War Diary: 141st Royal Armoured Corps

Month and year: July 1944

The July 1944 war diary for A Squadron of the 141st Royal Armoured Corps covering their actions in Normandy. Mentions operations Epsome, Jupiter, Knife and the capture of several towns including Lebon-Repos.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/877

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Page 1 of 4
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
984648 1 - 6 Still under the command of the 31 Tk Bde for Operation "EPSOM", 'A' Sqn continued to operate from a forward base at, 984684,
daily providing a quota of Crocodiles to the 7 RTR and 9 RTR in their sweeps South of CHEUX towards the River
Odon. Their job was to follow the advance ready for action should a suitable role occur. In actual fact it did
not. Nevertheless this continual activity did impose a considerable strain in regard to maintenance (especially
the special equipment) and lack of sleep, and it soon became obvious that such allocation could not continue
indefinitely. The monotony of this procedure was occasionally relieved for the comd tnks. moving along with Sqn
HQs,in the occasional brush with enemy armour. In this way Capt Storrar proudly claims 1/7th of a Panther South
of CHEUX, which gave up both ghost and crew on the simultaneous impact of 7 shots. Strolling through the village a
little later, this worthy gentleman was a little staggered and more than pleased at finding himself receptionist
to the crews of three other Panthers "brewed up" by the 10 H.L.I., who were co-operating in this action. Needless
to say he dealt with the situation with native Scottish aplomb.
884719 6 Jul 9 Jul On 6th July 'A' Sqn moved to 884719 (Bronay Sheet 7/F1) from where they moved up to an assembly area for Operation
"JUPITER" under command 31 Tk Bde (objectives ESQUAY and MALTOT). on 9 Jul 44.
10 Jul Operation "JUPITER". No.3 Tp(Lieut Tonbridge) under Capt Storrar in support of the Som L.I. and sp by 7 RTR flamed
hedgerows and dugouts at the since well known Point 112, 958617. Smoke to date had been remarkable for its absence
but in this case an excellent screen was laid by the two comd tks assisted by 7 RTR and it is the considered opinion
of this Regiment that smoke is a major weapon both for attack and escape. Judging from the badly shaken PW and the
great impression on our own infantry , this was a very successful show indeed. Owing to previous shelling the
number of killed by flame could not be properly estimated. It was Capt Storrar's opinion however, that on a target
of this nature the effect was moral rather than lethal, this once more emphasising the necessity for quick follow
up by infantry to winkle out the temporarily demoralised enemy and occupy the ground against enemy return. We
suffered no casualties in this action apart from two wounded (mortar casualties) in the forward rally.
943648, 906704 11 Jul 13 Jul On the next day 'A' Sqn were relieved and moved to 943658 (MOUEN 7/F1) where for two days they were under constant enemy arty and
mortar fire until permission was granted to move to 906704 on 13 Jul 44. This was not the first time that Crocodiles
were to be kept needlessly exposed too far forward
Transcription note: The place column has "943648" believe this should be 943658 as in the summary
906704 14 Jul On 14 July 'A' Sqn passed under command of 12 Corps thence under command of 34 Tk Bde for Operation "KNIFE". A
preliminary allocation was made of 2 & 3 Tps (Lieuts Playford and Tonbridge) under Capt Storrar to 2 Glasgow Highlanders,
1 and 4 Tps (Lieuts Griggs and Andrews) to sp 6 R.S. - Major Cooper to stay at 34 Tk Bde HQ as crocodile
adviser and controller.
Page 2 of 4
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
906704 15 Jul 2145 2 and 3 Tps (Lieuts Playford & Tonbridge) under Capt Storrar moved so S.L. area 9562 (Sheet 7/F1) with 'A' Coy Glasgow
Highlanders sp by two tps 'A' Sqn 107 RAC for attack on strong point and house 952618 - buildings at LEBON-REPOS 946616
With the use of air photos and ground observation a very thorough plan was laid on as follows:-

Diagram showing tanks approach to the buildings at LEBON-REPOS

Two tps 107 RAC were to precede the Crocodiles advance, one tp each side of the road. Next the Crocodiles, also one Tp
each side of the road, flaming the fire posns in the hedgerows en route to LEBON REPOS. The Tp Sgt in each case was to
lead, the Tp Offr moving behind filling up the gaps in the flame and the Tp Cpl to a flank ready to replace the Tp Sgt
as he exhausted his flame. Immediately behind each Tp of Crocodiles a platoon of infantry with one section actually
detailed to follow immediately behind the flame tk. The whole object was to be "stonked" as part of the Div Arty Programme
up till H plus 20 and smoke laid on and beyond the objective. A rehearsal took place with the infantry to demonstrate
the safety of walking through the flame once it was on the ground. Casualties - the soled of Capt Storrar's
boots. As it transpired the smoke was so thick from the first strong point onwards that the two tps of 107 RAC
demurred. Finally the Crocodiles advanced without them, although in a better light this lack of armour support might
have been serious. By now it was almost completely dark but the drill worked to perfection. The enemy were flushed
out of their posns. Tp Cpls automatically replaced Tp Sgts until in turn their flame was exhausted - and the infantry,
following right up, and slaughtering en passant, were put in to LE BON REPOS without casualty either to themselves or
to the Crocodiles. A polite "Thank you - Were O.K. now" from the platoon commander to Lieut Playford, the Crocodiles
turned about and the infantry continued on their way. This after all is the acid test of any plan or application of a
particular weapon - an objective won, no casualties lost. This was up to date the best laid on and successful show and
it amply bore out the points brought in Appx II (O.C. 141 RAC (The Buffs) letter SA/81 dated 20 Jul 44). Return of Crocodile
action D-Day - D plus 40., Notes on the use of Crocodiles by Lieut-Col H. Waddell, OC. 141 RAC (The Buffs)., and
30 Corps Latter 251/G dated 14 Jul 44 on Characteristics and Employment of Crocodiles)., points which the C.O. has been
plugging from the beginning of ops.
937657 Night 15/16 July The cross-country journey back to rally at 937657 was not without incident in the complete darkness. Capt Storrar with
his genius for falling into situations, this time managed to fall well and truly, tank and all, in a bomb crater. Not
before he had gathered his force however by a series of Very Lights, signals which the Germans invariably repeated
Page 3 of 4
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
937657 17 Jul 0530 hr 3 and 4 Tps under Capt Strachan moved off to assist in an attack on EVRECY AND ESQUAY. Owing to mist however the
whole attack was cancelled and ultimately the party rejoined 'A' Sqn at MOUEN level crossing.
937657 17 Jul. Here the Sqn endured a heavy air attack that evening and continued to be victim to enemy mortaring. As a result of
enemy mortaring the same evening 'A' Sqn lost one offr (hand smashed by tank hatches blown back by blast) and six wounded.
As with 'B' Sqn a little later losses were necessary before commonsense held sway and 'A' Sqn were allowed to move back
a little to 937677 (S.E. of St. Mauvien).
937657 25 Jul P.M. A few days later the enemy had retaken LE-BON-REPOS and shortly afterwards 53 Welsh Division to stage a very
carefully planned attack with a view to demonstrating their superiority over the SS and taking prisoners. Thus as Capt
Storrar was enjoying a fitful afternoon nap and dreaming what he would do to a pint of beer in the rear later ('A' Sqn
were due for a rest) he was rudely awakened and once again asked to co-operate. On this occasion the raid was to be
done with the 4 Welch and again the 107 RAC as per diagram.

Diagram showing crocodile attack on LE-BON-REPOS

There was very little time for the tie-up with the infantry and had it not been for the young and very able C.O. of the
4 Welch the whole thing might have been a glorious M.F.U. - as it transpired it was again a great success.
Capt Storrar with the eternal Lieut Andrews set off with seven Crocodiles for the Start Line (one Crocodile was for
demonstration to the infantry- under Lieut Griggs) - his troop comds being 2/Lts. Tunbridge and McCulloch (3 and 2 Tps
respectively). On crossing the Start Line he had only four Crocodiles, three of them commanded by officers. Supported
by tanks and arty the small party flamed their way madly to the objective, saturated it with flame, Bes and H.E.,
watched the infantry in, turned and came straight back to their Sqn at 937657 without a casualty.
A goodly number of PW were taken, a large number of the enemy killed and the infantry informed us that 16 men we're
killed in the house at LE-BON-REPOS alone, GOC ., 12 Corps himself wrote a letter congratulating the Crocodiles on
their effort and here is an extract from a letter subsequently written by G.O.C. 53 (W) Div., Major-General Ross
"I also wish to acknowledge the assistance of the two troops of 141 RAC. I agree with Lieut-Col WILLIAMS that it
would have been preferable to have had longer time to arrange the co-operation of the Infantry and the Crocodiles
but it was only known at 1500 hrs that they would be available."
"In spite of this lack of time their assistance as invaluable. Their disposal of the 16 men occupying the house at
Page 4 of 4
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
945615 must alone have saved the attacking troops many casualties.
On the next day 'A' Squadron joined RHQ at BRECY for a very well-earned rest.
BRECY 29 Jul Some days later, with the Americans driving south into Brittany the British thrust began to destroy any German hinge
which might be established in the area Villiers Bocage with a view to denying their left flank to the Americans. For this
operation 'A' Sqn were put under the command of 8 Corps - two tps under Capt Strachan to 5 Gds Armd and the remainder of the
Sqn under Major Cooper to 11 Armd Div.
BUTAIN WOOD, 716583 30 Jul On 30 Jul after very careful though hurried planning the day before Capt Strachan's party (2 and 3 Tps under Lieut
McCulloch and that very dashing and able young officer Lieut Tonbridge) attacked the Northern edge of LUTAIN WOOD, south
east of CAUMONT as first stage in the drive south. The assault was made with 2 Gordons and the Grenadier Guards
(5 Armd Bde). On the way to the Start Line owing to fluctuating Crocodile strength Capt Strachan had twice to re-organise
his plans (commencing with 6 from the harbour, plunging to the lowest depths with 3 just before zero and actually doing
the attack with four). The operation was quite successful but it is doubtful if there was any enemy there other than a
few snipers. The party returned to 719657 and was not used again in this show.
Major Cooper with two tps under 11 Armd Div had original instructions to allot one tp to each Bde axis - moving down the
road behind the advance. This had most unexpected consequences - even for a disillusioned Cooper. Lieut Andrews was
solemnly ordered to provide a flying flank patrol to the armour, and Lieut Brereton found himself attached to a R.A.O?P?.
Obediently the two tps waddled along their two roads but were told so firmly and so frequently by personages in high places
to get off the "bloody road" that finally they took them at their word and retired to the harbour S.W. of CAUMONT. Here
they remained as the battle (such as it was) rolled forward some twenty miles. Peace reigned. Major Cooper sipped a
double whisky.