4th (Durham) Survey Regiment Royal Artillery

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the following people for their kind assistance in helping and allowing me to use research material that they have spent hours putting together, without their assistane this page would not have been possible.

Jim Whetton, the Nephew of Lt. Col J T Whetton for allowing me to use photos and quotations from articles.

Brian Sims for allowing me to use his research material on S S Scillin on which his own father died.

The family of Gunner Herriott for giving me permission to publish his photos

Michael Wedgewood the Son of Lt. Col A A Wedgewood one of the original four members of the 4th (Durham) Survey Regt.

Short History of the 4th Durham Survey Regiment Royal Artillery By the Commanding Officer, Lt.-Col. J.T. Whetton, D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C.

This Unit was formed in January, 1937 under the Durham County T.A.A.F. Association with headquarters at Gateshead-on-Tyne and was embodied there on the outbreak of war. In May, 1940 the regiment moved to the South of England and came under command of 4th Corps. In November, the Unit embarked for the Middle East and on arrival in Egypt came under command of G.H.Q. Advance parties contacted I troop 6 Survey Regiment at the first battle of Tobruk. At the end of this campaign in Western Desert, I Troop rejoined the 4th. On 13th January, 1941, “Y” Survey Troop was dispatched to Eritrea for flash spotting and survey and “R” Sound Ranging Troop entrained for that theatre of war on 13th February, 1941. The two Troops fought throughout to the successful conclusion of the campaign and then returned to Egypt. The Regiment with No.1 Survey Troop attached, less “Y” Survey and “R” Sound Ranging Troops sailed for Greece on 1st April, 1941, and after several deployments under the command of the Australian Corps, was evacuated to Egypt via Crete. “Y” Survey Troop was now operating in the Western Desert and a composite battery of Flash Spotters and Sound Rangers served in Tobruk throughout the siege. Later in 1941, the whole Regiment was placed under command of the newly formed Eighth Army and moved onwards through the battles of the Omars, relief of Tobruk, siege of Bardia and Sollum to Benghazi and El Agheila followed by the withdrawal to Gazala. At this juncture R.H.Q. and one battery placed under command of Ninth Army operated from the Turkish border to the South of Palestine. One battery remained in Western Desert and had the misfortune to be captured in Torbruk. The other Battery then returned to Egypt and proceeded to El Alamein, being joined later by R.H.Q. and a newly trained Battery. Being the only Survey Regiment in Eighth Army, it covered the whole front from the Mediterranean to the Quattra depression, a distance of 25 miles. After Alamein the Regiment advanced with 30 Corps through North Africa to Tunisia, completing the African campaign under 10 Corps. The Regiment was again allocated to 30 Corps in the Eighth Army for operations in Sicily and landed there with the 51st Highland Division on “D” Day and at the conclusion of this campaign was responsible for the artillery survey preliminary to storming of Italy. In December, 1943, the Regiment returned to the United Kingdom and was with the first contingent of 50th Northumbrian Division to land in Normandy on “D” Day. Composite groups of the Regiment operated with the Guards Armoured Division and 11th Armoured Division in the brilliant advance of 30 Corps through France and Belgium to capture Brussels and Antwerp and thence to continue the pursuit to the North of Nijmegen in Holland in the attempt to capture Arnhem. The Regiment continued in the Victorious march of 30 Corps across the Rhine to the final collapse of the German Army on V.E. Day.

The Honours and Awards included: 1 D.S.O., 1 O.B.E., 4 M.B.E, 10 M.Cs. and 1 Bar, 1 D.C.M., 12 M.Ms., 1 B.E.M., 24 Mentions in Despatches and a number of Allied decorations.

The extraordinary life of John Thomas Whetton

1894 – John Thomas Whetton was born into a family of 13 children in New Fryston (near Castleford).

1907 – Left school to work in the local mine.

1914 – First World War, John joins 8th Battallion King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

1915 – Battle of Loos

1916 – Seriously wounded at Battle of the Somme and sent back to England

1917 – Commissioned as an officer, transferred to 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, fought at Passchendaele in Third Battle of Ypres.

1918 – Sailed with Allied forces to fight Bolsheviks in Murmansk, northern Russia. Promoted to acting captain of a mobile ski unit. Awarded the Imperial Russian Order of Saint Stanislaus and the Military Cross for distinguished service in battle.

1919 – At end of the war, he returned to mining while completing his colliery manager’s certificate at Sunderland Technical College.

1920 – Began a BSc in mining engineering at University of Leeds. Married Mary Thompson, a primary school teacher from Hartlepool (they were married for 45 years until she died in 1965).

1923 – Began a master’s at University of Leeds.

1925 – Invited to become a research assistant to Leeds’ former chair of mining, Professor Granville Poole, at Armstrong College in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

1926 – Became a lecturer in mining, surveying, and applied geophysics at Armstrong College

1937 – Appointed commanding officer of a specialised new volunteer unit, the 4th Durham Survey Regiment Royal Artillery.

1940 –Sailed for Egypt. 4th Durham was the only artillery survey regiment that took part in all the major battles of the North Africa campaign, including Eritrea, Greece, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya.

1942 – Battle of El Alamein.

1943 – Invasion of Sicily and Italy. Received the Africa Star, the Italy Star and the Distinguished Service Order.

1944 – Took part in D-Day Landings at Normandy, then pushed on through Belgium into Holland.

1944 – Operation Market Garden. Accidentally shot in leg by another British officer and evacuated from Holland, then invalided out of the Army. Awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

1945 – Promoted to chair in mining at the University of Leeds, which he held until his retirement in 1960.

1949 – Became president of the Old Students’ Association until 1956.

1950 – Became president of the University of Leeds Mining Society, until 1960.

1951 – Became president of the Military and Education Airforce Committee until 1960.

1955-57 – Served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds.

1957 – Initiated planning and fundraising activities for the construction of Charles Morris Hall

1960 – Retired from academic life at the University of Leeds, elected president of the Midland Institute of Mining Engineers, became Honorary Colonel of Leeds University Officer Training Corps.

1966 – Opening of Charles Morris Hall. One of the three blocks was named after him.

1978 – Publication of Z Location or Survey in War – The story of the 4th Durham Survey Regiment Royal Artillery, which he co-wrote withLt Col Robert Ogden. Read it online at http://tinyurl.com/4durhamsurvey

1979 – Died aged 85 years old.

This picture is of his medal entitlement

These miniature campaign and gallantry medals were found hidden away in a hall of residence in a safe at Leeds University by Mike Leonard the university’s property manager, the halls were being cleared for demolition, this is where Lt Col Whetton was a respected professor, when the new building work has been completed they will be displayed at the University.

Soldiers name: Gunner R.A. Dodds (Jim)

With this collection came a picture of a soldier dated 1941 standing in the desert with a Thompsom machine gun and a Royal Artillery Survey badge on his uniform. Also there were some pictures of the troopship HMT Reina del Pacifico on a voyage to the Suez and an Xmas card issued to the troops on board dated Xmas 1940. After a little more digging I was able to find out that the only survey regiment in North Africa at that time was the 4th (Durham). I was also able to find a record of the Reina del Pacifico's voyage showing its departures and dates, which matched the photos

The brief movements and dates of the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment

November 1938 formed from the expanded 4th Survey battery (TA) Gateshead, United Kingdom

September 1939 home forces United Kingdom

January 1941 Cairo base SA North Africa

July 1941 British troops Egypt North Africa

December 1941 8th Army North Africa

September 1943 8th Army Italy

March 1944 2nd Army United Kingdom

June 1944 30 Corps North West Europe

Reina del Pacifico's voyage to the Suez dated 1940-41

HMT Reina del Pacifico

18-11-1940 Met rest of convoy with 2 Cruisers & 6 Destroyers. "Strathaird", "Strathnaver", "Viceroy of India", "Empress of Canada", "Duchess of Athol", "Andes", "Reine del Pacifico", "Orcades", "Otranto".

29-11-1940 Two cruisers only. Arrived FREETOWN.

Freetown harbour taken from Reina

1-12-1940 Depart FREETOWN 4-20 pm. Same Convoy.

12-12-1940 Arrived DURBAN

Durban beach while on shore leave

16-12-1940 Depart DURBAN. Same Convoy.

Sunset - Hells gate Gulf of Arden Christmas day 1940

28-12-1940 Arrive SUEZ - anchored 5-15 pm

Port Suez with the troop ship HMT Strathnaver and the Hospital ship Andes in the background

29-12-1940 Entered Canal

29-12-1940 Arrived PORT SAID 5-50 pm. - Anchored.

31-12-1940 Moving Anchorage.

8-1-1941 Moving Anchorage to embark Troops.

Life on board Reina

More snaps

Do you know who the guys are below? I don't know if they were taken onboard the Reina or later on in his campaign

His medal entitlement

Soldiers name: Gunner A.A. Herriott

This next collection of photos belonged to Gunner Herriot who served with the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment and saw service in the Western Desert and Greece, he was captured at the fall of Tobruk and remainded a prisoner of war for the rest of the war.

The Liner "Reina del Pacifico" of 17,700 tons nicknamed the "Rolling Reina" or the "Pitching Pacifico" for the first few days of the voyage people were incapacitated with sea sickness.

Gunner Herriott (on the left) outside Wilsons Bar in Cario 1941

A newspaper cutting confirming Gunner Herriott's capture

In June 1942 Tobruk fell to Rommels advancing troops and this is more than likely where Gunner Herriott was captured along with a number of his regiment. Many of the men captured at Tobruk were lost crossing the mediterranean onboard the Italian Steam Ship "Scillin" sunk by the British sub HMS Sahib.

The regiment lost a total 26 men when S S Scillin was sunk on the 14th November 1942, their names are listed below.

Gnr.Broadbridge F.A.

Gnr.Button J.A.

L/Bdr.Carr T.

Gnr.Catterall W.

Gnr.Crosland H.L.

L/Bdr.Dingwall C.T.

Gnr.Dohoo J.Mc.

Gnr.Ellison J.T.

L/Bdr.Farlam V.E.

Gnr.Goldsmith L.N.

Gnr.Hague H.E.

Gnr.Holmes J.

Gnr.Jackson R.G.

Gnr.Jefferey W.J.

Sgt.Lee D.

Gnr.McGough J.G.

Gnr.Moore A.W.

Gnr.Morris C.

Gnr.Parbutt J.W.L.

L/Bdr.Richardson D.C.

L/Bdr.Scott-Miller A.

Bdr.Skelton S.

Gnr.Sutton J.W.

Gnr.Wagstaff V.C.

Gnr.West T.J.

Gnr.Wilkinson R.D.

Surveying in the Western Desert, the canopy over the to of the surveyors is there for identification.

Another picture of Gunner Herriott (Right of picture).

Sunset over the pyramids

Men of the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment taken in the Western Desert

Arrival in the Middle East, Camp in Egypt 1940

Tobruk December 1941

January 1942 Western Desert

More scenes of the regiment in the Western Desert

Hellfire Pass January 1942

Hellfire Pass Februay 1942

Hellfire Pass February 1942

Near Fort Capuzzo January 1942

Sidi Rezegh October 1941

Buq Buq February 1942

Tobruk December 1941

Tobruk December 1941

18th General Hospital Kantara Egypt December 1941

The Greek Campaign March 1941

1st April 1941

The regiment move by train to Alexandria

Alexandria from the train

Trains at Alexandria

The voyage would be taken onboard the "Cameronian"

British crusier taken at Alexandria from onboard the "Cameronian"

Auxilary crusier & troopship "Pennland" which was later sunk by dive bombers in distance, taken onboard the "Cameronian"

The Cameronian after docking at Piraeus (Port of Athens)

Arrival Greece

Gilfardia camp

Greek people at Gilfardia

Valley where we camped behind Bralos Pass

Camoflaged tank in Valley behind Barlos Pass

Valley behind Barlos Pass

Camp near Larissa

Scene taken from last camp in Greece before going into action 9/4/1941

Castle on hill at Argos

The regiment was evacuated from Greece to Crete onboard the ship "Gleneam"

Evacuation from Crete onboad the S S Delane

Destroyer G28 taken from onboard the Delane

Onboard the Delane

Shipping at Alexandria

British crusier in Alexandria harbour taken onboard the Delane

Italian prisoners disembarking from the Delane at Alexandria

For an accurate story of the 4th (Durham) Survey Regt during World War II J T Whetton and R H Ogden wrote their accounts in a book called Z Location or Survey in War (1st edition 1978), this was re-published in 2004 by Jim Whetton (2nd Edition). With the photos above and the book you can follow the regiment on their heroic journey.

To view the book click the following link Z Location or Survey in War

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