Author Topic: 2bn Info Required  (Read 3809 times)

SlouchHat

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2bn Info Required
« on: June 18, 2012, 04:31:09 AM »
Hello to everyone from Melbourne Australia!

I've read through virtually every post on the forum and mine is a common story. Grandson trying to find out what (long passed) grandad went through in the war. As with everyone else on this quest my grandfather said virtually nothing about the war, and grandma was actively annoyed about even discussing his service, primarily because it was indeed the 'Forgotten War' and that really annoyed her (I remember her telling me how upset she was at the celebrations on VE day when she knew her husband was still fighting in the jungle against the Japanese), and secondly because within 2 years India and Burma were no longer part of the 'Empire' so what was it all about etc.. Both very true comments and whilst in many ways it now looks to be a positive end to the Empire (giving it back in a fairly orderly manner, rather than at gun point) it wasn't much comfort to grandma.

Anyhow I digress.

My grandad was called Harry Rowbotham and he was a corporal. He fought in Burma from 42-46(?) so that means he was probably part of 2nd Manchesters. My research indicates that they were exclusively a Vickers Machine Gun regiment (perhaps with a few mortars?). But I'm finding it very frustrating to track his involvement. I have David Rooney's book about Kohima, and it goes into great detail at the start of each chapter listing the regiments involved in the action he goes on to detail, but nowhere EVER is the Manchester Regiment mentioned. Further research shows they were a 'support' regiment which I suspect means that they were split amongst 4th, 5th and 6th Infantry Brigades to provide heavy machine gun support.

My question is, if I get his service records will I be able to see the detail I want, i.e. which company/platoon he was in and which brigade that company was assigned to? or is that a level of detail too operationally fluid to be detailed in his record? Perhaps they were assigned to a brigade and that's where they stayed for the duration? These are the questions I hope the experts on this site can help me with.

More generally I'd like some info on the Regiment's makeup at that time. How many men? How were the divided? Breakdown of numbers at Company and Platoon level? Would a corporal have any specific role? What was their equipment? Motorised Transport? Etc.. And also would he have joined knowing the regiment was Machine Gun only? Would he have specifically chosen this regiment? Or could you only join your local regiment? Why would he join such a regiment? He was a cabinet maker by trade so not a natural machine gunner (who is?), although he did like to tinker with his Mini later in life, so maybe he had some mechanical leanings.

I am attempting to get both the Rex King-Clark books which I think will help a lot, at least HE won't be able to overlook the Manchester Regiment's involvement! 

Finally a bit about my grandad. He was lovely bloke and always up for a laugh, a bit of a joker actually. He was married to my grandma (Edith) for over 40 years and they were incredibly close. He died in the late 1970's and she in the late 1990's. It could be said that jungle had the last laugh because he died at the relatively young age of 64/65 of heart-attack and my grandma distinctly remember waiting for him on his return from Burma at Liverpool docks  whereupon he was brought off  virtually last, deliberately hidden from the public view I bet, on a stretcher still suffering with Malaria, which perhaps damaged his heart for ever more? BTW Would that ship have been the Franconia? Or an earlier or later vessel due to his illness?

I look forward to your comments

Thanks in advance
John

Offline themonsstar

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2012, 09:11:50 AM »
Hi John

A welcome to the site

I would get the following 3 books first for your research on the Battalion.

The Battle for Kohima (The Narrative of the 2nd bn Manch Regt) A Machine Gun Bn with the 2nd Division.

Forward From Kohima (A Burma Diary) Nov 1944-May 1945.

The Manchester Regiment Regular Battalions 1922-1948. By A.C.Bell

To complement these three books I would then go for a copy of the 2nd Battalion War Diary.  I cannot think of anything else to help you with your research on the Battalion, however I do understand your frustration when buying other books with words like "  Kohima, Imphal Road, Naga Hills, and even Burma".  Other then the Manchester Regiment writing about its own battalions, you do not get a mention or you may get a brief mention.  When the Manchester Regiment converted to being a Machine Gun Battalion,with some other distinguished regiment's Middlesex, Northumberland.  They then become a divisional asset. If you get Bell's book you would then get an understanding of how a Machine Gun Battalion gets distributed between Divisions, Brigades and Regiments.

Bearing this in mind when it comes to writing the history of a division, It's only the infantry regiments with their bayonets fixed that get a mention in their histories, any support units just get a sprinkling of fairy dust that's if there is enough fairy dust to go around.

For your research or anyone's research on the battalions of the regiment try and stick to the regimental histories,I know some of them are lacking, but use them as building blocks.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 09:30:52 AM by themonsstar »

Offline Robert Bonner

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 09:43:00 AM »
John.
Welcome to the Forum and I'm sure that you will get a lot of information here.

The two books by Rex King-Clark are essential reading and will answer most of your questions.  Forward from Kohima is still in print and available from the regimental museum- use the web-site.  The Battle for Kohima is sadly out of print but should be available to borrow through a local library system.

Best wishes, Robert
Robert

Offline themonsstar

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 10:03:39 AM »
The Bn was a fully mechanised MG Bn with 108 Vehicles, but due to the area (lack of roads) the men had to man pack the guns & ammunition all over the hills.
(Some of the lads on here including myself, have man pack mortars, GPMG FS role) so I could understand what these men were asked to do, and they were going into battle at the end of it.

The standard vehicles would have been 15 cwt, 8cwt,30cwt & jeeps with trailers.

The battalion was equipped with the Vickers medium machine gun throughout the war:

Calibre 303inch.
Rate of fire 550rpm.(250-round belts)
Range depending on which sites 2800 yards.
I've put a link in here for you two  Wikipedia for the Vickers Machine Gun.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_machine_gun

This next link should answer your question on the make up of the British Army:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Army_during_the_Second_World_War

Offline george.theshed197

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 10:13:42 AM »
Good morning John,
And welcome to the forum. I have my copy of The Battle for Kohima 1944 to hand but have not seen any mention, as yet, of your Grandfather - Cpl Harry Rowbotham - so far but it is still early days, and I will continue looking for him.
Meanwhile I take note that others are already adding information to you associated with the 2nd Battalion so for now then - take care.
George.

SlouchHat

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2012, 04:27:42 AM »
Many thanks for your 'welcomes' and the info and booklists you all provided.

From the links themonstarr provided I have this synopsis of the probable deployment and breakdown of a machine gun battalion:

- An infantry division typically was made up of three infantry brigades and a Medium Machine Gun (MMG) battalion (with 36 Vickers machine guns, in three companies, and one company of 16 4.2 inch Mortars)

- The Infantry brigade typically had a HQ company and three infantry battalions. Fire support was provided by the allocation of a MMG company

- The machine gun typically required a six to eight-man team to operate: one to fire, one to feed the ammunition, the rest to help carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts.

- A British battalion in World War II had around 845 men in it. The battalion support company usually contains anti-tank, machine gun, mortar, pioneer and reconnaissance platoons 

So with 36 MGs each needing 8 men to support it that's 288 men, the 16 mortars would require about the same so 128 for a total of 416 men. Could there really be another 400 officers and men to support these 416? even that would fall short of the 845 standard battalion or were Support battalions significantly smaller. 

Assuming these figures are sort of correct would each of the 2nd Division Infantry Brigades have 12 MGs from the Manchester Regiment (96 men), plus some officers and senior NCOs? Would my granddads service records show which company he was in and to which Brigade he was supporting?

Cheers
John

SlouchHat

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Re: 2bn Info Required
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2012, 04:31:48 AM »
Good morning John,
And welcome to the forum. I have my copy of The Battle for Kohima 1944 to hand but have not seen any mention, as yet, of your Grandfather - Cpl Harry Rowbotham - so far but it is still early days, and I will continue looking for him.
Meanwhile I take note that others are already adding information to you associated with the 2nd Battalion so for now then - take care.
George.

I like to think he kept his head down!