1st November – MAYBOLE.
Battalion received its embarking tables. The unit is to travel in three ships. CO and Adjutant, spent a long time on tables and strengths, and completed tables are attached and marked A. CO and 2 i/c inspected all Coys in full equipment, D Coy having the best turnout.
CO Lt-Col TT Macartney-Filgate
Adjutant Captain J Norman
2 i/c Major CH. Allen
2nd November – MAYBOLE.
Orderly Room staff worked until 0245hrs to complete the embarking tables and made a good show of it. Colonel Scott (Royal Irish Fusiliers) visited the unit before lunch to pick up any hints on embarkation of vehicles. Divisional Commander visited the CO and 2 i/c in the afternoon to introduce his (Divisional Commander’s) new 2 i/c. In the evening the Battalion held a dance in the town hall (a good show).
Divisional Commander (6th Armoured Division), Major-General Sir Charles Keightley, appointed 19 May 1942
3rd November – MAYBOLE.
Lieutenant Long was found unfit to travel overseas – has to see an eye specialist and probably be re-graded B or C. CO visits R Coy shooting on the range, the shooting is quite up to standard.
4th November – MAYBOLE.
The CO Major Allen, Major Maxwell and Captain Bayley went to tea with the Marquess of Ailsa – a very austere tea. Lieutenant Hill takes the place of Lieutenant Long in R Coy and 2/Lieutenant Le Poer-Power is posted to A Coy.
5th November – MAYBOLE.
Lieutenant Cassidy who took the vehicles to Liverpool returns, all vehicles having been loaded. He, states security at the port was non-existent. CO inspected new draft to R Coy. All young and keen. Draft came from 8 Kings. Captain’s Ferriss and Bayley proceed in advance as ships security and baggage officers respectively.
6th November – MAYBOLE.
Warning order for rail move received at 0935hrs. The Battalion having received the newest type respirator, all ranks go through the gas chamber under supervision of Lieutenant Burton.
7th November – MAYBOLE.
Brigade Commander arrived in Officers’ Mess for a drink and to say “goodbye”. C and D Coys and small party of HQ Coy entrained at 2359hrs for Liverpool. They will sail in P.26. Major Maxwell is in charge of the party.
8th November – MAYBOLE.
BBC announce that American forces have landed in NW and N Africa, and that British forces are on the way. Our unknown destination is beginning to look a bit less “unknown”. A and B Coys and small party of HQ Coy depart by train at 0100hrs 9 Nov ‘42 for Liverpool, under command of Major Allen.
9th November – MAYBOLE.
Only Battalion HQ and HQ Coy now left in Maybole. Everyone busy loading and packing up.
10th November – MAYBOLE.
The last of the Battalion 12 officers and 253 ORs entrain at 1030hrs for Glasgow. Not one single man of the whole Battalion who signed the warning order was absent. Officers and WOs had a good lunch on board with white bread. There was a good deal of confusion on the top deck owing to the same accommodation being allotted twice over. The men received no meal until tea-time – and then only bread and jam – and it was badly distributed from the galley. Once on board no officer or OR is allowed on shore, so all physical contact with land is broken. Divisional Commander, Commander Armoured Brigade and CRA are on board ship P.46 “Nea Hellas” late “Tuscania” 16,900 tons. There are 4138 officers and ORs on board. It is very crowded and training will be harder than it sounds.
CRA – Commander, Royal Artillery.
11th/12th November – IN THE CLYDE.
Loading of the ship went on all morning. We sailed down the Clyde at 1345hrs and anchored off the bank. The ship wandered up and down the river and anchored for a while off Largs. Ship’s rounds commenced at 1000hrs and were not over until 1205hrs. The CO attended a hap-hazard OC Troops Conference for unit commanders. In the middle of the conference the CO was warned for another conference on another ship. The party left in a tender at 1330hrs and picked up other commanders from other ships and met the Corps Commander on a P & O liner. They have luxurious accommodation compared with this ship. Lieutenant’s Warren and Hill and 100 ORs of 1st Reinforcements were on the P.O. Liner. It was not thought that they would embark before December. They must have a rush!
13th November – IN THE CLYDE.
Ship’s rounds – inspection of boat stations filled up the day. On ship’s rounds the Battalion boat stations were altered. Conference at 1630hrs of COs of 6 Armoured Division on board to re-allot PT accommodation on a sensible basis. The ship’s staff have timed allotted, allocated and issued everything as if the ship were carrying her normal allotment instead of double that amount. There is no doubt before long 6 Armoured Division and NOT the ship’s staff (military) will be running the ship. CO attended a conference at 2030hrs with Division AA QMG to put forward improvements for running the ship. Many suggestions were forthcoming.
14th November – IN THE CLYDE.
Ship sailed at 1600hrs. There are 18 ships in the convoy. Typical Scottish scenery was watched by large number of troops aboard as the ships proceeded down the Clyde – hills wrapped in mist. Divisional Commander spent the morning going round the convoy and met Major’s Allen and Maxwell (who had come up from Liverpool to join convoy). Lieutenant Carruthers gave a lecture to officers on Navigation – very good and very clear. After dinner there was a lecture on Hygiene in North Africa.
15th November – AT SEA.
Ship pitching slightly. Many men are sea-sick. Standing on B deck forward (on boat stations) is a messy business. Captain Bunch is covered in it and CO is splashed. Men are instructed to be sick at deck level so others will not get splashed. IO lectured to all officers at 1245hrs on the plan of future operations. Divisional Command lectures all officers of division at 2015hrs on same subject. So “Exercise Torch” is now public property.
16th November – AT SEA.
Calm days. Troops recovering from sea sickness. Immediately after ship’s rounds C.O. had conference of all officers and issued a mass of pamphlets and instructions. At 1345hrs CO, Adjutant and IO attended Divisional Commanders, Tactical Exercise without Troops (TEWT). The T.E.W.T is based on possible future action after landing. It would appear that Divisional HQ with 6 Innisks, 16/5 Lancers and some Artillery is to push on 100s of miles eastward (probably from Bone). CO will command the group. CCRA gives a boring lecture lasting 65 minutes.
17th November – AT SEA.
Fairly calm day but got a bit choppy towards the evening. Most troops have completely recovered from their sea sickness – the Carrier Platoon especially seemed in great form on boat parade despite the fact two of their Sergeants, Ashworth and Miller have not yet fully recovered. CO held conference of all officers at 1330hrs to study maps and country of Algeria and Tunisia – especially the country and roads from Bone to Tunis. At 1600hrs Divisional Command held TEWT on possible operations especially dealing with the Services. Captain of Ship gave a lecture to all officers at 2000hrs on organisation of disembarkation. CO and six officers play poker after the lecture until 2245hrs. Much fun was had. CO and Captain Little seemed the biggest winners and Adjutant and MO the worst losers.
18th November – AT SEA.
This has been the roughest day so far. We are now off the Bay of Biscay. “Boat Stations” were converted to “Action Stations” in consequence. CO and all officers study W/T procedure from 1330hrs to 1430hrs. CO is told to work out a river crossing scheme for General’s TEWT at 1600hrs. He only gets half hour to do it in. The TEWT was very interesting. At 2000hrs the start of four lectures for all officers of 6th Armoured Division – Medical – S. & T. Ordnance – and Repair and Recovery. The atmosphere in the Lecture Room did much to kill interest.
19th November – AT SEA.
A day of no lectures and no TEWTs. Everyone at last gets some time to himself and in most cases was well utilised. Officers and Sergeants are issued with small compasses etc. in various disguises for help in escaping. The weather is much warmer. Calm sunny day.
20th November – AT SEA.
Beautifully warm and sunny day. Troops sun bathe on deck. Land in sight in the morning, turns out to be the West Coast of Africa. So we are going to enter the Straits of Gibraltar from the south. Divisional Command asks C.O. to give a discourse on “Picking up a Minefield”. He produces his own idea which he talks over with the officers at 1330hrs and demonstrates at the Divisional Commander’s TEWT at 1600 hrs. It is accepted without comment. Everyone exchanges their money for BMA (British Military Authority) money. It is paper money in units of £1, 10/-, 5/-, 2/6 and 1/-. English money of lower denomination has been retained and can be used. A lecture is given at 2000hrs for all officers 6 Armoured Division by all branches of R.Es aboard. We passed the Rock of Gibraltar between 2300 and 2400hrs. It was just faintly visible. Several officers played poker, the MO and Little were the best winners. The two colonels, the CO and Colonel Orr (1 Field Ambulance) both lost!
21st November – AT SEA.
We have been sailing due east through the Mediterranean. The sea is calm and weather fairly warm. From 0830 to 1100hrs officers study ISIS. reports of Algeria and Tunisia. Co. and Captain Daly attended very elementary HQ Division Exercise on wireless procedure. The four American ships in the convoy left us at 1515hrs for Oran. The north coast if Africa could clearly be seen then. We were believed to have been 15 miles from the shore. We are due to land at Algiers tomorrow. Nobody knows how this will be done and orders are forthcoming. All kit bags are supposed to be dumped on promenade deck aft. 4138 kit bags to be sorted out after disembarkation! Northing will be known until we arrive apparently, as disembarkation is the responsibility of Port Disembarkation Staff. All officers have spent many hours censoring an abundance of letters.
22nd November – ALGIERS.
After many orders and counter orders and much disorganisation, the main party disembarked at 1400hrs, having tied up in Algiers at 0900hrs. After disembarkation the party started to march in the general direction of an unknown destination, various guides were encountered, all of whom had a different ideas as to the distance to be marched, All ranks were greatly over laden, carrying full pack and haversack, plus blanket, Brens, A/Tk rifles, rolls of maps, office boxes, medical panniers etc. Total distance marched 10 miles under very difficult conditions. Battalion bivouacking in a field near an orange farm. Country very pleasant and very flat. At sunset the temperature drops suddenly. Germans start bombing Algiers about 1800hrs GMT and continue to do so through the evening. Major Allen with A and B Coy arrive about 1900hrs and then D Coy and at 0130hrs C Coy, all having marched from Algiers. Brigade HQ is situated in the same areas as the Battalion. There was a good deal of confusion about detailing drivers for off loading vehicles. Each ship detailed parties and it is now found we have left 4 officers and 119 ORs to off load 84 vehicles. Our vehicles are on two ships J.11 which is off landing at Bone and J.3 off landing at Algiers.
23rd November – BARAKI.
Coys disposed under cover of line of trees and get settled in. At 1030 hrs the whole Battalion went for a 10 mile route march. As C Coy had only arrived in at 0130 hrs they marched 20 miles in 14 hours – a very good show. Major Allen went into Algiers to collect A and B Coys’ packs. There was a raid on Algiers at 0900hrs. Bivouacs were issued on a very reduced scale. Battalion living on 14 men packs. Drinking water very short. CO visits all Coys during the afternoon. During the night there was a heavy raid on Algiers – the heaviest so far. At 2245hrs a dud or D/A bomb was dropped near the Battalion lines. Sleep last night and tonight is impossible owing to intense cold and lack of bedding, and tonight owing to the air raid and noise of AA fire. Shrapnel fell in the Battalion area but no one was hit. Adjutant spent the afternoon working out how and where the Battalion is dispersed – many small packets away as baggage and MT parties. Fusilier Johnston of B Coy put a bullet in his foot. The air raids continued until just after dawn – a very sleepless night – rained during the night.
24th November – BARAKI.
A quiet day. Many have sore feet. Move bivouacs arrive. CO talked to all officers at 1015hrs about discipline and of the need to realise we are now at War and not on an exercise. Many small points especially from the platoon commander’s point of view require attention. Major Allen, QM, and Padre go off to Algiers on various jobs. Major Allen changes a certain amount of our BMA money into francs (rate of exchange 300 francs to £1). Padre brings back a bottle of vermouth and one bottle of Algerian wine, having been told to get some drinks! Adjutant went into Algiers on back of M/C to see Captain Little and tell him J.11 will probably be unloaded tomorrow. On the way back he sees Captain Hooper and Lieutenant Ablett and the remainder of 1st Reinforcements. So all 1st Reinforcements are in Algiers. CO attended Brigade Commander’s conference at 1515hrs and spoke to all officers again at 1645hrs on more or less the same lines as this morning’s conference, but on points actually brought out on the Brigade Commander’s conference. Padre and QM had quite a job to get back and eventually arrived at 1930hrs. After bartering with a taxi driver, they had to pay him 150 francs. No news since we arrived but the rumours are most illuminating. 3000 British planes raid Berlin – Dakar and West Africa have been given to us by Darlan also Martinque – Russians advance 50 miles round Stalingrad – Eighth army pushing – Tunis taken and so on. It will be interesting to see how much is true. The Battalion was given oranges in the grove. 950 oranges were picked and distributed to the men.
25th November – BARAKI.
A terribly wet night with thunder, which at times was intermingled with AA fire. By 0800hrs the camp was a sea of mud. We had hoped we had left mud for good when we left Cumnock but it was not to be. QM and Padre were washed out of their bivouacs. At 0915hrs until 1215hrs the Battalion went for a route march in the pouring rain. On return to camp CO was told by the Brigade to go at once for War Game at Divisional HQ. At 1500hrs he returns having been on the back of a M/C for two hrs looking for Divisional HQ without success. 2 i/c saw Coy Commanders at 1400hrs for conference. IO busy all day sorting out thousands of maps of Algeria and Tunisia. Colonel Jeffrey’s (2 LIR) stayed to tea. When Brig returned he told the CO there is no hope of getting the Battalion under cover, or rum, as it is wanted for the fighting troops, who are fighting in the snow. It rained all day. A very, very wet and windy night. Battalion now “stands to” at dawn and dusk and has a regular routine.
26th November – BARAKI,
Owing to the very strong winds and tropical downpour last night A, D and part of B Coy were flooded out and had to move to other areas. Battalion went out on 10 miles route march, while CO and Coy Commanders attended Brigade Commanders TEWT at 1100hrs. Battalion transport not yet unloaded (it is two days behind owing to heavy seas). Adjutant went into Algiers to get officers Pay Books and some Algerian wine. Owing to bad weather, there were no air raids over Algiers last night. A squally day and night.
27th November – BARAKI.
CO’s TEWT for Coy Commanders – “Dawn attack”. In the afternoon Coy Commanders hold similar TEWT for platoon and section commanders. News received that a NAAFI (EFI) is now operating in Algiers and that 2 bottles of whiskey at 8/6d per bottle and two bottles of gin at 6/6d per bottle per officer per month can be obtained. Lieutenant Carruthers is immediately despatched to obtain an initial supply. Padre is despatched to buy writing paper and envelopes and manages to get a fair supply, which merits a ready demand from the troops. At 1930hrs Brigade Command arrives and warns Battalion that it will probably move forward by destroyers and fast steamers and also by road. The Battalion will not move tactically, but by odds and ends. A M/C, the first of Battalion transport was unloaded off J.11. J.3 has gone to Bone to be unloaded there. Conference at 2030hrs of Brigade CO, Brigade Major, and Adjutant to discuss figures and numbers for move. A more or less dry day. No air raids over Algiers last night. Divisional Commander and his staff left for front today.
28th November – BARAKI.
Last night warm and it has been fine and warm all day. Brigade Commander’s TEWT for CO and Coy Commander’s 1030 – 1230. The camp is now drying up but the mud is very sticky. Major Allen spends day in Algiers sorting out M.T. and Baggage parties. Captain Bunch also in Algiers buying up whiskey and gin for officers future use. Half HQ Coy now in out buildings of the farm. 17 vehicles unloaded and now in Battalion lines. No pilfering reported so far, except 3 bottles from Battalion HQ Mess Box. CO inspects companies and finds D Coy have an excellent show going.
29th November – BARAKI.
Battalion church parade at 1030hrs for C of Es followed by Holy Communion in perfect weather and Mediterranean blue sky, with the Atlas Mountains in the distance, with snowy tops. Companies do PT stripped to the waist.
30th November – BARAKI.
Most of the Battalion transport from J.11 now here and officers valises now available. Much re-sorting of kit takes place. Information is received that 29 officers and 569 ORs are going to Bone by destroyers and fast ships, probably embarking Tuesday night and the party will probably march into Algiers tomorrow. No air raids last night. Warm night after beautifully sunny day.