast], but they were low and between them were good, sandy beaches.  The sea was dotted as far as the eye could see with hundreds of vessels of all sizes and descriptions.  Wreckage and litter were thick on the surface of the water.  Late in the afternoon we moved inshore and anchored about a mile out.  Hours passed with no sign of unloading, and tempers began to fray. ... Next morning as promised we were first for the shore.  This was not a very easy matter, as it meant getting all the lads down two rope ladders in a fair swell.  We had some difficulty with one lad, who had to be blindfolded before he could face the climb. ... I tripped over something in the sea and found it to be a rifle, which I added to my kit."

There were heavy losses both amongst the British and the civilian French.  British soldiers drowned in the heavy seas, some entombed in their tanks, while others were blown up by mines or shot by heavy armour, machine-gun or sniper fire.  Landings opposite Le Hamel were suspended, because the heavy surf and enemy fire prevented landing craft from beaching.  Nevertheless, La Rivi�re fell at 10:00 and Le Hamel succumbed in the middle of the afternoon.  The Allies had put 25,000 men ashore at a cost of about 400 casualties and some 500 captured German POWs, while many French families were killed, wounded or made homeless.  "The English had thought that all civilians had been evacuated from the coast, and were very surprised to find the inhabitants had stayed in their homes."


Colin John Bruce, War on the Ground pp 276 & 277 [London: Constable, 1995]

 
 
Juliet Gardiner, D-Day - Those Who Were There pp 155, 156 & 158 [London: Collins & Brown, 1994]

 
Tute, Costello and Hughes, op cit p 202

The 2nd Battalion of the German 915th Regiment had been sent to Colleville-sur-Mer to attack the US 1st Infantry Division.  The rest of Kampfgruppe Meyer passed to the south of Bayeux, reaching its assembly area at Brazenville at 17:30.  Meanwhile, the high tide and the delay in clearing the beach obstacles delayed the follow-up waves of the 50th Division by at least 2 hours.  The road to Bayeux had been open until 17:30, but they were too late to take advantage of the opportunity.  By the end of 6 June, the men of the 50th Infantry Division had penetrated 10 km inland and taken Arromanches and Brazenville.  They had met the Canadian forces at Creully to the east, and were in a position to move out to Bayeux the following day.

The pattern was repeated across the British and Canadian beaches.  The assault teams rapidly penetrated the German defensive system, but the tide and beach obstacles delayed the following waves.  However, even the assault teams failed to advance as quickly or as far as Montgomery had hoped.  The tendency was to stop to brew up a tea and congratulate themselves on getting ashore.  Nevertheless, British troops from Gold Beach reached the American troops from Omaha Beach at Colleville two days later.

Stephen E Ambrose, op cit p 525

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