The Coats Mission

#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.

Did you know that Dad was a member of the 'Coates Mission' this was a group of Guardsmen dedicated as personal Bodyguards to the Royal Family, in case of invasion a plan was lain down they would escort the Family to Southampton and Sail to Canada by warship, various plans were laid to lay false trails, to deceive the Germans.

I know this to be fact for I was in Dad's company when he met a former Gdsn who served with him.

Coates Mission named after its CO was very Hush Hush based with the 'Family' and the reason Dad did not go abroad and why he only reached the rank of L/Cpl
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:

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
Top info mate
 
#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.
 
#4
Tawahi-50 said:
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.
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.
 
#6
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.
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
 
#9
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 WW2Talk.com
 
#10
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 WW2Talk.com as well.
 
#11


The armoured cars that they were equipped with were six modified Humber Mk I recce models called Ironsides - HRH modelling one.
 
#12
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 WW2Talk.com as well.
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?
 
#14
I had, if the points covered, I've missed it.
 

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