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


This page gives an overview of the whereabouts and activities of the 8th Rifle Brigade from its formation in early 1939 (when still named 2nd Battalion The London Rifle Brigade) until 5 June 1944, the day before D-Day. Most of the text on this page is based on the battalion’s War Diaries [13-17].

March – October 1939 – London

Formation of the Battalion – then named 2nd Battalion the London Rifle Brigade – took place at the end of March 1939. It was to be renamed 8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade only in early 1941. After formation, it took until 1 September 1939 for embodiment of the Battalion to begin. One day later, the Battalion’s War Diary states, already 550 Rifleman have been embodied. Then, on 3 September 1939, Great Britain declares war on Germany. On that day, the Battalion and its Companies are commanded by the following officers (companies commanded by Captains!):

  • CO: Lt. Col. A.T. Bignold de Colohan TD
  • Adjutant: Maj. T.R. Shepherd Cross
  • HQ Company: Capt. J.H. Stransom DCM
  • H Company: Capt. C.H.F. Gough
  • E Company: Capt. J.E.L. Wright
  • G Company: Capt. C.E. Suter
  • F Company: Capt. The Lord Inchiquin

Most of these officers had also served during WW1. Captain Gough is ‘Freddy’ Gough, of later Arnhem fame, where he commanded the 1st Airborne Recce troops during the Battle of Arnhem.

On 11 October, the Battalion gets inspected by the Lord Mayor of London, the Right Honorable Sir F.H. Bowater in Temple Gardens. The occasion was doubly historic as it was the first time a Lord Mayor of London entered the Gardens, where his jurisdiction does not run, since 1662.

The Battalion’s duties during September and October 1939 mainly consisted of guard duties on vulnerable points in London and later in an area northwest of London. Training was hindered, not only by these duties but also by a lack of equipment and instructors. Apart from all this, forming the Battalion, in these early stages, was a task in itself.

By 30 October, H.Q. and H.Q. Platoon left London, for billets just outside London, in Eastcote, Middlesex. The rest of the Battalion must have followed on almost immediately, as by 2 November, the Battalion’s location in its War Diary is put down as being Eastcote.

2nd London Rifle Brigade's first C.O., Lt.-Col. A.T. Bignold de Cologan. TD
Inspection by the Lord Mayor of London, 11 October 1939 - Getty Images

November – 12 December 1939 – Eastcote

War Diary entries for November and early December 1939 are very few. Most notable is Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Macgrigor Bart voluntary reverting to Major, in order to become 2i/c of the Battalion, on 2 November 1939.

12 December 1939 – 10 February 1940 – Beckenham

24 December 24, 21:00 hrs.: “With 20 turkeys waiting to be cooked for [next day’s] mid-day Christmas dinner, the Battalion Cookhouse caught fire and was burnt to the ground. The local A.F.S. were magnificent. Half of their personnel concentrated on putting out the fire and when this was in danger of happening, the other half added fuel to the flames.” In spite of this, all ranks had their Christmas at 12.30 hrs. the next Christmas Day, with, as tradition prescribed, the Officers and Sergeants carving and waiting upon the men.

At Christmas morning, a 300 strong parade service is held at Saint Paul’s, Beckenham, officiated by Reverend Laycock and the Battalion’s Chaplain, Reverend Captain Guy Whitcombe, with the local residents providing a gift for each Officer and man of the Battalion. The parade is followed by the mid-day Christmas dinner already mentioned. The festivities are followed by a period of Christmas leave for the Battalion.

To ‘compensate’ for the Christmas festivities and leave, in Beckenham, in December and January, the Riflemen were billeted in unfurnished houses, with blackout consisting of the windows being painted black, causing psychological depression amongst the men and a serious increase in sickness and hospital treatment. On 2 February, Lieutenant-Colonel Bignold de Cologan is succeeded by Sir Charles Macgrigor Bart, who thereby not much later regained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

10 February – end March 1940 – West India, Millwall, Surrey Commercial and St. Katharine Dock area

By 10 February 1940, the Battalion moves again, to another London area, taking over V.P. (Vulnerable Point) duties at the London Docks. On 27 February, 2nd Lieutenant Farmiloe and Captains Gough and Suter have volunteered and been accepted for special duty in Finland. Their posting away from the Battalion is cancelled, however, by 21 March, after Finland, on 12 March 1940, has made peace with Russia, then still siding with Germany through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Another interesting entry in the Battalion’s War Diary dates from 8 March, when it is noted that “Visitors have not been over many but it is interesting to note that as a general rule the brassier the brass hat the less he can get done for you. Much more is achieved by approaches to humbler mortals such as R.E. Captains, sympathetic supply officers and even mere civilians, backed by an array of the right kind of bottles.

End March – 10 May 1940 – Golders Green

By 31 March, possibly one or two days earlier, the Battalion has moved to Golders Green, in the northwest of London. On the 31st, the Bishop of Willesden holds a voluntary service and discussions at the King Alfred’s School. As the Reverend Guy Vernon Smith MC, he had been the Battalion’s Chaplain during the 1914-1918 war, and for this war has sent over his godson, Captain the Reverend Guy Whitcombe, to take up the same position. One day later, news comes in about one of the Battalion’s “Seagull Shooting” parties – on special duty protecting ships at the North Sea – has managed to shoot down a German bomber attacking them. As the War Diary puts it, it is the Battalion’s “first loss inflicted on Nazidom.

5 April sees the formation of a Brigade’s Anti-Tank Company, to be composed of 3 Platoons, one from each of the Battalions. Second Lieutenant Faulkner is appointed to command the London Rifle Brigade Platoon. A few weeks later, on 25 April, the 2nd London Rifle Brigade gets inspected by the G.O.C. Home Forces, Lt. Gen. Sir Walter Kirke. “The G.O.C. inspected each rank “kindly pausing now and then to congratulate the men” and afterwards inspected some billets from HQ Company.

Bishop of Willesden

10 May – 16 June 1940 – West Norwood

Children's Home, Elder Road, West Norwood

10 May 1940, Germany invades France and the Low Countries. The 2nd London Rifle Brigade moves to West Norwood, their fifth and last move inside London. At West Norwood, they get billeted in the Children’s Homes at Elder Road (see photo). One Company is at Beckenham. On 6 June, 2nd Lieutenant Kay takes command of the Battalion’s Motor Cycle Platoon. Much like with the Anti-Tank unit, a Company is formed out of Motor Cycle Platoons from all the Brigade’s Battalions.

16 -24 June 1940 – Cambridgeshire

On 16 June, the Battalion moves by train to the village of March, Cambridgeshire, some 90 miles north of London. There, the Rifle Companies are spread over a large area for defence of various bridges and other points deemed to be of value to the enemy. Battalion H.Q. and H.Q. Company are at Eastwood House, the men sleeping in tents, the officers sleeping at the House. A week after arriving at March, the Riflemen move again once, to Abington.

24 June – 5 August 1940 – Staffordshire

Abington was only a stopover, because next day the Battalion moves to Rugeley, Staffordshire. Not the Adjutant’s favorite place on earth apparently. In the War Diary he writes: “Battalion moves by train from Abington to Rugeley, thus renewing L.R.B.’s acquaintance with that sad and insalubrious Sahara, for it was to this forgotten spot on the earth’s surface, that those men who were under age at the cessation of hostilities in 1918 were sent for retention in the Army. They have not forgotten it – nor shall we.” Fortunately, on the 30th, the Battalion moves on a little further north, to the village of Ingestre. Battalion H.Q., there, is located at The Old Rectory.

On 16 July, one hundred Other Ranks arrive at 18.00 hrs., posted to 2 L.R.B. from 2nd Motor Training Battalion mainly consisting of reservists, and regular Riflemen. Some had been with the B.E.F. in France and a few had been wounded, many being known to some of our officers. At this time too, the Battalion received some Bren Gun Carriers – four – which delighted the hearts of the Carrier Platoon. Still, Anti-Aircraft Platoon still had no Motley mountings for their Bren guns, Mortar Platoon had no mortars, and transport is a miracle of makeshift.

5 August – 9 December 1940 – Wales

On 5 August, the Battalion moves to Wales, by road, to Porthcawl. Either in late July or early August, following the breaking up of the Brigade Motor Cycle Company – and presumably also of the Brigade Anti-Tank Company – the Battalion forms a Motor Cycle Platoon and an Tank Hunting Platoon, both attached to H.Q. Company. On 29 August, “Paddock”, the delightful bitch who had assumed the position of Battalion mascot, and the joint property of the Padre and the Medical Officer, is posted missing. On 13 October, an advance party leaves for Monmouth. The rest of the Battalion is to follow two days later.

2 L.R.B’s War Diary, entry for 11 November 1940: “First Official Intimation that 2 L.R.B. will become a Motor Battalion in 11th Armoured Division.” 30 November: Battalion strength 782. On 7 December 1940, Brigadier H.A. Freeman Attwood O.B.E., M.C. addresses the Battalion on its departure from the 141st (London) Infantry Brigade (formerly 5 (Lon.) Inf. Bde.) in which it has been since formation. Two days later, the Battalion leaves by train, for Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. The Battalion enjoyed its stay in Monmouth, where billets were comfortable and the townspeople did everything in their power to entertain them.

Poster, ca. 1939 or 1940 - IWM H1159

9 December 1940 – 6 March 1941 – Uttoxeter, Staffordshire

For a period of nearly three months, the Battalion is billeted in and around Uttoxeter, with H.Q. located in The Drill Hall. On 26 December, Christmas service is held at the Town Hall. At the end of the year 1940, Battalion strength is 34 Officers and 836 Other Ranks. On 11 January 1941, the Battalion is visited by Brigadier G.H.M. Pete, commander 29th Armoured Brigade, in which the Battalion is to serve together with the 2nd Fife and Forfarshire Yeomanry, the 23rd Hussars and the 24th Lancers. Apart from the Lancers being replaced by the 3rd Royal Tanks Regiment, in early 1944, the composition of the Brigade will remain unaltered for the rest of the war.

On 18 January 1941, the Battalion is redesignated to “8th Battalion The Rifle Brigade (London Rifle Brigade)”, in short “8th Rifle Brigade.” On 22 February, the Battalion takes part in 1941 War Weapons Week, marching past Colonel Sir Perceval Haywood, Zone commander, Home Guard.  

6 March – 10 April 1941 – Rawdon, Yorkshire

It took three trains for the Battalion to move to Leeds, on 6 March 1941. From there, the journey continues to Rawdon, where the Battalion will remain until 5 April. On 12 March and 3 April, the Battalion is paid a visit by the Divisional Commander, Major-General Percy Hobart. By the end of March, Battalion strength is 36 Officers, 764 Other Ranks and 50% of its Motor Equipment. Between 1 and 10 April, first G Company and last H.Q. Company move from Rawdon to Thirsk, the Battalion’s next port of call.

10 April 1941 – 14 June 1941 – Thirsk, Yorkshire

Probably as a result of the Battalion’s improved situation regarding ‘Motor Equipment’, their move from Rawdon to Thirsk is by road. On 25 April, 50 men from G and H Companies, commanded by Major J.A. Savill, take part in the Thirsk War Weapons Week parade. The salute is taken by Air Vice Marshall Cunningham. A few days before leaving Thirsk, on 9 June, the Battalion is again inspected by the Divisional Commander.

14 June – 17 August 1941 – Pickering, Yorkshire

The Battalion’s time at Pickering is spent mainly in ‘intensive platoon training’, which goes on from 15 June until 11 August. On 17 and 18 June, G Company gives a demonstration of a ‘Motor Platoon in the attack’, for the Divisional Commander and C.O. 29th Armoured Brigade, Brigadier C.H.M. Peto (photo left).

17 August – 12 December 1941 – Whitby, Yorkshire

On 17 August, the Battalion moves by road from Pickering to Whitby, where the Brigade takes up quarters on the seafront. F and H Companies are located a few miles outside the town at Ruswarp and Aislaby respectively. The first day of September sees the arrival of 38 15-cwt trucks, to make up War Establishment of 15-cwts.

In September and October a series of large scale exercised are bring held. From 15 to 17 September, Brigade exercise ‘Chris’, followed by Divisional exercise ‘Bull’, from 21 to 23 September, and Northern Command exercise ‘Percy’ from 10 to 16 October. From 25 September to 5 October the Battalion sends umpires, White Scout Cars and wireless operators to assist in Eastern, Southern and South-Eastern Commands exercise ‘Bumper’. On 29 October a draft of 150 men is received from the 2nd Motor Training Battalion at Tidworth. On 6 November, the 11th Armoured Division is inspected at Duncombe Park, by Prime minister Sir Winston Churchill.

Churchill inspecting what is believed to be the 8th Rifle Brigade with their new 15-cwt trucks - IWM H15378

12 December 1941 – 26 April 1942 – Scarborough, Yorkshire

12 December: the Battalion moves from Whitby to Scarborough. On 28 January 1942, the General Officer Commanding the 11th Armoured Division, Major-General Percy Hobart, gives a lecture to all ranks on ‘The North Africa Theatre of War’. During the whole of the Battalion’s period in Scarborough, several specific exercises and demonstrations are held, on movement, on attack and defence of a road convoy (a demonstration for R.A.S.C.), on casualty evacuation and on signals. In early February, a 3” Mortar Detachment is introduced for each Motor Company, and on 9 March, the 11th Armoured Division’s first anniversary is celebrated. On 18 March, a draft of 50 Other Ranks arrives, from the 2nd Motor Training Battalion, making the Battalion’s strength 1025 Officers and Men. At the end of the same month, two Canadian officers of the Lake Superior Regiment, join the 8th Rifle Brigade on attachment. After more than four months at Scarborough, on 26 and 27 April the Battalion moves to Brighton, staying the night at Lutterworth Transit Camp.

27 April – 10 August 1942 – Brighton, Sussex

C. in C. Home Forces (right) and Maj.-Gen. Hobart, C.O. 11th Armoured Division - IWM H21014

During their period at Brighton – or part of this period – the Battalion had a Detachment Camp at Bisley, some 50 miles away from Brighton, near Woking. On 1 May, a serious fire brakes out at this Detachment Camp. 15 Vehicles, 11 tents, 1 marques, 89 rifles, 6 Anti-Tank rifles, 3 pistols and 135 kits get destroyed. Private J.W. Elley (R.A.O.C.) and Rifleman F. Horwood get noticed for their gallant conduct in recuing several vehicles and property. Later on in May, all Companies fire their Rifle and L.M.G. Course at Bisley ranges.

From 9 to 11 May, the Battalion takes part in exercise Shiker, to test the handling of the 11th Armoured Division on its re-organised basis of one Armoured Brigade, one Infantry Brigade and Divisional Artillery. From 19 May until 1 June, Exercise Tiger takes place at Benenden. The exercise is an endurance test for men and vehicles. During the exercise another large fire is about to start, after a tin of petrol catches fire near a vehicle. Captain Kenneth Mackenzie, however, seizes the blazing petrol can and carries it approximately 20 yards away from the vehicle, thereby preventing serious damage to personnel and 

equipment, except himself. Captain Mackenzie sustains a severely burned left hand and is admitted to Leeds Carlton Hospital, Maidstone. He later returns to the Battalion and eventually will become Officer Commanding H Company.

Another main feature of the Battalion’s time at Brighton, is large drafts of officers and men being taken away as reinforcements for the British Army in North-Africa. On 13 May, the Battalion is required to find two drafts, of 88 and 33 Other Ranks respectively, on 16 May, 14 Officers, and on 21 May, 110 Other Ranks, all ‘for service overseas.’ As a result, the Battalion needs to re-organise onto a three Company basis, H Company being temporarily disbanded. In July, two more drafts of 17 Officers and 115 Other Ranks need to be provided. This large loss of Officers and Men is compensated by several drafts of Officers and a total number of 425 Other Ranks, in June and July. As this large number of new members needs to be given basic training, the Battalion is granted a period of two months free from higher formation exercises. By the end of July, total strength of the Battalion is 44 Officers and 1329 Other Ranks.

Also in June, the 8th Rifle Brigade gets inspected by the Army Commander on the 18th and by the Commander in Chief Home Forces on the 27th. For the last few days at Brighton, from 6 to 10 August, the Battalion moves from their billets in Brighton to Camp in Stanmer Park.

10 August – beginning October 1942 – Thetford, Norfolk

From Stanmer Park, on 10 August, the Battalion goes on to Thetford, Norfolk. Then on 16 August, the Battalion receives orders to mobilise for service overseas. Mobilisation is to be completed by 1 September 1942. Next day, the 17th, six 2 Pdr. Anti-Tank Guns are received, including six Lloyd carriers to move the guns. No. 2 Platoon, E Company, was disbanded to be converted to an Anti-Tank Gun Platoon, having all the new guns allotted to them. By the end of September, the Battalion has not yet moved overseas.

Beginning October – 10 October 1942 – West Ham, London

From 3 to 8 October, exercise ‘Sidney Street’, in bombed out West Ham, London Docks, takes place. The whole Battalion, less H Company, goes down. Battalion H.Q. being established at Belmond Road, West Ham and Motor Companies billeted at Valentines Park, Ilford, moving to street fighting area each day by truck.

On 8 October, the Battalion is paraded on the Artillery Ground, Finsbury Barracks and has the honour of being inspected by the Right Hon. The Lord Mayor of London, and afterward marching past him.

10 October 1942 – 7 March 1943 – Newmarket, Suffolk

On 10 October 1943, the Battalion moves to ‘winter quarters’ in and around Newmarket. On 30 October, new mobilization instructions are issued, regarding preparation required when being called forward to a Port of Embarkation, such as markings to be painting on vehicles, equipment and rations to be taken, restrictions regarding the amount of personal baggage that can be taken, availability of condoms on indent upon arrival, correspondence and censorship. Further detailed orders follow on 20 November, and in the period from 1 to 18 December, all member of the Battalion get 8 days embarkation leave. On the 25th, a Battalion Church Parade is held at Newmarket. Next day, the Officers and Serjeants Football Match is won by the Serjeants, by 1 – 0, followed by a Battalion Dance that evening at the Home Guard Drill Hall at Newmarket. Just before New Year, on 28 December 1942, 2 Platoon’s 2 Pounder Anti-Tank Guns get replaced by much heavier 6 Pounders.

On 6 January 1943, the Division is inspected by H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester. Being the Rifle Brigade’s Colonel in Chief, he afterwards has his lunch in the 8th Rifle Brigade’s Officers Mess. On the 25th, the inspection of the Division by the Duke of Gloucester is followed by an inspection by  H.M. The King. Also, in January, several Battalion exercises are held. Including one, on 31 January, at Stanford Battle area, Norfolk. Here, a competition in infiltration, for the Battalion’s Motor Companies is held, with live ammunition. It is won by 11 Platoon, G Company.

6 Pounders, during H.M. The King's Inspection of the 11th Armoured Division, 25 January 1943 - IWM H26780

Then, on 4 February 1943, the Battalion finally leaves for service overseas, when road and rail convoys start leaving for various ports. Next day, the rail parties arrive at port and Carriers are loaded onto the ships. On the 6th, however, orders are received for road convoys to halt and for loading parties to suspend loading at port. By 10 February, the Battalion has returned to Newmarket. As it seems, at the very last moment, it was decided Infantry instead of Armoured reinforcements were required in North-Africa. From 11 February until 7 March, 5 days’ leave is granted to all members of the Battalion. On 7 March, after nearly five months, the Battalion leaves Newmarket.

7 March – 6 June 1943 – Freckenham, Suffolk

From Newmarket, the Battalion moves by road, 6 miles north, to their location in Freckenham Camp. Two weeks later, on 21 March, when the Division’s 159 Infantry Brigade is training at Stanford Battle Area, the 8th Rifle Brigade takes joins to the role of the enemy. During this month, each Platoon also went off with its Platoon Commander for what is optimistically called a 3-days march. Some Platoons prove to be more adventurous than others, but all come through unscathed and refreshed after a difficult winter.

On 2 April, the 29th Armoured Brigade’s inter-Squadron/Company soccer Competition is held at Newmarket. In the finals, G Company beats C Squadron 23rd Hussars, by 3-1. Ten days later sand model exercise ‘Arthur’ is held. It deals with the attack and marks the beginning of a training period devoted to the attack running from 12 to 17 and again from 19 to 23 April 1943. From 22 to 24 April, F Company fires the War Classification Courses for rifle and LMG on Thetford Ranges. They have 50 marksmen on rifle and 8 on LMG. On 24 April, an attack exercise based on sand model exercise ‘Arthur’ is held at Standford Battle Area. G and H Companies and two Companies of the 1st Motor Battalion Grenadier Guards attack successfully. From 26 to 30 April, there are there is another Company attack training period, and G Company does its War Classification Course.

6 May: Brigade rehearsal for ‘Black Bull’, a Brigade demonstration to the Minister of War of the Armoured Brigade in the attack. 8 May: exercise ‘Minow’, unrehearsed Brigade in attack. Battalion Sports are held on 22 May, all day, in Chippenham Park, with prizes presented bu Mrs. E.D. Treneer-Michell, followed by Brigade Sports on 25 May in Cambridge, at Fenners Cricket Ground. There, prizes are presented by Mrs. O.L. Prior-Palmer. The 8th Rifle Brigade wins the Regimental Challenge Cup. On 31 May, a competition for the best garden is won by H Company’s Mortar detachment. On 1 June, the Battalion garden competition is followed by a shooting competition at Garboldisham Range, between 8th Rifle Brigade, 70th Rifle Brigade and 1st Motor Battalion Grenadier Guards. A Company from the Grenadier Guards wins. Second to fifth places are taken by 8th Rifle Brigade’s HQ, H, F and G Companies respectively.

7 June – 31 December 1943 – Hunmanby, Yorkshire

After a 200 mile journey, the Battalion arrives at Hunmanby on 7 June. Three days later, the Battalion receives orders to re-mobilise to Home Service Scale by 7 July. Chances of being sent overseas seem to have passed, at least for the immediate future. On 14 June, a Motor Platoon and two sections of carriers from H Company represent the Battalion in the March Past during the Wings for Victory Week at Bridlington. A little over one week later a boxing competition with R.A.F. Scarborough is won by the R.A.F. by 4-3.

In July, from 1 until 20 July, the three Motor Companies go out for combined training camps with the Infantry Battalions from the Division’s 159 Infantry Brigade. F Company with 3rd Monmouthshire at North Burton Camp, G Company with 4th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry at Burrow House and H Company with the 1st Herefordshire at Butterwick. From 7 to 9 and from 11 to 12 July, parts of the Battalion acted as enemy for Corps and Divisional exercises in the Wolds Area. From 21 to 24 July the complete Battalion took part in 8th Corps exercise ‘Hawk’, with the Guard Armoured Division acting as the enemy. From 29 to 31 July, it is the other way around, with F Company and other parts of the 11th Armoured Division acting as the enemy for a Guards Armoured Division exercise.

Corporal Robert Docker, 1941 - Sgt. Docker coll.

Apparently, sometime between 28 December 1942 and 22 August 1943, the one Platoon in E Company equipped with 6 Pounders has become three Platoons, as on this last date, “the three Anti-Tank Platoons E Company fire on Buckton Anti-Tank Range.” On 7 September, Brigade exercise ‘Rex’ is held, to practice the drill for a Motor Battalion gapping a minefield and the armour being passed through before first light. A drill which will prove very relevant for one of the Battalion’s operations one year later, in Normandy. Another exercise relevant to Normany is the Battalion’s first exercise in waterproofing of their vehicles, in 8 September 1943. On the 15th, E Company’s preliminary training period in ‘its new weapons’ (6 Pounders and Vickers M.G.) comes to an end. Quite a number of other exercises are also held in September, culminating in exercise ‘Blackcock’, running from 22 September until 2 October, on the Wolds Training Area.

On 20 October, a minor incident happens at Hunmanby, when H.E. and Incendiary bombs are dropped in the village. Members of the Battalion help to put out the fires started by this. Luckily no casualties are caused. On 28 October, at Hunmanby, the G.O.C. 11th Armoured Division inspects the Battalion at a ceremonial parade and march past in the morning, and inspects the billets and stays for lunch.

War Diary entries for November are extremely brief. Entries for December show more training, competitions and a concert by E Company, at Filey, on 13 en 14 December, which is well supported, most likely also by Sergeant and professional composer, arranger and pianist Robert Docker from E Company. The proceeds, like those of all Christmas festivities, went to The Rifle Brigade Prisoners of War Fund.  On the 25th, there is a parade service at Hunmanby village church, followed, at 1300 hrs., by Christmas Dinner and the Officers versus Sergeants Football match at 1500 hrs. Six days earlier, the Battalion receives the first 12 of a number of T16 Carriers for testing on training, with a view to permanent issue.  


January 1944 – Hunmanby, Yorkshire

Street fighting excercise, London - IWM H20884

1 January 1944 found the battalion still in the area of Bridlington. From 4 to 5 January an exercise was held by 29th Armoured Brigade, including the 8th Rifle Brigade, in the Yorkshire Wolds training area.16 It was meant for training night harbouring and advancing through a minefield gap, and for training advance and attack.33 The ‘enemy’ was made up of 159 Infantry Brigade troops. On the 12th a lecture was held by Lt.-Col. V.B. Turner, VC, on the part played by the 2nd Rifle Brigade during the Battle of El Alamein. At the end of the month, from 25 to 30 January, the three Motor Battalions went down to London for a street fighting exercise in the Limehouse area. During this exercise, Lt. Hubble got seriously wounded in the chest.16 He only returned to the battalion in March 1945.17 Lt. Sedgwick got a Sten Gun round through the nose. At the end of the month, in the War Diary, it is noted that in the battalion about 30 men have got the Africa Star, for service with the 8th Army.16 Most likely, they have been sent to the 8th Rifle Brigade to share battle experience.

February 1944 – Hunmanby, Yorkshire

From 1 to 13 February a period of intensive training is carried out at Hunmanby, including driving on and off landing craft. Then on 9 February, the battalion and the rest of the 29th Armoured Brigade are inspected by General Montgomery, on the grounds of Bridlington Highschool. After the training at Hunmanby is finished, from 13 to 25 February, the whole battalion takes part in Exercise Eagle, a training at Corps level, with 8th Corps, in the Wolds training area again. The 8th Rifle Brigade companies are all placed under command of one of the three Armoured Regiments in the brigade.

Monty addressing his troops in front of Bridlington Highschool - IWM H35713

1 – 29 March 1944 – Hunmanby, Yorkshire

In the Brigade inter coy/sqn football competition’s final, on 9 March, G Company 8th Rifle Brigade beats C Squadron 23rd Hussars, again and with the same score as in the final of 1943. From 17 to 25 March, Captain Noel Bell and 10 ‘Other Ranks’ are attached to U.S. 3rd Armoured Division, and an equal number Americans to the 8th Rifle Brigade. Baseball is played for the first time in the battalion ‘and seems likely to catch on.’16 On the 22nd, in Bridlington, the complete battalion parades for H.M. The King. Advance parties leave for Aldershot. Before finally leaving the Bridlington area, from 23 to 25 March, F, G and H Companies, in turn, take part in Exercise Honey, as ‘enemy’ to the recce troops of the armoured regiments in 29th Armoured Brigade.16 

G Coy's football team - Sgt. White collection
8th Rifle Brigade inspected by H.M. The King, 22 March 1944. Sgt. Baldwin, G Coy., 2nd from left - IWM H36971

30 March – 5 June 1944 – Aldershot

Waterproofed Bren carrier undergoing tests, February 1944 - IWM H36207

During the last two days of March, the ‘main bodies’ of 29th Armoured Brigade, including the 8th Rifle Brigade, move from the area of Bridlington to Aldershot.39 In April additional security and other measures related to the upcoming invasion of Western Europe are imposed16: on 9 April full unit postal censorship comes into force, on 14 April the battalion changes its postal address to A.P.O. England and on 24 April all White scout cars are replaced by half-tracks. From 20 to 22 April, there is an exercise with Airborne troops. In May further preparations for Normandy are carried out.16 On 15 and 16 May the bulk of the battalion’s vehicles gets waterproofed and on 24 May the Universal carriers used as Machine gun carriers, by E Company, are replaced by Machine gun carriers. From 28 May, the battalion is put at 6 hours notice to move. The invasion must be at hand.