24 November 2012

Coldstream Guards' Sherman Firefly IC Guards Bridge at Namur

Image size: 1600 x 1040 pixel. 428 KB
Date: Monday, 25 December 1944
Place: Namur, Wallonia, Belgium
Photographer: Unknown

Lieutenant Robert Boscawen (March 17, 1923- ) left with radiophones, commander of 2 Troop, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, Guards Armoured Division, XXX Corps, in a Sherman Firefly IC Hybrid. Note camouflage cloth on the hull, extra road wheels, and tracks on front hull and turret. The number "52" is actually Tactical Number, not weight number (Sherman weight No.s would be "30" in black on a yellow circle). 52 refers to Regiment Seniority - British Brigades had their units ordered by seniority. Thus, Boscawen was part of 1st (Armoured) Battalion, Coldstream Guards, the second regiment of the 5th Guards
Armoured Brigade, Guards Armoured Division. Thus again, the Grenadier Guards were Senior "51", the Coldstrems were second "52", and the Irish Guards were junior "53". This tank, actually commanded by Sergeant Bastone (kneeling on right), and the rest of 1st Battalion cut off the German advance through the Ardennes to the Meuse. The IC Hybrid was an American-built late production M4 Sherman with a cast composite hull that mounted a specially designed 17-pounder 76.2mm (3 inch) anti-tank gun. Sherman Fireflies were the only Allied tank capable of penetrating the German Tiger and Panther panzers. As the situation on the Ardennes front grew critical on December 17-18, 1944, the 21st Army Group realized that the German offensive either targeted the port of Antwerp or Paris itself. Several divisions, including the Guards Armoured, were to reinforce XXX Corps. While scratch units of supply troops and light infantry were immediately rushed in from France, Holland and England on December 17 to secure the bridges and the vast supply dumps along the Meuse, heavy mechanized formations arrived on December 19. The 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards took up positions in Namur, one of the few remaining bridges. The masonry bridge had been blown by the retreating Germans in August 1944 and repaired by an American engineering unit with a Bailey Bridge. Boscawen survived hits on four tanks that were burned out or "brewed" during the war. The fourth loss, in April 1945, caused severe burns to him and his driver; the rest of the crew died. After recovery, Boscawen served in Parliament until 1992. 

Correction from Rex Barrett through email (thank you!)

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