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THE BEGINNING

The 15th Scottish Reconnaissance Regiment was formed in the fourth year of the second world war and disbanded in Germany at the end of March, 1946. It landed in North West Europe for the Battle of Normandy as part of the 15th Scottish Division in the last days of June, 1944, fought throughout the rest of the campaign against Germany-for one brief but memorable period under the command of the 6th Airborne Division-and when Germany surrendered was at Elmenhorst, within an hour's drive of the Baltic port of Lubeck.

Seven of the regiment's officers and sixty-six of its other ranks lost their lives. Many others were wounded.

The two men who commanded it in action were each awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and to other members of the regiment were made twelve awards of the Military Cross, two of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, fourteen of the Military Medal and three of the Croix de Guerre. Ten officers and seven other ranks were mentioned in despatches, two officers and seven other ranks received the Commander-in-Chief's certificate for gallantry, and one officer and eighteen other ranks received the Commander-in-Chief's certificate for good service.

The 15th Scottish Division was one of the drafting divisions chosen, late in 1942, to go on to the Higher Establishment and to become part of the ultimate Second Army, then being formed. This decision meant that the division was entitled to a reconnaissance regiment in place of the independent reconnaissance squadron of a division on the Lower Establishment. Thus, to form a regiment as the 15th Reconnaissance Regiment at Felton, Northumberland, on February 15th, 1943, the powers decreed that the 15th, 45th and 54th Independent Reconnaissance Squadrons be amalgamated. They were the tangible ingredients in the make-up of the new unit. Intangible ingredients were the traditions of the 15th Scottish Division and experience of the teething troubles of the Reconnaissance Corps.

The 15th Scottish Division, not a regular division, was formed in the 1914-18 war. It fought many battles of the Western Front, including Loos (Septem-ber, 1915), the Somme (August, 1916), Arras (April, 1917), Ypres (1917 and March, 1918) and on the Marne- Buzancy (July, 1918), where the French 17th Division erected a monument in homage to the Scottish Division. The 15th Scottish Division, although still untested by its second war, was one in which a soldier could take pride. Soon the regiment expressed that pride by putting Scottish into its title and by wearing the Balmoral until it had to be replaced for action by the more practical black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps. . .

The regiment was not the first reconnaissance unit to be part of the division. The Reconnaissance Corps had been founded two years earlier to do in the war of the internal combustion engine the work which had been done by the old horsed divisional cavalry in the wars of marching men: to look and to listen, to find out and report back, to be a screen against surprise, to see that the division was forearmed by being forewarned, to seize and to hold. Reconnaissance battalions grew mainly from the brigade anti-tank companies, and the battalions' part in the armies of liberation was evolved in training by a process of trial and error and (in those days of shortage) improvisation. With motorcycles of civilian origin, a few ungainly armoured trucks called "meatsafes" (which is what they would have been in action), anti-tank rifles and wireless sets lamentably insufficient in power and numbers, infantrymen began to learn the Job which they were to do as mechanised cavalry wIth fast and powerful armoured cars and reconnaissance cars, an impressive assortment of tracked and half-tracked vehicles, a wireless system which could give communications over many miles and a regiment's fire power equal to that of an infantry brigade.

The unit which went through the early training adventures with the 15th Scottish Division was formed at Kirkee Barracks, Colchester, on January 13th, 1941, and became the 15th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps. Officers and other ranks were drawn from the brigade anti-tank companies and from all the infantry regiments then in the division: the 6th and 7th King's Own Scottish Borderers, the 8th Royal Scots, the 9th and l0th Cameronians, the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers, the 2nd Glasgow Highlanders, and the l0th and 11th Highland Light Infantry. The battalion was first commanded by Lieut-Colonel Sandeman, and Major N. C. Hendricks was second-in-command.

It was, however, a short-lived 15th Battalion, through no fault of its own. Army reorganisation made it necessary for the 15th Scottish Division and several other formations to revert to Lower War Establishment, under which the divisional reconnaissance strength was reduced to a company, whose chief job, it seemed often, was to supply men for units nearer in time to the line of battle. The battalion, commanded by Lieut-Colonel Hendricks with Major J. I. Faircloth as second-in-command, was broken up at Consett, County Durham, on the first day of 1942 to form the 15th, 48th and 77th Independent Reconnaissance Companies. Later the Reconnaissance Corps took cavalry names, and the companies became squadrons.

The 48th and 77th Companies left the division and they pass from the pages of this history. The 15th remained and thirteen months later became A Squadron of the 15th Scottish Reconnaissance Regiment in a division which returned to full strength in preparation for what was to be an important part in the invasion of Europe. The 15th Independent Reconnaissance Company was commanded first by Major Faircloth, with Captain J. Roberts as second-in-command and C.S.M. D. Dobbin as company sergeant major. In March, 1942, Major P. T. 1. MacDiarmid took over command, with Captain O. W. Butler as second-in-command. The unit was stationed at Black Hill, County Durham, Throckley, Northumberland, and Brunton Hall, Northumberland, before going to Felton Hall.

It was fitting that the 15th Scottish Reconnaissance Regiment was formed so close to the border between Scotland and England, for there was much of both countries in its make-up. The 15th Independent Reconnaissance Squadron had always been part of the Scottish Division and had drawn its men in the first place from Scottish units. The 45th and 54th Independent Reconnaissance Squadrons, which went to Northumberland from Essex and Suffolk to become parts of the new regiment, brought with them a strong English strain. Their ties were with the infantry regiments of London and the counties round about.

These two squadrons were old friends: at Felton they resumed an association which had been interrupted by the breaking up of the 54th Battalion, Reconnaissance Corps, a little more than a year before. The 54th Battalion was formed under the command of Lieut-Colonel E. L. Ricketts O.B.E., at Faringdon, Berkshire, in July, 1941, from the 21st Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers, and the anti-tank companies of the 54th Division. In January, 1942, that division, like the 15th Scottish, was placed on Lower War Establishment, and the battalion ended its brief life at Rendlesham Hall in Suffolk. From the ashes, however, rose the Phoenix of the 45th, 54th and 76th Independent Reconnaissance Companies. The 45th, commanded first by Major L. Nash and later by Major Adam Gordon, Scotsman and regular soldier, went south to Danbury in Essex. The 54th, under the command of Major L. H. Mills, spent its year of independence in the remote and pleasant Suffolk coast village of Orford, where it survived a bomb on its officers' mess and the loss of its MT stores by fire.

In the welding of Scot and Cockney at Felton Hall the 45th Independent Reconnaissance Squadron became the 15th Scottish Reconnaissance Regiment's B Squadron, still commanded with the care of a hen watching over her brood by Adam Gordon.  A man with a great belief in a notebook, a rather slight figure to be seen walking the path from mess to squadron office with head thrust forward and hands clasped behind back. The 54th Independent Reconnaissance Squadron emerged from the transformation as C Squadron, still following the pipe smoke and ready laughter of Harry Mills.

To make a regiment out of three independent squadrons, whose stories had been of struggles against shortages of men and equipment, the War Office sent Lieut-Colonel J. A. Grant Peterkin, a tall Scotsman from Forres, a regular soldier of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. He had been an adjutant at the outbreak of war. He had been brigade major to the 4th Infantry Brigade in the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, and afterwards a "teacher" at Camberley and on staff duty with 5th Corps. Next he had formed and commanded the Reconnaissance Training Centre at Scarborough with an energy which had already gained him a reputation in the Reconnaissance Corps. He brought with him to Felton Hall a tremendous capacity for work, definite ideas on training, a determination to make a crack regiment, a blackened pipe and a habit of brushing his hair as an antidote to fatigue and stress in exercise and action. Working harder and longer than anybody else in the regiment, he was to dominate its life in preparation for battle and in battle for nineteen months and in three countries.

Major Peter MacDiarmid became the regiment's second-in-command, and his first successor in the command of A Squadron was Major Brian Crowder. As R.S.M. the regiment had Mr W. H. Eardley, a Grenadier Guardsman by trade, who had been squadron sergeant major of the 54th Independent Squadron.


 

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