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.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Opposing Forces At Thury Harcourt 9th to 14th August

Map showing the 59 (Staffordshire) Division on either side of the Orne
9th to 14th August
(with thanks to

The Allies

59 (Staffordshire) Division

177 Brigade

Located at Fresnay, to the north west of Thury Harcourt.

197 Brigade

Located east of the Orne.

A follow-up formation described at length on this site.

53 (Welsh) Division

A follow-up formation described under the 'Operation Pomegranate' section.

56 (Independent) Infantry Brigade

Originally a First World War Brigade the 56 (Independent) Infantry Brigade was a part of Kitchener's Army (formed out of the 1914 recruitment drive). The Brigade was a first wave unit landing in Normandy on 6th June. It was responsible early on in the Normandy campaign for the liberation of Bayeux.

In late August 1944 the Brigade was involved with the 59th in the fighting on the Orne and the subsequent liberation of Thury Harcourt. After the destruction of the the remaining German forces west of the Seine in the Falaise Pocket, the men of 56th Brigade were transferred to the 49 (West Riding) Division where they again fought side by side with the men of the former 59 (Staffordshire) Division in Belgium and Holland as part of the First Canadian Army. The Brigade's active service ended in Germany with the cessation of hostilities.

271 Infantry Division

A Wehrmacht infantry division described in the Orne bridgehead section.

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