Operation Bluecoat - activities around Aunay-sur-Odon July 30th - August 16th 1944

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by DaveB, Jan 29, 2021.

  1. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    At the start of March 2020 I started my dream holiday with a general plan on spending a couple of months in France & Germany before returning home to Australia at the end of April for family commitments. Instead there was a global pandemic and I was chased home after only 3 weeks in France.

    Those 3 weeks were spent on a farm near Aunay-sur-Odon and the English owners relayed stories from the locals about the wartime experiences in the area. Villers-Bocage is only a short distance away and their wartime experiences are somewhat better known.

    When I got home I started doing what study I could into what happened leading up to the town's liberation but a lot of the information seemed scattered and quite often contradictory. If I had access to a couple of the great looking French language books on Operation Bluecoat things might be easier but the purchase price plus shipping costs has made me hold off on buying them.

    For now I'm just going to add bits and pieces here in some sort of logical layout before I confuse myself further.

    Attached is a map for Operation Bluecoat that shows Aunay-sur-Odon listed as Amayes-Odon instead
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Aunay-sur-Odon and Evrecy were heavily bombed by Bomber Command on the night of 14 / 15 June 1944 as the 7th Armoured Division brigade group retired to straighten the front line following the events at Villers-Bocage - this retirement was codenamed Operation Aniseed
     

    Attached Files:

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  3. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Operation Bluecoat background & unit information - British forces

    Operation Bluecoat was undertaken by British Second Army (Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey) with VIII Corps on the western flank and XXX Corps on the eastern flank with objectives to secure the road junction of Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon.

    VIII Corps was made up of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division / Guards Armoured Division / 11th Armoured Division / 3rd Infantry Division (temporarily attached) & the 6th Guards Tank Brigade - 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division was to attack south from Caumont and the 11th Armoured Division was to attack cross-country further west, ready to exploit towards Petit Aunay (6 km) west of Saint-Martin-des-Besaces

    XXX Corps consisted of the 11th Hussars (KRIH Corps troops with Staghound, Daimler, Humber and White Armoured Cars / Scout cars plus 2 M3 half-track with 75mm guns) plus the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division / 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division / 7th Armoured Division & the 8th Armoured Brigade - the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division was to advance to the top of Bois du Homme (Point 361) with the left flank protected by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division - 231st and 56th Infantry Brigades of the 50th Infantry Division advance simultaneously with the 130th Brigade of the 43rd Wessex Division

    43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division consisted of: 129th Infantry Brigade (4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry / 4th and 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment) // 130th Infantry Brigade (7th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment / 4th and 5th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment) // 214th Infantry Brigade (7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry / 1st Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment) / 5th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (5DCLI took part in a notable night attack by on Les Plessis Grimoult, south of Mont Pinçon) // Divisional Troops included the 1/8th Middlesex (Machine Gun) Battalion & the 43rd (Wessex) Reconnaissance Regiment (The Gloucestershire Regiment) Royal Armoured Corps

    50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division consisted of: 69th Infantry Brigade (5th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment / 6th and 7th Battalion, Green Howards) // 151st Infantry Brigade (6th, 8th and 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry) // 231st Infantry Brigade (2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment / 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment / 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment) // 56th Independent Infantry Brigade (2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers / 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment / 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment) // Divisional Troops included the 61st Reconnaissance Regiment, Reconnaissance Corps & the 2nd (Machine Gun) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment

    7th Armoured Division consisted of: 22nd Armoured Brigade (1st Royal Tank Regiment / 5th Royal Tank Regiment / 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards / 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade) // 131st Infantry Brigade (1/5th, 1/6th & 1/7th Battalion of the Queen's (West Surrey) Royal Regiment) // Divisional Troops included the 3rd Independent Machine Gun Company & the 8th Hussars (PAO) - 7th Armoured was the only British division to use the Cromwell with 75 mm gun as their main battle tank along with 36 Sherman Vc Firefly tanks; enough to equip each troop with three Cromwell tanks and a 17 pounder gun Firefly

    8th Armoured Brigade consisted of: Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry / 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards / 13th/18th Royal Hussars / 12th (Queen's Westminsters) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2021
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  4. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Background & unit information - German forces facing XXX Corps

    Panzergruppe West (5th Panzer Army as of August 1944) which consisted of part of XLVII Panzer Corps plus 276th Infantry Division & 326th Infantry Division

    Also involved was II SS Panzer Corps which consisted of: 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen / 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg / 21st Panzer Division & part of 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler

    276 Infanterie-Division was deployed in the Villers-Bocage sector on the right of 326 Infanterie-Division and on the left of 277 Infanterie-Division. It was short of manpower, transport and equipment and details are sketchy as to the exact organisation. They put up a very stiff fight around Aunay-sur-Odon and Mont Pincon, slowing XXX Corps' advance to a crawl.

    21st Panzer Division had already provided stubborn resistance to the British Guards Armoured Division on 1 August 1944 and then they were facing 7th Armoured Division. 21 Panzer-Division fielded large quantities of ex-French AFVs that had been up-armoured by German engineers under Major Becker which were committed to slow the progress of the 11th Armoured Division south of Saint-Martin-des-Besaces - those assault guns of Becker's battalion that survived this engagement were destroyed in the Falaise Gap

    276 Infanterie-Division also received the support of the depleted Schwere-Panzer-Abteilung 503. The Abteilung had initially consisted of two companies (I & II) of Tiger II and one company (III) of Tiger I - III Kompanie was disbanded on 22 July due to losses suffered during Operation Goodwood and the remaining Tiger I tanks were handed over to II Kompanie. On 29 July the two remaining companies had a total of 15 operational tanks between them and 7 more in short-term repair.

    2nd Panzer Division was equipped with Panther tanks and entered combat against the British 7th Armoured Division near Villers-Bocage on 14 June followed by action in the Caumont area before being sent to the Verrieres ridge southwest of Caen. After Operation Spring 2nd Panzer was sent to the US sector to help in halting Operation Cobra. They stopped the drive of the US 2nd Armored Division before retreating and with its last 25 tanks it took part in Operation Luttich, the failed German counterattack at Mortain


    The attached map shows 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" as sweeping through the 7th Armoured Division area at the start of Bluecoat instead of the Wehrmacht 2nd Panzer Division

    2nd SS were a fair distance away at Percy in the American zone of operations - the map also gives them a personnel strength of 160,000 instead of what I would presume is 16,000 soldiers
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2021
  5. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    On July 31, the 7th Battalion Hampshire Regiment and the tanks of the Sherwood Rangers of the 8th Armoured Brigade captured Cahagnes
     

    Attached Files:

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  6. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    August 1st, the 214th Brigade advanced towards Saint-Pierre-du-Fresne, supported by the 1st / 5th Battalion Queen's Royal Regiment.

    The 7th Armoured Division crossed the sector of 43rd Wessex Division in Caumont
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
  7. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Initial remark:
    2nd Pz. Division were there and perhaps that is the cause of the confusion. For certain there is a knocked-out 2nd Pz Div Pz IV shown on film in Le Tourneur on Aug 2nd.


    The turret numbers for both 2nd SS and 2nd Pz are very similar.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
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  8. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Thanks, that would be a reasonable explanation. I have updated post #4 with some detail I found on the movements of 2nd Panzer Division during that period

    I have attached a photo of what I presume is the 2nd Panzer Division Panzer IV at Le Tourneur
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
  9. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Last post is the Pz IV after it was moved away from the houses, parked near the churchyard and then blown up. This is a 'before' view.

    Pz IV 52-  ,,,  BB.jpg
     
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  10. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Thanks - looking at that map again and it shows 2nd SS being near Estry facing the 46th Brigade, Le Tourneur is close to Estry which would once again point to it actually being 2nd Panzer Division (Wehrmacht) in action against the Scots
     
  11. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    From “Surrender invites Death - Fighting the Waffen SS in Normandy”

    The commitment of Bittrich’s II SS Panzer Corps on 1 August drew in the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and the 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg along with the 21st Panzer Division from east of the Orne plus the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion (schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503)

    The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend sent a fast group of thirteen Panther tanks, a Panzergrenadier company, six 105-millimeter Wespe self-propelled guns, and six armoured cars under Sturmbannführer Erich Olboeter, which remained under the command of the II SS Panzer Corps from 2 to 8 August

    7th Armoured, committed to take Aunay-sur-Odon, recoiled on 3 August to the position it had occupied forty-eight hours before. On 4 August Horrocks replaced Bucknall, and two days later 43rd (Wessex) Division captured Mont Pinçon in a remarkable feat
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  12. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    This is where things get confusing, depending on which source I am using the fighting (and destruction of a bunch of British tanks) occurred on either (or both) of Hill 188 and Point 138

    Hill 188 is correctly identified as “near Saulques only 3km west of Aunay-sur-Odon” & “located 1.5 km south of St. Georges” & “high ground north-west of Sauques (sic)”

    Point 138 is identified as being “a low ridge that overlooked ASO” & “high ground that overlooked the ASO - VB road”

    2 August Cromwell tanks of C Squadron, 1RTR reached the high ground north-west of Saulques (Hill 188)

    That same day 10th SS Panzer Division "Frundsberg" was given the mission of intercepting the British breakthrough that had taken place south of Caumont up to Coulvain - Jurques, and to seal it off along the line St. Georges d’Aunay - la Bigne - Hill 301 - Hill 321 - they successfully held most of Hill 188 against a British attack and destroyed 20 tanks in the process - it took nearby Hill 301 on 3 August to form a defence line between the two high points.

    On 3 August the 1/6 Battalion Queen's Royal regiment conquered a height near Saulques only 3km west of Aunay-sur-Odon which was followed up by other elements of 7th Armoured Division (I think this was actually Point 138 which is only about 1km west of ASO)

    The height then experienced a strong counterattack consisting of Tiger, Panther and Panzer IV tanks of Kampfgruppe Paetsch from 10 SS Panzer Division and soldiers from the Wehrmacht 326th Infantry-Division with the fighting lasting until nightfall. A & B squadrons of the 5th Royal Tank Regiment (5RTR) were nearly annihilated. From 131 Brigade 1/6th Queen's suffered 150 casualties, 1/7th Queen's 35 casualties and the attached Norfolk Yeomanry (65th Anti-Tank Regiment) lost three guns and suffered 35 casualties

    Hill 188 in the sector of the 326. Infanterie-Division (1.5 km south of St. Georges) was now in British hands and they reinforced it from the north-west with tanks, mounted infantry and strong anti-tank elements; putting it in a strong defensible condition. British armoured spearheads also entered le Manor and la Lande bringing them under firm control. Additional armoured spearheads were east of St. Georges as far as Courcelles (1.5 km east of Hill 188). Strong British armoured reserves were reported in the forests north of Breuil

    Kampfgruppe Paetsch with 30 Panzers of Panzer Regiment 10 and subordinated elements attacked against la Lande and le Manoir. After a hard struggle the enemy British were crushed, 7 enemy tanks and anti-tank guns were destroyed. Heavy losses in infantry were inflicted and 130 prisoners were taken. All counterattacks from the north and northwest were repelled.

    After the seizure of Hill 188 Paetsch launched a thrust on his own initiative with a Panzer-Kompanie and mounted Panzer-Pionieren in the direction of Coucelles in order to destroy the enemy tank spearheads there. In a hard night battle 3 tanks were destroyed in close combat along with much enemy infantry, with the rest of the enemy being forced into flight.
     

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    Last edited: Jan 30, 2021

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