204 & 242 Oban Anti-Tank Battery
A brief history from 1939 - 1945

242 Battery "G" Troop

242 Battery "G" Troop

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Description:

Paul Witty, who's Father (Jim Witty) served in North Africa and Sicily with the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, very kindly sent us a disc of scanned photographs of his Father's, taken during various periods of his service. Jim Witty is marked as 2nd row, 3rd from left.

Credit:

Paul Witty (Son of Jim Witty, 61st Anti-Tank Reg.)

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1942 . 61st Anti-Tank Reg . North Africa . Sicily - Op. Huskey . [email protected]

In 1939 when the "Territorials" of the 51st Highland Division were mobilised many men from Oban joined the Argylls but just as many joined the Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery. Each of the batteries were recruited from different parts of Argyll, the Oban Battery being number 204, and after the war started it was equipped with 12 two pounder guns in three troops of four. Before the war the Oban Battery was a mountain battery and Isobel Black of Torwood remembers the antique guns being towed up Pulpit Hill by horses. By the end of August 1939, 204 Battery was in a state of alert at the drill hall between Albany Street and Druimvagie Road, along with the local unit of the Argylls. On Sunday September 3rd, 2nd Lt Harry Dunn took the codeword to his Battery Commander, Major Donald Carmichael of the Park Hotel. Things happened very fast after that, and not only at the official level.

By February 1940, 204 Battery was in the Maginot line, but they did not fire their guns in anger until the retreat began in May. Harry Dunn said that the 2-pounders were only effective against the German tanks at a range of less than 200 yards! otherwise the shells bounced off. Neil MacKechnie of Hawthorn Bank said that Archie Gillespie was taken prisoner at his gun, just before St Valery where nearly all the 51st Division was forced to surrender when the ammunition ran out. Because of the position they held 204 Battery avoided capture at St Valery and Dunkirk. They came back to England with their precious guns because Donald Carmichael would not allow the men to embark before the guns were put on board.

Subsequently 204 Battery became the 2nd Oban Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery of the 3rd Airborne Division, and many Oban boys continued to serve in it under different officers in North Africa ,and Italy, finally landing by gliders at Arnhem. Some were killed at the Salerno landing.

242 Battery "G" Troop, Sicily, July 1943

242 Battery "G" Troop, Sicily

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Description:

Paul Witty, who's Father (Jim Witty) served in North Africa and Sicily with the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, very kindly sent us a disc of scanned photographs of his Father's, taken during various periods of his service.

Credit:

Paul Witty (Son of Jim Witty, 61st Anti-Tank Reg.)

Tags:

1943 . 61st Anti-Tank Reg . North Africa . Sicily - Op. Huskey . [email protected]

Meanwhile the 51st Highland Division was re-formed on the same geographical basis as before, and a second Oban Battery, No 242 came into existence.

Captain Harry DUNN was posted to the new battery and by the time they had made the long journey to Egypt round Africa, just before El Alamein, he was its commander.

They were soon in action, this time with 6-pounder guns, and after El Alamein there was plenty of work on the way to Tunis.

242 took part in the Sicily landings, where many airborne units fell in the sea because the gliders were cast off too early. They crossed into the toe of Italy on September 5th 1943, before the whole 51st Division was brought back to England to prepare for D-Day.

The Battery embarked at West India Dock, London, on June 3rd and landed piecemeal on the eighth. Major Dunn arrived the day before with a motor-bike to find positions for the guns, then find the guns as they landed near Ouistreham and Ranville and guide them through the chaos of men, equipment and flying metal. After the breakout from the bridgehead, 51st Division was given the honour of liberating St Valéry; this was no formality for 242 Battery because the Germans fought tenaciously to hold the area around Le Havre. The 242 Battery was in action again at Nijmegen, trying to relieve the airborne units at Arnhem, which included the other Oban Battery. During the winter of 1944, the guns played a big part in stopping the German attack in the Ardennes, and the final action was the set-piece battle to cross the Rhine, near Cologne.

Harry Dunn was invested with the Croix de Guerre by General Juin, and was later awarded the Military Cross and the Territorial Decoration. Among those in 242 Battery who went all the way from El Alamein to the Rhine were BSM John MacPherson, BQMS lan J. K. Hunter, Sgt Charlie Slater, Cally Currie, Hugh MacGlllivray, Duncan MacGregor, and Eddie Maclntyre.

242 Battery, Sicily

242 Battery, Sicily

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Description:

Paul Witty, who's Father (Jim Witty) served in North Africa and Sicily with the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment, very kindly sent us a disc of scanned photographs of his Father's, taken during various periods of his service.

Credit:

Paul Witty (Son of Jim Witty, 61st Anti-Tank Reg.)

Tags:

1943 . 61st Anti-Tank Reg . Sicily - Op. Huskey . [email protected]


Supporting Information :

Description:

A brief history of the 204 & 242 Oban Anti-Tank Battery, part of the 61st Anti-Tank regiment within the Royal Artillery.

Credit:

Produced by kind permission of the Oban War and Peace Museum with photographs from Paul Witty.