Scottish Lion On Patrol Ch 4
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ANGMERING-ON-SEA

The regiment's last days in England were days by the sea in the sun and in surroundings which might have been created to provide the greatest contrast with the life in the field which was to follow. At Angmering-on-Sea, set between the sparkle of the Channel and the dapple of the Downs, houses built expensively for those who could afford seaside holiday homes became the unit's billets. It was indeed life with every modern convenience (labour-saving kitchens, gleaming bathrooms, bedrooms with hot and cold water), parquet floors, balconies, french windows opening on to smooth lawns. Part of A Squadron, occupying the house of a famous man of theatres at Kingston Gorse, lived among stained glass, a shining cocktail bar, sunken baths and garden fountains. Other people of the stage whose homes were here became the regiment's friends, notably Nervo and Knox, who renewed old acquaintance months later, when they were making the Second Army laugh in Holland.

The soldier waking in his Angmering bedroom, seeing from his window the pleasant houses with their dewy lawns and flower borders and beyond them the sea glinting in the early sunshine, needed the presence of folded battledress, kitbag and rifle leaning against the wall to remind him that this was indeed the prelude to battle. The lengthening day, however, brought with it other reminders. There was a sense of finality about things now. Vehicles were being made water proof, ready for landing on a foreign beach. They were loaded as for embarkation and weighed to make sure that they did not exceed the weight permitted on board ship. Loading lists were completed, and equipment marked with its serial number. Packing for a holiday and even moving a home were as nothing compared with this preparation for fighting and living for an unknown period in foreign lands.

Waterproofing in itself was a major operation of war. Scientists and engineers had spent months devising materials and means to enable motor vehicles to be driven through the narrow strip of sea between ship's ramp and shore. There had been many trials to test and improve the results. Many weeks and many courses had been devoted to teaching how the materials must be used. Now many hours of hard and dirty work were necessary before the cars, the carriers and the trucks, engines sealed and exhausts pointing like chimneys to the sky, were ready. The waterproofers, directed by Lieutenants R. H. Fleet, P. C. Kerridge and Rogers, were the hardest worked men in the regiment in these weeks. Two repre-sentatives of Humber Ltd, Mr F. W. Kennington and Mr R. J. Harter, lived with the regiment for a month while they supervised the waterproofing of the Humber armoured cars.

Bereft of its vehicles by these preparations, the unit took to its feet and for four days marched by squadrons eighty miles over the Sussex Downs, finishing with a forced march back from Amberley. Weapons were given their final tests on Kithurst and Seaford ranges and by firing out to sea. Troop commanders and troop sergeants visited infantry battalions with which they
were to work, and the foot soldiers were given a final demonstration to show what could be expected of a reconnaissance unit.

Planning proceeded in secret. The regiment learned with regret that because of the demands on shipping it could not go abroad as one body, but must leave one squadron to sail later with parts left by other units. These were called the divisional residue, and Major Smith was appointed to command them, Major MacDiarmid becoming acting second-in-command of the regiment. A toss of the coin, lost by Major Gordon, ordained that B Squadron would be the one left.

One tragedy came upon the regiment at this time. Returning to Kingston Gorse from Worthing by way of a short cut, two members of 1 Troop in A Squadron, Troopers Simmonds and Hancox, were killed by a beach mine.

On May 17th Lieut-General Sir Richard O'Connor addressed officers in a Worthing cinema, and on June 4th Major General MacMillan spoke to each squadron about the forthcoming operations.

Drake played bowls on the eve of battle. The regiment ran and jumped, and played cricket. The padre, the Rev E. Bradbrooke, an old Oxford and England jumper, cleared 5 feet 6 inches, and Cpl Williams, of A Squadron, established himself as the regiment's best long distance runner, but B Squadron again won the regimental sports. The 1st Middlesex athletes were beaten in a match at Brighton, held to choose the team to represent the two units in partner-ship in the division's highland games at Brighton Stadium. The joint team came third of six, and L/Cpl Johnstone again won the highland dancing. At the end of the games the divisional commander remarked "Today the highland games have been won by the Lowland Brigade, the dancing by the Reconnaissance Regiment and the throwing the hammer by a sapper."

The regiment's representatives in the games were :-100 Yards Relay: Sgt Carmichael, Sgt Campbell, Capt Liddell, Tpr Holmden. 440 Yards Relay: Lieut. Blair, Craftsman Lovell, Tpr Wolfenden, Cpl Williams. 880 Yards Relay: Lieut Blair, Tpr Shackleton, Cpl Williams, Tpr Hart. High Jump: Padre and Tpr Slaughter. Throwing the Hammer and Putting the Weight: Sgt Holland.

The hospitality of the Home Guard, who allowed unrestricted use of ground and kit, brought the regiment's cricketers together for a brief but glorious season on the field between the tall trees and the long grey barn at East Preston. To those who enjoyed those games in the blaze of afternoon and the lengthening shadows of evening the one matter for regret was the certainty that a side which seemed made for the Saturdays of peaceful summers would be scattered when those days returned. No captain would hesitate to lead on to club ground or village green a team which could produce the venom of Lane's bowling, the whole-heartedness of Abbott's, the graceful strokes of Hudson and Gray, the smites of padre and adjutant, the zest of Green and the all-round worth of the colonel and Sgt Harrison. Squadron played squadron. The R.S.M. ran between the wickets with unquestioned daring but questionable wisdom. Littlehampton and Divisional Signals were met and beaten, and, no matter how steadily Wiggins bowled for them, the Home Guard came off second best in a series of duels.

The arrival of Major Mills on horseback for the match in which R.H.Q. and C Squadron played the rest of the regiment created both precedent and problem. There was a place at fine leg for the major, but none for the horse, whose presence would have given R.H.Q. and C an unfair advantage in numbers. When, however, the horse departed, the major was still in the saddle, which gave undue advantage to the Rest. Eventually Major was retrieved minus horse, and he occupied his place in the field with a mixture of the energetic and the recumbent until the fingers of shade stretched out to the pitch and, Jack Lane having led the Rest to a one-wicket victory, stumps were drawn for the last time. Already the wings of towed gliders had shadowed the field, and the broadcast voice of General Eisenhower had confirmed what the regiment had guessed on seeing the armada of the air fade over the Channel on a clear June night.  The invasion of Normandy had begun.
 
 


 

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