Operation Hands Up

This was an Allied unrealised plan for the seizure of Quiberon Bay in the Brittany region of German-occupied France after ‘Overlord’ by means of a combined amphibious assault on the German forces in Quiberon Bay and airborne assault on the German gun emplacement on Belle Isle (summer 1944).

The operation was mooted on the basis of two purposes: firstly, as a part of ‘Chastity’ to enable the area to be developed as a deep-water port for supplying the Allied armies, supplementing the routes through Normandy, following the anticipated breakout from Normandy; and secondly, as an entry point for further ground formations shipped directly from the USA to support the break-out and possibly outflank General Friedrich Dollmann’s 7th Army.

The area envisaged for the operation was held only by Generalleutnant Hans Schmidt’s 275th Division, which was refitting, so the chances of effecting a successful lodgement were thought to be high, with the possibility of an advance to the Loire river valley and a following progress to the east in the direction of Orléans with the object of encircling the 7th Army unless it shifted forces to the south from Normandy and Brittany, which would in turn ease the break-out problems of General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s Allied 21st Army Group.

The operation would have used Major General R. E. Urquhart’s British 1st Airborne Division to seize the airfield at Vannes to ease the task of Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s US 3rd Army. In the event neither ‘Chastity’ nor ‘Hands Up’ was implemented, and again there are differing reasons for this: the failure to neutralise the German bases at Brest and elsewhere along the Atlantic littoral was felt to expose shipping to risk; the unexpectedly rapid break-out and advance through northern France moved the US Army’s focus from Brittany with the English Channel ports then coming to be seen as principal supply routes; and thirdly, the experience of the great storm of 19/22 June, which had severely damaged the Allied ‘Mulberry’ temporary harbour installations off Normandy, raised the perception of similar risks in Quiberon Bay.