Lieutenant-Colonel Tony Teacher, 1944-45

Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Donald Macdonald Teacher


Unit : 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, RA.

Army No. : 33372

Awards : Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire


Listed amongst the past winners of the Royal Artillery Gold Cup is Mr. A. D. M. Teacher on his own horse 'Gunner L', at Sandown in 1931.


"Tony" Teacher joined the British Army in the early 1930's. He became a Captain in the Royal Artillery in 1937, was appointed Adjutant in his Regiment on the 1st January 1938, and rose steadily through the ranks until, in 1942, he was made a Lieutenant-Colonel. On the 25th July of that year, he took over the command of the 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment from Lieutenant-Colonel Savill. In November 1943, the Regiment was ordered to convert to an airborne light artillery role, a task which Teacher carried out successfully, having the Regiment ready for action by May 1944.


The 53rd Light Regiment was to be deployed to Normandy in several phases, the 211th Battery flying in on the evening of D-Day as an advanced guard with the remainder following behind several days later. Lieutenant-Colonel Teacher, however, landed on the Normandy beaches via a Landing Craft Tank late in the evening of the 6th June. On his arrival in the Divisional area, he found that the Commander Royal Artillery, Colonel Jack Norris, had been severely wounded in the throat during the heavy mortaring directed against Divisional Headquarters as the glider lift arrived. Teacher immediately became the Acting CRA, and held the position until Colonel Faithfull took over on the 18th June.


Teacher continued to command the 53rd Light Regiment throughout the Normandy campaign, returning to the UK with them in September to reorganise and prepare for the next campaign. This came sooner than was expected, and he found himself exchanging the comforts and festivities of Christmas at Bulford for the discomfort and doubtful joys of winter in the Ardennes. This little episode lasted about a month and then the Colonel took his Regiment to spend what turned out to be a very static month on the River Maas in Holland. The Regiment then returned to the UK to prepare for the Rhine Crossing on the 24th March 1945, however Lieutenant-Colonel Teacher was not to be with them, the powers that be transferred him to command the 112th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment with XII Corps.


After the conclusion of the European Campaign, Teacher, promoted to Brigadier, became Chief Instructor of the R.A., O.C.T.U. at Catterick until it was relocated to Deepcut. Following a posting at Staff HQ, he took over as the Commander Royal Artillery at the 16th Airborne Division, from Brigadier G. A. Thomas, OBE, R.A. Brigadier Teacher was himself awarded an O.B.E. on the 9th August 1945. His citation reads:


Under his leadership, his Regiment has maintained the highest state of morale and efficiency throughout a most exacting period. Since the crossing of the Rhine, where it firstly distinguished itself, both in its normal role and in the handling of the Rocket Projectors with which it was equipped at very short notice. The Regiment has been dispersed over a wide area, organising and controlling a succession of camps for displaced personnel. This started long before the end of hostilities, and to a front line unit which had hoped to see the fighting through to the end, was most discouraging. Colonel Teacher, however, so handled the Regiment that it devoted itself with the utmost enthusiasm to this [?] task, bringing to it all the initiative and resource which it had shown in battle, and earning the unstinted praise of higher authority for the quality of its work.


In 1955, Brigadier Teacher was awarded the C.B.E.:


Brigadier Teacher completed three years as BGS Headquarters Southern Command in November 1954. During the last two years this Headquarters has had two additional commitments placed on it; the planning and running of CIGS Exercise "For'ard On" and the setting of exercises for TA formations on Salisbury Plain Practical Training Area. Brigadier Teacher played a leading part in both tasks. Not only has he himself over a long period worked very long hours, but by his example, enthusiasm and leadership he has also been able to get exceptional work and results from those working under him.


Since Exercise "For'ard On" he has exerted a very considerable effort in the study of the methods and the organisation required for the employment of atomic weapons in the tactical battle. He has done a great deal to further thought on the subject by the production of a paper, by giving advice during the writing of the most recent War Office pamphlet and by lectures all over the Command.


There is no doubt that Brigadier Teacher has given proof in peace time of a selfless devotion to duty of the highest order which is thoroughly deserving of recognition.


After the war, Teacher wrote an article for the Royal Artillery Commemorative book.


The Divisional Plan.

The task set for the 6th Airborne Division in the Normandy invasion was to secure the extreme left of the Allied line. The eastern boundary of 3rd Infantry Division, the flank formation of I Corps, was along the River Orne, which flows through Caen, eight miles from the coast, in a north-easterly direction to the sea. The Airborne Division was to seize the vitally important bridges over the river and canal running parallel to it and to capture the high ground to the east, which overlooked both the river and much of the bridgehead beyond.


The Artillery Problem and its Solution.

The C.R.A. of the 6th Airborne Division (Lt-Col. J. S. L. Norris) was faced with the problem of providing field artillery support and anti-tank defence with a minimum of resources. It was obvious, in the first place, that the one field regiment of the division (53rd Worcestershire Yeomanry Air Landing Light Regiment) would be quite inadequate for the task; to make matters worse there was only enough glider-space to fly in one battery; the rest of the regiment was to come by sea and was not due till D + 7. Secondly, if the support of flanking formations were made available, there would not be enough O.P. Officers in the 6th Airborne Artillery to control their fire. The solution found for these problems was as follows: artillery of the 3rd Infantry Division and any medium artillery within range were to support 6th Airborne wherever possible; and, to control this large fire-power, F.O.O's from 3rd Division were to be attached to 6th Airborne HQ, R.A. before the assault. In addition, observation parties were attached to direct the fire of supporting warships. Lieut-Colonel Norris evolved a system for demanding fire which became the model for later airborne operations. The two battery commanders of the Air Landing Light Regiment, who landed in gliders with powerful sets, were to be located at Brigade Headquarters. There they would act as a link between the F.O.O's with the battalions and the artillery available at any moment. The plan for the anti-tank artillery was more straightforward. 4th Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery (6-pounders) and one troop of 3rd Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery (17-pounders) were to be flown in. The remainder of the 17-pounder battery were to arrive by sea, also on D-Day.


First Landings - The F.O.O's.

About one o'clock on the morning of D-Day para F.O.O's were dropped with the second wave of the assault. In the third wave flew eight gliders carrying HQ, R.A. and airlanding F.O.O's. HQ, R.A. landed safely except for one glider, but all the F.O.O's and the battery commander of 3rd Para Brigade were missing. 5th Para Brigade were more fortunate, but both gliders carrying F.O.O's crashed and their sets were damaged.


[Major] Charles Russell, [210th] battery commander in one of these gliders, tells his own story: "We were now over the Normandy coast and all was well - there was flak, but it floated lazily far below us. Was it R.L.S. who wrote, 'It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive'? The words kept running through my brain. Suddenly a bright little explosion inside the glider lit up the cabin. At the same moment I felt a sharp rap on the sole of my foot. A defenceless feeling came over me. I wanted to get down - the thought of landing had lost all its terrors. A heavy jarring bounce - we had touched down - a pause, and then black-out! We had run into an unloading glider and everything had gone for six. Dusty moonlight showed through jagged edges and I crawled out. Nothing of the Horsa gliders stood higher than six feet. Two killed, three with arms or legs broken; jeep, trailer, motor-cycles and wireless all written off; and 500 cigarettes in the debris at map reference 115745. The Officer Commanding F.O.O. and F.O.B. in support of 5 Para Brigade had arrived with his party to liberate Europe. He did not feel confident of success. As the day broke we limped into Ranville, piloted by the BM, R.A. I was too busy watching my concussed subaltern swinging his revolver to worry much about the Germans. An old French woman offered a flower over her gate and said, 'Nous sommes sauves'. I doubted whether she was in the picture. A rather pretty blonde directed us to the dressing station: my face had been scratched and she defined me as "blesse". I replied (truthfully) that it was nothing, hoping she wouldn't believe me. She Didn't. I collected cigarettes and sticking-plaster at the M.D.S. It was being sniped and I did not linger. At HQ, R.A. I hoped to find the duplicate of my glider load with my second-in-command complete with wireless and jeep all laid on by a far sighted C.R.A. He was not there. He had landed north of the Seine and was confusing the German Intelligence 100 miles away. We took over the control set on the Airborne Support net, found HQ 5 Para Brigade and started digging-in and trying to contact the seaborne artillery, cruisers and our own parachute F.O.O's with the battalions. It all seemed very difficult and slow and muddled."


Although he makes light of his story - as he did at the time - Charles Russell was not only badly shaken, but had also broken several ribs; but he carried on undaunted throughout the period of great strain. He set a fine example. His fellow battery commander with 3 Para Brigade fared even worse.


Extracts from Major M.E. Gubbins [212th Air Landing Battery, R.A.] story as follows:

"Before going to our rendezvous we had to fill in four hours flying through the dark night; this entailed making two circuits of Southern England. But the time seemed to pass quickly. And then we arrived at the rendezvous; the night became suddenly lit up with hundreds and hundreds of little red and green lights; it was a fascinating and dramatic moment when we met our fellow travellers of the night. It didn't seem long before one of our pilots said, 'We're running in: at 1,900 feet.' I looked out and saw flak - not much of it and tiny stuff - far below us. I recognised the land we were approaching - a river mouth and a canal; just what I had expected to see. The flak looked bigger and I could hear the heavy thuds of our bombing; the 'softening-up' process was going on. Then, from the clear night light we flew into haze; the pilots were obviously worried; they could see neither the two-rope nor the light of the tug. Then it happened. There was a sickening crash; to this day we don't know what it was. I think our own tug or another aircraft hit us from below; it certainly wasn't flak. Having got the OK from my two men in the tail of the machine, I looked out through the pilot's cockpit; the pilot's feet were hanging over a gaping hole and I saw sea where there ought to have been a plywood floor. Things happened quickly. No 1 pilot said 'I'm casting off!' No 2 pilot shouted, 'I can't get rid of our wheels'. We were flying smoothly downwards. The pilot turned the glider into the wind and out to sea. 'Stand by to ditch', came the warning; and then 'Ditching now'. It was a perfect water landing; there was a rush and a roar of water and I stood up to my arms in it. The pilots were strapped in below the waterline, but we got them clear; the glider was floating well. The seven of us got into the rubber dinghy and we tied up alongside and waited for the seaborne attack. With the dawn came the wind and the glider started to settle lower in the water. Then over the horizon they came; and, only a mile or two away, line after line of the seaborne assault went past us. We decided to make towards the assaulting troops and cast off from the glider; almost as we did so she sank. We made little progress against wind and tide; a destroyer dashed past us, firing as she went, but she didn't stop. That was our last hope. Wind and tide then had their way with us and we drifted in a north-easterly direction; we still hoped for the best as we made for a sandy beach, but the Germans were waiting for us and opened fire; fortunately they weren't very good shots. The waves were strong, driving us on the rocks and throwing us out of the dinghy into the hands of some miserable looking, but heavily armed Germans. We had arrived!"


Major. M.E. Gubbins was sent to Oflag 79, POW No 00418.


The Navy.

The first task of the C.R.A. was to re-organize the lay-out of the F.O.O's and make the best of his depleted resources for forward observation. This was quickly done, except that it took some time to get in touch with the scattered parties of 3 Para Brigade. The F.O.O's of this brigade had been badly dispersed in dropping, but, as the following story illustrates, had not been wasting time. An F.O.O. of 3 Para Brigade, without signallers or set, met up with a naval rating telegraphist, minus his F.O.B., and through him 'shot' a cruiser at Breville. After observing the first salvo he ordered 'North 400', forgetting that the Royal Navy does not take orders but acts on observations. The second salvo burst with a shudder about his ears. The next order was tapped out with a sense of urgent indignation: 'For . . . .'s sake shoot at Breville'; and a few seconds later Breville disappeared in a cloud of dust. H.M.S. Arethusa and H.M.S. Mauritius and two destroyers were in continuous support throughout the day, and it was learnt from prisoners of war that the effect of their shelling on morale was immense.


3rd Divisional Artillery.

The Air Landing Light Battery of the Airborne Division was not due in till the evening of D-Day; so the first support came from the guns of the 3rd Infantry Division. 76th Field Artillery Regiment was in support by 10.30 a.m., three hours after the 3rd Division H-hour; and by 4.30 p.m. all the divisional artillery were available. On D+1 the 65th Medium Regiment added the might of their heavier fire-power. The support given by 3rd Divisional Artillery was quick and generous and was instrumental in defeating at least one attack backed up with tanks. Several 'Uncle' targets were called for and the improvised net worked well. The front-line infantryman were so pleased with results that they sent back a special message of thanks to the Gunners.



Three 6-pounders and three 17-pounders were missing, but the remainder of the anti-tank guns were in action by 10 a.m. on D-Day; their positions were those previously selected from a study of air photographs and large-scale maps. On D-Day they destroyed three tanks - one of them a Panther - and three S.P. Guns; the Panther was 'killed' by one round from the 17-pounder. The 'bag' may not sound large, but it must be remembered that the Germans were only attacking in small groups; no big co-ordinated attack was launched.


The Air Landing Light Regiment.

The first gliders of the Air Landing Battery arrived dead on time at 9 p.m.; it was a wonderful sight to see them arrive on that clear evening. There were hundreds of aircraft and gliders over the landing zone, and though a number of tug aircraft were seen to be shot down by flak from the Caen area, there appeared to be little loss among the gliders. 211th Battery landed at 9.30 p.m. and were in action north of Ranville half an hour later. For some days they were in continuous close support of 5 Para Brigade and later 6 Air Landing Brigade and 1 S.S. Brigade (Commandos). They fired on their first targets at 1.30 a.m. on June 7th, and in the afternoon of that day one of the troops engaged the enemy over open sights with great success. On June 10th the battery supported 1 S.S. Brigade throughout the day and fired no less than 2,000 rounds into Hauger alone. This gives some idea of the tasks which the battery carried out with great efficiency before joining up with the rest of the regiment on June 15th.


The Division suffered a great loss when the C.R.A, Lieut-Colonel Jack Norris, was badly wounded by a mortar shell while watching the arrival of the Glider Air Landing Brigade. But it had been a great day. 53rd Air Landing Light Regiment had made history when 211th Battery was the first British battery ever to fly into action against the enemy. [1]


[1] The 1st Air Landing Anti-Tank Battery, Royal Artillery was the first British battery to fly into action in Sicily in July 1943.


Main part of this profile in the April 1949 issue of Pegasus, page 7.



Thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.


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