Difference between revisions of "11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry War Diary June 1944"

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10:00 hours.  The Battalion moved forward to [[Ducy-St-Marguerite]] and Headquarters was soon established in a pleasant little orchard just off the road.
 
10:00 hours.  The Battalion moved forward to [[Ducy-St-Marguerite]] and Headquarters was soon established in a pleasant little orchard just off the road.
  
So far there had been no sign of the enemy, but there was periodic shelling, by our own artillery, of enemy positions to the WEST of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilly-sur-Seulles TILLY SUR SEULLES] which a [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_division Panzer Division] was still holding.
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So far there had been no sign of the enemy, but there was periodic shelling, by our own artillery, of enemy positions to the WEST of [[Tilly-Sur-Seulles]] which a [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_division Panzer Division] was still holding.
  
 
Mention should be made of the large scale air activity.  Five landing strips had been constructed with the result that Spitfires and [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_Typhoon Typhoons] were able to maintain a constant patrol over the beachhead area.  Enemy air activity was nil as far as could be seen.
 
Mention should be made of the large scale air activity.  Five landing strips had been constructed with the result that Spitfires and [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_Typhoon Typhoons] were able to maintain a constant patrol over the beachhead area.  Enemy air activity was nil as far as could be seen.
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At night, Patrols were taken out by Lt Yorke and Lt Bell.
 
At night, Patrols were taken out by Lt Yorke and Lt Bell.
  
Lt Yorke’s Patrol became separated, but after some exciting experiences returned intact.  The presence of enemy troops in the hedgerows NORTH of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontenay-le-Pesnel FONTENAY] was confirmed.
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Lt Yorke’s Patrol became separated, but after some exciting experiences returned intact.  The presence of enemy troops in the hedgerows NORTH of [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] was confirmed.
  
An attack on FONTENAY LE PESNEL took place with the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallamshire_Battalion Hallams] on the right and the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Scots_Fusiliers 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers] on the left, after a very heavy artillery barrage.  Stiff resistance was met on the left where a thick smoke screen put down by the enemy made fighting difficult.
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An attack on [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] took place with the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallamshire_Battalion Hallams] on the right and the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Scots_Fusiliers 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers] on the left, after a very heavy artillery barrage.  Stiff resistance was met on the left where a thick smoke screen put down by the enemy made fighting difficult.
  
During the night of the 25th/26th the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment were given the task of completing the house clearing in FONTENAY and at mid-day, the Battalion was put at short notice to move.
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During the night of the 25th/26th the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment were given the task of completing the house clearing in [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] and at mid-day, the Battalion was put at short notice to move.
  
 
'''26th June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE'''
 
'''26th June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE'''
  
15:00 hours.  A Brigade Orders Group was held.  The Battalion began an advance forward through FONTENAY making for an assembly area in the neighbourhood of ST NICHOLAS FARM Reference 883672.  Mortar fire caused a slight hold up and eventually the Battalion pushed straight through to seize and hold and area at the cross-roads Reference 887661.  This was done without opposition except from a few snipers.  Digging was begun immediately, the Battalion being disposed in a box with A and C Companies forward and B and D Companies to the rear.
+
15:00 hours.  A Brigade Orders Group was held.  The Battalion began an advance forward through [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] making for an assembly area in the neighbourhood of ST NICHOLAS FARM Reference 883672.  Mortar fire caused a slight hold up and eventually the Battalion pushed straight through to seize and hold and area at the cross-roads Reference 887661.  This was done without opposition except from a few snipers.  Digging was begun immediately, the Battalion being disposed in a box with A and C Companies forward and B and D Companies to the rear.
  
Lt Broughton was also despatched with a small Reconnaissance Patrol to investigate the situation in RAURAY and preliminary orders were given for the occupation of the village.
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Lt Broughton was also despatched with a small Reconnaissance Patrol to investigate the situation in [[Rauray]] and preliminary orders were given for the occupation of the village.
  
 
However, at 03:00 hours one of the Patrol returned with the information that; Lt Broughton had been wounded and taken Prisoner, that the village appeared to be occupied, and that tank movements had been heard in the vicinity.
 
However, at 03:00 hours one of the Patrol returned with the information that; Lt Broughton had been wounded and taken Prisoner, that the village appeared to be occupied, and that tank movements had been heard in the vicinity.
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'''27th June 1944 St NICHOLAS FARM'''
 
'''27th June 1944 St NICHOLAS FARM'''
  
Lt Hoggard was sent into RAURAY with a Fighting Patrol one Platoon strong, supported by two troops of tanks and artillery.
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Lt Hoggard was sent into [[Rauray]] with a Fighting Patrol one Platoon strong, supported by two troops of tanks and artillery.
  
 
Heavy opposition was encountered from Spandaus and snipers, but the Patrol penetrated the village and managed to send back information.
 
Heavy opposition was encountered from Spandaus and snipers, but the Patrol penetrated the village and managed to send back information.
  
From about 09:00 hours onwards Battalion HQ was subjected to very accurate and heavy mortaring, and snipers made movement of any kind difficult.  However, our attack on RAURAY was planned with heavy artillery support.  Zero hour was 11:30 hours and the attack went in with D Company left and B Company right.  A Company provided the firm base and C Company were used to mop up – especially in the village itself where numerous snipers were making things unpleasant.
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From about 09:00 hours onwards Battalion HQ was subjected to very accurate and heavy mortaring, and snipers made movement of any kind difficult.  However, our attack on [[Rauray]] was planned with heavy artillery support.  Zero hour was 11:30 hours and the attack went in with D Company left and B Company right.  A Company provided the firm base and C Company were used to mop up – especially in the village itself where numerous snipers were making things unpleasant.
  
 
The attack was completely successful though it cost us dear in casualties, most of which, fortunately, were wounded.  During this period, the stretcher bearers showed a fine example of devotion to duty tending the wounded, despite the constant mortar fire and sniping, and assisting in the evacuation of over a hundred casualties.
 
The attack was completely successful though it cost us dear in casualties, most of which, fortunately, were wounded.  During this period, the stretcher bearers showed a fine example of devotion to duty tending the wounded, despite the constant mortar fire and sniping, and assisting in the evacuation of over a hundred casualties.
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''The War Diary contains an Appendix which is an expanded version of the sections of the weekly Field Return showing Officers joining and quitting - for whatever reason - during that week.  The Field Returns themselves were not filed with the War Diary but the typed Appendix shows that Major J. Low, Lieutenant J.E. Johnson and Lieutenant I.A. Bansall were killed on 27th June and Lieutenants R.P.H. Sprague (Canloan), D.G.O. Yorke, J.R.Kellett, J.M. McNicol, K. Hoggard, W.R. Bell and R.H. Broughton - all of the DLI - were wounded and evacuated to No.3 Casualty Clearing Station.''
 
''The War Diary contains an Appendix which is an expanded version of the sections of the weekly Field Return showing Officers joining and quitting - for whatever reason - during that week.  The Field Returns themselves were not filed with the War Diary but the typed Appendix shows that Major J. Low, Lieutenant J.E. Johnson and Lieutenant I.A. Bansall were killed on 27th June and Lieutenants R.P.H. Sprague (Canloan), D.G.O. Yorke, J.R.Kellett, J.M. McNicol, K. Hoggard, W.R. Bell and R.H. Broughton - all of the DLI - were wounded and evacuated to No.3 Casualty Clearing Station.''
  
'''28th – 30th June RAURAY'''
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'''28th – 30th June [[Rauray]]'''
  
During these two days the task of the Battalion was to hold on to RAURAY against possible counter-attacks and to maintain constant touch with the unit on the right – at first the Tyneside Scottish and later the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincolnshire_Regiment Lincolns].  A Company of the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was brought forward and the gap was securely bridged.  Every effort was made to clear the area of snipers and many were shot in the tops of the trees.  A perfect sniper’s hideout, complete with furniture, wine, sheets etc was also found near Battalion HQ and this was thought to be the cause of the accurate mortar fire.   
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During these two days the task of the Battalion was to hold on to [[Rauray]] against possible counter-attacks and to maintain constant touch with the unit on the right – at first the Tyneside Scottish and later the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincolnshire_Regiment Lincolns].  A Company of the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was brought forward and the gap was securely bridged.  Every effort was made to clear the area of snipers and many were shot in the tops of the trees.  A perfect sniper’s hideout, complete with furniture, wine, sheets etc was also found near Battalion HQ and this was thought to be the cause of the accurate mortar fire.   
  
 
During the day Lt McNicol, the Battalion Intelligence Officer, was seriously wounded by mortar fire and evacuated - ''the War Diary Appendix , as mentioned above, indicates he was injured on 27th June.''
 
During the day Lt McNicol, the Battalion Intelligence Officer, was seriously wounded by mortar fire and evacuated - ''the War Diary Appendix , as mentioned above, indicates he was injured on 27th June.''
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'''COMMENTARY BY THE BATTALION COMMANDER'''
 
'''COMMENTARY BY THE BATTALION COMMANDER'''
  
''Held in the Durham County Council Archives is a document prepared by the Battalion Commander which essentially provides a summary of the Battalion's actions between mid-June and early July, featuring the Rauray battle.  While the War Diary above, and for July 1944, is comprehensive, this document is written in a less formal style and complements the official accounts.  Dates have been omitted, but these can easily be identified by reference to the War Diaries included here on the Website.''  
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''Held in the Durham County Council Archives is a document prepared by the Battalion Commander which essentially provides a summary of the Battalion's actions between mid-June and early July, featuring the [[Rauray]] battle.  While the War Diary above, and for July 1944, is comprehensive, this document is written in a less formal style and complements the official accounts.  Dates have been omitted, but these can easily be identified by reference to the War Diaries included here on the Website.''  
  
 
''This account has been processed and is uploaded with the permission of the Record Office, for which sincere thanks are due, as a contribution to the story of a crucial period in the Brigade's history.  I am also indebted to the family of Captain Barlow, who first drew my attention to the existence of the document.''
 
''This account has been processed and is uploaded with the permission of the Record Office, for which sincere thanks are due, as a contribution to the story of a crucial period in the Brigade's history.  I am also indebted to the family of Captain Barlow, who first drew my attention to the existence of the document.''
  
 
11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry
 
11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry
Short Account of the Battalion during the period Sainte Marguerite – [[Cristot]] – Rauray
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Short Account of the Battalion during the period Sainte Marguerite – [[Cristot]] – [[Rauray]]
  
 
The Battalion at full strength less residue landed on D plus 6 and after a very short stay at Ruqueville moved on to [[Ducy-St-Marguerite]].  The enemy at this period were some few miles away, but a defensive position was taken up.  Apart from shelling and one or two low flying attacks, in which the Battalion suffered few casualties – one of which was Corporal Mortlight – there was little or no action.  On  June we received orders to take over a position at [[Cristot]], overlooking the Bois de Boislonde.  The 1/7 DWR were holding this position having counter-attacked the 1/6 DWR, who had received severe casualties during their initial attacks.  We were then placed under command 147 Infantry Brigade.
 
The Battalion at full strength less residue landed on D plus 6 and after a very short stay at Ruqueville moved on to [[Ducy-St-Marguerite]].  The enemy at this period were some few miles away, but a defensive position was taken up.  Apart from shelling and one or two low flying attacks, in which the Battalion suffered few casualties – one of which was Corporal Mortlight – there was little or no action.  On  June we received orders to take over a position at [[Cristot]], overlooking the Bois de Boislonde.  The 1/7 DWR were holding this position having counter-attacked the 1/6 DWR, who had received severe casualties during their initial attacks.  We were then placed under command 147 Infantry Brigade.
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Three standing patrols were located at the south-east and west edges of the wood, and we sent each night a fighting patrol into the wood to deal with any Bosh patrols and to gain contact with our own patrols.  It was always a difficult job this patrolling in very thick wooded country, and many times British and Bosh patrols passed within feet of each other.  We were inexperienced at this game and on one occasion two patrols fired at each other.
 
Three standing patrols were located at the south-east and west edges of the wood, and we sent each night a fighting patrol into the wood to deal with any Bosh patrols and to gain contact with our own patrols.  It was always a difficult job this patrolling in very thick wooded country, and many times British and Bosh patrols passed within feet of each other.  We were inexperienced at this game and on one occasion two patrols fired at each other.
  
On  June a small local counter-attack was put in against the Battalion, and some enemy shelled out of the south-east position came infiltrating into the wood, but I think this was only a small counter-offensive to relieve the situation, for the enemy withdrawing through Fontenay-le-Pesnel.  Throughout the period the Battalion was very heavily shelled and mortared.  It was a most unpleasant period as there were no enemy at which to hit back; the snipers in the Bois de Boislonde were very active in the front line, and all we could do was to patrol offensively and remain sitting tight.  We learned the necessity of good communications between companies, and a narrow slit-trench but with a fire position to take up once the mortaring had cleared.
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On  June a small local counter-attack was put in against the Battalion, and some enemy shelled out of the south-east position came infiltrating into the wood, but I think this was only a small counter-offensive to relieve the situation, for the enemy withdrawing through [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]].  Throughout the period the Battalion was very heavily shelled and mortared.  It was a most unpleasant period as there were no enemy at which to hit back; the snipers in the Bois de Boislonde were very active in the front line, and all we could do was to patrol offensively and remain sitting tight.  We learned the necessity of good communications between companies, and a narrow slit-trench but with a fire position to take up once the mortaring had cleared.
  
On June    146 and 147 Infantry Brigades attacked Fontenay-le-Pesnel and we reverted to the command of 70 Infantry Brigade.  Orders were received that we should go through 1/7 DWR, who had attacked Fontenay-le-Pesnel, and assemble and hold a cross-roads just south of Rauray with a view to attacking and capturing Rauray as early as possible.  As C.O. I was sent forward to get in touch with Brigadier Cracroft, commanding the tanks supporting the 1/7 DWR and to gain touch with my own Tank Battalion C.O.  The Battalion was put on the move.
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On June    146 and 147 Infantry Brigades attacked [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] and we reverted to the command of 70 Infantry Brigade.  Orders were received that we should go through 1/7 DWR, who had attacked [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]], and assemble and hold a cross-roads just south of [[Rauray]] with a view to attacking and capturing [[Rauray]] as early as possible.  As C.O. I was sent forward to get in touch with Brigadier Cracroft, commanding the tanks supporting the 1/7 DWR and to gain touch with my own Tank Battalion C.O.  The Battalion was put on the move.
  
I arrived at Fontenay about 1700 hours to see the tail end of 1/7 DWR’s attack go through, and had just called for my O Group when we were heavily mortared.  Luckily there was sufficient time to alter the RV of O Group, and I gave orders for the Battalion to assemble, dig in, and await orders just south of Fontenay and in rear of 1/7 DWR.  I received orders then to move forward to the cross-roads south of Rauray, immediately, and the tanks (Sherwood Rangers squadron) would stay there until 20:30.  Accordingly there was little time for the Battalion to move through the 1/7 DWR and get dug in in time before the light gave out.  I called O Group forward to the cross-roads in question, and except for odd snipers we were not bothered.  I then quickly allotted companies an area to form a defensive perimeter around the cross-roads.  The Battalion moved in and dug in.  No woods on the east or west of the Battalion had been searched.  There was no time and each move would have been almost a company attack.  Accordingly these woods were avoided.  The tanks had reached the outskirts of Rauray and some houses were on fire in the village.  I had the feeling we were very much “out on our own in the blue” with no enemy located to our front or on our flanks, and our nearest troops being 1/7 DWR in our rear.  I then received orders by L.O. to find out if Rauray was occupied and if unoccupied to go in that night.
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I arrived at [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] about 1700 hours to see the tail end of 1/7 DWR’s attack go through, and had just called for my O Group when we were heavily mortared.  Luckily there was sufficient time to alter the RV of O Group, and I gave orders for the Battalion to assemble, dig in, and await orders just south of [[Fontenay-Le-Pesnel]] and in rear of 1/7 DWR.  I received orders then to move forward to the cross-roads south of [[Rauray]], immediately, and the tanks (Sherwood Rangers squadron) would stay there until 20:30.  Accordingly there was little time for the Battalion to move through the 1/7 DWR and get dug in in time before the light gave out.  I called O Group forward to the cross-roads in question, and except for odd snipers we were not bothered.  I then quickly allotted companies an area to form a defensive perimeter around the cross-roads.  The Battalion moved in and dug in.  No woods on the east or west of the Battalion had been searched.  There was no time and each move would have been almost a company attack.  Accordingly these woods were avoided.  The tanks had reached the outskirts of [[Rauray]] and some houses were on fire in the village.  I had the feeling we were very much “out on our own in the blue” with no enemy located to our front or on our flanks, and our nearest troops being 1/7 DWR in our rear.  I then received orders by L.O. to find out if [[Rauray]] was occupied and if unoccupied to go in that night.
  
Accordingly the whole Battalion stood to for a possible night attack unreconnoitred.  My plan if the village was not occupied was to move round the flanks with two companies, hold a firm base south of the village with another two companies, and mop up next day.  Somehow news seems to have reached higher HQ that Rauray was there for the asking – probably due to the tanks having reached the outskirts.  As what follows will show, this was very far from the truth, and a chinagraph pencil on a map showing where leading tanks have reached is no criterion that enemy m.g.’s, Spandaus and O.P.s will not create great havoc to an unreconnoitred attack.  When the Battalion moved forward to the lager it should be mentioned that snipers were still in slit-trenches in the cornfields, and they would not be dislodged by the tanks.  One platoon commander got behind a tank and with its protection destroyed two snipers who would not be dislodged although the tank had run over their trench.  It was like killing a wasp which had stuck between two windows both of which were down, and they were difficult to reach without being stung!
+
Accordingly the whole Battalion stood to for a possible night attack unreconnoitred.  My plan if the village was not occupied was to move round the flanks with two companies, hold a firm base south of the village with another two companies, and mop up next day.  Somehow news seems to have reached higher HQ that [[Rauray]] was there for the asking – probably due to the tanks having reached the outskirts.  As what follows will show, this was very far from the truth, and a chinagraph pencil on a map showing where leading tanks have reached is no criterion that enemy m.g.’s, Spandaus and O.P.s will not create great havoc to an unreconnoitred attack.  When the Battalion moved forward to the lager it should be mentioned that snipers were still in slit-trenches in the cornfields, and they would not be dislodged by the tanks.  One platoon commander got behind a tank and with its protection destroyed two snipers who would not be dislodged although the tank had run over their trench.  It was like killing a wasp which had stuck between two windows both of which were down, and they were difficult to reach without being stung!
  
 
To get on with the main story.  Lieut Broughton (D Company) took a patrol into the village.  I told him to go into the orchard on the left of the village and return by 04:30 hours.  It did not give him much time as it was then after midnight, but if the Battalion were to get in before light we could not leave later than 03:00 for advance forward or attack if necessary.  Briefing for the patrol was only possible off a 1/25,000 map: a quick sup of tea and they were off.
 
To get on with the main story.  Lieut Broughton (D Company) took a patrol into the village.  I told him to go into the orchard on the left of the village and return by 04:30 hours.  It did not give him much time as it was then after midnight, but if the Battalion were to get in before light we could not leave later than 03:00 for advance forward or attack if necessary.  Briefing for the patrol was only possible off a 1/25,000 map: a quick sup of tea and they were off.
  
About 02:00 hours a runner reported Lieut. Broughton had been shot and captured and they had met about 40 Bosh in the orchard.  (Later when we captured Rauray we rescued and recaptured Lieut. Broughton, who was not badly wounded).  On the information from this patrol I decided that we would stay put that night, get dug in as firmly as possible and then think again in the morning.  I considered a strong fighting patrol supported by tanks would bring in the required information once given sufficient time to make a plan for the attack; or, best case, the fighting patrol would clear snipers for us to occupy the village.
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About 02:00 hours a runner reported Lieut. Broughton had been shot and captured and they had met about 40 Bosh in the orchard.  (Later when we captured [[Rauray]] we rescued and recaptured Lieut. Broughton, who was not badly wounded).  On the information from this patrol I decided that we would stay put that night, get dug in as firmly as possible and then think again in the morning.  I considered a strong fighting patrol supported by tanks would bring in the required information once given sufficient time to make a plan for the attack; or, best case, the fighting patrol would clear snipers for us to occupy the village.
  
 
Soon after first light the tanks (squadron Sherwood Rangers) came into our lager.  Lieut. Hoggard’s platoon was chosen for the fighting patrol job.  The village was shelled heavily for some five minutes with medium and 25-pounders and mortared by our own mortars, and with the tanks supporting the platoon Lieut. Hoggard entered the village.  Whether this was too big a job for the fighting patrol I am not able to say, but Lieut. Hoggard fought his platoon into the centre of the village, was then wounded and sent back valuable information which confirmed the previous report that the enemy was certainly holding the village not lightly but with Spandau parties, snipers with Spandaus and one or two tanks as O.P.s with some 88mm guns on the flanks.  These guns later took toll of our tanks, knocking out seven and two S.P. guns – a very expensive morning.
 
Soon after first light the tanks (squadron Sherwood Rangers) came into our lager.  Lieut. Hoggard’s platoon was chosen for the fighting patrol job.  The village was shelled heavily for some five minutes with medium and 25-pounders and mortared by our own mortars, and with the tanks supporting the platoon Lieut. Hoggard entered the village.  Whether this was too big a job for the fighting patrol I am not able to say, but Lieut. Hoggard fought his platoon into the centre of the village, was then wounded and sent back valuable information which confirmed the previous report that the enemy was certainly holding the village not lightly but with Spandau parties, snipers with Spandaus and one or two tanks as O.P.s with some 88mm guns on the flanks.  These guns later took toll of our tanks, knocking out seven and two S.P. guns – a very expensive morning.
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The Brigade Commander arrived about 10:00 hours.  Battalion Headquarters and A Company being very heavily mortared and sniped this period, movement was extremely unpleasant and difficult both in Battalion Headquarters and A Company’s area.  We were not sufficiently dug in at Battalion Headquarters, having moved our site at first light.  If we had stayed in our original site we would have been knocked about badly, but by moving we had the shelter of a high bank, but unfortunately we had not had the time to dig in deep enough before “things happened”.  (Later we found out how news of this Headquarters was sent back.  A small dug-out about 200 yards from Headquarters held an officer’s sniper-post complete with sheets, mattresses, chairs – I am sitting on one now writing this story – flowers, wine and, most important of all, a telephone; and this fellow was signalling back exactly what was happening and directing the most accurate mortar fire onto our positions, Battalion Headquarters and the mortar positions to the rear of Battalion Headquarters.  (Note: mortars, both 3-in and 2-in, must constantly change their positions.  They attract much attention if found.)
 
The Brigade Commander arrived about 10:00 hours.  Battalion Headquarters and A Company being very heavily mortared and sniped this period, movement was extremely unpleasant and difficult both in Battalion Headquarters and A Company’s area.  We were not sufficiently dug in at Battalion Headquarters, having moved our site at first light.  If we had stayed in our original site we would have been knocked about badly, but by moving we had the shelter of a high bank, but unfortunately we had not had the time to dig in deep enough before “things happened”.  (Later we found out how news of this Headquarters was sent back.  A small dug-out about 200 yards from Headquarters held an officer’s sniper-post complete with sheets, mattresses, chairs – I am sitting on one now writing this story – flowers, wine and, most important of all, a telephone; and this fellow was signalling back exactly what was happening and directing the most accurate mortar fire onto our positions, Battalion Headquarters and the mortar positions to the rear of Battalion Headquarters.  (Note: mortars, both 3-in and 2-in, must constantly change their positions.  They attract much attention if found.)
  
The Brigadier said snipers and mortars must not hold up 11 DLI, but the village of Rauray would be captured and held by 11 DLI.  The tanks could not, however, support us due to the open ground and having lost so many already.  Accordingly I sent for B and D Company commanders.  Majors Bowden and Low arrived in their carriers.  Under mortar and Spandau and sniper fire I gave them orders that B would attack the village on the right and D on the left and link up south of the village at a certain hedge, but not to exploit further than the main hedge running south and west at the southern edge of the village.  This attack was preceded by five minutes’ artillery shoot by three field regiments, which started at the front of the village and lifted to the southern edge.  Mortar fire on the orchard on the left and right of the village was laid on for three minutes prior to the attack and then for two minutes at the rear of the village.  A medium regiment superimposed but further away assisted this fire plan.  C Company was to provide a platoon for mopping up the village after the leading companies had reached the southern edge.  During this attack B Company received many casualties from Spandau fire on their right flank and Lieut. Bangall ''(actually BANSALL)'' was killed with his platoon.  Lieut Kellet was wounded and yet the Company under Major Boucher pushed gallantly through the village arriving on the objective with about forty men.  Corporal McArthur must here be mentioned for getting his platoon forward when officers and N.C.O.s had become casualties.
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The Brigadier said snipers and mortars must not hold up 11 DLI, but the village of [[Rauray]] would be captured and held by 11 DLI.  The tanks could not, however, support us due to the open ground and having lost so many already.  Accordingly I sent for B and D Company commanders.  Majors Bowden and Low arrived in their carriers.  Under mortar and Spandau and sniper fire I gave them orders that B would attack the village on the right and D on the left and link up south of the village at a certain hedge, but not to exploit further than the main hedge running south and west at the southern edge of the village.  This attack was preceded by five minutes’ artillery shoot by three field regiments, which started at the front of the village and lifted to the southern edge.  Mortar fire on the orchard on the left and right of the village was laid on for three minutes prior to the attack and then for two minutes at the rear of the village.  A medium regiment superimposed but further away assisted this fire plan.  C Company was to provide a platoon for mopping up the village after the leading companies had reached the southern edge.  During this attack B Company received many casualties from Spandau fire on their right flank and Lieut. Bangall ''(actually BANSALL)'' was killed with his platoon.  Lieut Kellet was wounded and yet the Company under Major Boucher pushed gallantly through the village arriving on the objective with about forty men.  Corporal McArthur must here be mentioned for getting his platoon forward when officers and N.C.O.s had become casualties.
  
 
Major Low’s (D) Company was heavily mortared crossing an open field just south of the village.  This mortar did not start until the Company came across the field and I do not think could have been prevented as the telephone O.P. we found obviously controlled the entrance to the village and accurate fire was brought down exactly when the Company deployed.  Spandau fire was not so great this side as from the orchards north-west of the village on B Company’s front.  Artillery had been shelling mortar positions located by compass prior to the attack, but this neutralising action was not entirely effective.  D and B Companies reached their objective in a fine manner and occupied the German positions.  In D Major Low was killed leading his Company; Lieut. Sprague wounded, Lieut. Bell wounded.  In B Lieut Bangall ''(actually BANSALL)'' killed; Lieut Kellet wounded and Lieut James.
 
Major Low’s (D) Company was heavily mortared crossing an open field just south of the village.  This mortar did not start until the Company came across the field and I do not think could have been prevented as the telephone O.P. we found obviously controlled the entrance to the village and accurate fire was brought down exactly when the Company deployed.  Spandau fire was not so great this side as from the orchards north-west of the village on B Company’s front.  Artillery had been shelling mortar positions located by compass prior to the attack, but this neutralising action was not entirely effective.  D and B Companies reached their objective in a fine manner and occupied the German positions.  In D Major Low was killed leading his Company; Lieut. Sprague wounded, Lieut. Bell wounded.  In B Lieut Bangall ''(actually BANSALL)'' killed; Lieut Kellet wounded and Lieut James.
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I was now out of touch with Battalion Headquarters, so I returned.  Quite a few snipers were lying about dead but also quite a few sniper shots being fired in the village and orchard area.  Reorganization continued and the Battalion could say it had taken and held its first objective, and an exceedingly sticky, unpleasant unknown costly operation had successfully been accomplished.
 
I was now out of touch with Battalion Headquarters, so I returned.  Quite a few snipers were lying about dead but also quite a few sniper shots being fired in the village and orchard area.  Reorganization continued and the Battalion could say it had taken and held its first objective, and an exceedingly sticky, unpleasant unknown costly operation had successfully been accomplished.
  
During the next few days continual mortaring and shelling of the area took place.  We were now battle-trained and few casualties occurred when the men stuck to their slit-trenches.  On June    10 DLI made an attack on our left on Point 110, a very costly attack as far as their officer casualties.  Peter Dickinson wounded; Ronnie Gill and John Welsh killed.  They went out one thousand yards south-west of our position, and were really in a bit of a salient on our left.  This later was contracted, and their Battalion Headquarters came into our area until shelled out of a house in Rauray, unfortunately killing Rusty Russell.  They then built a command-post around my C Company’s area.  We provided a patrol prior to this attack to proceed to point 110 to find out anything they could of the enemy dispositions.  Unfortunately the officer conducting the patrol, a recce patrol, Lieut. Fitzpatrick, was wounded, and little information was gained, I fear.  All these nights there were constant alarms of the enemy breaking through our positions, although in the main it was merely enemy patrols that occasionally visited us but did not get very far.  We all got little sleep, and there was much stand-to and stand-down.
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During the next few days continual mortaring and shelling of the area took place.  We were now battle-trained and few casualties occurred when the men stuck to their slit-trenches.  On June    10 DLI made an attack on our left on Point 110, a very costly attack as far as their officer casualties.  Peter Dickinson wounded; Ronnie Gill and John Welsh killed.  They went out one thousand yards south-west of our position, and were really in a bit of a salient on our left.  This later was contracted, and their Battalion Headquarters came into our area until shelled out of a house in [[Rauray]], unfortunately killing Rusty Russell.  They then built a command-post around my C Company’s area.  We provided a patrol prior to this attack to proceed to point 110 to find out anything they could of the enemy dispositions.  Unfortunately the officer conducting the patrol, a recce patrol, Lieut. Fitzpatrick, was wounded, and little information was gained, I fear.  All these nights there were constant alarms of the enemy breaking through our positions, although in the main it was merely enemy patrols that occasionally visited us but did not get very far.  We all got little sleep, and there was much stand-to and stand-down.
  
 
On    June about 13:00 hours I was called for to attend an O Group at which the Divisional Commander was present, and ordered to attack Brettevillette.  The attack was timed for 18:00 hours that evening.  Throughout the day we were heavily mortared, shelled and attacked by tanks firing H.E.  Forward companies could get little rest, and briefing of platoon commanders by company commanders was virtually impossible.  The plan from my point of view was too hurriedly laid on without a really good recce, although 1 Tyneside Scottish had previously attacked this village once and gave us information that it was held by many Spandaus collected and based on all entrances to the village with one or two tanks in support, and alongside tracks and track junctions.  We were to have very full artillery support, but the difficulty was the barrage was due to start some 500 yards after we had left the start line.  All those tremendous artillery crumps, although creating some casualties to the Bosh, do not prevent his snipers and Spandaus men from bobbing up again.  We were just forming up for the attack at about 19:00 hours – as zero-hour had been put back twice at my request – when orders were received that the operation had been postponed.
 
On    June about 13:00 hours I was called for to attend an O Group at which the Divisional Commander was present, and ordered to attack Brettevillette.  The attack was timed for 18:00 hours that evening.  Throughout the day we were heavily mortared, shelled and attacked by tanks firing H.E.  Forward companies could get little rest, and briefing of platoon commanders by company commanders was virtually impossible.  The plan from my point of view was too hurriedly laid on without a really good recce, although 1 Tyneside Scottish had previously attacked this village once and gave us information that it was held by many Spandaus collected and based on all entrances to the village with one or two tanks in support, and alongside tracks and track junctions.  We were to have very full artillery support, but the difficulty was the barrage was due to start some 500 yards after we had left the start line.  All those tremendous artillery crumps, although creating some casualties to the Bosh, do not prevent his snipers and Spandaus men from bobbing up again.  We were just forming up for the attack at about 19:00 hours – as zero-hour had been put back twice at my request – when orders were received that the operation had been postponed.
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I visited de Winton, O.C. 1 Tyneside Scottish.  The Brigade Commander was there and ordered B Company and any remnants of Angus Company, 1 Tyneside Scottish, to move forward about 300 yards south of B Company’s position; C Company to counter-attack left forward company 1 Tyneside Scottish; A Company to stiffen Point 110.  1 Tyneside Scottish with their squadron of tanks and their own anti-tank guns and 17-pounders had knocked out about twenty-five enemy tanks.  First class show.  But little of their infantry left.  My D Company also had to be pulled out.  And now it became a relief of 11 DLI by 1/7 DWR almost in the middle of the battle whilst 11 DLI counter-attacked and retook 1 Tyneside Scots’ positions.  Really a most tricky operation of war.  Both my forward companies, B and D, had had no sleep for over 48 hours.  They had been mortared and shelled all day and had broken up enemy infiltration attacks.  Captain Brewis, who had taken over from Major Low, was severely wounded in the leg from Spandau fire, and Captain Grant took over command of D Company.  O.C. B Company personally had engaged the enemy with grenades.  O.C.D Company, then Captain Brewis, who had taken Major Low’s place, had been severely wounded and been replaced by the O.C. Anti-Tank Platoon, Captain Grant.  I had no anti-tank officer as Lieut. Wynn had been killed earlier, until a reinforcement officer, Lieut Taylor, suddenly arrived and took over the Anti-Tank Platoon very quickly.
 
I visited de Winton, O.C. 1 Tyneside Scottish.  The Brigade Commander was there and ordered B Company and any remnants of Angus Company, 1 Tyneside Scottish, to move forward about 300 yards south of B Company’s position; C Company to counter-attack left forward company 1 Tyneside Scottish; A Company to stiffen Point 110.  1 Tyneside Scottish with their squadron of tanks and their own anti-tank guns and 17-pounders had knocked out about twenty-five enemy tanks.  First class show.  But little of their infantry left.  My D Company also had to be pulled out.  And now it became a relief of 11 DLI by 1/7 DWR almost in the middle of the battle whilst 11 DLI counter-attacked and retook 1 Tyneside Scots’ positions.  Really a most tricky operation of war.  Both my forward companies, B and D, had had no sleep for over 48 hours.  They had been mortared and shelled all day and had broken up enemy infiltration attacks.  Captain Brewis, who had taken over from Major Low, was severely wounded in the leg from Spandau fire, and Captain Grant took over command of D Company.  O.C. B Company personally had engaged the enemy with grenades.  O.C.D Company, then Captain Brewis, who had taken Major Low’s place, had been severely wounded and been replaced by the O.C. Anti-Tank Platoon, Captain Grant.  I had no anti-tank officer as Lieut. Wynn had been killed earlier, until a reinforcement officer, Lieut Taylor, suddenly arrived and took over the Anti-Tank Platoon very quickly.
  
However, all companies took up their allotted positions.  A first-class Counter-attack by C Company with McMichael leading the forward platoon made the enemy run hard and leave his positions.  The troops were full of themselves ; they hadn’t seen the Bosh run so hard.  A Company worked up to Point 110 with Alexander’s party, and de Winton handed over the sector to me.  Luckily that night all was quiet.  The enemy had withdrawn sufficiently far to lick his wounds.  He had been defeated both by troops on the front of 1 Tyneside Scottish and by infantry and a few tanks on the 11 DLI front.  11 DLI had captured Rauray, held Rauray, handed over to 1/7 DWR the counter-attacked to restored the situation on the left flank.  1 Tyneside Scottish had put up a great show and defeated the tank attack.  We were steady all that day until relieved by 10 DLI.
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However, all companies took up their allotted positions.  A first-class Counter-attack by C Company with McMichael leading the forward platoon made the enemy run hard and leave his positions.  The troops were full of themselves ; they hadn’t seen the Bosh run so hard.  A Company worked up to Point 110 with Alexander’s party, and de Winton handed over the sector to me.  Luckily that night all was quiet.  The enemy had withdrawn sufficiently far to lick his wounds.  He had been defeated both by troops on the front of 1 Tyneside Scottish and by infantry and a few tanks on the 11 DLI front.  11 DLI had captured [[Rauray]], held [[Rauray]], handed over to 1/7 DWR then counter-attacked to restored the situation on the left flank.  1 Tyneside Scottish had put up a great show and defeated the tank attack.  We were steady all that day until relieved by 10 DLI.
  
 
The above must purely be a bird’s eye view by me as the battle occurred.  It has been impossible to give details of all the many fine acts performed by so many officers and men, but I hope I have made arrangements for them not to go unrecognised.  But the great thing now is the Battalion is on top if its form and battle-trained, and stood the rigours of hard in-fighting and bad mortaring.  Mention must be made of the excellent signal communication arranged by Lieut. Murray, now Captain Murray.  Lines were continually cut by mortar and artillery fire and more frequently still by our own tanks.  Constantly under fire, these lines were repaired and communication – except one telephone to one platoon – was maintained throughout.  Also the S.B.’s work could not have been of a higher quality.  All calls were answered and met, and again under the most trying conditions.  Casualties were evacuated quickly by carrier to the R.A.P. some 1000 yards in rear of Battalion Headquarters.  The mortar platoon fired one day over 1600 rounds.  They engaged tanks and nearly always made the tank sheer off.  I think he had infantry close to his tanks as eyes, and they didn’t like the mortaring.  The R.A. shot all day hard, but were aimed more at the villages and line of approach south of our position.  When the enemy started to withdraw they got a very good shoot at them going south on the track towards [[Bretteville]] – also when a party debussed at Roqueville they had a very fine shoot.  Last but not least mention must be made of the excellent Quartermaster, food and Sandy Powell 2IC ammunition arrangements.  We were never short, although many times the Quartermaster lived in the front line sharing a slit-trench at Battalion Headquarters.  The food was always there, and he himself was always a great morale-raiser to me.
 
The above must purely be a bird’s eye view by me as the battle occurred.  It has been impossible to give details of all the many fine acts performed by so many officers and men, but I hope I have made arrangements for them not to go unrecognised.  But the great thing now is the Battalion is on top if its form and battle-trained, and stood the rigours of hard in-fighting and bad mortaring.  Mention must be made of the excellent signal communication arranged by Lieut. Murray, now Captain Murray.  Lines were continually cut by mortar and artillery fire and more frequently still by our own tanks.  Constantly under fire, these lines were repaired and communication – except one telephone to one platoon – was maintained throughout.  Also the S.B.’s work could not have been of a higher quality.  All calls were answered and met, and again under the most trying conditions.  Casualties were evacuated quickly by carrier to the R.A.P. some 1000 yards in rear of Battalion Headquarters.  The mortar platoon fired one day over 1600 rounds.  They engaged tanks and nearly always made the tank sheer off.  I think he had infantry close to his tanks as eyes, and they didn’t like the mortaring.  The R.A. shot all day hard, but were aimed more at the villages and line of approach south of our position.  When the enemy started to withdraw they got a very good shoot at them going south on the track towards [[Bretteville]] – also when a party debussed at Roqueville they had a very fine shoot.  Last but not least mention must be made of the excellent Quartermaster, food and Sandy Powell 2IC ammunition arrangements.  We were never short, although many times the Quartermaster lived in the front line sharing a slit-trench at Battalion Headquarters.  The food was always there, and he himself was always a great morale-raiser to me.

Latest revision as of 09:22, 26 April 2018

1st – 5th June 1944 THETFORD

The Battalion was making final administrative preparations. The second-in-command left for the marshalling area.

6th June 1944 THETFORD

D-Day. The Battalion spent the day loading vehicles and packing. The issue of maps and movement instructions took place.

17:00 hours. A briefing took place of the Company Commanders.

7th June 1944 THETFORD

14:00 hours. The Battalion transport left for the marshalling area under the command of Captain P.A. Johnson. The Transport Party consisted of nine Officers, 225 Other Ranks and 71 vehicles.

10:00 hours. The marching personnel left THETFORD for a separate marshalling area at FALMER near NEWHAVEN.

8th – 11th June 1944 FALMER

The time was spent by the marching personnel in the marshalling area. The programme was one of games and entertainment and rest. Full advantage was also taken of bathing facilities.

9th June 1944

The vehicles were embarked at WOOLWICH DOCKS.

11th June 1944

The marching personnel embarked at NEWHAVEN in three LCI’s (Large). The total strength of the Party was 28 Officers and 542 Other Ranks. This was split into three equal shiploads, which were commanded by the C.O., Major Boucher and Major Low respectively.

12th June 1944

11:30 hours. The marching personnel landed on KING Beach near LA RIVIERE. Some had a dry landing, but others had to wade ashore through about three feet of water. Then began the march forward through VER-SUR MER, CREPON, CREULLY and St GABRIEL, to the concentration area which the second-in-command had laid out and signed in fields between the hamlets of BRECY and RUCQUEVILLE. There was great activity all up the road from the beaches – streams of DUKWs and RAF lorries, pioneers mending the roads, signallers repairing the telephone wires, and everywhere masses of signs (occasionally ACHTUNG MINEN!) and yet for all of the activity things were strangely quiet.

It might almost have been an exercise. Spitfires and Marauders roamed about overhead, as it were, looking for trouble. Only a few smashed-up bicycles with scattered ammunition and a couple of German graves near the roadside served to remind us that Overlord was no scheme.

On reaching the concentration area we dug in and waited for the arrival of the transport. Friendly contact was made with the local farm people who supplied us with water.

13th – 14th June 1944 NORMANDY

These days were spent in the concentration area. The transport arrived, odd trucks at a time, and it was learnt that the delay was over the unloading. By midnight of the 14th the marching party was complete, and also the vehicle party except for the 15 cwts which still remained to be unloaded. Orders were received for a move forward to a new concentration area, the Battalion area being at Ducy-St-Marguerite. Reconnaissances were carried out in the daylight that remained.

15th June 1944 Ducy-St-Marguerite

10:00 hours. The Battalion moved forward to Ducy-St-Marguerite and Headquarters was soon established in a pleasant little orchard just off the road.

So far there had been no sign of the enemy, but there was periodic shelling, by our own artillery, of enemy positions to the WEST of Tilly-Sur-Seulles which a Panzer Division was still holding.

Mention should be made of the large scale air activity. Five landing strips had been constructed with the result that Spitfires and Typhoons were able to maintain a constant patrol over the beachhead area. Enemy air activity was nil as far as could be seen.

With the Brigade in Divisional Reserve the opportunity was taken to catch up with routine documentation (which had previously been impossible owing to the non-arrival of the Office Truck).

22nd June 1944 Ducy-St-Marguerite

Orders were received for the Battalion to relieve 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in the Cristot area. Reconnaissances were carried out in preparation for this relief.

23rd June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE

12:00 hours. The relief of 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was completed. Three Standing Patrols were established in the PARC De BOISLANDE. Enemy infantry and tank movement was observed. Briefing of the patrols took place and a vigorous patrol programme was to be carried out in the PARC De BOISLANDE.

Lt. Price took out a large Fighting Patrol which met a certain amount of Spandau fire. Captain Sopwith took out a small Reconnaissance Patrol which reported no sign of enemy in the area patrolled.

24th June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE

There was spasmodic mortaring and shelling of our positions during the day. Standing Patrols were maintained. At night Lt Hoggard took out a Fighting Patrol to search for enemy in the PARC and had the misfortune to be fired on by one of our Standing Patrols, one casualty resulting.

25th June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE

There was increased enemy activity – including reports of enemy infantry infiltrating up the EASTERN edge of the PARC. The Divisional Reconnaissance Regiment killed twelve enemy near Point 102. There was more heaving mortaring of our positions.

14:00 hours. A Patrol under the command of Lt Baker was met with heavy mortar fire and Lt Baker was killed. (Lieutenant C.T. Baker was a CANLOAN Officer attached to the Battalion).

At night, Patrols were taken out by Lt Yorke and Lt Bell.

Lt Yorke’s Patrol became separated, but after some exciting experiences returned intact. The presence of enemy troops in the hedgerows NORTH of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel was confirmed.

An attack on Fontenay-Le-Pesnel took place with the Hallams on the right and the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers on the left, after a very heavy artillery barrage. Stiff resistance was met on the left where a thick smoke screen put down by the enemy made fighting difficult.

During the night of the 25th/26th the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment were given the task of completing the house clearing in Fontenay-Le-Pesnel and at mid-day, the Battalion was put at short notice to move.

26th June 1944 PARC De BOISLANDE

15:00 hours. A Brigade Orders Group was held. The Battalion began an advance forward through Fontenay-Le-Pesnel making for an assembly area in the neighbourhood of ST NICHOLAS FARM Reference 883672. Mortar fire caused a slight hold up and eventually the Battalion pushed straight through to seize and hold and area at the cross-roads Reference 887661. This was done without opposition except from a few snipers. Digging was begun immediately, the Battalion being disposed in a box with A and C Companies forward and B and D Companies to the rear.

Lt Broughton was also despatched with a small Reconnaissance Patrol to investigate the situation in Rauray and preliminary orders were given for the occupation of the village.

However, at 03:00 hours one of the Patrol returned with the information that; Lt Broughton had been wounded and taken Prisoner, that the village appeared to be occupied, and that tank movements had been heard in the vicinity.

Accordingly, the attack was postponed.

27th June 1944 St NICHOLAS FARM

Lt Hoggard was sent into Rauray with a Fighting Patrol one Platoon strong, supported by two troops of tanks and artillery.

Heavy opposition was encountered from Spandaus and snipers, but the Patrol penetrated the village and managed to send back information.

From about 09:00 hours onwards Battalion HQ was subjected to very accurate and heavy mortaring, and snipers made movement of any kind difficult. However, our attack on Rauray was planned with heavy artillery support. Zero hour was 11:30 hours and the attack went in with D Company left and B Company right. A Company provided the firm base and C Company were used to mop up – especially in the village itself where numerous snipers were making things unpleasant.

The attack was completely successful though it cost us dear in casualties, most of which, fortunately, were wounded. During this period, the stretcher bearers showed a fine example of devotion to duty tending the wounded, despite the constant mortar fire and sniping, and assisting in the evacuation of over a hundred casualties.

The War Diary contains an Appendix which is an expanded version of the sections of the weekly Field Return showing Officers joining and quitting - for whatever reason - during that week. The Field Returns themselves were not filed with the War Diary but the typed Appendix shows that Major J. Low, Lieutenant J.E. Johnson and Lieutenant I.A. Bansall were killed on 27th June and Lieutenants R.P.H. Sprague (Canloan), D.G.O. Yorke, J.R.Kellett, J.M. McNicol, K. Hoggard, W.R. Bell and R.H. Broughton - all of the DLI - were wounded and evacuated to No.3 Casualty Clearing Station.

28th – 30th June Rauray

During these two days the task of the Battalion was to hold on to Rauray against possible counter-attacks and to maintain constant touch with the unit on the right – at first the Tyneside Scottish and later the Lincolns. A Company of the 1st/7th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was brought forward and the gap was securely bridged. Every effort was made to clear the area of snipers and many were shot in the tops of the trees. A perfect sniper’s hideout, complete with furniture, wine, sheets etc was also found near Battalion HQ and this was thought to be the cause of the accurate mortar fire.

During the day Lt McNicol, the Battalion Intelligence Officer, was seriously wounded by mortar fire and evacuated - the War Diary Appendix , as mentioned above, indicates he was injured on 27th June.

The Appendix also shows Major C.A. Smallwood as having been wounded and evacuated beyond the Regimental Aid Post on 29th June.

Replacement Officers in the persons of 2/Lt R. Black (South Staffs), Lt D. McNgood (Canloan), Lt F.B. Hall (South Staffs), Lt A.R. Holloway (Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire), Lt E.J.K. Rees and Lt G.O. Thomas (South Wales Borderers) were transferred to the DLI and posted to the Battalion on 29th June, while 2/Lt H.R.C. Merryweather (Royal Berkshires) and Lt P.H.R. Taylor (Lincolns) were transferred in on 30th June.

Replacements for casualties amongst the Other Ranks were:-

1 Sergeant and 10 men from the Essex Regiment on 29th June.

3 Corporals and 26 men from the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 29th June.

3 Corporals and 3 men from the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 30th June.

COMMENTARY BY THE BATTALION COMMANDER

Held in the Durham County Council Archives is a document prepared by the Battalion Commander which essentially provides a summary of the Battalion's actions between mid-June and early July, featuring the Rauray battle. While the War Diary above, and for July 1944, is comprehensive, this document is written in a less formal style and complements the official accounts. Dates have been omitted, but these can easily be identified by reference to the War Diaries included here on the Website.

This account has been processed and is uploaded with the permission of the Record Office, for which sincere thanks are due, as a contribution to the story of a crucial period in the Brigade's history. I am also indebted to the family of Captain Barlow, who first drew my attention to the existence of the document.

11th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry Short Account of the Battalion during the period Sainte Marguerite – CristotRauray

The Battalion at full strength less residue landed on D plus 6 and after a very short stay at Ruqueville moved on to Ducy-St-Marguerite. The enemy at this period were some few miles away, but a defensive position was taken up. Apart from shelling and one or two low flying attacks, in which the Battalion suffered few casualties – one of which was Corporal Mortlight – there was little or no action. On June we received orders to take over a position at Cristot, overlooking the Bois de Boislonde. The 1/7 DWR were holding this position having counter-attacked the 1/6 DWR, who had received severe casualties during their initial attacks. We were then placed under command 147 Infantry Brigade.

Three standing patrols were located at the south-east and west edges of the wood, and we sent each night a fighting patrol into the wood to deal with any Bosh patrols and to gain contact with our own patrols. It was always a difficult job this patrolling in very thick wooded country, and many times British and Bosh patrols passed within feet of each other. We were inexperienced at this game and on one occasion two patrols fired at each other.

On June a small local counter-attack was put in against the Battalion, and some enemy shelled out of the south-east position came infiltrating into the wood, but I think this was only a small counter-offensive to relieve the situation, for the enemy withdrawing through Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Throughout the period the Battalion was very heavily shelled and mortared. It was a most unpleasant period as there were no enemy at which to hit back; the snipers in the Bois de Boislonde were very active in the front line, and all we could do was to patrol offensively and remain sitting tight. We learned the necessity of good communications between companies, and a narrow slit-trench but with a fire position to take up once the mortaring had cleared.

On June 146 and 147 Infantry Brigades attacked Fontenay-Le-Pesnel and we reverted to the command of 70 Infantry Brigade. Orders were received that we should go through 1/7 DWR, who had attacked Fontenay-Le-Pesnel, and assemble and hold a cross-roads just south of Rauray with a view to attacking and capturing Rauray as early as possible. As C.O. I was sent forward to get in touch with Brigadier Cracroft, commanding the tanks supporting the 1/7 DWR and to gain touch with my own Tank Battalion C.O. The Battalion was put on the move.

I arrived at Fontenay-Le-Pesnel about 1700 hours to see the tail end of 1/7 DWR’s attack go through, and had just called for my O Group when we were heavily mortared. Luckily there was sufficient time to alter the RV of O Group, and I gave orders for the Battalion to assemble, dig in, and await orders just south of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel and in rear of 1/7 DWR. I received orders then to move forward to the cross-roads south of Rauray, immediately, and the tanks (Sherwood Rangers squadron) would stay there until 20:30. Accordingly there was little time for the Battalion to move through the 1/7 DWR and get dug in in time before the light gave out. I called O Group forward to the cross-roads in question, and except for odd snipers we were not bothered. I then quickly allotted companies an area to form a defensive perimeter around the cross-roads. The Battalion moved in and dug in. No woods on the east or west of the Battalion had been searched. There was no time and each move would have been almost a company attack. Accordingly these woods were avoided. The tanks had reached the outskirts of Rauray and some houses were on fire in the village. I had the feeling we were very much “out on our own in the blue” with no enemy located to our front or on our flanks, and our nearest troops being 1/7 DWR in our rear. I then received orders by L.O. to find out if Rauray was occupied and if unoccupied to go in that night.

Accordingly the whole Battalion stood to for a possible night attack unreconnoitred. My plan if the village was not occupied was to move round the flanks with two companies, hold a firm base south of the village with another two companies, and mop up next day. Somehow news seems to have reached higher HQ that Rauray was there for the asking – probably due to the tanks having reached the outskirts. As what follows will show, this was very far from the truth, and a chinagraph pencil on a map showing where leading tanks have reached is no criterion that enemy m.g.’s, Spandaus and O.P.s will not create great havoc to an unreconnoitred attack. When the Battalion moved forward to the lager it should be mentioned that snipers were still in slit-trenches in the cornfields, and they would not be dislodged by the tanks. One platoon commander got behind a tank and with its protection destroyed two snipers who would not be dislodged although the tank had run over their trench. It was like killing a wasp which had stuck between two windows both of which were down, and they were difficult to reach without being stung!

To get on with the main story. Lieut Broughton (D Company) took a patrol into the village. I told him to go into the orchard on the left of the village and return by 04:30 hours. It did not give him much time as it was then after midnight, but if the Battalion were to get in before light we could not leave later than 03:00 for advance forward or attack if necessary. Briefing for the patrol was only possible off a 1/25,000 map: a quick sup of tea and they were off.

About 02:00 hours a runner reported Lieut. Broughton had been shot and captured and they had met about 40 Bosh in the orchard. (Later when we captured Rauray we rescued and recaptured Lieut. Broughton, who was not badly wounded). On the information from this patrol I decided that we would stay put that night, get dug in as firmly as possible and then think again in the morning. I considered a strong fighting patrol supported by tanks would bring in the required information once given sufficient time to make a plan for the attack; or, best case, the fighting patrol would clear snipers for us to occupy the village.

Soon after first light the tanks (squadron Sherwood Rangers) came into our lager. Lieut. Hoggard’s platoon was chosen for the fighting patrol job. The village was shelled heavily for some five minutes with medium and 25-pounders and mortared by our own mortars, and with the tanks supporting the platoon Lieut. Hoggard entered the village. Whether this was too big a job for the fighting patrol I am not able to say, but Lieut. Hoggard fought his platoon into the centre of the village, was then wounded and sent back valuable information which confirmed the previous report that the enemy was certainly holding the village not lightly but with Spandau parties, snipers with Spandaus and one or two tanks as O.P.s with some 88mm guns on the flanks. These guns later took toll of our tanks, knocking out seven and two S.P. guns – a very expensive morning.

The Brigade Commander arrived about 10:00 hours. Battalion Headquarters and A Company being very heavily mortared and sniped this period, movement was extremely unpleasant and difficult both in Battalion Headquarters and A Company’s area. We were not sufficiently dug in at Battalion Headquarters, having moved our site at first light. If we had stayed in our original site we would have been knocked about badly, but by moving we had the shelter of a high bank, but unfortunately we had not had the time to dig in deep enough before “things happened”. (Later we found out how news of this Headquarters was sent back. A small dug-out about 200 yards from Headquarters held an officer’s sniper-post complete with sheets, mattresses, chairs – I am sitting on one now writing this story – flowers, wine and, most important of all, a telephone; and this fellow was signalling back exactly what was happening and directing the most accurate mortar fire onto our positions, Battalion Headquarters and the mortar positions to the rear of Battalion Headquarters. (Note: mortars, both 3-in and 2-in, must constantly change their positions. They attract much attention if found.)

The Brigadier said snipers and mortars must not hold up 11 DLI, but the village of Rauray would be captured and held by 11 DLI. The tanks could not, however, support us due to the open ground and having lost so many already. Accordingly I sent for B and D Company commanders. Majors Bowden and Low arrived in their carriers. Under mortar and Spandau and sniper fire I gave them orders that B would attack the village on the right and D on the left and link up south of the village at a certain hedge, but not to exploit further than the main hedge running south and west at the southern edge of the village. This attack was preceded by five minutes’ artillery shoot by three field regiments, which started at the front of the village and lifted to the southern edge. Mortar fire on the orchard on the left and right of the village was laid on for three minutes prior to the attack and then for two minutes at the rear of the village. A medium regiment superimposed but further away assisted this fire plan. C Company was to provide a platoon for mopping up the village after the leading companies had reached the southern edge. During this attack B Company received many casualties from Spandau fire on their right flank and Lieut. Bangall (actually BANSALL) was killed with his platoon. Lieut Kellet was wounded and yet the Company under Major Boucher pushed gallantly through the village arriving on the objective with about forty men. Corporal McArthur must here be mentioned for getting his platoon forward when officers and N.C.O.s had become casualties.

Major Low’s (D) Company was heavily mortared crossing an open field just south of the village. This mortar did not start until the Company came across the field and I do not think could have been prevented as the telephone O.P. we found obviously controlled the entrance to the village and accurate fire was brought down exactly when the Company deployed. Spandau fire was not so great this side as from the orchards north-west of the village on B Company’s front. Artillery had been shelling mortar positions located by compass prior to the attack, but this neutralising action was not entirely effective. D and B Companies reached their objective in a fine manner and occupied the German positions. In D Major Low was killed leading his Company; Lieut. Sprague wounded, Lieut. Bell wounded. In B Lieut Bangall (actually BANSALL) killed; Lieut Kellet wounded and Lieut James.

The village had only now been partly mopped up. So I ordered C Company to mop up and strengthen D Company’s left. C Company started to mop up. Lieut. Johnston (C Company) was killed by a sniper during the mopping up operation, but the village was successfully cleaned and cleared. The average age of the snipers was 18 years, all heavily camouflaged. We killed about twenty and took one prisoner.

During this period I went forward to D and B Companies. Lieut. Bell, wounded in the arm, was quietly reorganising the position assisted by C.S.M. Rochester. D were all on the west side of the village, as were B Company. So certain reorganisation had to take place to adjust the front. At this stage I felt very thankful there was no immediate counter-attack. We were short of ammunition – a lesson we had yet to learn that forward companies expend more ammunition; many officers had been wounded or killed; and the men had had a very hard time, but were on the on the whole very proud of having reached their objectives. Anti-tank guns going forward really too quickly and had had two casualties from 88mm guns – it was close country for them to work forward to – and there was one tank only a few hundred yards in front of B Company which we could see easily. It was obviously being used as a mortar O.P. O.C. D Company got the gunner O.P. to engage it. All or most of the shells fell where B Company was. We took cover, what there was, in a hedgerow, but my signaller was unfortunately hit. At any rate the tank sheered over, so that was something.

I was now out of touch with Battalion Headquarters, so I returned. Quite a few snipers were lying about dead but also quite a few sniper shots being fired in the village and orchard area. Reorganization continued and the Battalion could say it had taken and held its first objective, and an exceedingly sticky, unpleasant unknown costly operation had successfully been accomplished.

During the next few days continual mortaring and shelling of the area took place. We were now battle-trained and few casualties occurred when the men stuck to their slit-trenches. On June 10 DLI made an attack on our left on Point 110, a very costly attack as far as their officer casualties. Peter Dickinson wounded; Ronnie Gill and John Welsh killed. They went out one thousand yards south-west of our position, and were really in a bit of a salient on our left. This later was contracted, and their Battalion Headquarters came into our area until shelled out of a house in Rauray, unfortunately killing Rusty Russell. They then built a command-post around my C Company’s area. We provided a patrol prior to this attack to proceed to point 110 to find out anything they could of the enemy dispositions. Unfortunately the officer conducting the patrol, a recce patrol, Lieut. Fitzpatrick, was wounded, and little information was gained, I fear. All these nights there were constant alarms of the enemy breaking through our positions, although in the main it was merely enemy patrols that occasionally visited us but did not get very far. We all got little sleep, and there was much stand-to and stand-down.

On June about 13:00 hours I was called for to attend an O Group at which the Divisional Commander was present, and ordered to attack Brettevillette. The attack was timed for 18:00 hours that evening. Throughout the day we were heavily mortared, shelled and attacked by tanks firing H.E. Forward companies could get little rest, and briefing of platoon commanders by company commanders was virtually impossible. The plan from my point of view was too hurriedly laid on without a really good recce, although 1 Tyneside Scottish had previously attacked this village once and gave us information that it was held by many Spandaus collected and based on all entrances to the village with one or two tanks in support, and alongside tracks and track junctions. We were to have very full artillery support, but the difficulty was the barrage was due to start some 500 yards after we had left the start line. All those tremendous artillery crumps, although creating some casualties to the Bosh, do not prevent his snipers and Spandaus men from bobbing up again. We were just forming up for the attack at about 19:00 hours – as zero-hour had been put back twice at my request – when orders were received that the operation had been postponed.

No one was more thankful than I was. We were going into an operation without any rest for 72 hours, whilst two of the forward companies, D and B, were still being engaged, and with insufficient time for recce. Unluckily Major Smallwood was fairly badly wounded in the neck before moving out of his assembly area. Battalion Headquarters was attacked by tanks of 15 Division! Shooting at a dead Tiger tank Battalion Headquarters. We then went back to our original positions and settled down for the night.

Next day plans and diagrams were made of Brettevillette, company and platoon commanders were briefed thoroughly, and I feel had we been called upon to capture this place we would have done so in good order, at a certain price. However, due to enemy preparations and a bigger picture about which we did not know, the attack was again put back.

During the night June the enemy heavily mortared our position both forward and rear, and causing some seven casualties. At about 06:00 hours B and D companies both reported attacks by infantry and that they were being shelled by tanks. 1 Tyneside Scottish reported a fair number of tanks attacking their position. The danger of infiltration in the close country at our junction point with the Lincolns became apparent at about 08:00 hours. Enemy infiltrated the area of sec carriers and a platoon of A Company in groups of seven or eight, and also in front of B Company – same numbers. A Company lost communication with Lieut. Price’s platoon by telephone, which was being heavily attacked. Lieut. Price was wounded. A runner, Pte Forster, from Lieut. Price’s platoon reported from Lieut. Price. He was wounded in the face, but said quite a few enemy were beating up this platoon. This platoon was situated near the junction point just in the village or to the west side of the village. The section of carriers also suffered severe casualties. I ordered Captain Nicholson another reserve section of carriers plus one platoon of A Company plus one troop of tanks to launch an immediate counter-attack under Captain Ellison. Major Humphreys followed shortly afterwards having constantly asked for permission to go forward earlier. This platoon did great work and destroyed up to twenty Germans who had got through.

In the meantime 1 Tyneside Scottish on the left were in a heavy battle with tanks and infantry and some positions except for a gallant stand around Point 110 were being overrun. I had two companies 1/7 DWR put under my command. One company I posted on the right of B Company to the junction point; the other I kept in reserve. C Company were then put under command 1 Tyneside Scottish with a view to retaining the situation around a five-sided field, the left forward position of 1 Tyneside Scottish, which had been overrun. A Company were put at short notice to recapture another Tyneside Scottish position being overrun or to strengthen Point 110, where this gallant band of 1 Tyneside Scottish still held out. One more company of 1/7 DWR was put under my command. So the situation became: 1 Tyneside Scottish having my C Company under command plus 1 ½ platoons A Company under command, and myself with three companies 1/7/DWR under command!! A proper Box and Cox!

I visited de Winton, O.C. 1 Tyneside Scottish. The Brigade Commander was there and ordered B Company and any remnants of Angus Company, 1 Tyneside Scottish, to move forward about 300 yards south of B Company’s position; C Company to counter-attack left forward company 1 Tyneside Scottish; A Company to stiffen Point 110. 1 Tyneside Scottish with their squadron of tanks and their own anti-tank guns and 17-pounders had knocked out about twenty-five enemy tanks. First class show. But little of their infantry left. My D Company also had to be pulled out. And now it became a relief of 11 DLI by 1/7 DWR almost in the middle of the battle whilst 11 DLI counter-attacked and retook 1 Tyneside Scots’ positions. Really a most tricky operation of war. Both my forward companies, B and D, had had no sleep for over 48 hours. They had been mortared and shelled all day and had broken up enemy infiltration attacks. Captain Brewis, who had taken over from Major Low, was severely wounded in the leg from Spandau fire, and Captain Grant took over command of D Company. O.C. B Company personally had engaged the enemy with grenades. O.C.D Company, then Captain Brewis, who had taken Major Low’s place, had been severely wounded and been replaced by the O.C. Anti-Tank Platoon, Captain Grant. I had no anti-tank officer as Lieut. Wynn had been killed earlier, until a reinforcement officer, Lieut Taylor, suddenly arrived and took over the Anti-Tank Platoon very quickly.

However, all companies took up their allotted positions. A first-class Counter-attack by C Company with McMichael leading the forward platoon made the enemy run hard and leave his positions. The troops were full of themselves ; they hadn’t seen the Bosh run so hard. A Company worked up to Point 110 with Alexander’s party, and de Winton handed over the sector to me. Luckily that night all was quiet. The enemy had withdrawn sufficiently far to lick his wounds. He had been defeated both by troops on the front of 1 Tyneside Scottish and by infantry and a few tanks on the 11 DLI front. 11 DLI had captured Rauray, held Rauray, handed over to 1/7 DWR then counter-attacked to restored the situation on the left flank. 1 Tyneside Scottish had put up a great show and defeated the tank attack. We were steady all that day until relieved by 10 DLI.

The above must purely be a bird’s eye view by me as the battle occurred. It has been impossible to give details of all the many fine acts performed by so many officers and men, but I hope I have made arrangements for them not to go unrecognised. But the great thing now is the Battalion is on top if its form and battle-trained, and stood the rigours of hard in-fighting and bad mortaring. Mention must be made of the excellent signal communication arranged by Lieut. Murray, now Captain Murray. Lines were continually cut by mortar and artillery fire and more frequently still by our own tanks. Constantly under fire, these lines were repaired and communication – except one telephone to one platoon – was maintained throughout. Also the S.B.’s work could not have been of a higher quality. All calls were answered and met, and again under the most trying conditions. Casualties were evacuated quickly by carrier to the R.A.P. some 1000 yards in rear of Battalion Headquarters. The mortar platoon fired one day over 1600 rounds. They engaged tanks and nearly always made the tank sheer off. I think he had infantry close to his tanks as eyes, and they didn’t like the mortaring. The R.A. shot all day hard, but were aimed more at the villages and line of approach south of our position. When the enemy started to withdraw they got a very good shoot at them going south on the track towards Bretteville – also when a party debussed at Roqueville they had a very fine shoot. Last but not least mention must be made of the excellent Quartermaster, food and Sandy Powell 2IC ammunition arrangements. We were never short, although many times the Quartermaster lived in the front line sharing a slit-trench at Battalion Headquarters. The food was always there, and he himself was always a great morale-raiser to me.

Officer casualties over this period were:

Killed:

Major Low, Lieut. J.E. Johnston, Lieut. Bagnall (BANSALL), Lieut Baker, Lieut. James, Lieut. Wynn.

Died of Wounds:

Captain (A/Major) Brewis.

Wounded:

Lieut. Broynton, Lieut. Haggard, Lieut. Price, Lieut. Bell, Lieut. Yorke, Major Smallwood, Lieut. McNicoll, Lieut. Fitzpatrick, Lieut. Sprague, Lieut. Kellet.

C.S.M. Taylor was killed, C.S.M. Rochester wounded.

Other Rank casualties approx. 100 killed, 250 wounded.


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