The usual way that I make a difference is by reducing the time that it takes to do tasks within Microsoft Office. However, on occasions it’s nice to make a difference in another way and last July I was able to do just that.I’ve always been interested in the Second World war and, in more recent years, especially in the fighting in Normandy following the D day invasion. Part of this comes from my ongoing research into 18 Allied Prisoners of War held by the Germans in a small wooden shed in a village in Normandy. The story of this is told on the website www.menintheshed.com. When in Normandy for the June commemorations, it’s great to have a chat with veterans and a number of years ago I met one, Peter Muir Findlay, who had been involved in a specific battle that I was interested in. Chatting to him and seeing the reaction on his face when we discussed the battle got me interested in finding even more about it.
A brief history lesson
The battle in question was at the commencement of Operation BLUECOAT on 30th July 1944, when Muir’s unit – 3rd (Tank) Battalion Scots Guards, part of 6th Guards Tank Brigade – were in support of 15th Scottish Division. They broke through the German defence lines & arrived at their first objective – Hill 226. Realising that the division on their left hadn’t been able to keep pace, the decision was made to leave 3rd (Tank) Battalion Scots Guards in place to protect the flank & one of its sister battalions (4th (Tank) Battalion Coldstream Guards) was directed to the final objective of Hill 309. Subsequently this became known as “Coldstream Hill” – its location is just to the north of the D675 out of the village of St Martin des Besaces.
Back on Hill 226 (near the tiny village of Les Loges) the Scots Guards were settling down to listen to the BBC news at 6pm when all hell broke loose! An artillery & mortar barrage followed by an attack by three large German self-propelled guns (JagdPanthers being used for the first time in the Normandy fighting) saw 11 of the Scots Guards Churchill Tanks destroyed in 5 minutes! In addition to the losses in material, 24 men were killed with a further 19 wounded.
This would have been devastating for a battle-hardened unit, however, for 3rd (Tank) Battalion Scots Guards it was even more so as this was their first time in action! The losses were keenly felt as they had trained together since 1941 with strong friendships built up.
Subsequently, the Battalion received new tanks and replacements and was back in action within a few days fighting on through the remainder of the war with distinction.
A new memorial in Normandy
Cutting a long story short (unusual for me!) a couple of years ago, I had a discussion with some of my contacts at two local museums regarding the possibility of erecting a small memorial to the memory of those that had been killed and in June 2018, we visited the site of the battle to discuss possible locations for the memorial.
At the time, we had in mind a small memorial as a “marker” with the possibility of an “Orientation table” to explain the battle. However, we hadn’t factored in the impact and resolution of the sons, daughters, surviving veterans and other family and friends as well as the current Scots Guards Regiment would have once they heard about our modest aims.
In July 2019, over 60 people travelled from the UK to Normandy to be involved in a weekend of commemorations including the unveiling of the new memorial on land donated by the village of Les Loges in honour of 3rd (Tank) Battalion Scots Guards including a number of sons of those serving on 30th July 1944.
The memorial consists of two large granite blocks set next to each other to resemble the open pages of a book: the left-hand “page” bearing an inscription & the right-hand “page” a Roll of Honour. In addition, there is a large (again granite) orientation table with three maps. The largest shows the progress of the 6th Guards Tank Brigade from their start position near the town of Caumont l’Éventé down to Hills 226 & 309, a second shows Operation BLUECOAT as a whole with the third showing the movements of the Brigade until the end of the war. The memorials are quite magnificent & I’m enormously proud of the part that I played in the process.
The only sad note is that Muir Findlay passed away in January 2019 before they were complete.
|Roll of Honour|
EN MEMOIRE DU
LE 30 JUILLET 1944
THIS MEMORIAL WAS ERECTED WITH HELP FROM
|We Will Remember Them|
As the final part of the Memorial Project, I have then written a book which covers the period from the Battalion’s formation through to the end of it’s first day in battle. It then leaps forward 75 years to the work involved in the erection of the memorial and the commemorations at it’s unveiling and afterwards, including a battlefield tour.