The intentions to document this information are long standing in that they go back some two decades to the early/mid 1990’s, just a few years before the subject of this site, James Kitchener Heath passed away.

As is the case in so many families in which a generation experienced war and all its traumas, certain aspects of service are known, but all too often the details are sketchy and disjointed. Add into this mix the passage of time and the result is invariably a collection of stories and fragments of memories accompanied by a handful of fragile and faded documents (if you are lucky) that represent the sum of information relating to the most extraordinary period in a soldier’s life. This was certainly the case in our family..... and it’s not much to go on.

In February 1995, my Father and I struggled to put together a potted service history to be read by the cleric presiding over my Grandfather’s funeral. At this point I decided to take steps to fill in some of the gaps as best I could.... sadly now without the benefit of first hand testimony.

A well known turn of phrase, ‘written on the back of a fag packet’ is defined by the Collins on-Line dictionary as something ‘composed or formed quickly and without detailed analysis or research’. As far as first hand source material for this history is concerned, no better a description could be made. The details gleaned from my Grandfather in brief (and often emotional) discussions in the 1990’s are summarised as a list of place names written in an old man’s shaky handwriting on the back of a standard envelope! (this will feature later). On the upside, a standard envelope is approximately twice the size of a cigarette packet, which immediately doubles the amount of information to work with!

By my own admission, this site is a little self-indulgent, being of primary interest to myself, my mother, my children and a handful of relatives still living in Staffordshire. In addition, it may be that the information presented here will be read by others outside of the family who have a passing interest in military or family history.

I would welcome any comments/suggestions or dare I say it relevant information to contact me.

adrianandrews1@sky.com

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Operation Pomegranate 16th – 17th July 1944

Map indicating the operational area of 'Pomegranate' 16th-17th July 1944
(with thanks to http://59div.morssweb.com/)

The second engagement in Normandy in which soldiers of the 59th Division were to play a role was known as ‘Operation Pomegranate’. Coupled with ‘Operation Greenline’ of the 15th to the 17th July, ‘Pomegranate’ was part of an action that history recalls as ‘The Second Battle Of The Odon’.

As the D-Day objective of Caen eluded the British and Canadian forces on 6th June, Allied efforts shifted to the south west of the city, commencing on 7th June with ‘Operation Perch’ a combined pincer action of encirclement of the Norman capital from east to west by I Corps and XXX Corps respectively. The attack by I Corps was halted by the 21st Panzer Division, whilst the XXX Corps assault faltered at Tilly-sur-Seulles in the face of the Panzer-Lehr Division.

In the week of the 7th to 14th June XXX Corps attempted to manoeuvre around the defences of the Panzer-Lehr Division and in doing so captured Villers-Bocage to the west of Caen. Later in the action, on 17th June, Tilly-sur-Seulles was taken as the Panzer-Lehr Division was again pushed back.

Further offensive action was delayed by poor weather, when a severe storm blew up on 19th June and hampered any further operations for several days.

On 25th June ‘Operation Martlet’ opened up which intended to secure the left flank of VIII Corps who had received orders to advance southwards on the left flank of XXX Corps on 26th June. The action of the 26th to the 29th June was later designated as ‘The First Battle Of The Odon’, but is perhaps better known to historians as ‘Operation Epsom’ which had the intended outcome of a breakout of the Orne bridgehead to the west of Caen by crossing the Odon and Orne rivers and securing the objective of the high ground around Bretteville-sur-Laize.

The planned breakout failed as a result of determined German resistance and the offensive operation was halted around the high ground of Hill 112. However, ‘Epsom’ was a partial success in that the German Army was forced to commit reserve forces, newly arrived in Normandy, to the fighting. These reserve units were intended to engage Allied positions away from Caen in the vicinity of Bayeux.  Whilst held up to the west of Caen, well away from the advancing US forces, much damage was inflicted upon German heavy armour by intensive RAF sorties over the battlefield.

Footage of 'Operation Pomegranate' 17th July 1944

The Second Battle Of The Odon commenced at 9.30 on the evening of 15th July when, under the illumination of the so-called ‘Monty’s Moonlight’ (searchlight beams reflected from the underside of low lying cloud cover in order to light up the battlefield), Operation Greenline was launched.

In this action, a reinforced 15th (Scottish) Division, the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division and two brigades of the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division were to secure the high ground of Hill 112 and to force the advance on Auray-sur-Odon to the south of Villers-Bocage or better still, Thury Harcourt to the south east, should the action result in a German withdrawal.

Starting on 16th July Operation Pomegranate to the west of the Greenline plan, XXX Corps shaped up with an attack of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division on the right flank, the 59th Division again in the centre with the 53rd (Welsh) Division on the left.

In the ensuing battle, the plan was for the 49th to take Vendes and its surrounding area, the 59th to capture Noyers-Bocage , Haut des Forges and Landelle. The role for the 53rd (Welsh) was to exploit any opportunities to move on Villers-Bocage to the south.