The Story of the Guards Armoured Division...


...from Pen and Sword


Title: The Story of the Guards Armoured Division

Author: Captain the Earl of Rosse and Colonel E R Hill DSO

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-52670-043-8

This history was first published way back in 1956, at a time when the memories were still fresh with the veterans, and written by serving Guards officer using not just the unit histories but with notes from many of those who lived through the experiences.  Formed in 1941, at a time when Britain recognised the need to create more armoured formations, the decision was taken to convert a new armoured division from perhaps the most famous British infantry formation, the Brigade of Guards.

This book is good evidence that the choice was a wise one.  After training in the UK as they learnt their new role is explained in chapter 1 the story then moves to Normandy where they took part in Operation Goodwood.  It was during this battle that one Sherman of the division, unable to fire its' main gun, knocked out a German King Tiger by ramming it!  This period also includes the loss of the artist Rex Whistler, who was a Lieutenant in the Irish Guards and who was killed in Normandy during July.   From the close quarters fighting in the confines of Normandy they went on through Caumont as part of the breakout and then the speed of the advance to Brussels. At this time units of the division also pushed German units out of Waterloo, perhaps one of the most famous European battlefields.

The chapters move on to Forcing the Canal Lines as they moved into Holland, and these were still a significant obstacle for armoured units so bridges became a significant focus.  It was the bridge at Arnhem that then takes the stage, and when the Guards Armoured division was at the heart of the drive up the road through Nijmegan to try and reach the Airborne units at Arnhem itself.

After that came the cold winter of 1944 when things slowed down.  It picked up again with the move into the Reichswald Forest and Germany itself.  The end of the war was approaching, and the final chapters cover From the Rhine to the Ems, then From the Ems Towards Bremen before The Final Phase and an Epilogue, along with the addition of a new 2017 Epilogue as well.

The end of the book covers the end of the Guards Armoured Division at the end of the war, as they were returned to their traditional infantry role.  There are maps plus a section of archive photos in the middle of the book, including portraits of some of the commanders, along with images from their training and the various battles along the way.  It is a fascinating story, and written in a very readable way, not just a basic list of what happened on what day.  It is great to see these older books republished, telling the story to a new generation of interested historians.