Most of us of a “certain age” will remember Harry Andrews’ character, Air Vice Marshal Davis, at the end of the film 633 Squadron uttering the words: “You can't kill a squadron.”, however, these could equally well be applied to “S” Squadron, 3rd (Tank) Battalion Scots Guards following their first day in action on 30th July 1944.
As part of the successful Operation BLUECOAT, by the late afternoon on the first day, they had taken their first main objective – Hill 226 near Les Loges in Normandy. As it was realised that the Left flank division – 43rd Wessex – had not been able to keep up, the Scots Guards received the order to stay put & hold their objective “at all costs”; this became prophetic when, as the BBC evening news started on the ”wireless” at 6pm a German artillery “stonk” landed as a precursor to an attack by JagdPanthers of 654 Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung who, in the space of 5 minutes, destroyed 11 of the Churchill tanks of the Battalion that were in position on Hill 226 facing the expected direction of any German counter-attack. Unfortunately, the JagdPanthers came from a position that should have been cleared by 43rd Division had they been able to keep up.
Colin has previously told the story of the battle on Hill 226. This talk, however, focuses on the development of the Battalion from formation to the eve of battle, looking at some of the factors that gave “strength in depth” which not only allowed “S” Squadron to return to the fight within 6 days, but also helped forge strong friendships and a “family spirit” that not only lasted through the war, but for many years afterwards, the culmination of which was the erection in 2019 on the 75th Anniversary of the battle of a significant new memorial on Hill 226 to those who died and those who fought on to the end of the war.
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