140th Regiment re-forms 1940-44

After Dunkirk

By 30th May 1940 almost half of the personnel of the 140th Field Regiment had been captured or killed.  Only 14 officers and 287 men (out of a total of 700) returned to England to re-form the Regiment.  Although many of the men of 366 Battery were successfully evacuated, very few of 367 Battery escaped capture and most of the survivors of Cassel spent the remainder of the war as POW’s.

As the most senior surviving Officer, Major Brooks was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and tasked with reforming the Regiment.

 

Return to Gloucestershire

Grand Party‘ describes the unexpectedly warm welcome that the returning 366 Battery received from members of the public at Dover and during the train journey to Kemble in Gloucestershire.

While in Gloucestershire, and after the ‘stiffest of whiskeys’, on Sunday 2nd June, the officers were visited by Queen Mary, who herself had been evacuated from London to nearby Badminton House.

During her visit, news began to emerge about the losses that 367 Battery had sustained at Cassel and the fact that most had failed to reach the Dunkirk beachhead.

Dunkirk Casualties 

Two members of 366 Battery died of wounds sustained at Dunkirk shortly after their return to England.

Lieutenant Jack May, died on the 21st June 1940 and is buried at Bromley Hill Cemetery, Kent and Gunner Edward Liddle died on the 9th August 1940 and is buried at Alperton Cemetery in Wembley.

Morale

The first task was restoration of morale.  I’m grateful to Martin Felstead for providing a hand-written memorandum addressed to the other surviving Officers. and dated 8th July 1940.

Lt Col Brooks’ Memorandum 8th July 1940. ‘Let every civilian see that we at any rate are undaunted and have no doubts as to the ultimate result. Don’t for God’s sake let us play Goebbels game for him. Please pass in turn under cover, last named to return to me’ 

 

366 Battery moves North 

After Dunkirk, the priority was the defence of the United Kingdom from the expected invasion and so, despite their recent trauma, there was urgent pressure for the Regiment to re-form.  In mid-June 1940 the men were concentrated away from the invasion front line at Worksop in Nottinghamshire.  They moved to Salford on 28th June 1940 and then to Castor, Peterborough in October 1940 where they were re-equipped.

Concert Party 

There is a reference in ‘Grand Party‘ to a Concert given at the Empire Theatre, Peterborough on 24th November 1940 by the men of the Regiment.  The original Empire Theatre was damaged by fire in the 1950’s and has now been replaced by the ‘New Theatre’ building on the Broadway, Peterborough.

 

Some of the (all male) cast Regimental Concert Party, Peterborough Empire Theatre, November 1940.  From Grand Party.

New Theatre Peterborough, 2019

 

366 Battery in Iceland, Africa and Burma

The newly equipped 366 Battery became operational in 1941, and for a time were based in Southern England.

The newly formed 366 Battery, including Dunkirk survivors and new recruits, photographed in Devon in 1941.  Image from RA archives.

366 Battery’s first wartime mission was to contribute to the military garrison in Iceland in June 1941.  The Battery returned to the UK in January 1942 to be merged with the 178th Regiment Royal Artillery, which then served in Tunisia and Burma.

 

Artillerymen from 366 Battery on station in Iceland in 1941,  image from ww2talk.co.uk

 

367 Battery re-forms

The few remaining men of 367 Battery were joined by 504 and 518 Battery’s, they were equipped with 25-pounder field guns and kept the designation 140th Regiment, R.A.

Officers of reformed 367 Battery,  Bournemouth,  May 1941.

Back row (L-R): 2nd Lt. R. E. Bodenham; 2nd Lt. Graham Leaman; 2nd Lt P. Blampied; 2nd Lt. E. O. Edwards; 2nd Lt. A. Lavender; 2nd Lt. A.R. Foxwell

Front Row (L-R): Lt. R. Thornton; Capt Jack Leaman (brother of Graham above); Maj. R. T. ‘Roddy’ Hawes; Capt. S.P. Webb;  2nd Lt. R. W. Downey

Officers in bold had served in Belgium & France in 1940. With thanks to Martin Felstead.

 

Bishop Self-Propelled Gun

In 1942, 140th Regiment was re-equipped with the Bishop Self-Propelled Gun, a 25-pounder gun mounted on an adapted Valentine tank, and with this vehicle  the Regiment went to Algeria in January 1943 as part of 2nd Army Group Royal Artillery (AGRA).

 

Bishop 25-pounder self-propelled gun in desert camouflage, 1943.  From IWM archives.

 

Italy

At the end of the North African campaign the Regiment was converted to a Medium Regiment with 4.5″ Guns, in the process losing 504 Battery to 75 Heavy Regiment. 140th Medium Regiment (367 & 518 Battery’s) then landed in Italy in January 1944 and took part in most of the big battles of the Italian Campaign.

Regiment disbands, 1944

In December 1944, five years after its formation in London as a Territorial unit, the 140th (5th London) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery was finally disbanded.

Reunions

Martin Felstead has obtained a slightly ghostly looking post-war photograph of a 140th Regiment officers’ re-union dinner, taken at a London Hotel in 1949.  It’s possible that the ‘unknowns‘ at the top table were members of the Royal Horse Artillery, which commanded 367 Battery, and fought alongside them, at Cassel.

 

Officers of the Regiment re-united in London, 1949.

Top table, standing (L-R): Major Christopherson, unknown (?RHA member), Lt. Col. Odling, unknown (?RHA member), Capt. Clarke.

Left Table– Left Side (L-R): G. Thomas; L. Burt; Jack Leaman; R.T. Hawes; T. Westley

Right side (L-R): Dr Lacey; ?Budd; R. Baxter; M. Rowlands; Georges Kemir; C.A. Hood 

Right Table – Left side (nearest to furthest): unknown; V. Scott; A. Prior; W Fernie; A Lavender

Right side (nearest to furthest): G. Somerwill; H. Peters; P. Blampied; unknown; P. Booth; B. Strachan; C. Hackett.

A series of annual reunions apparently took place in a room in a public house in London for the men in the Regiment until the 1990’s.

 

‘A Short History of 140 Regiment and its Component Parts’

This document was produced by one of the veterans of the Regiment for the Reunion meetings that took place in the early 1990’s.

 

‘A Short History of 140 Field Regiment RA and its Component Parts’ with thanks to Martin Felstead