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CSM Stan Hollis, VC.

Stan Hollis

CSM Stan Hollis, VC.

Gold Beach: Stan Hollis Goes Bunker Busting

D-Day, June 6, 1944 and the men of the 6th Battalion, Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Regiment) struggled ashore on a heavily defended section of Gold Beach. D Company landed near the Mont-Fleury battery on the King sector of Gold Beach as part of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division at 07:45. As D Company attacked the battery, the commanding officer, Major Ronnie Lofthouse, realised that the attacking platoon were coming under fire from the rear. 

Major Lofthouse noticed where the source of the flanking fire was and said to Company Sergeant Major (CSM) Stan Hollis, “There’s a pillbox in there, sergeant major.” He pointed to an area of bushes fifty yards to the right. Hollis immediately charged the pillbox alone with out waiting for further instructions.

Hollis and Lofthouse were about half way up the road to Mont-Fleury, by the wall of “the house with the circular drive”, a clear feature on the aerial photographs that they had used to familiarise themselves with their mission, when they spotted the pillbox. Hollis immediately set off, firing his Sten submachine-gun as he ran. The Germans in the bunker turned their machine-gun on him, but in their panic, they totally missed. When he reached the pillbox, he shoved his Sten gun through the slit and fired it into the interior. Hollis climbed on top of the pillbox, reloaded his Sten, and then dropped a grenade through the firing slit. Jumping down to investigate his handiwork, and finding the occupants either dead or stunned, Hollis then moved down a trench towards another pillbox that he had seen. On seeing this superman approaching their position, the Germans in the second pillbox surrendered. Hollis took over 25 prisoners and saved D Company from dangerous flanking fire. For this action and others at Crépon later in the day, Stan Hollis was awarded the Victoria Cross, the only one awarded on D-Day.

Hollis's Victoria Cross
Map King Beach

Crépon

By about midday CSM Hollis and D Company had reached Crépon and encountered some resistance on its outskirts. Most of the 6th Battalion Green Howards by-passed the village, maintaining their momentum. However the battalion commander, Lt-Col Robin Hastings, assigned the task of probing the village to Major Lofthouse’s D Company. By this time CSM Hollis had taken command of 16 Platoon when its commander had been killed near Mont Feury Battery (after the platoon sergeant had already been lost in the initial landings). 

Hollis took a small group of his men into the le Pavillon farm to search the buildings.  After checking the farmhouse he and his mean move down the narrow passage between the house and a stonewall which led to an outbuilding and a small opening into an orchard. As Hollis was peering around the wall into the orchard a bullet struck the wall near his head.

He quickly ducked down and noticed two dogs and gun at the south end of the orchard, about 150 meters away. The dogs were wagging their tails, indication the possibility of people present.   

He returned to his other mean on the road and collected a PIAT with the intent of destroying the gun. Lofthouse gave him the go ahead and he returned to the passage and collected some men to give him covering fire. The riflemen rushed into the orchard and began firing while Hollis and two Bren gunners crawled through a rhubarb patch running down the side of the orchard.

Landings at Gold Beach

Orchard today - photo Simon Trew

Unfortunately the covering riflemen had been killed or wounded, in spite of this Hollis continued forward until he was in a position where he thought he’d get a shot at the gun.  

He fired his PIAT and watched in disappointment as his round fell short. Unable to reload quickly he watched in horror as the gun barrel was lowered so it seemed it was pointing directly at him. The gun fired and the shot whizzed over Hollis’s head and into the building behind him. The German crew were unable to depress the gun barrel enough to get an accurate shot off at him.  After his close encounter he ordered his Bren gunners to withdraw and crawled out of the orchard.

On exiting firing continued to sound from the orchard, his Bren gunners were pinned down. He exchanged the PIAT for a Bren gun and returned to the orchard to extract his men. 

Firing the Bren from his hip, ignoring the German bullets flying past him, he was able to cover the Bren gunners’ retreat. All three made it back to the farmhouse safely. Major Lofthouse decided the position was best left to the following troops and D Company rejoined the advance of the rest of the battalion.  

CSM Stan Hollis

Stanley Elton Hollis was the Sergeant Major of D Company of the 6th Battalion, Green Howards. From Middlesborough in England, he joined the army in 1940 and served in the Dunkirk campaign, in North Africa, as well as in the invasion of Sicily. After busting the bunkers on Gold Beach, he went on to further distinguish himself at Crépon.

Stan Hollis
CSM Stan Hollis Warrior team

Hollis was given command of 16 Platoon of D Company after it had lost its officers and senior NCOs during the initial fighting.

See page 41 of Turning Tide for Hollis's full rules.

Gold Beach

Refighting the Historical Battle

Mission
Use the Hit The Beach Mission from pages 34-35 of Das Book.

Battlefield
The land rises gradually coming off the hedge-lined beach. A road from the beach (the British deployment area) leads up the left hand side of the battlefield. A house with a circular driveway sits to the right of the road just inside the German deployment area. Several small bushes offer sparse cover in the no man’s land. The pillboxes captured by Hollis are positioned to the right of the road not far from each other. The other pillboxes were on the inland side of the Mont-Fleury battery.

British Forces - Attacker
The only British troops taking part in the battle were D Company of the 6th Battalion, Green Howards. They are Confident Veteran troops, having experienced numerous battles before (Page page 44 of Turning Tide).

German forces - Defender
The Mont-Fleury battery consisted of four light field howitzers in entrenched firing positions. The guns do not have any tractors, and can only move if pushed by their crews. A German Machine-gun platoon of four machine-guns in the bunkers defends the battery. Coming from the second-rate 716. Infanterie Division (the 716th Infantry Division which defended the beaches that the British landed on), the German troops are classed as Confident Trained (see page 22 of Earth & Steel).


Last Updated On Monday, February 14, 2011 by Wayne at Battlefront