Author Topic: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur  (Read 4091 times)

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #45 on: September 25, 2018, 02:59:13 pm »
Thank you. Just for verification; what bank is the photograph taken on?

According to Lt. Smeltzers's testimony the soldiers were wearing the following:
'Battle Order, respirator slung, bayonet attached to haversack less entrenching tool, gas capes & greatcoat plus 50 rounds S.A.A. & loaded bren magazine.'

One of the NCO's (McLean, Marshall) would have carried a bren gun & the others had their rifles.

The recce & assault boats were already there on the east bank when the men arrived after their march at 1254 hrs.


Spinalman

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #46 on: September 25, 2018, 03:04:28 pm »
Thanks for that added info Dave.    That ties in with my assumptions based on the other information. Is there any info on how many were waiting on the East bank to mount the simulated attack?

Here is my earlier take on the likely chain of events:

The training advance party was probably sent out by truck from the airport with the assault boat and recce boat loaded.  They may have had a predetermined RV point near to the Steyning Road opposite the junction to Old Erringham Farm.  They would unload the boats and walk them to the river (200 yards) crossing the twin tracked railway embankment  (not overgrown in 1942).  Immediately West of the RV point is a small footbridge over a drainage dyke that would give them access to the river bank.   The boats didnít need to be moored, so I am assuming they were simply left on the embankment closest to the RV point - as no other points on the bank would offer better launch points.  The advance party could then drive to Bramber and cross the river and return South via the Coombs road and park up at Cuckoo Corner.  They could then set up their ambush positions on the East Bank opposite the boats.

Meanwhile the marching platoon will have been marching for 2 hours or so and arrived at 1pm at the Old Erringham Farm Junction RV point.  I think it is safe to suggest they hiked from the Airport and over the Downs towards Truleigh and cut into the valley at Old Erringham.  The Platoon will make for the river and discover the boats.  There wonít be much in the way of choice for launching as the tide was at full and there were no inlets on the East bank.  The tide was still coming in.  The report suggests that at half way across a thunderflash was thrown from the East bank to simulate attack. This floated upstream towards the left side of the boat. In reaction the soldiers shifted to the right, an the boat was holed in the process. The result was a capsize.

At near high tide it appears possible to disembark from a boat, but if someone was in the water there is a very poor prospect of anyone getting purchase on the bank to get out of the water. The banks are muddy and inclined at 45 degrees immediately under the surface.
Spinalman

Spinalman

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #47 on: September 25, 2018, 03:13:20 pm »
Thank you. Just for verification; what bank is the photograph taken on?


The photographs at High tide were taken from the West bank. The chimney in distance is North. The low tide views are all from the probable launching point on the East bank. The gothic chapel is to the South. The video was taken at same times, captioned as to which bank.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4r2r9ozfspt3i24/AADiOwngWcao5yM0Bp5nzv_Ia?dl=0
http://youtu.be/a0pmEqrMjBc

I think the 1942 sheet 133 grid reference of the incident is 63752690   or if only using 6 digit reference 637269.
Modern equivalent location: 50.857379, -0.292950
« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 03:21:26 pm by Spinalman »
Spinalman

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #48 on: September 25, 2018, 04:03:06 pm »
Wow - fantastic shots thank you.

I'm assuming a platoon strength attack.

Lt. A.J.W. Dyer (in charge of the 'enemy/ambush' platoon) testified:
'At the time of the river crossing, I was standing on the west bank of the river, one section was on top of the bank with me, the remainder was in ambush. I saw the reconnaissance boat come across. It landed safely. I then saw the assault boat being loaded & shoved off from the shore on the east bank.'

Platoon Sergeant Richard Ellis (KIA Aug 2 '43) pushed the boat from the east bank. I only see references to the recce & this assault boat but only a section of men from the platoon could get across at once. No idea if the plan was to row the boat back again after the first load got off or if other boats (just not mentioned) were waiting to be loaded.

Only the recce boat is mentioned in rescue attempts & men from both banks dove in to help. Due to water temperature & current, more would-be rescuers were rescued than boat occupants. It happened so quickly, perhaps even if there were other boats on the east bank, it was over before they could be launched.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 04:10:45 pm by dave1212 »

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #49 on: September 25, 2018, 06:19:56 pm »
When the boat capsized, tossing the men into the water, Jaquest & Melanson never resurfaced. Vingar & McLean were between the boat & the west bank. McLean soon disappeared but Vingar made his way to the west bank by swimming on his back.

Five men were clinging to the inverted boat. Marshall, Farnsworth & MacDonald were hanging on to the down current side with Gaudet & Smeltzer on the opposite side. The swift current swept four of the five men away from the boat & Smeltzer was unable to push the boat in the direction the others were going. L\Cpl Marshall was floating face down when Private Foster reached him in the recce boat but the others had disappeared. Marshall was revived on the west bank but never fully recovered dying Feb 15, 1942. 

As mentioned, some would-be rescuers found themselves in difficulty but were assisted back to either east & west banks or were picked up by the recce boat & taken to the west bank. Horrible day....

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #50 on: October 10, 2018, 07:47:37 pm »
River Adur casualties 1 of 4

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #51 on: October 10, 2018, 07:48:03 pm »
River Adur casualties 2 of 4

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #52 on: October 10, 2018, 07:48:31 pm »
River Adur casualties 3 of 4

dave1212

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Re: January 6, 1942
« Reply #53 on: October 10, 2018, 07:48:57 pm »
River Adur casualties 4 of 4

Brian Drury

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #54 on: November 10, 2018, 06:15:22 pm »
Probably a coincidence but according to Stewart Angell a secret Auxiliary unit underground bunker was located in the woods very close to the area you have identified. He says the dimension quoted in the book is probably not very accurate.

This is taken from his book 'Secret Sussex Resistance'

The patrolís hideout was sited in a  small  wood beside  the  A283  Steyning to Shoreham road, 300 yards to the north of Old Erringham Farm,  Old  Shoreham, and was built by the Royal Engineers.   It is not known if there was an underground lookout.

Nelson

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #55 on: November 10, 2018, 07:48:35 pm »
That's interesting Brian - I wonder if there's anything still there? (No - I'm not going..... you've got a push bike)

Brian Drury

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #56 on: November 11, 2018, 11:03:19 am »
The land is privately owned and I am told that permission is not given for a search.

The patrol was called The Small Dole Patrol. The name was usually given to a location some distance from the hideout for security reasons.

This is the Small Dole section from the book (ISBN 1 873 793 82 0) using OCR:

Small Dole Patrol
The Small Dole Patrol had eight members.   The Patrol Leader was George Cooper who worked for a company called Jenner and Higgs as a corn merchant, which meant he had a petrol allowance.  He lived in Small Dole.  George Cooper was a veteran of the First World War, when he was a bomber pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.   The methods used in those days were very primitive, the bombs being lobbed out of the plane by hand!  The other patrol members were Richard Griffiths, another World War I veteran, who was a farmer at Merrion Farm  to  the  north  of Ashurst;  the  brothers  George  and  Fred  Cooke,  both  farmers  from Woodmancote;   Bernard  Chaplin,   a  local  gunsmith;   Bernard  Coleman,   a  farmer  from Henfield;  William  Parker,  a  farmer  at  Little  Bendy  Farm,  Henfield  and  Ralph  Paine, occupation unknown.   All the men did their basic training at Coleshill House.

Localised training included one memorable mock attack on Shoreham airport. After the  war,  George  Cooper would tell  his  friends  about  the  time  he and his patrol entered the airport at night time by  getting  under  the  barbed  wire perimeter  fence  and  proceeding  to  lay various fake charges  on  the  runway and planes,  leaving the same way as they got in without being detected  by  the  army who were guarding the whole area.

The patrolís hideout was sited in a small wood beside the A283 Steyning to Shoreham road, 300 yards to the north of Old Erringham Farm, Old Shoreham, and was built by the Royal Engineers.   It
is not known if there was an underground lookout.

George Cooper kept extra supplies of ammunition and explosives buried in his back garden.   These  remained buried until  after  his  death  some  twenty years  ago,  and   were  only   discovered when the new  owners  of his  house  were carrying  out  alterations  to  the  garden.

They unearthed the secret cache, which not only gave them a fright but gave the authorities the problem of how to remove it all and make the area safe.


Nelson

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #57 on: November 11, 2018, 11:21:22 am »
Fascinating Brian - thanks for that.

Spinalman

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #58 on: November 11, 2018, 09:09:48 pm »
Nelson has been working hard to collate the information relating to this incident into an article.  It can be found here : http://www.shorehambysea.com/tragedy-at-old-erringham/
Spinalman

johnjohn

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Re: January 6, 1942 - tragic wartime incident on the Adur
« Reply #59 on: November 12, 2018, 08:01:59 am »
Very informative and interesting....I hope that many Shoreham people get to read it.
Johnjohn