One man versus three machine guns

The destruction of these three machine gun posts singlehanded by Sergeant Eardley, carried out under fire so heavy that it daunted those who were with him, enabled his Platoon to achieve its objective, and in so doing, ensured the success of the whole attack. His outstanding initiative and magnificent bravery were the admiration of all who saw his gallant actions.

Churchill tanks and infantry advance during the attack by 3rd Division on an enemy pocket near Overloon, 14 October 1944.
Churchill tanks and infantry advance during the attack by 3rd Division on an enemy pocket near Overloon, 14 October 1944.
A 5.5-inch gun of 77th (Duke of Lancashire's Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery being manhandled into position to fire in support of 3rd Division advancing on Venray, 16 October 1944.
A 5.5-inch gun of 77th (Duke of Lancashire’s Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery being manhandled into position to fire in support of 3rd Division advancing on Venray, 16 October 1944.

Operation Market Garden had opened up a salient in the German lines in Holland. The Germans had fought hard to retrieve their position and had established a bridgehead on the west bank of the River Maas. Now the Allies attacked again in a bitter confrontation that saw heavy casualties.

The Battle of Overloon saw the US 7th Armoured Division beaten off, before the British 11th Armoured and 3rd Infantry Divisions took over and eventually succeeded. It was by far the largest tank battle fought on Dutch soil and at the time was compared to the struggle for Caen, fought in Normandy earlier. Today it is much less well remembered.

Private (acting Sergeant) George Eardley VC, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Private (acting Sergeant) George Eardley VC, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

Many Victoria Cross citations are concerned with lone attacks on machine gun nests, all too often awarded posthumously. Private George Eardley must be regarded as very lucky, as well as incredibly brave, for his actions:

No. 6092111 Private (acting Sergeant) George Harold Eardley, The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (Congleton, Cheshire).

In North-West Europe, on 16th October, 1944, during an attack on the wooded area East of Overloon, strong opposition was met from well sited defensive positions in orchards. The enemy were paratroops and well equipped with machine guns.

A Platoon of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry was ordered to clear these orchards and so restore the momentum of the advance, but was halted some 80 yards from its objective by automatic fire from enemy machine gun posts. This fire was so heavy that it appeared impossible for any man to expose himself and remain unscathed.

Notwithstanding this, Sergeant Eardley, who had spotted one machine gun post, moved forward, firing his Sten gun, and killed the occupants of the post with a grenade. A second machine gun post beyond the first immediately opened up, spraying the area with fire. Sergeant Eardley, who was in a most exposed position, at once charged over 30 yards of open ground and silenced both the enemy gunners.

The attack was continued by the Platoon but was again held up by a third machine gun post, and a section sent in to dispose of it, was beaten back, losing four casualties. Sergeant Eardley, ordering the section he was with to lie down, then crawled forward alone and silenced the occupants of the post with a grenade.

The destruction of these three machine gun posts singlehanded by Sergeant Eardley, carried out under fire so heavy that it daunted those who were with him, enabled his Platoon to achieve its objective, and in so doing, ensured the success of the whole attack.

His outstanding initiative and magnificent bravery were the admiration of all who saw his gallant actions.

Privates V Studd and J Rowlandson of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment eat apples in their slit trench during the fighting for the town of Venray, 16 October 1944.
Privates V Studd and J Rowlandson of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment eat apples in their slit trench during the fighting for the town of Venray, 16 October 1944.
Men of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry march back from the front line for a four day rest , Sint-Jozefparochien of Duerne, Holland, 26 October 1944.
Men of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry march back from the front line for a four day rest , Sint-Jozefparochien of Duerne, Holland, 26 October 1944.

Italy – another hill top attack in mud and rain

Private Burton rushed forward and engaging the first Spandau position with his Tommy gun killed the crew of three. When the assault was again held up by murderous fire from two more machine guns Private Burton, again showing complete disregard for his own safety, dashed forward toward the first machine gun using his Tommy gun until his ammunition was exhausted. He then picked up a Bren gun and firing from the hip succeeded in killing or wounding the crews of the two machine guns.

A 25pdr of 83/85 Battery, 11th Field Regiment in a waterlogged position near Scorticate, 3-8 October 1944.
A 25pdr of 83/85 Battery, 11th Field Regiment in a waterlogged position near Scorticate, 3-8 October 1944.
Pantelleria and Lampedusa May - June 1943: Men of 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington's Regiment, advance past a burning fuel store on Pantelleria. Left to right: Lance Sergeant A Haywood, Private C Norman and Private H Maw.
Pantelleria and Lampedusa May – June 1943: Men of 1st Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, advance past a burning fuel store on Pantelleria. Left to right: Lance Sergeant A Haywood, Private C Norman and Private H Maw.

The weather was deteriorating in Italy and the Allies were struggling to break through the Gothic Line. Despite the withdrawal of troops to southern France the Germans did not notice that the Allied attacks were particularly weakened. In his memoirs the German commander Albert Kesselring played grudging tribute to the assault on his line at this time. Right through to the end of October he was to have some anxious moments as the Allies nearly found their breakthrough:

The fierceness of the battles and the large commitment of men and material revealed the importance of the Italian theatre to the Allies, which had not declined with the invasion of the south of France. While the forces expended on it were replaced by foreign divisions (Brazilian, Italian), the close-support activity of the air force after a temporary slackening had been very quickly stepped up again to its former intensity, though their naval forces lay curiously doggo. Meanwhile guerilla warfare grew sharper with the expansion of the Partisan organisation.

Allied strategy showed a remarkable improvement. True they had not been able to carry out their original far-flung plans, having conspicuously neglected to exploit the help of the navy and the air force to out-flank or overhaul our troops in the peninsula. Tanks were still regularly employed on a narrow front. But – operations were in themselves more compact, each army’s assignment was adjusted to its means, and attacks were delivered at points of main effort in noteworthy breadth and depth.

The old Mediterranean divisions had further perfected their fighting efficiency and tactics. The support of the infantry by artillery and tanks was now supplemented by air reconnaissance, air artillery spotting and close support from the air with a degree of co-ordination by now classical. Technical expedients had reached a high stage of development and were used with great skill.

On the other hand the initiative of smaller unit commanders showed no particular improvement, nor was this compensated by the excellent signals network allowing wireless communication through multifarious types of instruments – which was more of a hindrance than a help.

It was also to our advantage that the enemy continued to respect the customary right of units to be relieved after a certain period in the line, regardless of the local situation. Their troops were, indeed, badly in need of rest, as their replacements were of acclimatisation and training. On the other hand, it was increasingly important for them to curtail the rest periods of the German troops, to harass their recuperation and to prevent them accumulating any large stores of ammunition and fuel.

See The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Kesselring

On this day their was yet another outstanding example of what this meant on the ground:

Private Richard Henry Burton VC
Private Richard Henry Burton VC

In Italy on 8th October, 1944, two Companies of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment moved forward to take a strongly held feature 760 metres high. The capture of this feature was vital at this stage of the operation as it dominated all the ground on the main axis of advance.

The assaulting troops made good progress to within twenty yards of the crest when they came under withering fire from Spandaus on the crest. The leading platoon was held up and the Platoon Commander was wounded. The Company Commander took another platoon, of which Private Burton was runner, through to assault the crest from which four Spandaus at least were firing.

Private Burton rushed forward and engaging the first Spandau position with his Tommy gun killed the crew of three. When the assault was again held up by murderous fire from two more machine guns Private Burton, again showing complete disregard for his own safety, dashed forward toward the first machine gun using his Tommy gun until his ammunition was exhausted. He then picked up a Bren gun and firing from the hip succeeded in killing or wounding the crews of the two machine guns.

Thanks to his outstanding courage the Company was then able to consolidate on the forward slope of the feature. The enemy immediately counter-attacked fiercely but Private Burton, in spite of most of his comrades being either dead or wounded, once again dashed forward on his own initiative and directed such accurate fire with his Bren gun on the enemy that they retired leaving the feature firmly in our hands.

The enemy later counter-attacked again on the adjoining platoon position and Private Burton, who had placed himself on the flank, brought such accurate fire to bear that this counter-attack also failed to dislodge the Company from its position.

Private Burton’s magnificent gallantry and total disregard of his own safety during many hours of fierce fighting in mud and continuous rain were an inspiration to all his comrades.

After disembarking from landing craft, troops of 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment take cover on the beach at Cromer in Norfolk, 21 April 1942. Live machine-gun and mortar fire was used during this exercise.
After disembarking from landing craft, troops of 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment take cover on the beach at Cromer in Norfolk, 21 April 1942. Live machine-gun and mortar fire was used during this exercise.
As a charge explodes nearby, troops of 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment scramble up cliffs during a live-firing exercise at Cromer in Norfolk, 21 April 1942.
As a charge explodes nearby, troops of 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment scramble up cliffs during a live-firing exercise at Cromer in Norfolk, 21 April 1942.

One man’s valiant attack wins the battle


29 September 1944: One man’s valiant attack wins the battle

Still completely ignoring the heavy spandau and mortar fire which was sweeping the area, once again he crossed the wall alone to find out whether it was possible for his platoon to wade the dyke which lay beyond. He found the dyke too deep and wide to cross, and once again he came back across the wall, and received orders to try and establish his platoon on the enemy side of it. All this time the area was subject to intense cross machine-gun fire and mortaring.

Men of the King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) moving up, Holland, 19 September 1944.
Men of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) moving up, Holland, 19 September 1944.
A member of the PAN (Partisan Action Netherlands) guides British troops to German positions near Valkenswaard, 25 September 1944.
A member of the PAN (Partisan Action Netherlands) guides British troops to German positions near Valkenswaard, 25 September 1944.

As the Allies came to terms with the failure of Market Garden to provide a dramatic new breakthrough, the men in the field had to come to terms with a relentless war with no swift end now in sight. After the rapid advances after Normandy they now came across a much stiffer German defence line. Robert Woollcombe with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers sums up the mood at the end of September:

The heavy grey days passed. Days of local infiltration and counter-attack; perpetual stand—to; and artillery fire churning along drear tree—lines. Godforsaken tracks that led nowhere or anywhere. The snarl of the hidden spandau in a fir plantation.

The strange voice in German sounding through a wood where the Divisional I.O. broadcast propaganda, and R.A.F. Typhoons circling in the sky. And lonely, derelict farms, and more dull names. . . . Gasthuishof. . . . Fratershof. . . . and some benighted buildings through the woods called Olland: for these names were now the work of the devil. And thoughts turned with persistence to when the relief might come.

For moral fatigue was on everyone. The strength was low. Replacements were not catching us up. There were not enough officers, nor enough N.C.O.s, and not enough jocks. We had come a long way. There were many enemies. There had been no proper respite or refit since leaving England and it was so throughout the Division. In three months its casualties had reached a total of 7000 killed, wounded and missing.

It was so throughout the Army, and men were beginning to talk about the Army now. Caen to Arnhem had been the road, and the Army, men were saying, not without peculiar pride, was “played out”.

But the Americans in their great numbers were spreading over the West, and soon it was being rumoured that still another United States Army was concentrating behind the Front, to carry the last phase of the war into Germany. Which did not work out quite like that.

September went out and the war carried on. It was Nicht Kaput.

See Robert Woollcombe: Lion Rampant: The Memoirs of an Infantry Officer from D-Day to the Rhineland

Yet even if men were tired of the war, the war went on. Elsewhere on the British front they were coming to terms with a completely new terrain, a land of polders and dykes. It was to prove to be a miserable place to fight the war as winter approached. In places the line was as fiercely fought over as ever:

Corporal Harper VC
Corporal Harper VC

In North-West Europe, on 29th September, 1944, the Hallamshires attacked the Depot de Mendicite, a natural defensive position surrounded by an earthen wall and then a dyke, strongly held by the enemy.

Cpl. Harper was commanding the leading section in the assault, with his objective a length of the wall. The enemy was dug in on both sides and had a perfect field of fire across 300 yards of completely flat and exposed country.

With superb disregard for the hail of mortar bombs and small arms fire which the enemy brought to bear on this open ground, Cpl. Harper led his section straight up to the wall and killed or captured the enemy holding the near side.

During this operation the platoon commander was seriously wounded. Cpl. Harper at once took control of the platoon. He reorganized it. The enemy on the far side of the wall were at this time throwing grenades over the top. Cpl. Harper at once climbed over the wall, himself throwing grenades, and in the face of heavy close range small arms fire personally routed the Germans directly opposing him. He took four prisoners and shot several of the remainder of the enemy as they ran. The prisoners he brought back across the wall.

Still completely ignoring the heavy spandau and mortar fire which was sweeping the area, once again he crossed the wall alone to find out whether it was possible for his platoon to wade the dyke which lay beyond. He found the dyke too deep and wide to cross, and once again he came back across the wall, and received orders to try and establish his platoon on the enemy side of it. All this time the area was subject to intense cross machine-gun fire and mortaring.

For the third time he climbed over alone, found some empty German weapon pits and himself providing the covering fire urged and encouraged his section to scale the wall and dash for cover to those trenches. By this action he was able to bring down sufficient covering fire to enable the rest of the company to cross the open ground and surmount the wall for the loss of only one man.

Cpl. Harper then left his platoon in charge of his section commander and once more walked alone along the banks of the dyke in the face of heavy spandau fire to find a crossing place. Eventually, he made contact with the battalion attacking on his right and found that they had located a ford.

Back he came across the open ground and, while directing his company commander to the ford he was struck by a bullet which fatally wounded him and he died where he was hit, on the bank of the dyke.

The operation was more difficult than expected due to the Battalion on the right, which was doing the main attack, crossing the start line very late, with the result that at the time of the platoon attack all enemy weapons were concentrated on it.

The area attacked was very heavily defended and from this area 93 prisoners were eventually taken and some 30 dead Germans counted. The success of the Battalion in driving the enemy from the wall and back across the dyke must be ascribed to the superb self-sacrifice and inspiring gallantry of Cpl. Harper. His magnificent courage, fearlessness and devotion to duty throughout the battle set an example to his men rarely equalled.

Such conduct in the face of direct close range enemy fire could have but one result. But before he was killed, Cpl. Harper by his heroism had ensured success for his Battalion in a most important action.

His action, moreover, enabled the main objective to be reached by the battalion on the right who, together with another battalion, were completely checked on other parts of the front. The success of the attack on the Depot de Mendicite can thus fairly be attributed to the outstanding bravery of Cpl. Harper.

Men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment rest in a Dutch village, 24 September 1944.
Men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment rest in a Dutch village, 24 September 1944.
A Vickers machine-gun team of 7th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 59th (Staffordshire) Division in position in a field of corn at Someren in Holland, 21 September 1944.
A Vickers machine-gun team of 7th Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 59th (Staffordshire) Division in position in a field of corn at Someren in Holland, 21 September 1944.

Currie leads epic Canadian attack at Lambert sur Dive


18 August 1944: Currie leads epic Canadian attack at Lambert sur Dive

Since all the officers under his command were either killed or wounded during the action, Major Currie had virtually no respite from his duties and in fact obtained only one hour’s sleep during the entire period. Nevertheless he did not permit his fatigue to become apparent to his troops and throughout the action took every opportunity to visit weapon pits and other defensive posts to talk to his men, to advise them as to the best use of their weapons and to cheer them with words of encouragement.

Almost uniquely there are photographs of part of the action leading to the award of the Victoria Cross. As the German officer brings his men into surrender - just one batch amongst many taken during the three day battle - Major Currie stands to the left with his pistol in hand.
Rarely are there photographs of any part of an action leading to the award of the Victoria Cross. As the German officer brings his men into surrender – just one batch amongst many taken during the three day battle – Major Currie stands to the left with his pistol in hand.
German troops surrendering at lambert sur Dive.
German troops surrendering at St Lambert sur Dive.

The ‘Falaise pocket’ was now approximately six miles by seven miles, into which were crammed tens of thousands of German troops trying to retreat. They were short of fuel and hundreds of vehicles had to be destroyed while their crews attempted to make off on foot, soon the congestion would be so great that vehicles could not get through anyway. All the time they were being harassed by Allied fighter bombers and artillery fire.

The gap between the US and British forces had been closed dramatically but there remained gaps where the Germans could still get through. On the evening of 18th August a small force of no more than 175 Canadian troops were ordered to close one of the remaining gaps – at the village of St Lambert sur Dive.

The Victoria Cross citation for their commander Major David Currie is unusually descriptive of the battle that followed:

In Normandy on 18th August, 1944, Major Currie was in command of a small mixed force of Canadian tanks, self-propelled anti-tank guns and infantry which was ordered to cut one of the main escape routes from the Falaise pocket.

This force was held up by strong enemy resistance in the village of St. Lambert sur Dives and two tanks were knocked out by 88 mm guns. Major Currie immediately entered the village alone on foot at last light through the enemy outposts to reconnoitre the German defences and to extricate the crews of the disabled tanks, which he succeeded in doing in spite of heavy mortar fire.

Early the following morning, without any previous artillery bombardment, Major Currie personally led an attack on the village in the face of fierce opposition from enemy tanks, guns and infantry and by noon had succeeded in seizing and consolidating a position half-way inside the village.

During the next 36 hours the Germans hurled one counter-attack after another against the Canadian force but so skilfully had Major Currie organised his defensive position that these attacks were repulsed with severe casualties to the enemy after heavy fighting.

At dusk on 20th August the Germans attempted to mount a final assault on the Canadian positions, but the attacking force was routed before it could even be deployed. Seven enemy tanks, twelve 88 mm. guns and forty vehicles were destroyed, 300 Germans were killed, 500 wounded and 2,100 captured. Major Currie then promptly ordered an attack and completed the capture of the village, thus denying the Chambois-Trun escape route to the remnants of two German armies cut off in the Falaise pocket.

Throughout three days and nights of fierce fighting, Major Currie’s gallant conduct and contempt for danger set a magnificent example to all ranks of the force under his command.

On one occasion he personally directed the fire of his command tank on to a Tiger tank which had been harassing his position and succeeded in knocking it out. During another attack, while the guns of his command tank were taking on other targets of longer ranges, he used a rifle from the turret to deal with individual snipers who had infiltrated to within fifty yards of his headquarters.

The only time reinforcements were able to get through to his force, he himself led the forty men forward into their positions and explained the importance of their task as a part of the defence. When, during the next attack, these new reinforcements withdrew under the intense fire brought down by the enemy, he personally collected them and led them forward into position again, where, inspired by his leadership they held for the remainder of the battle.

His employment of the artillery support, which became available after his original attack went in, was typical of his cool calculation of the risks involved in every situation. At one time, despite the fact that short rounds were falling within fifteen yards of his own tank, he ordered fire from medium artillery to continue because of its devastating effect upon the attacking enemy in his immediate area.

Throughout the operation the casualties to Major Currie’s force were heavy. However, he never considered the possibility of failure or allowed it to enter the minds of his men. In the words of one of his non-commissioned officers, ‘We knew at one stage that it was going to be a fight to a finish but he was so cool about it, it was impossible for us to get excited’.

Since all the officers under his command were either killed or wounded during the action, Major Currie had virtually no respite from his duties and in fact obtained only one hour’s sleep during the entire period. Nevertheless he did not permit his fatigue to become apparent to his troops and throughout the action took every opportunity to visit weapon pits and other defensive posts to talk to his men, to advise them as to the best use of their weapons and to cheer them with words of encouragement. When his force was finally relieved and he was satisfied that the turnover was complete he fell asleep on his feet and collapsed.

There can be no doubt that the success of the attack on and stand against the enemy at St. Lambert sur Dives can largely be attributed to this officer’s coolness, inspired leadership and skilful use of the limited weapons at his disposal.

The courage and devotion to duty shown by Major Currie during a prolonged period of heavy fighting were outstanding and had a far-reaching effect on the successful outcome of the battle.

London Gazette, 27 November 1944

Canadian troops advance during the action at St Lambert sur Dive
Canadian troops advance during the action at St Lambert sur Dive
St. Lambert-sur-Dives, August, 1944 A soldier of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, shovel on back, runs forward past a burning Sherman tank in the village street.
St. Lambert-sur-Dives, August, 1944
A soldier of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, shovel on back,
runs forward past a burning Sherman tank in the village street.

Tasker Watkins – First Welsh VC of the war


16 August 1944: Tasker Watkins – First Welsh VC of the war

Lieutenant Watkin’s company now had only some 30 men left and was counterattacked by 50 enemy infantry. Lieutenant Watkins directed the fire of his men and then led a bayonet charge, which resulted in the almost complete destruction of the enemy. It was now dusk and orders were given for the battalion to withdraw. These orders were not received by Lieutenant Watkin’s company as the wireless set had been destroyed.

Men of the 1/5th Welch Regiment engaged on sniper-clearing duties, 10 August 1944. Left to right: Pte G Wyatt; Pte R J Wilkes; Pte J C Kershaw.
Men of the 1/5th Welch Regiment engaged on sniper-clearing duties, 10 August 1944. Left to right: Pte G Wyatt; Pte R J Wilkes; Pte J C Kershaw.
Canadian armoured forces move forward raising a cloud of dust as they take up battle positions in the drive to Falaise. The Allies had been held up in Normandy for a month after D-Day by heavy resistance from the Germans until the tanks broke through at Caen in the middle of July.
Canadian armoured forces move forward raising a cloud of dust as they take up battle positions in the drive to Falaise. The Allies had been held up in Normandy for a month after D-Day by heavy resistance from the Germans until the tanks broke through at Caen in the middle of July.

The battle to close the “Falaise Gap” was now fully engaged. The bulk of German troops in France were caught in a pocket with a narrow route of escape to the east. As Patton’s 3rd Army halted at Argentan on the southern side of the encirclement British, Canadian and Polish troops were pushing down from the north.

The 53rd (Welsh) Division had spent the war on defensive duties in the United Kingdom and were untested in combat before they landed in Normandy on 28th June, amongst the follow up ‘green’ divisions that were called into the line. They now faced some very experienced German troops who were fighting for their very existence.

Although some have described the attack made on 16th August as ‘bungled’ there was no shortage of courage amongst those taking part. Casualties had already hit the 1/5th Battalion and Lieutenant Watkins was already Acting Captain. He was soon the only officer left. In later years his citation for the Victoria Cross was often posted in the changing room of the Welsh national Rugby team:

In North-West Europe on the evening, of 16th August 1944, Lieutenant Watkins was commanding a company of the Welch Regiment. The battalion was ordered to attack objectives near the railway at Bafour. Lieutenant Watkin’s company had to cross open cornfields in which booby-traps had been set. It was not yet dusk and the company soon came under heavy machine-gun fire from posts in the corn and farther back, and also fire from an 88 mm. gun: many casualties were caused and the advance was slowed up.

Lieutenant Watkins, the only officer left, placed himself at the head of his men and under short range fire charged two posts in succession, personally killing or wounding the occupants with his Sten gun. On reaching his objective he found an anti-tank gun manned by a German soldier: his Sten gun jammed, so he threw it in the German’s face and shot him with his pistol before he had time to recover.

Lieutenant Watkin’s company now had only some 30 men left and was counterattacked by 50 enemy infantry. Lieutenant Watkins directed the fire of his men and then led a bayonet charge, which resulted in the almost complete destruction of the enemy. It was now dusk and orders were given for the battalion to withdraw. These orders were not received by Lieutenant Watkin’s company as the wireless set had been destroyed.

They now found themselves alone and surrounded in depleted numbers and in failing light. Lieutenant Watkins decided to rejoin his battalion by passing round the flank of the enemy position through which he had advanced but while passing through the cornfields once more, he was challenged by an enemy post at close range. He ordered his men to scatter and himself charged the post with a Bren gun and silenced it. He then led the remnants of his company back to battalion headquarters.

His superb gallantry and total disregard for his own safety during an extremely difficult period were responsible for saving the lives of his men, and had a decisive influence on the course of the battle.

Major Tasker Watkins VC
Major Tasker Watkins VC

A miner’s son who went through Grammar School to become a teacher, after the war Watkins became a barrister and then Judge, rising to become Sir Tasker Watkins, a Lord Justice of Appeal and deputy Lord Chief Justice. In Wales he was equally well known as the President of the Welsh Rugby Union from 1993 to 2004.

Youtube has a brief tribute to Sir Tasker Watkins from the BBC report on his death in 2007.

A recovery crew works on a disabled Churchill tank, 14 August 1944.
A recovery crew works on a disabled Churchill tank, 14 August 1944.

A tank attack into the bocage

During this period Captain Jamieson was wounded in the right eye and left forearm but when his wounds were dressed he refused to be evacuated. By this time all the other officers had become casualties so Captain Jamieson reorganised his Company, regardless of personal safety, walking amongst his men in full view of the enemy, as there was no cover. After several hours of bitter and confused fighting, the last Germans were driven from the Company position.

A Sherman Firefly crew of 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry load ammunition into their vehicle before the start of Operation 'Totalise', 7 August 1944
A Sherman Firefly crew of 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry load ammunition into their vehicle before the start of Operation ‘Totalise’, 7 August 1944
Sherman tanks of 1st Polish Armoured Division assembled for Operation 'Totalise', Normandy, 8 August 1944.
Sherman tanks of 1st Polish Armoured Division assembled for Operation ‘Totalise’, Normandy, 8 August 1944.

Although the US forces had found themselves in the thick bocage country for most of the time they spent in the Normandy bridgehead, the British experience had been more varied. The large tank battles around Caen had been fought in much more open country. Operation Bluecoat had not been as successful as Montgomery hoped and he now renewed the attack with Operation Totalise.

As the British and Canadian forces now pushed south in an attempt to link with the US forces, they encountered the bocage country, some of them for the first time. Bill Bellamy describes the difficulties of fighting by tank in the bocage:

It was the first time that I had felt any apprehension about an attack and how to handle it. Whether the briefing lacked conviction, or whether I just missed the comforting presence of Piff Threlfall I don’t know, but I had a feeling of gloom about the day ahead which didn’t leave me until we started to advance at first light on the morning of 8 August.

Once we had passed through our own lines and were moving cautiously out across the fields into unknown country, I forgot all my fears and settled down to enjoy the challenge. It was a brilliantly sunny, warm day, the initial going was good and although we were able to report the occasional AP shot and saw vehicles at a distance, we didn’t actually come up against organised resistance until about O800hrs. Then Bill Pritchard, nosing through a hedge, was fired at by an anti-tank gun which, happily, missed him.

In the meantime however, all hell was let loose on our right and both the other troops in the squadron were reporting attacks, some of their tanks being knocked out. By this time we were still well to the north of Cauville, I wasn’t yet in sight of the village itself, and the ground was rapidly becoming impossible for tank movement. It was real ‘Bocage’ with 2—4 feet high banks topped by thick hedges, interspersed with trees.

Here again, many of the small fields contained orchards and the trees themselves were so low that often one couldn’t pass beneath them but was forced to jink one’s way through. This made it impossible for the gunner to see clearly and, as the tank commander was bobbing up and down in the turret, or trying to use the periscopes for sighting, it was all rather a nightmare.

There was an added hazard for the gunner, who was sitting down below hunched over his gunsight, in a very cramped position. If he stretched his legs out through the turret cage in order to get some relief and this coincided with the gun hitting a tree while we were on the move, then the turret would have been forced round and off would come his legs. A chilling thought.

In the Cromwell tank it was difficult to remove shells from the racks and maintain a good rate of fire with the 75mm gun. The shells were all stored in bins round the turret floor, but as we were traversing all the time there were few opportunities for the loader to pick them up.

In addition to this, they were about 2 feet 6‘inches long and weighed over 1Olb, so, as one had to load one-handed, they were unwieldy. It was our practice therefore, when we anticipated trouble, for the wireless operator, who doubled up as a loader, to sit with three or four shells across his knees, so that as we fired and the empty shell case ejected, he could reload in a matter of seconds.

This was fine if one was static, but when one was bouncing about in all directions it became both very painful and extremely difficult. By this time we had encountered a great deal of small arms fire, and I decided to call a halt while I reviewed the options open to us.

The two leading tanks were hull-down behind the bank but we could see through the hedge top, and were engaging a number of enemy infantry moving about in front of us. I reported this to Bob and was told to try to probe forward again and see if it was possible to find any way round their position.

I then asked Alan Howard, whose tank was in the hedge about 100 yards behind me, to try to break into the next field to his left and, when he had done that, to come up into line with us. He acknowledged my order, but, just as he was about to move, a number of enemy infantry dashed out from behind the bank on my left flank, at least one of them armed with a Panzerfaust.

Neither Bill Pritchard nor I could fire at them immediately as we couldn’t traverse our turret guns the requisite 90° owing to the density of the hedge itself. Luckily they had not realised that Alan Howard’s tank was still sitting in the hedge behind, and as we two reversed out and started our traverse, he opened up with both machine guns and they dispersed, leaving a number of dead lying there.

It was a nasty moment and I decided that we couldn’t contend with an infantry attack unless we had some sort of a field of fire, so we all charged back through the hedge into more open ground.

See Troop Leader: A Tank Commander’s Story

David Jamieson VC
David Jamieson VC

Elsewhere the Germans were counter-attacking fiercely, some appreciation of the nature of the fighting can be gained from this citation for the Victoria Cross

Captain Jamieson was in command of a Company of The Royal Norfolk Regiment which established a bridgehead over the River Orne, south of Grimbosq, in Normandy.

On August 7th, 1944, the enemy made three counter-attacks which were repulsed with heavy losses. The last of these took place at 1830 hours when a German Battle Group with Tiger and Panther tanks attacked and the brunt of the fighting fell on Captain Jamieson’s Company. Continuous heavy fighting ensued for more than four hours until” the enemy were driven off, after suffering severe casualties and the loss of three tanks and an armoured car accounted for by this Company.

Throughout these actions, Captain Jamieson displayed outstanding courage and leadership, which had a decisive influence on the course of the battle and resulted in the defeat of these determined enemy attacks.

On the morning of August 8th the enemy attacked with a fresh Battle Group and succeeded in penetrating the defences surrounding the Company on three sides. During this attack two of the three tanks in support of the Company were destroyed and Captain Jamieson left his trench under close range fire from enemy arms of all kinds and went over to direct the fire of the remaining tank, but as he could not get into touch with the commander of the tank by the outside telephone, he climbed upon it in full view of the enemy.

During this period Captain Jamieson was wounded in the right eye and left forearm but when his wounds were dressed he refused to be evacuated. By this time all the other officers had become casualties so Captain Jamieson reorganised his Company, regardless of personal safety, walking amongst his men in full view of the enemy, as there was no cover. After several hours of bitter and confused fighting, the last Germans were driven from the Company position.

The enemy counter-attacked the Company three more times during that day with infantry and tanks. Captain Jamieson continued in command, arranging for artillery support over his wireless and going out into the open on each occasion to encourage his men.

By the evening the Germans had withdrawn, leaving a ring of dead and burnt out tanks round his position.

Throughout this thirty-six hours of bitter and close fighting, and despite the pain of his wounds, Captain Jamieson showed superb qualities of leadership and great personal bravery.

There were times when the position appeared hopeless, but on each occasion it was restored by his coolness and determination. He personally was largely responsible for the holding of this important bridgehead over the River Orne and the repulse of seven German counter-attacks with great loss to the enemy.

Smoke rises in the distance after a raid on German positions at the start of Operation 'Totalise', 8 August 1944.
Smoke rises in the distance after a raid on German positions at the start of Operation ‘Totalise’, 8 August 1944.
The crew of a Sherman tank of 7th Armoured Division pose with a German swastika flag captured near Roucamps, 8 August 1944
The crew of a Sherman tank of 7th Armoured Division pose with a German swastika flag captured near Roucamps, 8 August 1944

US breakout continues, British locked in combat


6 August 1944: US breakout continues, British locked in combat

Three times in the last few days, in as many tents and wooded fields, the same dialogue with minor variations: Division commander: ‘But my flanks, General?’ The General: ‘You have nothing to worry about. If anything develops – and it won’t – our tactical Air will know before you do, and will clobber it. That will give me plenty of time to pull something out of the hat.’

Personalities: Lieutenant General George S Patton, commander of the US 3rd Army which became operational in Normandy in July 1944, part of the 12th Army Group.
Personalities: Lieutenant General George S Patton, commander of the US 3rd Army which became operational in Normandy in July 1944, part of the 12th Army Group.

George S. Patton had finally returned to the battlefield, formally taking charge of the US 3rd Army on the 1st August. Until then he had headed the fictitious First US Army Group, supposedly waiting in south east England waiting to launch the “second invasion”. The deception had kept large German forces waiting in northern France and Belgium, which only now were being released to travel to Normandy.

It was too late. Patton was a man with pent up energy, driving his army forward in a rapid advance that first took Brittany and then swung round again to begin to encircle the German positions in Normandy. It was a dramatic move, especially after the long time spent bogged down in the Normandy bridgehead, and not everyone was comfortable with it. Colonel Charles R Codman was on his staff and saw how it unfolded:

The General knows exactly what he is doing, and if at times the higher staffs turn green around the gills when across their astonished situation maps flash the prongs of seemingly unprotected spearheads launched deep into enemy territory, it is only because they have yet properly to gauge the man’s resourcefulness.

As for his subordinates, more than one corps and division commander, in the course of a whirlwind visit from the Old Man, has felt a sinking in the pit of his stomach on finding himself and his command catapulted into outer space, but all of them have learned that he never lets them down. They know that if the unexpected happens, he will find a solution, and what is more, he will be up front to see that the solution is applied.

Three times in the last few days, in as many tents and wooded fields, the same dialogue with minor variations: Division commander: ‘But my flanks, General?’ The General: ‘You have nothing to worry about. If anything develops – and it won’t – our tactical Air will know before you do, and will clobber it. That will give me plenty of time to pull something out of the hat.’

A pat on the shoulder.

‘Get going now. Let the enemy worry about his flanks. I’ll see you up there in a couple of days”

Charles R Codman: Drive; A Chronicle of Patton’s Army

General de Gaulle saluting as he left the Town Hall in Lavel after addressing the people who had turned out to welcome him. Lavel was liberated by United States troops driving through Normandy on 6 August 1944.
General de Gaulle saluting as he left the Town Hall in Lavel after addressing the people who had turned out to welcome him. Lavel was liberated by United States troops driving through Normandy on 6 August 1944.
Major George E. Preddy Jr. of the 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group, hold up hands for six enemy aircraft he shot down on 6 August 1944 mission. This was a record number of victories for a single pilot in one mission.
Major George E. Preddy Jr. of the 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter Group, hold up hands for six enemy aircraft he shot down on 6 August 1944 mission. This was a record number of victories for a single pilot in one mission.
Men of an RAF airfield construction wing finish off the 5,000ft runway at Lingevres (B-19), 6 August 1944. Iron stakes are being driven in to secure the metal SMT (square-meshed track) surface, which was stored in rolls and had to be correctly tensioned to prevent it flexing in use. The airstrip took a mere six days to complete, and was the first to be constructed in Normandy by RAF manpower alone.
Men of an RAF airfield construction wing finish off the 5,000ft runway at Lingevres (B-19), 6 August 1944. Iron stakes are being driven in to secure the metal SMT (square-meshed track) surface, which was stored in rolls and had to be correctly tensioned to prevent it flexing in use. The airstrip took a mere six days to complete, and was the first to be constructed in Normandy by RAF manpower alone.

The situation maps looked very different for the British (including the Polish Armoured Division) and Canadian forces still locked into battle with the Panzers on the eastern flank of the Normandy battlefield, with very little forward movement apparently being made. The most dedicated Nazi troops were under severe pressure but they were not going be pushed easily. What that actually meant for the men involved can be illustrated by just one incident from this day.

No. 5779898 Corporal Sidney Bates, The Royal Norfolk Regiment

In North-West Europe on 6th August, 1944, the position held by a battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment near Sourdeval was attacked in strength by 10th S.S. Panzer Division. The attack started with a heavy and accurate artillery and mortar programme on the position which the enemy had, by this time, pin-pointed.

Half an hour later the main attack developed and heavy machine-gun and mortar fire was concentrated oh the point of junction of the two forward companies.

Corporal Bates was commanding the right forward section of the left forward company which suffered some, casualties,- so he decided to move the remnants of his section to an alternative position whence he appreciated he could better counter the enemy thrust.

However, the enemy wedge grew still deeper, until there were about 50 to 60 Germans, supported by machine-guns and mortars, in the area occupied by the section.

Seeing that the situation was becoming, desperate, Corporal Bates then seized a light machine-gun and charged the enemy, moving forward through a hail of bullets and spnnters and firing the gun from his hip. He was almost immediately wounded by machine-gun fire and fell to the ground, but recovered himself quickly, got up and continued advancing towards the enemy, spraying bullets from his gun as he went. His action by now was having an effect on the enemy riflemen and machine gunners but mortar bombs continued to fall all around him.

He was then hit for the second time and much more seriously and painfully wounded. However, undaunted, he staggered once more to his feet and continued towards the enemy who were now seemingly nonplussed by their inability to check him.

His constant firing continued until the enemy started to withdraw before him. At this moment, he was hit for the third time by mortar bomb splinters — a wound that was to prove mortal.

He again fell to the ground but continued to fire his weapon until his strength failed him. This was not, however, until the enemy Had withdrawn and the situation in this locality had been restored.

Corporal Bates died shortly afterwards of the wounds he had received, but, by his supreme gallantry and self sacrifice he had personally restored what had been a critical situation.

See also ‘Normandy: The Search For Sidney’

Sidney Bates, awarded Victoria Cross for determined single handed attack.
Sidney Bates, awarded Victoria Cross for determined single handed attack.

Canadian Lancaster pilot dies trying to save crew


4 August 1944: Canadian Lancaster pilot dies trying to save crew

As the deputy master bomber had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort

Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight attack on an oil storage depot at Bec d'Ambes situated in the Garonne estuary at the confluence of the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne, France. An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF flies over the target area while dense clouds of smoke rise as bombs burst among the oil storage tanks. Label An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF over the target during a Bomber Command attack on oil storage tanks at Bec d'Ambes in the Garonne estuary, 4 August 1944.
Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight attack on an oil storage depot at Bec d’Ambes situated in the Garonne estuary at the confluence of the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne, France. An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF flies over the target area while dense clouds of smoke rise as bombs burst among the oil storage tanks, 4 August 1944.
Avro Lancasters of RAF Bomber Command on a daylight raid over the Normandy battlefront, August 1944.
Avro Lancasters of RAF Bomber Command on a daylight raid over the Normandy battlefront, August 1944.

The heavy bombers were still very busy over the Normandy battlefield. As well as direct support for the Army they had been making sustained attempts to neutralise the V1 launch sites. Now more operations were introduced to bomb bridges over the Seine and other rivers, in an attempt to isolate the German forces still further.

Less than a year after he began flying operations in September 1942, Ian Bazalgette had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

This officer has at all times displayed the greatest keenness for operational flying. He has taken part in many sorties and attacked heavily defended targets such as Duisburg, Berlin, Essen and Turin. His gallantry and devotion to duty have at all times been exceptional and his record commands the respect of all of his squadron for his actions of late 1942, having flown many missions and survived significant enemy fire as well as a crash landing.

Citation for D.F.C. awarded 1 July 1943

Squadron Leader Ian W. Bazalgette VC
Squadron Leader Ian W. Bazalgette VC

It was such qualities that led him to be selected for the Pathfinders, flying Lancasters with No. 635 Squadron, RAF from May 1944. By August he and his crew had already flown 25 operations. Once again they were attacking targets in Normandy.

On 4th August 1944, Squadron-Leader Bazalgette was master bomber of a Pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maximin for the main bomber force.

When nearing the target his Lancaster came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. Both starboard engines were put out of action and serious fires broke out in the fuselage and the starboard main-plane. The bomb aimer was badly wounded.

As the deputy master bomber had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort.

After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived, practically out of control. By expert airmanship and great exertion Squadron-Leader Bazalgette regained control. But the port inner engine then failed and the whole of the starboard main-plane became a mass of flames.

Squadron-Leader Bazalgette fought bravely to bring his aircraft and crew to safety. The mid-upper gunner was overcome by fumes. Squadron-Leader Bazalgette then ordered those of his crew who were able to leave by parachute to do so. He remained at the controls and attempted the almost hopeless task of landing the crippled and blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb aimer and helpless air gunner. With superb skill, and taking great care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely. Unfortunately it then exploded and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished.

His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

The London Gazette, 17th August 1945

For more on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette see the Canadian site For Valour.

Four 1,000-lb bombs from a US Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder bomber fall towards their target, the railway bridge over the Loire at Les Ponts-de-Ce, Angers, France, 1 August 1944. The attack was part of the Allied plan to disrupt the Germans' ability to reinforce their forces in Normandy.
Four 1,000-lb bombs from a US Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder bomber fall towards their target, the railway bridge over the Loire at Les Ponts-de-Ce, Angers, France, 1 August 1944. The attack was part of the Allied plan to disrupt the Germans’ ability to reinforce their forces in Normandy.

Two VCs in one day for ‘British’ soldiers


23 June 1944: Two VCs in one day for ‘British’ soldiers

Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective.

The Arakan Campaign January 1943 - May 1945: A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.
A Gurkha soldier at a camouflaged position in the Arakan jungle.

The British Empire still encompassed many nations during the war, representatives of which found themselves fighting under the title of ‘British forces’ around the world. Many had never seen Britain. There was no discrimination when it came to awards for valour – all men were treated equally when it came to recognising the most courageous acts, even though only a minority would live to receive their award.

The 23rd June saw actions by ‘British’ troops in two very different jungle theatres. For the Chindits marching north in the most arduous conditions, there was another VC award for the 6th Gurkhas:

Tul Bahadur Pun VC
Tul Bahadur Pun VC

Rifleman Tul Bahadu Pun, 6th Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.

In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it.

The cross fire was so intense that both the leading platoons of ‘B’ Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun’s, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded.

Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees.

Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three and put five more to flight and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire from the bunker to the remainder of his platoon which enabled them to reach their objective.

His outstanding courage and superb gallantry in the face of odds which meant almost certain death were most inspiring to all ranks and beyond praise.

London Gazette, 7 November 1944

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu was a Fijian, fighting in the jungles of Bougainville, which, earlier, Navajo Indian Chester Nez had discovered was no paradise island:

Sefanaia Sukanaivalu VC
Sefanaia Sukanaivalu VC

On June 23rd, 1944 at Mawaraka, Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands, Cpl. Sefanaia Sukanaivalu crawled forward to rescue some men wounded when their platoon was ambushed.

After recovering two men this N.C.O. volunteered to go alone through heavy fire to try and rescue another – but on the way back was seriously wounded and fell to the ground unable to move further. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to rescue him; and realising that his men would not withdraw while he was still alive Cpl. Sukanaivalu raised himself up in front of the Japanese machine gun and was riddled with bullets.

This brave Fiji soldier, after rescuing two wounded men with the greatest heroism and being gravely wounded himself, deliberately sacrificed his own life knowing that in no other way could his men be induced to retire from a situation in which they must have been annihilated.

The London Gazette, 2 November 1944

A Fijian medical orderly administers an emergency plasma transfusion during heavy fighting on Bougainville.
A Fijian medical orderly administers an emergency plasma transfusion during heavy fighting on Bougainville.

1000: Stanley Hollis wins only D-Day VC


6th June 1944: 1000: Stanley Hollis wins only D-Day VC

Wherever the lighting was heaviest CSM Hollis appeared and, in the course of a magnificent day’s work, he displayed the utmost gallantry and on two separate occasions his courage and initiative prevented the enemy from holdng up the advance at critical stages.

Overhead aerial of the gun battery at Mont Fleury,
Overhead aerial of the gun battery at Mont Fleury, behind ‘King Red’ Beach GOLD Area, after air bombardment, showing four medium casemates under construction. Note also the anti-tank ditch, (right), and minefields, (centre top). The battery consisted of four 12.2 cm Polish guns (one in a completed casemate) manned by elements of the German 1260th GHQ Coastal Artillery Battalion, and was captured on 6 June 1944 by 6th Battalion, The Green Howards.
Royal Engineers serving with a 50th Division Beach Group share cocoa with a French boy in the village of Ver-sur-Mer, Gold area, 6 June 1944.
Royal Engineers serving with a 50th Division Beach Group share cocoa with a French boy in the village of Ver-sur-Mer, Gold area, 6 June 1944.
Stanley Hollis VC
Stanley Hollis VC

It was some time after the Green Howards had landed that Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis was involved in the actions that were recognised with the award of the Victoria Cross. As the citation makes clear, this was really recognition for his actions throughout the day:

Company Sergeant Major 4390973 (Warrant Officer Class II) Stanley Hollis

In Normandy, France, on 6th June 1944, during the assault on the beaches and the Mont Fleury battery, C.S.M. Hollis’s Company Commander noticed that two of the pillboxes had been by-passed and went with CSM Hollis to see that they were clear.

When they were 20 yards from the pillbox, a machine-gun opened fire from the slit and CSM Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun. He jumped on top of the pillbox, recharged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it killing two Germans and making the remainder prisoner.

He then cleared several Germans from a neighbouring trench. By his action he undoubtedly saved his Company from being fired on heavily from the rear and enabled them to open the main beach exit.

Later the same day in the village of Crepon, the Company encountered a field gun and crew armed with Spandaus at 100 yards range. CSM Hollis was put in command of a party to cover an attack on the gun, but the movement was held up.

Seeing this, CSM Hollis pushed right forward to engage the gun with a PIAT from a house at 50 yards range. He was observed by a sniper who fired and grazed his right cheek and at the same moment the gun swung round and fired at point blank range into the house. To avoid the falling masonry CSM Hollis moved his party to an alternative position. Two of the enemy gun crew had by this time been killed and the gun was destroyed shortly afterwards.

He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house and immediately volunteered to get them out. In full view of the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone using a Bren gun to distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

Wherever the fighting was heaviest CSM Hollis appeared and, in the course of a magnificent day’s work, he displayed the utmost gallantry and on two separate occasions his courage and initiative prevented the enemy from holdng up the advance at critical stages.

It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier and by his own bravery he saved the lives of many of his men.

London Gazette, 17 August 1944

For a full illustrated story of D-Day and the Normandy campaign explore hundreds of contemporary images in the iPad App Overlord. The free iBook US Forces on D-Day provides a sample.

Sherman tanks of 'A' Squadron, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers), 8th Armoured Brigade, come ashore from a landing craft (LCT 1076) on Jig beach, Gold area, 6 June 1944. On the right, a bulldozer helps clear a path off the beach.
Sherman tanks of ‘A’ Squadron, Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Rangers), 8th Armoured Brigade, come ashore from a landing craft (LCT 1076) on Jig beach, Gold area, 6 June 1944. On the right, a bulldozer helps clear a path off the beach.
German POWs disembarking from LCI(L)-500 on one of the Gold area beaches, 6 June 1944.
German POWs disembarking from LCI(L)-500 on one of the Gold area beaches, 6 June 1944.