R Force

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R Force
R Force.gif
R Force insignia. Engineers wore a blue background while signallers wore black.
Active 1944–1945
Country  United Kingdom
Engagements Operation Fortitude
Allied Invasion of France
Allied Invasion of Germany
Commanders
Notable
commanders
David Strangeways

R Force was a British deception force during World War II that consisted of armoured vehicles, field engineers and a wireless unit. During Operation Fortitude it attempted to exaggerate the strength of Allied forces in Britain, and deceive German intelligence about Allied intentions. Later it performed a similar role during the fighting in Western Europe in 1944–45. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Strangeways.

History[edit]

Lieutenant Colonel David Strangeways served in the North African Campaign with Brigadier Dudley Clarke's A Force, a special unit that used radio nets to give out false information, and decoy tanks and other vehicles to divert Axis forces away from the areas of Allied attack. Strangeways implemented a deception plan designed to fool the Axis powers as to the time and place of the Allied invasion of North Africa. Later in the campaign, using a combination of bluff, boldness and speed Strangeways was able to seize the German headquarters at Tunis before the enemy could destroy their secret documents.[1]

In 1943, after General Sir Bernard Montgomery took command of 21st Army Group, he requested that Strangeways take charge of R-Force, another deception force organised along the lines of A Force for the Allied invasion of France.[1] Strangeways chose the name R Force in the hope that if the Germans discovered it, they might assume that the R stood for reconnaissance. Indeed, it could operate as one, as it was equipped with three companies of light scout cars and a support company. These were equipped with special speakers so they could emulate the sounds of tanks in battle. R Force took over a number of Royal Engineers camouflage units. To their number was added personnel from "Turner's Department",[2] a deception organisation led by Colonel John Turner, that been engaged in the construction of decoy airfields and other military sites.[3] No. 5 Wireless Group was formed in January 1944 to provide R Force with a communications deception capability. Equipped with special radios and recording devices, it could simulate the radio traffic of a corps.[2] R Force's strength eventually rose to over 1,200. Royal Signals personnel serving with the unit wore a sleeve patch with a white R on a black background, while Royal Engineers wore one with a blue background.[4]

Strangeways devised and implemented the deception Operation Quicksilver, a significant part of Operation Fortitude, with the intent of fooling the Germans that the Allied invasion would take place in the Pas-de-Calais area.[5] After the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944, R Force moved to the continent where it operated under the 21st Army Group. It was one of the first units to enter Brussels and Rouen, and later conducted a deception campaign for the crossing of the Rhine River.[4]

R Force's exploits were dramatised in the 2004 TV drama Fooling Hitler starring Jason Durr.[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Arthur, Max (17 August 1998). "Obituary: Canon David Strangeways". The Independent (London). Retrieved 26 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Crowdy 2008, pp. 243–244.
  3. ^ Fairhead, Huby. "Decoys". Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Badge, Unit, 'R' Force". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Barbier 2009, pp. 83–84.
  6. ^ Hardy, Frances. "How Heartbeat star Jason Durr and his wife have 16 spare embryos to give away after having egg-donor twins". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 26 February 2012. 

References[edit]

  • Barbier, Mary Kathryn (2009). D-Day deception: Operation Fortitude & the Normandy Invasion. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole. ISBN 0-8117-3534-6. OCLC 502303857. 
  • Crowdy, Terry (2008). Deceiving Hitler: Double cross and deception in World War II. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84603-135-4. OCLC 230187832.