North West Europe 1944 - 1947:
British Armoured Formations
There were four British armoured divisions deployed during the campaign in North West Europe namely:
The Guards Armoured Division;
7 Armoured Division;
11 Armoured Division;
79 Armoured Division.
The Guards Armoured Division was formed in the United Kingdom on the 17 June 1941. The division arrived in Normandy on 28 June 1944. It fought its first battle at Bouguebus Ridge, being committed later at Mont Pincon. In 1944, whilst stationed in Normandy, the division reorganized into battle groups formed by an armoured battalion and infantry battalion of the same regiment. Following the breakout from Normandy, the division advanced through Belgium, and then had a key role in the Battle of the Nederrijn (Operation Market Garden). It was involved in the battle of The Rhineland in February and March 1945. After the cessation of hostilities, the division re-organised as an infantry formation on 12 June 1945. It disbanded in Germany in March 1947.
The 7 Armoured Division arrived in Normandy on 8 June 1944 (D+2). It was initially under the command of XXX Corps, but on 15 August 1944, came under the command of I Corps. The division then alternated between I Corps and XII Corps for the rest of the campaign. It fought in Operation Goodwood and in Operation Market Garden, the battle for the Nederrijn between 17 September and 27 September 1944. In 1945, the division took part in the crossing of the River Rhine. The division came under the command of 21 Army Group and then Headquarters British Army of the Rhine on the cessation of hostilities. The division was not disbanded, but continued as a Regular Army division into the 1950’s.
The 11 Armoured Division had been formed in the United Kingdom on 9 March 1941. It had remained in the U.K. until sailing for Normandy. The divisional headquarters arrived in Normandy on 13 June 1944 (D+7) and the division came under command of VIII Corps. Between 25 June and 2 July, it was involved in the battle of the River Odon. It was then involved in Operation Goodwood, and the battle for Bourguebus Ridge. On 30 July it took part in the battle for Mont Pincon, until 9 August when the German lines broke. The division advanced rapidly through France and Belgium. Still under command of VIII Corps, it took part in the battle of the Nederrijn. In February 1945, the division became involved in the battle for the Rhineland, which lasted until 10 March 1945. The division was disbanded in Germany in November 1945.
The 79 Armoured Division was formed on 14 August 1942, with the then current establishment of one armoured brigade (the 27 Armoured Brigade), and one infantry brigade (the 185 Infantry Brigade). In April 1943, the division was reorganised and the composition changed. The role of the formation became the development of all specialised armour, techniques for their use, and provision of advice on their role. The division came under the direct command of the 21 Army Group on 23 May 1944, with formations being placed under the command of other units for specific operations.
The Battle for Brest – September 1944, relates the story of just one small part of the 79 Armoured Division, namely ‘B’ Squadron, 141 (The Buffs) Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps. This unit was equipped with the Churchill Crocodile flame throwing tanks, a fearsome weapon, and was requested by the U.S. forces attempting to assault the port of Brest in Brittany in September 1944.
During the campaign in North West Europe, a total of seven independent armoured brigades were deployed at some stage of the campaign. These operated under the command of a Corps or Army Headquarters, but, were often placed under command of an infantry division to provide armoured support for infantry formations.