BAOR Battlefield Tour notes: Operation Bluecoat, 30-31 July 1944

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    Map No. 5 Progress of 8 Corps

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    Section II - Operations 31 July

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    Section I - Introductory Lecture
    Extracts taken from a lecture given by Major General G.L. VERNEY, DSO, MVO
    (Commander of 6th Guards Tank Brigade in July 1944) at CABOURG (NORMANDY) on 24 June 1947

    Training and Morale
    "I am going to talk this evening about the plan for Operation BLUECOAT. Before I do so, I want to say a few words about 15 (S) DIVISION and 6 GUARDS TANK BRIGADE, because the foundation for the successes which were achieved in the Battle of CAUMONT was laid a good many months before the battle took place.

    At the end of 1942 6 GUARDS TANK BRIGADE was converted from being an armoured brigade in GUARDS ARMOURED DIVISION to a CHURCHILL Tank Brigade and was posted to 15 (S) DIVISION.

    At that time, as many of you will remember, certain infantry divisions in UK consisted of two infantry brigades and one tank brigade.

    Throughout 1943 we spent a great deal of time training with 15 (S) DIVISION the other two brigades ow which were 44 (L) and 46 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADES. Even after the autumn of 1943, when we became and Independent Tank Brigade under SECOND ARMY we continued to do a lot of training with 15 (S) DIVISION, which then took in 227 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADE as its third brigade.

    The consequence of all this was that there was the closest possible co-operation between the tanks and the infantry at all levels down to junior NCOs. Everybody was not only acquainted with everybody else, but we all knew each other intimately, not only out training but also in the ordinary day-to-day life.

    15 (S) DIVISION landed in NORMANDY in June and we did not follow them till the middle of July. The odds against our going into our first battle under their command were long, and you can imaging the satisfaction with which we heard that we were to be teamed up with them for Operation BLUECOAT.

    To add to our good fortune we were under 8 CORPS who had also been our masters throughout 1943 and early part of 1944.

    In that incalculable factor called morale, it counted for a great deal that on the eve of our first action we found ourselves back at home receiving a warm welcome from numberless old friends from General O'CONNOR downwards."

    "This country we are going over is 'bocage' at its best. I need not describe it, but I would like to point out one thing - it is impassable to all except CHURCHILL tanks and men on their feet. It is extremely difficult to keep control of infantry battalions and companies, and to transport the infantry's wireless sets. Everyone else taking part in the battle, if they wanted to go forward or back, had to use the one and only road, that running from CAUMOND to ST. MARTIN, which also marked the 15 (S) DIVISION Right boundary."

    "At the time of the battle the weather was hot and dry, the tress in full leaf and the crops high. Even so, there were places where tanks were bogged, and I am sure the Operation could not have been carried out in Autumn or Winter."

    "As you will hear tomorrow, key officers such as Company Commanders and upwards had very little sleep and consequently began the Battle tired. There are many lessons we can draw from these hurried operations. I would like to stress on especially. This hurried laying-on of operations emphasises the great importance of good MT mach discipline."

    Fire Support
    (Note:- This part of the lecture was given by Brigadier R.J. STREATFIELD, DSO, (Commanding 190th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, in July 1944))

    "There were four principal factors affecting the artillery plan; I will give you a few details of each factor as I come to it.

    The first factor was short notice. On 27 July, the Corps Commander learnt that this action might be on, and he and he CCRA therefore took two Air OPs and flew over the ground. Then on 28 July the CCRA came with his forward H.Q. and parked it alongside H.Q. R.A. 15 (S) DIVISION at BALLEROY and at 7 p.m. that evening he held his first preliminary Conference. Then, on 29 July, the day before D Day, at 1200 hours, he held his first main Fire Plan Conference. At 1800 hours that evening he held his second one and by midnight the whole of the Fire Plan for the three Phases, including the traces and the concentrations tasks, had been issued. That could not have been done except by very good staff work between RA 8 CORPS and RA 15 (S) DIVISION, and that was made easy by the two HQ bing in one place. It follows, therefore, that the pan had to be extremely simple to get it out in the time.

    The second factor was ammunition. Provision of ammunition was very difficult, not because the ammunition was not there, but because there was very little tim and very little road space to get it up. On the night 28 July, 300 rounds per gun for the field artillery was dumped in the FDLs, that was all we had - just adequate, but not enough for a pre-bombardment and preliminary counter-battery programme, and to support the fighting troops as well; and so we had to decide which it was to be.

    The third factor was information. The information, as General VERNEY has already said, was extremely sketchy, chiefly because surprise was the Corp Commander's main requirement for this attack, and no patrolling was being done. The OPs had been able to get a little ground information, when 15 (S) DIVISION artillery was supporting the attack by 3 U.S. DIVISION on this sector on 24 July, but, as will be obvious when we see the ground, this did not amount to very much. As a result we had very few targets on which to do a pre-bombardment, and it tended to indicate the use of barrages rather than concentrations.

    The fourth and last factor was the question of the positioning of the artillery.That was difficult, because there was only the road down which we could get the guns and it was impossible to take them across country; therefore, we had to cover all three Phases and support the troops when they got to the objective from our original positions; both field and medium guns had to be sited as far forward as possible; they were moved up the night before D Day.

    Now, I will say a word about the artillery available It was not a very big gunner concentration, such as we came to know later on in the campaign. We had the usual two regiments of 11 ARMOURED DIVISION plus 25 Field Regiment, and 77 Medium Regiment, one of the medium regiments of 8 AGRA, in direct support. There were the three field regiments of 15 (S) DIVISION and 63 Medium Regiment in support; and there was the rest of 8 AGRA, which consisted of two more medium regiments and one heavy regiment.

    The affiliations were perfectly normal; 131 Field Regiment with 227 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADE, 181 Field Regiment with 44 (L) INFANTRY BRIGADE and 190 Field Regiment with 46 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADE. Their OP teams married up in the normal way, with the usual OP teams from my regiment with 9 CAMERONIANS. In addition, we had some OPs in the tanks of 6 GUARDS TANK BRIGADE. They had practised manning OP tanks in YORKSHIRE, and when we sent them over to marry up the evening before, they had no difficulty; we had one OP in a tank with each battalion. We also had the usual tie up of medium OPs, one OP team from the direct support regiment with each attacking brigade. The only difficulty with the tank OPs, which will come out tomorrow, that was, in Phase III, 4 TANK COLDSTREAM GUARDS and 3 TANK SCOTS GUARDS, having been already used in Phase II, were not able to change over their OPs, because there were not enough tanks to go round.

    Generally, the gunner plan was to have no preliminary bombardment or counter battery; the whole weight of the artillery support was to be used to support the attacking troops and I will briefly explain the plan for each phase of the attack. These plans were very simple.

    In Phase I, from H minus 2 to H plus 20 minutes, we fired concentrations on nine targets which we thought were strongpoints in the area of the attack. After that everything was at call. During that Phase the CO of the field regiment who was acting for the CRA said on the air at 0900 hours that Phase II would start at 0955 hours, and that gave us time to get ready for the barrage. The barrage was the support for Phase II, and there are one or two points to be stressed about the barrage.

    Firstly, it was a very broad one - about 2,300 yards wide - and therefore all three regiments of the divisional artillery were used, and all the batteries were spread over the front line of the barrage. The barrage lasted 110 minutes and there was no main pause in it. The rate of fire was 'slow' and the speed of advance was 100 yards in four minutes.

    Secondly, 75% of the ammunition used was airburst, with the 222 fuse and not with the VT fuse which we got later, and which was much better. I think there were two main reasons for this; first, the tanks were going to lead, and they accepted the danger; and secondly, we had found when fighting in the 'bocage' country, theta the ground-burst 25 pounder did extraordinary little damage to the Boches who were always well dug in. If we got a good airburst, it always compelled him to go to ground.

    Those were the two reasons for the decision; because of the little ammunition available, and because it was rather a broad barrage with not very many shells coming down, and we hoped that in that way we would spread more alarm and despondency that would have been possible with the ground-burst.

    In Phase III again, there was a smaller barrage with much the same idea, 75% airburst and again no main pause. In this barrage we had only two field regiments in the front line of the barrage, with the other regiment, 190 Field Regiment superimposed, so that, as the direct support regiment of 46 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADE, it could be taken off for opportunity shooting if necessary. I should say that in both these barrages we had medium regiments superimposed 300 yards ahead, two medium regiments in the first barrage, and one in the second. DF tasks for all Phases were made out, put on traces and issued down to company level, so that they were well known."
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    Map No. 6 Battlefield Tour: Operation BLUECOAT

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    Section II - Itinerary
    (Time has been allowed at each Stand for debuting and embossing)

    Event/Account - Speaker

    1010 hours - Arrive STAND 1 (703589)
    A. Description of ground and enemy information - Conducting Officer
    B. Situation at start of Operation - OC C Company 10 HLI
    C. Plan for Phase I - Commander 6 Guards Tank Brigade
    D. Plan for Right battalion in Phase I - CO 9 Camerionians
    E. Action of 4 Tank Grenadier Guards in support of Right and Left battalions - Second-in-Command 4 Tank Grenadier Guards
    F. Action of Right Battalion - CO 9 Cameronians
    G. Action of Left battalion - CO 2 Gordons
    H. Description of route to STAND 2 - Conducting Officer

    1100 hours - Depart STAND I

    1105 hours Arrive STAND 2 (697565)
    A. Description of ground - Conducting Officer
    B. Plan for Phase II - Commander 6 Guards Tank Brigade
    C. Action of 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - Second-in-Command 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    D. Action of 10 HLI - OC C Company 10 HLI
    E. Action of 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - OC 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    F. Description of route to STAND 3 - Conducting Officer

    1150 hours Depart STAND 2

    1200 hours Arrive STAND 3 (713537)
    A. Description of ground - Conducting Officer
    B. Planning by 3 Tank Scots Guards - CO 3 Tank Scots Guards
    C. Advance of 2 A & SH to line of road SEPT VENTS - CAHAGNES - CO 2 A & SH
    D. Advance of 3 Tank Scots Guards to objective - CO 3 Tank Scots Guards
    E. Advance of 2 A & SH to objective - CO 2 A & SH
    F. Dispositions of 3 Tank Scots Guards on objective - CO 3 Tank Scots Guards
    G. Counter attack on Point 226 feature - OC S Squadron 3 Tank Scots Guards
    Issue Problem (See Section IV)

    1300 hours Lunch and consideration of Problem

    1400 hours Answers to Problem
    H. Plan adopted for Phase III - Commander 6 Guard Tank Brigade
    J. Description of route to STAND 4 - Conducting Officer

    1425 hours Depart STAND 3

    1440 hours Arrive STAND 4 (694513)
    A. Description of ground - Conducting Officer
    B. Action of 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - Second-in-Command 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    C. Action of 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - OC 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    D. Action of 4 Tank Grenadier Guards - Second-in-Command 4 Tank Grenadier Guards
    E. Counter attacks on Hill 309 - Second-in-Command 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    F. Counter attacks on Hill 309 - OC 2 Troop, 1 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards
    G. Movements of artillery - CO 190 Field Regiment Royal Artillery
    H. Casualties and closing remarks - Commander - 6 Guards Tank Brigade
    J. Action of 11 Armoured Division - GOC 11 Armoured Division
    K. The Enemy Story - BBC War Correspondent
    Summing Up

    1545 hours Depart STAND 4
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    Object of Stand
    a. To obtain a good general view over the battle area.
    b. To study Phase I of the Battle.

    Note: It is possible to find two other stands from which to study the action of the Right and Left battalions in greater detail. The following approximate positions are suggested for these stands:-
    For Right battalion - 696588
    For Left battalion - 710587

    A. Description of ground and enemy information - Conducting Officer
    "You are now standing about 500 yards South of the village of CAUMONT, looking over the area in which the operations of 15 (S) DIVISION and 6 GUARDS TANK BRIGADE took place on 30 July 1944.

    On the skyline to your front are two prominent high hills: the Left hand one, and higher of the two, with thick trees on top is Hill 361 - the final objective of 43 DIVISION of 30 CORPS. The Right hand one is Hill 309 - it is possible to see the quarry on the near face if it just below the summit; this hill was the final objective of 15 (S) DIVISION. Still on the skyline and 12 degrees Right of Hill 309 is the spire of the church in ST. MARTIN DES BESACES. The road on the Right of this field runs to ST. MARTIN, and, beyond, SEPT VENTS, was the boundary between 15 (S) DIVISION and 11 ARMOURED DIVISION.

    Reference point, the summit of Hill 361 - at five o'clock is a large open area in the middle distance. The highest point of the area is Point 226 (Grid bearing 172 degrees).

    In the foreground at the bottom Right-hand corner of the field in which we are now standing a group of grey buildings are part of the hamlet of LE BOURG. Directly beyond LE BOURG on the rather higher ground, a number of roofs and a church tower visible among the trees are in the village of SEPT VENTS.

    Over the Left front corner of the same field, about 1,000 yards away, where the ground begins to rise again, it is possible to see the most Westerly tip of LUTAIN WOOD.

    You will notice how few features stand out at all obviously between here and the final objective, and how difficult it is, even with an undisturbed view such as you have had, to pick out individual places. You can therefore appreciate the great difficulty experienced by officers trying to view the ground before the Operation started from FDLs on top of the ridge.

    I would like to remind you briefly of the enemy situation.

    As far as the British knew, the only German division in this area was 326 Infantry Division. This division was holding a long front of some 10 or 15 kilometres and the only Grenadier Regiment opposite 8 CORPS was 752. This regiment was believed to have two battalions in the line each approximately 500 men strong. One battalion was in the area immediately South and East of LUTAIN WOOD, and the other in the area of SEPT VENTS.

    The enemy front line had not altered for several weeks, and it was therefore likely that many mines and booby traps would be encountered.

    The German artillery amounted to about 100 guns of all types and 70 mortars. The enemy was not thought to have any armour in the immediate area."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    B. Situation at start of Operation - Major I.H. MURRAY, M.C., OC C Company 10 HLI

    "10 HLI was holding the CAUMONT portion of the ridge immediately prior to the Battle.

    The ridge in general was held with the minimum numbers of troops but due to the shape of the town we had three companies forward. They were located in the gardens on the Southern side of the town and were so overlooked that all movement was forbidden by day. All supplies were brought up b the reserve company by night. This company also provided what patrols were permitted, but they were severely limited both in numbers and scope in order not to arouse suspicion. The Americans prior to our arrival had also done very little patrolling.

    Owing to this lack of patrolling, the restriction of movement, and the reservation of the battalion OP for a strictly limited number of officers, very few of our officers knew much of the ground over which they were to operate, and some, as myself, had never even looked over the top of the ridge."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    C. Plan for Phase I - Major General G.L. VERNEY, DSO, MVO, Commander 6 Guards Tank Brigade

    "The Start Line was the line of the road behind you.

    Objectives -
    Right, SEPT VENTS and the "area beyond it" to be captured by 9 CAMERONIANS with 4 TANK COLDSTREAM GUARDS less one squadron and some FLAILS.
    Left, LUTAIN WOOD to be captured by 2 GORDONS with eight FLAILS and nine CROCODILES and one squadron 4 TANK COLDSTREAM GUARDS.

    Air Support -
    Between 0615 and 0645 hours two enemy mortar positions, two machine gun posts and LUTAIN WOOD were to be attacked by fighter bombers.

    Artillery Support -
    Concentrations were to be fired by the divisional artillery and part of 8 AGRA between 0655 and 0715 hours on selected targets. Smoke was to be put down to screen off Hill 309.

    H Hour was 0655 hours.

    You must imagine a grey sultry morning, with low cloud. In the confined space on the North side of the ridge is a milling crowd of infantry, tanks, half-tacks, FLAILS, CROCODILES and all the rest sorting themselves out."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    D. Plan for Right battalion in Phase I - Brigadier, R.M. VILLIERS, DSO, CO 9 Camerionians

    "My battalion, 9 CAMERONIANS, was temporarily under command 227 (H) INFANTRY BRIGADE for the Operation. My first warning that we were to be involved was received about midnight 28/29 July, and we were relieved in the line that same night, about thirty hours before H Hour. When the Battle started, we had been without a proper night's sleep for four nights, and we were extremely tired before the Battle bagman. I think this had its influence on the Battle; although we took our objectives successfully, it took much longer to dos so than had been hoped. Had we been fresh, I believe the tasks would have been completed more quickly and the effect would have been felt throughout the subsequent operations.

    Battle procedure was normal and worked well. After attending Brigade 'O' Group during the morning of 29 July, a combined recce was carried out by myself and CO 4 TANK GRENADIER GUARDS in the afternoon and the plan was made. After we had held our own 'O' Groups, combined infantry/tank recess were carried out on the company/squadron or troop level and again orders were issued. The final co-ordinating Conference was not held till 0530 hours on the morning of the attack - the reason was to give company and platoon commanders a chance to get some sleep, but it was a mistake. The result was that final orders were rushed.

    The outline plan for the battalion was briefly this:-
    Our Start Line was the main road West of CAUMONT about VILLLENEUVE and we attacked almost due South with two companies forward.

    On the Right, C Company led with an objective about 500 - 600 yards South of SEPT VENTS. It was told to by-pass any opposition which delayed it.

    Of the two reserve companies, B Company on the Right had the task of mopping up behind C Company, and in particular the village of SEPT VENTS. A Company followed D Company on the Left, and was to halt about LE BOURG in order to give Left flank protection to the battalion position during consolidation. I had decided that carriers could not move up across country owing to the thick hedges and steep banks, so anti-tank guns, mortars, etc, were formed up so as to move by the battalion axis, which was the narrow sunken lane from VILLENEUVE to LE BOURG, and thence by the main road CAUMONT - SEPT VENTS to previously allotted areas. At the he'd of this F Echelon transport was Battalion Tac HQ, a group of five vehicles, which was in the sunken lane just South of the Start Line."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    E. Action of 4 Tank Grenadier Guards in support of Right and Left battalions - Lieutenant Colonel C.M.F. DEAKIN, Second-in-Command 4 Tank Grenadier Guards

    "First of all I would mention that, at that time, the battalion was organised in three squadrons, each of five troops, each of three tanks. The battalion had moved up to assembly area during the night 28/29 July and 29 July was spent in 'O' Groups and joint recess with the infantry. The recess were carried out under some secrecy as it was essential not to let the Germans realise that there were tanks opposite them. Black berets were not allowed to be worn and the time spent in recce was limited. It was not fully appreciated during this recce that the thickness of the banks in each hedgerow would tend to split up the tank/infantry formations so much. However, the confidence was due to the fact that we had lived and worked together for a considerable period in ENGLAND, and without this period together there is no doubt that the Operation would have been much more difficult, much slower, and more costly in men and materials."

    Allotment of Troops
    "On the Right with 9 CAMERONIANS was my battalion (less 3 Squadron) plus two troops of FLAILS. On the Left with 2 GORDONS was 3 Squadron plus eight FLAILS and nine CROCODILE tanks. Battalion HQ was on the Right and we were working on a battalion net."

    "I will now deal with the action at LUTAIN WOOD before coming back to deal with SEPT VENTS, whence Brigadier VILLIERS will take up the infantry story again.

    The attack on LUTAIN WOOD was planned by CO 2 GORDONS to go in two up, Right A Company, Left B Company. The object was to get the two further outside corners of the wood and then to pass C and D Companies through the middle of the wood and then reorganise. The tank allotment was two troops and one 95 mm tank with each leading company. Each tank group was commanded by a Captain, one was the Squadron 2IC, the other the Squadron Recce Office, each in his 95 mm tank. Squadron HQ and the reserve troop remained with the infantry battalion Tac HQ.

    The FUP, just behind the CAUMONT ridge, was reached at last light on 29 July and the infantry married up with their tanks at about 0300 hours on 30 July.

    Tanks and infantry crossed the Start Line at 0655 hours, 30 July. The first stages of the battle went according to plan, the opposition consisting mostly of sniping and Bazooka work. As the advance continued the tanks tended to get split up owing to the 'bocage' country and this resulted in frequent actions by single tanks supporting a few troops. The country also made it difficult for tanks to see each other and, in one instance, when a troop leader disappeared round a bank and into a wood, and was killed, the troop sergeant failed to see where he had gone and headed straight on. He penetrated to a depth of about four miles, shooting up many Germans on the way and remained behind the German lines for about five hours, eventually returning and rejoining his squadron.

    During the second Phase of the attack, which was the advance of C and D Companies, the CROCODILES were brought into use since they were the only weapons which could deal with the deep pits the Germans had dug. They advanced with their companies but were unable to actually flame the edge of the wood, although they did a good job flaming the hedgerows approaching it from the North. The infantry were furthermore supported by the tanks which had already reached the outside corners of the wood. They succeeded in penetrating the wood but on reaching the far side came under very heavy mortar and Spandau fire from the high ground to the South East of the wood on the CAHAGNES road. The Infantry Commander then reorganised the battalion and withdraw the company which was under the heaviest fire to a firm base North of the wood. The other company was also withdrawn behind the wood. The tanks continued to keep the enemy under fire for several hours. This battle continued all the morning in varying degrees of intensity, and this hindered 3 TANK SCOTS GUARDS in its move up to the Start Line for the second Phase of the Operation. On the Left of LUTAIN WOOD, 43 (W) DIVISION had been unable to get very far and was unable to cross the line of the stream running East from the wood. One interesting point arose during the tank actions in that an enemy MG post was located on an air photograph but could not be seen on the ground. One troop of tanks therefore engaged the target from the air photograph using all its six Besas, and on examination of the enemy post it was found that it had succeeded knocking it out."

    "Now we will follow the action of the rest of the battalion with 9 CAMERONIANS on the Right. The tanks arrived in the FUP behind the CAUMONT ridge at last light 9 July and married up with their infantry at about 0330 hours 30 July. The infantry plan once again was to attack with two companies up, Right C Company, Left D Company. The tank plan was to allot a squadron, less two troops, in support of C Company under the Squadron Leader, and two troops under command of the Squadron Second-in-Command to D Company. In addition, overhead fire support was to be given by 2 Squadron from the orchards on the CAUMONT ridge. The Start Line was crossed a few minutes late, but thereafter the first part of the battle went according to plan and, on the Right, the first bound was reached satisfactorily with tank troop covering tank troop. On the Left, however, due to a sunken lane which was a tank obstacle, the tanks became separated from their infantry: they managed to rejoin them later, pass through and be in position to support another infantry company on to its final objective South East of SEPT VENTS. On the Right, the tanks hit a minefield and the Squadron Leader's tank and three troop leaders' tanks were blown up. This necessitated considerable changing of horses. Eventually a way round and through was found and the tanks continued to support the infantry in small packets. Due to the delay caused by the minefield the infantry pushed on in to the village SEPT VENTS and asked for more tank support. Two troops were ordered forward from 2 Squadron together with the AA CRUSADER tanks. These latter had a very good shoot in the village with their Oerlikons. This whole action tended to be small individual battles from hedgerow to hedgerow and from the front to the back of each orchard, with the tanks supporting whatever infantry were nearest to them or whoever came and asked for help. The tanks bore in mind the whole time the necessity for pushing on either with or without their infantry. Opposition was mainly from small arms and Bazookas - no anti-tank guns or AFVs were encountered."

    "Various lessons and experiences were gained as a result of this first battle of this battalion.

    Firstly, the battles in this 'bocage' country were going to be very slow and intimate, involving numerous minor actions on the section/tank level.

    Secondly, trust and confidence between the two arms was more than ever necessary, owing to the close nature of the country and the great difficulties experienced by tanks in locating their own infantry.

    Thirdly, the tanks must push on to their objective, if necessary without their infantry. We found later that this paid tremendous dividends both physical and psychological from both arms' point of view and should be considered a point of honour as well as a tactical doctrine.

    Fourthly, the most dangerous time was when the tanks stopped moving; firstly because the tanks were bazooka'd and secondly because the enemy Spandaus and mortars regained their confidence which was shaken when tanks were on the move, and came to life to deal with our infantry.

    Fifthly, if you have to stop, all surrounding hedgerows and all trees up to their tops should be sprayed with Besa."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    F. Action of Right Battalion - Brigadier R.M. VILLIERS, DSO, CO 9 Cameronians

    "Our Start Line was a very obvious one, and it was accurately registered by the German artillery and mortars. As soon as the tanks showed up on the ridge, the defensive fired came down and caused heavy casualties in both leading companies.

    On the Right, C Company was late crossing the Start Line. This was caused by a misunderstanding about our Right boundary, and it was only discovered when checking up with 11 ARMOURED DIVISIN on our Right that it was our job to clear a track which was the dividing line. OC C Company had to re-allot his routes and boundaries accordingly. It was too late to alter H Hour, and the Company Commander decided to forego the advantage of crossing punctually in order to ensure that the new orders were thoroughly understood before he started. I think he was right. When C Company got going, it went fast and well.

    It developed into a platoon commander's battle, supported sometimes by a troop of tanks, sometimes by a single tank. There was considerable opposition in the village, but C Company by-passed this and reached its objective, where it surprised a battery of mortars actually in action. Behind C Company, B Company took a long time to mop up the village. Originally it had no tanks allotted to it and I think this was a mistake. It could well have used a troop or two of tanks and a troop of CROCODILES. Although C Company was on its objective by about 0900 hours it was mid-day before B Company reported the village clear. Having done so, the CSM found 20 Germans in the same orchards as Company HQ! That sort of thing happens in this thick 'bocage'.

    On the Left, the battle did not start very well. Among the casualties on the Start Line was the Company Commander. This Company had only one other Officer, who had just arrived as a reinforcement. They lost direction, and also their tanks: they lost touch with battalion HQ, and they soon came to a full stop. A Company was following up, and OC A Company, realising the situation, showed commendable initiative in taking over with his own company the role allotted to D Company. His 18 Set had been damaged, and he could not refer to me, but he found D Company's tanks, and eventually reached its objective, leaving the remnants of D Company to hold LE BOURG and give Left flank protection.

    On the battalion axis there was a chapter of incidents. The first was a CHURCHILL tank which got stuck right across the axis minus one track. It had to be removed by an Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV), and that took time. Then as we started to move forward, the RE Recce car went up on a mine and a FLAIL was called for, but as it manoeuvred past the RE vehicle it also blew up on a mine, before it started to flail. Both these vehicles had to be removed by an ARV before another FLAIL went up and down the lane. As soon as we started forward again, my scout car went up, and with it my rear link and forward control set. After another flailing operation Tac HQ eventually reached LE BOURG, and so we got our F Echelon transport up to companies; this had, however, taken a matter of hours.

    Consolidation was well in hand when I arrived on the objective, and tanks and infantry were pouring through. We had about 70 casualties in the battle, but it was gratifying to tune in that afternoon on a captured German wireless set to the BBC news and hear the announcer say that SEPT VENTS was among the objectives captured in the new offensive."
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    Section III - Personal Accounts


    G. Action of Left battalion - Brigadier The Earl of Caithness, DSO, CO 2 Gordons

    "My Battalion moved at 0215 hours to a FUP on the North side of the CAUMONT ridge. I got an hour or two's sleep in a barn there. We then had breakfast and moved with the tanks up to the Start Line for the attack, which was the road running from CAUMONT to LE REPAS.

    My plan was for A and B Companies to lead the attack, each supported by two troops or tanks. A Company on the Right was to capture the orchard area on the West of LUTAIN WOOD, B Company on the Left was to capture the orchard area on the East of the Wood. D Company was to follow A and B Companies and taken LIEU MONDANT, supported by one troop of tanks. When this had been done, C Company was to come up on D Company's Right and these two companies were to attack right through the wood mopping up any enemy they found in it, and hold positions on the far side. They were to be supported by CROCODILES up to the forward edge of the wood and these were to flame the hedges leading up to the wood and the front edge of it. Once the four companies were in position round the wood, I could then set about any further clearing of the inside of the wood that might be necessary. It was not thought that there would be much enemy opposition.

    The attack started at 0655 hours and the leading companies had not got very far before they found that the Boche was there all right. However, although they were held up a bit by machine gun posts, they dealt with them effectively with the help of their tanks and got to their objectives. At the same time D Company went forward and got LIEU MONDANT.

    C Company then went forward on D Company's Right and started its attack through the wood. The Boche was holding the forward edge of the wood quite strongly but the companies attacked very well and succeeded in killing or capturing many of the Germans holding these posts while others, not so brave, as soon as our troops got near them, retreated into the wood. The CROCODILES proved rather a failure, as, although they flamed the hedges leading up to the wood, they were stopped by a high bank from getting right up to the edge of the Wood. However, we found out from a Prisoner afterwards that their morale effect was fairly great and that the Boche didn't like them much.

    C and D Companies then went through the wood and C Company reached its objective on the far side without much trouble, one section of the company killing or capturing a party of 2 Officers and 10 men in a post in a lane. D Company, however, came under heavy mortar fire as soon as it got to the far side of the wood. It had a lot of casualties and was forced to withdraw a bit. It was obvious that it would never be able to hold the objective I had given in as it was in very open country, and, as I could equally well hold my position without it being there, I withdrew it to a position in reserve on the North side of the wood near where I had got Battalion HQ.

    B Company had some trouble reorganising on its objective as the orchard in which it was was mined with anti-personnel mines and there were anti-tank mines on the verges of the road. The company had some casualties and a LOYD CARRIER towing one of the 6 pounder guns to that area went up on an anti-tank mine and OC B Company and the gun detachment were wounded. I sent a party of Pioneers to the area and they cleared and taped lanes in the orchard. The task of clearing the whole area of mines, however, was too big for the Pioneer Platoon, and I asked Brigade HQ to send up a RE Platoon to do it.

    We were shelled and mortared a bit in our position round the wood for the remainder of the day but had no further trouble from the wood itself, though a few Germans came out of it and gave themselves up. We found out afterwards that the Germans had got a strong defensive position in the wood - well sited and camouflaged machine gun posts and deep dug-outs. It and the area round it had been held by about two or perhaps three companies and, if their resistance had been a bit more determined, I think they might have held us for quite a long time.

    As it got light on the following day (31 July) some of the companies were fired at from the edge of the wood, so I ordered each Company in turn to send a fighting patrol to beat through the wood to try and round up whatever Germans were left in it. We got a few prisoners in this way and after that were left in peace.

    During the morning the battalion was ordered to move forward to LA TEINTURIERE to a reserve position behind 2 A & SH and 10 HLI, with the exception of C Company which was to remain behind as a guard for the open Left flank of the Division. We moved at midday and were in position by the evening. There was a possibility of an attack from the Left flank as 2 A & SH had been counter attacked from direction during the day, but had driven off the attack. However, no attack on us materialised."
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    H. Description of route to STAND 2 - Conducting Officer

    "On the way to the next STAND, which is on the PHASE II Start Line, you will pass through the villages of LE BOURG and SEPT VENTS. You will notice what a long distance there is between PHASE I objectives and the Start Line."
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    STAND 2 (697565)
    (Spectators stand facing South)

    Object of Stand
    a. To emphasise the distance between PHASE I and objectives and the PHASE II Start Line.
    b. To study the actions of 10 HLI and 4 TANK COLDSTREAM GUARDS in PHASE II.

    A. Description of ground - Conducting Officer

    Description of Ground

    "You are not standing at the Western end of the Start Line for Phase II, some 1,000 yards beyond the Phase I objectives.

    Again, on the skyline to your Right front Hill 309 and the quarry are clearly visible.

    Following the skyline to the Left from Hill 309 through 17 degrees, there is a lower but prominent hill with a smooth round top - that is Point 280: at seven o'clock to that hill are a small number of grey roofed buildings among the trees - those buildings are at the Western end of the village of LES LOGES.

    Another 16 degrees Left of Point 280 and still on the skyline is Point 226 (Grid bearing 151 degrees)."

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    STAND 2

    B. Plan for Phase II - Major General G.L. VERNEY, DSO, MVO, Commander 6 Guards Tank Brigade

    "At this stand we deal with the Right sector of PHASE II.

    The plan was for 10 HLI and 4 TANK COLDSTREAM GUARDS to advance and seize a small ridge just South of cross roads.

    They were to cross this Start Line where we are not standing at 0955 hours, at which time the barrage is due to start.

    From 0855 to 0955 hours we have had the medium bomber effect on a large area round LES LOGES, and it has been impressed on us that we must do all we can to follow it up closely.

    We have heard the tremendous heavy bomber effort on our Left which has been most encouraging and we have seen the bomber flying in very low.

    So far the Operation has gone very satisfactorily. Both objectives in PHASE I have been captured, i.e. SEPT VENTS and LUTAIN WOOD, but the latter has not been cleared.

    We do not realise that the area between them is still strongly held."
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    STAND 2

    C. Action of 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - Lieutenant Colonel A.W.A. SMITH, DSO, Second-in-Command 4 Tank Coldstream Guards

    "My battalion had harbour the night before the battle some 1,000 yards to the North of the road TORIGNI - CAUMONT: we had had a good but short night. We were to move forward and marry up with out infantry in the same FUP as had been used for PHASE I as soon as the GRENADIERS were clear of it. Marrying up was far from satisfactory: it was very hurried and time only allowed Squadron and Company Commanders to satisfy themselves that their opposite numbers had arrived. No real marrying up on the troop/platoon level took place. I do not believe that this could have produced good results, had it not been for the many days and nights we had spent together training in ENGLAND. In fact, throughout this action, this factor of mutual confidence and trust is always in evidence.

    The leading squadrons left their FUPs and crossed the road as arranged but were at once held up by bumping the tail of the GRENADIERS' column - you will recollect the large number of armoured vehicles they had attached to them.

    In due course the squadrons moved forward again in the order 3, 1, Battalion HQ, 2, keeping LE BOURG on their Left and SEPT VENTS on their Right. On crossing the road, 3 Squadron, in the lead, lost two tanks on mines, and there was further delay while a way round was found.

    The advance to the Start Line then continued two squadrons up, 3 Squadron on the Right and 1 Squadron on the Left. Almost as soon s they reached the line SEPT VENTS - LUTAIN WOOD, they encountered enemy posts situated in the buildings, orchards and hedgerows.

    The result of this opposition and the difficulty the tanks were experiencing in moving across this type of country and keeping direction soon caused the tanks and infantry to get separated. Instead of a straight-forward moved from FUP to Start Line, we had already been delayed twice, and now we were being forced to fight to reach our Start Line. We were, therefore, well behind time and it became obvious that unless the advance was speeded up all advantage of the barrage for PHASE II would certainly be lost.

    It was therefore decided to order the tanks forward and leave the infantry to follow as best as they could. The tanks reached the Start Line about 1030 hours, some forty minutes late and pushed straight up to their objectives - the HERVIEUX cross roads and the high ground beyond.

    Practically no opposition was encountered and both squadrons reached their objectives about mid-day, 3 Squadron on the Right pushing forward some 1,200 yards.

    The tanks were later joined in their positions by the infantry."
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    STAND 2

    D. Action of 10 HLI - Major I.H. MURRAY, MC, OC C Company 10 HLI

    "The Battalion had very little rest overnight, for it was fairly late by the time that the handover in the line was completed and then it was necessary to march back and dig in. I do not think that any of the Officers slept at all, as there were Conferences all night, including one at which we were introduced to our tank commanders. The fact that we had been in the line for some time, combined with this restless night, resulted in the Battalion being in a rather tired condition even in the FUP.

    The marrying up with the tanks at the FUP went off rather vaguely, and then there followed a much longer wait than had been anticipated. The morning was chilly and spirits sank. The only good thing was that the shelling was moderate.

    We left the FUP in a great hurry when orders did come through, and there was a lot of bumping and boring between units on the way up to the line of the main road CAUMONT - TORIGNI. We got somewhat out of position, but when we crossed the road we were able to re-orientate ourselves.

    The plan was for us to follow the leading battalion, then pass through them on a two company front in square formation. A Company Right forward, B Company Left, C Company Right rear and D Company Left. During the initial stages Battalion HQ and S Company were to move centrally, and later to follow whichever flank offered the greater chance of success. The route ran from East of LE BOURG across country to the Western end of the Start Line and thence down the main road. The Left column was to follow almost the same route to the Start Line and then to keep about 200 yards to the East.

    Although our anticipated passage through the leading troops was expected to take place about the high ground between SEPT VENTS and LUTAIN WOOD, our Start Line was some 1,000 yards South of this point, and we would therefore have to fight our way to it.

    We reached the high ground to which I referred successfully and deployed with our tanks. There was a hold up here as SEPT VENTS had not yet been cleared. Eventually we moved off. As I was commanding C Company in the Right hand column, I cannot speak much of the Left. We found however that it was continually pressing in on us, and were told that this was because the liaison with the Left flank had partially broken down and it was being fired upon by a unit on its Left. It finally advanced throughout the Operation about two hundred yards to our Left instead of by the route laid down.

    By the time we left the high ground we were very far behind time, and it was obviously impossible to reach the Start Line punctually. For some reason that we were never told, we learnt that the barrage was to continue as planned and that we ere to get to the Start Line as soon as we could. Some considerable misunderstanding was caused because we had been told that the air attack would very probably not take place and while we were moving forward an air attack did take place; it was therefore an already confused battalion that moved off. As we began to advance we heard the fire of our artillery opening up on our Start Line assume 1,000 yards ahead. Battalion HQ and S Company began moving on the Left axis, as, so far, it appeared that most of the opposition was on the Right.

    The country became increasingly thick and although direction was never lost, we were frequently lost on our maps. The maps did not of course make allowance for the height of foliage, and thus whenever one reached what one had hoped would be a vantage point, although the ground was high one could seen little or nothing. Owing to the thickness of the country it was necessary to keep very close behind the leading company, and contact was lost with the flanks. We had, however, been told not to worry about this unduly as deep penetration was what mattered most.

    As the country became thicker it became impossible to liaise with the tanks who in the earlier stages had given invaluable support. Progress was slowed down by the fear that they would shoot up our men, and this did unfortunately happen on one or two occasions. This slowing down permitted the enemy snipers to do considerable execution. In this very thick country they were a great nuisance. There was some delay caused by a wooden box minefield, but on the whole there were very few mines laid on our front. The enemy posts that were encountered by the leading companies offered very little resistance. It appears that they were so overcome by the capabilities of our tanks that they wished to surrender before the tanks could shoot at them. There were, however, several small parties who remained concealed, and later shot at and delayed transport as it came forward.

    In due course, the tanks suddenly left us without a warning and went on alone at a faster pace. As opposition had now practically ceased, we were able to make better progress ourselves. It was not long before we reached the Start Line, and from there to HERVIEUX crossroads was merely a route march.

    A Company pushed on to the road junction just North of LA MORICHESSE where it came into contact with an enemy battalion which was apparently forming up for a counter attack. A Company did not attack them but dispersed them by heavy fire and later withdrew unopposed. Meanwhile C Company dug in in an orchard in the HERVIEUX cross roads area to form a firm base for the battalion, and we rejoined our tanks once more.

    During the whole of the Operation the wireless had been unusually ineffective, and as the runners had the greatest difficulty in moving about, contact with Headquarters was well nigh impossible."
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    STAND 2

    E. Action of 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards - Major J.E. TOLLEMACHE, MC, OC 3 Squadron 4 Tank Coldstream Guards

    "My squadron moved on the Right. May I emphasises the difficulties of the infantry/tank marriage, caused by a lack of recce for security reasons. Squadron and Troop Commanders were allowed a two minute glimpse each through the missing tile in the roof of a house : all that could be recognised was Hill 309, ST. MARTIN and SEPT VENTS, and none of the intermediate objectives or points of interest could be seen. A RV was arranged where a track meets a road on the CAUMONT ridge where we should meet our Company. Troop and Platoon Commander then met in a field behind CAUMONT to tie up the various signals, names of tanks, and tactics to be employed as far as possible. It was lucky that I had trained with this same Company Commander in ENGLAND, so we know each other's form.

    On the morning of the attack, we got caught up in wire and high banks on the way to the RV. There was some mortar fire, but we joined up all right with out infantry. We were, however, unable to open up into our two troops up, two troops in support formation, until after we had passed through what was thought to be an American minefield just over the ridge, where a GRENADIER tank had been disabled. However, we opened up coming down the hill and caught up our infantry by LE BOURG.

    On crossing the road we got on to another minefield and two tanks went up; the remainder appeared to miss it, probably by following each others tracks. A sniper in a tree was brought down near this point by Besa.

    We then had the greatest difficulty in getting forward in formation owing to the high banks and sunken tracks round the fields. The infantry could get through places where we could not, and the tanks where the infantry could not.

    Level with SEPT VENTS we came up against quite considerable opposition dug in behind hedgerows and in farms. These were pointed out to us by Verey lights and dealt with, and as we crossed over the hedges we saw German infantry getting up and surrendering to our infantry. We found we had overrun the positions rather than dominate them. We shot up the farm houses and figures were seen running away.

    It was now that we got the CO's message to leave our infantry and push on. About the most unpleasant part, apart from the teeth-shattering bumping over the banks, was the barrage of apples dropping into the tanks on to the crews' heads, and the breaking apple tree branches, as of course tank commanders had their heads out except when under exceptional mortar fire.

    We crossed the SEPT VENTS - CAUMONT road about 400 yards South of SEPT VENTS and continued towards HERVIEUX with only four or five tanks in sight.

    We felt very elated that we had broken through the crust of resistance, but on the other hand highly apprehensive of meeting an 88 mm, so we kept well off the road. It was by now sweltering hot. Actually behind us now is a typical 'bocage' obstacle, a sunken lane bordered by high banks.

    We dealt with houses and possible enemy positions as we roared along in a sort of crazy steeple chase, with no formation and many tanks out of touch with each other owing to A and B sets in many cases being bumped off net. Being on a Battalion net was not a success in such enclosed country where many orders have to be given by the Squadron Leader.

    The whole time we were being urged on by the CO, who was right up in his tank, to race on and not to lose the barrage.

    We gained the high ground beyond HERVIEUX about 1130 hours, and about half an hour later 1 Squadron came up on our Left, and the infantry arrived about an hour after that. After the infantry had arrived Germans started to infiltrate back round our Right flank, but the appearance of the tanks drove them back. The tanks were of course arranged all round for defence. And infantry patrol reported enemy down the road in the houses of LA MORICHESSE.

    The air 'stink' at 1500 hours was to be preceded by a medium artillery concentration but I was unable to find out what time I was to pull bcd to the cross roads to enable this to take place.

    This information was presented to us however by a very nasty concentration coming down on us from our own guns, causing the infantry and German Prisoners some casualties. We embarked them on the tanks and rushed them back to the cross roads. Shortly afterwards we were shot up by 3 FOCKE WULFs, about the only German aircraft I saw during the NORMANDY fighting.

    An then the roar of engines heralded a huge flock of silver planes, and the forward slopes of Hill 309 seemed to spring to life with brown dust, smoke, clods of earth and tree branches for several minutes. It was a very inspiring and encouraging sight.

    We captured an Italian Prisoner, a medical orderly, who infuriated our Intelligence Officer by telling him 'Me go back to ENGLAND, YOU go furder away!' "
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    STAND 2

    F. Description of route to STAND 3 - Conducting Officer

    On the way from here to STAND 3 we shall drive down the road which was the axis of advance of 10 HLI and 4 TANKS COLDSTREAM GUARDS, and turn Left at the HERVIEUX cross roads.

    Straight on beyond the HERVIEUX cross roads you will be able to see the high ground which was the PHASE II objective.
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    STAND 3

    A. Description of ground - Conducting Officer
    (Spectators stand facing North)

    Object of Stand
    a. To study the action of 2 A & SH and 3 TANK SCOTS GUARDS in PHASE II.

    b. To study the German counter attack on S Squadron 3 TANK SCOTS GUARDS on Point 226.

    Description of Ground

    "You are now standing at the Eastern end of the PHASE II objective - Point 226 itself is about 300 yards to your Left rear.

    About 3,500 yards to your Right front the village of CAHAGNES stands out clearly on the rising ground.

    On the skyline to your front stands the village of CAUMONT with its church tower clearly visible.

    At six o'clock from the church tower in the middle distance, is a large open area. At the Right hand end of this area, a sandy track can be seen running down an avenue of trees. The point at which the track disappears into the valley marks the Eastern end of the PHASE II Start Line (Grid bearing 359 degrees).

    The road SEPT VENTS - CAHAGNES runs along the crest of this same open area.

    19 degrees Left of a line from here to the sandy track, and about one mile away, the grey roofs visible among the trees are in the villages of LA TEINTURIERE and LA FORTERIE (Grid bearing 340 degrees).

    Directly out to your Left over the top of the clump of large green trees is the village of LES LOGES (not visible from here).

    At this Stand we deal with the Left Sector of PHASE II. The plan was for 2 A & SH and 3 TANK SCOTS GUARDS to cross the Start Line at 0955 hours, behind the barrage, and occupy this hill and clear LES LOGES village."

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