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THE GLORIOUS GLOSTERS


D-Day to 1945

The 56th Independant Infantry Brigade were to land after and in support of the 231st Brigade, which would storm the beaches. They were to land on Gold Beach at 1100. They came ashore with no opposition and marched through Meuvaines to Buhot. They then dug in at Magny to support the attack on Bayeux. The enemy had withdrawn and Bayeux was liberated without a shot. On June 10th the 61st began the advance along the Bayeux-Tilly road. The attack on Tilly started on the evening of June 11th.

Tilly was strongly defended and Lieut. J. Evans was killed trying to knock out a German tank that was firing on B Company. After over four hours of fighting it was decided to withdraw from the village. By midnight the battalion was dug-in north of Tilly. Military Medals were awarded to Lance-Corporal Rhodes and Sergeant Brain for this action. Colonel Biddle was awarded the DSO. The next day a whole Brigade attacked Tilly and failed to take it.

The 61st then rested at Ellon for 2 weeks. The next move was to relieve the Rifle Brigade at Parfouru l'Eclin. Patrols were undertaken and there were heavy German bombardments of their positions.

July 30th the 61st were part of the British attack on the Saint-Germain d'Ectot ridge, 5 miles north of Villers-Bocage. A single German plane dropped 2 bombs on the battalion area and an ammunition truck was hit. Captain Rogers was killed and Major Soames seriously injured. The area was heavily defended and mined. The Pioneer Platoon lifted 300 mines during the advance. After a days heavy fighting the position was taken. 1 officer and 14 men were killed, 44 wounded.

In August the Canadian First Army pressed on towards Falaise. The 61st moved towards Thury-Harcourt, 17 miles south of Caen. August 10th they dug in and during shelling Lieut-Colonel Biddle was wounded. Major J.K. Lance assumed temporary command of the battalion. August 12th the attack on Thury-Harcourt began. The town was strongly held and the Germans also had positions on the hills overlooking the town. After 7 hours of heavy fighting the attack was called off.

"Thury-Harcourt was one of the worst battles of the campaign, and that 'A', 'B' and 'D' Companies got as far as they did in that death-trap says a great deal for the leadership of all commanders and for the grit and determination of the men." (Captain R.C. Nash)

"After the battle the squadron commander of the 34th Armoured Brigade summed up the efforts of the 61st by saying that never before had he seen men fight with such bravery and determination against such fearful odds."

The next day it was discovered that the Germans had pulled out of the town at the same time as the Glosters and that they had suffered heavy casualties. Lieutenant-Colonel F. Butterworth now took command of the 61st. They moved to Bas-Breuil and then Pierrepont. The Germans were now in full retreat and the 61st advanced, engaging the German rearguards. On August 25th at Epaignes 12 men were killed and 41 wounded in a fierce fight for the village, which was captured. 30th August they reached the west bank of the river Seine at La Mailleraye. Crossing the river, they moved on to Sainneville towards Le Havre.

10th September the 61st were to be lead battalion in the attack on Le Havre, which contained a formidable fortress. The attack went well and the 61st advanced into Le Havre, reaching the town centre and taking up positions. September 12th the attack on the Fortress was launched. As the attack began, a white flag was hoisted and the fortress surrendered. The Admiral commanding the fortress surrendered to the 61st, with 1500 prisoners. The 61st suffered only 40 casualties, but Major J. Lance was killed.

The 61st then went to Notre-Dame de Gavenchon and for 5 days enjoyed the hospitality of the delighted French people. But on September 19th the battalion moved to Dieppe and then to Belgium. They marched through cheering crowds to Itegem. They fought 2 actions to widen a bridgehead over the Turnhout-Antwerp Canal. Through October they advanced through Saint-Leonard, Esschen, Nipsen and Roosendaal. At Stampersgat during the attack, Colonel Butterworth was mortally wounded. Lieut-Colonel R. Bray, DSO, took over command.

At Oudcastel the battalion got 8 days rest. Then they moved to Korteheide to clear the thick woodland of enemy pockets. After a few days at Blerick the 61st were driven to Nijmegen where they waited for four and half months. The Germans were strongly holding Arnhem, just across the river Neder Rijn. On January 18th 3 companies of a German Parachute regiment attacked a company of the 1st Liecesters at Zetten. Both sides moved in reinforcements and the battle became fierce, a company of the 61st was sent to assist. The battle lasted until January 22nd.

The battle for Arnhem started on April 12th. The 61st were the assault battalion and successfully took all their objectives to allow the support battalions to attack. Arnhem was taken and Major-General S. Rawlins stated that the capture of Arnhem was almost entirely "due to the 2nd Gloucesters and the 4th Lincolns - the Glosters for the assault and the Lincolns for clearing up the German paratroops in Arnhem itself."

April 16th the 61st moved to Bennekom. There they had to deal with the fanatical Dutch S.S. troops.

On May 4th 1945 the 61st were at Lunteren, in brigade reserve, when news came of the unconditional surrender of German forces in North-West Holland and Germany. The battalion marched to Amersfort amid crowds of wildly enthusiastic Dutch people. There they disarmed the German 346th Infantry Division and guarded it in camp.

Since D-Day the 61st had lost 13 officers and 132 men dead, 27 officers and 546 men wounded. Colonel Bray was awarded a bar to his DSO, Colonel Butterworth a DSO, Major Fane a bar to his Military Cross and 9 other MC's, a DCM (Corporal Millington), 25 MM's, an MBE and 3 Croix de Guerre.

25th May the 61st went into Germany near Osnabruck. 4th June they did Army of Occupation duties at Soest. A detachment was sent to serve as British Guard during the War Crime trials at Nuremberg. Lieutenant-Colonel H. Bird, OBE, took over command of the battalion.

Then the battalion received the compliment of being posted to the 5th Guards Brigade in Berlin, with the 1st Grenadier Guards and 1st Coldstream Guards.

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