Colombelles, 11th July 1944

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Daniel L
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Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Daniel L » 19 Aug 2014 17:52

I am researching a particular action in the industrial area of Colombelles on the 11th July 1944. During this action a British breakthrough with infantry and tanks was pushed back by the Germans and one British tank was destroyed in close combat.

Does anyone know what British unit this might have been? Perhaps even the tank is known?

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 Aug 2014 18:25

'Colombelles' covers a lot of ground but on July 11th 51st Highland Division attacked supported by 33rd Armoured Brigade.
(1st Notts Yeo/144 & 148 RAC) tank states at 22:00 hrs on the 11th show 11 Shermans and 2 Stuarts as casualties.
Because of the way a tank was listed as a casualty it is not possible to say the had 13 tanks written off but only that up to 11 Shermans could have been totally destroyed.

Rewritten because I got it completely wrong first time around!
Last edited by Michael Kenny on 19 Aug 2014 18:57, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 Aug 2014 18:56

Previous post totally rewritten

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Daniel L
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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Daniel L » 19 Aug 2014 20:34

Thank you, is the war diary of the 33rd Armoured Brigade available somewhere or is the "Operation Stack" covered in detail in any book?

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Michael Kenny » 20 Aug 2014 03:49

It was 148 RAC at Colmbelles and by checking the various accounts of the day it seems the only reference any author has found is a line or two in their war Diary that mentions they lost 10 Shermans. It seems they were all forced to use that bit and that tells me nothing else is available.

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 20 Aug 2014 19:11

Daniel,

I've done some research into this action. The objective seems to have been to demolish the chimneys at Colombelles to prevent them being used by the Germans for artillery observation. Action was carried out by 153 Infantry Brigade of 51 Highland Division supported by some tanks of 33 Armd Bde. The actual attack was carried out by 5 Black Watch and a bn of the Gordon Highlanders and was pushed back by combination of mortar, artillery fire and an armoured counter-attack.

I haven't seen a book with an in depth analysis, only brief mentions in a couple of books.

Terry Copp: The 21st Army Group in Normandy: towards a new balance sheet; in The Normandy Campaign: Sixty Years On, edited by John Buckley - he gives it about a page and a half.

Monty's Men by John Buckley - a very brief mention of the operation.

Battle Zone Normandy: Battle for Caen, Simon Trew and Stephen Badsey - very brief mention but good picture of a Sherman Firefly they say was captured intact during this operation (BA 496/3455/12).

The only mentions I could find in the 1 Corps G Branch War Diary (WO171/258) were:

"10 July 1944
...
Preparations made during day for Op STACK to be carried out 0100 hrs 11 Jul by 51 (H) Div with one regt 33 Armd Bde under comd.

11 July 1944
At 0100 hrs 153 Bde of 51 (H) Div commenced Op STACK with intention of holding COLOMBELLES Factory area while REs demolished the chimneys, which have served the enemy so well as an OP. Phase I which was the capture of COLOMBELLES village and X rds 085701 was never completed due to strong enemy resistance in the COLOMBELLES area where the Chateay [sic] just NORTH of the village was not taken, although two Coys were in the village itself. The left hand bn had little difficulty in reaching the X rds. This was the posn at first light when the enemy put in a strong counter-attack on the X rds. The Op was abandoned and 153 Bde withdrew to its old locns. 5 Tiger tks dug in in the X rds area accounted for 9 of our own tks."

There was no Corps operation order issued.

I don't think you can describe this very limited attack as a "breakthrough"!

I hope that helps.

Regards

Tom

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 25 Mar 2019 19:58

I found another little snippet in WO171/263 - War Diary of RA Branch 1 Corps:-
11 July 1944
DOUVRES 015805
51 (H) Inf Div’s op STACK started 0100 hrs. Tps of 153 Inf Bde reached COLOMBELLES factory but were forced to withdraw to LONGUEVAL U.0871 and ST. HONORINE U.0970, a 17-pr tp of 62 A tk Regt in sp were cut off in withdrawal and lost all four guns.
3 Cdn Inf Div left 1 Corps and passed under comd 2 Cdn Corps, and HQ RA Gds Armd Div with under comd 25, 143 and 153 (LY) Fd Regts ceased to be under comd 1 Corps.
Further activity by low flying enemy aircraft attacking tps and tpt with cannon and MG fire.
Three ME.109 shot down by 40 and 92 LAA Regts.

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Re: Colombelles, 11th July 1944

Post by Sheldrake » 25 Mar 2019 20:20

This is what will appear in Gunners in Normandy.

3rd and 51st Division Artillery supported Op ‘STACK’, an attack by 51st Division on the factory area at Colombelles to destroy the all-seeing chimneys; Major Waring, BC 454th Battery, was CRAs rep. Troops from 153rd Brigade reached Colombelles but were forced to withdraw and a troop from 62nd Anti-tank Regiment was cut off losing all four guns, Of the 148th Regt RAC tanks supporting the operation, Capt Cameron’s OP tank was the only one that was not knocked out.

Cameron was awarded the MC for his actions that day.
CAMERON, Lt (T/Captain). Donald Alistair 89348 RA LG (21.12.1944)

126 Field Regiment RA North West Europe

“On 11 July 1944 during the attack on the Columbelles factory area Captain Cameron acting as a FOO with a Squadron of Sherman tanks broke up the first enemy counter attack with accurate artillery fire. Later, when seven Tiger Tanks had advanced to within two hundred yards of his OP Captain Cameron continued to bring down steady and accurate fire on them which entailed having many of the shells from his own guns falling round his OP and necessitated frequent journeys from his tank to the upper storey of a ruined house through intense enemy shell and mortar fire. By this time all the tanks except his own were destroyed or disabled but he remained in observation in his isolated position until informed that his position must be evacuated. Captain Cameron’s courage and determination during this action prevented the position from being overrun and enabled the infantry to withdraw with considerably fewer casualties than would otherwise have been the case.”

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