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44th (Lowland) Brigade
Active 1914 - 1918
1939 - 1946
Country Great Britain
Branch British Army
Type Infantry
Size Brigade
Part of 15th (Scottish) Division
Engagements Battle of Normandy
Operation Epsom
Hill 112
Operation Bluecoat
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Divisional Insignia Scottish Red Lion Rampant , inside a yellow circle

The 44th Infantry Brigade was a brigade of the British Army's 15th (Scottish) Division which served in both World War I and World War II.

World War II[edit | edit source]

As 44th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade, the formation was a second line Territorial Army Brigade part of 15th (Scottish) Division, which was the duplicate of the British 52nd (Lowland) Division and served in the Second World War. Its remained in England for most of the war crossing the channel to Normandy on the 13th June 1944.

Its infantry battalions were initially 8th Battalion, The Royal Scots, 6th Battalion, The Royal Scots Fusiliers, and 6th Battalion, The King's Own Scottish Borderers.

Operation Epsom[edit | edit source]

Operation Epsom was a British attack intended to outflank and seize Caen in France during the Battle of Normandy during World War II. It failed but forced the Germans to abandon their offensive plans and tied most of their armoured units to a defensive role.

A preliminary attack, Operation Martlet, was launched on June 25 by the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division of XXX Corps, to secure ground on the flank of the intended advance. The attack gained some ground but the weather was still foul and the attackers were hampered by muddy ground and lack of air support. Some dominating terrain on the right flank of the intended attack by VIII Corps was still in German hands.

Nevertheless, to be certain of anticipating any German attack the main attack was launched on June 26 . Although held up on parts of the front by infantry of 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division and the 31st Armoured Brigade gained four miles on their left flank. Further to their left the 43rd (Wessex Infantry Division) also gained ground. John Keegan described their advance:

"…The division was attacking two brigades up, which meant that six of its infantry battalions were in the first wave, with the other three waiting in the rear to support the leaders. As each brigade also attacked two up, however, this meant there were in fact only four battalions on the start line, each strung out along a front of about 1000 yards. And since each battalion, about 750 men strong, likewise kept two of their four companies in reserve, the true number of men who started forward into the cornfields that morning was probably no more than 700. They are best pictured, as they would have looked from the cockpit of any passing spotter aircraft, as 24 groups of 30 riflemen, called platoons, separated by intervals of about 150 yards…Each platoon consisted of three smaller groups, called sections, which were led by a corporal, and were based on the Bren machine gun which gave them their firepower…".[1]

On June 27, after repulsing small armoured counter-attacks, the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division gained more ground and captured a bridge over the River Odon. The 11th Armoured Division passed through to capture Hill 112, a mile to the southeast. This deep penetration alarmed the German command and Hausser was ordered to commit his units to contain and eliminate the Allied salient. The German command was in some disarray, as General Dollmann, commanding the German Seventh Army died of a heart attack immediately after ordering Hausser to mount the counter-attack and Field Marshals Rommel and von Rundstedt were en route to a conference with Adolf Hitler and out of touch with their headquarters.

Hill 112, Operation Jupiter[edit | edit source]

The British forces included the men of the 15th Scottish Division, 11th Armoured Division, 43rd Wessex Division and 53rd Welsh Division. Principal among the units fighting on Hill 112,and the tanks of 7th and 9th Royal Tank Regiments, plus numerous other units. Approximately 63,000 men over a period of seven weeks fought on and around Hill 112.

The main attack on Hill 112 was strategically designed to FIX the German panzers and tactically to gain 'elbow room' in what was still a tight beachhead. The German defenders survived naval bombardment, air attack and artillery fire but held their ground, crucially supported by Tiger II tanks from the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. These mighty tanks armed with the 88 mm gun had both greater protection and firepower and outclassed the opposing British Churchill tank and Sherman tank.

Even though the hill was not captured and was left as a no-man's-land between the two armies, important surrounding villages had been taken. Above all, however, the 9th Hohenstaufen SS Panzer Division, which had been in the process of moving out of the line to form an operational reserve, was brought back to contain the British. Therefore, on the strategic level Operation JUPITER was a significant success.

It was not until American troops eventually started to break out from the Normandy lodgement, as Operation Cobra developed momentum, in August 1944, that the Germans withdrew from Hill 112 and the 53rd Welsh Division occupied the feature, with barely a fight.

Casualties during that period amounted to approximately 25,000 British troops and 500 British tanks.

Operation Bluecoat[edit | edit source]

Operation Bluecoat was an attack by the British Second Army in the Battle of Normandy,from 30 July 1944 to 7 August 1944. The objectives of the attack were to secure the key road junction of Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon. Strategically, the attack was made to support the American exploitation of their breakout on the western flank of the Normandy beachhead. Miles Dempsey was switched westward towards Villers-Bocage adjacent to the American army. Originally, Dempsey planned to attack on August 2, but the speed of events on the American front forced him to advance the date.

Initially, only two weak German infantry divisions held the intended attack frontage, south and east of Caumont, although they had laid extensive minefields and constructed substantial defences. They also occupied ideal terrain for defence, the bocage.

Afterwards they fought virtually continuously from then on through Caumont, the Seine Crossing, the Gheel Bridgehead, Best, Tilburg, Meijel, Blerwick, the Maas and across the Rhine.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. McLeod, Toby. "Operation Epsom, Baron-sur-Odon and the Battle for Hill 112". WR2000: The Battle for Normandy 1944. http://www.strategos.demon.co.uk/D-Day/Hill%20112.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 

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