Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Devil's Own Bicycle

At the start of July 1944 B Squadron of the Inns of Court Regiment (known as 'The Devil's Own') began to land through the Mulberry harbours and cross the D-Day beaches. This regiment was a reconnaissance regiment, and so was equipped with light armoured cars. Earlier in the campaign, on D-Day itself, C Squadron had been landed to act as the reconnaissance formation for the Canadian infantry. During the actions C Squadron had suffered casualties, and thus the commanding officer of 5 troop, B Squadron, was dispatched to fill a vacancy. In his place was a brand-new officer named Angus Mitchell.

Angus Mitchell
Mitchell was born in 1925 in India, where both his parents had moved to in 1920. His father was a civil servant, and his mother had served as an Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse aboard HMHS Britannic when it hit the German mine in the Mediterranean. Mitchell left India aged four with his mother and sister while his father remained. In 1930 his mother returned to India, leaving Mitchell in the UK. At Marlborough College he volunteered to help by doing farming for the war effort, and was part of the schools OTC program, then he joined the Home Guard. He was awarded a place at Oxford, but declined instead going to Sandhurst in 1943, and from there on he gained a commission to the Inns of Court.
Typical recce platoon of two Dingo's and two Armoured cars
Now this brand-new officer was in charge of a troop of two Daimler Armoured Cars and two Dingo's. He found himself the youngest man in the troop, at the tender age of 19, which led to a certain amount of tension. However, repeated patrols closing with the retreating Germans soon washed away any doubts.

As the Germans began to retreat, they would often leave snipers or booby traps to delay pursuing forces. These were often the first contact the reconnaissance regiments would make. In one case Mitchell was unbuttoned in the turret of his Daimler Armoured Car, probing forwards when the sound of a gunshot was heard.
A nice shot showing why the Daimler Dingo was so effective a Scout car, you can see how tiny it is.
The bullet had been aimed at Mitchell, and would have hit him in the chest, if it wasn't for his periscope. The round smashed the vision block spraying Mitchell's face with shrapnel. His armoured car popped smoke and reversed around a corner, where the young officer was evacuated to hospital.

Because of his injury Mitchell was in hospital for the 'Great Swan', where British forces ripped through the country side pursuing the fleeing broken Germans. After being discharged from hospital he was given command of a replacement troop with orders to take the armoured cars and personnel to re-join his regiment. This chase lasted two weeks and he finally re-joined in September, in Belgium.
Apparently this seems to be the only picture of a SOD that exists on the internet.
By now the Inns of Court had reorganised their troops. 5 troop still had the two Daimler Armoured Cars, but instead of the tiny Dingo's they now had a 'SOD'. This was a 'Sawn Off Daimler' and refereed to a Daimler Armoured Car with its turret and front mudguards removed. As well as a machine gun it would often carry a PIAT in its inventory.

On the 27th of September the Inns of Court were patrolling near the Maas river. They had reached a railway line and were told not to progress any further as the RAF had instructions to attack any vehicular movement beyond the line. As the armoured cars were idling in cover of the railway, they received news that another patrol had had a bridge over the Maas blown up in their faces as they approached it, and a second patrol had been ambushed with two men captured.
Then they saw movement ahead, an armed man! Before they could fire, they saw a flash of orange. It was a local resistance fighter named 'Frans'. He approached and began to ask why they had stopped, the town of Boxmeer was just ahead, and the Germans had fled.

Mitchell explained their problem, and why they couldn't advance. Frans and Mitchell then conducted a plan. They borrowed a pair of bicycles from a nearby inn and together they cycled the remaining few miles to Boxmeer. Here, with just his service revolver and Frans' rifle they searched the town, without finding any Germans. After cycling back, they contacted the regimental headquarters and were given the go ahead to liberate the town. A few nervous moments followed as they drove up to Boxmeer, scanning the skies looking for any marauding RAF planes. However, they reached Boxmeer without incident, and all the local civilians had begun the liberation party. The Inns of Court would spend the next four to five months in the area, and as there were frequent German raids across the Maas the towns inhabitants had to be evacuated to safety.
Mitchell (Standing, on the right) with his Daimler and some of his troop.
In 1945 the advance resumed again, and Mitchell was in the lead. He led the 6th Airborne’s advances once they had cross the Rhine. During this period Mitchell won the Military Cross. His citation reads:

'From the Normandy Landings until the completion of this campaign, except for a period of a fortnight when he was away suffering from wounds, this officer has commanded a troop of armoured cars with conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. At all times his skill and dash has been exceptional, and his behaviour under fire over a long period has been a wonderful example to his men. On 29 March 1945, and for two days that followed, Lieut Mitchell's troop led the advance of 6th Airborne Div on one of their axis. With cool courage and complete disregard for his own safety, he remained personally under heavy fire for a long period to obtain information of strong enemy positions that were holding up the advance, and on another occasion remained to direct mortar fire against enemy positions under extremely heavy fire, in order that our advance could continue. On innumerable occasions Lieut Mitchell's devotion to duty has been exemplary.'

After the war Mitchell finished his college degree and entered the civil service. He was one of the pall bearers at Winston Churchill's funeral. He died in 2018 aged 93.