|Active 1 December 1941 - 1946|
Branch British Army
|Country United Kingdom|
|Part of Independent Brigade 1st Mixed Infantry Division 79th Armoured Division|
The 34th Armoured Brigade was an armoured brigade of the British Army that saw active service in World War II. It was formed in 1941 as the 34th Army Tank Brigade and subsequently redesignated as the 34th Tank Brigade in February 1945 and became part of the 79th Armoured Division. It was equipped with Churchill tanks and provided close support for assaults by the infantry. During the fighting in North-west Europe from July 1944 to May 1945 the brigade served with both the First Canadian Army and the British Second Army. The brigade was disbanded in early 1946.
The brigade was formed on 1 December 1941 as one of ten independent Army Tank brigades to be equipped with Churchill tanks. In June 1942, the word "Army" was dropped from the brigade's title and it became part of the 1st Mixed Infantry Division. The 34th Tank Brigade was transferred to the 43rd Mixed Infantry Division in September 1942 and in September 1943 it returned to independent status (attached to XII Corps), when the concept of mixed divisions was abandoned.
The first two and half years of the brigade's existence were spent in training in the south of England and it saw its first active service in the Normandy bridgehead.
Advance parties departed to Normandy on D + 10 (16 June) but the entire brigade was not gathered together in France until early July 1944. Its first combat was in support of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division in Operation Greenline from 15 to 18 July, to enlarge the Odon bridgehead and advance beyond Hill 112; the German opposition held a strong position and 153rd Regiment Royal Armoured Corps suffered particularly severe casualties, including its commanding officer. Overall, the brigade lost 30 officers and 156 other ranks in this action. The brigade continued in active service in Normandy until late August.
After a 14-day rest and reorganisation and now under the First Canadian Army, the brigade crossed the River Seine on 4 September to prepare to assault Le Havre. On arrival outside Le Havre on 6 September, the brigade came under command of 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, who were to assault Le Havre from the north east and east. The defenders' morale was low despite impressive defence works and victory was completed on 12 September with minimal casualties. A troop of 7th Royal Tank Regiment, without infantry, had entered the fort at 11:30am and had captured Oberst Hermann-Eberhard Wildermuth, the Garrison Commander, his whole staff and 400 prisoners.
Around this time, the Allied armies' supply lines were under great stress due to the lack of usable ports and the brigade's transport was added to the supply chain for the front line in Belgium. The brigade as such was effectively grounded and out of action. By 18 September, the Brigade was concentrated about midway between Dieppe and Rouen. On 29 September. still lacking its transport, the brigade's 300 Churchills (including a delivery squadron), heavily loaded with munitions, moved on tracks northwards for three days to Desvres, near Boulogne. On 2 October, one regiment, 7th Royal Tank Regiment, was detached to assist the containment of Dunkirk by 51st (Highland) Infantry Division, where it took an active and successful part in the siege.
By 6 October, the brigade had reached the Eindhoven area and all regiments were immediately deployed into the front line.
In February, 1945, the 34th Armoured Brigade provided armoured support to infantry units, mainly the 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division, during the Battle of the Reichswald, in ground conditions that caused more damage to its tanks than the enemy.
After the Rhine crossings, the brigade saw no further active service in Europe and was in preparation for transfer to South-East Asian theatre when the war ended.
The 34th Armoured Brigade had just two commanding officers: Brigadier J. N. Tetley until June 1943 (left to command 25th Tank Brigade) and then Brigadier W. S. Clarke, who commanded the brigade until it was disbanded in 1946.
Order of battle
Shortly after 15 August 1944, 153 RAC were disbanded and their men and materièl were used to make up losses in the remaining regiments in the Brigade.Brigade Headquarters 107th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps 147th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (Lt.‑Col. A. R. W. S. Koe) (temporarily attached to 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division until end September) 7th Royal Tank Regiment 9th Royal Tank Regiment