The Hill 112 Memorial Foundation was delighted with the welcome it received when Trustees met representatives of a number of Scottish units and regiments to explain the Foundation's aims and explore ways of working together in future. Click on the names below to find out more about the groups that joined us at the meeting in Edinburgh Castle.
The Hill 112 Memorial Foundation has enjoyed the support of a number of Scottish units and regiments following a meeting in Edinburgh Castle in October 2019.
One of those who welcomed the charity’s aims and has proved to be a great supporter is Major (Retd) Grenville Irvine-Fortescue DL, Regimental Secretary of The Gordon Highlanders Association.
He has sent a full history of the part played by the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders in the battle for Hill 112, from the time they sailed from England to the eventual securing of the strategically vital stronghold. You can read it here.
He also sent the following fascinating story about Thomas Elfed Davies, believed to be the oldest of the Gordons’ veterans at 104.
In 1944, men from the 43rd Wessex, 53rd Wessex, 15th Scottish and 11th Armoured Division finally took control of one of the most strategically important battlegrounds in northern France. It took 10 weeks of fierce fighting and cost the lives of 100,000 men, but taking and holding Hill 112 allowed the allies to retake Caen and continue the liberation of France.
The City of Caen had been a ‘week one’ objective for the Allies after they came ashore on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944, but it actually took weeks. For months the front line rested on Hill 112, a vantage point so significant that Field Marshal Rommel was quoted as saying: “He who controls Hill 112 controls Normandy”. He had therefore set up a strong defence of the area using the most ruthless and fanatical troops at his disposal.
The Allies’ assault on the hill began on 26 June. On the 27th the 15th Scottish Division moved into the village of Baron, just to the south of the river at the foot of Hill 112. The next day the 11th ArmouredDivision took over the advance and pushed up to the crest of the hill but were unable to gain complete control of the summit. The British Forces were forced to withdraw twice between then and 30 June.
A second operation was planned for 10 July but they were unable to take the summit and the attacks were finally halted on 22 July. It was only on the night of 4 August that a patrol from the 53rd Division discovered that with Caen no longer in their control, Hill 112 had lost its importance for the German defenders and they had withdrawn, allowing the 53rd Division to finally occupy the high ground without a shot being fired.
With Hill 112 in Allied hands and the Germans prevented from launching a counter-offensive, US troops were able to strike south from the Cherbourg Peninsula into the heart of France for the first major breakthrough in the campaign.
For the Royal Scots Greys, 10 and 11 July saw their main involvement at Hill 112. With classical understatement, in Swifter than Eagles Colonel Aidan Sprot describes 10 July as “a most unpleasant day”. Tank crews were confined to their vehicles as there was much shelling and sniping. 11 July was just as bad. B Squadron lost two tanks, including that of Squadron Leader David Callander, who was awarded an MC after he moved to resume command from another vehicle when he led a half Squadron into a wood to deal with some reported Tiger tanks.
C Squadron was less fortunate, as their Squadron leader Peter Paget was killed by shellfire. Sergeant McMeekin, who became a casualty himself a few days later, was credited with destroying three self-propelled guns and a tank in quick succession. On 13 July the Royal Scots Greys withdrew to a rest area but remained subject to shelling, and there were further casualties, including RSM Anderson and Sergeant March.
Thomas joined the 2nd Gordons as one of the reinforcements when the battalion was re-organising and re-equipping at Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse in early July. He had been called up in 1939 and joined 1st Battalion The Oxford & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, serving as a driver in the Transport Platoon.
In the autumn of 1940 Thomas moved with his battalion to Northern Ireland and remained there until 1943 before moving back to England in preparation for the Normandy invasion, which saw him land at Sword Beach with the second wave of assaulting troops on 6 June 1944.
In July 1944, companies and platoons of 1st Bucks were transferred to other British infantry divisions as replacements for the defence of the Normandy bridgehead. It was at this stage that Thomas was transferred to 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders at Bretteville.
He was initially a driver for a bren gun carrier, but then switched to the anti-tank unit and was the driver for one of the anti-tank guns which was involved in the action on 16 July when Captain Parish and his sergeant destroyed five tanks.
Due to illness, Thomas was flown back to England, but once recovered he returned to the 2nd Gordons in Belgium and fought with them through Holland, across the River Rhine and on into Germany as far as Lubeck on the Baltic coast, once again serving with, by then, Major Parish MC.
The battalion had taken part in Op Veritable - the Battle for the Reichswald, crossed the Siegfried Line and taken Nutterden. Sadly, on 9 February 1945, while Thomas was talking to Major Parish, enemy shelling meant they had to take cover. Thomas went into one building and his friend went into the command post, which received a direct hit, killing 11, including Major Parish.
After six years and one month, Thomas was demobbed. He lives in Welshpool and is a member of Blind Veterans UK. Major Irvine-Fortescue described him as “A remarkable man.”
The association has commissioned a plaque to be placed on Hill 112 to mark the Gordon Highlanders’ contribution to this important battle. To add a plaque in memory of a loved one, follow this link.
Members of The Hill 112 Memorial Foundation met representatives of a number of Scottish units and regiments at a meeting in Edinburgh Castle in October 2019.
One of those representatives, all of whom were enthusiastic about the aims of the charity, was Major Jamie Erskine of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Major Erskine contacted the Guards' Regimental Trust, which was kind enough to forward The Hill 112 Memorial Foundation a generous donation of £500 – together with the fascinating article below, which highlights the involvement of the Royal Scots Greys* in the Battle for Hill 112.
*The Royal Scots Greys, a cavalry regiment of the British Army, merged with the 3rd Carabiniers in 1971 to form the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.