Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

The Battle for Villers-Bocage, Normandy 1944

The Battle for Villers-Bocage | PDF | 56 Pages | 16 Megabytes

Battle for Villers-Bocage

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When the British landed in Normandy on D-Day, they had one main objective: seize the key city of Caen from where William the conqueror had sailed for England nine centuries ago. Capturing Caen would give the Allies a base from where they could conduct deeper offensives into France. But the frontal advance was held up a German Panzer division and so a murderous slog began.

Frustrated, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery planned to outflank the enemy and committed his best divisions into the advance. In the lead was the veteran British 7th Armoured Division, the famed “Desert Rats,” who had seen extensive action in North Africa. Initially the advance went on as planned but when the British came upon the town of Villers-Bocage, their fortunes began to slide. As the “Desert Rats” began to occupy the town, the Germans attacked – setting the stage for one of the most controversial battles of the Normandy Campaign.

Contains a full order of battle for both sides, 8 maps, pencil and color illustrations.


Lt. Rex Ingram, a Stuart tank commander of the Recce Troop was killed in action during Wittmann’s attack after he heroically attempted to shield the other British tanks on the road. His mother was told that after the Stuart was hit, Ingram and the rest of the crew had bailed out, only to realize that the driver was still trapped in the hull. Returning to the tank, Ingram tried to free the man until mortally cut down by a burst of machine-gun fire. He was buried in the garden of a nearby Frenchman, whose son later became good friends with Ingram’s mother after the war.

(LEFT) This is reportedly Ingram’s Stuart Mk V, nicknamed “Calamity Jane II.” Here, a German officer inspects the wrecked machine. Despite being struck by a high-velocity 88mm shell, the tank seems in remarkably good shape. (Photo source: Bundesarchiv)

The family would welcome any additional details about Ingram’s last hours on that day.

Information and Lt. Ingram’s photograph provided by Paul Carpenter,  Ingram’s second cousin.


German Vb soldierThis unidentified German SS Oberscharfuhrer from the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Panzer Division, was allegedly killed in action in the Villers-Bocage area during the battle. (See Alan Wright’s comments below).

On the body was found a boxed Iron Cross 1st Class with the photo of the victim. (In the photo, he is also wearing the ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class — on his lower left lapel). Since the division did not largely arrive in Normandy until 6 July 1944 (minus 5,600 men),  it is a mystery as to how this man came to be killed in the Villers-Bocage area on 14 June.

He is credited with shooting and wounding Trooper Robert Wright, who was the tank driver/mechanic of a Cromwell tank under Lt. Hedges of ‘B’ Squadron, 4th CLY. According to Alan, the tank was decorated with a cartooned woman and christened “Madame Fifi” — all this before the unit knew that it was going to France.

If anyone has any pertinent thoughts or information to offer, kindly leave a message on this page or contact Alan Wright, UK.

Iron Cross in presentation Case All photographs courtesy of Alan Wright.

9 responses to “The Battle for Villers-Bocage, Normandy 1944

  1. Alan Wright February 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Found this a thrilling read and got a real sense of the battle. My father was a tank driver in B Squadron under a Lt. Hedges and I have his memoir of the two days 13-14th June. He recounted his experience of chasing round the back streets of the town engaging the Germans in his Cromwell. He only saw one small part of the battle although he did have a copy of ‘Sharpshooters at War’ to give a wider perspective.

    In withdrawing to a position outside Villers his tank was hit with HE in the rear and he lost engine coolant: his engine consequently seized up. Later in the day he was hit by sniper fire when outside the ‘dead’ tank although he survived. Later he was taken to a FA post to treat his broken arm and flesh wounds.
    Outside the FA lay the body of a dead German who he was told was the sniper who shot him. Father was given the German’s medal – a boxed Iron Cross – which I have. Also inside the case was a passport size photo of a German – presumed to be the owner of the medal. I would like to identify the Regiment – he looks if he could be a tank Officer but this would not square with him being a sniper.

    My father was eventually shipped back home and ended up in Scotland where he met Cpl. Horne who was also wounded and received the DCM for his actions in Villers.

    Alan Wright

    • Akhil Kadidal February 26, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Outstanding information, Alan. Truly fascinating.

      You say you have read your father’s memoir on the battle? Is this something that has been published and if so, where can I buy a copy?

      Thanks for your kind words about my research. Really, I wrote it primarily to satisfy my own understanding of the battle and I’m glad its helped others.

      If you’d like to share any pictures or additional information on this site, do let me know. I’d be happy to put it up.

      • Alan Wright February 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

        My original reply seems to have gone astray.
        My father’s memoir of Villers is only a couple of pages in a longer personal history and has not been published.
        I would like to share the photo of the German soldier as someone might recognise the uniform. He was killed on June 14th, 1944.
        How can I upload the jpeg?
        Alan Wright

      • Akhil Kadidal February 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

        Sure. No problem. If you will mail the image to me at:, I’ll post it on the page.

  2. Philip Appleyard August 26, 2014 at 9:34 am

    The unidentified Oberscharfuhrer, is Hannes Philipsen from the 1st Kompanie s.SS.Pz.Abt.101.

    • Akhil Kadidal August 26, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Great information Philip. Thanks.

      • Alan Wright August 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

        Thanks for passing on the identification of Hannes Philipsen. Who is Philip Appleyard?
        As it happens I was contacted some months ago from another source – a French author who is currently writing a book on Villers-Bocage. Through a German colleague they identified the same man. In addition they found that a nephew of Philipsen was still alive and I was put in touch with him and was able to return the Iron Cross to the family.
        I could not advise you of these developments as I agreed not to make this public, first on the Phiiipsen family’s behalf and also for the French author’s behalf.
        One thing that I had wrong was the fact that Philipsen died on June 16th not June 14th. Which left me with a little mystery as how did Philipsen’s medal fall into my father’s hands when he was back in England in hospital by June 15th. The French author and I have worked out a possible route but nothing definitive.

  3. Gerald May 9, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

    • Akhil Kadidal May 9, 2015 at 11:59 pm

      Thank you, Gerald. Warfare can be fascinating, I believe, because the human race is inherently a warlike species. We are constantly torn between our desires for peace and destruction. In many ways the act of combat is absurd, totally insane and irrational, but undoubtedly a part of the human condition. Human philosophical evolution may largely negate the need for war – maybe in a million years – if we’re still around, eh?

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