8th Rifle Brigade - from Normandy to the Baltic - June 1944 - May 1945

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Latest update 20 August 2019: link to film on Operation Bluecoat added in ‘photo and film’.

THIS SITE IS UNDER PERMANENT DEVELOPMENT. NEW ITEMS, TEXT AND DOCUMENTS WILL BE ADDED REGULARLY.

This website is dedicated to all who served with the 8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade in WW2 and in its campaign, with the 11th Armoured Division, through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, from 13 June 1944 to 8 May 1945.

13 Platoon, Aldershot, May 1944 (editor's collection)

Introduction

On 13 June 1944 – one week after D-Day – the 8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade (from here on ‘8th Rifle Brigade’ or ‘the batallion’) landed on the beaches of Normandy, near Graye-sur-Mer. As part of the 11th Armoured Division the battalion’s main role was to provide mobile infantry support and to act as scouts for the three tank battalions of the division. After landing the 8th Rifle Brigade saw action in three major operations during the Battle for Normandy (Operations Epsom, Goodwood and Blue Coat), in the subsequent liberation of France, Belgium and Holland and during the final advance through Germany. Ultimately, in May 1945,  it lead them all the way to Schleswig in the North of Germany.

The battalion’s 11 months campaign came at a high price. In their first serious encounter with the Germans, during Operation Epsom, on and around ‘Hill 112’ in Normandy, in the final days of June, they lost some 20% of their total strength: 36 killed and 123 wounded. Eventually, out of a nominal strength of some 856 officers and men, their total losses during the whole campaign amounted to 161 killed and (at least) 489 wounded.

Purpose of this site

The motivation for starting this website comes from a 20 year old friendship with an 8th Rifle Brigade veteran, the subsequent editing and publication of his autobiography (see below) and the large amount of information gathered for this. Equally important is my appreciation for the tremendous challenges and strains this group of ‘ordinary men’ – mostly conscripts – must have lived through and of course my life long interest in the Second World War in general.  

It is hoped that for some this site can give some idea of the exploits of the 8th Rifle Brigade. In time others may find on here specific and detailed information they are looking for; of what happened to units or specific members – maybe relatives – of the battalion, or of what happened at certain locations where the battalion did its fighting or maybe had its rest periods. 

Content

By clicking the buttons* shown at the top of this page the following content can be found:

  • HISTORY: the origins of the battalion and the story of its raising and training in England and the campaign in North-West Europe.
  • ORGANISATION: the battalion’s organisational structure and its place within the 11th Armoured Division.
  • OFFICERS & MEN: names, some additional information and where available portraits of all known members (1516 so far).
  • MAPS: period maps with overlays explaining routes and actions of the battalion.
  • PHOTOS (and some documents): period group and campaign photos, some documents, then and now photos, etc.
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY & LINKS: book titles and links to other sites or museums.
  • CONTACT: contact form, to be used for any questions or maybe if you have new material for this site.
  • 13 PLATOON: information on 13 Platoon, the book (see below) and its author Don Gillate, possibly in time also Don’s original audio recordings.

     *): this website is and for a long time will be under development. Content and functioning of buttons will gradually increase as new material is added.

Wanted: additional material

If you have photos, stories or other material to share, then please get in touch through the form found after clicking the ‘CONTACT’ button at the top of this page. The contact form can of course also be used if you have questions regarding the 8th Rifle Brigade or any of it’s members.

E Company Bren Carriers, entering Presles from the North, 2 August 1944 (IWM B8584)

This website is a follow-up of ‘With the 8th Rifle Brigade from Normandy to the Baltic’, an illustrated autobiography by 8th Rifle Brigade veteran Don Gillate, edited by Ronald Jeltes and published by Tredition (ISBN 978-3-7439-9791-2). For more information and preview use link below (click book cover).

This website has been built and is edited by Ronald Jeltes. All material on here is used with permission or copy right free.

To get in touch, please use the contact form to be found after clicking the ‘CONTACT’ button at the top of this page.

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