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.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Extracts From The Orders for 'Operation Astonia'

The following 'Operation Instruction' was issued to the participating Divisions and supporting units on 6th September 1944. In the event bad weather resulted in a postponement of D day from 9th to 10th September.



1.      1 Corps will capture LE HARVE.

2.      Allotment of troops

(a)    49 Inf Div

With under comd         34 Tk Bde
                                    22 Dgns

            In sp                42 Assault Regt ARE less two sqns
                                    ‘A’ Sqn 141 RAC
                                                                        44 Kangaroos
                               51 (H) Div

With under comd         33 Armd Bde
                                    1 LOTHIANS less one sqn
                                    two sqns 42 Assault Regt ARE
                                    ‘C’ Sqn 141 RAC
(b)   Of 44 Kangaroos allotted 49 Inf Div for Phase I, 24 will be moved to an RV to be decided mutually by 49 and 51(H) Divs on completion of Phase I and will then be available to 51 (H) Div.

3.      General.
The assault will be carried out with two divs up, 51 (H) Div RIGHT and 49 Inf Div LEFT, and the operation will be divided into four Phases.

4.      Tasks.
Phase I

49 Inf Div will capture the area 530320 – 540320 – 544302 – 522308 and secure a brhead on the feature to the SOUTH of this area with a view to passing further tps through during Phase II to capture this feature.

Phase II

(a)    51 (H) Div will secure a base in the area 510325 – 510310 – 520310 with a view to developing further offensive action during Phase III.
(b)   49 Inf Div will capture the feature 525297 – 544295 – 545280 – 532280.

Phase III

                        51 (H) Div will develop its operation to secure
(i)                 The bty area centred around 500315
(ii)               The high ground about 4730 and 4829
(iii)             The enemy defences about OCTEVILLE 500340 from the SOUTH      and EAST.


Both divs will exploit relentlessly into the town and crush any resistance within div bdys. It is most important that the plan of each div shall provide for immediate, deep and ruthless exploitation directly the opportunity arises. The sooner we can penetrate deeply and break up enemy cohesion and control, the more easily and cheaply will our task be accomplished.

Therefore plans must be flexible enough to take advantage of any enemy weakness.

5.      TIMINGS

(a)    D day

9 Sep

(b)   Phase I

H hr     1815 hrs

(c)    Phase II

Times to be fixed by Comd 51 (H) and 49 Inf Divs for their respective parts of this phase. In this connection 49 Inf Div will make the rd in para 7(b) available to 51 (H) Div by H + 5 hrs or earlier if possible.

(d)   Phase III

0800 hrs D + 1

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