My operational rôle as I.O. was tactical staff officer and would accompany the Commanding Officer (C.O.) when he received orders from the Brigadier, being briefed separately about the enemy by the Brigade I.O. During operations whenever he left Battalion HQ I would be with him and prepared to set up a Tactical Headquarters when ordered to do so. My role required me to be fully informed about the objectives of the Rifle Companies and Support Arms [Carrier Platoon with Bren machine-guns and flame-throwers; Mortar Platoon with 3-inch mortars; Anti-Tank Platoon with six 6-pounder anti-tank guns; and the Pioneer Platoon with their mine-clearing skills]. I had to be au fait with Artillery fire-plans, the extent of co-operation with Armoured Units, and have map references of neighbouring forces on the Battalion's flanks. My map-board would be marked with code-words for objectives and timings.
My map-board was an important 'tool' and often used to 'brief' groups of men whenever I had an opportunity to show them what was going in our immediate sector and also let them know about the other operations being undertaken by the British and American Armies: 'Putting them in the picture' was a edict of Field-Marshal Montgomery. I used to keep on the reverse side of the board a small-scale map of the Far East and keep myself up-dated with the progress of the War in Burma and the American island-by-island advances against the Japanese. The lads were always immensely interested and usually lots of questions and near the end and there was always 'You havn't told us when we are going home, Sir!' and our little briefing session ended laughing with that happy thought that one day it would all be over and we could go home!
As infantry troops we were the first link in the chain of intelligence about the enemy's Order of Battle: it started at Battalion level. The enemy's Order of Battle was an important consideration when Corps and Divisional Commanders prepared their tactical plans. It was a special aspect of our job in the Intelligence Section to keep the Battalion's mind focused on obtaining intelligence about the enemy. The Intelligence file we started in 1943 was worth all the time spent in up-dating it with information from 52 (Lowland) Division Intelligence Section. It proved to be an excellent aide-memoire when we were faced with identifying specialist units and their weapons.
To the credit of the Battalion, the alertness of our forward troops led to an important enemy identification. A 7/9RS platoon occupying a defensive position on the River Maas was patrolling towards the river and became suspicious of three civilians they suspected of having just crossed the river. They were detained and from a preliminary investigation at Battalion HQ appeared to be enemy infiltrators. I told Division Intelligence Officer when we sent them back for expert questioning that they seemed to be more than 'just two civilian refugees'. I was delighted when they were subsequently identified as members of the Brandenburg Sabotage Division, an elite German formation, and the first of their unit to be captured on our Divisional front. It was an important enemy identification and a feather in the cap for our alertness.
German Unit Identification
I was regularly briefed by the Brigade I.O. about the enemy on our front. Daily reconnaissance missions were flown across the Division’s front by a Lysander and any enemy movements were appraised. Orders could be received at Battalion for a fighting patrol to bring back prisoners to confirm whether enemy unit changes had occurred.
We had Divisional Standing Orders for recording data about the capture of specific prisoners:
We were trained to ensure that captured officers and non-commissioned officers would be searched first and their documents taken. We also removed P.o.W.'s shoulder-straps and would send them back with the escort and if a particular individual was not wearing any identity he would be especially noted. Paybooks with brown covers were important and those belonging to officers showing their unit, sub-unit and personal number on page 4. When we captured 600 P.o.Ws. at the Hotel Britannia in Flushing and 2000 in Middelburg we were overwhelmed but kept to the basic fundamentals of separating officers and NCOs.
My notebook details how we had to handle and treat P.o.Ws; the golden rule was 'Separate - Search - and Send Back Quickly'.
Enemy identification is made through the colour patches they wear, indicating arm of service. The panel below shows the colour distinctions. As infantry we expected to confront greenish uniforms with the white patches of the infantry (grenadiers) or green patches of Panzer grenadiers, and/or the pink patches of armoured personnel when attacked by German 'battle groups' of infantry and/or artillery and tanks.
If other colour patches were identified, they had to be reported. For example the blue of support troops, red of artillery (possibly forward observation men), black of engineers, the lemon of signallers, maroon of smoke troops. If they were in the forward areas that was important intelligence.
WARRANT OFFICERS, SERGEANTS, CORPORALS: Piping around shoulder strap indicates arm of service; whilst numerals on button shows Company, Troop or Squadron but these not worn in forward areas.
LANCE-CORPORALS and PRIVATES: Insignia worn on the left sleeve