Bristol Gunners senior ranks in Italy, 1944.

When war broke out in September 1939 the Bristol Gunners were ready and manned their guns at various sites around the city, ready to defy and destroy any enemy who dared to show his aircraft in the skies above. Due to problems of range - the Germans only had tactical bombers with short range and limited bomb load - none were seen around Bristol until after the defeat of France in May 1940. From this time, with the Germans and Italians having airfields in France, Bristol came within range, and at first in small numbers, then in larger groups, Germans came to attack Bristol. Many air raids caused damage and deaths in the city. Throughout 1940 and into 1941 the Bristol Gunners scanned the skies and fired at any attackers who came within range. In late 1941 the Blitz declined in intensity as the German air force (Luftwaffe) sent much of its force eastwards to support the invasion of Russia. In November 1941 The Bristol Gunners were sent to Dover, and over the next twelve months defended various south coast ports from air attack. In late 1942 they retrained in a mobile role, and in December 1942embarked for North Africa as part of Operation Torch, the Anglo-American amphibious operations to land and eliminate hostile forces from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Following the victory over the Germans & Italians in North Africa, The Bristol Gunners went with the army to Sicily and Italy. In the last year of the war they retrained in the field role so that their heavy anti aircraft guns could be used to support ground forces as conventional field artillery as well as against air attack. By this stage of the war the Luftwaffe had ceased to be an effective force, though did manage a number of serious attacks from time to time.

The end of the war saw the Bristol Gunners once again in northern Italy, in the same city (Vicenza) that they ended up at the end of the Great War. Following demobilisation the Bristol Gunners once again returned to their home city to take up the tools and routines of civilian life.

76th H.A.A Regt R.A. 237th H.A.A. Bty R.A. War Diary of W.O. 11 [BSM] A. E. Murley.

Transcribed by D. J. Driscoll Details taken from photo album and documents held by 266 [GVA] Bty R.A. [V]

1939. Aug 20th. Battery mobilized and manned guns at Fort Cumberland , Southsea.

24th. Battery moved back to Bristol, 2 sections to Portbury gunsite, 2 sections to Filton manning Lewis guns.

Sept 3rd. War Declared.

4th. First Alarm of war 10. a.m. to 2.30 pm.

25th. Moved to Filton.

Oct 5th. Moved to Yate Aircraft Works.

14th. Moved to Chipping Sodbury.

27th. Moved to Portbury.

Nov 23rd. Moved to Bude firing camp.

Dec 3rd. Moved back to Portbury.

1940. Jan 7th. Moved to Brickfields.

21st. Moved to Portbury.

Mar 11th. Moved to Brickfields.

15th. Moved to Portbury.

17th. Moved to Morelands, Portsmouth.

30th. Moved to Nursling, Southampton.

Apr 13th. Moved to Whippingham, I.O.W.

26th. Moved to Nettlestone, I.O.W.

27th. Moved to Bramley, nr Reading.

May 4th. Moved to Holbrook, nr Gosport.

18th. Moved to Winslow. Nr Southampton.

19th. Moved to Southwick, Portsmouth.

22nd. Moved to Tangmere.

June 5th. Moved to Cribbs.

23rd. Moved to Rockingham.

25th. Air Raid 5 killed, 14 injured.

29th Air Raid fired 13 rounds.

July 3rd. Bombs within 50 yds of camp. 12th. Shot down J U 88, which flew over site at 4,000 ft.

14th. Bombs across gun park. No damage or casualties.

23rd. Raids all night. Fired 100 rounds.

Aug 13th. Moved to Cribbs.

14th. Fired 60 rounds. 24th. Fired 29 rounds.

Sept 25th. Daylight raid on Filton 20 planes shot down.

27th. Daylight raid on Filton, 6 planes down in flames.

Oct 12th. Moved to Rockingham.

Nov 5th. Moved to Cribbs.

6th. Lewis gun in action at low flying Heinkel.

24th. Big raid on Bristol, Castle Street.

25th. Avonmouth heavily bombed.

26th. Shirehampton bombed.

Dec 3rd. Bomb on Purdown Gunsite 2 killed 5 wounded.

7th. Bomb hit gun at Brickfields. 2 men seriously wounded.

1941. Jan 3rd. Incendiary raid on Bristol.

Feb 6th. Moved to Rockingham.

Mar 11th. Shot down Heinkel during raid on Avonmouth.

16th. Raid on Bristol Fired 67 rounds.

17th. Shot down Dornier and two Flares Incendiaries in ammo bins.

29th. Raid on Avonmouth. Oil tanks on fire.

Apr 3rd. Raid on Avonmouth. Fired 324 rounds, Gordano Gunsite hit, 1 killed 5 wounded.

4th. Raid on Bristol. Fired 450 Rounds, bomb fell in A hut - no injuries.

5th. Moved to Cribbs.

11th. Blitz on Bristol. Fired 925 rounds.

May 8th. Raid on Bristol.

16th. Moved to reservoir.

Jun 17th. Shot down J.U. 88 over Bristol.

Sept 18th. Moved to Rockingham.

Oct 7th. Moved to St Georges Wharf.

Nov 10th. Moved to Dover.

Dec 10th. Camp hit by German long range shells. One lorry burnt out, no casualties.

16th. Dive bomber attack - 10 Stukas shot down. Shelling from 5pm to 7pm.

1942. Jan 3rd. Shelled from 7pm to 8.30pm.

11th. Put up harbour barrage against J.U. 88’s. Shell landed in camp.

14th. Moved to Yeovil.

28th. Moved to Okehampton for anti – tank shooting.

Feb 1st. Moved to Yeovil.

Mar 22nd. Moved to Blandford for mobile training.

Apr 1st. Moved to Havant with T.T.C.

May 15th. Battery finished mobile training. Moved to Strood and Oak street.

Jun 10th. Moved to Green Street Green.

29th. Moved to All Hallows.

July 3rd. Moved to Citadel, Dover.

24th. Surprise raid by 2 F.W. 190’s. Bombs dropped in Citadel, Dover.

25th. Shelled for two hours – no damage.

30th. Shelled for three hours.

Aug 8th. Machine gunned by F.W. 190’s. Balloon on Gunpark shot down in flames.

10th. Battery commenced mobilising.

12th. Shelled in afternoon. Raid 2am to 3.15am.

14th. Shelled – no injuries.

16th. Shelled E boat fight in channel.

17th. Shelled - no casualties.

Sept 5th. 3 bombs in Citadel - no damage.

Oct 5th. Moved to Shorncliffe.

6 – 8th. Battery did 3 day mobile scheme.

20 – 26th. Battery did 8 day mobile scheme.

Nov 14th. Vehicles moved to port for loading.

23rd. Battery entrained for Glasgow.

24th. Boarded Durban Castle.

27th. Ship sailed at 11pm.

Dec 5th. Passed through Straits of Gib.

6th. Battery disembarked at Algiers and marched to Barchi.

9th. Transport began to arriving.

14th. C Troop moved to Birmingham dries.

15th. D Troop moved to Hussein - Dey. 1

7th. B.H.Q. moved to Birmandries.

23rd. D Troop shot down J.U. 88 in flames.

24th. Darlan murdered – mounted double guards. [Admiral Jean-Francois Darlan]

1943. Jan 3rd. Rear party landed.

8th. Rear party vehicles unloaded.

15th. D Troop shot down Heinkel.

27th. C Troop shot down JU 88.

Feb 2nd. D Troop moved to Maison Blanche.

Apr 9th. Battery moved off and arrived at Palestro.

10th. Battery moved on to Side Emberak.

11th. Battery moved on to Ain M’lila.

12th. Battery moved on to Souk -Ahras.

13th. Battery deployed at Le kef. Total journey 485 miles.

20th. Battery deployed at Djebel Abiod.

26th. Battery constructed sites under fire at Sedjenane.

May 7th. Battery moved off, bivvied 10 miles E .of Mateur.

8th. D Troop deployed in Bizerta, while enemy still in town.

9th. C Troop and B.H.Q. moved into Bizerta.

June 3rd. Battery moved off and bivvied 6 miles E. of Mateur.

4th. Battery bivvied at Sousse.

5th. Battery moved into concentration area 12miles N. of Sfax.

13th. C and D Troops deployed at Sfax.

21st. Battery deployed at Sousse.

29th. Waterproofing of guns and vehicles commenced.

Jul 12th. Moved to concentration area in Sousse, up V track.

16th. Moved to Brentford Assembly Area.

17th. Moved to Charlton area.

18th. Battery embarked on L.S.T.’s at Sousse. Sailed at 11pm. [Landing ship tanks]

20th. Battery disembarked at Syracuse at 8 am. troops deployed at Augusta by 2pm.

21st. Big raid on Augusta, fired 320 rounds and shot down 1 plane.

22nd. Big night raid fired 654 rounds.

23rd. Raid on Augusta. Fired 100 rounds. Troops deployed at Syracuse.

25th. Raid on Syracuse.

26th. Night raid.

27th. Raid – fired 500 rds.

28th. Raid – fired 600 rounds.

Aug 10th. Raid fired 800 rounds D Troop shot down 1 plane.

Sept 21st. Battery moved off and bivvied at Santa Teresa.

22nd. Battery bivvied at Messina. 23rd. Battery crossed the straits of Messina., in L.C. M’s and L.S.T.’s and Bivvied at Gallies nr Reggio.

24th. Battery moved to Pizzo.

25th. Battery moved to Catanzaro Marina.

26th. Battery moved on to Strongoli.

27th. Battery moved on to Torrente Saracen.

28th. Battery moved on to Bari. 29th. Battery deployed in defence of Bari.

Nov 18th. Regt sports in stadium.

27th. Brigade sports in stadium. Dec 2nd. Big raid on harbour – 1000 killed, 15 ships sunk in harbour.[This was a significant raid which led to the release of mustard gas into the town of Bari]

5th. C Troop moved to sea front.

24th. C Troop moved back to B.H. 4.

1944. Jan 12th. Went on to new War Establishment.

27th. B.H.Q. established at Carignola.

28th. C and d Troops deployed at Carignola.

Feb 1st. Major Chapman new O.C.

15th. Field gunnery course for Officers and Sgt’s.

19th-23rd. Battery on field shooting at San Nicandro.

May 3rd. Battery bivvied at Canosa.

6th. Battery moved to concentration area at Calore.

25th. Battery deployed. at Venafro.

Jun 15th. Battery moved off and staged at Frosinone.

16th. Battery deployed at Rome.

Jul 1st. Battery employed at Piombino.

15th. Moved to concentration area at San Vicenza.

25th. Battery move to Colle Salvetti.

27th. Troops deployed in field roll against enemy on N. side of Arno.

Aug 3rd. Shell landed 10 yards from No 3 gun D Troop – no damage.

4th. D Troop had 150 shells on site – no damage.

6th. C Troop mortared – no casualties

7th. C and D Troops Shelled – no damage.

11th. D Troop had 20 shells, 1 lorry hit.

12th. D Troop shelled again 1 Matador and a motorcycle damaged.

23rd. C and D Troops in action near La Serra, south of San Miniato.

25th. B.H.Q. and Troop rear echelons moved to vicinity of Paloia, B.H.Q. had 9 shells in camp Tents ruined, dinner blown up, kit holed but no casualties. B.H.Q. moved to alternative position.

27th. B.H.Q. Shelled – No damage.

Sept 4th. Troops in action just N. W. of Lamporecchio against Gothic line. Sites in front of Guards Brigade and 25 pounders.

6th. B.H.Q. and rear echelons move to Ponto Elsa.

8th. All bridges over Arno washed away by rainstorm. Much difficulty getting ammo and rations across.

10th. C and D Troops in action at Montecatini.

12th. D Troop moved to new position 1 mile W. of Montecatini. 4 shells in town, 8 shells landed within 100 yards of B.H.Q. – no damage.

13th. D Troop mortared by Coldsteam Guards registering D.F. task. No damage. 10 shells landed just beyond B.H.Q., 1 in C Troops Wagon lines.

14th. Troops fired Murders in support of Guards brigade attack on Gothic Line. More shells in town.

15th. Fired more murders for Coldstreams.

16th. Fired counter battery bombards for 6th South African Armoured Division.

18th. More shells in town, 5 South Africans killed.

19th. More shells - no damage. 26th. C and D Troops moved to new positions in mountains N. of Bagnols.

Oct 5th. C and D Troops moved to new positions in mountains 7 miles N. of Viareggio.

6th. C Troop shelled with airburst, 1 rifle and 4 tents damaged.

8th. B.H.Q. established 5 miles N. of Viareggio on coast road.

12th. C Troop moved to new position 1½ miles S. of Forti del Marni.

13th. C Troop shelled with airbursts, water trailer holed in 4 places.

15th. C troop shelled again, No 2 gun cables cut. 20th. C Troop had 55 shells on site No 2 gun put out of action with damaged elevating gear. 155mm shells dropped near B.H.Q.

21st. C Troop again shelled. No damage.

22nd. C Troop again shelled No 3 gun out of action with damaged recuperator.

23rd. C Troop shelled again No 1 gun had holes in buffer tank, elevating gear box and recuperating casing. C Troop moved to alternative position.

25th. Shells fell on C Troops old site when flash simulators fired.

26th. Flash simulators on C Troop old site drew more fire. Nov 11th. Sites recced in Poretta Terme area, steep and mountainous.

Nov. 21st. Torrential rain – guns flooded out of pits.

24th. Shells fell near B.H.Q. No casualties.

Dec 16th. C Troop shelled by 88mm. Control room got direct hits Taylor P.C. wounded in back Bdr Cook hit in head. Predictor and Height Finder put out of action.

20th. Picked up 6 Germans off the shore in a small boat.

21st. C Troop shelled by 155mm. 2 gun cables cut and 20 rounds exploded no casualties.

23rd. Picked up 5 Italians civilians landing in small from Spezia.

28th. C Troop moved to site 2 miles W. of Canviore. German attack on Serchio Valley, expected to extend here. 

1945. Jan 23rd. Battery moved to Lucca in A.A. role. Very quiet. 

Feb 19th. Bechuanas [African troops]joined the battery. 

Mar 13th. Battery moved up to Viareggio again D troop at Mintonte, C Troop at Fiumetto.

26th. White troops in exchange for Bechuanas, left the battery.

Apr 5th. Attack started with barrage at 5am. both troops busy. Coast O.P. shelled by 170mm.

7th. Coast O.P. hit by 170mm mortar shells and bullets in vicinity – no casualties.

8th. C.O. had leg blown off in minefield.

10th. D Troop moved to new site over the Cinquale. C Troop in new site near coast O.P.

12th. B.H.Q. moved to Fiumetto.

13th. Troops moved to new site N. of Marina De Massa.

14th. First into Avenza with one 3tonner and two motorcycles.

23rd. Battery moved to Marina Di Carrara.

24th. 11am battery moved through Viareggio, Pistoia. Bologna Modena to San Benedetto Po, in defence of Bridge. 

May 2nd. Battery moved to Picenza in defence of bridge there. Germans in Italy surrendered.

4th. Germans in Holland, Denmark and Northern Germany Surrendered.

5th. Germans in South Austria.

8th. Churchill spoke at 3pm giving official news of Germany’s surrender. Troops had “Cease Fire” 14th. Moved to Pesaro to join 7th A.G.R.A.

17th. Battery began guarding surrendered enemy personnel in cages at Cesenaties and Cessna.

Nov 24th. Regiment officially ordered to go into a state of “Suspended Animation” Personnel of the battery posed to 51st H.A.A. Regt. FINIS