APPENDIX IV

RESTRUCTURING THE BRITISH ARMOURED DIVISIONS

The general topic of tank-infantry co-operation has been addressed in the author’s previous ‘Over the Battlefield’ volume.1 Conclusions reached in that study go a long way to explaining the successful partnership enjoyed during Operation BLUECOAT (and beyond) between 6th Guards Tank Brigade and 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. Addressed here are the approaches to multi-arm co-operation adopted by each of the two armoured divisions of VIII Corps during BLUECOAT.

DOCTRINE AND DIFFERENCES

Throughout the war, official War Office doctrine with regard to armour tactics tended to lag behind battlefield experience. And the observance of doctrine by British armoured units was anyway patchy. While some tank units training in England prior to the invasion continued to indulge in the ‘Balaclava’ cavalry charge, others more cautiously practiced indirect fire, using the High Explosive capability of the Sherman as if it were an artillery piece rather than a tank. Though some recognised the folly of both practices, they were by no means abandoned. As has been pointed out in a landmark study of British military training, ‘That the War Office failed to publish a proper doctrine for the use of this weapon [the Sherman tank with its dual-purpose, HE-capable main gun] was perhaps its greatest failure of the war in the field of doctrinal dissemination.’2 Though arguably, ‘of greater importance in determining the manner in which infantry-armour co-operation was conducted in Normandy was the lack of enforcement of any standardised doctrine, flawed or otherwise.’3

Debate will continue over the strengths and weaknesses of the British Army’s historical encouragement of regimental individuality. There is little doubt that unique unit traditions could confer immeasurable morale benefits to men in battle. On the other hand, allowing individual battalions within a division to preserve their own ‘way of doing things’ was a potential bar to successful co-operation. Especially when training in (and enforcement of) tactical doctrine was largely at the whim of authorities at the regimental level.

Even between battalions of the Brigade of Guards,4 differences might go far beyond the colour of hackles and the spacing of buttons. Tank squadrons elsewhere standardized as ‘A, B, and C’ might in the case of the Guards Armoured Division become ‘1, 2, and 3’, or perhaps ‘Left Flank, Right Flank, and S’ (the ‘S’ emphatically not denoting ‘support’!); the batteries of the divisional antitank regiment were identified as ‘Q, Z, Y, and 2nd’ (though the 2nd was more properly referred to as ‘Minden’, and Q Battery of course as ‘Sanna’s Post’). To say nothing of rank nomenclatures occurring nowhere else in the army.

True, the battalions of 11th Armoured also had some very different origins. Three of its tank regiments were strictly ‘cavalry’: the Northants and the Fifes representing county yeomanry; the Hussars newly raised but their civilian intake officered by cavalry men of the Tenth Royal Hussars (‘XRH’) and the 15th/19th Royals. The fourth regiment was manned by the Royal Tank Regiment, the ‘professionals’, and certain officers of 3rd RTR with desert experience would be assigned to the inexperienced units, benefiting them greatly.

Guards Armoured Division was commanded by a veteran of the First World War (of which he opined that there had been ‘few occasions that a tank had actually been of some use’), and a victor over the General Strike of 1926 (which ‘many Guardsmen may have rather enjoyed... it was the best training for war young officers had obtained since the war’). As early as February 1944, General Adair had been marked for sacking by Montgomery, as ‘lacking in drive, and not suitable for command of an armoured division.’ General Dempsey loyally passed the request down the chain of command, but the recently-appointed VIII Corps commander objected. O’Connor’s principles would not allow him to write an adverse report on an officer whose abilities he had not had time to assess. Faced by this obstacle, and the added problem of there being no obvious alternative in the pool of Guards officers, Montgomery gave in. ‘He was the only one I knew I could never sack. My job was to fight the Germans. I wasn’t prepared to fight the whole of the Brigade of Guards as well.’5

Conversely, in 1944, 11th Armoured Division’s G P B (‘Pip’) Roberts was remarkable for his youth (at thirty-seven, the youngest Major-General in the Army), for his experience (no one of equivalent rank had spent longer in the turret of a tank), and no less for his refusal to submit to hide-bound policies. ‘Roberts’ arrival in 11th Armoured Division... demonstrates the benefit conferred by the marriage of battle-experienced commanders with unblooded troops. Guards Armoured Division enjoyed no such benefit.’6

PART ONE:

GUARDS ARMOURED DIVISION

SEPARATE BRIGADES

Guards Armoured went to war imbued with the doctrine that its tank brigade and infantry brigade should operate separately. In co-ordination perhaps, but not in combination. The tanks’ role was to forge ahead; that of the infantry to punch a hole, to protect flanks, to mop up behind, and to be a firm ‘pivot’ for the tanks’ manoeuvring.7 As a gunner officer whose field regiment was attached to 32 Guards Brigade later observed of their training in England,

‘We did no exercises with the armoured regiments... The infantry brigade and the armoured brigade were expected to operate separately. The general idea was that the infantry made the gap and then the armour flooded through like the cavalry of old.’8

A view not dispelled by the divisional history’s proud commentary on its performance during Exercise SPARTAN: ‘a good tank gallop through some of the best hunting country near Towcester.’9

Nor did this situation change greatly on arrival in Normandy. War Diary references to combined-arms training must be treated with care. Entries for various Guards battalions between 11 and 13 July refer to ‘demonstrations’ of tank-infantry cooperation. But in some – quite possibly all – cases, these were laid on for officers only. 1st (Motor) Grenadiers’ War Diary further reveals that this ‘demonstration’ for officers on 13 July lasted only from 15.00 to 16.30 hours – up to tea time! The demonstrations appear to have been made by one tank squadron and one infantry company of the Coldstream, units which would still be brigaded separately after being swapped around in the 31 July ‘reorganization’. Likewise the 2nd and 3rd Irish Guards, who on 14 July conducted battalion exercises together but would not be brigaded together in Normandy. In all cases, the attendance and duration of these exercises are open to question: the 2nd Irish that same day found time for a ‘Football match againsg [sic] Bayeux – well attended by troops’.

31 JULY

In the aftermath of GOODWOOD, General Adair reflected on,

‘a badly designed battle from the Corps point of view. Our advance rather resembled a cavalry charge with its momentum lost once 11th and Guards Division became deeply involved at Cagny. Our tanks were picked off by well-sighted [sic] German anti-tank guns.’ So, Adair claimed ‘I decided to evolve a system whereby the infantry was always right up with them. I therefore regrouped within the Division our armour and infantry.’10

But how far did this go? A clue may perhaps be found in the division’s adoption of the term ‘Bocage Battle Groups’, suggestive of an expedient designed for Normandy only.

Adair’s memoir greatly exaggerates the extent of his division’s ‘regrouping’ prior to BLUECOAT. The sum total of this regrouping was to be the exchange of two battalions: one tank battalion moving to the 32nd (infantry) Brigade; one infantry battalion to the 5th (armoured). The claim in Adair’s biography that he moved the Grenadier battalions (1st Motor and 2nd Armoured) to 32nd Brigade is mistaken. These continued to operate within 5th Brigade. Nor did they strictly unite as a ‘regimental group’ at this time. In preparation for BLUECOAT, the 1st Grenadiers’ motor companies were already harboured with the respective armoured battalions, with which they had intended to fight: King’s Company with 2nd Grenadier Guards; 2 Company with 2nd Irish Guards. Only 4 Company would immediately change brigade allegiance, parting from the Coldstream armour to join 3 Company in reserve with its regimental headquarters, under 5th Guards Brigade.

This work concludes that actual reorganization to form what would today be considered combined-arms ‘regimental groups’ was only partially achieved by Guards Armoured Division in Normandy. Such achievement as there was occurred within 5th Guards Armoured Brigade. Nor was the idea of that brigade forming two ‘Battle Groups’ immediately implemented, since the 2nd Grenadiers (the tank component of the second ‘battle group’) found difficulty getting forward. Nevertheless, the infantry strength contributed by the 5th Coldstream proved invaluable, leading the way in the close country around Hill 238 and the road to le Tourneur. And where the Coldstream’s TCLs [Troop Carrying Lorries, sometimes ‘TCVs’ or Vehicles] were too vulnerable, the armoured motor companies of 1st Grenadiers supported the Irish Guards’ tanks. Meanwhile, 32nd Brigade appears to have continued very much as usual, albeit with a squadron of Coldstream tanks attached to each infantry battalion to add fire support. Revealingly, the 32nd Brigade War Diary notes for 16 August, in the aftermath of BLUECOAT: ‘Revert to normal grouping and go into Army res.’Attitudes would be slow to change.

Guardsmen were bemused by the new arrangements. An Irish Guards officer reflected,

‘Now we had infantry in the shape of the 5th Coldstream, wonderful soldiers but not Micks. It was puzzling to us all that the Division did not put Grenadier tanks with Grenadier infantry, Coldstream tanks with Coldstream infantry, Irish Guards tanks with Irish Guards infantry. The ways of the Army are sometimes hard to understand...’11

Only at the end of August would real organizational change be effected. Then, with 2nd Household Cavalry rejoining the division, it was felt possible to relieve 2nd Welsh Guards of their reconnaissance role (a role long since abandoned by 11th Armoured’s Cromwell tanks). Only then was undertaken the seemingly obvious pairing of affiliated battalions to form four tank-infantry regimental groups: Grenadiers and Coldstream under 5th Brigade; Welsh and Irish under 32nd. Adair now rightly recognised that, ‘Perfect trust was the keystone because the two battalions [in each group] spoke the same “language” and the men knew each other well... Adopting this organisation was the best thing I ever did.’12 But this was not done in Normandy.

PART TWO:

11TH ARMOURED DIVISION

On 19 July, following a day of strenuous effort and heavy losses, General GPB (‘Pip’) Roberts had taken the reins of what remained of 11th Armoured Division and won a significant victory on the Bourguébus Ridge by the efficient interaction of his own armour, infantry, and artillery. Of particular interest was the close integration of the ‘motor companies’ with the tank battalions. Though as yet only very lightly armoured and in open-topped vehicles, nevertheless the minimal protection conferred by their carriers and half-tracks permitted a degree of survivability on a bullet-swept battlefield which the ‘leg’ (or lorried) infantry lacked. This in turn enabled them to keep up with the rapid movement of the tanks which Roberts demanded. Even at full strength, the motor battalions with their numerous specialist drivers, gunners, wireless operators, etc. would always fall short of the ideal proportion of ‘bayonets and tommy guns’ on the ground. But even so, they represented a vital contribution to the battle: offering close protection to the tanks, while filling the interval between the tanks’ assertion of firepower on the objective and the arrival of the ‘leg’ infantry to hold the ground won.

Some issues that had arisen in the recent GOODWOOD operation were to become recurrent themes in the course of the protracted Normandy campaign. One such was the need to cover open flanks in an advance. This had been the experience of 11th Armoured Division in both Operations EPSOM and GOODWOOD, in each case because of the failure of other, flanking formations to keep up. This was to recur, on an even larger scale, in the course of BLUECOAT when neither XXX Corps on the left nor the Americans on the right matched 11th Armoured Division’s rapid penetration of the enemy front. Having foreseen the problem and developed appropriate tactics, Roberts was well placed to exploit opportunities which more cautious commanders might have let pass.

NEW THINKING

‘Our experiences in “GOODWOOD” set me thinking.’13 One of General Roberts’ thoughts was that the idea of a divisional reconnaissance regiment was not working out as intended. The Cromwell squadrons of the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry lacked the 17-pounder-armed Fireflies of the Sherman-equipped tank brigade, but otherwise the Cromwell was in most respects the equivalent of a similarly armed Sherman. (In some it was arguably superior: notably its gun laying; its great advantage of a profile almost three feet lower; and its turn of speed, on the battlefield up to twice that of the Sherman.) Reconnaissance, Roberts decided, could better be performed by the troop of light Stuart tanks within each armoured regiment (especially now that their cumbersome, highprofile turrets had been discarded)14 and by the armoured car regiment normally allocated at corps level. In consequence, while Roberts’ 29th Brigade had three regiments of tanks and one of ‘motor’ infantry (in lightly armoured half-tracks and carriers), 159th Brigade would henceforth enjoy three battalions of ‘motorized’ (lorried) infantry and one of tanks - the 2nd Northants.15

But Roberts’ thinking did not end there. He was by now convinced that his division should abandon the formal separation of tank and infantry brigades. Having devised a structure that gave his division four regiments of tanks and four battalions of infantry, balancing the two arms became feasible.

‘It was my intention to have two brigades each containing two armoured regiments and two infantry battalions...This organisation was not to be anything permanent; it must be entirely flexible... and the brigadiers themselves must be prepared to operate as armoured brigadiers or infantry brigadiers. In fact, this flexible arrangement remained till the end of hostilities and was highly satisfactory.’16

This revolutionary change reflected the growing need for tanks and infantry to be mutually supportive at the lowest levels. War Office doctrine oscillated between infantry or tanks leading the assault. The merits of ‘sandwiches’ of tanks and infantry, both ‘compact’ and ‘inflated’, were debated. Meanwhile, the realities of dense countryside and the new German hand-held hollow-charge antitank weapons had to be faced. Infantry leaving their entrenchments were exposed to bullet and mortar bomb, relying on eyes, ears, and the ability to ‘go to ground’. Tank crews were proof against bullets and (most) mortar bombs, but were comparatively deaf, blind, and their vehicles conspicuous.17 Essentially, advancing infantry needed armour to neutralize enemy gun positions; while tanks advancing unescorted were vulnerable to the new short-range antitank weapons.

Roberts’ practical solution was warmly received by his superior. Indeed, Roberts magnanimously shared the credit with the corps commander.

‘I saw General Dick O’Connor and he told me that we were going to operate... right in the middle of the bocage country. He said... “You must be prepared for the very closest of tank/infantry co-operation on a troop/platoon basis.” I agreed entirely.’

Roberts’ rapid agreement was coloured by the fact that he already had these arrangements well in hand.

There were practical difficulties to overcome. Before Roberts’ arrival, 11th Armoured Division had experimented with carrying infantrymen on the tanks, but abandoned the idea due to the constraint placed on turning tank turrets, the discomfort of sitting on hot engine covers, and concern over the extreme vulnerability of the exposed riders. Somehow, the necessities of Normandy overcame concerns felt during training in England.

‘The infantry are waiting for us. They are all dressed in light marching order, with camouflage over their tin helmets, and carrying rifles, sten guns, Brens, and all the usual impedimenta of the infantry soldier... We halt at the side of the road and the various platoons sort themselves out, climbing on the back of our tanks. There is a rough-and-ready all-round defence arrangement with the men on the outside of the vehicle, suitably armed ready to deal with immediate trouble and ready to dismount at a moment’s notice. In each case, an Infantry Officer goes on the Troop Leader’s tank. We assume quite a different appearance with these men clinging to our vehicles, but somehow we take heart from each other, and there is a friendly warm sort of atmosphere.’18

One more detail: given leaders of equal rank, who would command a mixed force, the infantry or the armour officer present? Major ‘Ned’ Thornburn (of 4th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry recorded Roberts’ solution.

‘This organization was to be entirely flexible and any armoured regiment had to be prepared to work with any infantry battalion. Similarly the two Brigadiers... had to be prepared to command armour and infantry together. Which CO was in overall command of an infantry/armoured group would depend on the situation – in practice this never seemed to present any problem to us since everyone just got on with his job of working with his opposite number.’19

Mutual understanding and personal acquaintance between officers was invaluable. A major of the 23rd Hussars recalled his confidence in his infantry counterparts,

‘The Third Monmouths were to be our colleagues and our time together was a very successful one. They were a splendidly tough battalion and we all had tremendous admiration for them... There is no doubt that in that bocage country the infantryman had to do the lion’s share of the work, and right well they did it... They were commanded by a very fine soldier... [with] a remarkably good idea of how armour should be used.’20

But not everything ran smoothly. Another Hussars officer was less keen on the new arrangements.

‘There seems to be no rest for the wicked, and a conference is hastily arranged in order to organise our new battle tactics, which are for a Company of Infantry to be in close co-operation with our Tank Squadron, and the wireless fitters immediately get busy fitting up an extra set in our tanks so we can speak on the air to the Infantry Platoon Commanders. It is a fairly well known fact that the damn things don’t work, but the job must be done.’21

Complete integration would take time, and combat experience.

POST-GOODWOOD CONFERENCES

The following two documents represent the findings of exploratory conferences held by the two brigades of 11th Armoured Division in the aftermath of Operation GOODWOOD (followed by a short glossary of abbreviations used).

It is hard to overstate the significance of these documents. While the brigade conferences clearly carry the personal stamp of brigadiers Jack Churcher and Roscoe Harvey, nevertheless without the insight and authority of a divisional commander determined to put such ideas into practice, the conferences could have had little impact.

Within mere days, a number of the conclusions reached and endorsed by Roberts would be incorporated in the Operational Orders for BLUECOAT. Most important of all from the point of view of 11th Armoured Division were to be the flexibility of the brigades to form regimental teams appropriate to tactical requirements; and the tightly-knit integration of all divisional arms, particularly of the tanks with the (as yet mostly unarmoured) infantry.

Document 1: 159 Infantry Brigade, 23 July, 1944

LESSONS from BATTLE SE CAEN, 18-21 JUL,

from the Lorried Inf Bde angle, working

with an Armd Div.

Ground

1.

Similar to country round CHEUX, with exception that high ground and ridges were flatter without steep approaches making good tk contry. Most of the open ground was standing crops, making the siting of inf weapons difficult. Villages and orchards were usually 1000x – 2000x apart, with the Germans using them for cover for their mutually sp A Tk defence, consisting of dug-in tks, SP A tk guns and ordinary dug in A tk arty. German inf posns were found on the reverse slopes in open country as well as in orchards and villages.

Inf Assault

2.

If the inf attacks on the strong pts in orchards and villages which have either been over-run or bypassed by the armour, providing certain principles are obeyed, success will be quick and cas low:-

(a) Inf bn gps work fwd collected with objectives mutually supporting.

(b) Assaulting bns must be protected from being outflanked by un-mopped enemy localities from either flank during their adv.

(c) A careful mopping up plan will always be incl in the assault plan and time must be allowed for it.

Mutually Sp Bn Gps

3.

With the enemy defence based on the orchards and villages, the triangle fmn has been found to give the best results. Inf bn gps are formed complete with A tk arty, RA OPs and on occasion a sqn of tks. By careful manoeuvre, assaulting bn gps are sp by those firm on the ground. Objectives selected allow for mutual anti-tk and inf defence. The tk sqn shoots the inf in from the flank, sometimes both flanks. On arrival on the objective quick consolidation is possible with anti-tk defence first priority. The presence of tks in the area will usually preclude an immediate inf counter-attack.

Once the objectives are captured and mopped up the inf bde is then in posn ready for either of its two probable roles:-

(a) To continue the adv;

(b) To strengthen the firm base already captured from which the armour may manoeuvre.

Protection of Flank

4.

This is vital and during the adv can only be assured by

(a) Inf/tk co-operation.

(b) Flanking fmns, not reliable in the fluid armour battle.

(c) Ensuring that localities captured are completely mopped up before the unit concerned continues the adv.

Mopping Up

5.

Time spent in mopping up is NOT wasted and must be allowed for in the initial planning. German dug in posns in the orchards and villages are deep, well concealed and only systematic search will give success. If this is carried out correctly, time will be saved and cas much reduced to help subsequent ops. It is necessary for the inf bn comd to incl a mopping up plan in his initial orders so as to save time during re-organisation on the objective.

German Counter-attack

6.

This has usually been by fire chiefly from mortars, nebel-werfers (“Moaning Minnies”) and a proportion of arty. As previously stressed in reports from other Theatres of War, this fire usually comes down on the objective some 30 – 60 minutes after capture and irrespective of whether there are any German strong pts still holding out.

This counter-attack by fire has caused at least 50% of the cas suffered by the inf. There appear two possible ways of dealing with this:-

(a) A full RA counter bty and counter-mortar fire programme to assist in consolidation or the re-org and forming up to continue the adv.

(b) Active air sp by observation on likely German mortar and arty posns.

This would appear vital for armoured fmns as the reduction of cas in lorried inf bns is necessary, if the present high standard of trg is to be available for future ops. Inf reinforcements do NOT cater for this special type of trg.

Village and Orchard Fighting

7.

This has been 70% of the fighting so far. Trg in it is essential and the principles taught at the School of Inf are correct and give good results. It is a slow process, but providing the Bosche has been subjected to sufficient blasting, he appears willing to come out of his hole without too much persuasion. This again saves time and cas. Until a sufficiently big break through is achieved, so that the threat of armour or inf will produce results, this appears to be the cheapest and best system for quick returns.

The Bosche uses these villages and orchards as the backbone for his defence and in return he thinks we will do the same. I consider this is both wrong and unnecessary. Villages are normally NOT right on top of the high ground, therefore they can be dominated from some near feature. Once the Bosche is evicted from his posns, don’t occupy them, but reorganise around them and to the flanks. If he wishes to counter attack with inf, entice him back into his old posn in the orchard and then as he goes in shell and mortar him out of it. He is NOT over anxious to come back for more at this stage.

All villages and orchards marked on the map are found to be German DF or registered tasks, therefore avoid them whenever the ground allows, if only to save unnecessary cas.

Air Sp

8.

My remarks here are merely from a fwd inf observer without knowledge of the many air factors that have to be considered in framing the air plan.

(a) The initial air assault was colossal, the results produced excellent for this fmn’s adv.

(b) The air sp appeared to turn off like a tap and not restart, thus giving the Bosche time to recover. The Germans hate this form of attack, as stated by PWs. Similarly, members of the BEF in 1940 will corroborate this from the reverse angle.

(c) The Bosche sits in the villages etc., obvious targets, therefore in order to maintain the momentum of the day, the air programme should continue throughout the day and continue NOT only on D Day but on successive days without a break. The effect on the Bosche will be cumulative and might well be very far reaching. There should be no real difficulties over Bomb Lines as these could be such obvious features as rys, rivers or “Route Nationales” and given out in a similar manner as “Report Lines” are to armd fmns.

In order to achieve this, the initial sp might well NOT be so colossal, but continuous action is, I feel, the key to success.

Conclusions

9.

From the above remarks, the following conclusions are drawn in order of priority:

(a) To maintain the momentum of the inf adv in conjunction with the armour, the flanks of the inf must be protected.

(b) It is again stressed that in order to avoid unnecessary cas after capturing an objective, avoid sitting on it or in areas marked on the map unless the ground dictates.

(c) An arty counter-bty and counter-mortar programme is necessary to stop the Bosche counter attack by fire.

(d) Mopping up is vital, it must be carried out meticulously and time allowed for it in the planning.

(e) Inf bn gps must be mutually sp to achieve big and quick results. Cohesion of the Bde Gp is essential for a quick move fwd or for the forming af a firm base.

(f) If possible, the air programme should NOT be turned off like a tap, but kept on. Apart from the material effects, the effect no lowering German morale will be big, with the diametrically opposite effect on our own tps.

Document 2: 29th Armoured Brigade, 25 July, 1944

SECRET

Subject: Ops.

G Main 11 Armd Div (2)

25 Jul 44

1. At a conference held at this HQ on 24 Jul 44, attended by all COs., incl 18 Lt Fd Amb and Comd 119/75 A.Tk Bty, op GOODWOOD was discussed and the following conclusions made.

GENERAL.

(a) Speed being essential it was necessary to move on a narrow front which did NOT allow much room for manoeuvre

(b) The barrage finished on a topographical feature NOT on a tactical one. It is considered that the advantage of finishing on a tactical feature on which either hull down or covered posns could be occupied, is immense.

(c) The left of the line of adv ran parallel to the enemy’s posns. Although these posns were subjected to both aerial and arty bombardment, they were only temporarily neutralised. Their tks and SP guns which had not been destroyed came to life again and inflicted cas particularly on the 2nd and 3rd regts. At least 20 tks were knocked out in the area CAGNY 1164 – wood 1165. Smoke on this flank particularly with the wind as it was, would have been most helpful. The change of direction increased the danger to the left flank and rear from the area FRENOUVILLE 1162 – LE POIRIER 1063 – CAGNY.

(d) It was hoped that the Gds Armd Bde would be able to watch our left flank, but their delayed arrival exposed that flank still more as we pushed on to the area BRAS 0663 – HUBERT-FOLIE 0662 – SOLIERS 0862 – FOUR 0962. The situation was aggravated by the delay of 22 Armd Bde and as far as this Bde was concerned, the effect of these two Bdes was NOT felt during the first day.

(e) It is considered thst the delay in the follow up of successive Bdes was caused by:-

(i) own minefield preventing forming up until the fmn had been passed through the gaps;

(ii) obstacles, i.e. rlys, which very considerably delayed mov, incl tracked vehs to some extent as they could NOT cross everywhere.

2. The following points were discussed in some detail and the conclusions arrived at are set out under each question.(a) Co-operation and drill for dealing with a village or strong pt with the Motor Bn/Coy -

It will be normal for a Motor Coy to be under comd of the Armd Regt concerned. This Motor Company will be netted on the Regt Comd Net. Its carriers should move as close behind the tks as possible and in any event not more than 500 yds. The motor pls should move 500 yds behind the carriers. Tks will penetrate the outskirts of the village probably before arrival of inf in order to protect themselves from AP fire from the flanks and one or two tps will be prepared to penetrate the village with inf. Close liaison between tp and pl comds will be essential. Only very limited objectives in the village will be taken on. The remainder of the regt will take up suitable posns in the outskirts of the village and will be relieved as soon as possible by a troop of SP A.Tk guns, placed under comd and netted to the motor company. RHA smoke will be used on the flank to mask A.Tk guns covering the armd regts’ approach to the village and the possibility of using smoke in the village itself is not ruled out. It is a decision to be made by the commander on the spot bearing in mind that there will already be considerable haze and dust from the artillery barrage, and an addition of smoke may complicate the infantry’s task considerably. In any event, it might be extremely useful on the far side of the village with which the motor company does not propose to deal immediately.

(b) Flank protection and use of RHA & 75mm smoke –

If the leading regt details a large force for flanking protection there is a danger that the sub-units concerned will become involved in the fight in the early stages of the advance and lose the benefit of the barrage. The leading regt will therefore detail not more than one troop on each flank for this duty. The remaining regts will reduce their flanking protection to a minimum detailing one or more troops to shoot smoke if necessary. Their object is to keep up behind the barrage and not to become engaged on the flanks. In certain circumstances use may be made of the MGs of the Motor Bn shooting up the flank. Arrangements should be made for one 25 pdr regiment to be available on call to engage flank targets with smoke or HE, a FOO from this regiment moving with comd 13 RHA.

(c) Should RHA move as a regt or btys in support of Armd Regts.

Batteries will continue in support of armd regts, but instead of moving with them they will move one bty in front of the reserve regt and 13 RHA less one bty behind the reserve regt. FOOs and Bty Comds will continue to move with Armd Rgts.

(d) Owing to replacement difficulties, the Motor Bn. may have to be reduced.

(a) Is the A.Tk. gun element necessary,

(b) are more carriers required.

On account of absence of reinforcements, the Motor Bn is now organised as a Sp Coy and three Motor Coys, each of a Scout Pl of 8 carriers and two motor pls. This temporary arrangement is considered satisfactory. The A.Tk gun pls in Sp Coy should be maintained. More carriers would be useful but NOT until the necessary specialist reinforcements are available to man them

(e) If another break-through on the same lines is envisaged, what should be the combination of each wave. Is it necessary to move (a) the Motor Coys, (b) RHA Btys, (c) Fitters vehs, behind the Regtl waves.

The leading regt will move one or two sqns up in line, the remaining two regiments in box formation well closed up. Carrier pls of motor coys will move with their armd regts and will be on the regimental command net until the arrival of the motor coys. 13 RHA, regimental fitters and the Motor Bn less carrier pls will move behind the rear regiment.

GLOSSARY

1,000x = 1,000 yards

119/75 A.Tk Bty = 119 Battery, one of the four batteries of 75th Antitank Regiment. (This battery comprising eight M10 self-propelled, 17-pounder antitank guns.)

comd = command or commander or commanding (note that u/c or u/comd = under command and directly subordinated; as distinct from sp = in support but not subject to direct orders)

cas = casualties

D Day = day one of an operation

DF = defensive fire (a ‘DF Task’ is a pre-plotted mission against a position predicted to be entered by the enemy)

fmn = formation

FOO = Forward Observation Officer (a senior artillery officer operating with the forward troops and authorised to order fire missions - by contrast the German and American armies, in which this role was filled by lower-ranking artillery officers who would generally request rather than command fire missions)

Inf bn gps = infantry battalion-groups

Lt Fd Amb = Light Field Ambulance

mov = movement

pl = platoon

PWs = prisoners of war

sp A Tk = self-propelled antitank

sp = support or in support or supporting ( hence Sp Coy = Support Company)

RHA = Royal Horse Artillery: in the case of 11th Armoured Division this was 13th RHA Regiment with its twenty-four self-propelled ‘Sexton’ 25 pounder field guns.

rly = railway

trg = training

veh = vehicle(s)

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