140 Regiment’s ‘Parent’- the 92nd Field Regiment RA

Pre War

The 92nd Field Regiment originated as the 5th London Brigade, Royal Field Artillery in February 1920. It became 92nd (5th London) Brigade, RFA (TA) in 1921. The Regiment was re-designated 92nd (5th London) Field Regiment RA (TA) in November 1938 with two Batteries.

On 1st May 1939 the 92nd Field Regiment RA was re-organised once again as part of the 1st London Division. Its RHQ staff and 365 Battery were based at Kennington Lane, Clapham and 368 Battery was based at Beresford Street Barracks, Woolwich.

Insignia of London Miltary District

92nd Field Regiment RA. Photograph thought to be pre-war 1939 at Woolwich

The new 140 Field Regiment RA was then created as a discrete fighting unit as part of this 1939 reorganisation by the transfer of the 92nd Regiment’s 366 and 367 Batteries into 140 Regiment, with 366 Battery using the Kennington Lane base in Clapham and its HQ Staff with 367 Battery based at Woolwich.

In early August 1939, 92nd Field Regiment had its first practical trials at Beaulieu, Hampshire. Almost directly after this camp the National Emergency was declared by Chamberlain’s government and with it key personnel based at RHQ Clapham prepared for mobilisation. A large draft of Reservists joined from the RA Assembly Centre at Ascot.

Declaration of War

Fearing an immediate bombing of London as soon as hostilities broke out, arrangements were made for the 92nd Regiment to mobilise at Cheam, near Sutton, Surrey.

Coincidentally, Cheam was my father Eric West’s home, and perhaps the link which might explain his, and his lifelong friend Jack Portas’s recruitment into the 140th Field Regiment a month or so later.

On 8th September 1939, Signals equipment arrived at Cheam, followed by Gun tractors a few days later. The Regiment was equipped with the new 25-pounder guns (whereas 140 Regiment would be equipped with the older, less efficient 18-pounders). Transport vehicles comprised a collection of various civilian trucks, mostly pressed into service from local firms. Camouflage paint was issued and put into use so that most of the vehicles began to look military.

92nd Regiment joins the B.E.F. September 1939

Insignia of 5th Infantry Division

BEF Vehicle Identification for 92nd Regiment was the number 5

92nd Field Regiment R.A. was amongst the first British troops to land in France. On 17th September 1939, an advance party, under the 2nd I/C Major AP Hodges, left Cheam and sailed from Southampton to Cherbourg. On 22nd September 1939, the road party left London to Avonmouth and embarked in SS Fenella and MV Royal Daffodil.

When the rest of the Regiment arrived at St Nazaire to join the B.E.F. on 1st October 1939, its Adjutant was Captain H.S.S. Aston and the Battery Commanders were Major D Cragg-Hamilton, 365 Battery and Major R.A. Martin, 368 Battery.

On 5th October 1939, 92nd Regiment moved to Louviers, and then to Moyenville, near Abbeville. On 8th October 1939 the Regiment set up billets at Auchy, west of Orchies, near Lille. Wagon line vehicles and personnel were billeted in small farms north of Moncheaux.  The Regiment’s role within the B.E.F. was to man gun positions on the Nomain/Orchies line in the 2nd Division Sector on the Franco-Belgian frontier.

Some months later, in April 1940, the newly formed 140th Regiment would follow 92nd Regiment to this area of northern France and become based there.

92nd Regiment’s Phoney War 1939-1940

On 11th November 1939, during the ‘Phoney War’ 92nd Regiment was placed at 4 hours’ notice. There were rumours that a German attack might be imminent, but it was a false alarm, and the Regiment was stood down on the 19th November.  

From 17th December 1939, while the Regiment was at a practice camp at Sissonne, command was transferred the 5th Infantry Division. On 28th December 1939, the 92nd Regiment moved by night to Armentieres during a snow blizzard with gun positions established around Linselles and Roneq in support of the Halluin Salient.

On 20th January 1940 the Regiment was informed that its command was to be transferred to 50th Division, which was scheduled to arrive in France in February 1940, although the move was postponed due to the adverse weather of the 1940 winter and on 23rd February the transfer was cancelled.

On 29th February 1940 the 92nd Regiment held a deployment exercise south of Quesnoy, and on 4th March 1940 the Regiment took part in a 5th Division Artillery deployment scheme in the Frelinghem-Perenchies area, which included a night occupation.

From 1st to 5th April 1940 the Regiment joined an exercise in the Somme area of St Pol. On 29th April 1940 the Regiment moved from Armentieres to a training area southwest of Amiens. RHQ and 365 Battery were billeted at Lihus and 368 Battery at Hétomesnil.

German Invasion 10th May 1940. Plan ‘D

On 10th May 1940, Germany invaded Holland and Belgium and on the 11th May the Regiment marched towards the invading German forces via Amiens, Doullens to Hersin, near Lens, and came under the command of 50 Infantry Division. RHQ and 365 Battery were billeted at Hersin and 368 Battery at Sains-En-Cohelle. There was some enemy air activity and the Regiment’s Bren guns opened fire on a German aircraft.

On 17th May 1940, following the B.E.F.’s ‘Plan D’ the 92nd Regiment crossed into Belgium and moved to Neder Hasselt, about 20 miles West of Brussels. On the 18th May 1940, the Regiment moved back to Slettem and went into its first action, firing some 2,000 rounds on the night of 18/19th May 1940.

Withdrawal from Belgium

On 19th May 1940 the 92nd Regiment was ordered to withdraw west of the River Escaut via Sotteghem to a concentration area at Worteghem, west of Audenarde. Orders were then received to move back into France, first to Neuve Chapelle and then to Avion, south of Lens.

Battle of Arras

The 92nd Regiment went into action north of Givenchy to support infantry holding the line of the River Scarpe north of Arras. Enemy aircraft were active and there was much bombing and machine-gunning.  At 13.00 hrs on 21st May 1940 the Regiment supported 150 Infantry Brigade’s attack around the south-west of Arras. The advance went well at first but then the French on the right withdrew and allowed a German tank attack on the right flank to pass.

At 04.00 hrs on 22nd May the Regiment withdrew to positions around Givenchy where there was a heavy day’s fighting and constant calls for artillery fire. Late in the day the guns were withdrawn to La Gueule D’Ours and at 00.30 hrs on 24th May 1940 orders were received to withdraw to Houplin. Three men were killed and 12 wounded during this battle, although all the Regiment’s guns were still in action.

On 26th May 1940 the Regiment moved to Fleurbaix, south-west of Armentieres and on 27th May it moved into action south-west of Vlamertinghe, where there was much shooting in support of 150th Infantry Brigade.

War Diary 92nd Field Rgt RA, 22nd-28th May 1940

On 28th May 1940, there were frequent German attempts to cross the Ypres Canal (366 Battery of 140 Field Regiment were also involved in this battle- see Ypres-Comines section later in website) and at 18.00 hrs orders were received to withdraw to Fournes to cover the Dunkirk evacuation.

368 Battery’s BEF Campaign 1940 from Capt Austin’s book ‘Return Via Dunkirk’ written under his pseudonym ‘Gun Buster’

Dunkirk Eastern Perimeter

The Regiment withdrew by night, and in the early hours of 29th May, occupied positions south of Adinkerque, Belgium on the Eastern Dunkirk perimeter. On 30th May there was much observed shooting and support of counter attacks, but there was heavy return enemy shelling and Troop positions were hit. Six guns were put out of action.

The remaining 12 guns were withdrawn at dusk on 31st May 1940. Major Cragg-Hamilton and 7 men had been killed, 30 men were wounded and had to be carried back.

War Diary 92nd Field Regt RA, 29th-31st May 1940

St Charles windmill, which served as an Observation Post at 92nd Field Rgt’s position on the Eastern Dunkirk perimeter De Moeren/Bulskamp

By 1st June 1940 the 92nd Regiment was 2 miles southeast of St Malo les Bains and remained in action until the evening. All surplus men were sent to the beach. At 22.30 hrs orders came to destroy the guns and all remaining personnel were to march to the beach. About two thirds of the Regiment embarked from the Dunkirk beach during the night of 1st/2nd June and the remainder spent an uncomfortable day on the beach and in cellars at St Malo les Bains. During the night of 2/3rd June 1940 the rest of the Regiment got away.

1957 Edition of ‘Return Via Dunkirk’ by Capt Austin (‘Gun Buster’)

By 5th June 1940 the Regiment was reformed at Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire. 15 officers and 240 men had reported and all ranks were sent on 48 hours leave.

On 17th June 1940 the 92nd Regiment rejoined 5th Division and on 22nd June the Regiment left Knutsford for Kinaldie, near Aberdeen. From there they moved to a camp at Fintray.

1940 Casualities

Total casualties during the 1940 B.E.F. campaign were 2 officers and 60 ordinary ranks killed. Major Derek Cragg-Hamilton is buried at Veurne Communal Cemetry in Belgium alongside three Gunners from the Regiment: Maurice Bull, Arthur Palmer and Charles Russell. They had been killed on 31st May 1940 during the last desperate days defending the Eastern Dunkirk perimeter.

Major Cragg-Hamilton and Gunner Palmer, CWGC Veurne

92nd Regiment post-Dunkirk 1940-1946

The 92nd Regiment remained in support of 5th Infantry Division throughout the 2nd World War.

AFter regroupng in Scotland, Nortehrn Ireland and ENglans during 1940-1942, the 92nd Regiment arrived in Bombay, India on 16 May 1942, disembarked and entrained for Kirchee, spending the rest of that month preparing to move to Ranchi, near Bengal state.

The Regiment was then posted to join the Persia/Iraq Force in Iran and Syria later in 1942, and from there it was posted to Sicily and Italy in 1943.

In 1944, the Regiment transferred to Palestine, before ending the war in Germany, via a return journey through France and Belgium, in 1945.

At the war’s end in June 1945, 368 Battery were in Niederkrüchten, Germany and 365 Battery were at Pützchensweg, Germany in support of the Guards Division.

92nd Regiment Casualties,

Killed in action or died of wounds later in WW2:

Sicily: 8 Ordinary Ranks (ORs)

Italy: 4 officers and 19 ORs

Wounded: France 17, Syria 1, Sicily 13, Italy 43 and Germany 1.

Awards

Lt Col Kirwan was awarded the DSO and 10 officers received the Military Cross

14 Military Medals were awarded to ORs and 13 officers and 5 ORs received Mentions-in-Despatches.