‘F’ Squadron, G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment
This is the transcript of War Diary of Maj. Hon. J.J. Astor Squadron between June 1943 and April 1945.
1-31 The sqn was stationed during the whole months in 12 Corps at SPELHURST. There were, during this period no 12 Corps exercises in which the sqn could profitable be employed so the period was devoted to revision of basic wireless, MT and physical trg. Numerous sqn WT schemes enabled the operators to keep in practice and gain experience in wireless technique. Coding classes were held for the benefit of the cipher per. The sqn’s mobility was preserved by constant maint in spite of the age of most of its vehs. Particular attention was paid to physical fitness by means of plenty of outdoor exercise.
It was noticeable that trg was hindered by a scarcity of offrs and eqpt as a result of the recent splt to form the Assault Det.
28 J Sqn was renamed F Sqn.
1 Sqn str: Sqn HQ, 6 patrols; 60 ORs.
1-31 Routine trg in WT, MT, coding, and the maintenance of physical fitness were continued on the same lines as in June. F Sqn offrs attended a 12 Corps RA shoot on SALISBURY PLAIN during the month.
1-31 The basic trg which had been carried out during June and July was continued during August. The whole sqn, in relays was granted, and doubtless enjoyed, its privilege leave. These three months of settled life have been valuable to all ranks as a time when any problems arising in their respective jobs could be threshed out at leisure; all have gained in the knowledge of detail which cannot be acquired in times when a sqn is constantly engaged in operational trg.
1/3 Move to LARGS, Scotland.
Sqn HQ established HILL HOTEL, LARGS
4/22 Sqn Training (Field firing – route marches – cross country marches – maintenance)
REMARKS: To be att to 1 Corps (the assault corps) consisting of 3 Div, 49 Div and 33 A Tk Bde.
It was envisaged that F Sqn would work with 1 Corps in a semi-dismounted role. Trg was organised with object in view.
23/27 Exercise WASHINGTON
28/29 Exercise CONTACT
Sqn exercises. These exercises involved short marches and long range WT.
1-3 Sqn Trg (Battle range with live amn-maintenance)
REMARKS: Fire and movement was practiced by patrols.
3-5 Exercise BRIDGEHEAD
REMARKS: 1 Patrol with div HQ worked a range of 80 miles satisfactorily.
6-10 Sqn trg (battle range)
11 Adv party to L Sqn billets at DOLLAR, PERTH.
12-16 Sqn trg (incl exercise OVERCOAT with objects
1.WT short and long range;
3.maintenance in the field.
17 Sqn move to DOLLAR.
18-26 First leave party of half F Sqn proceeded on leave.
Remaining personnel individual trg incl weapons – gas route marches.
26 Oct-3 Nov
Second leave party of remainder of F Sqn proceeded on leave.
Remainder and returning personnel as above.
1-5 Individual trg under RSM.
6 Sqn moved to HILLS HOTEL, LARGS.
8-22 Sqn trg (incl I trg – WT courses – maintenance -veh trade testingfor selected personnel and dvr ops tests.
REMARKS: Visit by Capt. WRIGHTSON.
23-25 Sqn move to regt HQ.
Under comd 1 Corps convoy took 3 days to reach RICHMOND.
26-30 Sqn trg and refit
1-10 OTC trg at INVERARY for personnel selected on basis of 1 offr and 2 OR from each patrol and sqn HQ.
1-5 Remainder of sqn maintenance and refit in RICHMOND.
6 Sqn move from regt HQ to TONLINSCOT, FRIMLEY.
REMARKS: In now 1 Corps area.
7-12 Sqn trg (maintenance -PT -WT and weapon trg).
13-18 Sqn J tp proceeded on J course at regt HQ.
13 Sqn med and dental inspection.
14-21 Maintenance – trade tests for selected personnel -refit.
REMARKS: During this period mob stores were drawn from regt HQ.
24 Sqn practice turnout.
25-31 Sqn trg (incl patrol cooks course under cpl cook and veh mech course for selected personnel.
1-2 Squadron training (maintenance PT weapon training
3-5 Sqn Exercise Primus object short range WT and coding
7/12 Sqn Exercise Secundus object long range WT coding and maintenance in the field
16-22 Officer intelligence course at Regiment HQ
16-19 J Troop Exercise Tertitus object movement by day and night long range WT and maintenance in the field
20-22 mines course for Sqn by Major Light HQ Sqn
23 Billet cleaning in preparation for leave
24 Jan to 3 Feb
Sqn on leave
The Squadron was at FRIMLEY, Surrey, carrying on Routine W/T training, while 21 Army Group decided whether it was to stay under Command 1 Corps for Assault work.
10-29 Squadron went to Yorkshire and took part in Ex. EAGLE. Squadron HQ was at 2 Corps HQ with Patrols deployed at Bde HQs. During Exercise the “J” Section worked on the nets of 9th Armd Div. The Exercise was not realistic as 2 Corps’ part in the Exercise had been planned previously down to the smallest detail and on a rigid timed programme. However, the squadron did useful W/T and Coding training. During the Exercise the Squadron was asked to volunteer in toto for parachuting; it transpired that our role with 1 Corps had ceased and our new role was to improvise as a Bde. Sigs Section to Special Air Service Bde. 83 % of the Squadron volunteered. The Squadron returned to Frimley at the end of the month and took 48 hours leave
1-10 The Sqn is depleted by 3 officer and 29 Ors who went to A Sqn. The Squadron moved to Auchenleck, Dumfriesshire, where it came under command SAS Brigade.
12-19 All ranks that were passed fit for jumping numbering 37 did a strenuous weeks PT and Marching under a Para PT Instructor. The remainder maintained vehicles and clean the billet.
19-29 All jumpers did the full para course at RINGWAY of 8 jumps 11 Other ranks dropped out during the course 2 through fractures 1 through sprains 8 through fear. Thus we emerged from RINGWAY with 26 jumpers This was a high percentage of failures due to comparatively soft physical condition the Squadron was in compared to normal Infantry paratroops.
29-31 All Squadron on leave
I cannot over emphasize the chaotic condition under which the Squadron is at present working. Apparently this Bde was informed that we could do the work of a Bde Sig Section. Thus at the moment I am trying to (a) run a Bde Sig office (b) train 4 parachute patrols of my own (c) instruct 5 regts in wireless and cipher (d) man a W/T link between an aerodrome and training dropping zones (e) Man 3 Base Bde sets on daily W/T Exercises to Regts
I am on no establishment or G 1098 and the Bde is short of some 200 W/T sets, crystals, and operators. If this had been organised on a sound basis 6 months earlier the work would be both feasible, interesting and very exciting.
The Squadron completed it privilege leave on April 9th., this leave being jumping leave. For the rest of the Month, We worked daily W/T schedules to all SAS Regts, 12 hours each day, except SUNDAYS; This was hard work for all Operators and Coders, as the methods of sending morse and coding varied with the Regts.
During this month we did one confidence drop with a JEDBURGH set and worked a
schedule from the DZ. This was successful.
All French and Belgian operators were entertained by SHQ; conversation was limited but it proved very successful as our Allied operators were less temperamental after meeting my operators.
Two Patrols lived and trained with 1 SAS; two Patrols with 2 SAS. Their training consisted of long marches, living out and W/T.
1-15 Squadron moved to York for a long range W/T exercise to SAS Regts in Scotland. The exercise was a failure as the frequencies allotted were unsuitable for the distance.
Captain Hislop’s patrol carried out a successful W/T Exercise with 2 SAS over a distance of 200 miles This was the first try of W/T and resupply. The resupply aircraft dropped containers at night on the exact location ordered and at the exact time.
15-25 Squadron HQ maintained and checked over all sets Patrols were deployed as follows: Capt. Hislop and Lt Johnsen to 2 SAS Lt Moore to 1 SAS Capt. Sadoine in reserve at Sqn HQ.
I made out a Bde Signal Order to cover some 330 out stations on completion of same 21 Army Group changed changed our code signs and the whole thing had to be done again. Capt. [George] Rowland RC Sigs aided me with this task
Sqn HQ moved to Airborne HQ at Moor Park and set up. A Squadron dump for re-supply was set up at Fairford. A small detachment was left in Scotland under Capt Rowland to continue training SAS personnel there. Capt. Sadoine and Lt Moore were sent to SAS Transit camp in Fairford to be under command of 1 SAS. Capt. Hislop and Lt Johnsen remained in Scotland under 2 SAS.
SHQ’s time was spent in drawing and instructing on S phones which were issued to SAS Bde on May 29th
Capt. Fraser in conjunction with the BBC ran an announcers Course in London with English and French personnel; he organised a BBC 100 Kilowatt Transmitter at Sqn HQ.
1-6 By June 6th Sqn HQ was established at Airborne Forces HQ Moor Park Middlesex. Six W/T Channels were opened – one to each SAS Regt and one Emergency. In addition we had six hours a day of the BBC Foreign Transmitter this time was divided equally among the SAS Regts with three periods where general news was transmitted in English and French.
DRLS services between Airborne Tps HQ SFHQ COHQ and SAS Dump were established
A Sqn re-supply dump for w/t equipment was established at the SAS Dump Fairford Gloucestershire
Two patrols were standing by for operations in SAS Transit Camp.
Two patrols were with 2 SAS in Scotland
7-30 Sqn HQ worked aprox 10 out stations passing approx 50 messages a day including most of the traffic for the FFI in Brittany.
Two patrols remained with 2 SAS in Scotland
8-30 Lt Moore’s patrol was dropped with 1 SAS Regt 25 miles NW of Autun in the Morvain Mts. He established and maintained excellent W/T contact; he helped form a Main Base there; he was re-supplied successfully and passed back valuable bomber targets.
11-30 Capt. Sadoine’s patrol was dropped with 1 SAS Regt 70 SE of POITERS in HAUTE VIENNE; he established and maintained excellent W/T contact and formed a subsidiary Base; he has successfully re-supplied during June; he passed back many Bomber targets, which were bombed including 11 petrol trains.
1-31 Sqn HQ working at Airborne Forces HQ passed on average 65 messages per day to approx 15 stations behind the enemy lines in France
1-31 Capt. Sadoine patrol remained in HAUTE VIENNE his base was used when the main 1 SAS Base in that area was dispersed by Germans. He was successfully resupplied; his W/T Contact was constant
1-31 Lt Moore patrol remained in the Morvain Mountains where it was the main 1 SAS Base in that area. His W/T contact was constant; he was successfully re-supplied.
8-31 Lt Randall with 1 SAS was dropped North of Le Mans where he passed back much valuable information on enemy troop movements, behind the then static bridgehead. He was successfully re-supplied.
1-31 Squadron HQ working at Airborne Forces HQ was in contact continually with 24 SAS parties behind enemy lines; an average of 75 messages a day was passed.
1-7 Capt. Sadoine’s patrol continued as before. On August 7, they were exfiltrated with 1 SAS by Hudsons which landed at night on an improvised landing strip.
1-31 Lt Moore patrol continued the same work in Morvan Mountains with constant success.
1-15 Lt Randall continued sending valuable information until he was over-run by the US Army. He then returned to England
3-18 Lt Johnsen patrol was dropped SE of RENNES with 2 SAS After passing back some information he was over-run by the US Army after 48 hours and returned to England. This Operation was badly planned and incompletely carried out by SAS Bde and 2 SAS respectively. Lt. Johnsen’s W/T worked well
13-31 Capt. Hislop’s patrol was dropped in VOSGES with 2 SAS he established W/T contact but had to destroy his sets after three days as enemy activity in that area was intensive the only news from him came through an SF Set somewhere in that area.
27-31 Lt. McDevitt’s patrol was dropped alone NE of Paris he passed back valuable information on enemy movement W/T contact was constant
31 Lt Johnsen’s patrol was dropped with 2 SAS in VOSGES to find the 2 SAS party that Capt. Hislop accompanied and to reinforce the area. In my opinion this was a foolish operation, as already 2 W/T teams and SAS parties had been un-successfully dropped in that area. 2 SAS seemed determined to re-inforce their previous failure in this area, instead of exploiting their successes in the area South of the LOIRE.
1-30 Sqn HQ continued at Moor Park. We worked 25 out stations located from Vannes in Brittany to Dijon area in central France and the Belgian Ardennes.
Sqn HQ Offs visited France and Belgium in the capacity of Liaison officers
1-9 Lt Moore’s patrol continued working NE of PARIS until over-run by US Army when he came in reserve at 21 Army Group at Amiens
Lt Johnsen established good W/T contact from VOSGES he located Capt. Hislop whose patrol was re-supplied with W/T equipment Intense enemy activity in that area limited W/T traffic.
7 Lt Randall went to MONTARGIS by Jeep where he established a W/T link for 1 SAS
7-13 The two patrols under Capt Hislop and Lt Johnsen continued operations in the VOSGES Mountains (Operation Loyton)
Conditions in the VOSGES were extremely severe. The American Third and Seventh Armies had been unable to advance as far and as fast as had been previously hoped. The Germans reinforced in strength a line WEST of the VOSGES. German reprisals on pro-allied civilians in the VOSGES increased in ferocity. The weather was cold and wet.
Re-supply to Loyton was unsatisfactory and hazardous the main reasons for this were the mountains and the thickly wooded terrain which did not allow for large Dropping Zones and prevented low and accurate dropping by the RAF.
The so called MAQUIS in the area were low in morale small in numbers and inadequately armed they were not considered [by] the SAS to be in any way reliable
The SAS party in LOYTON was reinforced from 10 to approx 85 all ranks their work was curtailed by the proximity and strength of the enemy; a large proportion of their time was spent in evading detection and capture.
The Phantom patrols managed to keep regular W/T contact and in addition to passing all re-supply traffic they passed valuable bombing target on which successful action was taken by the RAF.
The Phantom patrols under the command of Capt Moore and Lt McDevitt recuperated in England having completed their operations.
14-30 It was decided to evacuate the LOYTON area the two Phantom patrols were exfiltrated through the German lines and flown back to England with some 50 SAS personnel who managed to get out.
While crossing the German lines the Phantom patrols lost two Other Ranks [Bannerman & Johnson] while Lt [Peter] Johnsen was wounded in two places but managed to make the American lines The two ORs were seen to fall having been fired on at close range they have since been reported Missing and Wounded presumed dead.
In addition a Phantom Sjt [Gerald Davis] had previously disappeared after a partially successful German ambush had scattered an SAS party
1-31 SAS activity this month was slight.
Sqn HQ continued to work Belgian parties behind the lines in Holland. Phantom patrols were re-grouped and re-equipped.
SAS Bde HQ and “F” Sqn moved to Essex to be close to 38 Group RAF.
Sqn HQ was re-organised and re-quipped to perform the following duties:
(a) Man 8 WT Channels with operators and coders
(b) Provide 2 Phantom Patrols to operate with British SAS Regts
(c) Provide a Phantom Detachment at French SAS HQ in France.
(d)Run the SAS Broadcast
(e)Provide W/T attachments at 21 Army Group and SHAEF
It was thought that British SAS Regts would operate in Northern Europe, Holland and Italy; the Belgian Bn in Holland; French SAS Regts in Eastern France and Germany.
This involved longer WT ranges; SAS parties scattered all over Europe; an increase in the number of SAS Liaison Officers who would need their own communications; and an increase of “Emergency Channels”; hence the increase to 8 SAS W/T Channels with a total of some 32 out-stations.
1-30 Sqn HQ continued to work the operational parties in Holland, a Sqn of 1st SAS operating in Belgium, French SAS HQ at EPERNAY, SHAEF and 21 Army Group, in addition to the various SAS Liaison Officers who moved, as in the hymn, in a mysterious way around Europe.
Two Operational Patrols, under Capt. Moore and Lt McDevitt trained in fitness, marching and wireless.
Capt. Hislop was passed unfit for operations for six weeks and took Lt McDevitt’s place in Sqn HQ.
Lieut. Johnsen remained in Hospital.
1-30 Capt. Sadoine and a small detachment established himself at French SAS HQ in EPERNAY. He assisted in training new French WT Operators, advised the French planners on communications, and kept Sqn HQ informed about probable French operations.
Squadron HQ continued to man W/T Base Stations working to FRANCE, BELGIUM and HOLLAND. Patrols stood by to go on an operation in France with 1 SAS: this operation was cancelled.
A small PHANTOM detachment under Capt. J Sadoine continued to work with French SAS HQ at EPERNAY. French SAS were mostly training: however a Squadron of them were operational in Jeeps in the LUXEMBOURG area.
A detachment from 2 SAS flew to ITALY for an Operation [GALIA] in NW ITALY. I accompanied them to BARI and laid on their communications for the operation, under the Special Forces Signals organisation at MOLA.
Squadron HQ continued as in December, with small detachments at SHAEF, 21 ARMY GROUP and EPERNEY. The patrols trained on JEEPS and marching – at present it is not certain what their next tasks will be. They also worked some base sets at Squadron HQ.
Capt. Moore was awarded the Military Cross for work in FRANCE with 1 SAS. Capt. Moore and Lieut. Johnsen went by Jeep to Vosges area to try and discover news of the patrol OR’s who were lost there in the summer of 1944.
Towards the end of the month SAS plans increased: plans for JEEPING, Parachuting, work as Regts and work as small parties were prepared. This involved considerable Signal planning, none of the plans matured into an operation.
UK Sqn HQ continued in Essex.
Capt. Moore and Lt. Johnsen went to the Vosges in search of missing personnel; the grave of one of our men was found.
Capt. Sadoine continued with HQ French SAS at EPERNAY.
Major Astor visited 21 Army Group for various planning conferences.
On the whole SAS Activities were very little, other than planning.
Had First British Airborne Corps ever genuinely intended to give SAS Bde a Signal Section, this would have been the time to replace this Squadron with a Section.
Five of Sqn HQ completed a Parachute Course at Ringway.
1-30 Sqn HQ remained at SAS Tps HQ and continued to work Phantom and SAS Outstations in BLA. Sqn dets of 3 ORs were at Army Gp 2 Brit Army and Cdn Army, in addition to Sqn patrols, which are dealt with below.
20-30 Capt. Moore’s patrol, reinforced by some SAS Bde Sig Section personnel went on operation Archway, to provide a Rear Link to UK and organise the internal comms of the SAS force on this operation.
Lt. Col Franks DSO, MC, 2 SAS, command one 1 SAS Sqn and 1 2 SAS Sqn on this operation. SAS Force under comd 2 Brit Army, crossed the River Rhine in Jeeps and in the early stages of the bridge-head, worked with 6 Brit Airborne Div. Their internal comms on 76 and 22 sets and their rear link to UK worked satisfactorily.
20-30 Lt MacDevitt remained as Signal Officer to Col Prendergast DSO, who comd the French SAS Regts.
Capt. Johnsen’s patrol reinforced by Big Sigs Section personnel, prepared for a jeeping operation under Lt Col Mayne DSO on the same lines as Archway.
1-30 Sqn HQ remained at SAS Tps HQ, working Phantom and SAS outstations in BLA as in March.
5 SAS TAC Bde HQ was formed at Cdn Army HQ. Major Radmore SAS Bde Sigs Officer organised comns there, with 3 Bde Sigs personnel and 6 Phantom personnel from SHQ. These numbers were later increased to a total of approx 15.
1-30 Capt. Moore remained with Archway SAS Force doing the same work. This Force advanced from the Rhine to the Elbe working with 6 Brit Airborne Div, 11 Hussars and Inns of Court Regt.
7-15 Two French SAS Regts were dropped in North Holland. Eight WT terminals were dropped; all of these were manned by French Ops; these terminals worked to SHQ in UK while Cdn Army intercepted. After initial difficulties at SAS TAC Bde HQ with Cdn Army HQ this worked well. Seven out of eight French terminals came up. Lt MacDevitt accompanied SAS Jeeps that over-ran French SAS Regts.
North Holland and North Germany
6-30 Capt. Johnsen’s patrol, reinforced by SAS Sigs Section personnel went on operation Howard to provide a Rear Link to UK and Cdn Army and to organise the internal comns within the SAS Force. Lt Col Mayne DSO commanded two Sqns of 1 SAS mounted in Jeeps. They came under comd Cdn Army and after crossing the Rhine, worked with the 4 Cdn Armd Div in N Holland and NW Germany. Comns were satisfactory.
NW Holland & Germany
6-30 The Belgian SAS Regts in Jeeps under comd Cdn Army worked in North Holland and NW Germany with the Polish Armd Div and later with the 4 Cdn Armd Div Capt. Donnelly accompanied them and organised their rear links to UK and Cdn Army in addition to their internal comns.
10-15 A small 2 SAS force was dropped south of Zuyder Zee, in conjunction with 12 2 SAS Jeeps that broke out of the Cdn Army bridgehead across the Wesel and joined up with the paratroops. This operation known as KEYSTONE, worked two rear links to UK. No Phantom personnel went on this operation.
Brig MacLeod has been succeeded by Brig Calvert DSO as Commander SAS Troops. After initial misunderstanding of SAS communications set up, Brig Calvert has appreciated, correctly, that a Phantom Squadron, reinforced by a weak under strength Brigade Signals Section, cannot compete satisfactorily with 5 SAS Regts: these Regiments are working all over Europe, based on UK, and using many different sets over distances varying from 5 to 400 miles. However as enemy resistance in Europe appears to be finishing, it has been decided to continue with the existing set up until the war in Europe is over.
Dictated to me by Major J.J. Astor
30 Apr 45 John Bingham Capt