8 Armoured Brigade “Friendly Fire” on 4 CLY from Pt 103 – 10 June 1944

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by IanTurnbull, May 16, 2023.

  1. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    The long initial post in this thread has been copied from several posts in the thread
    The Battles for Point 103 and St. Pierre (8th–18th June 1944)
    What started as a sideline query was motivated by trying to establish which of the 8 ARMD BDE tank Regiments and/or their supporting 147 Fd RA SP Battery were involved in the "Friendly Fire" on 4 CLY. But the conversation has developed into something that has deviated too far from the subject of the host thread and probably warrants its own.

    I hope I have faithfully copied across each user's (in red) posts

    Ian Turnbull: 21 Apr 2023

    8 Armoured Brigade “Friendly Fire” from Pt 103 – 10 June 1944

    “Friendly Fire” incidents are upsetting. But I suppose they were inevitable at the beginning of the Normandy campaign where not much thought had been given to waging war inland once the beachhead was established, especially in the “Bocage” of Northern Normandy. Armour, Artillery, Infantry, Supporting Arms, Navy and Air Force were all keen to contribute and attack enemy formations quickly while still learning to work together in conditions that bore no relation to Africa or UK training sites.

    On 10 June 1944, 4th Battalion County of London Yeomanry (CLY – “Sharpshooters”) were leading 7th Armoured Division’s advance south down the Seulles valley towards Tilly-sur-Seulles and by around 09:00 “A” Squadron (on the left) had reached the area of Chouain when they were hit by “friendly fire” from the East, almost certainly from units of 8 Armoured Brigade in and around Point 103. There were casualties and two Cromwells were destroyed. It seems this wasn’t the only such incident that morning either.

    According to their Op Order No 2, 7th Armoured should have had a Liaison Officer with 8 Armoured Brigade from the evening of the 9th June to help manage coordination. And I presume the tanks still had Allied Stars on their turrets/engine decks?

    Whilst the incident is mentioned in the WDs of CLY and 22 Armd Bde, it is not mentioned in any 8 Armoured Unit’s diary.

    All three 8 Armoured Tank Regiments had embedded OP tanks from 147 Fd Regiment whose SP Guns were on Pt 103

    24L and 288 Battery of 102 A/Tk Regiment were engaged in St Pierre at the time, 4/7 DG were protecting Point 103 and preparing to patrol eastwards, and SRY were moving back to Pt 103 from Martragny having withdrawn there overnight to replenish and reorganise. SRY could therefore have been closer to Chouain with a better view over that part of the Seulles valley than 4/7 DG.

    Does anybody challenge my analysis or have any more knowledge of this incident? Could it have been initiated by an AirOP? Thanks Ian

    EKB: 23 Apr 2023

    This type of incident happened often - possibly every day - for various reasons. More often in a fluid situation when the front line was poorly defined or moving fast. If you haven't seen it, there is a long thread about this topic at the 12 O'Clock High Forum. Started by Brian Cull in 2005 and still going with more than 800 replies.

    Friendly fire WWII - Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum

    You mentioned Chouain, a major crossroads targeted by the Allied air force. A detachment of armoured cars from the Inns of Court advanced there from the beach quickly, probably sooner than expected by Allied pilots. The vehicles were attacked by fighter-bombers, believed to be P-47 Thunderbolts. Some of the knocked out cars are visible in the following Imperial War Museum images:

    Art.IWM ART LD 4467
    A70 41-4 (movie)

    SDP: 23 Apr 2023

    Believed to have been 24th Lancers but I'm struggling to find written reference to the incident. 24L had themselves been fired on soon after the Landings by Canadians who "didn't expect to see them (24L) so far forwards".

    Ian Turnbull: 23 Apr 2023

    I dont think it can have been 24L firing on 4 CLY as all 3 Squadrons and their 147 FD FOOs were dealing with the overwhelming German counter attack on St Pierre at the alleged time of the friendly fire incident, around 09:00. The only written references I have found are in 4 CLY and 22 Armd Bde War Diaries (and neither of these say the attack was from the Air). SRY were moving back down to Pt 103 at the time so may have been best placed to observe tank movements around Chouain, and being detached from 8 Armd and 147 Fd HQs may not have been made aware of 7 Armoured advance, but this is pure speculation on my part.Ian

    Ramiles: 24 Apr 2023

    Gathering together whatever there is from the 7th Armoured Division's units might help, the 8th Armoured was focused on events to their South, South East and South West...

    And the 50th Div HQ summaries...

    50 Div: H.Q. War Diary, D-Day 1944 June



    ----- x ----- x -----




    EKB: 25 Apr 2023

    There is a brief description of said incident in this book (pages 383-384). Other than offering a possible cause for the accident, it does not add much to what you've said. On page 89 the author writes that on 6th June 1944, a British tank knocked out a scout car from the Inns of Court, killing two crew members near Creully.

    I can cite the full statements for both cases, if you think it would be useful.


    SDP: 27 Apr 2023

    Must admit I'm struggling with this but am still quite sure it was 24th Lancers. Question to self: if it wasn't 24L, why would I know anything about it (see my forum avatar!)? Sure I've seen something somewhere in writing....or was it mentioned by someone at a 24th Lancers Old Comrades Association Annual Reunion?.... must keep digging I guess. Note: although I've spoken on numerous occasions to veterans of Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry and 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, this has never come up in conversation....but then, why would it. As I said, keep digging!

    Ian Turnbull: 29 Apr 2023

    I found the entry in this (excellent) book confusing, but it may just be the translation from the original French...

    "Meanwhile, having secured the right flank towards the 5th RTR, the remainder of the Regiment (which Regiment?) attempted a flanking movement towards Saint Bazaire, some two thousand yards to the north east (actially south east) of Jerusalem. The advance was at first hindered by 8th Armoured Brigade who knocked out two tanks before recognition was established. During this period there was a "friendly fire" incident between 4th CLY and 8th Armoured Brigade which resulted in the loss of two 5th RTR Cromwell tanks in the area of the River which hindered the advance"

    The inference is there were two "friendly fire" incidents but although 5th RTR did lose 2 Cromwells this was due to enemy action near Bernieres Bocage

    I may be missing something but I cant see where this interpretation came from. Ian
    5th RTR WD extract (apologies for the poor copying)


    Ian Turnbull: 02 May 2023

    Further to my post above I have run the original French text in Stephane Jacquet's book through Google Translate and the English version in the book is accurate. He goes on to say ".. and the Cromwell tank, seen at intervals through the close country, bore a strong resemblance to the German Mark IV, especially in Bocage country, and even more so if the tanks werre camouflaged"

    Does anybody know if the 7 ARMD DIV (4 CLY) Cromwells were camouflaged by 10 June, and did they ever bear the White Star?

    Ian Turnbull: 02 May 2023

    As Ramiles suggested I have looked at 7 Armoured Division’s unit diaries but I have found nothing that clarifies who from 8 Armoured Brigade was involved in the friendly fire incident on the morning of 10 June 1944. I have gone back to the originals in case the transcriptions on the Normandy War Guide are inaccurate.

    7 Armoured Division HQ

    Their WD is silent on the matter. Their Sit Rep for 10 June (below) only scores 2 Cromwells knocked out, but the 5 RTR WD entry in the previous post mentions 2 Cromwells lost, so the CLY losses due to “friendly fire” do not register at Divisional level.


    22 Armoured Brigade

    Their Day-to-day diary entry

    And this from a report attached to their diary “22 ARMD BDE Ops – 6 – 15 JUN 1944” highlights the fact that the “friendly fire” took place over an extended period (09:00-10:50)


    4 CLY WD

    This clarifies the location of one of the friendly fire incidents as Grid Ref 830720 which if accurate means just to the West of Chouain i.e. about 3k NW of Pt 103


    50 Div HQ WD

    Nothing in the day-to-day diary but their message log has intriguing entries that may be describing the 2nd instance of “friendly fire”

    “TROUD” should say “Trout” which is Jerusalem.– this gets more fishy the deeper I get into it.

    1 Km south of Jerusalem is between Chouain and St Bazire.

    “smarted up” – typo “smashed up”??


    Grid Ref 826707 is the same area, suggesting presence of enemy vehicles in vicinity of the “friendly” fire incidents which could mean inaccurate fire as opposed to mistaken identity and deliberate targeting

    2nd Army Message Logs

    Another intriguing entry

    So 8 Armoured were definitely firing into the Seulles valley at the time of the 1st reported incident, but Bucéels is further south and there were definitely enemy AFVs in that vicinity about to meet 4 CLY coming south



    There may be something else out there that admits to this but at the moment I feel I have taken this as far as I can. I still cant see that it could have been 24L or their 147 Fd FOOs because between 9:00 and 11:00 when the incidents took place they were all heavily engaged in St Pierre (from 1st light through the morning as can be deduced from the 24L WD below).


    And there is evidence of 8 Armoured firing into the Seulles valley at legitimate enemy targets which were about to meet 7 Armoured moving south, so this may be as a result of inaccurate fire as opposed to mistaken identity.

    Extract from WO Caen map 7F/1 showing the area of 7 Armoured Advance discussed above and 8 Armoured at Pt 103 & St Pierre

    Ian Turnbull: 03 May 2023

    If it wasn’t 24L which of the other tank Regiments might have been responsible for the “friendly fire” on 10 June 1944?

    SRY had spent the night of the 9/10 June at Martragny, north of the main Bayeux/Caen road, having withdrawn there to replenish and reorganise. Being separated from 8 ARMD BDE HQ still on Pt 103 they may not have been as well informed about the planned progress of 7 Armoured Divison. According to Rev Skinner’s account, they left Martragny before 06:30 and were in action by 09:00, but their War Diary makes no mention of any action on the c 7 Km journey down to Pt 103.

    What is clear is that at some point on their journey down to Pt 103 that morning SRY would have been close to Chouain, the area of the first 09:00 "friendly fire" incident, with a good view over that part of the Seulles valley, better than that of 4/7 DG still on Pt 103, 3½ Kms away.. In fact SRY were subsequently ordered to patrol the slopes on the East Bank of the River Seulles, the stretch opposite Chouain down to Tilly but its not clear when this began and may have been after the incidents.

    In the absence of any fresh information I suspect this will never be resolved, but from an opportunity and practical POV I believe its most likely to have been SRY and/or their supporting FOOs from 413 Battery, 147 FD.

    Ian Turnbull: 10 May 2023

    CLY Friendly Fire (June 10th 1944).

    Just a couple of points to add on this topic.

    1. Tim Saunders in his new book "Battle for the Bocage" also concludes it was "probably" SRY (p112) but without specific references to back this up

    2. Brigadier Cracroft says (from "8 Armoured Brigade - BREAK-OUT FROM NORMANDY BRIDGEHEAD

    JUNE 7TH - 12TH 1944")

    "During the morning I also got reports of bodies of enemy infantry moving in towards 103 from the West, i.e. From the area BUCEELS and STE BAZIRE. I dealt with this by ordering the SRY to move up from BRECY and by clearing the area South of the railway and up to the river NW of 103"

    "South of the railway and up to the river NW of 103" is Le Pont Roc north through Chouain which again puts them in the area

    I dont think there will ever be a confirmation of this unless there is a first hand veteran account out there somewhere, but to me the SRY and/or their supporting Gunners from 413 Battery 147FD look most likely. Ian

    EKB: 11May 2023

    You asked about white stars on vehicles, was that marking specifically noted in any of the reports?

    Ian Turnbull: 11 May 2023

    No. I was just trying to understand whether mistaken identity was really the issue as recorded in the analysis of the incident, or whether it was more likely to be inaccurate fire/shifting front lines. I have no knowledge about markings on CLY’s Cromwells. If it was SRY/147 Fd they would have line of sight over the Seulles valley. I know 147 Fd AFVs had Allied white stars on 6 June. ian

    EKB: 11 May 2023

    So far I have seen just two records of British tanks with the Allied white star on the side:

    File:British Sherman tanks and infantry during the advance on Caen, Normandy, 9 July 1944. B6758.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


    It could be that the star was more common on the top of the turret, like this M3. The M10 in the same film had one on top and on the front plate:


    Richelieu: 14 May 2023

    Not conclusive but the 21AG official policy as at 3 Apr 44 says that an encircled white star was to be painted, where possible, on armoured vehicles on the top only.

    Attached memo was extracted from WO 229. Supplies; Insignia; etc (Described at item level). | The National Archives.


    Ian Turnbull: 14 May 2023

    Thank you Richelieu. There is a photo in the SALE collection at the National Army Museum that shows 3 CLY Sherman’s disembarking on 7th June with Allied stars on their turrets, but I have not seen anything similar of 4 CLY Cromwells. I suppose even if they did sport the stars they may have been covered up by 10th June and mistaken identity can not be ruled out for this “friendly fire” incident even if “line of sight” was clear. Ian

    Idler: 15 May 2023

    There were three KIA in 4 CLY on 10/06/44 according to CWGC.

    The following extracts (italics) are from what may be a draft of John Cloudesley-Thompson's RAC Journal article Arromances to Buceels.

    The first death was Serjeant Oliver:

    Meanwhile 'A' Squadron was held up on the left by 8th Armoured Brigade who fired from across the river. It was three-quarters of an hour before we could get a message through, telling them to stop and in the meantime one of our best sergeants had his head shot off.

    According to CWGC Tpr Clough (no sqn recorded) and Cpl Mallett (B Sqn) were buried together at 823710:

    Towards evening our tanks crept slowly forward. In the half light it was difficult to pick anything out. A troop corporal of 'B' Squadron spotted a Panther two hundred yards away in an orchard, but could not discern its outline. Knowing that he must be almost invisible too, he sat watching, waiting for it to move. Then another Cromwell fired. This roused the Panther which traversed its gun onto the corporal's tank. Its first shot struck the Besa machine-gun, knocking it back into the turret. The corporal and his gunner were killed and had to be washed out some days later.

    There's no information on tank casualties from 8 Armd Bde's fire. Aside from Mallet, there is mention of another Cromwell having its track shot off yet still managing to reverse around a corner.

    Regarding the fratricide, have infantry and RA anti-tank guns with 8 Armd Bde been ruled out as friendly-firers?
    Last edited: May 16, 2023
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  2. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Idler, for clarifying the men KIA and the circumstances. Do you know which RAC Journal the final John Cloudesley-Thompson article appeared in?

    WRT 8 ARMD BDE Anti-Tank Gunners, this was 102nd (Northumberland Hussars) Anti-Tank Regiment, specifically 228 Battery, and this is their WD for 10 June 1944

    They too seemed to be embroiled in St Pierre at the time of the F/F incident dealing with the German counterattack, with some distinction as described in Sheldrake’s Blog


    Under what circumstances might the infantry be responsible for the F/F?
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I just wondered if some guns had been sited as flank protection on their way down? The likely problem is that infantry's A/Tk Pls on detached duty are unlikely to make the WD - especially if they cocked up.

    It might be safe to assume it wasn't the field regiments as they might have stonked rather than sniped. The accounts sound more like occasional fire than a full-on engagement.

    As they had some anti-tank capability, where were 61 Recce? They'd be a shoe-in as a flank guard if they couldn't get forward.

    PS. Will see if I can find the RAC journal ref tonight.
  4. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Thank you
    The 4 CLY WD points out that the "friendly fire" was coming from their left and 7 ARMD DIV (22 ARMD BDE) left flank protection was the duty of 8 ARMD BDE. In the 4CLY column was a battery from 22 ARMD BDE's own 5 RHA SP Guns, 1 R Tanks and an A/Tk Battery with M10s, and behind them was 56 INF BDE with 86 FD (SP Guns) but would fire from any of these be from the left flank given that the R Seulles was the boundary?

    I may be putting too much emphasis on the 4 CLY accounts, but assuming they are not diverting accountability the most likely source is 8 ARMD BDE.

    I havent been able to find a WD for 61 Recce but "Beaten paths are safest" has them still at Pt 103 (p121) on the 10th June, so I suppose they cant be ruled out, but could the gun on their Armoured Cars destroy tanks from that distance?
  5. EKB

    EKB Well-Known Member

    Was about to ask where would the Norfolks put the M10s in this situation.
  6. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I did mean 8 Armd Bde's supporting units. Neither brigade could guarantee that the other one would keep up with them so it seems reasonable that both would watch the other side of the river.

    You'd like to think a 2-pr or 37mm wouldn't KO a Cromwell, but the Recce Regts had towed 6-prs as well
  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Cloudsley-Thompson's pre-VB article is Arromanches to Buceels in the Royal Armoured Corps Journal Vol XIII No.6 April 1959

    That and his other RAC Journal articles are the backbone of his wartime autobiography: Sharpshooter: Memories of Armoured Warfare 1939-45 published by the now-defunct Arcturus Press.
  8. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Thank you - I will try and find these somewhere.

    I did not realise that Recce Regiments had 6-pr A/Tk Guns (8 apparently). Its hard to find details of their deployment as 61 Recce's WD is lost, and I cant see anything explicit in "Beaten paths are safest".

    The Establishment section of their Living History site LINK says "The 6pdr anti tank guns were seldom used. Of course they were essentially defensive and for most of the campaign 21 Army group units were on the offensive. However they were kept in service by units until the end of the campaign"

    And this is what the "Tactical employment of Armoured car and Reconnaissance Regiments" from the same site states:
    If they were a part of the defence of Pt 103 they were c. 3½ Kms away from where the Cromwells were knocked out according to the 4 CLY WD.

    Unless any new knowledge or veteran accounts emerge I cant see how to pursue this further. I still think the most likely source is SRY and/or their attached FOOs from 413 Battery 147 FD Regiment. Unfortunately of the 2 FOOs with SRY, Capt Warburton's IWM interview barely mentions Pt 103, and Capt Culley was KIA later in the War and as far as I know left no journals. I dont have any relevant veteran accounts from their OP teams or Battery either. I do take your point however that this looks like "sniping" as opposed to "stonking" from a Field Regiment, but with FOOs observing in line of sight of a target wouldnt the SP Guns of a Field Regiment based at Pt 103 be expected to be accurate enough to pinpoint a troop of tanks?

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  9. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    Further to my post of 14th May above.
    The 3 CLY photo I referred to showing the White Star on their Shermans to aid "friends" identification. (Photo showing 3CLY landing 7 June 1944 from the SALE collection held online at the Sharpshooters Museum LINK)
    Still looking for a similar picture of 4 CLY Cromwells although this is tantalisingly close (© IWM B 5251)
  10. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Well-Known Member

    I have looked at the final versions of the two Cloudsley-Thompson accounts you mention and they do not materially differ from your transcription (in blue below)

    The first death was Serjeant
    (Ernest Horace) Oliver:

    Meanwhile 'A' Squadron was held up on the left by 8th Armoured Brigade who fired from across the river. It was three-quarters of an hour before we could get a message through, telling them to stop and in the meantime one of our best sergeants had his head shot off.

    From the final version of his article "Arromanches to Buceels" in RAC Journal Vol XIII No.6 April 1959
    And his 2006 memoir "Sharpshooter" is almost identical:-


    There is no mention of the tank losses but it seems they had another fatal "friendly fire" casualty the day before (9th June 1944), Lt George E Moxon, from a shell from one of the RM Centaurs exploding in a tree.


  11. Dan Taylor

    Dan Taylor Member

    Good morning.
    Thank you for posting up a most interesting discussion. Whilst I've been aware of the incident for a long while - and was able to discuss it with John Cloudsley-Thompson (and others), this is the first time I have seen any attempts at a forensic appreciation of events. Nothing mentioned during those discussions adds to what you already have, though one of the veterans did seem to imply that 8th Hussars had something to do with either failing to warn - or having opened fire on them. My assumption has tended towards his conflating 8th Hussars and 8th Armoured Brigade. I was talking to him sixty -odd years after the event.

    I think I can help with the question of how the Sharpshooters were marked up. As A Squadron 4CLY were ambushed and extensively photographed on 13th June there is ample information on how they are likely to have appeared on the 10th. There is no evidence of star markings on the sides of vehicles - in fact all of the pictures I have demonstrate that they only carried WD number, tactical marking (blue triangle), the troop number on an oblong panel, and sometimes a vehicle name. Divisional and AoS markings were not carried by the Regiment. Circled stars are evident on a number of their turret rooves and could be fairly assumed to be universally applied. A couple of tanks may have had the top surface painted in a light colour, possibly white - though this may have been an aerial recognition marking for Op Perch, hastily applied - or ash from the tank in question being burnt out, so probably not relevant for this discussion..

    There is little to suggest that the tanks carried much in the way of camouflage (for the advance to Villers-Bocage at least). Odd scraps of foliage are occasionally visible but more by way of bits of bush that had been inadvertently picked up during their travels. There is certainly no evidence of tie-downs for foliage and no cam nets despite some of the vehicles being in fairly pristine condition.

    Correlation with 3 CLY would be misleading. They had been in separate brigades for a year and a half by this stage, and were operating different equipment, having trained for Normandy in entirely different parts of the country. By sheer coincidence, both regiments happened to land near Mont Fleury on the 7th but were quickly split up again.

    I hope this contributes something to your jigsaw.

    Daniel Taylor

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