The Raiding Support Regiment was created under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Thomas George Devitt about October 1943 from volunteers out of all branches of the land forces, the aim being designed to assist the country of Yugoslavia. The training camp was situated at Nahariah in Palestine. This is near Haifa. The parachute training took place at Ramat David about the end of November and was completed in 10 days. Other course were as follows:
- boat training, 2 men kayaks up to an 8 man flat bottom navy boat;
- swimming up to 3 miles;
- explosives, all types and of course their uses;
- land mines, both ours and the opposition;
- unarmed combat;
I was an instructor on small arms including the Bren and the 50 calibre Browning. By this time I had been promoted to full Sergeant. Orienteering was also another one of my subjects.
On completion of our training we were given 3 days leave in Haifa over the Christmas period. This was 1943. Then we were kitted out as follows. We changed our khaki drills to the conventional khaki uniform and our side (forage) cap to the new Regimental beige beret. The rest of our kit consisted of – 1 Bergen pack – weight when filled, or loaded, 90lbs. It contained one pair of South African brown field boots with alpine studs. One pair of AMO boots, one pair of felt soled boots and a pair of sneakers. These were made of soft leather and had a compressed wool type sole. These were very silent for walking through the woods, especially where there were twigs, they caused no snapping and absorbed the weight of the body. As well as the usual mess things i.e. knife, fork, spoon etc., usual cleaning materials, polishes plus a Wilkinson double edge fighting knife and our personal weapon, which for my unit was a Sten gun, we were also given 5 syrettes of morphine.
For use in ones clothing in case one operated without the usual battledress (or with), we had a map of Yugoslavia which was concealed in the lining of our beret brass buttons, which were sewn to the waist of our trousers. They formed a compass when taken off, there was a point on the centre of one and a white spot which always pointed North when assembled. We also had another small compass which fitted in the top of the fly section of one’s trousers, it was about a quarter of an inch in diameter, had 360 degrees actually on the face, oil filled and about a quarter of an inch deep. We also had one strip of metal about one and a half inces wide by four inches long. This was encased in rubber. When taken out, one side was a razer sharp knife and the other a saw edge blade capable of cutting through two inches of circular steel i.e. a window bar, in approximately two minutes. This was usually sewn into the pocket pleat of a battle dress jacket. We also had one sleeping bag which was an inner and outer, built in pillow with a ground sheet, it was oblong in shape and had built in slats of wood. When laid on the ground with the sleeping bag on top the slats ironed out all the rough bumps and uneven ground and it was quite comfortable to sleep on.
At the beginning of January we embarked for Taranto Italy where we disembarked and made our way up the Easy Coast of Italy to Bari where Headquarters were set up in a manor type house with lovely orchards, stables, two horses and all the trappings that go with the “well to do”. Unfortunately we were then posted and embarked from Bari to the Island of Vis. We were to assist in the defence of the Island of Vis, known to the Italians I believe as “Lisa”. The Island being approximately 11 miles long 4 miles wide, its apparent centre was oval shaped and cultivated by a shrub type grapevine. The grapes grew in almost walnut size, green and far from sweet. I mention this because 50% of the vines were removed to make a short runway which only 2 planes ever used. First the Hurricane made it, just. The second was a Lockheed Lightning which had been on a photographic mission. It was running short of fuel. The pilot of the said Hurricane was in the area and talked the Lightning pilot down. He made it using the whole length of the runway, turning at the top end where a turning circle had been made and coming to a stop three quarters of the way back. He was then refuelled, but on attempting takeoff, he run out of runway and failed to clear a low wall at the end of, dare I say, the flightpath. He was catapulted out of the cockpit and fuel from the tanks, which had apparently been ruptured, followed him, ignited, he did not survive. I have told this to prove how lucky I feel and how I have no wish to turn this into a real life novel.
We took part in nuisance raids on the other islands and the mainland, the capture of supply vessels of the enemy, these were usually wooden schooners and were invariably escorted by German D boats, the equivalent to our MGBs and MTBS. The motor gun boats which we used and mortar torpedo boats were usually armed in the following manner; motor gun boats had one Bofors gun in the bow, four 50 calibre Brownings, two on the portside, two on the starboard side with a machine gun, in my case, on the only boat that I ever work on, or with, had a Spandau machine gun as the crew preferred it because of its faster rate of fire. The motor torpedo boats had 50 calibre Browning the same but had two torpedo tubes facing aft in the centre of which, again, there was invariably a machine gun. In conclusion these are the words of the regimental song should you find it of any interest. It goes as follows:
We are the boys of the RSR
We go by plane, mule and motorcar;
We fly through the air with the greatest of ease;
and we hit the deck on our feet and knees;
We hit the deck with a hell of a bump
But we don’t care if its our last jump;
We earn our two bob and its just the job
In the RSR!
With thanks for Stan Kirk’s grandson for supplying the above article.