Report to Lieutenant-Colonel Powle, MC: ‘...the bridge at 637436 is clear of enemy and still intact’


Chapter 1

(1) Rommel to his adjutant in April: ‘Wir haben nur eine Mögligkeit, den Gegner zum Stehen zu bringen: wir müssen ihn fassen, solange er noch im Wasser ist.’ [‘We have only one possibility of bringing our opponent to a stand: we must stop him while he is still in the water.’] Reported by Hansen, The German Commanders on D-Day, in Buckley (ed), Sixty Years On, p 38.

(2) Liddell Hart, p 253

(3) Bradley, p 280

(4) Contrary to popular belief, largely inspired by modern media fixation with the 6 June anniversary, it is important to understand the anxiety caused as the Normandy campaign dragged on through June and July, with casualty rates and lack of movement worryingly reminiscent of the First World War. Likewise the ‘accepted wisdom’ of historians that the outcome of the Second World War was virtually assured by the end of 1941. However justifiable as ‘historical fact’, such hindsight hardly reflects the experience of people of the time. Including those who were directing events.

(5) The American press was more outspoken in its criticism of Montgomery, but the British also gave cause for concern. Montgomery’s Chief of Staff later recalled, ‘My Chief undoubtedly suffered a lot from the criticism that appeared in the press and elsewhere about the slowness of progress in the bridgehead. “Had we reached a stalemate? Had Montgomery failed?” These were typical expression used... Unlike in the Middle East, the troops now read the press from England, often delivered the same day... Here then was the danger.’ (De Guingand, p 397)

(6) Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation EPSOM

(7) Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation GOODWOOD

(8) Blumenson, Breakout, p 188

(9) Unattributed; overheard and recorded in his battalion after-action report by Lieutenant-Colonel John Tweedie, Officer Commanding 2nd Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, who added his own view that, ‘The bother was, we knew before we started.’

(10) McElwee, p 46

(11) Sergeant Hugh Green memoirs

(12) Jefferson, p 15

(13) Kemsley and Riesco, Scottish Lion, p 58

(14) Green memoirs

(15) Johnston, Campaign in Europe, p 17

(16) Miles, p 277

(17) ‘Advocate’, 44th Lowland, p 31

(18) Woolcombe, p 102

(19) Note that, designations notwithstanding, an American infantry regiment with its three battalions was very roughly equivalent to a British infantry brigade, also with its three battalions, although in the British case the battalions might have very different regimental affiliations. See Daglish, Over the Battlefield Operation EPSOM, Appendices II and V.

(20) McElwee, 2nd Battalion, p 50

(21) Green memoirs

(22) Notably to oppose the British EPSOM offensive. See Daglish, Over the Battlefield Operation EPSOM, chapters 4 and 5.

(23) This was formerly the first battalion of 751. Grenadierregiment, renamed the previous April, leaving 751 with only rifle battalions II and III.

(24) Quoted in Jackson, p 120-121

(25) 7th Armoured Division to II Canadian Corps, 11th Armoured to XII Corps, while Guards Armoured remained east of the Orne under command of I Corps.

(26) Jackson, p 115. The Adjutant of 1st Welsh Guards helpfully defined the term ‘swanning’ in the battalion War Diary: ‘It means roughly to wander over an area known to be a battlefield, in an unspecified and probably unknown direction, for an unnecessary and probably illegal purpose – and it is a term in very general use.’

(27) Jackson, p 116

(28) General MacMillan’s complaint, passed up through O’Connor and Dempsey, had been brusquely dismissed by Montgomery. ‘You must understand that there is no such thing in my set-up as a permanent composition as a Corps; Divisions are grouped in Corps as the battle situation demands, and this is a great battle winning factor.’

(29) The discreditable tale of 6th Guards Tanks’ exclusion from earlier battles is related in Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation EPSOM, p 251-252

(30) Bishop, p 57-58

(31) Jones, Sixty-Four Days, p 130

(32) Oatts, p 306

(33) Thorpe memoirs

(34) Flower, p 149

(35) Green memoirs

(36) Nowadays confusingly appearing on maps as ‘le Haut Bosq’, atop the ‘Bois de Brimbois’. As distinct from Mont Pinçon [modern point 362], twelve kilometres away to the south and east.

(37) An intriguing reversal of the situation at the end of June, when XXX Corps had failed adequately to cover the right flank of VIII Corps’ EPSOM offensive! See Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation EPSOM, p 34-37.

(38) Green memoirs

(39) Oatts p 307

Chapter 2

(1) Even after receiving reinforcements the infantry companies and platoons were still well below their nominal strength, a situation which would endure throughout the campaign. In spite of this, and of all that had been learned in earlier battles, the platoon assault formation still followed the normal ‘extended line’ pattern. See Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation EPSOM, p 42.

(2) The absence of the customary preliminary bombardment and counter-battery programme was largely due to the inability to get sufficient ammunition forward given limited warning and restricted road space. ‘On the night of 28 July, 300 rounds per gun for the field artillery was dumped in the FDLs, that was all we had – just adequate,’ recalled Brigadier R J Streatfield, 190th Field Regiment RA, supporting 46 (Highland) Brigade.

(3) As indicated above, the heavy bombers were returning from targets on the XXX Corps front.

(4) It was customary in 6th Guards Brigade for tank commanders to wear their black berets in action rather than helmets. Despite the invariable need for the commander’s head to be at least partially exposed to permit observation, this practice nevertheless survived to the end of the war.

(5) The presence of these betrayed the 6th Guards’ inexperience. Battle-hardened British units had already recognised the redundancy of anti-aircraft assets on the Normandy battlefield. Following their first battle, 11th Armoured Division’s armoured brigade redeployed its Crusaders from an anti-aircraft role to join the Stuart tanks of the regimental reconnaissance troops. After their second battle, GOODWOOD, 29 Brigade dispensed with the Crusaders altogether, handing them over to the division’s 58th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, and retraining the crews to replace losses in the Sherman-equipped ‘sabre’ squadrons.

(6) Deakin, in BAOR Operation BLUECOAT, p 31

(7) 11th Armoured Division was denied use of the main road leading south towards St-Martin.

(8) For consistency, modern French terms are used; 1944 British maps referred to ‘Lieu Mondant’ and most British accounts called the wood ‘Lutain’.

(9) While, either through ingratitude or misinformation, Brigadier Verney personally annotated the 6th Tanks’ War Diary to the effect that the Crocodiles’ ‘usefulness was not really tested.’

(10) As so often in Normandy, Lieutenant James Marshall-Cornwall’s grave was afterwards adopted by the local French who insisted that the young man who had died for their liberation should remain where he had fallen. So he lies to this day, in peaceful solitude in one of the smallest of Commonwealth War Grave sites, between the D 54 Cahagnes road and what little remains of the Lutaine Wood.

(11) Miles, p 280

(12) Major John Kenneth (commanding 2nd Argylls in the absence of the invalided Lieutenant-Colonel John Tweedie), after-action report The Caumont Breakthrough, 8 August 1944

(13) This and later quotes from Major John Kenneth, personal correspondence.

(14) The small, lightly-armoured, fully-tracked Universal (or ‘Bren’) Carriers unique to the British Army were invaluable for supplying forward elements and for evacuating infantry casualties. Even more susceptible to the difficult going were the less powerful, unarmoured Loyd carriers hauling the infantry antitank guns. The lack of these would be sorely felt later in the day.

(15) Major-General Verney, in BAOR Operation BLUECOAT, p 41

(16) Forbes, 6th Guards, p 19

(17) Equipped with a drum-mounted extension cable, the ‘Rear Link’ tank would run-out the cable to the squadron commander’s tank during a halt, allowing him to use the regimental radio net via the rear-link tank while keeping his own radio tuned to reports from his subordinate troop leaders (or individual tank commanders in those units which allowed all tanks to use the squadron net). This procedure also averted the risk of losing the signal altogether through repeated retuning back and forth. When Squadron HQ had rapidly to relocate, the Rear Link might be delayed by the need to reel-in the cable, and forced to hurry to catch up - as here.

(18) As personally noted in an appendix to 4th Coldstream War Diary by the Coldstream’s Colonel Barttelot. Brigadier Verney recorded the squadrons reaching the summit of 309 by 16.00, which appears improbable.

(19) 6th Guards Tank Brigade, after-action report

(20) 6th Guards Tank Brigade, after-action report. Meaningful reconnaissance was felt impossible since the infantry carriers had not yet made their way forward: ‘Churchills were the only vehicles which had succeeded in crossing the rough ground.’ As the later BAOR Battlefield Tour was to conclude, cross-country movement in this ‘bocage at its best... was impassable to all except Churchill tanks or men on their feet.’

Chapter 3

(1) Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation EPSOM

(2) Daglish, Over the Battlefield: Operation GOODWOOD.

(3) See Appendix IV

(4) BAOR Operation BLUECOAT, p 19

(5) Bishop, p 61-62. This otherwise useful account frequently attributes events to the wrong dates, in this case recording the battle as beginning on Saturday 29 July. Oddly, other personal British diaries have been discovered which make exactly the same mistake over the start of BLUECOAT. Of course, since diary keeping was strictly forbidden (and in consequence mainly practiced by officers!), many are found to have been composed retrospectively from memory or imperfect notes.

(6) VIII Corps orders to the divisions only went out at 01.00 hours on 29 July; these had to be assimilated by the divisions, converted into Operation Orders for the brigades, and so passed on down the line, all this while the units were still completing their movement to the staging areas.

(7) How, British Breakout, p 24

(8) Blacker, p 83

(9) 29 Armoured Brigade War Diary

(10) Blacker p 83-84

(11) For BLUECOAT, the Lothians’ A Squadron was under command of 11th Armoured Division. Although B Squadron of the Hussars claims to have ‘called up’ the flails, these were without doubt the Lothians’ B Squadron who were acting under orders of 6th Guards Tanks to clear a way through Sept-Vents. The Lothians’ War Diary confirms that their A Squadron had not previously seen action in Normandy and on 30 July moved no closer to the action than a point three miles north-west of Caumont.

(12) Bishop, p 62, as well as confusing the date of the action, recalls this objective as ‘Villeneuve’, a place actually behind the day’s Start Line. The identification of St-Jean-des-Essartiers is confirmed by the 29 Brigade War Diary (although the Monmouths’ War Diary inexplicably refers to the place as ‘ST JOHN BAPTIST’!).

(13) Blacker, p 84

(14) 1st Herefords War Diary

(15) 2nd Fifes War Diary

(16) Sellar, p 176

(17) Thorpe memoirs

(18) Major Ellis, acting 2IC of 4th KSLI, quoted in Thornburn, p 89

(19) Private Bob Bignell, quoted in Thornburn, p 89

(20) Steel Brownlie memoirs

(21) Thornburn, p 89-90. See also Appendix II. It should be pointed out that not all ‘Osttruppen’ were unwilling participants. The history of VIII Corps records that, ‘Unfortunately, the mixed nationalities seemed to make little difference to the fighting ability of the SS divisions, which remained as high as ever.’ (Jackson, p 135) British 2nd Army Intelligence found that many former Russian soldiers were reluctant to be taken prisoner a second time, fearing repatriation to Russia and execution to stop them telling tales of the good living conditions of the working classes in Western Europe. The Germans occasionally ‘encouraged’ captured Red Army officers to lecture on these topics.

(22) Sellar, p 176

Chapter 4

(1) Jackson, p 120

(2) Münch, p 236. Such concerns were commonplace; the workshop commander of 9. SS-Panzerdivision reflected that ‘The great shortage... of the little items that have great effect is unimaginable... The horseshoes for the horsedrawn units were just as significant as the spring steel or tire-cement for the motorized units.’ His indent for over 1,400 tyres was reduced to an allocation of sixty, of which few were received. (Tieke, p 159)

(3) The Jagdpanther (‘hunting panther’) or Jagdpanzer V, Sd.Kfz. 173 was frequently and confusingly referred to by the British in Normandy as a ‘Ferdinand’, also as an ‘Elephant’, or a ‘Hornet’, and sometimes even as ‘Jaguar’, presumably a confusion of its German name. Ferdinand was a name given to an earlier model of heavy, self-propelled antitank gun, alternatively known as ‘Elefant’, which had equipped the 654. Abteilung and other units on the eastern front. It never saw service in France. The ‘Hornet’ (‘Hornisse’), also known as ‘Rhino’ (‘Nashorn’) was similarly armed with a 8.8cm Pak 43/1 but mounted on a lightly armoured, open-topped Panzer III/IV chassis.

(4) Unteroffizier Gerhard Zimmermann, 2. Kpie./s.Pz.Jgr.Abt. 654, quoted in Münch, p 337

(5) Some British observers witnessed only two attackers. German records confirm that Scheiber commanded three Jagdpanther in this action.

(6) Forbes, p 26

(7) The 6th Brigade history proudly credits the brigade workshops with converting all their tanks to 75mm ‘in record time’ before crossing to Normandy. (Forbes, p 12) This claim has long caused confusion, since there is ample photographic evidence that all three regiments of the brigade retained a proportion of 6-pounder Churchills well into 1945. In fact, during the first ten days of July, before crossing to Normandy, 6th Guards Tanks re-converted almost a third of the gun tanks back to 6-pounder guns ‘consequent upon the arrival of new [APDS] ammunition’. (4th Coldstream War Diary)

(8) Flower, p 152. To their credit, 146 Battery of the 91st Antitank Regiment did reach Hill 226 around 19.30 hours, their M10s arriving in time to offer overnight protection with an ‘immediate deployment, which is worth recording as the only occasion on which the battle-drill, on which weeks had been spent in England, was ever used.’

(9) Whitelaw, in BAOR Operation BLUECOAT, p 40

(10) Farrell, p 83

(11) It should be noted that on the Russian front, equipped with the heavy Ferdinand at a time when it lacked any defensive machine gun, elements of 654. Abteilung had occasionally plunged into Russian positions relying on shock and noise alone to frighten off enemy infantry.

(12) Various sources report different numbers of tanks lost by S Squadron: the 6th Brigade War Diary cites nine Scots Guards tanks ‘completely destroyed’ on 30 July. Drawing on Scots Guards sources, the author believes the total given above to be accurate. A further two Right Flank Squadron tanks had been lost on mines earlier in the day.

(13) Feldwebel Carstens’ Jagdpanther 314 had indeed lost two teeth from its left drive sprocket, resulting in repeated track breakages; but its armour had also been punctured, probably by PIAT hits, which may have been the immediate cause of its abandonment. The parent 654. Abteilungattributed the loss of 314 to being ‘burnt out after being hit by phosphorous antitank rounds’ – again, probably PIAT bombs. (Münch, p 276)

(14) Farrell, p 84

(15) Meindl interrogation report

(16) Meindl interrogation report

(17) Reported in How, British Breakout, p 41

Chapter 5

(1) Roberts, p 187

(2) The 8th Rifle Brigade War Diary claims that the night was spent at ‘LA-MORICHESSE-les-MARES about five miles north of ST-MARTIN-des-BESACEX.’ The place and the distance are incompatible, la Morichèse being a mere two miles north of St-Martin. It seems most likely that G Company assisted with clearing St-Jean-des-Essartiers and spent the night there, alongside the Monmouths, and that other elements of the battalion were somewhere further back.

(3) Orde, p 87

(4) Roberts, p 187

(5) Robinson, quoted in Thornburn, p 93

(6) Clayton, quoted in Thornburn, p 94

(7) In a hamlet marked on British Army maps as ‘Granville’, not indicated on modern maps.

(8) Thorpe memoirs

(9) Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers: a Churchill tank with a six-man crew of Royal Engineers (including a Demolitions NCO seated behind the co-driver whose role was to set various demolition charges outside the tank). The turret-mounted petard mortar fired a ‘Bomb, Demolition, No. 1’, better known as a ‘Flying Dustbin’. Assembled and armed by the Demolitions NCO, it was loaded through the co-driver’s sliding hatch. Its twenty-three pound charge of plastic explosive lacked range and accuracy (generally used at less than one hundred yards) but could be devastating.

(10) This and previous from Steel Brownlie memoirs. His tale of the naked dummy clearly became popular in many an officers’ mess, since it crops up in Normandy histories attributed to a variety of dates and locations. Less often repeated but worthy of note is the Germans’ efficiency in removing a crippled tank from the battle area.

Chapter 6

(1) Orde, p 101. Different accounts of Corporal Staples’ radio transmission give varying coordinates. 637436 as reported in the 2nd HCR history is close to the true position of the bridge. (Though purists might place it as 638437, see Appendix I; and it was to this latter reference that the Northants Yeomanry were subsequently directed.) The actual location of this bridge is known as ‘les Vaux de Souleuvre’, near a farm itself called ‘Souleuvre’. The 1984 plaque on the bridge calls it ‘le Pont du Taureau’ after the 11th Armoured Division’s ‘Black Bull’ insignia, and many have called it ‘Bull Bridge’; VIII Corps called it ‘Cavalry Bridge; and Pip Roberts on more than one occasion referred to it as simply ‘the bridge’! But for the Household Cavalry, then as now, it was ‘Dickie’s Bridge’.

(2) Orde, p 101; the same phrase is used by Roberts, p 189. Though apparently written-up some time later and with the benefit of hindsight, the 11th Armoured Division War Diary entry for 31 July acclaims the action and the events it made possible as ‘unquestionably a turning point in the campaign for France’.

(3) The 2nd NY War Diary was usually punctilious about accurate map references: these coordinates are spot-on.

(4) Curiously, the six Yeomanry Cromwells reported: ‘find no tps of 2 HCR, taking up posns to hold the br against enemy attack.’ The 29 Brigade War Diary likewise makes no mention of Powle’s small force: ‘a tp of 2 N Yeo... had earlier in the day captured the br over the R. SOULEUVE.’The 2nd HCR War Diary does little to clarify the picture, stating that, ‘Lt. Powle reported the bridge as clear and kept it under observation the whole day until the arrival in the evening [sic] of 2 tps of 2 N.Y.’ Were perhaps the guardians of the bridge looking different ways?

(5) Meindl interrogation report. (Note: this is translated by Americans)

(6) 11th Armoured Division War Diary

(7) Roberts, p 189

(8) Blumenson, p 294. The US Army Official History concedes that the British had properly secured permission to move armour along the road, though adding ‘Who gave permission is not stated.’ Gerow’s response was disingenuous. O’Connor had met him personally on 29 July to explain the planned operation. (Jackson, p 125) Moreover, the US 5th Division’s headlong plunge south was facilitated by the rapid withdrawal of 3. Fallschirmjägerdivision on the morning of 31 July, itself prompted by the British advance which threatened to overlap their right flank.

(9) Roberts, p 190. Curiously, if his own account is to be believed, without his customary Protection Troop of tanks, risking the journey through the Forêt l’Evêque with only his own tank and that of an accompanying artillery commander, who fell victim to incoming German shells. Whereupon Roberts ‘thought it wise to stop and look at the country ahead and then return to my HQ.’

(10) Blacker, p 87

(11) Bishop, p 66-67

(12) VIII Corps staff could be forgiven for mistaking ‘Pt. Aunay’ on their maps for the British Army shorthand for ‘point’ or spot-height, rather than an abbreviation of the French ‘petit’.

(13) In spite of high-level agreements that this road was to be used by the British, it was only understandable that elements of the American 5th Division would wish to exploit any road that assisted their advance (and some of the US infantry rushing headlong southwards appeared to the Household Cavalry to be uncertain of their position). This was far from being an issue of nationalities: 11th Armoured had been obstructed by its own countrymen in the move to Caumont, Roberts noting that, ‘Certain times were given us when we would have priority on the roads, but in fact no one else took any notice of them.’ (Roberts, p 185)

Chapter 7

(1) Whether these had returned after their withdrawal or had failed to move with the parent division is unclear. But prisoner documents and wrecked tanks testify to elements of 5. and 8. Kompanien of 3. Panzerregiment operating between St-Martin and Cathéolles on this and successive days.

(2) Less than two weeks after the failed attempt by elements of the German officer corps on the life of the Führer, prevarication was a dangerous game for a senior Wehrmacht officer to play. Most took refuge in blind obedience. Feuchtinger was notoriously inexperienced and ill-qualified to lead an armoured division, relying instead on his strong connections within Nazi politics.

(3) Daglish, Goodwood, p 164-168 & 177-178

(4) Martin, p 90

(5) 2nd Argylls War Diary

(6) ‘Advocate’, p 33

(7) 4th Tank Grenadier Guards War Diary

(8) Palamountain, Taurus Pursuant, p 32

(9) Jackson, p 133

Chapter 8

(1) British code for a senior officer

(2) Orde, p 111, describing his own experience

(3) Roberts, p 191

(4) In the excitement of Sunday’s rapid advance, O’Connor’s orders to his two armoured divisions were that as soon as St-Martin fell they should press on ‘regardless of risk’. (Fitzgerald, p 397)

(5) Wilmot, ‘Some light on the missed opportunity’, National Archives, CAB 106/1113

(6) Blacker, p 88

(7) Bishop, p 69

(8) It was the practice of both sides during the Normandy campaign to ensure that any immobilized tank – friendly or enemy – should be thoroughly demolished if there was a chance of its falling into enemy hands. Tank crews could sometimes effect the demolition, though front line combat engineers had standing orders and equipment to achieve this.

(9) Thornburn, p 101

(10) Bell, p 33

(11) Bell, p 34

(12) See Appendix I. By the time the 29 Brigade War Diary was written-up, it the point 6941 crossroads had become recognised as ‘La Foueardiere’, no doubt the result of an attempt to comprehend local French informants.

(13) Though serving under command of 11th Armoured when his posthumous Victoria Cross was earned on 6 August, Corporal Sidney Bates’ VC was claimed by the Royal Norfolks’ ‘parent’ 3rd Division.

(14) Sadly this view is nowadays masked by tree growth.

(15) Thornburn, p 104

(16) Thornburn, p 103

Chapter 9

(1) Rosse & Hill, p 54

(2) Infantry: the Brigade of Guards understood that, unless specifically designated as ‘Tank’, ‘Armoured’, or ‘Motor’, a Guards battalion might be assumed to be infantry, albeit in this case ‘motorized’ (i.e., lorried) infantry.

(3) Fitzgerald, p 396-398

(4) Lindsay, p 147: the further claim that Adair ‘grouped together in 32nd Guards Brigade, 1st (Motor) Battalion and 2nd (Armoured) Battalion of the Grenadiers’ is simply nonsense – possibly a misunderstanding between the general and his editor. Throughout the Normandy campaign those battalions never strayed from 5 Guards Armoured Brigade. The actual extent of Adair’s ‘reorganization’ is examined in Appendix IV.

(5) Fitzgerald, p 398

(6) Howard & Sparrow, p 272

(7) Both the Coldstream and the Irish Guards claim to have led the way up 238: the divisional history favours the tanks. More important than who went first is the fact that the tanks and infantry were acting independently of one another.

(8) Howard & Sparrow, p 273

(9) The body of Captain Dormer, who had earlier been awarded the DSO for undisclosed ‘cloak and dagger’ exploits in occupied France, was found next morning near the spot where he had been ambushed in the dark at point-blank range. Nearby, penetrated frontally, his tank had run on into a tree, its tracks continuing to thrash deep into the soil until the engine burnt out.

(10) Thought to be dying, Michael Adeane survived and later became the Queen’s Private Secretary. He was the first of five commanding officers lost by the battalion in this campaign.

(11) Fitzgerald, p 404

(12) Various estimates of the artillery support have been given: this account from the Coldstream War Diary is the most conservative.

(13) This was not the only wreck on the battlefield later attributed to 2. Panzerdivision. The tank was a relic of the Vienna division’s 5. Kompanie.

(14) Guards Armoured Division War Diary

(15) Of Stuart light tanks, often referred to as ‘Honeys’ by the British.

(16) Fitzgerald, p 405

(17) ‘X’ Company was so named to distinguish it, a company of Scots Guards infantry commanded by the flamboyant Major ‘Feathers’ Stewart-Fotheringham, within the Irish infantry battalion with which it was integrated for the Normandy campaign.

(18) How, British Breakout, p 79. Another 11th Armoured officer recorded a widely held (if not entirely accurate) view that any trained, experienced armoured division ‘could have effected an advance of eleven miles, only the last mile of which was opposed, in 36 hours. But not, one is compelled to say, the Guards... there was a lack of real drive, which we had noticed at Goodwood.’(Thornburn, p 106)

(19) Howard & Sparrow, p 304

(20) In this battle more than most, different accounts’ estimates of time of day vary greatly.

(21) Howard & Sparrow, p 304. As previously noted, before crossing to France the Coldstream had hastily re-fitted a third of their tanks with the (recently discarded) 6-pounder gun, ‘consequent upon the arrival of new ammunition’. This round had a theoretical possibility of penetrating a Tigertank. Unlike many units, the 4th Coldstream may have had a brief opportunity to fire these ‘secret’ and precious discarding-sabot rounds before using them in combat, but even so the tank gunners could hardly have become familiar with their unusual trajectory before 1 August.

(22) Martin, p 91. Pip Roberts later commented of this and other similar occasions that, ‘If it had not been for the Corps artillery, I doubt if we would have held the Germans. The Divisional artillery “keep the heads of the enemy down” but don’t do much killing.’

(23) Woollcombe, p 103

(24) View of a British officer serving with 11th Armoured Division. How, British Breakout, p 79

(25) That ‘time was of the utmost importance.’ (Hart, p 146)

Chapter 10

(1) Blacker, p 91

(2) Roberts, p 192

(3) Roberts, p 192. The wider issue of the Vire prohibition is addressed in Appendix V.

(4) 29 Brigade conference, 24 July, see Appendix IV.

(5) Roberts, p 193

(6) 117 Battery with its twelve 3-inch antitank guns and 119 Battery with twelve 17-pounders. It is believed that the M10 names ‘Wolverine’ (for the 3-inch) and ‘Achilles’ (for the 17-pounder) were probably only adopted post-war, and were most likely of Canadian origin.

(7) Bishop, p 70

(8) Blacker, p 91

(9) Bishop, p 71

(10) Bell, p 34

(11) Blacker, p 94

(12) Tieke, p 150: ‘Hauptsturmfuhrer Kalls’ 1. Tiger Kompanie drove point for Kampfgruppe Weiß. At Chênedollé it became involved in combat with an English armored point group. Sturmbannfuhrer Weiß had the mission of pushing forward to Vire, regardless, in order to scuttle a suspected British push into the unprotected city. Weiß let Kompanie Kalls clear up the situation in Chênedollé.’

(13) The Hussars’ history relates that a rifleman had, ‘promptly put two rounds of P.I.A.T. through its turret, and was furious when it merely emitted clouds of smoke and drove away’, clearly exaggerating both the rate of fire of the PIAT and the reliability of its warhead!

(14) Thorpe memoirs

(15) Steel Brownlie memoirs

(16) The American fighter-bombers were not the only culprits. John Thorpe recalled how the Fifes’ C Squadron called-up air support that same day, only to have the RAF Typhoons ‘immediately attack us and shoot us up regardless of recognition sheets and smoke.’

(17) Thornburn, p 107

(18) This and following from Thornburn, p 108-109

(19) This defensive fire was provided by two 8.8cm anti-aircraft batteries, providentially positioned by II. Fallschirmjägerkorps on the high ground east of Vire. But there was little force within Vire itself to withstand any British attempt on the place.

(20) Orde, p 132

Chapter 11

(1) Note that throughout these and later operations, the Guards persisted in referring to la Ferronnière as ‘St-Charles-de-Percy’, preferring their ‘official’ maps to the reality. Apart from direct quotations, this text will use the actual place names, which will therefore differ from many Guards’ records. See Appendix I.

(2) Rosse & Hill, p 60

(3) Not to be confused with the 3rd Irish Guards’ commander, Lieutenant-Colonel J O E (‘Joe’) Vandeleur.

(4) Fitzgerald, p 410

(5) This was by no means an unusual occurrence. Highly motivated commanders found it all too easy to exceed their endurance; one of many important lessons learned in early actions was the need for need for organized rest, for officers and men. Experience taught officers to insist on respect for the notice: ‘I am having my organized rest. Have you had yours?’

(6) The Irish Guards’ own history (Fitzgerald) unaccountably mistakes this advance as occurring the following day, 3 August.

(7) Howard & Sparrow, p 274

(8) Fitzgerald, p 411

(9) 2 Armd IG War Diary

Chapter 12

(1) 9. SS-Panzerregiment and SS-Panzergrenadierregiment ‘Hohenstaufen’ (or ‘H’), the latter formed on 23 July in an amalgamation of the division’s two Panzergrenadier regiments into a single, three-battalion. The remaining, third infantry battalion of SS-Pz.Gr.Rgt. 20 with its armoured halftracks was subordinated to the tank regiment.

(2) Tieke, p 151. Note that by the time his force engaged the 2nd Welsh Guards’ Cromwells, Fröhlich himself was absent, having been injured in the first exchange of fire at St Charles and taken back to Montchamp to be treated in an aid station set up in the schoolhouse.

(3) This and following covered in detail in Fürbringer, p 351-361

(4) This and following, Tieke, p 149-155

(5) This and following: Streng, reported in How, British Breakout, p 114

Chapter 13

(1) Meyer, p 164. The force consisted of the Hitlerjugend 2. SS-Pz.Kpie. (thirteen Panther tanks under Ostuf. Gaede); the infantry of 9. Kompanie SS-Pz.Gr.Rgt. 26; a battery of six Wespe self-propelled 10.5cm guns of SS-Artillerieregiment 12 ; and six heavy, eight-wheeled armoured cars of 1. Kpie./SS-Pz.AA. ‘LAH’.

(2) Steel Brownlie memoirs

(3) Steel Brownlie later identified the opposition as Olboeter’s battlegroup, drawing his information from Joe How’s British Breakout (op cit). This was incorrect; AG Olboeter had not yet arrived in the sector.

(4) Equipped with Mittlerer Schützenpanzer, the combat engineers and their equipment were carried in these lightly armoured Sd.Kfz. 251 half-tracked vehicles.

(5) 2nd Northants Yeo War Diary

(6) Both German and British sources wrongly refer to ‘Hill 119’. This point [modern 127] is actually located in the trough of a valley, where the ruler-straight highway crosses the winding course of the little Ruisseau de la Planche.

(7) Jones, p 152. Only a week later, on 10 August, would the 2nd Northants squadrons at last receive 17-pounder-equipped Challenger tanks. And just a week after, the battalion was disbanded.

(8) Thornburn, p 112. Major Thornburn later reflected that had he seen Typhoons in action, ‘I would have accepted them like a shot.’ Others with experience of being strafed by their own side might have been less confident.

(9) Close, p 133

(10) Forbes, p 163-164. Truth be told, the Shermans’ 75mm Armour Piercing rounds were of little more use against the front of a Panther tank than High Explosive; the smoke and fury of Kite’s HE served to discourage the advancing enemy from overrunning the infantry in their slit trenches.

(11) Forbes, p 164

(12) Quoted in Forbes, p 165

(13) Fitzgerald, p 411

(14) Fitzgerald, p 412

(15) And identified as ‘Panthers’ and ‘Tigers’: the former probably accurate, the latter definitely not so. British intelligence had wrongly concluded that the spaced armour fitted to the Panzer IV as a defence against shaped-charge weapons was in fact a camouflage to make it resemble a Tiger. Though not the true intent, British troops were often so deceived.

(16) 2 Armd IG War Diary. The Intelligence Officer writing these lines was no doubt aware that his fellow Guards Armoured officer, the Conservative member for North Lanark, had raised the issue of tank quality in Parliament, forcing the Secretary of State for War officially to deny suggestions that Allied tanks were inferior.

(17) 5th Coldstream War Diary

(18) At twilight the tanks withdrew up the hill to leaguer; seeing them go, the Coldstream company likewise saw fit to retire to an orchard overlooking the valley.

(19) Fitzgerald, p 413

(20) personal correspondence, July 2002

(21) Interview with Alan Henshall. August 2005, who believed that the fifth crew member, gun layer Percy Paskin had also died in the turret. Only days after attending Henshall’s funeral in January 2009 did the author discover that Bombardier Paskin survived his wounds of 3 August.

(22) Fitzgerald, p 433

(23) Rosse & Hill, p 64

(24) See Appendix II: ‘Doctrine and Morale’

(25) Roberts, p 193

(26) Blacker, p 97

(27) Blacker, p 98

(28) Howard & Sparrow, p 276

(29) This and following from 2 Armd IG War Diary. Y Battery was equipped with self-propelled 17-pounder M10s of 21st Antitank Regiment

(30) F Echelon was transport needed during combat by the ‘fighting’ sub-unit (company or squadron): armoured carriers for front-line movement and casualty evacuation; rear-link wireless truck; and commanding officer’s scout car. F2 brought forward petrol, ammunition, and rations. A Echelon was the rest of the regiment’s own transport normally kept out of action. B Echelon, manned by the Royal Army Service Corps, operated still further back.

(31) Ellis, Welsh Guards, p 186

(32) Steel Brownlie, Proud Trooper, p 385

(33) Thornburn, p 113

(34) Jackson, p 136

(35) Jones, p 160-163

(36) Corporal Ken Ball, quoted in Brisset, Charge of the Bull, p 92

(37) Blacker, p 103

(38) Rosse & Hill, p 63

(39) Fitzgerald, p 415

Chapter 14

(1) Lower echelons of command, while unaware of ULTRA, nevertheless read the situation on the ground. Some of those facing the more resilient German formations were increasingly concerned over the possibility of a German ‘turn and leap’. (Blumenson, p 456)

(2) Wilson, 1st Norfolks, p 26

(3) 5th Coldstream and 2nd Armd Irish Guards War Diaries

(4) Rosse & Hill, p 66. As usual, uncorroborated British tank identifications should be treated with care: Fitzgerald, p 434, records a Panther, a Panzer IV, two Panzer III; neither number of Panzer III seems likely.

(5) Cunliffe, p 106; Blacker, p 95

(6) Blacker, p 104

(7) Steel Brownlie memoirs

(8) Fitzgerald, p 421

(9) Blacker, p 102

(10) How, British Breakout, p177. Major How was wounded in the course of the episode he recounts.

(11) Quoted in Delaforce, Monty’s Iron Sides, p 94

(12) How, British Breakout, p197

(13) Wilson, 1st Norfolks, p 27

(14) ‘It was then shown that it was not only in the days of shakos and scarlet tunics that British troops could cheer.’ (Steel Brownlie, Proud Trooper, p 387)

(15) Pemberton, p 223. See also Appendix II, ‘Indirect Fire’

(16) Thorpe memoirs. It should be recorded that not all the Norfolks’ stretcher bearers were cowering in slit trenches: Lance-Corporal Seaman’s collection of the mortally wounded Sydney Bates from the field of battle was just one example of selfless courage.

(17) Steel Brownlie memoirs

(18) Steel Brownlie, Proud Trooper, p 388. Likewise, an infantry officer found it ‘difficult to understand what prompted the enemy to attack the British at their strongest point: both flanks of the position were extremely weak.’ (How, 3rd Monmouths, p 44-45)

(19) Rosse & Hill, p 74

(20) This and preceding from Bishop, p 74-80

(21) Cunliffe, p 107

(22) Bishop, p 83

(23) Thorpe memoirs

(24) Jones, p 171-172

Chapter 15

(1) Sym, p 290. See also Martin p 97; Howard & Sparrow, p 305; and Forbes, p 30, ‘Intelligence reports stated that the Brigade was unlikely to encounter opposition. This turned out to be a case of profound misinformation.’

(2) Green memoirs

(3) With the 3rd Scots Guards’ own ‘S’ Squadron re-forming in the 6 Brigade Administrative Area, the battalion temporarily had 2 Squadron of 4th Grenadiers under command. Forbes Grenadier Guards p91.

(4) Green memoirs

(5) Flower, p 170. Explanations of these British actions in the records of the units involved paint very different pictures of events. This is by no means uncommon, reflecting not only regimental pride but also honest attempts to penetrate the fog of war. As a corps-level asset, with its sub units widely dispersed, the 91st Antitank Regiment was relatively disinterested and sometimes better able after the event to piece together the ‘big picture’.

(6) Note that some 15th Scottish sources claim the enemy was deceived and continued to mortar the Bois des Monts throughout the following day – whether true or not, it may be that this belief was some small comfort to the Scots).

(7) Miles, p 282. Sad to relate, the Estry schoolmaster Monsieur Gautier had crept through German lines to report in detail on the defended state of his village. His information was telephoned through to 46 Brigade, but politely ignored. Such was the confidence that the Gordons told the assigned antitank battery to, ‘Just fall in behind our last group of vehicles. We have had information from our patrols that there is nothing gin the village, and we expect to walk into it’ (Flower, p 172)

(8) Miles, p 282

(9) Martin, p 99

(10) Forbes, p 31

(11) Miles, p 283

(12) Flower, p 174: ‘Lieut. Brown was invited to do with three M10s what a squadron of Churchills could not or would not do. He declined.’

(13) Flower, p 183-184

(14) Green memoirs

(15) The two had much in common. Following the losses suffered by the 10th HLI in their first battle, including their colonel and 2IC, J R Sinclair (then Major) had briefly left the Gordons to take command; some time later that command was assumed by the extremely capable Argyll, Russell Morgan. See Daglish, Operation EPSOM, Appendix VI.

(16) Martin, p 101

(17) These were recorded by the Argylls’ Intelligence Officer as ‘Mark IV Tigers’. Mark IVs they almost certainly were. This was no attempt to deceive: in the eyes of the infantry the term ‘Tiger’ could justifiably describe any enemy tank.

(18) Martin, p 101

(19) McElwee, p 58-60

(20) Variously described as a ‘light reconnaissance car’ and a ‘half-track’ yet apparently unarmoured, this was in all probability a Sd.Kfz. 2 Kettenkrad, a half-tracked motor-cycle. Stopped by the Middlesex No. 1 Section, the enemy crew attempted to serve the machine-gunners with a dixie of something resembling tea, but this not prove to the liking of the Londoners, who passed it on along with the prisoners to the Scots.

(21) McElwee, p 63

(22) Flower, p 174

(23) Green memoirs

(24) Martin, p 102

(25) ‘Advocate’, p 35

(26) British counter-mortar policy in Normandy is a topic in its own right. Briefly, the 1st Middlesex, attached to 15th (Scottish) Division, recorded, ‘The Battalion was put on counter-mortar duties, the intention being that as soon as a bomb or shell landed in a brigade area, immediate retaliation was to be carried out on selected targets by three platoons of M.M.Gs., two or more platoons of 4.2-inch mortars, and all available 3-inch mortars. At the same time the divisional artillery also joined in. It was to prove an extremely successful method of keeping the enemy quiet.’(Kemp, p 318). Alternatively, as rumour had it, the enemy mortar fire at Estry diminished after the infantry discovered a Frenchman in a nearby farm using a radio, and quickly did away with him.

(27) Woolcombe, p 105-106

(28) 6th KOSB War Diary

(29) Flower, p 171-172

Chapter 16

(1) Blumenson, p 441: ‘At the beginning of August, American and British forces were both driving to Vire as the point of the wheeling movement that had already started.’

(2) Raised in Poland in January 1944, the inexperienced 363. Infanteriedivision was one of those anxiously awaited by LXXXIV Korps, arriving to hold the right flank of the army corps, where (in Meindl’s words) it was ‘entrusted – against my desires – with the defence of the city of Vire’. Also in the sector was the Kampfgruppe formed by the remnants of the 352. Infanteriedivision, its battalions rated abgekämpft [i.e., on a battleworthiness scale of one to five, scoring only four: depleted and only marginally fit for combat] yet in actuality still putting up a fight, its numbers eked out by the dregs of five other shattered infantry divisions.

(3) Gunning, p 115

(4) Bishop, p 89

(5) Steel Brownlie memoirs, entry for 8 August, with no further entry until 12 August: ‘four balmy days lying in the sun.’

(6) Wilson, 1st Norfolks, p 28

(7) Roberts, p 194

(8) Palamountain, p 36

(9) Fitzgerald, p 437

(10) Wilson, Ever Open Eye, p 40-41

(11) See Appendix II: ‘Doctrine and Morale’

(12) This objective was to extend almost as far as the hamlet of le Crépon. Rather than refer to this locality by its 1944 French appellation of ‘le Crapon’, the British Operation Order confusingly called it ‘Houssemagne’. This may be yet another example of mistaking place names on French maps. Houssemagne was actually almost a further kilometre east of the objective: the place itself lying to the east of a printed name ambiguously covering over a kilometre of the pre-war French map. (See APPENDIX I) To further complicate matters, the modern map includes two identically named Houssemagnes, 750 metres apart. Fortunately, both may be ignored for the purposes of this narrative.

(13) Farrell, p 91-92: ‘The Welsh Guards had never trained in close infantry/tank cooperation which was our normal mode of fighting, but the plan we worked out with them was to prove successful. They told us later that one of the things which took them by surprise was the appalling noise of fighting so closely with tanks.’ Surprising, perhaps, for an infantry battalion serving in an armoured division!

(14) Farrell, p 93. Charles Farrell pointed out that, ‘There was incidentally no question of our Tank Commanders closing the turret hatch down as they would have had to use only their periscope and would have lost control.’ Note also that by tradition Scots Guards commanders did not wear protective helmets, preferring the more comfortable black beret.

(15) This and preceding material from 3rd Scots Guards War Diary ‘Account of the Action Fought... at Chênedollé 11th August 1944’

(16) Ellis, Welsh Guards, p 196

(17) Howard & Sparrow, p 279

(18) The 1st Grenadiers’ Intelligence Officer noted the event in curiously painstaking detail: ‘On approaching the hamlet a tank reported it had been hit by fire from an A.Tk gun – this was shortly corrected to a mine, and then to a Bazooka, later being reported as an A.Tk gun. In the end it was proved to be a mine.’

(19) About this time, the approach was noted of a German ambulance, which disgorged a section of soldiers who ‘bazookaed’ a troop leader’s Sherman, killing the officer with grenades. 5. Fallschirmjägerregiment were identified as the culprits of this alleged ‘contravention of the rules of war’.

(20) Vandeleur, p 82. Private correspondence with a senior artillery officer has raised questions over the availability of artillery support following the initial planned barrage in support of the drive on Chênedollé. It appears possible - though as yet unproven - that more artillery might have been on-call to Vandeleur had he thought to request it in mid-battle; possible also that he might have been reluctant to request artillery on-call to 5th Guards Brigade.

(21) Fitzgerald, p 438

(22) Some accounts reverse the positions of the two companies, in most cases drawing from the mistaken account in Fitzgerald, p 440. The correct dispositions are confirmed by numerous personal accounts of the action.

(23) This and following extracts from Fitzgerald, p 439-441. As a Coldstream officer present later observed, only this and Colonel Vandeleur’s own book ‘give other than the thinnest accounts of this devastating day... It could be that some felt the least said the better, but those few I occasionally meet who fought that day at Sourdeval know otherwise.’ (Boscawen, p 82)

(24) A sketch map of the battlefield, inaccurate in a number of respects yet incorporated in Fitzgerald’s regimental history and other accounts, wrongly shows this second path as running parallel to the Centre Line and joining the Chênedollé road further west.

(25) Wilson, p 45

(26) This and following, Boscawen, p 74-78

(27) It was felt by some within the battalion that the attached company of Scots Guards was occasionally spared the worst tasks and ‘not risked unnecessarily.’ Perhaps this was in the company commander’s mind later in the month when the attachment ended and he reflected that Colonel Joe, ‘has always treated us as something special (better than we deserved).’

(28) 1st Coldstream War Diary

(29) On 16 August, General Montgomery paid a visit and to his innocent question, ‘How do you like being infantry?’ the exasperated Lieutenant Peake famously exclaimed, ‘I hate it, sir, and the sooner I am allowed to get back to my armoured cars, for which we have been trained, the better.’(Orde, p 161)

Chapter 17

(1) This and following: Meindl interrogation report

(2) Robert Barr, in War Report, p 174

(3) Martin, p 105-106

(4) Jackson p 141

(5) Roberts, p 196

(6) Fitzgerald, p 427 & 419. See Appendix V, also Operation BLUECOAT – a Victory Ignored? in Buckley (ed), Sixty Years On

(7) Fitzgerald, p 444

(8) 2nd Irish Guards were to lose 175 tanks in the course of the 1944-1945 campaign. Of the original sixty-one Shermans brought to Normandy, only two survived the war, each twice hit and twice repaired.

(9) Flower, p 204. Different accounts attribute the water bowser either to 1st Norfolks or to 1st Suffolks – both of 3rd Division.

(10) Roger Gray, ‘Normandy Revisited’, p 398 Blackwood’s Magazine, November 1977.

Appendix I

(1) Orde, p 111

(2) Bishop, p 71

(3) Bishop, p 64

(4) This and preceding from Fitzgerald, p 409-410

(5) Boscawen, p 63

Appendix II

(1) General der Panzertruppen, Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz, this and following extracts from his report of 14 July 1944, covering the period 17 June to 7 July, entitled Battle Experiences From Recent Operations by 2. Panzerdivision, captured from 326. Infanteriedivision headquarters, translated, and circulated with British Second Army Intelligence Summary no. 62.

(2) Few are more critical of this predictable German tactic than Terry Copp. What ought to have been forbidden was the practice of launching immediate local counterattacks to recapture lost ground as a reflex rather than as a considered, rational action.’ Copp castigates the German forces for their repeated attempts ‘to fight so hard, and at such great cost, to regain ground of so little tactical value.’ (Copp, p 157-158)

(3) Though not in the line of command on the western front, which passed directly from OB West (von Kluge) through Jodl to Hitler, Guderian’s Inspector General role permitted him to criticise the handling of armour by von Kluge, with whom he did not see eye-to-eye.

(4) Pemberton, p 223

(5) Fitzgerald, p 433. Prior to the invasion, Guards officers were treated to preparatory lectures on such subjects as ‘Conduct When Captured’ and ‘Interrogation’. Captain Terence O’Neill noted in 5th Guards’ Brigade War Diary on 29 March: ‘The inevitable question which is always raised at all these sessions was brought up. Does one shoot prisoners? This is always met with evasive answers. They told one or two good stories about Czech and Polish interrogators.’

(6) Aparticularly useful example is to be found in Kershaw, It Never Snows in September, Chapter IV, Portrait of the German Soldier

Appendix III

(1) Orde, p 76

(2) Osborne, p 71

(3) Orde, p 147-148

(4) Orde, p 93

(5) Roberts, p 184

(6) Ellis, Welsh Guards, p 182

(7) For all the acknowledged shortcomings of the British Expeditionary Force, nowhere is the value of a skilled reconnaissance unit better exemplified than in the truly remarkable story of the 12th Royal Lancers. Their Morris Armoured Reconnaissance Cars, ‘ under-engined, under-armed, and under-armoured; being in fact, although the latest thing of its kind, already obsolescent,’ few in number at the outset and fewer still as the fighting continued, nevertheless turned up on all corners of the battlefield to perform invaluable service. (Stewart, XII Royal Lancers, p 348)

(8) British Army historian Charles Markuss points out that only the 2nd HCR and the Inns of Court had the AEC III ‘Matador’, a clumsy beast with poor cross-country performance and notorious for blocking narrow roads. The Inns managed to discard theirs after the breakout from Normandy. Other armoured car regiments had half-track mounted 75mm guns, which had better cross-country performance and being less well armoured were less likely to be misused in the direct-fire role!

(9) Orde, p 92-93. Doherty (p 147) cites an example of cars and Corps working effectively together in the 16 August advance on Flers: the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment having ‘Under Command’ two squadrons of the 2nd Household Cavalry armoured car regiment. The Household Cavalry history makes no acknowledgement of this, commenting only that the 3rd Division ‘made slow and steady progress along the Tinchebray road... But as the attack never really got going, there was no question of the Regiment being able to pass through to exploit.’ Different perspectives indeed. (Orde, p 155)

(10) Orde, p 173

(11) Taylor, Band of Brothers, p 274. The rest was 9% ‘protection’, 34% ‘acting as infantry’, and 45% ‘miscellaneous’.

(12) Orde, p 178 & 161

(13) This and following paragraphs draw on Tactics of German Armoured Reconnaissance Units 1943/4 in War Office Weekly Intelligence Review nos. 25 & 26

(14) Fabian von Bonin von Ostau, 1. Panzerdivision, quoted in Perrett, Iron Fist, p 138-139. Similarly, Inns of Court veteran Eric Knowles recalls: ‘The 19 set was of course our most important weapon. If you could not radio back the information you had obtained quickly & clearly, you might as well not have bothered to go on the patrol.’ (letter to the author, 23 May 1999)

(15) Though motor-cycles were retained by despatch riders, and unarmoured amphibious Volkswagen Schwimmwagen employed for scouting.

(16) It has been suggested that the Noyers action persuaded Gräbner that the British were at their most vulnerable after dawn ‘stand to’, and so contributed to the Arnhem catastrophe.

(17) Tieke, p 134-135; Cazenave, p 189-190

Appendix IV

(1) Daglish, Operation EPSOM, Appendix VII

(2) Harrison Place, p 126

(3) Buckley, British Armour, p 81

(4) The collective term for all Guards regiments, not a ‘brigade’ in the organizational sense.

(5) Lindsay, p 74-75 & 150. See also Baynes, p 186.

(6) Harrison Place, p 126

(7) French, p 269: ‘combined attacks by both the armoured and lorried infantry brigades were deprecated because they required exceptional co-ordination and left the divisional commander without any reserves.’

(8) Graham, p 133

(9) Rosse & Hill, p 25

(10) Lindsay, p 146-147

(11) Gorman, p 42

(12) Lindsay, p 152

(13) This and following from Roberts, p 184

(14) The removal of the Stuart tanks’ turrets was ordered by 29th Armoured Brigade on 6 July and carried out in the course of the following week.

(15) In this case, ‘regiment’ and ‘battalion’ can be considered equivalent unit sizes.

(16) Roberts, p 190-191

(17) The extensive literature dealing with these matters is well summarized in Harrison Place, p 136-137.

(18) Bishop, p 60-61

(19) Thornburn, p 88

(20) Blacker, p 83-84

(21) Bishop, p 59-60

Appendix V

(1) Clark, Barbarossa, Preface p xxi: ‘Which is the more absurd – to allow, with the wisdom of hindsight, an immaculate German campaign against a Russian resistance still plagued by those blunders and follies that arose in the heat and urgency of battle, or to correct both and to reset the board in an atmosphere of complete fantasy?’

(2) Copp, Fields of Fire, p 188. Terry Copp’s quest for an objective cost/benefit analysis of BLUECOAT has provoked useful debate.

(3) Among historians critical of Montgomery’s failure to reinforce the Canadian advance on Falaise with more seasoned formations is Carlo d’Este (Decision, p 426-427); General Bradley recalled of subsequent failures to reach Falaise, ‘If Monty’s tactics mystified me, they dismayed Eisenhower even more... Patton raged at Montgomery’s blunder.’ (A Soldier’s Story, p 377)

(4) This and other quotes in this Appendix from Montgomery, Normandy to the Baltic, Chapter Nine. Ironically, while many on the Allied side dismissed GOODWOOD as a failure, it is now realised that the operation had a severely demoralizing impact on German soldiers from the high command down to the Landser in his front-line foxhole.

(5) These intentions were confirmed the following day in a letter to Supreme Commander Eisenhower. A further letter to Eisenhower two days later, 24 July, reveals that Montgomery still assumed that this ‘ultimate’, very large-scale operation would involve a re-activated VIII Corps.

(6) According to the British official history, ‘this day’s bloody and abortive fight... butting against a wall which had not given way.’ Ellis, Victory, p 379

(7) Dempsey Diary, reported in Hart, Colossal Cracks, p 139-140: ‘Dempsey informed his superior that he had selected the Caumont sector for this operation: Dempsey alone made this significant decision.’

(8) Salmond, p 155. Of course the Poles were not entirely ‘inexperienced’: many of them had fought in various theatres since 1939.

(9) ‘I have ordered Dempsey to throw all caution overboard and to take any risks he likes, and to accept any casualties, and to step on the gas for Vire.’ Significantly, this line is from a despatch to Eisenhower, sent during one of those periods in which Montgomery deigned to ingratiate by telling his Supreme Commander what Ike would surely be pleased to hear. Hence no doubt the Americanism employed.

(10) VIII Corps Operation Instruction No. 6 ‘Op BLUECOAT’, 29 July, 1944

(11) The American official history concurs: ‘Like GOODWOOD... which had raised doubts concerning Montgomery’s primary and secondary motives, BLUECOAT had its ambiguous aspects.’ (Blumenson , Breakout, p 289-290)

(12) Blumenson, Breakout, p 197: ‘The word “breakthrough”, frequently used during the planning period, signified a penetration through the depth of the enemy defensive position. The word “breakout” was often employed later somewhat ambiguously or as a literary term to describe the results of COBRA.’

(13) After 6 August renamed 5. Panzerarmeeoberkommando (German ‘Fifth Armoured Army Command’). A good summary of Eberbach’s testimony in captivity can be found in Isby, Fighting the Breakout, p 181-183.

(14) Blumenson, Breakout, p 289-290

(15) Either because the division was too closely concerned with XXX Corps’ operations, or because of Montgomery’s diminishing trust in the ‘Desert Rats’, or some combination of these factors.

(16) How, British Breakout, p 92

(17) Roberts, p 193 & 195

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