8th Rifle Brigade - from Normandy to the Baltic - June 1944- May 1945
Maps on this page represent 8th Rifle Brigade’s route through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. They show the exact (dashed red line) or approximate (dot-dash red line) route or center-line (CL) taken by the battalion. The caption below each map gives relevant dates, actions and locations (with locations shown on map being underlined), together with the map name, scale (1:25,000 and less, up to 1:500,000) and date. All maps used are wartime GSGS editions (Geographical Section General Staff). The original plain maps can be seen when using the arrows next to most maps. With a few exceptions they are of decent quality, and can be copied and then enlarged. If you have questions or information to add, please get in touch using the contract form.
FRANCE (13 June – 3 September 1944)
(01) Index to maps 02, 13, 14, 15 and 16 below (GSGS 4042 Le Have, 1:500,000, 1943)
The Battle for Normandy
(02) Index to maps 03 to 12 below (GSGS 4249 St-Lo-Vire (6F) and Caen-Falaise (7F) combined, 1:100,000, 1944)
(03) 13 June 1944. 8RB’s arrives in Normandy, landing near Graye-sur-Mer and then moving on to Creully (GSGS 4347 Creully, 1:25,000, 20 May 1944)
(04) 13 to 26 June 1944. 8RB moves on to Cully on 13th and stays in Cully and Coulombs until 25th (GSGS 4347 Thaon, 1:25,000, June 1943)
(05) 26 to 30 June 1944. After moving from Cully to Cheux, 8RB crosses river Odon to Baron and ‘Hill 112‘ , where the battalion fights its first major action, in Operation Epsom. (GSGS 4347 Cheux, 1:25,000, July 1943)
(06) 30 June to 18 July 1944. After Epsom, 8RB withdraws, to Tourmouville and then to Norrey-en-Bessin, from 1 to 8 July they reorganize near Le-Mesnil-Patry and then from 8 to 16 July hold a defensive position near Le-Haut-du-Bosq. After a brief stay east of Cully, on 17 July they move to Plumetot and then to 022746. Later that night (17th/18th) 8RB crosses the river Orne, to their concentration area just north of Ranville. At 0815 hrs on the 19th, the battalion crosses the startline for Operation Goodwood and starts moving south in the direction of Demouville (GSGS 4347 Cheux, 1:25,000, 19 May 1944)
(07) 18-19 July 1944. Operation Goodwood. 8RB sees action in and around Demouville, Grentheville, Le-Mesnil-Frementel, Bras and Hubert-Folie (GSGS 4347 Caen, 1:25,000, March 1944)
(08) 19-31 July 1944. From Goodwood to Bluecoat and start of Operation Bluecoat. After Goodwood 8RB first moves to Giberville and then to Cussy, 2 miles west of Bayeux, where from 22nd to 29th the battalion reorganizes. On the 29th they move to Planqueray, north of Caumont. On the 30th Operation Bluecoat starts. 8RB moves from Caumont through Sept-Vents to Saint-Martin-des-Besaces, where serious opposition is encountered (GSGS 4347 Torigni, 1:25,000, July 1943)
(09) 31 July – 2 August 1944. After moving from Caumont to Saint-Martin-des-Besaces, on the 1st the battalion breaks through at the latter place and from there moves on unopposed through the Foret d’Eveque to Le-Beny-Bocage, where the night is spent. The following day the advance south continues (GSGS 4347 Torigni-sur-Vire, 1:50,000, 1943)
(10) 2 – 16 August 1944. On 2 August 8RB arrives at Presles, advances to Chenedolle and then falls back to Le-Bas-Perrier, where the Perrier ridge is held for two days against very heavy attacks. From the 5th until the 10th the battalion agian is in a defensive position, just south of Presles. It marks the end of Bluecoat and the beginning of the breakout of Normandy. After this, rest and reinforcement follows around Le-Beny-Bocage and then the battalion advances again, on the 12th. They reach Vassy on the 15th (GSGS 4347 Vassy, 1:25,000, April 1944)
(11) 15 – 18 August 1944. From Vassy onwards, 8RB advances with relatively little opposition, through Cerisi-Belle-Etoile, Aubusson, Athis, Notre-Dame-du-Rocher, and moves on to Putanges (GSGS 4347 Flers, 1:50,000, 1943)
(12) 18 – 21 August 1944. On the 18th 8RB arrives at Putanges, to find bridge across river Orne blown. After a Bailey Bridge is built, on the 19th they continue their advance through Sentilly towards Bailleul, where they arrive on the 20th. On the 21st 8RB is pulled out of the Falaise Pocket and directed south, towards Argentan. (GSGS 4250 Falaise, 1:50,000, 1943)
To the Seine
(13) 21 August 1944. Argentan and then on to Sainte-Gauburge-Sainte-Colombe (GSGS 4249 Alencon-Mayenne (7G), 1:100,000, 1944)
(14) 21 – 28 August 1944. After passing through Sainte-Gauburge-Sainte-Colombe on the 21st, on the 22nd the 8th Rifle Brigade arrives at L’Aigle and then goes on to the area of Rai-sur-Risle, for a five day rest period. (GSGS 4249 Mortagne – Nogent-le-Rotrou, 1:100,000, 1943)
(15) 28 August 1944. On 28 August 1944 the Seine is crossed at Vernon. From there the battalion travels north-east, through Tilly and Etrepagny, to Marseille-en-Beauvais. (GSGS 4042 Rouen-Paris, 1:250,000, June 1944)
Heading for the Belgian border
(16) 28 – 30 August 1944. After crossing the Seine on the 28th, Marseille-en-Beauvais is reached on the 30th and Amiens on the same day. (GSGS 4042 Havre-Amiens, 1:250,000, 1943)
(17) 30 August 1944. Tilloy-les-Conty, Amiens and across the river Somme. (GSGS 4040 Amiens, 1:50,000, 1943)
(18) 30 August 1944. H Company’s route through Amiens, along the Boulevard d’Alsace and across the Beauville Bridge. (GSGS 77, Amiens, Through-Way Town Plans, France, 1944)
(19) 1 – 2 September 1944. The day after liberating Amiens, 8RB continues its advance and the same day passes Arras ‘on the left’. On the 2nd they pass through Carvin and head towards Lille. (GSGS 4042, Amiens-Mons, 1:100,000, 1943)
(20) 2 – 3 September 1944. Lille is bypassed to the south and then on 3 September, the 5th anniversary of the start of the war for Great Britain, at 1100 hrs., the battalion crosses the Franco-Belgian border near Baisieux. (GSGS 4042, Lille-Ghent, 1:250,000, 1943)
BELGIUM (3 September – 20 September 1944)
(21) 3 September 1944. Half an hour after crossing the border the battalion arrives in Tournai and then moves on in the direction of Renaix (or Ronse). (GSGS 4040, Tournai, 1:50,000, 1943)
(22) Index to maps 21 above and 23, 24, 25, 27 and 28 below (GSGS 4042 Lille-Ghent and Brussels-Liege combined, 1:250,000, 1943)
(23) From Tournai, still on 3 September 1944, the 8th Rifle Brigade moves North (the Guards Armoured Division, also passing through Tournai, moves East, towards Brussels), and continues its speedy advance through Renaix and Nederbrakel. (GSGS 4336, Tournai, 1:100,000, 1942).
(24) After Nederbrakel the advance continues through Ninove, after which the route most likely took the battalion through Assche and Merchtem, and then for G Company North towards of Boom and for H Company a bit more East in the direction of Malines., with both companies ultimately heading for the port of Antwerp. (GSGS 4336, Brussels, 1:100,000, 1943).
(25) Early morning, 4 September 1944, G and H Companies push on – through Boom and Malines respectively – towards Antwerp, which is liberated that day. The battalion has advanced 450 miles since leaving L’Aigle six days earlier. (GSGS 4336, Antwerp, 1:100,000, 1944).
(26) 4 – 8 September 1944. Antwerp is entered from the South-West by G Company, coming from Boom, and from the South-East by H Company, coming from Kontich. H Company together with 23rd Hussars advance along the Mechelse Steenweg. The people of Antwerp are ecstatic. 8RB stays in and around Antwerp until the 8th. They try to cross the Albert Canal in the North of the city, but are held up by strong German defenses. (GSGS 4420, Antwerp, 1:100,000, 1944).
(27) 8 September 1944. 8RB moves from Antwerp, back through Malines and then further East, toward Diest. The route possibly leads through Werchter and Aershot. (GSGS 4336, Brussels, 1:100,000, 1943).
(28) 8 – 20 September 1944. After Diest the Albert Canal is finally crossed on the 9th, at Beringen. Helchteren is reached on the 10th. Especially H Company takes heavy casualties. From 12 to 16 September the battalion halts and rests at Petit-Brogel. On the 20th 8RB crosses the Belgian-Dutch border, between Lille-St.-Hubert and Heeze. Heeze is reached that night. (GSGS 4336, Maeseykck, 1:100,000, 1943).
HOLLAND (20 September – 16 December 1944)
(If you can help to find 1:50,000 scale maps of areas shown below, please get in touch.)
(29) Index to maps 30 to 38 below (GSGS 4042 Walcheren-Amsterdam and Brussels-Liege combined, 1:250,000, 1943)
(30) 20 September 1944. The battalion probably passes through Maarheeze and Leende and that night reaches Heeze. (GSGS 4427, Maarheeze, 1:25,000, 1943).
(31) 21 September 1944. The 8th Rifle Brigade advances from Heeze to Geldrop, in then further North, toward Nuenen. (GSGS 4427, Geldrop, 1:25,000, 1943).
(32) 22 September 1944. After a night just South of Nuenen, on the 22nd F and G Company run into trouble at Gerwen and H Company reaches Stiphout, from where they carry out patrols in the direction of Helmond. (GSGS 4427, Helmond, 1:25,000, 1943).
(33) 23 September 1944. On the 23rd the battalion moves back through Nuenen, Geldrop and Heeze and then East, to Someren. (GSGS 4427, Geldrop, 1:25,000, 1943).
(34) 23 – 24 September 1944. From Someren the 8th Rifle Brigade continued through Asten, Ommel and then to Vlierden, where H Company ran into serious trouble. Vlierden was taken the following day, on the 24th. The battalion then moved on to Deurne where the night was spent. (GSGS 4427, Asten, 1:25,000, 1943).
(35) 25 September – 4 November 1944. On the 25th the battalion moved on, from Deurne to De Rips, where they would stay for some three weeks, until 16 October. They then moved to Meerselo, Heide (on the 18th) and to Leunen on the 19th, where they remained until the 25th. Then there followed a week at IJsselsteijn, until the 1 November 1944 and again to Leunen from 2nd to 4th. On 4 November the battalion finally left the area, heading some 25 miles north, to Hatert close to Nijmegen, possibly via Venray, which had been liberated (and heavily destroyed) in mid October and Grave. (GSGS 4427, Venraij, 1:25,000, 1943).
(36) 4 – 11 November 1944. The battalion remained at Hatert, some 3 miles south of Nijmegen, for about a week. (GSGS 4427, Groesbeek, 1:25,000, 1943).
(37) 11 – 28 November 1944. After a week at Hatert the 8th Rifle Brigade returned to Leunen and on the 20th again to IJsselsteijn. On the 28th the battalion moved again, eastward, to Swolgen, possibly passing through Schoon. (GSGS 4427, Venraij, 1:25,000, 1943).
(38) 28 November – 16 December 1944. After a week at Swolgen (from 28 November to 6 December), the 8th Rifle Brigade was relieved and moved on to Melderslo, and then again, on the 13th, to Grubbenvorst. On the 16th the battalion left Holland for what should have been a period of rest in Belgium. (GSGS 4414, Horst, 1:25,000, 1943).
BELGIUM (16 December 1944 – 11 February 1945)
(39) Index to maps 40 to 43 below. Between 16 December 1944 and 11 February 1945, the 8th Rifle Brigade saw a large part of Belgium. First they travelled from Eindhoven (Holland) to the area of Ypres, then to the Ardennes, and finally, to celebrate Christmas, to Bree (second half of January 1945!). In February they went back to Holland. (GSGS 4042 Lille-Ghent and Brussels-Liege and Namur-Luxembourg combined, 1:250,000, 1943).
(40) 17 – 20 December 1944. After four months in action, the 8th Rifle Brigade was meant to have a period of rest and to celebrate Christmas in the area of Ypres, with HQ, E and G Companies in Poperinghe, F Company in Watou and H Company in Proven. Already on the 20th they were forced to leave, to reinforce the Americans in the Ardennes, where Hitler’s final offensive had begun. (GSGS 4040 Poperinghe, 1:50,000, 1943).
(41) 20 December 1944 – 2 January 1945. The 8th Rifle Brigade arrived in the Ardennes on 21 December 1944, HQ and E Companies in Anthee, G and H Companies to defend the bridge at Dinant and Givet and F Coy in reserve in St. Gerard. On the 23rd F Coy moved to Namur, and on the 26th to Falmagne. G Coy moved to Mesnil-Eglise on the 28th and on the 1st and 2nd of January 1945 first F Coy and then HQ and E Companies move on, through Beauraing in the direction of Wellin. (GSGS 4336 Namur, 1:100,000, 1943)
(42) 2 -14 January 1945. While HQ and E Coy remained at Wellin, on the 3rd, F Coy advanced to hill Chapel de Notre Dame de Bure, or ‘Chapel Hill‘. he Heavy fighting took place at Bure. On the 5th H Coy takes over Chapel Hill, with F Coy moving to Chanly. G Coy moves to Lavaux St. Anne on the 7th, and H Coy on the 10th takes over the railway station at Ferrieres. Finally, on the 11th the 29th Armoured Brigade is ‘passing into reserve’, and on the 14th the 8th Rifle Brigade leaves the Ardennes, heading for Bree, near the Dutch border. (GSGS 4040 Wellin, 1:25,000, 1943)
(43) 14 January – 11 February 1945. On 14 and 15 January the battalion traveled to Bree, via Cinay, Namur, St. Trond (where they spent the night), Hasselt and Hechtel, Ice covered roads made progress extremely slow. At Bree the 8th Rifle Brigade finally had their rest period, some training and their belated Christmas celebrations, on 21 January 1945. On 11 February they went back to Holland, and back to the war. (GSGS 4336 Maeseyck, 1:100,000, 1943)
HOLLAND (11 February – 12 March 1945)
(44) Index to maps 45 to 49 below. From 11 February 1945 the 8th Rifle Brigade first stayed in the area of Panningen, then went to Roosendaal, on the 17th, and on the 23rd to the area of Megen and Nijmegen. From there, on 12 March, they went back south, to the area of Diest, south of Tilburg, in Belgium. (GSGS 4042 Walcheren-Amsterdam and Brussels-Liege combined, 1:250,000, 1943)
(45) 11 – 17 February 1945. With Battalion HQ and F and G Companies at Helden, E and HQ Companies at De Heibloem and H Company at Egchell, the 8th Rifle Brigade was again watching and guarding the river Maas. (GSGS 4427 Nederweert, 1:25,000, 1944)
17 – 24 February 1945. After Panningen, the 8th Rifle Brigade moves to Roosendaal, for an unknown purpose. It becomes a short period of rest and training. On the 23rd the battalion first moves to Tilburg, where they spend the night, and then on to the area of Megen.
(46) 24 February – 12 March 1945. From Tilburg the battalion moves to the area of Megen and Nijmegen. Battalion HQ and HQ Coy at first both stay in Megen. The next day HQ moves on to Appeltern. F Coy first begins at Altforst and then moves on, the next day, to Wamel (see map 49), E and G Coys start at Maasbommel and the next day go to Oudemaasdijk and Dreumel respectively (see map 49). H Coy goes straight on, to guard the bridges at Nijmegen (see map 47 and 48). (GSGS 4427 Druten, 1:25,000, 1944)
(47) 24 February – 12 March 1945. While the rest of the battalion remains in the area of Megen, H Company moves east, to Nijmegen, to guard the three (!) bridges there (see aerial reconnaissance photo 48) . (GSGS 4427 Nijmegen, 1:25,000, 1944)
(48) 24 February – 12 March 1945. H Company is given the task to guard the rail bridge (west), motorway bridge (east) and pontoon bridge (middle) at Nijmegen. Details on the number of sentries at each point, including arms to be carried, and aerial reconnaissance photo above, showing all points to be guarded, can be found in the battalion War Diary for February 1945 . (reconnaissance photo, 2 October 1944)
(49) 24 February – 12 March 1945. While H Company has moved east, E, F and G Companies move west. E Coy to Oudemaasdijk, F Coy to Wamel and G Coy to Dreumel. Various patrols to and across the river Waal are made. On 12 March the battalion moves south, via Tilburg, to the area of Diest, in Belgium. (GSGS 4427 Tiel, 1:25,000, 1944)
BELGIUM (12 – 28 March 1945)
*** Still looking for the right GSGS map which matches the description below. ***
(50) 12 – 28 March 1945. About two weeks were spent in the area around Diest, with HQ and HQ Coy at Averbode, .E Coy at Tesselt, F Coy in Schoenderbeuken, G Coy at Ramsel and H Coy at Eynthout. .Time was spent on training, getting familiar with the new Comet tanks and some men got a chance to go on leave to Brussels. On he 28th the battalion leaves for Wesel and for the final advance through Germany. (GSGS ##).
GERMANY (28 March – 8 May 1945)
(51) Index to maps 52 to 64 below (Compilation of six GSGS 4072 maps, 1:500,000, 1943)
(52) 28 – 29 March 1945. After moving from the area of Diest to Wesel on the 28th, the 8th Rifle Brigade crossed the river Rhine that afternoon, and harboured outside Wesel for the night. (GSGS 4416 Essen, 1:100,000, 1944)
(53) 29 – 31 March 1945. On the night of 29 March the battalion leaguers south of Raesfeld and on the 31st near Horstmar. In between some skirmishes take place, like at Holtwick, and lots of prisoners are taken. (GSGS 4416 Bocholt, 1:100,000, 1944)
(54) 1 – 2 April 1945. On 1 April, the battalion remains at Sinningen all day. H Coy mops up eight 88mm guns and some 250 prisoners near Saerbeck. The next day the battalion moves on, north, to Riesenbeck, (GSGS 4416 Munster, 1:100,000, 1944)
(55) 2 – 4 April 1945. After crossing the canal at Riesenbeck, the battalion moves south again, to Tecklenburg (see map 54), where strong resistane is met and an attack is launched by F Coy. The night is spent north of Tecklenburg. The next day, another canal is crossed at Eversheide and Osnabruck is by-passed to the north. In the evening F Company rushes a bridge near Osterkappeln and crosses the Ems-Weser Canal. On 4 April, the advance continues, towards Essern. (GSGS 4416 Osnabruck, 1:100,000, 1944)
(56) 4 – 9 April 1945. On the 4th the battalion leaguers near Essern and by 1000 hrs the next day they reach Stolzenau and the River Weser. There, from 5 to 7 April, an attempt is made to establish a bridgehead across the river and some of the worst fighting since Normandy takes place. On 7April, the battalion reorganizes at Nendorf and on the 8th they finally cross the River Weser, at Petershagen.. Late that night the battalion leaguers at Husum. and the next day moves off at 0640 hrs, towards Steimbke . (GSGS 4416 Minden, 1:100,000, 1944)
(57) 9 – 15 April 1945. At Steimbke resistance is met and G and H Companies put in an attack which takes most of the day. Meanwhile, F Coy reahes the River Leine at Nord-Drebben, only to find the bridge blown. 10 to 12 April is spent near Rodewald, in cleaning up and resting. On the 14th the River Aller is crossed at Essel, where they remain for that day. On the 15th they move on through Winsen and Walle, to Belsen. (GSGS 4416 Hannover, 1:100,000, 1944)
(58) 15 – 27 April 1945. The War Diary, for 15 April 1945, mentions nothing special about Belsen, even though the concentration camp there was of course liberated by the 11th Armoured Division. On the 16th, F Coy has a nasty battle at Reiningen. The battalion spends the night at Wriedel. From 17 to 19 April the battalion is to be found in the area of Seedorf and Luneburg (see maps 59 and 60), and then on the 19th moves a bit west again, through Luneburg to Westergellersen, where they stay from 20 to 27 April for a long needed cleaning up and vehicle maintenance. (GSGS 4416 Soltau, 1:100,000, 1943)
(59) 17 – 19 April 1945. From Wriedel (map 58), on the 17th, the 8th Rifle Brigade moves to Seedorf, where G Coy has a battle on the cross roads just east of the town. H Coy advances to Barum, which took some time to clear. The battalion eventually leaguers outside Barum, and on the 18th moves north, to Barendorf, where battalion HQ remains, with H, F and E Companies at Reinstorf and G Coy at Neetze (map 60). On the 19th the battalion moves through Luneburg to Westergellersen (map 58). (GSGS 4416 Saltzwedel, 1:100,000, 1943)
(60) 18 – 19 April 1945. While HQ and other Companies were at Barendorf and Reinstorf, G Company was a little norht, at Neetze. While there, they manage to capture ‘Belli’s travelling circus’, including three elephants and circus staff. On the 19th they push a patrol to Karze and later that day , with the rest of the battalion, they move through Luneburg to Westergellersen (map 58). (GSGS 4416 Lauenburg, 1:100,000, 1944)
(61) 27 30 April 1945. After their break in Westergellersen (map 58), on the 27th the 8th Rifle Brigade continues its advance, to Winsen, south east of Hamburg. They stay there until 30 April and then briefly return to Westergellersen (to join up again with the 23rd Hussars). Later that same day, they finally cross the River Elbe, heading for Schwarzenbeck (map62). (GSGS 4416 Hamburg, 1:100,000, 1943)
(62) 30 April – 2 May 1945. Schwarzenbeck is reached at midnight. Next morning, 1 May 1945, before daylight, at Sahms G Coy meets two Tigers and in the evening H Coy needs to attack Kankelau. The battalion swings off into the woods pushes on to Breitenfelde and then, on the 2nd, races on to Lubeck. (GSGS 4416 Lauenburg, 1:100,000, 194
(63) 2 – 11 May 1945. At Lubeck a ‘Stalag’ is liberated, with several thousand prisoners of all nationalities. From Lubeck, on the 3rd, F Coy goes on to Travemunde, and H Coy to Neustadt, where they witness the sinking of the Cap Arcona. On the 2nd some 2,000 prisoners are taken, including four generals, on the 3rd over 20,000. VE-Day finds the battalion at Niendorf, where they spend from 3 to 10 May, waiting to move further north. (GSGS 4416 Lubeck, 1:100,000, 1944).
(64) 11 May 1945. Travelling 75 miles from Niendorf to Schleswig. (GSGS 4416 Neumunster, 1:100,000, 1944).
(65) 11 May 1945 – 1946. From 11 May 1945 onward, the battalion is billeted at a Schloss Gotorf in Schleswig. (GSGS 4416 Kiel, 1:100,000, 1944).