Estry August 1944 Churchill wreck.

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by m kenny, Dec 20, 2016.

  1. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member




    The Churchill is from 79th AD and the losses listed for Aug 1944

    141 RAC lost 1 and 5th Arm Eng. Rgt lost 4.

    5 Crocodiles were also lost but it does not look like one to me.

    Any specific information about this tank and why it was there?
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  2. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Extremely unlikely to be a Crocodile, given the Mk IV/VI turret (although they were interchangeable this still strikes me as rather unlikely.)

    Potential command tank casualty? Unfortunately I can't definitely discern the armament nor any other markings.
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  3. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    6th Guards Tank Brigade by Patrick Forbes:

    It was intended that No 2 Squadron of the Grenadiers carrying the Gordons, proceed down the main road from Aunay-sur-Odon and capture Estry, after which Left Flank, with the Highland Light Infantry, would pass through and capture Le Theil, a mile or so to the south-east. At the same time Right Flank would push down the Vassy road from La Caverie
    and take the high ground above Canteloup, which forms the eastern edge of the Le Theil ridge. On their left, the Coldstream with 46th Brigade, would also push south, and, after capturing Lassy and La Rocke, drive on to Vassy—this whole operation being necessary to cover the left flank of an offensive which the Guards Armoured Division were about to undertake.
    Intelligence reports stated that the Brigade was unlikely to encounter opposition. This turned out to be a case of profound misinformation. A thick fog covered the countryside that morning and the attack by the Coldstream was delayed on account of it. The Grenadiers moved off at 9.30 having been told that the Welsh Guards might well be in Estry by the time they arrived. All went well until the leading troop was within 50 yards of the cross-roads at Estry where the Infantry reported a minefield as well as an anti-tank gun. Repeated attempts by the tanks and the Infantry to get round this cross-roads to the left met with no success and it soon became obvious that enemy armour, surrounded by mines and supported by anti-tank guns, was defending the village and intended to hold on to it at all costs.
    A gallant attempt to knock out a German Tank by Lord Oliver Fitzroy did not succeed and after he had expended all his armour piercing ammunition and was backing his tank out of an orchard, a German sniper in a tree directly above fired, and killed him instantaneously. By 4 o'clock the situation was becoming extremely unpleasant. The Infantry were having heavy casualties from incessant mortaring and machine-gun fire and the tanks had no room to manoeuvre. Every attempt they made to advance was doomed to failure.
    Left Flank and the Highland Light Infantry who had followed close behind the Grenadiers, expecting to go through Estry and straight on to Le Theil, had been forced to halt when the
    Grenadiers had been held up. They were compelled to remain at a point where a sunken lane leaves the main road until early evening and both the Infantry and the tanks suffered casualties from mortar and shell fire which descended on them all day.
    At 7 o'clock it was decided that what was left of No. 2 Squadron of the Grenadiers should be withdrawn and that the Highland Light Infantry and Left Flank should make a final attempt to
    capture the cross-roads at Estry. Although a promised artillery barrage did not materialize the attack started at 7.15 with two troops supporting a Company of the Highland Light Infantryon either side of the road.
    On the right of the road very little opposition was encountered. Lieut. Marshall and Lieut. Duffin soon reached the cross-roads, but Lieut. Marshall's tank, coming down onto the
    sunken road from a high bank, went up on a mine and his co-driver, Gdsm. Finch, was killed. On the left, the Infantry were immediately held up by machine-gun fire in very thick
    country and a spirited fight ensued during which the Infantry directed the fire of the tanks and successfully completed the silencing of the machine-gun posts.
    Just as Lieut. Barne emerged from the last orchard before the village church, he saw a Panther in a shed two hundred yards ahead of him. He quickly traversed his gun and scored a hit with H . E . but the Panther replied setting his tank on fire and causing the crew to bale out: two of them were shot by machinegun fire as they tried to get away. After this the troop withdrew under smoke and joined Lieut. Lord Bruce who was using his revolver to shoot the leader of a party of Germans who were calling on him and Sgt. Coleman to surrender. Lieut. Barne then directed the S.P. guns on the Panther which was soon destroyed.
    The tanks remained where they were and helped the Highland Light Infantry to overcome numerous machine-gun nests, but when the light began to fade the whole Squadron manoeuvred into a hedgehog position in the orchard at the north-east corner of the cross-roads. The two platoons of the Highland Light Infantry which had managed to advance beyond the cross-roads were withdrawn, and since both Battalions of Infantry had
    suffered severe casualties, they took up positions protected by the tanks and so spent the night...........................................

    Renewed uttacks on Estry from the north-west by all three Squadrons of the Grenadiers during the next four days were no more successful. On the 8th of August, after Corps Artillery
    had hammered at Estry for a full hour. No. 3 Squadron, the RSF and the KOSB did their best to help six Crocodiles and 6 AVRE manoeuvre into position so that they could throw their missiles against the enemy defences. However, as far as was known, not one of these special tanks was able to get near enough to fire its weapon, because as soon as they approached
    Estry, the banks and sunken lanes made it quite impossible for them to proceed. After the second attempt to take Estry had failed. No. 3 Squadron remained in close support of the Infantry and for many hours was given a very unpleasant reception by the dug-in Tigers, snipers and mortars.
    During the early hours of the 9th, No. 1 Squadron took over from No. 3. They also found it impossible to advance and spent a long and tiring day being continually attacked by mortars,
    bazookas, 150 mm. S.P. guns and snipers, one of the latter seriously wounding Lieut. Verney in the head. Just as No. 1 Squadron about to rally a few hundred yards behind the front positions, they were ordered by the Brigadier of 44th Brigade to remain where they were, since he felt that the Germans would counter-attack if they heard the tanks withdrawing.
    The Infantry therefore provided a Company to guard the Churchills against tank-hunting parties. Small arms fire and innumerable eerie noises helped to keep everyone on the alert
    throughout the night. When No. 2 Squadron took over from them at dawn the next morning. No. 1 had been in the line for eighteen solid hours.
    It had now become obvious that the Germans intended tofight to the last man, so the Grenadiers were ordered merely to cover the enemy's line of escape and wait until he withdrew, which was inevitable in the near future. A whole Infantry Brigade, a tank Battalion, Flails, Crocodiles, AVRE , Corps Artillery, and air bombardment had failed completely to drive the Germans out of Estry, and it was clear that they would not give in until their supplies had run out.
    The sleepless nights, and the exhausting hours spent in the tanks with all hatches closed, and the sickening smell of dead cows scattered all over the fields, combined to make this vigil
    over Estry one of the most unattractive tasks of the whole campaign. The enemy finally withdrew from Estry on August 11th and 12th and the Grenadiers were relieved by the 11th Armoured division who were to push on after the fleeing enemy to Vassy and beyond.

    Research, with photos and maps, on this battle covered here:

    Churchill tanks at Estry Aug 6th 1944 • Axis History Forum
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  4. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    That is me on AHF. I am in no doubt at all that the 3 photos are the same tank and would like a 'killer fact' to prove it.
    I also posted it on ML
    Allied WWII AFV Discussion Group: Churchill 79 AD. Estry, August 1944

    and it looks as if there maybe a fitting that confirms it is an AVRE and not a gun tank.
    Despite me having written the AHF post I only noticed yesterday it was a 79 AD tank and thus not Scots Gds and must have been knocked out after the actions I describe on AHF,
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  5. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

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  6. As already stated by other posters, this is probably an AVRE because of the 79 Armd Div emblem and the plates on the rear mudguards for fitting spare bogies. I'm not sure however whether this practice was exclusive to AVRE units. It's always difficult to prove that something does/did not exist. :)

    Another hint towards this tank being an AVRE is the absence of any trace of a gun: the Petard spigot mortar mounted on AVRE was easily shot/blown off, whereas a regular tank gun would be likely to remain, or if shot off would at least leave the stump of the barrel. In the extreme case that it is completley blown off, that is, including its breech and mounting, then the co-axial Besa and its protection go with it, whereas it is still visible on the photo.

    I've looked through the few War Diaries of AVRE units I have covering this period (26 and 80 Aslt Sqns RE), and it looks like on 7 Aug AVRE units were peppered over a number of assaulting formations for Op TOTALIZE, one AVRE Troop (6 tanks) being put under command of one Tank/Armoured Regiment for the Op. For example:

    26 Aslt Sqn RE:
    3 Tp u/c 107 RAC

    80 Aslt Sqn RE:
    1 Tp u/c 144 RAC in sp 51 HD
    2 Tp u/c 79 Aslt Sqn RE in sp 2 Cdn Div
    3 Tp u/c NORTHANTS YEO in sp 51 HD

    One would need to check the War Diaries of the various other AVRE units in order to identify which one was under command of 4 GREN GDS on 8 Aug.

    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
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  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    4 Grenadier Guards war diary in case it helps? Let me know if you ID the unit, I may have the war diary.
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  8. The War Diary of 141 RAC confirms that 6 Crocs (12 & 13 Tps) as well as 6 AVRE took part the assault on ESTRY on 8 Aug, but fails to identify the AVRE unit.

    The answer might be in one of the appendices to HQ 44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade War Diary for Aug 44:
    Appx 4 - 44 (L) Inf Bde Mov Instr No. 3
    Appx 5 - Outline of Ops by 8 Corps
    Appx 6 - 44 (L) Inf Bde Op Instr No.3


    Attached Files:

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  10. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    A good pic of the bogie stowage method
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  11. Very nice photo Michael!

    The spare track plate stowage method is also very clear. The D Day after action report for 77 Aslt Sqn RE states that each AVRE was normally to carry 21 spare track plates. Here we can see 11 of them fitted to the right side of the tank (6 on the turret and 5 on the hull). Photos of other tanks show another 4 on the glacis plate. The remaining 6 should therefore be on the turret and hull left sides, but I could not find any clear photo showing this. Most photos I could find showing the left side of AVRE show many more than 6 track plates, but then they were usually taken much later in the campaign.

    The following photo shows AVRE 3B (second veh in 3 Tp) of 87 Aslt Sqn RE at Vaucelles on 7 Aug 44, with the spare bogie mounting plate as well as the track stowage method as per Michael's photo above:
    IWM Non Commercial Licence

    Next is 3F, another AVRE of the same unit at the same place (see house on the left) and probably on the same day. The track stowage shows 2 plates on the turret, plus (at least) 1 stowed vertically behind the pannier door and 2 more stowed horizontally. The 6th and final one is probably in its standard location behind the air intake louvre.

    This nice colour pic also shows that the standard tac sign system of colour codes for regiments within a brigade was also used in 1 Aslt Bde RE (yellow for the second regiment, here 6 Aslt Regt RE), as was the one for squadrons within a regiment (circle for third squadron), with the added peculiarity that (at least for this sqn) the sqn tac sign was made of two fine, concentric lines instead of the more usual single, thicker line:
    Churchill IV AVRE 3F 87 ASRE COLOUR - Vaucelles, prob 7 Aug 44.jpg

  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi, I went to Kew today and found this:

    Source: WO171/1806 – 77 Assault Squadron RE

    7 August 1944
    0330 Orders for 3 Tp to drop fascines and join 227 Bde 15 (S) Div at 7543.
    0700 Tp arrived at and harboured 753428 near MONTCHARIVEL. OC and Tp Ldr reported to comd 227 Bde, who required AVRE for attack on ESTRY 7437.
    1000 Tp Ldr Lt. DAVID went fwd with Brigadier to visit bns. Later reported killed by shellfire when on recce.
    pm Change to comd 44 Bde for attack 8 Aug. Tpr Rutherford, dvr of scout car att from 1 LOTHIAN, wounded slightly in foot.
    1330 Div conference on attack at HQ 227 Bde, followed by Bde Conf HQ 44 Bde.
    2200 Lt. J. CHARLTON arrived to take over comd 3 Tp during conference.
    2230 Tp moved to join tail of Sqn G Gds West of MONTCHARIVEL.
    2330 Column moved to lying up area SOUTH of MONTCHAMP.

    Night 7/8 August 1944
    Div RE clear approach routes EAST and WEST of CL.

    8 August 1944
    0730 Fd Coy Comd showed Tp Ldr routes cleared.
    0800 OC and offrs to co-ord conference SOUTH of MONTCHARIVEL.
    0930 OC and offrs recced final approaches to tgt, the church in ESTRY. Gaps across sunken rd thro which covering armour will deploy found inadequate. Fd Coy comd agreed to improve before H hr (1200 hrs).
    1100 Attack formed up for left had approach – armd sqn – tp AVRE – tp armd sqn – bn inf. Moved off 1120 hrs.
    1200 Considerable confusion short sunken rd – tps GREN GDS got bit stuck, disorg and out of touch on R/T. Did not deploy sufficiently far fwd to give adequate sp.
    1245 AVRE advance to church and some fired petards, all fired besa. Badly shot up. AVRE Lt. JONES, SGT FREER KO. AVRE Sgt. MUNCASTER missing with complete crew. AVRE Lt. CHARLTON badly damaged, and AVRE Sgt SMITH had turret jammed. AVRE Sgt. MORRIS returned unscathed. Three AVRE returned. Seven OR missing, seven wounded, incl missing Sgt MUNCASTER and crew, Spr GERELLI, wounded Sgt HUSBANDS, Sgt FREER.
    1700 Remnant tp returned to sqn HQ harbour.


    14 August 1944
    OC and Lt CHARLTON visited ESTRY now evac by enemy. Found missing tk brewed up and five of missing crew, who had been shot after baling out. Sgt MUNCASTER, L/Cpl MARTIN, Spt BOND, Spr NOYCE, Spr MOSS. Spr WHITNEY still missing, hoped wounded or POW. Arranged burial pty. Padre 3 SG officiated.

    The writing is a bit spidery but I think I got most of the names correct.


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  13. Tom's transcript thus confirms that all 6 AVRE of 3 Tp, 77 Aslt Sqn RE took part in the 8 Aug 44 attack on ESTRY, led by Lt CHARLTON replacing Lt DAVID who had been killed the previous day:

    Lieutenant John DAVID 273803, age 21
    Son of John Tredwynn David and Gladys Sharpe David, of Gillingham, Kent., JOHN

    Three AVRE returned from the attack:
    AVRE Lt CHARLTON badly damaged
    AVRE Sgt SMITH had turret jammed
    AVRE Sgt MORRIS returned unscathed​

    Lieutenant James "Jock" Frederick George CHARLTON 289142 was the Troop Officer in 4 Troop on D Day, when he was wounded.
    Sgt SMITH is probably 1877306 L sjt R.A.G. SMITH (as listed in Field Return of Other Ranks for week ending 24 Jun 44).
    Sgt MORRIS might be Cpl A.B. MORRIS who was demolition NCO in Lt DICKINSON’s tank 3D ‘BUFFALO’ (Tp Offr, 3 Tp) on D Day.

    The remaining three AVRE were lost:

    Lt JONES is probably Lieutenant Douglas Lawrence JONES 296464
    The Netherlands Medal of the Bronze Cross 8 Nov 45:
    Military Cross 20 Dec 45:

    Five men were killed, all part of Sjt MUNCASTER's crew:

    2116024 Lance serjeant John MUNCASTER, age 24
    Son of Walter and M. E. Muncaster, of Barking, Essex., JOHN

    2118514 Lance corporal James Herbert MARTIN, 28
    Son of Herbert and Jane Martin; husband of Eileen Martin, of Camberwell, London., JAMES HERBERT

    1922829 Sapper Alfred Graham BOND, age 25
    Son of Alfred Edgar and Lily Maud Bond, of Abercarn, Monmouthshire; husband of J. I. Bond, of Watford, Hertfordshire., ALFRED GRAHAM

    2019075 Sapper Richard Ernest NOYCE, age 29
    Son of Ernest and Grace Noyce., RICHARD ERNEST

    6151384 Sapper Laurence MOSS, age 21, LAURENCE

    The last member of Sjt MUNCASTER's AVRE, Spr WHITNEY, was reported as missing and was probably taken prisoner as there is no record of his death.
    Same applies for the other missing member of 77 Aslt Sqn, Spr GERELLI.

    Two of the returning men were wounded, as were possibly Spr WHITNEY and GERELLI:
    Sjt FREER​

    On D Day L sjt J. FREER was commanding AVRE 3C ‘BLOODHOUND’. His crew then comprised L cpl ROBINSON (dem NCO), L cpl PARKS (dvr) along with Sprs SEDGEWICK, MANN and GERRELLI, the latter being almost certainly the same person as the missing Spr GERELLI above.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  14. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Probably the Whitney mentioned above:

    Name: L G Whitney
    Rank: Sapper
    Army Number: 2123368
    Regiment: Royal Engineers
    POW Number: 70046
    Camp Type: Stalag
    Camp Number: VIII-C
    Camp Location: Konin Zaganski, Poland
    Record Office: Royal Engineers Record Office, Ditchling Road, Brighton, Sussex
    Record Office Number: 9

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  15. Nice find TD. Spr GERRELLI might be 2118353 Spr H. J. GERRELLI, but I don't know whether/where he was a POW.

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  16. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member


    No records for Gerrelli as a POW I'm afraid nor does he appear on CWGC so I guess he was 'lucky'

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  17. alain_2208

    alain_2208 Junior Member

    Hi all
    I'm very proud to announce to the group here that your research helped one family to understand what happen to father and grand father.
    In the name of Gillian Martin daughter of James Herbert Martin and Natalie Rymer her grandaugther I really want to thank you all working on the Sjt MUNCASTER tank, James was in the same tank and died there with his war friends.
    i was working on the subject for nearly 2 years and last Friday i arrived on your page. thank you all

    We Will Remember Them
  18. alain_2208

    alain_2208 Junior Member

    I also discovered that they were all buried next to the other in Ranville
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  19. alain_2208

    alain_2208 Junior Member

    as i still search things on Sgt Muncaster's team i found a picture of Sapper Bond in this page Abercarn
    sapper bond.jpg
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  20. Great find Alain!

    I tried to de-half-tone the photo, with mixed results:
    sapper bond - adj.jpg

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