8th Rifle Brigade - from Normandy to the Baltic - June 1944 - May 1945
During their campaign through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, from 13 June 1944 to 8 May 1945, members of the 8th Rifle Brigade, and attached personnel, won 31 gallantry awards, possibly some more. On this page, these are shown in chronological order, based on date of action(s) resulting in award. Only awards won while serving with the 8th Rifle Brigade are shown (not those won, by various members, in other theatres of war, while serving in other units).
29 June 1944, Operation Epsom, Hill 112, France – Military Medal to Sergeant William Alfred Hollands – 6912481, G Coy.
On June 29, 1944, ‘G’ Coy 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade, were consolidating on Hill 112 after it had been captured. The enemy began to mortar the position immediately. Sjt. W. Hollands, commanding the mortar section, immediately ordered his section into their slit trenches and, spotting one of the enemy mortars began to range on it by himself. His mortar was not yet dug in and he was therefore completely in the open. Sjt. Hollands ranged successfully on the enemy mortar and destroyed it by fire, showing an utter disregard for danger, and in spite of heavy enemy mortar fire. Sjt. Hollands engaged another enemy mortar by himself and continued to do so until he was seriously wounded and was forced to cease fire. There is no doubt that Sjt. Hollands great gallantry was a major factor in reducing the intencity of the enemy fire.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-441
18 – 19 July 1944, Operation Goodwood, Normandy, France – Military Cross to Major David Foster Cunliffe – 137063, OC F Coy.
‘On 18 July 1944 ‘F’ Coy, 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade, was advancing South West from LA PRIEURE toward FOUR. After crossing the road near LE MESNIL-FREMENTEL 137063 Major D.F. Cunliffe, Coy Comd, put his Coy into the thick hedges and trees from which fire had been coming, and from which some of our tanks had been destroyed. Owing to the speed and determination with which Major Cunliffe acted this operation was completely succesful, and 4 88mm guns and 6 Nebelwerfers as well as a considerable number of prisoners were captured.
On 19 Jul 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade was detailed to attack the village of BRAS behind our tanks. Major Cunliffe’s Coy was leading in spite of heavy mortar fire he led them with great dash and determination in to the village. The operation was completely succesfull and over 300 S.S. prisoners were captured.
Major Cunliffe’s Coy sustained no casualties. There is no doubt that the enemy were completely surprised by the speed and determination of the attack. Major Cunliffe’s determination, coolness and personal leadership during this operation and throughout both days fighting were and example to all, and undoubtedly were largely responsible for ensuring decisive victory.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-180
18 – 19 July 1944, Operation Goodwood, Gentheville and Bras, France – Military Cross to Lieutenant John Philip Sedgwick – 226412, F Coy, OC 6 Pl.
‘On the evening of 18 Jul 1944 ‘F’ Coy, 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade, was ordered to clear the village of GRENTHEVILLE. Lieut. J.P. Sedgwick commanded 6 pln and was leading pln into the village. He showed great dash and determined leadership in overrunning two orchards full of the enemy and captured 20 prisoners and 12 Nebelwerfers. Throughout this evening and the ensuing night Lieut. Sedgwick’s pln were under heavy artillery and mortar fire and he showed great coolness and courage, being a really good example to his men.
On 19 Jul, ‘F’ Coy, 8th Bn. The Rifle Bde, was leading company in the attack on the village of BRAS. Lieut. Sedgwick’s pln, now considerably reduced in numbers, was again in the lead. Although the enemy was in strength in the village Lieut. Sedgwick led his pln with such skill and speed that a considerable number of the enemy were killed and the remainder taken prisoner.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-181
Lt. Sedgwick MC was killed the following year, while on a patrol in Holland, on 10 March 1945.
18 – 19 July 1944, Operation Goodwood, Grentheville and Bras, France – Military Medal to Sergeant Stanley John Triggs – 6969058, H Coy, 13 Pl.
‘On 18 Jul 1944, L/Sjt. Triggs was in command of a section of carriers. His section was attached to a pln which had been ordered to carry out an attack on and clear the village of GRENTHEVILLE. While taking up a position covering the village, L/Sjt. Triggs had his carrier hit and destroyed. He immediately evacuated his wounded gunner, jumped into another carrier and continued with the action. During the clearing of the village L/Sjt. Triggs captured a 75mm A/Tk Gun and towed it behind his carrier.
On Jul 19 L/Sjt. Triggs took part in the attack on BRAS. With great dash he led his carriers into the village and captured an A/Tk Gun complete with crew. This A/Tk Gun had been causing casualties to our armour. L/Sjt. Triggs then took up position with his section covering the exits from the village. During both days fighting L/Sjt. Triggs showed great coolness under heavy mortar and shell fire and was an inspiration to his section and to all around him.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-442
19 July 1944, Operation Goodwood, Grentheville and Bras, France – Military Medal to Corporal Gerrard Fitzgerald – 6920671, F Coy, 6 Pl.
‘On the morning of 19 Jul 1944, 6 pln ‘F’ Coy, 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade, were holding the forward edge of the village of GRENTHEVILLE, which had been captured the evening before. Cpl. Fitzgerald was in command of a leading section. A M.G.42 suddenly opened fire on the section and wounded one of Cpl. Fitzgerald’s men who was forward of the section position. In full view of the enemy and showing complete disregard for his own safety, Cpl. Fitzgerald went forward and brought in the wounded man over his shoulder.
Later on the same day Cpl. Fitzgerald’s section was the first one into the village during the attack on BRAS. Showing great dash and initiative he cleared his sector of the village with speed, taking the enemy by surprise and capturing about 25 prisoners. He was a fine example and inspiration to all those with whom he came in contact.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-443
Cpl. Fitzgerald got killed before his award of the MM had been approved, at Le Bas Perrier, on 3 August 1944.
31 July 1944, Operation Bluecoat, Saint Martin des Besaces, France – Military Cross to Lieutenant Eric Robert Charles Yetman – 265760, G Coy, 12 Pl.
‘On 31 Jul 44, ‘G’ Company, 8th Bn. Rifle Bde. was attacking ST.MARTIN DES BESACES from the NORTH. LIEUT. E.R.C. Yetman, commander of 12 Pl. was ordered to take his platoon round the right flank and establish himself on the level crossing. Lieut. Yetman’s platoon advanced and immediately came under heavy mortar fire, and sustained five casualties. In spite of this Lieut. Yetman led his platoon forward with such great skill and courage that they reached the level crossing and occupied it. For the next 4 1/2 hrs. Lieut. Yetman’s platoon held out alone on the level crossing under heavy mortar and machine gun fire and out of touch with the rest of the Company as no runners could get through. On being relieved this platoon was only eleven men strong. Lieut. Yetman was wounded twice during this action but refused to either be evacuated or to be looked after and there is no doubt that his great personal courage and complete disregard for his own safety enabled his platoon to hold out in most difficult circumstances and thereby hastened the capture of the village.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-49-757
Lieutenant Yetman got killed on 5 April 1945, at Steimbke, Germany.
3 – 10 Aug. 1944, Operation Bluecoat, Le Bas Perrier and Presles, France – Military Cross to Capt. Henry Jefferys Leigh Taylor – 188501, R.A.Ch.D., Rev. att. to 8RB.
‘The Rev. Taylor is attached as Chaplain to 8th Bn.The Rifle Brigade. On 4 and 5 Aug 1944 The Rev. Taylor was attached to 8th Bn.Rifle Bde. R.A.P. which was established at LE BAS PERRIER. During these 48 hrs. the R.A.P. was under continual shell fire and mortar fire and it was impossible to evacuate casualties because the centre line was occupied by the enemy. Mr. Taylor, during this time, showed complete disregard for his safety, ministering to the wounded and helping the M.O. who was very overworked, in every way possible. He also visited Coys of 8 R.B. while under fire and was a constant source of inspiration to the whole Bn.
From 6-10 Aug the R.A.P. was at PRESLES and Mr. Taylor, again showing complete indifference to enemy shell fire and mortar fire which was continuous, worked in the R.A.P. as a second Medical Officer in addition to carrying out his normal duties.’ – WO-373-51-358
Reverend Taylor got killed in Holland, on 23 September 1944.
3 – 10 August 1944, Operation Bluecoat, Le Bas Perrier and Presles, France – Military Cross to Capt. John Michael Willcox – 171200, R.A.M.C., M.O. att. to 8th Rifle Brigade.
‘Capt. J.M. Willcox, R.A.M.C. is attached to 8th Bn. Rifle Brigade as Medical Officer. From 4-5 Aug 44 Capt. Willcox’s R.A.P. was just North of LE BAS PERRIER and during the whole 48 hrs. was under mortar and shell fire and was unable to move. It was also impossible to evacuate casualties owing to the enemy having cut the centre line behind. Capt. Willcox continued with his duties under the worst conditions possible and showing complete indifference to enemy action, undoubtedly saved the lives of a large number of wounded men. From Aug 6 to Aug 10 Capt. Willcox’s R.A.P. was at PRESLES and during the whole of this time was under shell fire. Capt. Willcox again carried on with his medical duties without any interruption.
There is no doubt that Capt. Willcox’s conduct during this battle was of the highest order possible and that his actions were a great contribution to the raising and maintaining of morale in most difficult times.
No praise can be too high for this Officer’s complete disregard for his own safety and for his patient and skillful care of the wounded.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-364
18 August 1944, Launay, France – Military Cross to Captain Philip May – 158899, 2i/c H Coy.
On 18th August 1944 Capt. May was in command of the vanguard, consisting of a section of carriers and a Motor platoon of ‘H’ Coy., 8 R.B. supported by a troop of tanks of 23rd Hussars. WEST of LAUNAY enemy opposition was met and heavy fire from artillery was opened on the vanguard. There was also considerable small arms fire. CAPT MAY organised an attack on the village by the infantry supported by the tanks. During the attack CAPT MAY saw that the supporting fire from the tanks was ineffective and immediately jumped onto the Troop Commander’s tank to secure better supporting fire. All this time the tanks were under machine gun fire and CAPT MAY was completely exposed.
Shortly after this, two Rfn. were killed in a farmyard. Disregarding his own safety and in spite of enemy small arms and mortar fire CAPT MAY went forward himself to see whether the men were wounded or dead.
The infantry under CAPT MAY’s command continued to attack and harass the enemy with great effect until ordered to withdraw by his Company Commander.
Heavy casualties were suffered by the vanguard in this action and CAPT MAY’s gallantry and complete disregard of danger were an inspiration to the men under his command. – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-349
Captain May, later on got killed, on the banks of the River Weser at Stolzenau, on 5 April 1945.
30 August 1944, Amecourt, France – Military Medal to Corporal Gordon Harald Walter Kingsmill – 6969327, G Coy, HQ.
‘On 30th August 1944 at AMECOURT Cpl. KINGSMILL was signal corporal in the comd half-track of ‘G’ Coy 8 R.B. Heavy fire was opened on the vehicle by a 20 mm gun from about 100 yds away. Several of the crew were wounded including the Company Commander. Those who were able to get out of the vehicle immediately came under machine-gun fire and the driver of the vehicle was killed. CPL. KINGSMILL, the only one who was not wounded, remained on his wireless set, continued to send in valuable information which ultimately led to the destruction of the enemy position, and looked after the wounded men.
CPL. KINGSMILL showed great courage and disregard for danger and his action not only led to the destruction of the enemy but also saved the lives of his comrades.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-52-472
13 June to 31 August 1944, Normandy, France – Croix de Guerre with silver Star to Lieutenant Richard Brian Montgomery Adams – 187841, F Coy.
‘Lieut. ADAMS was commanding a carrier platoon throughout the operations in France from 13 June to 31st August 1944. On July 19th Lieut. Adams’ platoon led the attack on BRAS and by his dash and initiative succeeded in over-running many German positions before the enemy could recover from the artillery bombardment. A considerable number of prisoners were taken and in spite of heavy enemy and artillery fire Lieut. Adams showed great courage and considerably aided our victory.
On August 5th at LE BAS PERRIER during the relief of 8th Bn The Rifle Brigade by another battalion an enemy counter-attack was put in and heavy shelling and mortaring began. All communications were out and Lieut. Adams acted as link between battalion HQ and one of the incoming companies. Throughout this relief Lieut. Adams showed formidable coolness and skill in a very difficult situation and his action considerably effected the success of the operation.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-186-1368
13 June to 31 August 1944, Normandy, France – Croix de Guerre with bronze Star to Sergeant John Richard Carr – 6970340, G Coy, 10 Pl.
Serjeant CARR was platoon serjeant or platoon commander of a motor platoon throughout the operations in France from 13 th June to 31 st August 1944.
On 26 th June near the R. ODON serjeant CARR’s platoon commander was killed. Serjeant CARR immediately took command of the platoon and commanded it with outstanding skill and courage throughout the operations for the capture of Hill 112.
On 5 th August Serjeant CARR was commanding his platoon during the enemy counter attack at LE BAS PERRIER. Throughout this operation Serjeant CARR showed great courage and initiative and was a splendid example to all rankd. – WO-373-186-1532
30 August and 3 September 1944, Amiens, France to Antwerp, Belgium – Military Cross to Major George Noel Bell – 145488, OC G Coy
‘This officer commanded G Coy, 8 RB, which was under comd. of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, in the advance from the SEINE to ANTWERP. On 30 Aug 44, before light, after an approach march by night, G Coy, supported by the leading squadron 3 R Tks, entered AMIENS. Information from local sources indicated that there were many GERMAN troops in town, but acting in the boldest manner, A/Major Ball led G Coy, supported A Sqn, and forces their way through the town, caused many casualties to the enemy, and reached the river SOMME.
On 3 Sep 44 G Coy again co-operated with the leading sqn of 3 R Tks on the approach and entry to the town of ANTWERP. A/Major Bell supported the leading sqn of tanks at BOOM, on the outskirts of ANWERP, where a bridge was discovered that had not been destroyed, and again at the fighting at the actual entrance to the town, this company closely followed the leading tks into the harbour and there assisted to destroy much enemy equipment, to capture several hunred prisoners, and to safeguard the port installations.
In both instances quoted A/Major Bell has displayed the greatest powers of leadership. At all times under enemy fire A/Major Bell has shown great initiative and determination, and the co-operation between motor infantry and tanks which has been the cause of these successes has been largely due to the zeal and determination shown by A/Major Bell.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-348
2-3 September 1944, Bouvain, France – Military Medal to Cpl. Harold Jack Shutz – 6923825, G Coy.
‘At BOUVAIN on the night of Sept 2/3, 1944 the platoon in which CPL. SHUTZ commanded a section was holding a bridge. During the night the enemy began to mortar the brigde, the platoon commander and platoon serjeant were both killed and several men wounded. CPL. SHUTZ immediately took command of the platoon and reorganised it. The mortar fire continued and the enemy put in an infantry attack. CPL. SHUTZ showed complete grasp of the situation and commanded the platoon so well that the enemy attack was broken up and beaten off. He continued to control the situation in spite of continuous enemy fire until relieved the following morning.
During the whole night CPL. SHUTZ’s conduct was an inspiration to the platoon and the is no doubt that his initiative and gallantry under difficult circumstances prevented the enemy from destroying a bridge which was of great value to us in our subsequent advance.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-52-474
Corporal Shutz got killed some two weeks later, on 18 September 1944, at Helchteren, long before the final approval of his award.
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Distinguished Service Order to Lt. Col. John Anthony Hunter MBE, MC – 63621, CO 8th Rifle Brigade.
‘On 11 Sep 44 [in fact, on 10 Sep 44] the enemy were holding the village of HELCHTEREN with a Para Bn and some A.Tk guns. They were using most of the houses as strong points and it was impossible to clear the village except with a determined infantry attack.
The 8RB under command of Lt-Col HUNTER were ordered to carry this out. At first, owing to the desparate resistance put up by the enemy, little progress was made and heavy casualties were incurred. Notwithstanding this, under the fine leadership of Lt-Col HUNTER, the attack was pressed home with the greatest gallantry, the village was cleared and the advance continued. Practically the whole Para Bn was wiped out, over 200 prisoners being taken and at least 200 killed.
The courage and determination displayed by Lt-Col HUNTER in this action was of the highest order. He was an inspiration and an…’ [second page missing] – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-328
Already in 1941 (then) Captain Hunter had won an MC in the Western Desert and in early 1944 an MBE for his role in the planning for Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily).
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Military Cross to Major Peter James Bradford – 90008, OC H Coy.
‘At HELCHTEREN on 10 th September, H company 8 R.B. supported by ‘C’ Sqn 23 Hussars were leading company in the attack on a strong enemy position. While H Company were debussing the enemy opened accurate and heavy mortar fire which caused heavy casualties. Major Bradford, commanding H company, immediately reorganised his company and began the attack as ordered. The first part of the village was cleared and a locality spotted which appeared to be the left flank of the enemy position. Major Bradford immediately organised an attack on it. The attack succeeded after very heavy fighting and the enemy forward positions began to disintegrate. By this time Major Bradford’s company was reduced to about half strength and the enemy opposition was as strong as ever. Mortaring and Machine Gun fire were continuous and at times intense. Major Bradford showed complete control of the situation and pressing on with his weakened platoons finally cleared the enemy from the village. This operation took nine hours during which the enemy refused to yield any ground without the hardest possible fight.
Major Bradford’s calm and skillful leadership, combined with his complete disregard for the enemy fire, were very largely responsible for the capture of a strongly held position and over two hundred prisoners.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-423
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Military Cross to Lieutenant Jeoffrey Coryton – 217629, H Coy, 15 Pl.
‘On 10th September. Lieut Coryton was commanding a platoon in the leading company of 8 th Bn The Rifle Brigade attacking HELCHTEREN. Early in the battle two of Lieut Coryton’s sections were completely destroyed by enemy mortar fire. He immediately reorganised the remainder of his pl. and pressed forward to his objective. Lieut. Coryton was then given command of another platoon whose commander and platoon Serjeant were both casualties. He quickly formed the whole party into on full strength platoon and began clearing a line of houses which were strongly held by the enemy. Enemy mortar fire was intense and heavy casualties were suffered but such was Lieut Coryton’s determination and calm leadership that the whole operation was completely successful and large numbers of the enemy were killed.
Throughout the nine hours heavy fighting against an enemy who refused to surrender, Lieut Coryton showed a complete disregard for his safety and such control over the situation that he was an inspiration to the whole company.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-353
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Military Cross to Captain John Joicy Straker – 155746, H Coy, HQ.
‘At HELCHTEREN on 10th September, Captain Straker was in command of a force consisting of one Motor Platoon and one section of carriers 8 R.B. and one troop of tanks 23 Hussars. This force was ordered to clear the houses which extended for about one hundred yards along the road. The enemy was holding each house in strength and refused to surrender on any occasion until actually overrun. Under considerable and accurate mortar fire and machine gun fire Captain Straker organised his attack to such effect that the enemy positions were destroyed.
Early on in this action Captain Straker was wounded in the hand. He refused medical attention until the battle was over and showed such courage and leadership that he was an inspiration to all under his command. The success of this attack and the small number of casualties suffered were largely due to Captain Sraker’s skill and initiative.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-350
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Distinguished Conduct Medal to Corporal George Pratt – 6919921, H Coy, 14 Pl.
‘On 10 th September in the attack on HELCHTEREN Corporal Pratt was commanding a section in the leading platoon. Shortly after crossing the start line his platoon Serjeant was killed. The platoon then came under heavy mortar and machine gun fire and the platoon commander was wounded. Corporal Pratt immediately took command of the platoon and with great courage led them to their objective. The objective was captured, many Germans were killed and several taken prisoner. Corporal Pratt consolidated on the objective and reorganised the platoon which had suffered many casualties. Throughout the action Corporal Pratt showed a complete lack of fear and set a fine example to his platoon. There is no doubt that his initiative in taking over the platoon at a critical time contributed greatly to the final capture of the whole position.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-334
10 September 1944, Helchteren, Belgium – Military Medal to Rifleman Frank Bennett – 5255025, H Coy, 14 Pl.
‘At HELCHTEREN on 10 th September, H Coy, 8 th Bn The Rifle Brigade was engaged in an attack on a strong enemy position. Rilfleman Bennett’s platoon was heavily mortared and sustained many casualties. Rifleman Bennett was ordered by his section commander to try and get observation on the enemy. He immediately went into a house and observed from an upper window. The house was at the time under mortar fire and the upper windows were receiving considerable attention from machine guns and snipers. In spite of this Rifleman Bennett remained at his observation post for over an hour reporting valuable information which ultimately contributed to the destruction of the enemy position.
Rifleman Bennett’s conduct and his complete disregard of danger throughout this action was a fine example to the rest of the men in his platoon.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-52-475
August to October 1944, France to Holland – Military Medal to Sergeant James Cooper – 6915446, F Coy.
Sjt. Cooper has commanded a carrier section from August to October 1944. During the advance from CAUMONT to ANTWERP and then on to DEURNE. On many occasions during the advance Sjt. COOPER’S section had led the advance.
At PUTANGES on August 18 Sjt. COOPER made a reconnaissance of the river ORNE with great skill and coolness and in spite of the presence of two Panther tanks returned with very useful information. Again, WEST of ARRAS on 1 September information was received that a column of enemy horse-drawn artillery and transport was moving down the road from WEST to EAST. Sjt. COOPER immediately moved forward with all speed and cutting the road, succeeded in causing such confusion among the enemy that the tanks were able to come up and finish them off. A large number of prisoners were taken.
During the whole advance Sjt. COOPER’s section destroyed many enemy vehicles and took many prisoners. Sjt. COOPER showed himself at all times to be a gallant and resolute leader who was always quick to take the smallest opportunity to inflict damage on the enemy and to speed up the advance. His coolness and skill have been an inspiration to all those who have served with him. – Nat. Arch. WO-373-53-717
17 October 1944, Meerselo, Holland – Military Cross to Lieutenant Trevor Arthur Anthony Whitaker – 296779, F Coy.
‘On 17 October Lieut. WHITAKER was commanding a group consisting of one motor platoon and one sec carriers 8 R.B. and one tp of tanks 23 H. The road SOUTH of MEERSELO was cratered by the enemy and trees had been felled across the road. These demolitions were registered by the enemy and under heavy mortar fire. Lieut. WHITAKER at once began to clear the road-blocks and fill in the craters. Enemy mortar fire was continuous and great difficulty was experienced in dealing with the demolitions.
In spite of this Lieut. WHITAKER carried on with his task with great courage and determination and was a fine example to all under his command. Casualties were incurred and Lieut. WHITAKER was wounded in the leg.
He carried on with his task and refused to be evacuated until his force was ordered to stop work on the road, as another route had been found. Lieut. WHITAKER’s conduct during this operation was of the highest order and he was the finest possible example to the men under his command.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-51-355
25 December 1944, Boiselles, Belgium – Military Medal to Sergeant Alfred White – 14275878, G Coy, 12 Pl.
‘On 25th December, 1944, L/SJT. WHITE was commanding a section of No.12 Platoon 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade. The enemy had occupied the village of BOISELLES near DINANT. No.12 Platoon in co-operation with a troop of tanks was ordered to clear the village. The village was strongly held and the enemy fought well putting down heavy machine gun and mortar fire.
L/SJT. WHITE led his section with great dash and skill and disregarding his own safety was largely instrumental in mopping up the village and taking 30 prisoners. Throughout this action L/SGT. WHITE’S coolness and skill were an inspiration and example to all ranks and there is no doubt that his action had an influence in preventing further enemy penetration towards the R.MEUSE.’ – Nat. Arch. 343-53-310
5 April 1945, Stolzenau, Germany – Distinguished Service Order to Major Peter James Bradford MC – 90008, OC H Coy.
‘On 5th April 1945 ‘H’ Company, 8th Rifle Brigade were ordered to carry out an assault crossing over the river WESER at STOLZENAU. Major P.J. Bradford commanding ‘H’ Company quickly organised the operation and by the speed and skill with which it was carried out his company took all its objectives. During this operation Major Bradford’s second-in-command was killed and for the ensuing two days this greatly handicapped Major Bradford in his task.
‘H’ Company held the right hand sector of a small bridgehead while the R.E. attempted to put a bridge across. Enemy reaction was immediate and by the evening of the 5th, shelling from 88 mm guns, Spandau fire and bombing from unopposed enemy aircraft made the situation extremely difficult. On the morning of the 6th the enemy launched a determined counter-attack against Major Bradford’s sector of the bridgehead with a strong body of infantry supported by 88 millimetre and twenty millimetre fire. In spite of the enemy’s obvious determination to drive the bridgehead back into the river the attack was firmly held and the enemy driven off with heavy losses.
Shelling, mortaring and bombing continued and became gradually worse dusring the day and night of 6th:7th and casualties in Major Bradford’s company became very heavy. Work had to cease on the bridge and all movement became extremely difficult. At 0400 hrs on the 7th the enemy again counter-attacked with a strong force. He failed to penetrate the defences and the attack was beaten off.
During the whole of these two days Major Bradford showed himself to be a brave, resolute and resourceful commander. He was always where things were most difficult and by his personal courage and complete control at all times was undoubtedly largely instrumental in securing and holding a very valuable bridgehead over an important river. Major Bradford’s complete coolness and personal gallantry were an inspiration to all who come in contact with him during these two days.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-54-243
In 1944 Major Bradford had already won the MC, for his actions at Helchteren (see above).
5 – 7 April 1945, Stolzenau, Germany – Military Medal to Lance Corporal William Groves – 6845516, E Coy, 18 Pl.
‘On the evening of the 5th:6th April at STOLZENAU a platoon of six-pounder A-Tk guns of 8th Bn. The Rifle Brigade were ferried accross the River WESER into the Battalion bridgehead. Lance Corporal Groves was second in command of a gun which was placed in a forward position covering the most likely enemy approach.
On the morning of the 6th April the NCO in charge of the gun was wounded and L:Cpl Groved took command. That morning the enemy counter-attacked the bridgehead with infantry supported by 88 millimetre airburst and mortar fire and also by self propelled 20 millimetres. By engaging the self propelled guns, although the range was long, L:Corporal Groves’ gun succeeded in keeping down the enemy fire and definitely hit one. L:Cpl Groves also kept his Bren gun in action against the advancing infantry with great success. That afternoon another member of L:Corporal Groves’ gun crew was wounded by mortar fire and the crew reduced to three.
On the night of the 6th:7th the enemy again counter-attacked and L:Corporal Groves successfully dealt with the enemy with his Bren gun.
Throughout these three days and in spite of heavy artillery, mortar and machine gun fire and being heavily bombed from the air Lance Corporal Groves was an inspiration to all. By his example and fine leadership he encouraged his crew to reply offensively at every opportunity both with their 6 pr gun and small arms.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-54-1032
6 – 7 April 1945, Stolzenau, Germany – Military Cross to Lieutenant Michael Murray John Raymona – 256095, F Coy, 7 Pl.
‘On the night of 6th/7th April 1945 Lieut. RAYMOND’s platoon was holding the right hand position in his battalion’s bridgehead over the River WESER at STOLZENAU. This position was very exposed and was subject to heavy mortaring and small arms fire throughout the night and the enemy continuously attempted to infiltrate into our positions. Throughout the night by his alertness and complete control of the situation Lieut. RAYMOND succeeded in preventing any infiltration and inflicted casualties on the enemy. At about 0400 hrs Lieut. RAYMOND’s platoon was being relieved by a troop of Commandos when the enemy suddenly began heavy firing and launched a counter-attack. Lieut. RAYMOND’s platoon was in the open, having been relieved, and was returning to the River. They suffered heavy casualties. In spite of the darkness and the enemy fire, Lieut. RAYMOND immediately took his platoon back into their old position, took control of the battle and fought off the enemy attack, causing them a number of casualties.
There was no necessity for Lieut. RAYMOND to have taken his platoon back into the position as relief was complete. The result of his action was that the enemy counter-attack was beaten off. Lieut. RAYMOND’s gallantry and coolness in a difficult situation were an inspiration to all.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-54-795
6 – 7 April 1945, Stolzenau, Germany – Military Medal to Sergeant Harry William Stonell – 6845078, F Coy, 6 Pl.
‘On the night of the 6th/7th of April 1945 at STOLZENAU, 6 platoon 8 th Bn. The Rifle Brigade was holding the right flank of the battalion bridgehead over the River WESER. During the whole night spandau fire and airburst from 88 mms were falling on the position.
At about 0400 hrs the platoon was handing over to a troop of Commandos. As Corporal Stonell was withdrawing with his section having completed the handover, German SS troops counter-attacked the position. The enemy infiltrated round the flanks and at the same time brought down heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Corporal Stonell’s section suffered four casualties both from enemy fire and from the fire of a neighbouring troop of Commandos who mistook them for Germans.
In spite of the intense fire and the darkness Corporal Stonell led the remains of his section to a fire position, went over, completely disregarding his own safety, to the Commando troop to stop them firing, and then went back four times to his wounded men in the open to bring them in. Even at this stage he did not forget to recover his Bren gun which was with the wounded men.
Throughout the action until Cpl. Stonell’s section was finally brought back over the river has coolness and courage were an inspiration and an example to all ranks and there is no doubt that his conduct throughout a very difficult time was largely instrumental in preventing the enemy counter-attacks from having any success at all.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-54-1029
17 April 1945, north of Barum, Germany – Military Medal to Sergeant George William Baldwin – 6915249, G Coy, 9 Pl.
‘On 17th April 45 Serjeant BALDWIN was commanding a carrier section leading the advance with a troop of tanks. The vanguard was approaching the cross-roads NORTH of BARUM on the UELZEN-LUNEBERG road, when enemy anti-tank guns, which were well concealed in the wood opened fire at a range of 200 yards and destroyed the two leading tanks. The remaining tanks and carriers withdrew under cover of smoke leaving Serjeant Baldwin and his crew and six wounded men out in the open two hundred yards from the enemy position. The Germans opened fire on Serjeant BALDWIN and his party with a twenty millimetre gun and damaged his carrier.
Serjeant Baldwin helped the wounded to get under cover into a shallow ditch, and then lay down beside his carrier which was completely exposed, he observed the enemy and reported back the exact positions of the enemy gun on the wireless. He was then ordered to try to get the wounded men back along the ditch. He administered first aid and sent four of the men back down the ditch. The remaining two were too badly wounded to move.
Serjeant BALDWIN remained with these two men and continued to act as an Observation Post for the field and medium guns which were now shelling the enemy position. Serjeant BALDWIN’S own position was uncomfortably close for the use of medium guns.
When our guns had ceased firing and he could be of no further use as an Observation Post, Serjeant BALDWIN lifted the two badly wounded men onto the carrier and drove them away to safety. There was no means of telling whether the enemy guns had been destroyed or not and the whole road was exposed to their fire.
Serjeant BALDWIN’S coolness and courage during this action was an example to all and there is no doubt that his accurate observation and correction from a very exposed position was a tremendous factor in the subsequent over-running of the enemy position with the capture of three 88 mm and two twenty millimetre guns as well as some prisoners.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-55-972
17 April 1945, Barum, Germany – Military Medal to Rifleman Lenard Ray Ladmore – 14722281, H Coy.
‘On 17 April 45 Rfn LADMORE’S platoon was advancing in its vehicles with a troop of tanks towards the village of BARUM. As the platoon went over the crest and came into full view of the village, the enemy opened fire with 88 millimetre guns, 20 millimetre and machine guns, all firing from a range of about 400 yards. The leading section half-track, of which Rifleman Ladmore was a member, was struck in the suspension by a solid shot and crashed into a ditch. The crew abandoned the vehicle and lay in the ditch. Heavy fire from machine guns was opened on these men both from the village and also from a hitherto undisclosed position on the right flank. One Rifleman, a member of the same section was hit in the lower jaw by a bullet. Rifleman LADMORE, without waiting for orders went forward to where this Rifleman lay and applied a field dressing. He then carried and dragged the Rifleman up the slope in direct view and under fire from the village for a distance of three hundred yards. By some miracle he was not hit though fire was deliberately opened on him. Owing to the fact that blood from the wound hindered the casualty’s breathing the majority of the journey was done by crawling. Having handed over the casualty to the stretcher bearers Rifleman LADMORE returned to his section in the ditch. Rifleman LADMORE’S conduct throughout was an inspiration to all. He was completely impervious to all danger and at no time took any thought for his own safety. His prompt action undoubtedly saved his comrade’s life.’ – Nat. Arch. WO-373-55-974
Apart from the officers and men mentioned above, in G Company’s honours and awards list, Lieutenant D.M. Stileman is mentioned as having won the Polish Silver Cross of Merit. Rifleman R.W. Jefferson, of E Company, is known to have won a Croix de Guerre, for rescuing a French family at Presles from a burning building. No records of these, however, have been found in the National Archive. At present, therefore, no further information is available.