Unit History: Armoured Training Battalion
On the 1st September 1939, general mobilisation was ordered again, and the training Battalion was formed and moved to Couldsdon Common just outside the Guards Depot at Caterham. Meanwhile on the 3rd September 1939 when War was declared both the First and Second Battalions were at Wellington Barracks, London. In November 1940, The Holding Battalion (later to be the 3rd Battalion) was formed.
On the 10th April 1940 the 1st Battalion, which formed part of the 24th Guards Brigade, left London for service in Norway putting an end to the questions about where they might be sent first. It was here the Battalion fought against German troops for the first time since 1918. The ship carrying the Battalion into action (HMT Chobry) was bombed by a force of Heinkel bombers resulting in a dreadful loss of life, including the Commanding Officer Lt. Col. W.D. Faulkner, the Second-in-Command Major C.L.J. Bowen, the Adjutant Capt the Hon B.A. O’Neill and three of the five Company Commanders. However, the Battalion successfully went into action and was subsequently withdrawn in the evacuation on the 4th June 1940 from Narvik. The Battle Honour ’Norway’ was awarded.
On the 12th May 1940 (the day before the 1st Battalion sailed) the 2nd Battalion was ordered to sail for the Hook of Holland, to cover the evacuation of the Dutch Royal Family and Government. Eight days later, in the company with the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards, they were off again, this time to Boulogne in an attempt to buy time for the BEF’s evacuation from Calais and Dunkirk. Pressed on all sides by the Germans and being fired upon the remains of both Battalions re-embarked. Each Battalion leaving behind 200 Officers and Other Ranks killed, wounded or missing.
In June 1941, the 2nd Battalions equipped with well worn Covenanters Mark 1 Tanks and took it’s place in the newly formed Guards Armoured Division. The 3rd Battalion joined the Guards Armoured Division during the Autumn of 1943 to be one of the Infantry Battalions in the Division and from then until the end of the war they trained with the 2nd Armoured Battalion on the Regiment. On the 1st March 1943 the 1st Battalion embarked for North Africa and formed part of the 1st Army.They suffered very heavy casualties but it was during this campaign that Lance Corporal Kenneally won his Victoria Cross (For his full citation see the Victoria Crosses page).
From North Africa the 1st Battalion moved across to Italy and took part in the particular bitter fighting in the Anzio beach head. Casualties were very heavy and in April 1944, the remnants of the 1st Battalion, a total of no more that 20 Officers and 247 Other Ranks returned to England and took no further part as a Battalion fighting in Europe with the survivors being absorbed into the other two Battalions.
The 2nd and 3rd Battalions landed with the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy in June 1944, and fought with the Division until the end of the war, taking part in the advance from Seine to Nijmegen. It was during this time the celebrated Lt. Col. J.O.E. Vandeleur, Commander of the Irish Guards Group led an attack on the bridge over the Meuse-Escaut Canal at De Groote Barrier (which is forever immortalised by the film "A Bridge Too Far’.) This bridge is now known as ’Joe’s Bridge’ in Honour of his exploits.
In June 1945, the 2nd Battalion relinquished its tanks and reverted back to its original role as an Infantry Battalion and formed part of the Occupation Army of the Rhine. The Battalion returned from Germany in March 1947 and was disbanded in July of the same year when it’s Colours were laid up.
The 3rd Battalion was withdrawn to England in February 1946 and disbanded. The training Battalion was disbanded in July 1946.