53rd Welsh

A World War II Living History Group

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Posted by Swiper on August 6, 2010 at 8:23 AM Comments comments (11)

I've been hit with a deluge of enquiries and information on 53rd Welsh Division of late, whether its information on 83rd Field Regiment, the men of 4 Welch, 1/5th Welch and even 285 Field Company! Crikey!

Keeping up with it is most enjoyable though!

At the same time I've begun adding unit histories (finally) to the 53rd Recce page, 1/5th Welch page and will soon have the RWF pages suitably done, with the Engineers falling in next...


116 LAA should also be sorted within a week or so.


As per usual, any sources, stories, photographs, let me know as I'd love to include them to make this the (well it is already so....) finest site on 53rd Welsh Division!

Substantial Website Overhaul!

Posted by Swiper on August 4, 2010 at 5:54 AM Comments comments (0)

The website has undergone a substantial overhaul over the last few weeks, many thanks to Jez for this! Its been tidied up, decluttered and now currently adding more information and photographs thanks to those who recently contacted us!


More information on 1/5th Welch Regiment and hopefully a whole load coming on 4th Welch. I hope by the end of the month the whole thing will nearly be in order (finally!) and be an excellent resource for all who need it!

The Benefit of Intensive Historical Research

Posted by Swiper on June 1, 2010 at 3:29 AM Comments comments (0)

Within the 53rd Welsh LHG a large focus is placed upon harvesting the fruits of the historical research undertaken.



For example, thanks to listening to veteran's testimonies, speaking to local historians in France, snippets in histories (from Brigade to Divisional level), and finding original artifacts we discovered that 53rd Welsh Division was one of a small number of units to still keep the Divisional symbol on the helmet in 1944-45.



Often this work appears pretty obvious, find a unit that you have an interest in (be it for local, family, or in an general historical interest), and then you will pop out and buy a book on the unit and its history. In these books you usually find a few personal stories, a few photographs and what the unit did during their campaign, key officers and occasionally mention of key characters within the unit. Its a general overview, often using a few sources.

The earliest are the late 1940s/1950s unit histories, although they tend to have information which is fresher in the memories of those who wrote them (and therefore very useful) they tend to have poorer gasp on the wider emphasis, who they were actually fighting and some accounts end in pure confusion, that may make sense to those who were there but for the contemporary historian/re-enactor they can soon become muddled works which are full of individual eccentricity.



To add to the complication, these earlier books usually fetch quite serious money! Often ranging from £30-120 for a copy!




Consequently the re-enactor or historian cannot rely on the earliest works, so what of the most recent historiography? If one goes off such recent works as Antony Beevors D-Day and Max Hasting's Overlord one finds them so riddled of judgement and opinion that actual historical accuracy is disregarded somewhat for their chilling, depressive narratives.



Even books such as 'Band of Brothers' focus on such a microlevel that despite they offer a detailed and intimate portrait of the men of Easy Company, it leaves the reader almost wondering how the war took so long! On the otherhand, Sledge's 'With the Old Breed' offers insights and anecdotes (most recently seen in The Pacific) which would otherwise be lost to history.



Consequently I run off a selection of sources ranked for their usage/praticality:

1. Recent Books and Articles

2. Early books and Articles

3. Photographs

4. War Diaries

5. Personal Accounts

6. Family Documents



1. Recent Books and Articles - generally have more recently declassified/found/stumbled upon accounts it also gives you an idea of the contemporary discourse regarding the study of the unit in question. For example Terry Copp's criticism of 53rd Welsh Division for not really moving during the collapse of the Falaise gap, when the unit histories, Divisional documents and personal accounts juxtapose this massively! He uses a single Canadian document for this criticism and this shows how important it is to conduct a thorough investigation trying to cover all bases. Take them with a pinch of salt and use them as starting blocks.

2. Early Books and Articles

Even withstanding the earlier criticism these are still very good sources, and an easy way to try and see if a family member did something worthy of note, events that are negligable at Brigade or Divisional level are likely to be fully fleshed out in these works.



3. Photographs

To be honest, I am at somewhat of a crossroads over photographs, many are available online to peruse, and the Imperial War Museum's (IWM) website is an excellent resource to look at these. However they all face one damning problem, the lack of clear caption/location. Taking a photo of a Photographer standing over a German 10.5cm gun during the battle of Evrecy as an example - on its own it is a good and amusing picture, yet combined with the facts of the battle and the day it was taken, it juxtaposes much of the information in all other accounts of the battle!

Photographs can offer insights into kit, use of captured weapons, dress codes and morale ina  way that the written word can sometimes not achieve, yet without proper captions/locations attached and ideally times(!) this point becomes somewhat moot as they can just become more detrious impeding a investigation instead of helping it.

4. War Diaries

Available to look at in the National Archives at Kew, or to be ordered from them. I rate these at 4 due to the ridiculous carpark fees there (pre-booking) and charging through the nose for their copying of documents. Great sources, dreadfully managed despite the staff there being very helpful. These are my personal views mind!

5. Personal Accounts

Can be found at the IWM website on searches, by contacting the relevant Regimental museum, larger museums such as Bovington Tank Museum, Firepower or The National Army Museum. These sources are often hard to find but are gold dust for illustrating personal accounts of a campaign. The easiest place to start is the BBC People's War archive.

6. Family Documents

In my opinion the greatest untapped source of knowledge, whether through throwing away documents/photographs and them getting lost, letters falling through cracks in the floor etc, this is the people's war. I have been contacted thanks to the internet with stories, letters, photographs, service records, the works! If you have any relating to a unit do a quick search online as you may find a researcher looking for it and he may be able to assist your enquiry if you help him with his!

Ultimately, what are the benefits in re-enacting of Intensive Historical Research? You are able to hone your impression in a way that others never can, whether its that specific shade of blanco, the particular helmet markings not noticable on photographs, or what the units mascot was called and a variety of contemporary in-jokes...

These turn your impression from being that, to the closest thing to reality that one could experience without hoping in the TARDIS and going back 66-70 years ago...

Website Update

Posted by Swiper on May 23, 2010 at 12:13 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the last couple of days the website has been enjoying a raft of improvements.


You may notice that the 'Divisional Troops' section has gone up, and hasa sub-page for 53rd Recce Regiment. This gives you an idea how the historical section of the forum will progress. It is very much WIP but I want this finished by the end of June 2010. Which is not easy considering how obscure some of the units (i.e. Pay Office) are!


Training Day photos will go up faster with rapid accreditation to those who take the photos, also captions will be given to them faster in future.


The Wiki will be subject to substantial revision/detail from June-July 2010 with a basic completion date of July 2010 to cover all the bases there. It will cover uniform, equipment, tactics, re-enacting as basics.


Soon a dedicated ‘Brigade’ page will be up, with sub-pages for each Brigadeand then each Battalion with a bit on them and their war.


Frustratingly converting these Blogs over from Word files on copy/paste leads to some words merging together, proof reading gets most of them but a couple will slip through - inform us and we'll remove them.


There is also discussion on a few pages showing Do's and Don'ts of re-enacting, regarding the wrong pouches/uniform juxtaposed with how to do it correctly

Expect more frequent blog posts as well as we update progress on the website updates, thoughts on re-enacting and group news.

Recent Events!

Posted by Swiper on May 23, 2010 at 11:58 AM Comments comments (0)

We've recently been to a fair few events...

Route to Victory

We had a most enjoyable day on the Monday. Due to various problems we ended up with a token deployment of 2 Fusiliers! A few tents and guns, along with an engaging presentation/discussion style went down well and much slobbering over T-16s was had...

Great air display, great atmosphere and good numbers of people through. If the event happens again its most definately in our calendar!

Gwili Railway VE Day

We enjoyed a lovely day on the Gwili Railway helping them with their first 1940s event. The day consisted of marshalling the small 53rd contingent around, kit and weapon demonstrations, showing how Bren teams worked.

The scenery, and exceptionally warm welcome was very much appreciated and we hope this will become a regular event!

Future Events

We have a raft of Events coming up on the Events Page, check them out and drop by and say Hi! We're a friendly lot and always willing to chat to anyone with an interest.

53rd Welsh Division History Days

Posted by Swiper on April 13, 2010 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (0)

We are currently trying a few form of event, which will be held (for the nearish future at least!) at 1940s Swansea Bay.


The first dates are:

18 April (Sunday)

24 April (Saturday)


These days will consist of talks on the Division, infantryman, and allow those who attend to have a look at a great selection of books and documents on 53rd Welsh Division.


These first two events are a trial format which we hope to refine, so pop down, and discover a whole aspect of the Second World War that really did affect everyone and is barely mentioned!


We also have members in the relevant uniform in attendance, and there will be a selection of demonstrations onhand to assist and illuminate the talks!

53rd Welsh Wiki!

Posted by Swiper on April 2, 2010 at 4:46 PM Comments comments (0)

There is now a growing 53rd Welsh wiki, this will answer many questions on what kit was used, what uniform was worn, and questions regarding where to buy reproduction uniforms from etc.


It is hoped it will be an invaluable resource for re-enactors, researchers, family history researchers and military historians.


Feel free to contribute to what will hopefully be one of the finest resources of its type online for public use!

Exercise Tiger Commemorative March - May 2010

Posted by Shivers on March 30, 2010 at 5:22 PM Comments comments (0)

On 29th May 2010, local historian and friend of the 53rd Welsh, Adrian Pitman, will be leading a walking team of WW2 re-enactors on the Exercise Tiger Commemorative March, raising money for BLESMA, the British Limbless Ex-Serviceman's Association.  


The march will follow the coastline of Devon along Slapton Sands, the location of the ill-fated American wartime exercise, during which German E-Boats infiltrated the line of ships carrying the troops to the training site at the sands and sank several ships, killing hundreds of men. The route will take the walkers from the Sherman Tank Memoiral at Torcross to the Fairmile Motor Launch at Dartmouth, which will then take them along the same sea route as that of Exercise Tiger.


Fusilier Kingsbridge from the 53rd Welsh will be part of the walking team. Please sponsor them at http://www.justgiving.com/Exercise-Tiger and help our wounded heroes of past and present.


You can find out more about the walk by clicking on the poster below.



The New Site

Posted by Shivers on March 30, 2010 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The 53rd Welsh's new site is nearly up and running. We hope you like it. Please post your comments on the Guestbook, or visit our forums. We will continue to add more historical information and event reports throughout the year.