Military history


It was at this stage that Montgomery determined to commit his two veteran divisions of the old Eighth Army, 51st Highland and 7th Armoured. ‘You don’t send your best batsman in first,’ he had said crisply before D-Day when one of a group of 7th Armoured officers asked – in a spirit that might not have been shared by some of his colleagues – why the formation was not to take part in the initial landings.1 Now, he proposed to use his ‘best batsmen’ in two major flank attacks around Caen: 51st Highland would pass through the 6th Airborne bridgehead east of the Orne; 7th Armoured would hook to the south-west. The landings of the 7th Armoured and 51st Highland had been delayed by the weather, which was also causing serious artillery ammunition shortages. Beach organization and traffic control remained a chronic problem – on Gold alone, the engineers had been compelled to deal with 2,500 obstacles, many of them mined, comprising a total of 900 tons of steel and concrete. Nuisance night raids by up to 50 Luftwaffe aircraft constituted no major threat to the beachhead, but compounded delays and difficulties. Sword beach continued to be plagued by incoming shellfire.

Throughout these days, the German army mounted no major counter-attack. A desperate plan contrived by General Geyr von Schweppenburg of Panzer Group West was aborted by Rommel on 10 June – insufficient forces were concentrated. The following day, Geyr’s headquarters were pinpointed by Allied Ultra decrypts, and put out of action by air strikes. Yet the local counter-attacks mounted by German forces in the line, above all against the paratroopers east of the Orne, were so formidable as to inflict devastating casualties upon the British paratroopers, and finally to crush 51st Highland’s attack within hours of its inception on 11 June. The Germans had now deployed their 346th and 711th Divisions alongside elements of 21st Panzer and 716th on this right flank. 5th Black Watch, advancing into their first action at 4.30 a.m. that morning, suffered 200 casualties in an attempt to reach Bréville. ‘Every man of the leading platoon died with his face to the foe,’ recorded the divisional history proudly.2 Yet General Gale, commanding 6th Airborne, concluded that it was essential to seize the village to close a dangerous gap in his own perimeter. The next night, the 12th Battalion, Parachute Regiment, in a brilliant sacrificial battle, gained Bréville at a cost of 141 casualties among the 160 men with which the unit advanced. The German 3rd/858th Regiment, which was defending the village, was reduced from 564 men to 146 in three days of fighting. Between the 11th and the 13th, other elements of 51st Highland Division sought to push southwards towards Sainte Honorine. But after a bitter series of to-and-fro actions in which every temporary gain was met by fierce German counter-attack, the British attack east of Caen petered out. The lightly-armed parachute battalions were exhausted and drained of men and ammunition. 51st Highland was unable to make progress.

‘The fact must be faced,’ declared the divisional history, ‘that at this period the normally very high morale of the Division fell temporarily to a very low ebb . . . A kind of claustrophobia affected the troops, and the continual shelling and mortaring from an unseen enemy in relatively great strength were certainly very trying . . .’3

For the enemy also, the struggle east of the Orne remained an appalling memory. Corporal Werner Kortenhaus of 21st Panzer saw four of his company’s 10 tanks brewed up in five minutes during the attack on the château at Escoville on 9 June. Again and again the Mk IVs crawled forward, supporting infantry huddled behind the protection of their hulls as they advanced into the furious British mortar and shellfire. But when the tanks reversed they were often unable to see behind them, and rolled over the terrible screams of the injured or sheltering men who lay in theirpath. A wounded panzergrenadier cried for his mother from no man’s land all one night in front of their position. Kortenhaus, trying to sleep beneath his tank, woke in the morning to find the tunic that he had laid on the hull when he dismounted was shredded by shell fragments. The bombardment seldom seemed to pause.

On 13 June, his company lost four more tanks in the struggle against 51st Highland Division. They saved the driver and gunner of one panzer, who ran from their burning vehicle, by cramming them somehow into their own turret as they accelerated away in retreat through the cornfields. Their company commander, Lieutenant Neumann, leapt down from his own tank and led the infantry in a desperate counter-attack against the Black Watch, firing a Schmeisser. He survived, only to be hit as he climbed back into his own turret. ‘We became very depressed,’ said Kortenhaus. ‘We had given up any hope of victory after repeated failures in attack.’4 Yet the Germans held their ground east of the Orne despite the overwhelming superiority of the Allies in fire support.

Montgomery’s 8 June concept for the envelopment of Caen included a plan to drop 1st Airborne Division behind the town when 51st Highland and 7th Armoured had made sufficient progress on the flanks. To his bitter anger, this was decisively vetoed by Leigh-Mallory, always a sceptic about parachute operations. Yet the disappointment that now attended the push by 7th Armoured on Second Army’s western flank made discussion of ambitious objectives beyond Caen almost immediately irrelevant.5

On 10 June, when the division moved through 50th Division’s positions west of Caen, its commander Major-General Erskine could report that he ‘never felt serious difficulty in beating down enemy resistance’. Only four tanks were lost. It thus seemed all the more remarkable that the Desert Rats made little progress, and fared no better on 11 June. British infantry who penetrated Tilly were unable to secure the town for lack of tank support. But as opposition stiffened in front of them, Dempsey and Bucknall – XXX Corps’ commander – perceived a weakness on the enemy’s left – a yawning hole in the German line between Caumont and Villers-Bocage. On 12 June, they swung 7th Armoured westwards to launch a new attack on this southeasterly axis. This advance began at 3 p.m., led by the 8th Hussars, and progressed intoxicatingly well for some hours. ‘On arrival at Cahagnolles we meet a US patrol in armoured cars and jeeps looking very dusty and excited,’ the Hussars CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Cuthbert Goulburn, recorded in his diary. ‘We are all beginning to think we have obtained a complete breakthrough.’ But then, at the approach to Livry, the Hussars’ leading tank was knocked out by a panzerfaust. In the close country, they could find no means of bypassing the village, and the motor company of the Rifle Brigade had to be called forward to clear the German outpost defending it. Meanwhile, Brigadier ‘Loony’ Hinde, commanding 22nd Armoured Brigade, ordered Goulburn’s regiment to swing east and reconnoitre a possible alternative line of advance via the village of La Croix Des Landes. ‘A direct advance up the road is the only way,’ wrote the Colonel. ‘So I say OK to Guy [Threlfall] and off go Talbot Harvey’s troop. After two or three minutes we hear an anti-tank gun fire about three shots. Harvey goes “off the air” and Guy gets no reply. Shortly afterwards, Harvey’s troop corporal returns in his tank, very shaken and in tears, to say that both leading tanks have been “brewed up”.’ Livry was by now cleared, but with darkness falling, the advance was halted. It was well into the small hours before the supply vehicles could find their way forward among the great jam of British armour clogging the narrow road to refuel and re-arm the lead squadrons. The day’s events had demonstrated how readily even small numbers of Germans could hamper the movement of a British armoured division in country where it was enormously difficult to present more than one small unit at a time to the enemy.

After reveille at 4.30 a.m. on the 13th, 7th Armoured renewed their advance towards Villers-Bocage through Livry, now led by 4th County of London Yeomanry under Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Cranley. The British column clattered up the winding road among the great chestnut trees before Villers, and into the town at about 8 a.m. without meeting opposition. The bulk of the regiment halted and its crews dismounted while Cranley, with one squadron of tanks, two command vehicles, and the Rifle Brigade motor company, moved on to their objective, the high ground of Point 213, one-and-a-half miles east of the town. They passed the tantalising concrete signpost with its bald legend: CAEN 24. Cranley deployed most of his A Squadron in the fields straddling the road, facing eastwards. The balance of the tanks, followed by the half-tracks of the Rifle Brigade, halted in a long column by the roadside down the long, straight slope yards behind them. The riflemen dismounted while their officers went forward for further orders. Montgomery signalled the news to De Guingand at his main headquarters in England: ‘So my pincer movement to get Caen is taking good shape, and there are distinct possibilities that the enemy divisions may not find it too easy to escape; especially Panzer Lehr . . .’

Yet already nemesis was approaching every British hope around Villers, in the form of a Tiger tank commanded by Captain Michael Wittman, leader of a group of five from the 501st SS Heavy Tank Battalion. His company had left Beauvais on 7 June, and after suffering severely from an air attack near Versailles on the 8th, had travelled only in darkness to reach their present position on 12 June. They had planned to spend the 13th making repairs and urgent maintenance on their tanks. But now Wittman stood in his turret studying the halted British column beyond Villers. The Germans were some 250 yards south of the road, well behind Cranley’s forward screen. ‘They’re acting as if they’ve won the war already,’ muttered his gunner, Corporal Woll. Wittman, already celebrated on the Eastern Front as the greatest panzer ace of the war, said calmly: ‘We’re going to prove them wrong.’ At about 9.05 a.m. his Tiger, two more behind it, roared forward in line ahead, parallel to the Rifle Brigade column. A horrified British dispatch rider spotted the threat: ‘I called to Mr de Pass and told him, and he said something like it being one of ours. At this point I decided to tell Major Wright. He calmly informed me that he knew and that they were all round us.’ The Tigers swung towards the British line. The rear two halted and opened fire, while Wittman himself charged forward up a farm track towards the road, to begin one of the most devastating single-handed actions of the war.

His first 88 mm shell destroyed the rearmost of 4th CLY’s Cromwells, while his second hit a Sherman Firefly in front of it. Then the Tiger reached the road, swerved left towards Villers, and roared down the hill machine-gunning the Rifle Brigade and their half-tracks at point-blank range. Lieutenant de Pass jumped up saying, ‘We must get the PIAT,’ and was killed instantly as he sought to clamber on to his vehicle. A few riflemen attempted to engage the Tigers with their 6pdr anti-tank guns before being shot down. Others ran desperately for open country as machine-gun fire raked the ditch in which they had taken refuge. ‘Looking back down the road towards the town,’ wrote a British officer, ‘it was possible to see a long column of blazing tanks and half-tracks, which had been hopelessly surprised by the unexpected attack – a “school solution” ambush.’

Having effectively written off the motor company, Wittman reached the top of the narrow high street of Villers, where the remainder of 4th CLY’s Cromwells lay wholly unawares. Here, he destroyed three tanks of the HQ group, then that of Major Carr, the 2i/c whose driver frantically reversed into a garden, unable to fire more than three rounds because his loader was dismounted. Sergeant Stan Lockwood, a 30-year-old Londoner commanding a Sherman Firefly leading B Squadron, heard shooting start nearby, then saw a scout car race around the corner towards him, the driver waving his arms in frantic warning. Lockwood’s Sherman nosed cautiously around a building to see before it, 200 yards away with its turret broadside on, Wittman’s Tiger apparently firing up a sidestreet. Lockwood’s gunner slammed four 17-pounder shots at the Tiger, one of which caused smoke and flame to appear on the hull. Then a shot from Wittman brought half the building above the Sherman down on to its hull, and before the British had extricated themselves from the debris, the German was gone. Only superficially damaged, Wittman’s tank was able to demolish a last Cromwell before reversing away. Its commander, Captain Pat Dyas, escaped with the help of a local French girl to another tank of B Squadron, from which he radioed his commanding officer Lord Cranley with a report on the disastrous events in Villers. The Colonel could only reply that he knew the situation was desperate, but that he himself, along with the tanks of A Squadron, was at that moment being engaged by other Tigers. It was the regiment’s last contact with him. At 10.30 a.m. he spoke for the last time to Brigadier Hinde, then his signals to brigade ceased. The surviving tanks of 4th CLY remained in their positions with a handful of riflemen amid intermittent shellfire, hoping for rescue. The officer commanding A Squadron had been killed by shellfire. An attempt by one Cromwell to probe an escape route up a track north-eastwards was terminated abruptly by German tank fire. Thereafter, there was little movement at Point 213 for more than two hours. Brigade assumed that the British force was already destroyed. In reality, only at 1 p.m. did new German armour reach the scene, taking prisoner almost all the British survivors, including Lord Cranley. Captain Christopher Milner of the Rifle Brigade escaped alone on foot, to rejoin his formation the next day.

Meanwhile, in the town of Villers, a day of desperate fighting had begun. Infantry of the l/7th Queens arriving to support 4th CLY encountered a German staff car and two motor-cycle combinations head on at the western approach of the town. They staged a brisk firefight with the survivors. They then planned to advance to the relief of Point 213. Cranley vetoed this by radio. A lull ensued until about 2 p.m., when a new German armoured and infantry attack on Villers developed, and the Queens hastily deployed among the houses to meet it. This time, with PIATs and anti-tank guns, the Germans were beaten off with the loss of seven tanks, including that of Wittman, although all the German crews escaped. Brigadier Hinde sent orders that the town must be held at all costs. Yet the Germans were also desperate to destroy the threat to their line. Lieutenant-Colonel Kurt Kauffmann, Operations Officer of Panzer Lehr, personally assembled two 88 mm guns, three field guns and a ragtag of rear area troops and led them into the street fighting in Villers, while infantry of 2 Panzer moved up from the south.6 Intermittent fierce rain showers added to the trials of the combatants. Lieutenant Cotton of the CLY, finding his 95 mm-gunned tank useless in a battle of this kind, tidily disposed of it in a nearby garage and fought on foot, clutching an umbrella. Yet as evening approached, with the Queens’ battalion headquarters pinned down and his men under constant heavy shellfire, their CO reported that he could halt German infantry infiltration only with reinforcements. These were not forthcoming. Throughout 7th Armoured’s sector, its units were sending back to Hinde and Erskine disturbing reports of pressure and casualties from all points of the compass. ‘News trickled back,’ wrote a British scout car commander of 1st RTR, Sergeant Peter Roach:

The leading regiment . . . had run into real trouble . . . Regiment two was sitting dangerously tight while Jerry was making his way down the flanks . . . Chalky and I sat in the shelter of our hedge and watched. Someone was reporting a man moving towards him. Was it a civilian? Perhaps it was! No, it wasn’t! It must be a German infantryman. Suddenly the colonel’s voice, with a touch of weariness and exasperation, ‘Besa the bugger then.’ . . . We were all refreshed; we knew what to do and were back in reality.7

‘We are in a corridor with enemy on both sides’, wrote Lieutenant-Colonel Goulburn of the 8th Hussars, although his German opponents were simultaneously reporting to Army Group B the acute threat presented to their front by the British penetration. Around 6 p.m. that evening, with German reinforcements still concentrating around Villers, the surviving British forces were withdrawn to positions around Tracy-Bocage, two miles west, where Hinde had created a ‘brigade box’. The surviving tanks of the City of London Yeomanry had been warned to time their retirement precisely, for as they departed a massive bombardment was to fall on Villers-Bocage to cover them, with American support from the west. Sergeant Lockwood’s Sherman moved only a few yards across the square of Villers-Bocage before it stalled. The driver reported with horror: ‘I can’t start the bloody thing!’ Then, to their enormous relief, Sergeant Bill Moore jumped down from the turret of his following tank amidst the fierce sniping and machine-gun fire, shackled his cable to their hull, and towed them out of the town minutes before the barrage erupted. ‘We felt bad about getting out,’ said Lockwood. ‘It made it seem as if it had been such a waste.’8 The day’s fighting had cost 7th Armoured 25 tanks and 28 other armoured vehicles.

The following morning, further east, XXX Corps launched a new series of attacks by 50th Division against 901 Panzergrenadiers in Tilly. The British were supported by 11 squadrons of fighter-bombers in an attempt to push back Panzer Lehr’s units and generate sufficient pressure to enable 7th Armoured to renew its own offensive. But two brigades attacking on a 4000-yard front failed to gain ground. The Germans considered that the day was decided by the new Panzerfaust, the superb hand-held infantry anti-tank weapon which they were able to use to formidable effect against Allied tanks advancing in the close country. For reasons that will never be known, General Bucknall failed to ask Second Army for infantry reinforcements to provide direct support for the cut-off tanks of 7th Armoured. 1/7th Queens, which had fought so hard for Villers the previous day, had by now lost 8 officers and 120 other ranks. A massive artillery bombardment by American guns around Caumont broke up an attack on the British tank positions by 2 Panzer, but the ‘brigade box’ was now threatened with a serious risk of encirclement. Brigadier ‘Looney’ Hinde drove up to his tank positions in a scout car, and began to give his officers their night orders for withdrawal, covered by the exhausted infantry of the Queens. Hinde had won his nickname in the desert both for courage and eccentricity. Now, he suddenly broke off in mid-sentence and peered fascinated at the ground. ‘Anybody got a matchbox?’ he demanded in excitement. Amidst the acute strain of the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Carver of 1st RTR suggested that this might not be a good moment to worry about nature. ‘Don’t be such a bloody fool, Mike!’ exploded Hinde. ‘You can fight a battle every day of your life, but you might not see a caterpillar like that in fifteen years!’9

At the divisional commander’s briefing for the withdrawal, Lieutenant-Colonel Goulburn recorded the reasons given: ‘Firstly, 50 Div attack towards Longreves-Tilly, which commenced this morning, has made very little progress. Secondly, 2 Panzer Division has been identified on our front and it would appear that unless we can form a firm base back on our centre line with at least an infantry brigade (which we haven’t got), he could cut off our communications, work round us and attack us from any direction.’ Early on the evening of the 14th, a heavy German attack on 22nd Armoured Brigade’s ‘box’ at Tracy-Bocage was repulsed. In its aftermath, the Germans were unable to impede 7th Armoured’s disengagement and retreat under cover of darkness. They withdrew four miles to positions east of Caumont, their supporting infantry slumbering exhausted on the hulls of the Cromwells, in many cases too far gone to waken or to dismount even when they reached the safety of their new harbours.

By any measure, Villers-Bocage had been a wretched episode for the British, a great opportunity lost as the Germans now closed the gap in their line. As Second Army reviewed the events of the past four days, it was apparent that the Germans had handled a dangerous situation superbly, while XXX Corps and 7th Armoured division had notably failed to meet the responsibilities that had been thrust upon them. On 10/11 June, the division had begun its attack led by tanks widely separated from their supporting infantry. When they encountered snipers and pockets of resistance manned by only handfuls of Germans, the entire advance was blocked for lack of infantry close at hand to deal with them. High explosive shells fired by tanks possessed negligible ability to dislodge well dug-in troops, although invaluable in suppressing enemy fire to cover an infantry advance. When tanks met infantry in defensive positions supported by anti-tank weapons, their best and often only possible tactic was to push forward their own infantry within a matter of minutes to clear them, supported by mortars. Yet again and again in Normandy, British tanks outran their infantry, leaving themselves exposed to German anti-tank screens, and the foot soldiers without cover for their own movement under fire. The suspicion was also born at 21st Army Group, hardening rapidly in the weeks which followed, that 7th Armoured Division now seriously lacked the spirit and determination which made it so formidable a formation in the desert. Many of its veterans felt strongly that they had done their share of fighting in the Mediterranean, and had become wary and cunning in the reduction of risk. They lacked the tight discipline which is even more critical on the battlefield than off it. The Tiger tank was incomparably a more formidable weapon of war than the Cromwell, but the shambles created by Wittman and his tiny force in Villers-Bocage scarcely reflected well upon the vigilance or tactics of a seasoned British armoured formation. Responsibility for the paralysis of purpose which overcame XXX Corps when 7th Armoured’s tanks lay isolated at Tracy-Bocage after their initial withdrawal had to rest with its commander, General Bucknall, an officer henceforth treated with suspicion by Dempsey and Montgomery. Dempsey said:

This attack by 7th Armoured Division should have succeeded. My feeling that Bucknall and Erskine would have to go started with that failure. Early on the morning of 12 June I went down to see Erskine – gave him his orders and told him to get moving . . . If he had carried out my orders he would not have been kicked out of Villers-Bocage but by this time 7th Armoured Division was living on its reputation and the whole handling of that battle was a disgrace.10

Yet the men of 7th Armoured Division bitterly resented any suggestion that, in the Villers battle, they had given less than their best. It was enormously difficult to adjust their tactics and outlook overnight to the new conditions of Normandy after years of fighting in the desert. They were newly-equipped with the inadequate Cromwell, which many of their gunners had scarcely test-fired, after fighting with Shermans in North Africa. There had been spectacular acts of individual heroism, many of which cost men their lives. The 1/7th Queens, especially, had fought desperately to hold the town. For those at the forefront of 22nd Armoured’s battle, it was intolerable to suggest that somehow an easy opportunity had been thrown away through any fault of theirs. The German achievement on 13/14 June had been that, while heavily outnumbered in the sector as a whole, they successfully kept the British everywhere feeling insecure and off-balance, while concentrating sufficient forces to dominate the decisive points. The British, in their turn, failed to bring sufficient forces to bear upon these. It seems likely that Brigadier Hinde, while a superbly courageous exponent of ‘leading from the front’, did not handle the large brigade group under his command as imaginatively as might have been possible, and higher formations failed to give him the support he needed. It is remarkable to reflect that the men on the spot believed a single extra infantry brigade could have been decisive in turning the scale at Villers, yet this was not forthcoming. Some 7th Armoured veterans later argued that Montgomery and Dempsey should have taken a much closer personal interest in a battle of such critical importance. For whatever reasons, the only conclusion must be that the British failed to concentrate forces that were available on the battlefield at a vital point at a critical moment of the campaign.

A sour sense, not of defeat, but of fumbled failure, overlay the British operation on the western flank. On 11 June, while 7th Armoured was probing hesitantly south, on its left flank the 69th Brigade of 50th Division was hastily ordered forward to exploit what was believed to be another gap in the German line, around the village of Cristot. Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Hastings of the 6th Green Howards was mistrustful of the reported lack of opposition – he anyway lacked confidence in his elderly brigadier – and was no more sanguine after his battalion had waited three hours for transport to its start-line. When the Green Howards moved off, two companies up, they were quickly outdistanced by their supporting tanks of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards, who raced forward along through the orchards. They failed to observe the hidden positions of panzergrenadiers of 12th SS Panzer, who had been rushed forward to secure the Cristot line in the hours since the British reconnaissance. Lying mute after the passage of the tanks, the SS poured a devastating fire on the Green Howards advancing through the corn, while anti-tank guns disposed of the Britisharmour from their rear. Only two of the nine Shermans escaped, and the advancing infantry suffered appallingly.

With one company commander dead and the other wounded, Hastings’s B and C Companies were pinned down. He ordered A to move up on the right and attempt to outflank the enemy. When he himself began to go forward to sort out B and C, his battalion headquarters came under such heavy fire that he was compelled to call up D Company, his last reserve, to clear the way ahead. CSM Stan Hollis, whose courage had done so much for the battalion on D-Day, was now commanding a platoon of D. As they advanced up a sunken lane edged with trees towards the enemy, they came under fierce fire from a German machine-gun. Hollis reached in his pouch for a grenade and found only a shaving brush. Demanding a grenade from the man behind, he tossed it before he realized, to his chagrin, that the had failed to pull the pin. A second later, he concluded that the Germans would not know that and charged them, firing his sten gun while they were taking cover from the expected explosion.

Hastings found that A and B Companies had joined up amid the burning British tanks, one turning out of control in continuous circles between the trees. They gathered the German prisoners and pressed on. Then A Company commander was killed, and the attack was again pinned down. The Green Howards had lost 24 officers and suffered a total of 250 casualties. ‘I think there’s a lot of work for you to do, padre,’ said Hastings wearily to Captain Henry Lovegrove, who won a Military Cross that day. The padre searched the hedges and ditches around Cristot for hours. He became a smoker for the first time in his life after a few horrific burials. Lacking armoured support and an artillery fire plan, the Green Howards could not hold their ground against German counter-attacks. Bitterly, Hastings ordered a withdrawal. The SS immediately retook possession and by nightfall were counterattacking towards the British start-line on Hill 103.

Hastings remained bitter about the losses his men had sustained in an attack that he believed was misconceived – that was simply ‘not on’ – a fragment of British army shorthand which carried especial weight when used at any level in the ordering of war. Before every attack, most battalion commanders made a private decision about whether its objectives were ‘on’, and thereby decided whether its purpose justified an all-out effort, regardless of casualties, or merely sufficient movement to conform and to satisfy the higher formation. Among most of the units which landed in Normandy, there was a great initial reservoir of willingness to try, to give of their best in attack, and this was exploited to the full in the first weeks of the campaign. Thereafter, following bloody losses and failures, many battalion commanders determined privately that they would husband the lives of their men when they were ordered into attack, making personal judgements about an operation’s value. The war had been in progress for a long time; now, the possibility of surviving it was in distant view. The longer men had been fighting, the more appealing that chance appeared. As the campaign progressed, as the infantry casualty lists rose, it became a more and more serious problem for the army commanders to persuade their battalions that the next ridge, tomorrow’s map reference, deserved of their utmost. Hastings was among those who believed that an unnecessary amount of unit determination and will for sacrifice was expended in minor operations for limited objectives too early in the campaign. The problem of ‘non-trying’ units was to become a thorn in the side of every division and corps commander, distinct from the normal demands of morale and leadership, although naturally associated with them.

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