52nd Lowland Division "Churchill's Hooded Butchers"

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by nickelby, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. nickelby

    nickelby Member

    Perusing through a diary of an Officer in the 1st Bn Glasgow Highlanders in WW2 across NW Europe, I found that he said the Germans had nicknamed the troops of the 52nd Lowland, "Churchill's Hooded Butchers". This came from the specialised winter outfits they wore, developed in their mountain training in Scotland.
    Has any one else heard of this or can elaborate, share if this rings any bells?
  2. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    No I haven't and I served in the Division with the 7/9 Royal Scots and trained in the Scottish Highlands. The assumption was that we were being prepared for Norway. As you rightly suggest, it most likely derived from the windproof top which had a hood that could be tied closely round the head and face against the cold winds of the Cairngorms which we retained as our kit in NW Europe. We wore a soft ski cap under the hood.

    Joe Brown.
  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  4. nickelby

    nickelby Member

    Thanx Joe,
    I am very interested in the 52nd as my father was in the 1st Bn Glasgow Highlanders and fought right through until captured on 5th April, '45 at Rheine village.
    I am also fascinated on the training in the highlands and how fit and well trained you guys must have been compared to the ordinary soldier on the ground.
    Just started browsing your memoirs online. Looks like a very interesting weekend ahead for me. Thankyou.
  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Various nicknames like that seem to emerge, some of them (I believe) seem to be generated by British propaganda to show how terrified the Germans were of the British.
  6. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    Various nicknames like that seem to emerge, some of them (I believe) seem to be generated by British propaganda to show how terrified the Germans were of the British.

    One is reminded of the nickname 'whispering death' which the Japanese are alleged to have called the Bristol Beaufighter - in fact an invention of an enterprising journalist, though countless books continue to repeat the myth.

    Best, Alan
  7. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    My first encounter with a German unit was when I went with my C.O. to stay for 48 hours with 1GH already in battle south of Breskins.

    1GH were in 157 Infantry Brigade along with the 5th and 6th HLI. Whilst the rest of the 52 Division undertook training as air-transportable troops, 157 Inf Bde along with all the Division's heavy transport crossed to Europe to be ready to meet up with us when we were deployed from the air as part of General Breretons's Airborne Army (82 and 101 US Airborne Divisions, 1 and 6 British Airborne Divisions and Polish Parachute Brigade).

    We planned to land near the Forest of Rambouillet if the Allies were held up at the River Seine, and when we were not needed we prepared for another Op that was also aborted and then we were included in Market Garden but were not committed to the battle as the the landing had not gone to plan. We were due to take over and hold the bridges.

    After we had landed at the newly captured Ostende, 155 Inf Bde concentrated at Oostveld ready to undertake an assault crossing to Flushing and that is when the C.O. and I spent a couple of days with 1GH.


  8. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  9. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Wills: A great collection. Thanks. I am always interested and surprised when I come across such archival material aboutWW2. Also, pictures from Great War.

    Gareth Underhill likes this.
  10. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    How about the Great War . . . 'the Ladies from Hell'! the charging Highlanders!

  11. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  12. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Great stuff! As a 'wee yin' my father would play the chanter to get me to go to sleep!

    My father was born in Campbeltown and my Grandfather was a Colour Sergeant of the local Volunteer Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Treasure my Grandad's Certificate recording 35 years service as a Volunteer.

  13. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    Joe, did the infantry battalions take their mountain warfare clothing to Belgium in October 1944 ?

    I was recently looking at 52 Provost's diary when they were at Newtyle and recorded the entry for 4/8/1944 as "Withdrawal of mountain warfare clothing" This was a couple of days before they moved south to Chesham Bois.

    Prior to the move, they were performing street patrols in Crieff, Forfar, Montrose and Blairgowrie.
  14. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    We kept our windproof tunics and trousers and they prove to be very useful kit. Also kept our rucksacks. I think we kept our sleeping-bags but handed in string vests, and certainly we no longer had need of a special canvas-type webbing which had toggle fasteners designed to carry Bren gun magazines although I still held on to mine but that's another story.

    The Division still retained the 1st Mountain Artillery Regiment and it was suggested they take on a counter-mortar role. They were extremely useful in destroying the German machine-gun nests in the cranes located in the dock area around Flushing harbour. We no longer had need of the Mule Company.


  15. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

  16. Fibia

    Fibia New Member

    Hi Nickelby,

    I also came across that same "Churchill's Hooded Butchers" quote from the same source that you found it and also thought it was curious.

    Recently, from a letter written in December 1944 by an officer in the 52nd (Lowland) Division, I found this which might be of interest to you:

    "We hear they call our Division 'Churchill’s Mountain Butchers' after what happened to a certain German party who tried to be arrogant when they were taken prisoner."

  17. nickelby

    nickelby Member

    Cheers Fibia,
    Very interesting that. Would be good to find extra on that thread. The SS certainly had no sympathy from the Allied soldier.
    Maybe that little story may pop up one day in my research.

  18. Bayonet Productions

    Bayonet Productions Lead Researcher

    I am currently researching the 52nd specifically the actions from Verden to Bremen. There is a recording on IWM of a 7th Cameronians veteran. He talks about taking two young (19-20) Germans prisoner at Alpe(o)n. He recalled they kept talking and one of the jocks told them to shut up or else. He said the Germans laughed it off so he shot one of them in the leg. After that he said they did not talk anymore.
  19. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    The Airborne formation that never was.
    Chris C likes this.
  20. Giberville

    Giberville Junior Member

    I knew I had heard of this before but struggled to find the reference. Now I find it - a book with the title 'Born at the wrong time: the biography of Cyril James' by James Foxton - a personal account of a soldier serving in 4/5 RSF, 52 Div. After the South Beveland landings (Operation Vitality), the newspapers picked up the story referring to the RSF as "The Hooded Butchers". This is a reference to the windproof smock issued to this Div widely.

    'For a while afterwards other units made wise cracks about "Hooded Butchers": a wind up but also a bit of respect. Quietly the men liked the notoriety...'
    Bayonet Productions likes this.

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