Praetorium Honoris

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Operation Bluecoat

Universal carriers and infantry of 15th (Scottish) Division move forward during Operation "Bluecoat,"
the offensive south-east of Caumont, 30 July 1944.

"Right then, Sarn't Wallace, all settled in are we? Met all the HQ chaps?"

"Yessir, I have, knew most of them anyway, I brought one of my privates along to be your batman Sir. This is Private Bain."


"Stand easy private, d'ya know what a batman does?"

"Bit of a personal servant, right sir? Take care of your kit and the like." Pvt Andrew Bain knew the drill, he had worked as a gentleman's servant before the war.

"Aye, that you will." Lt Orton turned to Sgt Wallace and continued, "The lad will do nicely, thank you sergeant. Now Lance Corporal Adair, he's our platoon mortarman, he and his lads are pretty handy with their wee cannon. Rutherford, of course, you already know, he has your old section, correct?"

"Yes sir, know him well."

"Now Cpl McKenna and Cpl Ramsay command the other two rifle sections in our little band of warriors. Now today we'll be traveling with a tank squadron from the 4th Grenadier Guards. Our objective will be this little hamlet here," pointing to the map, he said the name aloud, "La Cour. Hhmm, odd name for a village, 'the courtyard.' But there it is, you know how the Frenchies are. So..."

As the lieutenant continued to speak, Wallace heard armor coming up, didn't sound like Shermans, nope, there they were, Churchill tanks. Great lumbering beasts, armor tough enough to slug it out with a Tiger from what he'd heard.

"All right then lads, here's our ride. Sarn't Wallace, get the lads up on the tanks, you and I will be riding with the troop commander, who should be, there he is, extra aerial and all."

Sgt Wallace couldn't say that he liked the idea of traveling on one of the the troop commanders' tanks, but it was the platoon commander's decision, so aboard we'll go. Wallace remembered what bloody nice targets they were.

Churchill tanks of the 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards later in 1944.

After the sun had gone down and the battalion had taken the objective, Sgt Wallace ran into his old mate, Gavin Rutherford. Parts of La Cour were ablaze. The fight had been short and sharp, more of those SS bastards, Wallace spat as he thought that.

"Gavin, what the bloody Hell?"

"I know Billy, we went in with inadequate recce and a bit late for my tastes. Casualties aren't too bad from what I saw, we didnae lose a man in the old section. I heard McKenna had a fellow wounded. Heard anything from Archie?"

"Archie's dead, half his section shot up. Bloody Jerries had a flakpanzer just outside the town in a hayrick. Nicely hidden it was, chewed up Archie's lads something terrible. Did you see those bloody Crocodiles in action?" Sgt Wallace was still keyed up from the short firefight.

Churchill tank fitted with a Crocodile flamethrower in action.
This flamethrower could produce a jet of flame exceeding 150 yards in length.

"Too bloody right I did, bloody Jerries saw it too and they scampered. The chaps in the flakpanzer didn't move fast enough, Crocodile got them too!"

Sgt Wallace slapped Cpl Rutherford on the shoulder and said, "Right then, I need to find the leftenant, orders group in, say, 15 minutes. Over there?" Sgt Wallace pointed to an intact barn lit by the nearby burning flakpanzer.

"Right-o, let me get my lads in position, I'll take what's left of Archie's bunch for the moment, okay?"

"At least for the night Gavin, see you in a few."

Sgt Wallace went back into the village, he was furious with his platoon commander, the idiot had gone haring off into the fight without a word to him or anyone else, leaving the platoon leaderless and spread throughout the village. There, isn't that Bain?

"Bain, Andrew! Is that you lad?"

The man turned and saw his platoon sergeant. He waved the sergeant over.

Wallace could see that the man was somewhat distraught, then he saw why. There was his platoon commander and the platoon orderly, Pvt Forrester. Both were quite dead, from the look of it, the flakpanzer had killed them as well.

"Andy, do you know where the mortar section is, are they still near the square?"

"Yes sarn't, I doubt they have moved."

"Right then, go collect them and have them report to that barn, over there, d'ya see it?"

"Aye, I see it, I'll go get Willy and his lads. Meet you at the barn."

Wrecked SdKfz 250, Operation Bluecoat

As Wallace walked to the barn, he realized that for now, he commanded 11 Platoon, B Company of the 6th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers. The lieutenant had been something of a snob, but he was a decent enough lad, treated the men well. Now they would be looking for a replacement for him, not to mention Corporal Archie Ramsay's loss.

Soon he would know the full butcher's bill.

From the War Diary of the 6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers -
At about 1130 hrs the Bn moved carried on tanks of 4 Gren Guards to an FAA in the vicinity of ST PIERRE TARENTAIN 7045 where it arrived at about 1230 hrs. Orders were received at 1400 hrs to attack and capture the hamlet of LA COUR 723438 supported by one sqn of 4 Gren Gds. This attack was supposed to be put in with zero at 2030 hrs but owing to the fact that the Bn could not complete the necessary previous recces etc in time it was changed to 2100 hrs. The attack was successful and the objective captured. Consolidation had to be carried out in the dark. Casualties were light, Lieut Street, 2/Lt Hollidge, 2/Lt Patrick, 2/Lt Campbell were wounded and the casualties in ORs were killed 8 wounded 17.¹ 
The battalion didn't learn of Lt Orton's death until two days later. The war diary, for some reason, was never corrected.

 ¹ Yes, I have taken liberties with the list of casualties as no officers were killed in this action.


  1. Haha! You read my mind. I came to ask if you would soon cover Operation Bluecoat. The 21st Panzer, specifically.

    1. The 21st Panzer won't figure directly in this account.

  2. Two sentences in the War Diary cover the eight KIA and seventeen wounded.....light casualties.....huh. Several interesting photos there Sarge. Got curious on the Universal Carrier, they kept being made until 1960!

    1. Light unless someone you care about is one of them!

    2. Like all my life, full of 'almosts,' I almost bought a Universal Carrier. $400 more bucks and it would have been mine. One of the Ford-built from Canada. Would have been fun. Alas.

      As to casualties, casualty lists have always been dry reading. Sadly.

    3. Not if you know the people being listed. Ask me how I know.

  3. From Heinlein's "Starship Troopers."
    "The Commandant continued: “That’s the Moment of Truth, gentlemen. Regrettably there is no method known to military science to tell a real officer from a glib imitation with pips on his shoulders, other than through ordeal by fire. Real ones come through-or die gallantly; imitations crack up.
    “Sometimes, in cracking up, the misfits die. But the tragedy lies in the loss of others…good men, sergeants and corporals and privates, whose only lack is fatal bad fortune in finding themselves under the command of an incompetent."

    Another good and sobering post.

    1. The Commandant was wrong. There are many ways to tell a good officer in peacetime. I know.

    2. Funny, I am re-reading "Starship Troopers" for the umpteenth time.

      I think what Heinlein was saying was the final filter, the point where it's a true final go/nogo is ordeal under fire. That's where the somewhat shaky trooper or officer either squares up or falls completely. Or where the upstanding ones can crack and fall.

      Yes, you can get rid of a lot beforehand, but 'Under Pressure' is the only way to finally sort good/bad. The front rankers from the remfs (some people are just great in remfing, some are darned near genius at remfing, but get them under combat pressure and they break like dry spagetti.) In the Mobile Infantry, everyone is a front line shooter. Every one, so in this instance RAH is right. Unlike our army and navy where we have huge 'non-combat' support elements. Of course, the MI's support element was the FedNavy so the MI could go lean and mean.

      Now, good officers and men, really good ones? The ones that treat non-war stress as if they were in combat? Those are the ones that juvat says are 'fighter pilots.'

    3. And Heinlein knew this how?

      I am a fan of his work, but I don't hang on his every word and treat it as holy gospel. Many writers have postulated what makes a good/bad officer, too many place an undue emphasis on combat and denigrate the rear area officers. Guess what, without those "remfs" as some like to call them, you have no ammo, no food, no replacement items of equipment and clothing. All that prowess in combat is absolutely meaningless if you have nothing to fight with.

      Too much fiction has been written by people who know nothing of combat.

    4. An economical & profound statement Sarge.

    5. Sarge. I don't have an answer to, "And Heinlein knew this how?" But I do have both volumes of his autobiography, and I think I have "Grumbles From the Grave."

      I hate not having a good answer, and I see a research project in my future.

    6. Heinlein did serve in the Navy but not, to my certain knowledge, in combat. He spoke with combat veterans as many others have, one thing combat veterans have in common is that they don't like talking about their experiences in combat. He probably had his own thoughts on what made a good officer, as many do. As he had been an officer, his opinions were certainly based in reality. Quote "Starship Troopers" to me and I tend to stop listening. A very nice work of science fiction. That's all.

  4. Replies
    1. And good use of the hull space that was formerly occupied by a rather limited-use howitzer. The Churchills were great tanks, once they got a decent turret and gun.

    2. The Churchill tank is often overlooked and underrated.

  5. John, I'm seeing this at work now. I see trouble coming...

    1. new manager for our group, "I don't care about what you support, how are you getting along with each other?" "Can some one help with the newsletter? It will be a resume enhancement." "Can someone volunteer for the webpage update task? It will be soooo cooooool."

      No word on falsification of documentation, no word on logging in to our time clock basically off hours, no word on......

      It doesn't bode well. Go woke, go broke... I'm looking for my parachute, number one is not making power, the control cables are slipping, and everyone is playing acey-duecy while number 2, 3 and 4 are smoking and starting to burn....

    2. I like the way Red Bull handled things.

    3. Red Bull did handle it well.
      Trader Joe's seems to have changed their mind about letting a 17 year old tell them how to run their company.

    4. Bravo to Trader Joe's. I am a firm believer in "get woke, go broke." Reminds me of the Red Guard bullies in China during the Chinese "Cultural Revolution." Snot-nosed kids with no experience, no knowledge, and no common sense telling their elders how things should be. If we let that happen in this country we're doomed.

  6. Very good, definitely keeping the OAFS quality up.

    Sad when an officer goes haring off with troops in tow before proper reconnaissance is complete. Of course, Jerry was very effective at hiding, weren't they? Though the flak troops might have regretted hiding in a hay rick once the Croc waddled up.

  7. Enjoyed the use of Scampered, truly British. BTW, if you can find it; Don't cry for me Sargeant Major, written by a couple of ITV fellows who deployed to the Falklands. A decent light history of the engagement and friggin hilarious at times.

    1. I looked it up on Amazon, bit pricey wot?

      I shall have to search further, it sounds interesting.

  8. Iirc Heinlein was usna and eventually medically retired due to consumption. I like much of his writing and dislike much of it, often both in the same works. Which is kinda cool and kinda not all in one.

    I've seen crap officers become outstanding and outstanding officers go crap. Same-same enlisted of course. Feel like there's a trend developing in my comment...!

    Great descriptive writing as always Sarge. Thanks again.

    1. He was USNA and I have the same love/hate relationship with his work. Yes, I've seen the same with regards to officers and enlisted.

      Thanks Shaun!


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