Batt, Thomas Reginald Dumaresq


Thomas Reginald Dumaresq Batt was born on 28th August 1909, the son of Colonel Reginald Crossley Batt CBE., MVO and his wife Violet, who lived at Gresham Hall, Norwich.  His brother, William Frederick Batt (E 1918-1921) was also in the Coldstreams.  He had two other brothers, both of whom died in the war – one while serving with the Royal Horse Artillery in Egypt and the other with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in England. All three brothers are commemorated on the Gresham war memorial.

Reggie was a prefect in his last year at Winchester and was an inspiring commander of the House Platoon.  He played cricket and football and was a member of the House XI which won Turner Cup in 1927.

After passing through Sandhurst, where he was a Prize Cadet and won the Riding Prize, he received a commission in the Coldstream Guards.  In 1932 he served as ADC to the Governor of Madras.  He was Adjutant in 1937 and promoted to Captain in 1938.  He won the MC in France for his gallantry as a Staff Captain and in 1941 became Brigade Major and DAAG (Deputy Assistant Adjutant General) to the Guards Armoured Division, following this with a period as GSO2 and Lieutenant Colonel AQMG (Assistant Quartermaster General) to VIII Corps.

He reverted to the rank of Major as a Squadron Commander in the 1st Armoured Battalion, Coldstream Guards in time for the invasion of Europe.  Two other Wykehamists were with the Battalion: in Batt’s own squadron was Lieutenant David Vivian Martyn (I 1937-1942 – killed in action 4th August 1944) and Lieutenant Thomas Miles Courtenay Bodley (F 1934-1939 – killed in action 16th September 1944 – see individual entries) was in 3 Squadron.

The 1st Coldstreams arrived in Normandy between 29th June and 1st July 1944 and spent a two week acclimatisation period. On 18th July orders were received to move and their Sherman tanks set off for the Orne bridge with 1 Squadron in the lead.  The plan to push three divisions (7th, 11th and the Guards) through a narrow sector on the eastern flank of the British bridgehead soon went awry, with strong opposition forcing 11th Armoured Battalion to by-pass the village of Cagny and leave it to the Guards.

The History of the Coldstreams records “Cautiously, Major Batt took 1 Squadron up on the left of the [2nd] Grenadiers [with which two Wykehamists were serving], with Lieutenant Lock and Lieutenant Loyd in the lead. A shot from a Panther carried Lieutenant Lock’s aerial away; he jumped from his tank, ran to his ‘Firefly’ [each troop contained one up-gunned Sherman, nicknamed the Firefly, which carried the only effective anti-tank weapon available to Sherman units], and holed the Panther with his first shot.    The squadron came up to the line of the Paris-Caen railway, which ran obliquely across its front, and paused…”

Lieutenant Boscawen, of 2 Squadron, takes up the story:  “Beyond the railway the horizon was covered with blazing Shermans; I could see nearly a whole squadron burning in one field alone. More were hidden behind the black smoke of others brewing up, while yet others were still being hit and bursting into flames.”  (The Coldstream Guards 1939-1946).

At least two of those blazing tanks contained Wykehamists.

It was impossible to continue without infantry support and 1st Coldstreams halted for the night a mile north of Cagny, though still under fire.  They spent the next two days in reserve, sheltering in their tanks from German shell and rifle fire, before retiring from the battlefield on 21st July, returning to Bayeux for a short rest.

On 2nd August 1 Squadron passed through the village of St Charles de Percy, but was held up at Courtiel. At dawn on 3rd August the Battalion HQ of 3rd Irish Guards was attacked and Batt’s 1 Squadron helped to repel it by firing Browning machine guns through hedges.  However Batt died that day, killed by a sniper, at the age of 35.

His death is mentioned in “Armoured Guardsmen” by Robert Boscawen (Pen & Sword 2001):  “We heard in the evening that Reggie Batt had been killed by a sniper while getting in his tank. He commanded No.1 Squadron, an able and brave officer; he was our first senior casualty. A sniper jumped up on a bank in a narrow lane and at a few yards range shot him in the head. No.1 were advancing in close support of the 3rd Irish Guards, west of St. Charles de Percy, and he had been forward on foot when they lost a couple of tanks in front on the way up to Point 176, east of a small place called Beaulieu.(“Armoured Guardsmen”, Robert Boscawen)

Major Batt lies in Grave V.G.12 of the St Charles de Percy War Cemetery, 44 km south west of Caen.

(Photograph courtesy of Simon Batt)

 

 

 

 

War: World War 2

  • Surname: Batt
  • Forenames or initials: Thomas Reginald Dumaresq
  • House: E
  • Years in School: 1922-1927
  • Rank: Major
  • Regiment: Coldstream Guards
  • Date of Birth: 28th August 1909
  • Date of Death: 3rd August 1944
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Inner E1
  • Decoration: MC
  • Burial Site: St Charles de Percy War Cemetery: Grave V.G.12