Hills – By Tank into Normandy

Stuart Hills (2002) was a Second Lieutenant in the Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry during the fighting in North-West Europe in 1944-45 (during World War II). He commanded number 4 troop in C Squadron and his book provides some interesting potential scenarios for smaller games.

The book is available from Amazon USA, UK, and Canada:

Hills, S. (2002). By Tank into Normandy. London: Cassell.

Order of Battle

The Sherwood Rangers were part of 8th Armoured Brigade, one of eight independent armoured brigades put together to support infantry formations trying to break through the German defences in Normandy. Apparently the infantry often rode on the backs of the tanks.

  • 8th Armoured Brigade
    • 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards
    • 24th Lancers (to 29 July 1944)
    • 13th/18th Royal Hussars (from 29 July 1944)
    • 1st Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry
      • 1 x HQ
      • 1 x Recce Squadron
        • 1 x HQ Troop of 3 x Stuarts and 1 x Dingo
        • 5 x Recce Troop of 3 x Stuarts
      • 3 x Sabre Squadrons (A, B, C)
        • 1 x HQ Troop of 4 x Shermans
        • 4 x Sabre Troop of 3 x Shermans
    • 12th Battalion The King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Motorised Infantry)
    • 147th Essex Yeomanry Field Regiment (with Sexton self propelled guns; 25 pounder on Sherman Chassis)

Hills mentioned that during Operation Bluecoat air support was via RAF forward observer.

Two types of Sherman

The Regiment had two varieties of Sherman: :

  • M4: 75mm, two machine guns, five crew, faster rate of fire, and higher speed.
  • Firefly: 17 pounder, one machine gun, and four crew

Hills describes the M4 Shermans as better for infantry support and the Fire Fly as better for anti-tank. I couldn’t determine any pattern to the distribution of the Fire Flies; some Troops had two and others none.

The M4 Sherman at least was petrol powered and had a tendency to ignite when hit, giving it the nick name of the ‘Ronson Lighter’. The M4 Sherman also carried smoke canisters; not sure about the Fireflies.

Fontenay le Pesnel, 25-26 June 1944

A type “G” Panther
in the centre of


  • Hills (2002), p. 103-108
  • Hastings (1984) provided the battalion IDs
  • Birkley, g. (2003 Jan). Operation Martlet: The Fight for Fontenay. Wargames Illustrated, 184, p. 28-29.
  • The Panzers and the Battle of Normandy has some good photos of tanks in the area, for example:

Operation Marlet was to guard the Allied right flank during Operation Epsom. The British 147 Brigade (49th West Riding Division, “the Polar Bears”), supported by the tanks of the Sherwood Rangers, was assigned to attack Fontenay le Pesnel on the western side of the assault zone. Elements of 12 SS Panzer Division “Hitler Jugend” were defending the village, with their HQ in a nearby chateau. . Fontenay was a typical Norman village with scattered houses, narrow streets and high hedges. Low cloud prevented the close air support the allies normal expected.

British Orbat at Fontenay

  • 11th Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers
  • B Squadron of Sherwood Rangers
  • 6th and 7th Battalions of Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
  • C Squadron of Sherwood Rangers
  • Reserve: A Squadron of Sherwood Rangers

German Orbat at Fontenay

  • All Pz V Panthers would have been from I Battalion, 12 SS Panzer Regiment.
  • All Pz IVs would have been from II Battalion, 12 SS Panzer Regiment.
  • Infantry were probably from 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

Sunday 25 June 1944

0330 hours: The British barraged began. .

147 Brigade and the Sherwood Rangers headed down the hill from Point 102 into the valley at 0430 hours, but quickly ran into a heavy ground mist which reduced visibility to a few metres. .Confusion set in, and was compounded by intensive German fire. Fighting was fierce but the British could not shift the entrenched tanks of 12 SS Panzer Division. By 1600 hours the attack petered out and the British withdrew from the valley.

At 2115 hours one infantry battalion with C Squadron of Sherwood Rangers had another go at the village. Despite having there being less British troops in the attack, they experienced little resistance and Fontenay was taken by midnight. Number 4 Troop of the Sherwood Rangers, plus a Churchill (presumably a flamethrower), were used to destroy the German HQ in the chateau.

26 June 1944 At 0400 hours, and with visibility about 100 m, the British were off again. This time the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment with C Squadron of Sherwood Rangers was tasked with taking the St Nicholas farm south-east of Fontenay and on the road to Rauray. The farm consisted of a farm building and apple orchard, all surrounded by thick hedgerows. The infantry went it alone at 0930 hours – possibly only C and D companies – but were bloodily repulsed by automatic fire from the orchard and hedgerows.

C Squadron then went in, unaccompanied. Half the Squadron was to the left (farm) side of the Rauray road, and the other half to the right. The assault paused when two Shermans in the right hand group were brewed up, but then tanks of number 4 troop in the left hand group charged through the back hedge of farm’s and cleared the orchard in a blaze of HE and machine fire. They then crossed the road to a paddock where they subsequently engaged German tanks (Pz IVs) in a wood about 2 km away to the south-east.

At 1600 hours a both the British infantry and tanks pitched in again. A Squadron Sherwood Rangers moved up in support of C Squadron and engaged a Tiger I at 60 m range in a surprise duel. After a brief exchange the German crew baled out and their vehicle became the first Tiger to be captured in Normandy. For the next two hours A Squadron advanced throw the fields clearing each hedgerow in turn. The Sherman Fireflies in the unit took a heavy toll of enemy tanks.

At the end of the day the Germans had lost 13 Pz IVs, a Tiger and a Panther, compared to the two Shermans lost by the Sherwood Rangers. .

Typhoons, 2 Aug 1944

Source: Hills (2002), p. 121

C squadron Sherwood Rangers advanced along a road with 7th Hampshires (130 Brigade, 43rd Wessex Division) walking in file to their right. They came up to a T-junction, which was mined, along with the fields on either side. The column halted to let the sapper come up and remove the mines. A Tiger broke cover and took up position on high ground about 2 km from the road and overlooking the column. The Tiger opened fire and knocked out a tank further back in the column. The Sherwood Rangers found themselves in a bit of a pickle with the front of the column stuck by mines, the rear blocked by the dead Sherman, and the Tiger outside effective range of the British tanks. The Shermans did, however, carry smoke canisters and the British managed to put down a smoke barrier at about 1,750 m, thus protecting themselves from the Tiger. Meanwhile the RAF forward observer called in Typhoons. Red smoke marked the location of the Tiger, and the rockets of the fighter-bombers finished the German off.


Hills, S. (2002). By Tank into Normandy. London: Cassell.

Hastings (1984)

Birkley, g. (2003 Jan). Operation Martlet: The Fight for Fontenay. Wargames Illustrated, 184, p. 28-29.

The Panzers and the Battle of Normandy

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