Chapter 2


On the VIII Corps front, the initial breakthrough was to be led by 227 Brigade, strengthened by the loan of 9th Cameronians for a total of four battalions. In the first phase, just two battalions were to lead the way. Moving down off the Caumont ridge, the Cameronians on the right would secure the hamlet of Sept-Vents, while on the left 2nd Gordon Highlanders would clear the Lutaine Wood, both battalions supported by troops of 4th Tank Grenadier Guards, with troops of Sherman ‘Crab’ mine-clearing flail tanks and Churchill ‘Crocodile’ flame-throwing tanks on call.



Vehicles await their turn to move up.

To each of the four leading infantry companies of about seventy-five men were assigned seven Churchill infantry tanks: two troops of three ‘gun’ tanks under the command of a captain in a 95mm howitzer-armed ‘support’ tank. The tanks had arrived at their Forming Up Places just north of the ridge the evening before; the infantry joined them around 03.00 hours. At 06.55 hours, the combined force stepped forth down the slope. As the leading infantry companies departed, their places were immediately taken by men of the following companies, and behind them the second-wave infantry units. Vehicles standing crammed into every lane and packed three-deep behind every hedgerow awaited their turn to move out and those behind tried in vain to edge forward.

Each infantry battalion advanced on a two-company front. On the morning of 30 July, we can envisage each of the two objectives being approached by a wave of one hundred and fifty men, strung out across five hundred yards.1 Small sections of seven or eight men advanced at walking pace, well separated, across thickly-hedged fields varying from 100 metres across down to 50 metres or less. Unlike their German counterparts, these sections advanced more or less in unison. This was largely to ensure that their progress was closely choreographed with the development of the broader battle, particularly its complex orchestration of artillery and air power.

The orchestration of tanks and infantry was less successful. The ability of the tanks to offer ‘close support’ to the infantry was severely limited by the terrain. On the day, the tanks had to follow as best they could using the few narrow lanes and any serviceable breaches they could find in the hedgerows. The leading Churchills pressed forward, often out of sight of their fellow tanks, sometimes even out of radio communication as aerials were torn off by low branches and thick foliage. Individual commanders in this first wave supported any infantry they came across, or who sought them out.

Under a leaden overcast and shrouded by the early morning mist, the force passed through outpost lines manned by the 10th Highland Light Infantry and on down the forward slopes. There had been no preliminary artillery bombardment, the first concentrations against likely enemy strong points fired only two minutes before H Hour.2 Though since 06.15 hours fighter-bomber aircraft had been strafing suspected enemy positions ahead.

Soon after the foremost infantry set off came yet more air support as seven hundred medium and heavy bombers began to pound the landscape ahead. Their approach was masked by the overcast, but after releasing their bombs and turning north for home, some could be spotted at low level. Impressed by the distant thunder of bombs, reassured by the continuing throb of the engines, British riflemen lifted their gaze from the hedgerows ahead to thrill at brief glimpses of four-engined Lancaster and Halifax bombers roaring over their heads on their way home to England.3


Approach to Sept-Vents.



The enemy response was quick in coming. Within ten minutes of stepping off, both advancing battalions were taking losses from enemy artillery and mortar fire. Gordons and Cameronians alike lost company commanders in the opening salvoes. Some confusion resulted. The Cameronians’ D Company commander was lost on the Start Line; the only other officer present to take command was a newly-arrived reinforcement unfamiliar to the men. The company’s advance stalled until the commander of A Company, himself out of radio contact with battalion headquarters, took control of the situation. A Company resumed the advance, exchanging roles with what was left of D, who remained in le Vieux Bourg as flank cover for the regiment. Further men were lost to unmarked antipersonnel mines, many left by the Americans, while German antitank mines were also found, and the infantry regiments’ organic pioneer platoons were overwhelmed by the task of clearing them.

Now lagging behind the infantry, the first of the supporting Grenadier Guards Churchill tanks came down from the ridge: two squadrons, each of up to eighteen gun tanks, directed to accompany the infantry towards Sept-Vents; while a third squadron to the east made for the Lutaine Wood. By this time, smoke from the aerial bombardment filled the valley and visibility forward was virtually nil. Tank commanders straining for a view outside their turrets were picked off by snipers or felled by shards of mortar bombs.4 In such close country, the tanks’ movement was predictable and the antitank mines had been artfully sited.

On the right flank, the Grenadiers’ 1 Squadron of Churchills struggled forward, accompanied by their regimental antiaircraft troop: open-turreted Crusader tanks mounting twin 20mm Oerlikon guns and ready to support the infantry with direct fire.5 Advancing along the sunken lane leading through le Vieux Bourg to Sept-Vents, five Grenadiers tanks went up in quick succession on mines, two of them blocking the road. Sherman ‘Crab’ flail tanks of B Squadron, Lothian and Border Yeomanry were called forward towards Sept-Vents. The Crabs manoeuvred with difficulty around immobilized Churchills, then edged forward at no more than three miles per hour as their drums spun at 180 revolutions per minute. Drivers were blind. The flails beating the ground raised such dense clouds of dust that buttoned-up crews often had only their vacuum-driven gyroscopic direction indicators for guidance, and tank commanders could rarely make out the guiding lights of preceding flailing tanks, much less the lines of chalk powder deposited to mark the beaten path.




Aicraft pound the distant ridge as troops ente the smoke filled valley.


Today a clearer view from Caumont ridge, south to Hill 309.

Lieutenant Carter’s leading flail tank detonated eight mines in less than fifty yards. But each antitank mine detonated risked the loss of another of the forty-three chains. Steadily, the chances of missing a mine increased. About a dozen mines was the most that could be hoped for, and in this case the ninth mine in the roadside verge blew a track off the tank. Carter called forward the next Crab, Sergeant Rawlinson’s, which successfully flailed two mines before being blown up by the simultaneous detonation of a triangle of three mines set deep in the road. The third tank of the troop abandoned the blocked road, leading the way as a lane sixteen feet wide was successfully beaten parallel to the road. (After the action, an enemy machine gun team emerged from their roadside slit trench to surrender. It is axiomatic that to be effective, minefields must be covered with firepower: without the armoured flails, fire from this cunningly concealed position would have exacted a heavy price from sappers on foot attempting to lift the mines.)

By 08.30 hours, as B Company of the Cameronians closed with the village of Sept-Vents, only one Churchill tank of the three supporting troops of 1 Squadron remained in action. Clearing the place was a slow process until the reserve 2 Squadron could be brought forward. From the Caumont ridge where it had been giving overhead support fire, 2 Squadron made its way to the eastern side of the village. Directed by the battalion 2IC, Major Deakin, two of the troops poured fire onto the village defences, assisted by the surviving Crusaders of the anti-aircraft troop which ‘had a very good shoot in the village with their Oerlikons’. The other troops turned eastward to suppress resistance in la Maugeraye. The action was fragmented:

‘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.’6

Only by 15.00 hours were the Cameronians able to report Sept-Vents clear and ready to receive wheeled transport. As will be seen, by this time the battle had flowed on around both sides of the village. C Company and the reserve squadron of tanks took up a protective screening position to the south. While other Cameronians drew breath amid the ruins, columns of 11th Armoured Division tanks and lorry loads of infantry thundered south-west down the Torigni road to cover VIII Corps’ open right flank.7


On the left, the 2nd Gordons advanced alongside the Cahagnes road down into the valley that separated the orchards of Mondant and the Lutaine Wood.8 Here the leading two companies encountered minefields in front of a network of camouflaged machine gun posts and dug-outs. The Gordons advanced with B Company left and A Company right to establish fire bases on their respective corners of the wood. Once again, each company was supported by two troops of the Grenadiers’ 3 Squadron plus an officer in a close-support Churchill tank with its 95mm howitzer. The mines here were predominantly anti-personnel, and the Lothians’ flails were not needed. But Churchill Crocodile flame-throwing tanks of 141 Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (‘The Buffs’) were on hand and proved their worth as the fight moved into the woods.


The sunken lane north of Sept-Vents was sown with mines.

With the Gordons’ A and B Companies and the accompanying Grenadiers’ tanks providing flanking fire, first D and then C Companies passed through them into the woods. The supporting Crocodiles of A Squadron, The Buffs advanced to flame the forward German positions. Throughout July, the Buffs’ Crocodile tanks had taken steady losses, their surviving crews meanwhile ‘writing the book’ of Crocodile tactics as they learned from hard experience. In particular, they had learned the need for supporting fire as they closed to the short range their flame-throwers required. Nominally this was anything up to a hundred yards, but in reality effective range was subject to a number of factors, not least wind strength and direction. This morning, there were additional difficulties caused as much by lack of preparation as by the terrain.


Cahagnes road from Caumont.

Captain Strachan had twice to reorganize his plan as the complex pressurized fuel systems of the Crocodile flame-throwers broke down. The strength of his two troops fell from six to three tanks, then rose back to four in time for the assault on the Lutaine Wood. On arrival, the four Churchill Crocodiles were unable to close in to optimum flaming range due to a high earth bank; nevertheless the flaming had its usual impact on the morale of the defending infantry. The Buffs’ War Diary modestly concluded that ‘The operation was quite successful.’9 In fact, their intervention was most effective. It was often impossible for Crocodile crews to distinguish the effects of their own fire from the charred remains of casualties inflicted earlier; and of course the demoralizing effect achieved by flaming the enemy was even harder to measure.



Churchill Crocodile in action.

Next, a troop of three Grenadier Guards tanks penetrated the western side of the wood and began firing at the defenders from behind. One of the three Churchills was knocked out, and soon after the troop lieutenant was killed while directing prisoners towards the advancing Gordons.10 Out of sight and unaware of these losses, the troop sergeant’s tank pressed on alone for a considerable distance, shooting up many a German position and generally wreaking mayhem before returning to the rear of the main Lutaine defences. There, Lance-Sergeant Kington’s lone tank held its position, firing 75mm HE rounds and spraying BESA bullets from its two machineguns into the Germans’ rear, at one point liquidating a grenade-throwing German squad at just eight yards range. Opposition slackened. By late afternoon, the surviving Grenadier tanks resumed the advance south towards St-Martin-des-Besaces.


The Gordons secured the newly-won positions: D Company in reserve to the north, A and C dug-in south of the wood, with B Company to the left having ‘to look to their flank, for the 43rd Division had made little progress towards Cahagnes.’

Then, incongruously,

‘a little man in blue raincoat and steel helmet made his appearance. He carried a rather antiquated looking camera and turned out to be a Press photographer, intent upon his business and quite indifferent to the risk he ran. And he was heard to say to one of the Gordons, “Now point your rifle over there and look as though you were doing something!” So, it would seem, are some battle pictures obtained.’11

At last, 15th Scottish and 6th Guards Tanks had completed the first phase, taking prisoner three officers and 148 other ranks of the 752. Infanterieregiment. The German positions were secured, the British infantry’s antitank and mortar platoons called forward and emplaced on the objectives, and the Guards tanks and specialized support armour released by the infantry commanders to pursue other tasks. However, the whole operation had fallen far behind timetable. ‘X Hour’, marking the commencement of phase two of the operation, had been set for 09.55 hours, immediately following a strike by medium bombers. It was now afternoon and phase two had not yet begun. And from 15.55 hours the final wave of bombing was due to fall on the day’s last objective, still miles away to the south.


The rolling fields west of Lutaine Wood were sown with mines.


An infantry officer giving orders by radio from his carrier.


The 326. Infanteriedivision had been shocked by aerial and artillery attack, next by the eruption from the Allied lines of fierce Scots infantry and scores of heavy Churchill infantry tanks. According to early prisoner interrogation, the forward battalions had ‘disappeared in small bits going rather fast backwards with the NCOs saying that it was hopeless to struggle against such material superiority and the officers shaking their heads in despair.’ Many disaffected men took the opportunity to be captured. But not all. The VIII Corps interrogation team was later to recognise that the 326. Infanteriedivision contained many experienced soldiers who did not lack the will to fight; recognising further that many surrendered involuntarily, when the only alternative was annihilation. Recognising too that the low morale of prisoners interviewed was no indicator of their previous fighting spirit, many realising only after capture the futility of their fight. Pockets fought on. They made the most of their prepared positions. They resisted fiercely and in places, as their front line positions were overwhelmed, even mounted the local counter attacks called for by German doctrine to recover lost ground before the enemy could establish on the objective.

Major set-piece British offensives in Normandy frequently underestimated the depth of German defensive positions. Time after time, instead of achieving breakthroughs, the British had been slowed by successive defence lines. Stopping to consolidate, on ground precisely registered by German mortar batteries, the tired and depleted British ranks would be subjected to accurate bombardment and then struck by vigorous local counter-attacks. This time, the forward momentum was supposed to be maintained. But the plan was already running late. The Cameronians and Gordons should have cleared the way to the Phase II Start Line, a thousand yards beyond Sept-Vents and Lutaine Wood, by 09.55 hours. This would be the signal for the remaining two battalions of 227 Brigade, the 10th Highland Light Infantry and 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, to begin the battle proper.

Those two battalions had displaced forward to their Forming Up Places where they waited with growing impatience. Looking down on the Gordons’ fight, the Argylls’ acting commander ‘began to wonder about 0820 hrs if we should ever get through to cross our S.L. on time.’12 So, without waiting for the Lutaine Wood struggle to be resolved, the Argylls’ two leading companies set off for the Start Line, followed by tanks of the 3rd Scots Guards. Similarly, the 10th HLI started down the hill towards Sept-Vents supported by tanks of the 4th Coldstream Guards. To the delayed start was added the difficulty of German defences which proved much deeper than expected. The Argylls’ commander recorded,

‘We and the tanks started going forward. Very soon both leading companies reported small arms opposition and it then became clear that we were in the battle even though our Start Line was still 1500 yards to the South... No troops had been detailed to clear the area between Sept-Vents and LUTAIN WOOD: consequently, it is not surprising that considerable opposition was encountered in this area. The German positions being well dug into the high banks and hedges.’13


The first German prisoners are hurried to the rear.

The Argylls fought their way through this resistance to reach the area of their Start Line. In fact, the designated Start Line was found to coincide with the enemy’s main defended area. Simply navigating the route was difficult enough. ‘Our line of advance was across country without any visible axis, and without tracks suitable for the passage of carriers. The fact that what tracks there were, were impassable to carriers, was not known before the operation.’14 Moving up through the uncleared ground between Sept-Vents and Lutaine Wood, losses were suffered and the two forward companies became separated. Encountering anti-personnel mines, the Argylls’ left-forward B Company was grateful that, ‘the help we got from our Scots Guards tanks could not have been bettered... the tanks of the Left Flank Sqn. driving tracks through the anti-personnel minefield for the infantry to follow.’ However, on the right, closer to le Bourg, A Company suffered worse from the passage of the minefields, experiencing casualties and a degree of disorganization.



To add to the difficulties, many of the Number 18 infantry wireless sets were malfunctioning and their conspicuous operators were prime targets for enemy snipers. The Argylls’ commander found that

‘Great difficulty was experienced in keeping touch with higher formation.’ Additionally, ‘We found it increasingly difficult for the forward companies of infantry to keep in touch with the tanks, due to the tanks having to jink about and increase speed in order to find crossing places over ditches and hedges. It was not long before we lost sight of the leading squadrons of tanks.’

Departing from the battle plan, the major ordered a pause around Ecorigny. Here, around a hamlet in a wooded valley east of Sept-Vents, a lateral road provided a handy guideline along which to re-form the battalion. The battalion reorganized, now on a three-company front, with the battered A Company in reserve to the rear. Meanwhile, Kenneth conferred with accompanying artillery officers in the hopes of achieving some modification of the artillery concentrations planned for the day. The advance was slipping further back from the timetable, but ‘I considered that by reforming and continuing the advance in good order we would, in the long run, gain time.’ In spite of pressure to catch up with the programme, Kenneth rightly sensed that he was through the main crust of the German defences and could afford the time. Results confirmed his reading of the battle.


Churchills carrying infantry south of Caumont (St-Pierre-Tarentaine in the background).

Two of the Scots Guards squadrons had long since parted company with the Argylls (leaving only the troops of Left Flank Squadron at the disposal of the infantry battalion headquarters). The tanks’ colonel ‘saw the barrage air bursting in the sky ahead and knew that we should be crossing the Start Line – so I asked leave to press on without the infantry and was told I could.’ And to the east, the 4th Coldstream Guards tank battalion was about to do likewise. This daring move was highly unorthodox and requires some explanation. Churchill tanks were not expected to press on across country without infantry support. Conferring by the fishing tackle shop in Caumont, the infantry’s General MacMillan and the tanks’ Brigadier Verney discussed next steps. Their assigned role was to cover the right flank of an advancing XXX Corps. But XXX Corps was clearly failing to reach its objectives. The general and the brigadier determined on a gamble which would if successful keep the VIII Corps plan on track. As Verney later recalled,

‘The situation throughout Phase II had been very confused, and my recollections are of many conversations over the air with the two tank battalions, on the rival themes of hurrying on to the objective or staying close to the infantry whose whereabouts were continually uncertain... It was becoming clear that we would never get Phase III off at the rate we were going. It seemed that the only hope was to take a chance and push on alone, and follow up with infantry later as best we could.’15

Verney and MacMillan agreed to throw away the book of rules and push the tanks on ahead.

So, reaching their Start Line ahead of the infantry, the Coldstream and the Scots Guards had been ordered to press on regardless. Some Glasgow Highlanders arrived just in time to be carried on the backs of Coldstream tanks, but most were left behind so that the tanks might gain some benefit from the pre-planned artillery barrage which was moving on remorselessly, a hundred yards every four minutes.

A gamble it certainly was. To the British, it seemed incredible good fortune that the enemy lacked heavy antitank guns. In fact, the overstretched defenders had few of these to deploy, trusting that the bocage would prove sufficient to deter vehicles, even fully-tracked tanks. Yet as was so often found, from the mountains of Tunisia to the forest of the Reichswald, the Churchill tanks exploited to the full their extraordinary ability to traverse unfavourable terrain. So much for the hardware. It is also important to bear in mind the human element. 6th Guards Tank Brigade had trained with 15th Scottish. The tankers had every confidence that ‘their’ infantry would eventually catch them up, and it was with this confidence that the tanks proceeded unsupported.


Hill 309 viewed from the east, where German counter-attacks were later launched.


The right flank story is told first. The 4th Coldstream Churchills ‘pushed on as fast as the appalling ground conditions would allow. They met little opposition, but they shot at anything they saw and set fire to innumerable houses.’16 Passing through undefended Hervieu, they could clearly see their objective. Hill 309, ‘Quarry Hill’, was a dominating feature, midway between the German strongpoint St-Martin-des-Besaces and the towering heights of the Bois du Homme. Already, the hill was being pounded by bombers, its forward slopes erupting in smoke, gouts of earth, and uprooted trees. Near la Morichèse, Major Tollemache’s 3 Squadron met a hostile reception in a sunken road: ‘a real old fashioned home guard ambush – people running about and throwing things amidst the flash of bursting bazooka bombs.’ His 13 Troop brushed off this ambush but sensing more trouble lurking in the village ahead, he called for smoke to be laid to cover a withdrawal. The troop then moved off-road around the east of the main road, by-passing the village and so avoiding the antitank gun lying in wait. Unaware of the detour, Lieutenant Christie-Miller’s rear-link Churchill drove straight into la Morichèse where it was promptly knocked out, killing the commander and two of the crew.17 Later, in the same vicinity, the point tank of the Grenadier Guards was similarly lost along with its burden of Glasgow Highlanders. These ambushes were variously attributed to a Panther tank or (perhaps inevitably) an ‘88’.


As the going got rougher still, some of the Coldstream commanders bade their riding infantry ‘au revoir’, dropping them off with instructions to ‘follow the tank tracks’. The tanks plunged on across country. As Major Sir Mark Millbank in command of 2 Squadron recalled,

‘The high banks, surmounted by scrub, made a cross country ride remarkably uncomfortable! One climbed slowly up the face of a bank, balanced precariously on the top, warned the occupants to hold tight as one launched forth down the other side. In several tanks, men were knocked senseless by the battering.’

But the Churchills were up to the challenge, as were their drivers, trained in extreme cross country conditions and aware of the often fatal consequences of losing control and turning a Churchill tank over.

Finally, the hill was reached, its lower slopes skirted by a most unwelcome railway cutting. Some tanks shed tracks as they attempted particularly difficult obstacles; others simply found the strain too much for their engines. Lt. Cazenove’s whole troop became bogged; Sgt. Maughan’s tank turned over on its side setting off a grenade inside the turret which severely wounded the three occupants. As individual tanks became detached or bogged, they came under attack from enemy infantry who had skulked as the main body of tanks crashed past. But the others pressed on upwards. The two forward squadrons reached the summit about 19.00 hours. ‘No enemy was found there, but it was clear they had been there recently and had hastily withdrawn.’18 The hill which General Straube had said ‘must not be allowed to fall into enemy hands’ was abandoned by the Germans. Survivors of the aerial bombardment fled before the totally unlooked-for tanks grinding up the steep slopes.

Though the grip of the unsupported Coldstream was tenuous - tanks alone can rarely hold terrain securely - nevertheless they stood firm until the first elements of the 2nd Glasgow Highlanders began to arrive from 22.30 hours. By 02.30 hours the last of the rifle companies was on the hill and the guns of the antitank platoon had been manhandled into place. From the north, the 7th Seaforth of 46 Brigade were on their way to strengthen the position further. Five miles behind the front at the start of the day, Hill 309 was now firmly in British hands. Around 03.00 hours the tanks moved back from turret-down positions on the crest of the hill to close squadron leaguers on the reverse slopes. Shortly after, at 05.00 hours, Brigadier Verney would arrive on the scene with the encouraging word that Hill 309 would henceforth be referred to as ‘Coldstream Hill’.


Churchills of the 4th Grenadier Guards advancing, the rearmost tank with turret reversed.


Meanwhile to the east, setting off from the vicinity of the Lutaine Wood, the 3rd Scots Guards Churchills also experienced a wild ride: crashing over hedgerows like heavy horses in a steeplechase, spraying whole belts of BESA and putting High Explosive rounds into any knots of resistance. The crews were shaken and bruised, commanders struck by low branches and pelted with small, hard cider apples which accumulated on the floors of the tank turrets. Lieutenant-Colonel Dunbar records,

‘We were all black and blue from the jumps we had been over, and quite a number of men, including my signals officer in my tank, had been knocked senseless.’

‘By 12.15 we had advanced over a mile, killing many Germans with BESA and HE fire and causing a considerable number to surrender. But we were now so far ahead of the Argylls that we were ordered to halt and wait for them to catch up. During the halt ‘S’ Squadron were worried by sniping from various cottages but Lieut Humble and Lieut Cunningham silenced this with HE and later a number of corpses were found in the buildings. By 1.15 it was apparent that the infantry were so far behind that if we waited longer for them the chance of benefitting [sic] from the barrage... would be gone. The Commanding Officer therefore obtained permission for us to push on with all speed alone.’19

But the momentum of their daring charge was kept up until, after ‘moving with remarkable speed over the bad country’, S Squadron reached the objective of Hill 226 [modern 234] by 14.30 hours, RF squadron coming up on the right around les Loges to consolidate on the hill an hour later. Behind them, the Argylls were on the move again with a leap-frog advance, alternating fire and movement by companies which carried them rapidly forward in the wake of the tanks. By 15.30 hours, the village of les Loges was secured and by 16.15, B and D companies of the 2nd Argylls joined their armoured friends on the slopes of Hill 226. The infantry dug in on the northern reverse slope while the tanks adopted hull-down positions on the crest line.


At 16.00 hours, the Argylls’ commander judged that his battalion was established on the objective. But the position was extremely exposed. The day had so far cost the battalion only three killed and twenty-three wounded. But the infantry companies had started the day under strength, and were now widely dispersed: two on the open hill, one to the left-rear, and one out of sight of the rest around Les Loges itself. Normally this would have been the time to release the supporting tanks. But the Argylls’ organic antitank support, a platoon of six 6-pounder guns, was still struggling forward somewhere in the vicinity of les Loges. Feeling his position to be extremely exposed, the Argylls’ Major Kenneth conferred with the Guards’ Lieutenant-Colonel Dunbar. The Scots Guards’ colonel was keen to be moving on to his final objective, Hill 309, but on seeking direction from his brigadier was refused permission to move. ‘Instead I was ordered to hold the Left flank and especially Point 226 and LES LOGES – at all costs.’ Remaining on the front line at the end of the day was not the tanks’ standard practice. But Dunbar’s orders were clear; clear too that the Argylls had as yet no antitank guns to defend the important feature against counter-attack.

Even though occupied by tanks, the position on Hill 226 was still far from secure. To the east, where XXX Corps’ should by this time have been established on the Bois du Homme massif, ‘About the fortunes of the 43rd Division on our left nothing was known and it was impossible to reconnoitre in that direction.’20 In fact, having been stopped dead virtually on their Start Lines, the Wessex were frantically trying to work around the flank back at Cahagnes. The left flank of the VIII Corps breakthrough remained wide open. As the Jocks deepened their slit trenches, radios were repaired and tuned to the BBC 6 o’clock news, which heartened the men with the day’s main story of the VIII Corps advance and the capture of Sept-Vents.

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