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War Diary: 2nd Battalion Household Cavalry Regiment

Month and year: August 1944

The August 1944 2nd Battalion Household Cavalry Regiment covers their action in Normandy and advance to Villers Bretonneux.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/837

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Page 1 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
1 Aug D and A Sqn operated SOUTH of R. SOULEUVRE. It was some little time after daylight before
they were able to get over the bridges owing to congestion but eventually they fanned out,
D Sqn watching the right and A Sqn fanning out on the high ground south of LE BENY BOCAGE.
Meanwhile 11 Armd Div pushed on to capture BENY BOCAGE and to establish itself firmly south
of the R. SOULEUVRE. In the evening the enemy after a fairly stubborn resistance pulled out
to the south and the official view was that the chase was on. A Sqn were ordered to cover
the country collecting prisoners while D Sqn still protected the right flank. B, C and RHQ
moved in the evening over the river to a harbour in the FDLS 2 miles west of LE BENY BOCAGE.
The Divisional order from 8 Corps was that 2 H.C.R. was to patrol vigourously during
the night and exploit towards the south, but somewhat luckily owing to traffic congestion, 2 H.C.R.
only had D Sqn available for this inenviable task. D Sqn sent out patrols forward during
the night but a certain amount of trouble was encountered.
before
2 Aug A and B Sqns moved out at first light, B right, A left, while D Sqn was still watching
the right flank in touch with 2 N.Y. Progress was slow indeed, far slower that expected.
owing to the presence of a number of Panthers working independently. An open flank developed
on the right on LE BENY BOCAGE - VIRE rd, and though 2 N.Y. got one tp into VIRE this was
pushed out. 11 Armd Div by the evening was held to its front, and both its flanks were rather
open, as U.S. forces were back on the right and Gds Armd Div had failed to get forward
on the left owing to stiff opposition. RHQ moved to 6641. B Sqn(Lit. Everard and Tabor)
shot up 22 enemy vehicles including 1 Armd C and 2 SP guns.
3 Aug C & D Sqns performed static patrols and phantom work for 11 Armd Div. There was a good deal of eneny
penetration by pockets of enemy S.S. Tos, usually a couple of Panther tks with a pln of inf in sp.
German S.S. Pzs had succeeded in forming a front and 11 Armd Div who had run far forward with US forces
not yet up on the right flank and Gds Armd Div having very hard fighting on the left. Things were
definitely worrying throughout the afternoon. D Sqn had a very sticky night going into close lager at
LE BRIEN with Germans all round. Lieut Smallwood went missing in trying to fing a way out for D Sqn HQ.
B Sqn sent out sp tp patrols to block a gap. RHQ after intermittent shelling all day moved back to
CARVILLE with 11 Armd Div Main HQ.
Attached - Special Order of the Day by Comd 8 Corps.Appx A
Attached - Broadcast Report by Chester Wilmot.Appx B
4 Aug A & B Sqns relieve C & D Sqns. Lieut Groeninx van Zoelen's Tp (D Sqn) had to be left out in 23 H harbour area
Page 2 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
9 Aug. 2 H.C.R. (less D Sqn) under comd 3 Br Div. D Sqn change from under comd 11
Armd Div to Gds Armd Div. These changes were necessary as 11 Armd Div were with-
drawn to re-fit. 3 Br Div meanwhile was pushing on, on the extreme right flank
of 2nd Army in touch with U.S.A. force to VIRE and TINCHEBRAI.
B Sqn were operating from area PONT DE VAUDRY 6733 and patrolled by day fwd
to VIRE - VASSY rd. Meanwhile Gds Armd Div were making slow progress forward on
the left of 3 Div to the same road. Opposition from 9 SS Pz Div and 5 Para Div
was very strong and particularly on the front of 5 Para Div (area VIESSOIX) many
mines were encountered.
At night B Sqn with sp and hy tps of A and C under comd held a line of outpost
between 3 Brit Div and Gds Armd Div. Lt. Tabor directed 2 or 3 very successful Arty
shoots on enemy on rly between VIRE- VIESSOIX: one particularly successful shoot
was against a mortar position on the rly embankment. D Sqn under comd Gds Armd Div
op in area CHENEDOLLE - ESTRY but opposition was still very strong and little progress
was made though most valuable infm was collected. Enemy mortaring was particularly
hy on this flank. Tac HQ 2 H.C.R. move to area of HQ 3 Br Div area ST. MARIE LAUMONT 6341.
Page 3 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
10 Aug. B Sqn maintain patrolling and night outposts.
D Sqn patrol for Gds Armd Div.
11 Aug. Op GROUSE. A push forward by U.S. 5 Corps on VIRE and SOUTH 3 Br Div on
TINCHEBRAI and Gds Armd to their leftflank up to VIRE - VASSY rd and then on to
TINCHEBRAI and FLERS. 2 H.C.R. less D Sqn were to move through 3 Br Div on VIRE -
TINCHEBRAI - FLERS. With this in view A and C Sqns and Rear HQ moved to area
MONTISANGER 6634. The adv however went very slowly Gds Armd Div on the leftin
particular meeting very stiff opposition. 5 Para Div and 9 SS Pz Div fought very
strongly to hold the line VIESSOIX - ESTRY and 32 Gd Bde had very heavy casualties.
D Sqn still patrolled for Gds Armd Div mainly carrying out Phantom work.
Throughout this period comds at all expected and kept thinking the enemy
were pulling out but our patrols always met the heaviest mortaring whenever they
pushed forward. It is interesting to recall what the general war picture
was on the Normandy front. U.S. forces had pushed South through the AVRANCHES
gap had spread into Brittany and were now pushing round the SOUTH flank of
the Germans. Canadians and Poles were attacking towards FALAISE from CAEN.
Page 4 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
11 Aug (Cont) The Germans still poured men into the pocket and their resistance to 8 Corps
at the WESTERN end was very strong. The were also attempting counterattacks
towards AVRANCHES but the whole might of the air force was turned on these and
100's of vehicles and many tanks were knoked out.
12 Aug 2 H.C.R. Tac HQ joined Rear HQ and A B and C Sqns in the area MONTISANGER.
The Regt less B sqn was ordered to organise as infantry to hold a position of Gds
Armd Div Line. Gds Armd Div was to be greatly stretched to release 11 Armd Div who
were to come under comd 30 Corps for future advance. Eventually after a day of
many changes, B Sqn remained under comd 3 Div and again manned a night outpost line.
D Sqn remained under comd Gds. Armd Div and continued patrolling to the EAST and S.E.
Area VIESSOIX - CHENEDOLLE - ESTRY was still very strongly held and enemy mortaring and
shelling in the area was put down on any movement 2 H.C.R. less B and D were placed under
comd 32 Gds Bde.
13 Aug. B and D Sqns carried out recces of 2 I.G positions at SOURDEVALLE 7033 and at
2000 hrs moved into their positions which were positions on a reverse slope with
limited vision. However, the positions were greatly strengthened by the weight of
Page 5 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
13 Aug (Contd). supporting areas under comd of the Regt as follows:-
1 Sqn 2 Armd I.G. (Shermans).
1 Tp 17 pdr A/Tk Guns.
1 Pln. Vickers M.G.
With in Sp 1 Sqn 3 S.G. (Churchills).
The position taken up had already seen a great deal of fighting and there was
a mass of burnt out tks and tpt (all unfortunately Brit) in addition to a lot of dead Germans
and some dead British. There were also a mass of dead animals in the area so that 2 H.C.R's.
first infantry position of the war was not an inviting one.
c
Attached 2 H.C.R. Op Order No.1.Appx C
14 Aug. 2 H.C.R. remained in inf positions. D Sqn reverted to comd 2H.C.R. and their Sp Tp
was brought up to SOURDEVALLE position. The enemy remained quiet all day till 2100 hrs when
he shelled and mortared the position of 1 W.G the neighbouring Cm. 2 H.C.R. were very lucky:
that all shelling was about 400 - 600 to their EAST. During 14 Aug the Gunners definitely
began to pull out from the ESTRY - CHENEDOLLE line and 11 Armd Div on the left flank of Gds
Armd Div made substantial progress. 3 Br Div also adv SOUTH of VIRE. B Sqn moved to area
LA SALETTE 6629. Normal night patrolling guard constant with 3 Div and 1 W.G.
15 Aug. No change in position of Regt. D Sqn in the evening are put under comd 3 Br Div who had
made substantial progress through TINCHEBRAI during the day.
B Sqn under comd 3 Recce Regt had recconoitered foward as far as the headwarters of
the NOIREAU and had done valuable work in the evening on the crossings of the River and Rly
area CLAIRE - FOUGERE 7727 - MONT SECRET 7826 - and ST. PIERRE D'ENTREMENT 8027. Lt. Tabor
did particularly good work in extracting the fuzes from the demolition charges of a bridge
which was under hy shell fire.
16 Aug 2 H.C.R. were visited by General Montgomery C in C 21 Army Gp who addressed RHQ men at
SOURDEVILLE and who then went round the positions held by 2 H.C.R. General Montgomery was
very optimistic and said that those Germans who escaped from the now famous ARGENTAN pocket
would be run up against the LOWER SEINE by a wider right hook by the Americans. C Sqn
mounted again moved to occupy VIESSOI 6931, which was full of mines and booby traps.
B Sqn under comd 3 Br Recce Regt carried out limited patrols to S.E. of FLERS and took up O.P.
positions. D Sqn operated also under comd 3 Recce Regt to WEST of D Sqn, and made contacts
with U.S. forces after advancing through the FORET DE HALOUZE. The Germans had gone back
quickly and a number of stragglers were collected. They had had time to sow scattered mines and
both B and D had a Scout C blown up. The floors of all Scout Cs had been heavily sandbagged
and there were no fatal cas. RHQ A and C Sqns were relieved in the afternoon and retired to
harbour at MONTISANGER.
Page 6 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
17 Aug 8 Corps (Gds Armd Div, 3 Brit Div) had been picked out by the adv of the U.S. forces on
the right and 30 Corps on the left and was withdrawn into Army Reserve. 2 H.C.R. less D Sqn
went back to a Regt harbour, area 6445 NORTH of LE BENY BOCAGE.
18 Aug After a good deal of haggling D Sqn were relieved by 3 Brit Div and returned to Regt
harbour in the early morning of 19 Aug. Regt was visited by George Formby and his Concert
Party.
20-21 Aug. 2 H.C. R. remained in harbour. Maintenance and reorganisation of tps was the order of
the day. Also until the weather broke a 21 Aug, bathing in the rivers was popular.
The present rest period is perhaps a good one to review the Regts ops with regard to Trg etc.
The ops had been entirely influenced by the very close nature of the BOCAGE Country - small
enclosures high banks and sunken lanes - recce had of neccessity been limited and slow
and tp leaders had preferred to go forward with two Scout Cs themselves trafelling in the
second Scout C. valuable. Armd Cs were held back but as soon as the country opened up they had proved
valuable. Wireless worked well on the whole though frequencies were so close together that
interference was bad especially in the evenings. The Regt had never worked altoghether but
both under 11 Armd Div and 3 Div for periods 3 Sqns were under comd RHQ. Undoubtedly from the
point of view of co-ordinating recce and avoiding the provision of additional L.O's it proved
better for RHQ to comd the Sqns, working on the Corps front. If this was not done Recce
intermixed and too many wireless sets on RHQ and Sqns HQ's had to be kept open thereby over-
tiring operators.
Additional for 13 Aug Night patrols to the front and flanks produced no contact with enemy on flanking
formations. B Sqn under comd 3 Div made no advance. D Sqn under comd Gds Armd Div continue
patrols and find numerous mines in the area of the VIRE - VASSY rd. Major Ward (O.C. D Sqn)
was blown up in a Daimler Scout Car by a mine - he himself was only shaken but his driver Tpr
Hill died of wounds.
Page 7 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
21 Aug 44 At about 2300 hrs 2 H.C.R was warned to be ready to move next morning fwd to ARGENTAN
AREA to come under comd 30 Corps (Gen. Harrocks). 30 Corps was composed of 43 and 50 Divs
and 8th Armd Bde.
Letter from G.O.C. 8 Corps to C.O.Appx E.
22 Aug 44 C.O. and Sqn Ldrs went off at first light to meet Comd 30 Corps in area ECOUCHE.
It was found that 2 H.C.R. were not to be employed until first light 24 Aug when they were
to relieve Inns of Court Regiment as the Recce regt for the corps. 2 H.C.R. moved via
TENCHEBRAI - FLERS - excl BRIOUZE to area of ST. OUEN SUR MAIRE 1414. This was a day
regt convoy on a goodish road and went very smoothly. The road was also a U.S. suppry route
and the pace which their hy tpt drove amazed everyone.
23 Aug 2 H.C.R. moved at first light to area E of GACE 5547. Move Order
It now appeared that touch was being lost with the enemy and though pockets of PW's
were being mopped up the enemy main bodies had got away probably east of the Seine.
The weather had definitely played false and the break of 4 days came just at the wrong time
as it gave the Germans a chance to evacuate his troops across the Seine 2 H.C.R. was
given the job for 24 Aug of recceing a large area to NORTH of 30 Corps line of adv, which
was directed on axis LAIGLE - EVEROUX - VERNON. C.O. gave out orders 23 Aug for task for
23 - 24 Aug. - the idea was that 2 H.C.R. would mop up a lot of PW's and would also at the
same time act as left flank protection for advance of 30 Corps. Main points in C.O's. orders.
2 H.C.R. had to make a night march from GACE to area ST. SYMPHORIEN DES BRUYERES 7646.
This was a difficult march owing to a very wet dark night and the fact that LAIGLE had to be
avoided: this necessitated the use of by roads as a by-pass and maps were not available.
It was 0330 before the last sqn arrived.
Appx G.
24 Aug 44 2 H.C.R. pushed forward quickly and C Sqn had got a tp up to BERNAY area by 1300 hrs -
delays were caused by road blocks and scattered mines but no organised opposition was en-
countered though a number of prisoners were rounded up. Each Sqn had 2 MAQUIS attached to
help them get the right contact with the French. It was found that the main German
bodies had left 2 days before. The French were delighted to see everyone and were helpful
though very prone to exaggerate the number of enemy seen. By evening contact had been made
with XII Corps on the WEST (The Royals were coming through 2 H.C.R. patrols) with Cdn Corps
to the NORTH and with U.S. forces in area CONCHES 0363 and LE NEUBOURG 0383. At the latter
Lt. Palmer's patrol was in the dusk shot at by Americans but luckily with no casualties.
25 Aug 44 2 H.C.R. were ordered to continue flank gd role but when C.O. visited Sqns and found that
XII Corps were moving east through our patrols C.O. withdrew all sqns to area RHQ at St.
SYMPHORIEN.
Page 8 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
26 Aug 44 Maint, rest and bathing.
27 Aug 44 Warning to move to Fwd CONC Area N.W. of VERNON where 30 Corps were bridging.
28 Aug 44 2 H.C.R. moved under comd 11th Armd Div to area due West of VERNON, where brs had been
established. Move Order Appx A. This was a longish day march but it was on good roads.
2 H.C.R. came under comd Gds Armd Div who were some distance back having forced marched from
the FLERS - TINCHEBRAI area. B Sqn recce brs over EPTE for a possible move east by Gds
Armd Div the following day. Brs as far north as DANGU found to be blown. Enemy appeared to
be holding ground to WEST of REPTE in some strength but U.S. forces coming up fast on this
flank soon began to dislodge them. Tanks of Gds Armd Div catch up by evening and move quickly
forward to area GISORS. A terrible wet day.
29 Aug 44 2 H.C.R advanced at first light B right, A left, C right, reserve, D left reserve. B were
more hampered by U.S. forces than by German in their attempts to get forward. Enemy held
CHAUMONT in some strength till they were turned out by Americans. On left A Sgn made progress
and got through and to N of GISORS. They wheeled slightly right and pushed forward towards
BEAUVAIS. Opposition was not strong but was always present. 2 Scout cars in A Sqn were
knocked out by the same A/Tk gun on a hairpin bend at AUNEUIL. D Sqn pushed fwd on left flank
of Gds Armd Div and made contact with INNS OF COURT. At about 1800 hrs 2 H.C.R. received a
snap order direct from comd 30 Corps to push on with all speed to capture crossing over the
SOMME SOUTH of AMIENS by 1000 hrs next morning. This was a most difficult order to lay on
at short notice as RHQ was moving at the time and it was a very bad day for the air. However,
C Sqn was directed on right bridges and D Sqn on left and they were ordered to rest for a bit
and push on early. 2 H.C.R. moved up to 30 Corps HQ EAST of GISORS and later at midnight
to LE HOUSSOYE on the BEAUVAIS rd. At about 2300 hrs it was found that 5 Gds Bde Tks were
going to move fwd at 0200 hrs the following day and sqns had to be told to get early on the
rds in order to avoid being blocked by the tanks. This latter was proving the continual
worry at the beginning of each advance but if the armd cars did not get infront of the tanks for
the move up the advance becomes a perpetual jockeying match.
30 Aug 44 Op SUPERCHARGE II, which was the neme of the advance to the SOMME and then to ARRAS.
This was a most exciting day and after a slow start as it seemed at RHQ the pace became terrific.
D Sqn had to be put on the right and in place of C who could not get through the traffic.
The route was BEAUVAIS - BRETEUIL - MOREVIL to VILLERS BRETONNEUX to the Three Bridges which
were known as FAITH HOPE and CHARITY. By 1145 D Sqn had got on br Hope which was at CORBIE
just NORTH of VILLERS BRETONNEUX. The bridges there had each got 500 lbs Aircraft Bombs
and great slabs of guncotton to blow them but luckily R.E. Recce parties were fwd with Sqns
and they were able to deal with the danger.
Page 9 of 9
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
30 Aug 44 (cont). Lt. Hanbury's Tp was first at the bridge at 1130 hrs. A remarkable march of 58 miles
with slight enemy opposition all day. Quite a lot of fighting took place at the bridge but
1 Gren Gds arrived to help about 2 hrs later. A Sqn linked up with 11 Armd Div who were in
AMIENS and secured bridge Faith on the left. D Sqn were out all night protecting a bridge
on the right which was used next day by U.S. forces. Lt. Ainsworth commanded a force of these
tps and repulsed a German counter attack. Lt. Hoare was badly wounded by a sniper. RHQ
move all day with HQ Gds Armd Div and set up just EAST of VILLERS BRETONNEUX.