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Author Topic: 8th Surrey (Reigate) Battalion  (Read 733 times)
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John
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« on: August 04, 2014, 15:23:29 PM »

I'm assuming that this photograph was taken at "Stand Down" in 1944 - it's titled "Officers of the Battalion, Past and Present".

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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2014, 10:16:54 AM »

One of the first men to enrol in the L.D.V. in May 1940 was Captain W.R. Howe Pringle, to whom the Reigate Battalion afterwards owed the organisation of the Fieldcraft School, first at Bletchingley Golf Course, and then at "Shagbrook", on the Dorking Road adjoining Reigate Heath. Inspired by the goings-on at the Burwash school in Sussex, the Bletchingley activities were run along similar lines with a carefully prepared programme.

The game of 'Rifle Snaffling' impressed upon every student the absolute necessity of keeping their weapons safe and to hand at all times - according to the rules, a reward of 2/6 could be claimed from the Commandant by any member of the squads or school staff who succeeded in obtaining possession of a student's rifle without his knowledge. The first season's 'bag' came to six rifles, costing Captain Pringle 15/- after several tents had been entered with great stealth. In the second year the total was doubled, and Captain Pringle often took part in the fun himself, proving his skills at petty larceny by snaffling an overcoat from a chap sleeping in a tent.

The staff of the Fieldcraft School designed and made their own props and suits which proved extremely effective, enabling the crafty Home Guard men to move unobserved across the landscape. On one occasion the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Sir Malcolm Fraser, lost a bet with Colonel Langhorne when he completely failed to spot one of the men who was masquerading as a tree - presumably he was stationary at the time, otherwise there might have been a Macbeth moment going on  Grin

The photograph below, which appeared in the Daily Sketch, shows several of the men at the Fieldcraft School wearing their camouflage suits. To the right of the men are Viscount Bridgeman, Colonel Langhorne, Sir Harold Werner, and the Battalion Commander nursing a damaged arm.

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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2014, 17:59:55 PM »

Surrey Mirror - Friday 29 December 1944

THE BOROUGH’S HOME GUARD. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE 8TH SURREY BATTALION. THE DAYS OF THE L.D.V.
How many people lining the route of the 8thh Surrey (Reigate) Battalion Home Guard's farewell march on Sunday, December 3rd, gave more than a passing thought to the significance of the event, or cast their minds back to Tuesday, May 14th, 1940. when, with the field-grey hordes of Germany spreading like an evil canker across Europe, the Secretary for War. Mr. Anthony Eden, came to a B.B.C. microphone with the appeal that brought old soldiers, well past the age of soldiering, back to arms, and set youth, not yet quite old enough for full-time soldiering, drilling, shooting and stalking?

The story starts at mid-day on that memorable Tuesday with a telegram over the signature of the Under Secretary of State. It went to every Chief Constable in the country. Mr. W. H. Beacher, sitting in his office in Reigate, read it: "Broadcast Will be made at 9.10 pm. to-day inviting male British subjects between the ages of 17 and 65 to register for Local Defence Volunteer Corps against enemy landings by parachute or otherwise. Registrations will be at any police station. Circular follows. In meantime, please ensure forthwith that all stations are prepared to receive registrations." There followed details of particulars to be taken. While the then Reigate Borough Police were making the necessary arrangements there came a second telegram notifying them of a broadcast appeal to be made for rifles and ammunition, and asking the police to be ready also to record details of all weapons offered to the new Volunteer Force.

The broadcasts which gave first news of the new Force to the public came in the bulletins at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. It was during the latter that Mr. Eden outlined the enemy’s methods of parachute attack and made his now famous appeal. In the Borough, as elsewhere in the country, the response was astounding. Almost before the broadcast was over the telephone lines to the police stations were busy and personal calls at the stations to register mounted rapidly. Mr. Beacher and his staff worked almost without pause to keep pace with the applications, 1,500 of which poured in in 48 hours.

Reigate Hill Patrol.
Some of the Volunteers had their first taste of duty only three days after the broadcast, for it was on May 17th that the late Capt. E. H. Tuckwell came from Guildford Headquarters to the Chief Constable - at 4 p.m - to make arrangements for night patrols to be on Reigate Hill. Capt. W. E. Hill, M.C., was contacted, and was acquainted on his arrival, shortly before 7 p.m., with what was required. A police car took him to the addresses of several of the Volunteers, and, armed with six "P.14" rifles, all that could be mustered at that stage, the little party set off in police cars for their patrol ground. The twelve men who comprised this first patrol were Messrs. Chalcraft, Cook, Cuss, Dungate, Elliott, Hunt, Jarrett, Laker, Lott, Lovegrove, Pilbeam and Rumble, under the command of Capt. Hill, who, however, found the chosen site for the observation post, a spot near the water tower on Colley Hill, to be unsatisfactory, the view to the southward being impeded by Reigate Park. On the following night therefore the same patrol moved to Reigate Park itself, and were under the command of Mr. Vigers, Capt. Hill having been summoned to Guildford to an urgent conference. Most of the men on these early patrols were unfamiliar with the "P.14" rifle, not having handled firearms since the last war, and so the commanders divided their small force into two, one keeping up the patrol of the area whilst the other received some instruction as to the handling of the unfamiliar weapons. These night watches were divided into three periods - 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., 1 a.m. to 4 a.m., and 4 a.m. to 7 am.

The Borough Company Formed.
Meanwhile at the conference to which Capt Hill had gone, and which was also attended by Alderman Lieut.-Col. F. J. Spranger, Mr. W. H. Beacher, Capt. Mansfield (Redhill) and Capt. Charlesworth (Merstham), it had been decided that Reigate (including Redhill, Earlswood and Merstham) should be allotted one Company of the L D.V. The work of registration was continuing, and preliminary details of the scheme were being worked out, so that on May 20th at a meeting at the Town Hall, convened by the Chief Constable and presided over by Alderman Spranger, it was possible to get down to the work of organisation. At this meeting, at which Alderman Spranger intimated that he was unable to take command of the Reigate Company but at which he introduced Mr. R. J. V. Hake, of the White House, Reigate Heath, as Company Commander, it was decided that the Company should comprise a Reigate Town Platoon under Capt. W. E. Hill, a Redhill Platoon under Capt. E. T. Mansfield, and a Merstham Platoon under Capt. W. G. Charlesworth.

The Platoon Commanders quickly organised their own divisions. Capt. Hill sub-divided his command into Reigate North and Reigate South Platoons, under Lieut. A. W. G. Dewar and Capt. J. Gibson respectively, while at Redhill, Capt. Mansfield, with Major Strickland as his Second-in-Command, organised his Platoon into four sections under the commands of Mr. Cutliffe, Major Bowyer, Lieut. W. R. Howe Pringle, and Capt. Ferguson. At Merstham, Capt. Charlesworth, with Capt. D. J. Smith as Second-in-Command, set up two sections under Capt. C. Bowring and Lieut. V. H. Winson. At the outset the approximate strength of the Borough of Reigate Company was 930 officers and men, but the numbers expanded as more and more names were registered.

Equipment And Excitement.
In view of the fact that orders had been issued for the manning of vital points by the night of May 22nd, Command and Platoon officers had to hustle to contact their men and to arrange rotas for the mounting of guards. Arrangements had also to be made for the equipping of the men with the "fixed and distinctive badge or sign, easily recognisable from a distance" required by international law. It had been ruled that every Volunteer should be provided with a steel helmet, a Service jacket or denim overall, and a Service or forage cap. Alternatively, he was to wear with his civilian clothes - but not civilian headwear- an arm band bearing the letters. "L.D.V.," to be affixed to the sleeve. Those early Volunteers are hardly likely to forget those exciting nights, not unrelieved by moments of hilarity, when they first reported at the various guardrooms and selected their jackets and trousers from the piles dumped on the floors. Some fitted and quite a lot didn’t, and many a stirring tale could be told of uniforms in the latter category which were tailored with lengths of string.

And not the least exciting moments were those when the rifles and ammunition, brought from a central store, were handed round. The old soldiers in the L.D.V. were not long in familiarising themselves with rifles of a different pattern from those they used in the last war, but some of the younger members, though willing to learn, caused some nervousness during the initial stages as they swung their weapons while trying to load and unload- and at least one guardroom floor was punctured when a young L.D.V., after unloading at the end of the night, pulled the trigger to make sure that he hadn’t "left one in." This incident may or may not have been responsible for an order that was made to the effect that the five rounds issued to each man were to be carried in the pocket and only to be inserted into the weapon when the Volunteer was confronted by the enemy!

The Local Defence Volunteers, however, were not deterred in their preparations to defend the Borough against invaders by the early shortage of rifles and ammunition, and the younger and more agile volunteers were invited to form themselves into bombing squads, the "bombs" being the famous home-made "Molotov Cocktails" - glass bottles charged with a highly inflammable mixture of crude tar and petrol and prepared for fragmentation on impact by irregular slashes of the bottle’s surface with a glazier’s diamond. They were for use against tanks, and had proved their efficiency in the Spanish Civil War. The fact that, armed only with such weapons, a rifle, five rounds of ammunition, plus the usual cold steel, they might have to face the modern weapons of the world’s most ruthlessly efficient war-machine, did not appear unduly to perturb these Volunteers, young or old. Their spirit was superior to their weapons.

The Threat Of Invasion.
With events moving apace on the Continent it became evident that this country faced something more than the dropping of the paratroops whom the Local Defence Volunteers had been intended to counter. The threat of a full scale military invasion from the bases across the English Channel was growing hourly, and with it the need for envisaging the L.D.V. as something more than a mobile scheme of defence. General Ironside, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces, alive to the fact, called a conference of L.D.V. leaders, at which it was laid down that defence of the road blocks that were being hurriedly erected all over Southern England must be the prior concern of the Volunteers.

Under the stimulus of Mr. Hake’s energetic direction the Borough L D.V. jumped to it with a will. Mr. Hake set up his H.Q. in the annexe to the Town Hall, and appointed Mr. Sidney Lovegrove, a former Quartermaster, to take charge of the weapons and stores that were beginning to trickle through a little faster than hitherto. Observation posts established on Redhill Common and in Reigate Park were improved, from the point of view of those manning them, by the loan of two portable-job-office on wheels and equipped with heating and lighting. Other posts were established on Reigate Hill, Colley Hill, and at Merstham on Shepherds Hill. Road blocks which the L.D.V. were to man sprang up at points near Reigate Heath, on the Kingswood-road, in London-road, Merstham, near Nutfleld Priory, and, in addition, guards were mounted nightly at the Reigate, Redhill and Merstham telephone exchanges. Occasional extra guards had also to be provided day or night when called for by the military authorities or R.A.F. Commands for such things as food depots or military traffic temporarily parked in the area.

Battalion Status.
All tasks had been allotted and were being carried out by the various Platoons by June 23rd, 1940, and in addition a headquarters mobile unit had been formed under Col. P. F. C. Jourdain, M.C., and Lieut. T. P. Jarrett. Dr. C. H. Laver was appointed Area Medical Officer, with Dr. L. J. Barford as his assistant. Another progressive step was the setting up of an organisation of motor cyclists to train the Company’s own dispatch riders.

The continued expansion in numbers and quickly developing efficiency, and the transfer of the Kingswood Company to the Reigate area, brought a change in status, and at midnight on July 8th, 1940, the Reigate Borough (No. 9 Surrey) Company became the 8th Surrey (Reigate) Battalion. Attached to the Battalion for static defence were 27 men from an insurance firm at Woodhatch, 70 from staff of the Redhill G P.O., and 26 boys from the St. Dunstan’s College O.T.C. It was in this same month that the L.D.V. became the Home Guard.

With Mr. R. J. V. Hake as Battalion Commander the Battalion was organised into six companies - Headquarters, "A" Company, with Capt. W. E. Hill as Company Commander and Major H. G. Scott as Second-in-Command and Battalion Adjutant; "B" Company, under Lieut. A. W. G. Dewar, with Lieut-Col. E. H. S. James as Second-in-Command; "C" Company, under Capt. John Gibson, with Mr. W. W. Jeffcock. M.M., as Second-in-Command; "D" Company, under Capt. E. T. Mansfield, with Major T. G. Strickland as Second-in-Command; "E" Company, under Capt. W. G. Charlesworth, with Capt. D. J. Smith as Second-in-Command; and "F" Company, with Mr. C. H. Austin in Command and Lieut-Col. G. C. Stowell as Second-in-Command.

Under these were many Platoon Commanders, some of them of higher military rank in the last war than that of the officers under whom they were now serving, yet, what might have been a possible source of friction, was the very thing that became symbolic of the comradeship in arms which the Home Guard engendered. Nor was it confined to rank within the Home Guard, for cases are knowm of men going on parade and cheerfully taking orders and instruction from officers and N.C.O.s who an hour or two earlier, at their daily work, were receiving orders from the very man to whom they were now giving them. Esprit de corps, indeed! Army ranks were introduced into the Home Guard in February, 1941.
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2014, 18:05:41 PM »

The Commanding Officer of the 8th Surrey (Reigate) Battalion - Lieutenant-Colonel R.J.V. Hake.

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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2014, 23:03:45 PM »

Doesn't Colonel Langhorne look a bit like Arnold Ridley in 'Dad's Army', John! Grin
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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2014, 10:52:41 AM »

Surrey Mirror - Friday 05 January 1945

THE BOROUGH'S HOME GUARD. A SHORT HISTORY OF ITS DEVELOPMENT. NIGHT WATCHES, AND DAYS OF STRENUOUS TRAINING.
(Concluding Instalment.)

With the arrival of more rifles from America - who will forget the feverish unpacking of those grease-laden Remington and Eddystone rifles, which inevitably became nicknamed by their associations ("Anyone seen my typewriter?" and "Where’s my lighthouse?") - the Battalion Commander and his Company Commanders were speeding up training in the essentials of arms drill and musketry. Stirring tales are still told of that early musketry training, including that of a recruit who had never before handled firearms scoring a "bull" with his first shot, but, unfortunately, it was on the wrong target!

Meawhile, with the Luftwaffe attacks on the airfields of southern England increasing in intensity extraordinary precautions were deemed necessary against possible parachute landings in this area, and orders were given that road-blocks were to be manned by the Home Guard whenever the sirens sounded the alert. It does not require much imagination on the part of anyone who lived in the Borough during the Battle of Britain to guess the sort existence the Home Guard led during those exciting and dangerous days. When, however, it become apparent that the enemy’s plan was not parachute landings, but the immobilisation of the R.A.F., the arrangement was discontinued and the blocks were manned, as before, from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise.

It is not difficult to imagine the thoughts that must have been passing through the minds of the Home Guards on guard at the road blocks, and other defence points, during those 57 consecutive nights when the Luftwaffe was attacking London, for some of them had a grandstand view, a panorama of the nightly ghastliness - the probing searchlights, swinging full arc, giving some indication of the route taken by the droning bombers, the flash and sparkle of the distant A.A. fire, the thud of the guns, the crump of bombs, the sky-glow of the fires every now and then leaping vividly as a high-explosive crashed into the midst of some burning building.

But the Home Guard did not merely watch and wait. They searched for German airmen who baled out of crippled bombers, they helped rescue parties where buildings had been damaged by bombs, they mounted guard to keep the public away from places where bombs were known to have fallen without exploding, and even helped in the work of R.E. bomb disposal squads, all without stepping into the limelight. A typical instance of Home Guard promptitude - one of many - was in August, when an important gas main was fractured by a bomb; a member of "D" Company averted consequences that might have been serious by plugging the main with damp clay until more permanent repairs could be carried out.

Co-operation With Regular Army.
By about the middle of November, 1940, the night guards on the road-blocks were discontinued when it became apparent that the grey hordes across the Channel were shirking the risky last jump across, but the night watches against possible parachuting of saboteurs were maintained at some observation posts. The activities of the Home Guard were not lessened, however, for training was proceeding apace for the days when they would more or less constitute the Home Force whilst the retrained British Army and the men of allied countries training over here passed from the defensive to the offensive.

The steady growth of the Borough Battalion rendered the existing headquarters and stores in London-road inadequate, and in November new headquarters were established at Leckhampstead, where they have remained. Capt. Charlesworth left "E" Company to become Battalion Quartermaster, and Capt. C. Bowring succeeded him in Command at Merstham. Another step at this time, which had a marked effect on the efficiency of the Battalion, was the appointment as Battalion Instructor of Staff Sergt.-Major Brewer, D.C.M., who subsequently became R.S.M., being re-absorbed into the regular army ("The Queen’s") and posted to a Surrey Battalion.

The early days of 1941 found the Home Guard preparing for a new role, passing from a mere static defence force to a mobile force complementary to the regulars, and training in a way that would enable them to use their peculiar knowledge of the terrain over which they would be called upon to work to counter an enemy who might be superior in numbers, but handicapped by being in unfamiliar country. The full story of that training, of the intensive fortnight of combined training with "toughened" regular forces, of the heartaches and bruises, of the realistic exercises that extended the Home Guard and brought forth the very best in them, cannot be told in full here, where it must suffice to say that the Force generally, old soldier and youngster alike, came through an undoubted ordeal with credit and well prepared to fulfil its task of manning the "stop" line from which any attack by German land forces on the southern approaches to Reigate and Redhill was to be met. It was, however, only one of the defences by which it was hoped to delay any German attack which attempted to reach London by this route.

Nobody outside the personnel of the Home Guard - with the possible exception of their wives! - can have much idea of what all this involved and of the terrific demand it made on men who were, it needs to be remembered, training hard in what should have been their own leisure time after their normal day’s work, and on Sundays.

Tough Fortnight With The Canadians.
A feature of this 1941 training was the opening of the Fieldcraft School - which gave a most thorough training in the art of camouflage, observation and "stalking" under Capt. (then Lieutenant) W. R. Howe Pringle. Its work was fully described in this paper at the time, and all that need be added here is that the disused golf course described as "somewhere in Surrey" was, in fact, at Blechingley. It continued in 1942 and 1943, when it catered not only for the 8th Surrey Battalion, but also, by official recognition, for other Surrey, Kent and London Battalions, as well as for some members of the Army Cadet Corps. Its subsequent adventures as a Battlecraft School when it moved to the other side of the Borough (near Buckland) were also described at the time.

The change in the conditions of service in the Home Guard in February, 1942, when men between 17 and 65 could be compulsorily directed, brought much new blood into the Battalion, and added to the training responsibilities, but the efficient organisation of the Battalion ensured a reasonably smooth "translation," especially as the volunteer members loyally observed the order promulgated throughout the Battalion that nothing by word or deed was to make the slightest differentiation between volunteer and "directed" man. Many of the younger men had their preliminary training for military service in this way, and among them were many who became N.C.O.s and Instructors.

In June of the same year the Battalion had a fortnight of intensive training that its members are unlikely to forget. It was "tough" in the extreme, but they came out of it with a sense of something achieved and with the admiration of the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 2nd Canadian Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force, who were their mentors and partners in the training which stressed the importance of fire superiority; the use of ground and natural cover, and the organisation of each section as a team for all-round observation. At the conclusion of the training all members of the Battalion, from the Commander downwards, underwent an assault course to uncomfortably realistic accompaniments of exploding bombs and grenades. "Live" ammunition was fired, but the skill of the Canadian marksmen, and the thoroughness with which the Home Guards had absorbed their training in the art of using cover, ensured that there were no serious casualties. There were, admittedly, some "close shaves," and one N.C.O. of "C" Company has a battledress with a bullet hole in the sleeve as evidence of the fact; the arm in the sleeve was unhurt.

D-Day To "Stand Down."
This training was additional to the ordinary Home Guard training, and it speaks much for the zeal of the Battalion that 97 per cent of the members put in more than the minimum time required. Meanwhile, the ordinary training included learning to handle new and unproved weapons like the Spigot mortar, and various other types of projector and Anti-tank rifles and guns. It was hard work, and not without danger, yet it went on without mishap until last year when, it will be recalled, on March 26th, a premature explosion during the firing of a bomb from an "E.Y." rifle - due, it is thought, to a defect in the bomb - caused the death of the Instructor, Sergt.- Arthur Stenning, and serious wounds to Pte. Levitt, who was firing the rifle.

In April, 1944, a 60 days’ exercise officially designated as "Underdog," was rightly interpreted by most of the Home Guard as preliminary to the much-discussed and rumoured invasion of the Continent by the Allied Armies, and the Battalion made its preparations to counter anything that the enemy might be expected to stage as a diversionary effort. The Allied invasion is now common history, as is the knowledge that the German diversionary effort took the form of the flying bomb, and though the work was not exactly what they had anticipated, the Home Guard rendered assistance to the authorities that cannot be too highly valued.

A broadcast by Sir James Grigg, on September 6th last year, gave the Home Guard its first intimation that its duties were no longer compulsory, and that there could be some relaxation in its training, if not in its watchfulness. From that to the "stand down" order was an expected step not long delayed, and so, after four years and a half, the 8th Surrey Battalion laid down its arms, unblooded but satisfied, one may hope, of the truth of Milton’s line which the Mayor of Reigate (Alderman A. Windsor-Spice) quoted at the farewell parade - "They also serve who only stand and wait."

This history is necessarily short, perhaps a little jerky in its progression, and, under prevailing censorship regulations, not at all complete, but it may serve to indicate to residents of the Borough something of the tremendous amount of work which the men of the Home Guard did cheerfully at a time when the country’s need was great. The full story may be told when the Battalion’s official history, which has been compiled by Sergt. N. R. Bishop, B.Com., Ph.D. (Lond.), of "C" Company, is published. It remains only for the writer to thank the Battalion Commander, Lieut.-Col. R. J. V Hake, for facilities afforded, and Dr. Bishop for access to his MSS.
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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2017, 09:18:09 AM »

Came across this photo of W. W. Jeffcock, MM. He is mentioned in the main post as 2nd in Command of C Company.

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