The Coats Mission

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by JoeCivvie, Jan 8, 2010.

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  1. A fascinating but little-known piece of British history.

    Faced with the probable invasion of the British Isles by Nazi Germany at the start of world War 2 the Coats Mission, formed from elements of the Guards and Household Cavalry, stood by with armoured cars to evacuate the King and Royal Family in the event of Britain being invaded. They were to escort the the Royal Family to the coast, where they would be taken to Canada, or to defend them against parachute troops.

    After the threat of invasion receded, the Coates Mission was switched to guard Churchill when on country breaks at Chequers, the British Prime Ministers' official country retreat. Due to secrecy the name 'Chequers' could never be mentioned, it was referred to as the 'Special Area' instead.

    The CO of the Mission was Jimmy Coats, and other officers included Ian Liddell (later a VC recipient) and Wilfrid Sydenham Thompson, both of the Coldstream Guards.

    One of the places where the Mission would stop in the event of evacuation was Pitchford, a country house in Shropshire.

    I was told about the Coats Mission many years ago by my Father, Jim Coates, (I must stress that my dad is NOT the CO of the Mission, the name is just a co-incidence). Dad was Coldstream Guards 1940-46. He had mentioned the mission and told me that a special pantechnicon (removals lorry) was fitted out as a living room, and that would be the Royal Family's transport in case of evacuation.

    He also said that they would have been taken to Holyhead in Anglesea where the RN would then have taken them to Canada to set up a court-in-exile.

    I only found out last night that my Dad was a part of the Coats Mission.

    I had posted Dad's paybook in the 'Family Military Photos' thread and also on the the Middlesbrough & District Coldstream Association website.

    I had mentioned that I wondered why my Dad never did overseas service, and why he never rose beyond a Lance-Jack during his service. 'Mac', the Admin of the website and himself ex-CG got in touch with me last night and told me that it was because he had been a part of the Coates Mission.

    So, 12 years after his death and 70-odd years after the event I've learned something new about my Father. I did know he spent time on guard at Buck House (Buckingham Palace) and Chequers.

    He was on the top of Buck House doing fire watch during the worst night of the blitz. He said that the whole of the eastern horizon was red with the fires from the East End docks.

    Sometime in 1941 he was also on stag in the the grounds of Chequers in the early hours of the morning when he saw a red glow come towards him. He knew it was a cigar glowing so he knew who was on the other end of it, but he had to do the 'halt - who goes there?' drill. He got the growled reply 'the Prime Minister'.

    Being at Buck House and Chequers now makes sense in light of what I have learned via Google (and there are only 2 pages of references to the Coats Mission).

    If anyone else has any info on the Coats Mission please post it. I'd be very grateful.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
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  2. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Top info mate
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  3. Yes, very interesting post.

    I believe it was also a Guards contingent that crossed over to the Netherlands to evacuate the Dutch royal family.

    I saw something about a casualty from that mission being buried at the CWGC cemetery at the Hook of Holland but I can't really be sure.
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  4. From the CWGC website for the Hook of Holland cemetery:

    "Few Commonwealth troops were in the Netherlands during the 1940 invasion by the Germans, but a small force composed of Royal Marines and Irish and Welsh Guards landed at The Hook of Holland on May 12 and 13, to assist in safeguarding the Dutch Government. It was from this port that, on May 13, Queen Wilhelmina left for England on board a British destroyer. Heavy air raids on the small area defended by our forces caused many casualties, and speedily rendered the position untenable without considerable reinforcements. These could not be spared, and on May 14, the force was evacuated and returned to Dover. A portion of the Hook of Holland General Cemetery was set aside by the local authorities for the graves of soldiers killed in action and the first Commonwealth burials were of soldiers killed in the air raids of 13 May 1940. "
  5. Sorry - should be the COATS Mission (no 'e' in Coats).

    Our family name is Coates so adding the 'e' is automatic.
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  6. I've heard a family legend that an uncle in WG was involved in that operation, an interesting account here by a WG:BBC - WW2 People's War - Rescue of the Dutch Royal Family by the Irish and Welsh Guards
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  7. HHH

    HHH LE

    You can edit the thread title yourself,

    You Can Now Edit Thread Titles
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  8. I did some research on Coats Mission a number of years ago after I was reading a guards battalion war diary that were in France. There was a mention of an officer being posted back to the UK to be part of 'Coats Mission' and being curious that's where it all started. I posted copies of the original official files on
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  9. Ps the Guards (Irish and Welsh) that rescued the Dutch royal family ended up at Boulogne for a few days. There's a fair bit about that on as well.
  10. [​IMG]

    The armoured cars that they were equipped with were six modified Humber Mk I recce models called Ironsides - HRH modelling one.
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  11. Are you referring to personnel "in general"of the two regiments ending up at Boulogne or the actual IG and WG personnel involved in the operation in Holland please?
  12. I had, if the points covered, I've missed it.