BARCE: WHERE RIGHT AND GLORY LED DURING WORLD WAR II

221.JPG
The town flag of Barce. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The artillery unit at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera Qld is 1 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery. They have deployed gunners over the past decade on secondment to the British Army in Helmland Province, Afghanistan. 105 Battery is part of the Regiment which fired in support of 6RAR at the Battle of Long Tan. The regiment has a long proud history dating back to World War One. However their lines are named Barce and in a building within those lines hangs a flag in memory of victory won long ago in another war. 2/1st Field Regiment was raised on 31OCT1939 in Ingleburn, NSW. They were the namesake of 1 Field  Regiment from World War I which saw action at Gallipoli and in France. 2/1 Field were sent to North Africa to fight with the 6th Australian division which was the first of the Australian divisions to be raised and sent to fight in this new war. It was in North Africa that something truly unique took place for an artillery unit.

 

05FEB1941 D Troop was sent forward to occupy a position with an OP overlooking the town of Barce and the coastal road. Its object was to engage any enemy moving westward from Barce but htat escape route was devoid of all signs of life. The town of Barce was alive though and the troop commander Captain Vickery looked in vain for the customary white surrender flag. He bracketed the town, one round plus, one round minus, still no white flag. He shortened the plus range a little, fired and up went a white flag. Lieutenant Lester and four O.R.s (Other Ranks) clambered down the escarpment, and were met by a group from the town carrying a white and the town flag which they handed to our boys, they in turn accepted the surrender on behalf of 2/1 FLD Regt and the Army of the Nile. That town flag resides at the Barce Lines today.

Later on a more formal surrender was taken by the 2 I/C Major Young. At 7:3opm the town was handed over to 6 Div Provost Company. During its short period of control, and with only the threat of its guns somewhere up on the escarpment, the Regiment supressed a Bedouin uprising. It also took great delight in arranging a formal welcome for the infantry, the 2/8th Battalion, when they entered the town. Barce was the last town of any size to be taken before Benghazi.

The story that circulated in the regiment, was that this was the first time in the history of the British Empire that Regiment of Field Artillery had captured and taken surrender of a town without any assistance from any other branch of the armed services.

Disputing or confirming this is irrelevant to the true significance of the battle.

Bardia which was Australia’s first major battle of World War II had just taken place and 2/1st Field Regiment had served on the gun line throughout the entire battle. Taking Tobruk from the Italians had been next. 2/1st Field Regiment would go on to fight in Greece and through two campaigns in New Guinea. By war’s end 77 members had been wounded and 33 members had died.

But as the men of 2/1 Field Regiment went to bed on the night of the 5th of February, 1941 they could sleep having taken a town with no deaths of their own, the enemy or civilian.

It was a great victory.

-Lloyd Marken

Image result for 2/1 field regiment
Bir Asluj, Palestine, 12th May 1940. Guns of 2/1st Field Regiment during practice shoot. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.
Image result for 2/1 field regiment awm
Near Bardia. Gun Grew of No. 3 Gun, E Troop, 2/1st Field Regiment, Relax after Christmas Dinner. L to R, Gnr Trouville, Gnr Morrow, Bdr Hitcher, Gnr Sing. In front are Bdr Elliot and Sgt Firth. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

 

Image result for 2/1 field regiment awm
Near Bardia, Cyrenaica. Underground Command Post of I Battery, 2/1st Field Regiment before the Battle of Bardia, December 1940. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.
NEAR BARDIA - A GUN CREW OF B SUBSECTION OF 2/1ST FIELD REGIMENT. LEFT TO RIGHT: SERGEANT D.A. JACK: LANCE BOMBARDIER LOPEZ: GUNNER W.A. MOSS: BOMBARDIER WOOD: GUNNER T.H. O'NEILL AND (STANDING) ...
Christmas dinner at their gun site, near Bardia. Christmas Day, 1940. L to R: Sgt D. A. Jack, L Bdr Lopez,  Gnr W. A. Moss, Bdr Wood, Gnr T. H. O’Neill and standing Gnr Roach. (Negative F. Hurley.)

 

“E” Troop, 2/1 Field Regiment in position near the Bardia Front. (Negative by F. Hurley.)
BARDIA, LIBYA. NO. 5 GUN CREW, 1ST BATTERY,
No. 5 Gun. E Troop, near Bardia Christmas Day 1940. Gnr Hillcoat, Gnr O’Sullivan, Bdr Frankfort, Gnr Krumback. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

Haywood, E.V. 1959. Six Years in Support : History of the 2/1 Field Regiment. Angus and Robertson.