|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 -
The battalion didn't learn of Lt Orton's death until two days later. The war diary, for some reason, was never corrected.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
¹ Yes, I have taken liberties with the list of casualties as no officers were killed in this action.