Published on September 20th, 2013 |
by Grantham Matters
Maj-Gen Dick Gerrard-Wright (1930-2012)
Maj-Gen Dick Gerrard-Wright was a talented officer and natural leader who dealt with exacting postings in Kenya and Northern Ireland.
Richard Eustace John Gerrard-Wright was born on May 9 1930 at Woolsthorpe-By-Belvoir Rectory, the son of the rector and chaplain to the Duke of Rutland.
He was educated at Christ s Hospital before going to RMA Sandhurst.
Commissioned in 1949, he served with the 1st Battalion Royal Lincolnshire Regiment in the Suez Canal Zone and Germany and then in Malaya during the Communist insurgency.
He was mentioned in despatches.
After The Royal Lincolns were amalgamated with the Northamptonshire Regiment to form the 2nd East (later Royal) Anglian Regiment and, after returning to Sandhurst as an instructor, he served with this battalion in Germany.
In 1963, after passing the Staff College examination, he attended the Indian Defence Services Staff College in south India.
Gerrard-Wright then became brigade major of the 70th (East African) Brigade in Kenya.
He sat in on cabinet meetings chaired by Jomo Kenyatta and played an important part in preparing the brigade for its role as the basis for the newly independent Kenya army.
He was appointed MBE.
In 1966 he moved to Malaysia on being appointed brigade major of 28th (Commonwealth) Brigade.
Gerrard-Wright adopted a pet monkey, called Psmith, whom he promoted lance-corporal.
The creature occasionally lost its temper and one day climbed to the top of a tent, where it vented its rage on the occupants by sprinkling them with talcum powder.
Psmith was immediately reduced to the ranks.
In 1970 Gerrard-Wright took command of the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Two operational tours in Northern Ireland at a time of increasing violence established him as a first-rate battalion commander.
At the end of his tour he was appointed OBE and again mentioned in despatches.
A staff appointment at HQ I (British) Corps in Germany was followed by a return to Northern Ireland in command of 39 Infantry Brigade.
He was advanced to CBE in 1977 and attended the Canadian National Defence College, Ontario.
In 1979 Gerrard-Wright returned to HQ 1 (British) Corps as Chief of Staff.
He was promoted major-general the following year upon becoming GOC Eastern District.
After a spell at the MoD as Director TA and Cadets, in 1985 he was appointed CB on retiring from the Army.
The recent Allied offensive had slowed in pace.
As a result the divisional commander of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division ordered elements forward in an effort to further disrupt the Britsh in his sector.
Commanded by Hans Schlomer, the Kampfgruppe s major combat elements included two Panzer Grenadier battalions at near full strength and a third at reduced strength. All battalions being drawn from the 8th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Other combat elements included a company of Stug III assault guns from the division s Panzer battalion and a company of Jagdpanzer IVs from the divisional anti-tank company.
Additional formations included specialist AA and artillery elements.
The general area of operations can be seen below, viewed from the south. British forces are approaching from the left centre. In 8th Panzer Grenadier Regiment s sector one battalion is positioned forward and is visible in the middle centre and along the ridge running west to east.
Be sure to click on each image for a more detailed view.
The German commander s staff completed a hasty assessment of the situation which would form the basis of the operation.
The British were believed to be advancing in reinforced brigade strength and expected to deploy additional armoured support.
A number of hills and converging roads suggested the focus of the British advance would be against the centre and right.
The advanced 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion, comprising a particularly well core of veterans, was to hold a small village and wooded hill each in company strength. A handful of anti-tank guns would bolster the defence. A reserve company held high ground to the battalions rear and acted as a battalion reserve and protection of the otherwise exposed left flank.
The entire battalion s position would form a forward defensive bastion for the kampfgruppe.
As such observers for the division s 105mm artillery battalion and attached werfers supported the battalion.
To the right the 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion would advance on foot to pin the expected advancing British battalions frontally. The support allocated to this battalion was minimal with indirect fire weapons being limited to the battalion s own 120mm mortars. Below, the area over which 2nd Battalion would advance over.
The battalion would be slowed by a river running across its axis of advance.
This battalion would be reinforced with Stug and Jagdpanzers as well as additional mobile flak.
Due to the location of the British forces this battalion was forced to enter the operational area from the north-east rather than due east, as originally planned.
Below, another view of the 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion showing the deployment of Stugs and Jadgpanzers as well as supporting flak weapons.
As the German 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion entered the area of operations the British second battalion continued forward towards the German centre.
Reinforced with a number of Vickers HMG s, Churchill tanks and 17pdr anti-tank guns the British centre was strong.
However, the battalion came under an extremely effective werfer strike which meant that a number of platoons went to ground just as the advancing 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion engaged them in what was to become a prolonged fire-fight.
Below, several elements are suppressed by the werfers.
Concurrently the 3rd Panzer Battalion attack was developing. The closed terrain however caused issues for both forces. The German armour was unable to concentrate while the British Churchills were forced to retire rather than risk advancing through a narrow gap between a village and wood.
The result was that while German Panzer Grenadiers suffered heavy casualties due to artillery fire the battalion attacks slowly gained ground on the British 3rd battalion on the high ground to their front.
Below, the German 2nd and 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalions can be advancing on the exposed British centre and left.
On the extreme left a village can be seen.
This formed the right flank of the 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion.
With the converging German attacks the British battalion zones became mixed. As a result some support stands were unable to deploy effectively. However, after a squadron of Churchill tanks were withdrawn supporting 17pdrs were able to operate more effectively.
Below, British 17pdrs and Churchill tanks.
Meanwhile a prolonged engagement had taken on the German left flank where the veteran 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion had been attacked by a reinforced British battalion.
Initially the British attack had fallen on a single German company deployed on a wooded hill.
As the battle progressed additional German platoons were moved forward to counter a British flanking movement and then later to press a counter-attack.
Above, the British attack has failed and surviving British platoons have fallen back just prior to the German counter-attack.
German 105mm artillery was critical to breaking up the attacks.
With the British attacks stalled across the Brigade sector and casualties rising alarmingly the British commander had little choice but to order a withdrawal.
The 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division had achieved it s objective.
Now consideration was given to follow-on attacks
The above scenario was developed using the Spearhead Scenario Generation System.
The scenario was an Advance to Contact scenario where both British and German players used their defend lists.
All figures are from Heroics and Ros 6mm ranges.