- 6 June 1944 - 25 July 1944
- 26 July-26 September
- 27 September 1944—14 January 1945
- 15 January 1945 - 8 May 1945
- 6 June 1944 - 25 July 1944
- 26 July-26 September
- 27 September 1944—14 January 1945
- 15 January 1945 - 8 May 1945
As foreseen, it proved impossible in the early stages to submit formal demands for reinforcements by arms of Services and trades and it was not until D+28 that GHQ 2nd Echelon was able to render the first full return to the War Office. Subsequently these demands were made at intervals of fourteen days.
Reinforcements supplied by the War office were despatched to four reinforcements groups which, although in UK, operated under the control of 21 Army Group. Personnel drafts were called forward from these groups to the Continent as required.
From D-day until D+8 reinforcements were despatched from UK to Corps Reception Camps located in the BMAs and then distributed to units in the corps. In order to help the control and documentation of reinforcement personnel, a small clerical staff from GHQ 2nd Echelon (BRITISH) was attached to each CRC, while a representative of GHQ 2nd Echelon (CANADIAN) was attached to 1 Corps Reception Camp to control the postings of CANADIAN personnel.
When HQ Second Army arrived in the theatre the Advance Reinforcement Sections of GHQ 2nd Echelon (BRITISH) and GHQ 2nd Echelon (CANADIAN) also established themselves in the beach head. These arrivals made adjustments to the predetermined planned drafts possible and also provided machinery for demanding personnel that were urgently required.
HQ 21 Army Group arranged facilities for the despatch of such reinforcements at twelve hours notice from the UK. On D+8 101 Rft Gp which previously had been allotted to Second Army landed on the Continent and set up in the area of BAYEUX. From that day reinforcements were despatched from the beaches to 101 Rft Gp and therefore came under control of HQ Second Army who authorised their postings to units.
For the period D to D+17 drafts of reinforcements had been prepared in accordance with the planning demands of divisions.
In addition, 101 Rft Gp was scheduled to land with 6,000 officers and men by D+8. For the first few days the build-up of reinforcements proceeded according to this plan but on D+8 there were sufficient reserves in the beach-head to warrant the postponement of the scheduled landings for two days.
From D-day to 26 July, 44,563 BRITISH and 13,323 CANADIAN reinforcements were despatched from UK to the Continent for 21 Army Group. These totals fell far short of the planned ﬁgures as, owing to the casualties being lighter than was expected, the wastage during the first month was reduced by fifty per cent of the estimate.
101 Rft Gp experienced great difficulty at the start as it had been allotted only three platoons of transport to convey reinforcements to units in different parts of the beach-head. Furthermore some drafts from UK arrived badly kitted and no stocks existed in the holding units at this time to make up any deficiencies.
REINFORCEMENTS FROM UK
At the time of the break-out units were almost complete to WE since reinforcements in adequate numbers had been immediately available in the bridgehead to replace the heavy casualties which occurred during the fighting there.
The casualty rate during the pursuit was low, and replacement of men was, therefore, not as urgent a problem as was the provision of transport for essential petrol and ammunition.
In consequence reinforcements accumulated in NORMANDY until 7 September when HQ 21 Army Group asked the War Office not to send any further drafts unless specially called for.
The approximate numbers of reinforcements despatched from UK to NW EUROPE during this period were :—
- BRITISH - 38,900
- CANADIAN - 16,700
- ALLIED - 1 ,120
SHORTAGE or INFANTRY
Owing to a shortage of infantry, a decision was taken on 16 August to disband 59 Infantry Division and one brigade of 49 Infantry Division.
Certain units thus released were broken up and the personnel used to make up the shortages.
Six reinforcement groups: 101, 102, 103, 104, 105 and 2 Armoured, had been allotted to 21 Army Group.
101 and 102 Gps had already landed during the first phase: 104 Gp arrived in the BAYEUX area in August, while 105 and 103 Gps landed in September and were situated at DIEPPE and CORBIE respectively.
2 Armoured Reinforcement Group controlled 2 Armoured Replacement Unit which in turn was responsible for forwarding RAC reinforcements through the Army, Corps and Forward Delivery Squadrons.
The other reinforcement groups were deployed so that 103, 104 and 105 in the L of C fed reinforcements forward to 101 and 102, which were under command of Second British and First Canadian Armies.
The reinforcement groups consisted of a varying number of reinforcement holding units each designed to hold 1,500 individuals in addition to a permanent staff of ninety-nine.
All the RHUs however, were not entirely occupied with handling reinforcements, for some were used to hold downgraded personnel, psychiatric cases and immatures.
MOVEMENT OF REINFORCEMENTS
Until mid-September all movement of reinforcement personnel within FRANCE and BELGIUM was carried out with the limited road transport available. About 14 September a daily personnel train was scheduled to run from CORBIE, near AMIENS, to DIEST.
On 16 September the first personnel train was arranged to run from DIEPPE to AMIENS and on that day also reinforcements travelled by rail from BAYEUX to AMIENS.
But regular movement of personnel by rail was not possible until a later date.
CONTROL OF REINFORCEMENT DEMANDS
A reinforcement section consisting of one AAG, one DAAG, one Staff Captain and twelve clerks, which with two advanced reinforcement sections from GHQ Second Echelon had landed in the previous phase, established itself alongside HQ 21 Army Group Rear when the latter landed at the beginning of August 1944.
Its function was to control the supply of reinforcements from the reinforcement groups in the L of C to the reinforcement groups under command of both armies, to consolidate demands for personnel and to submit them to GHQ Second Echelon in UK.
By the middle of August it was clear that although the Advance REFORSECS were able to deal with the posting of reinforcements to units and the demanding of replacements the main reinforcement section with HQ 21 Army Group Rear was being overwhelmed with personnel matters which were not entirely connected with reinforcing, such as transfers and disposal of downgraded or psychiatric cases.
It was therefore decided to send out the Organisation and Selection of Personnel branches from GHQ Second Echelon.
They arrived on 14 September and assumed the name of REFORSEC together with the functions of the original reinforcement section.
They also dealt with all personnel matters affecting transfers, disposal of downgraded cases, reversions to UK, postings to units not under command of armies and the consolidation of demands on the War Office.
These demands were submitted fortnightly and were based on the WE less first reinforcements and the authorised holding of a reserve of 24,000.
They were compiled from the weekly strength returns sent to Advance REFORSECS by formations and units under command of armies and direct to REFORSEC in all other cases. REFORSEC therefore acted as an advanced element of GHQ Second Echelon.
During this phase 101 Rft Gp which held or distributed reinforcements for Second Army was located at BOURG LEOPOLD : 102 Gp which still served the BRITISH element in First Canadian Army was stationed in the area of TERMONDE ; 103 Gp was at CORBIE near AMIENS where, in addition to carrying out its normal functions.
It acted as a collecting and sorting centre for personnel discharged from hospitals situated in northern FRANCE ; 104 Gp was situated in the BRUSSELS/LOUVAIN area and 105 GD which started the period at DIEPPE, later moved to BRUGES when OSTEND was opened as a personnel port.
MOVEMENT OF REINFORCEMENTS
When 104 Rft Crp was finally set up in the advance base late in October, all reinforcements were phased in at OSTEND, but until that date only fighting arms came through this port. All remaining reinforcements continued to arrive at DIEPPE where they were received by 105 Rft Gp and sorted into non-technical and technical branches.
All non-technical personnel were moved by rail to 103 Rft Gp at CORBIE, while technical arms were moved direct to 101 and 102 Rft Gps in accordance with posting orders issued by REFORSEC. Daily bids for the forward rail lift of these reinforcements were made by “A” (Org).
These bids were based on the overall picture of reinforcement availability as then known by A (Pers), and took into account any forecast of battle casualties which could be obtained. It was accepted by Q (Mov) that these bids could not always be accurate, and alterations in numbers and times of trains would often be necessary.
By 5 October reinforcements were being received at DIEPPE at the rate of 1,000 daily and by 24 October the system was working so Well that personnel trains ran from DIEPPE and OSTEND to CORBIE, LOUVAIN and BOURG LEOPOLD as required.
The question of the personnel lift from BAYEUX during October and November was settled by making road transport available to bring forward personnel discharged from hospitals in that area at the rate of 500 a week.
During this phase the train services were not sufficiently elastic to meet the irregular and priority demands for reinforcements which the two armies often submitted, and also did not provide sufficient branch lines from the main railway axis to enable the group HQS to collect personnel from their outlying sub units.
Consequently an ad hoc RASC unit was put at the disposal of REFORSEC to cater for such short cross-country journeys and the trans- porting of reinforcements between the various groups. The importance of providing these transport facilities cannot be over-estimated for REFORSEC was thus enabled to meet urgent operational demands quickly and to overcome the unavoidable inadequacy of the train service.
The total numbers of reinforcements despatched from UK to 21 Army Group in these months were approximately :—
British - 54,290
Canadian - 15,030
Allied - 3,800
CONTROL OF REINFORCEMENTS
Initially, difficulties connected with reinforcing 21 Army Group occurred in passing personnel from base reinforcement groups to the reinforcement groups of Armies. Delay in transporting personnel forward was caused by a lengthening L of C. involving, on the one hand continual unit moves, and, on the other, the scattering of reinforcement sub units in order to ensure that they were in the vicinity of the various personnel ports. To overcome these difficulties it was decided, that so far as the state of reinforcements permitted, forward reinforcement groups should be automatically maintained at their authorised holdings plus any known deficiencies in field units. On no account were reinforcements in excess of the above authorised holdings despatched forward merely on the grounds that they were available in a base reinforcement camp, or because there was room in the forward lift. In the case of Second Army, reinforcements in excess of 1,000 every other day were not sent forward without prior acceptance by all concerned.
Advance REFORSEC rendered to REFORSEC a daily return showing the holdings and deficiencies against the authorised holding in the forward reinforcement groups so that the supply of reinforcements by arms and trades should approximate to the demand.
Temporary changes in the Order of Battle were not effected in changes in reinforcement channels, and BRITISH units which came temporarily under command of First Canadian Army during this period were still reinforced through 101 Rft Gp.
When OSTEND was made into the main port for reinforcements, it was soon found that REFORSEC, situated at AMIENS, was out of touch with the reinforcement situation, and consequently moved to BRUSSELS within easy reach of all the reinforcement groups and first Echelon.
SHORTAGE OF INFANTRY
The provision of officers and men to bring infantry divisions in 21 Army Group up to establishment continued to be a problem, and by October there was an acute shortage amounting to 970 officers and 11,900 ORs.
As it was apparent that the War Office would not be able to make up these deficiencies from manpower resources in UK, it was decided to disband 50 Division and to post the infantry personnel thus made available to other formations. These postings remedied the OR position in infantry battalions to the extent that the deficiency noted in October had been turned into a small surplus of 2,000 by the end of December, but at that date 520 officers were still required to bring formations up to their establishment. With a likelihood of heavy casualties in the coming Spring operations, it was clear that drastic measures would have to be taken to provide infantry officers. It was therefore decided to disband various RA regiments which had been part of 50 Division and to post back to UK for infantry training the officers who thus became surplus.
Additional measures taken were to send to the UK for the same purpose a large number of RASC and pioneer officers and to request War Office to reduce establishments at home as much as possible, so as to render surplus potential infantry officers, and, finally to send out category and elderly officers to this theatre to release younger extra-regimentally employed officers for posting to infantry units.
This last measure was only partly successful, because of the reluctance of commanders to lose, at this stage, their trained and practised staff Officers, however, great the need of the units might be.
The deficiency in infantry officers was never, in fact, completely made up. On the other hand the measures taken prevented the shortage becoming so serious as to render formations or units ineffective.
At the beginning of January it became obvious that immediate future operations would involve the placing of the majority of units in Second Army under command of First Canadian Army. This would make the existing allocation of a reinforcement group to each army an expensive and uneconomical arrangement.
It was therefore decided to withdraw 102 Rft Gp from First Canadian Army, placing it under command HQ 21 Army Group, and to forward all BRITISH reinforcements for both armies through 101 Rft Gp.
At the same time HQ,21 Army Group would nominate one of the two armies as “Reinforcement Control”, according to which was directing the major operations at the time. First Canadian Army was nominated as “control” for operation VERITABLE.
The Advance REFORSEC of the army in control was responsible for making the division of reinforcements between the two armies. The army not in control had always the right of appeal to Army Group but this right was never in fact used.
To assist in the forward movement of reinforcements and to keep the army not in control informed as regards the provision and despatch of personnel, the DAAG of its Advance REFORSEC was located as HQ 101 Rft Gp which remained at BOURG LEOPOLD until the advance into GERMANY made it necessary to step its RHUs forward one by one.
To reduce delays in the move of reinforcements, a change in procedure was made, in that personnel were delivered direct to the divisional maintenance areas instead of passing through CRCs.
As BRITISH divisions were not allotted a divisional reinforcement transit camp, each division was given at least twelve hours notice of the types and numbers of personnel under despatch, and also a list of the units for which they were intended.
Under this procedure drafts left 101 Rft Gp early in the morning, and arrived in the divisional maintenance areas on the same afternoon. There were, however, two exceptions to the general rule, for 11 Armoured Division made its own arrangements for collecting its infantry reinforcements direct from 101 Rft Gp RHU, and Guards Armoured Division maintained are inforcement company (found from within its own resources), along side its forward delivery squadron.
The original CANADIAN system of calling reinforcements forward against specific demands from units, resulted in there being a ﬁve-day delay between the date of the demand and the time of despatch from the CANADIAN personnel base area at GHENT.
To reduce the delay a change in procedure was made in January. Drafts were despatched daily from GHENT, based on the information contained in the Daily Casualty and Strength States which were used as a guide to the numbers and categories of drafts required.
Divisional advanced reinforcement control officers compiled a list of the deficiencies each afternoon and sent an immediate TPM to the CANADIAN Section, Second Echelon, HQ 21 Army Group, who received these figures between 1600 hours and 2000 hours each day. Personnel drafts were then collected together during the night and despatched the following morning direct to the divisional reinforcement transit camps where they were met by unit transport and taken forward to “B” echelons. In this way deﬁciencies which were reported at dawn one morning were filled within thirty-six hours.
The following special arrangements were made, before the start of this operation, to deal with the possibility of high casualty ﬁgures. Each infantry battalion was posted from 50 to 100 ORs surplus to its WE before the opening of the operation. 101 Rft Gp was given by Second Army enough transport to lift 1100 men each day.
To build up the holdings inthe advance base reinforcements groups, and to remove the backlog of reinforcements in the UK which had been caused by bad weather, about 4,000 rfts, mainly infantry, were flown into the theatre between 9 and 12 February.
As Second Army was undertaking the more important task in this operation, it took over the function of reinforcement control from First Canadian Army. As for operation VERITABLE, infantry battalions were over posted with ORs before the operation started.
As usual, 6 British Airborne Division was supplied with non-airborne reinforcements while it was operating in a ground role after the link-up.
After the initial RHINE crossing, in view of the diverging operations of the two armies, a reversion was made to the old system of having one reinforcement group under command of each army. 102 Rft Gp therefore came under command First Canadian Army and was moved to NIJMEGEN.
As it had available capacity and accommodation, this group was also used to hold a cushion of reinforcements apart from its holding for BRITISH units in First Canadian Army. This cushion was available for either army and was under HQ 21 Army Group control.
SUPPLY OF REINFORCEMENTS
The supply of OR reinforcements was, generally speaking, maintained during the last months of the campaign, although there were some shortages, but only in those trades and categories of which there was a World shortage.
The War Office exceeded its commitments before operation PLUNDER started, in giving 21 Army Group sufficient drafts to build up a total of about 12,000 infantry reinforcements, against the authorised holding of 8,000.
The position as regards officers was, however, as unsatisfactory as that of the OBs was reasonable.
Strenuous measures were taken in the Army Group and by the War Office to make the maximum number of officers available, particularly for infantry, but even so, there was a heavy deficiency when operation PLUNDER started. In actual fact, it never became necessary to break up formations or units through shortage of officers, but this would have been necessary if casualties had been sustained at the estimated rate.
Between January and May the following approximate number of reinforcements were despatched from UK to reinforcement groups in the theatre:
- BRITISH — 67,600
- CANADIAN — 23,000
- ALLIED — 4,100
104 and 105 Rft Gps remained throughout the period in the BRUSSELS and BRUGES area, dealing with non-technical and technical arms respectively. 103 Rft Gp moved from near AMIENS to near OSTEND in April, as soon as accommodation became available, thus avoiding unnecessary movement of drafts which had previously occurred.
OSTEND remained the base personnel port. At the end of the phase HQ 101 Rft Gp moved into GERMANY to EMSDETTEN, with its units echeloned back into HOLLAND.
At the end of the campaign, several RHUs were adapted to perform extraneous functions, such as the reorganisation and disbandment of units, the administering of displaced persons, as well as being used in the PWX chain of evacuation (see elsewhere).
GHQ SECOND ECHELON
After a long delay, due to the difficulties of accommodation, GHQ Second Echelon moved to BRUSSELS on 5/6 May. This move greatly helped in the administration of reinforcements, and enabled REFORSEC, which had been in BRUSSELS since HQ 21 Army Group opened there, to be absorbed into the main part of Second Echelon.
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