2nd Battalion, Princess Louise's Kensington Regiment War Diary - June 1944
1 – 4 June 1944 – Bn HQ
Final preparations for move. 2 Kensingtons Standing Orders Operations issued 2nd June, vide copies attached as Appendix A (unfortunately these documents have not survived to be included in the file).
3rd June – A Company move to marshalling area.
5th June 1944
Battalion HQ, HQ and B Companies move to marshalling area. Travelled all night from ROLLESBY. Route: ROLLESBY – NORWICH – THETFORD – BISHOPS STORTFORD – EPPING – WANSTEAD - PURFLEET RANGES. C Company followed later, going to a separate marshalling area with its Brigade Group.
6 June 1944 – Bn HQ
First news of allied landings in France heard over wireless just before arriving in LONDON. At marshalling area.
7 June 1944 – Bn HQ, At marshalling area.
All transport left for London Docks 02:30 hours. Personnel left marshalling area Camp at 18:30 hours. Driven in Troop Carrying Vehicles to West India Docks, where they slept the night in a warehouse on the quayside in an area well known to many members of the Battalion from their previous stay at the Docks in 1939 and 1940.
8 June 1944 – Bn HQ
Personnel embarked 11:00 hours on MTS./T12 (SS FORT POPLAR), which sailed at 14:00 hours and anchored in the Southend Roads at 17:00 hours.
9 June 1944 – Bn HQ – at anchor.
MTS/T.12 lay at anchor in Southend Roads.
10 June 1944 – Bn HQ.
MTS/T.12 sailed 06:30 hours. Sea calm, weather clear. Ship sailed close inshore as far as NEWHAVEN where she anchored for a few hours and went on at approximately 23:00 hours.
11 June 1944 – Bn HQ.
MTS/T.12 anchored off Normandy beachhead 07:00 hours. All ranks amazed at the sight of immense fleet of RN and Merchant ships laying at anchor. General opinion being the sight was more reminiscent of a Fleet Review than of the greatest amphibious operation in history. Battalion HQ, HQ and B Companies should have disembarked today (D + 5), but it was only possible to land two carriers of B Company at 17:00 hours, apparently due to a lack of landing craft.
12 June 1944 – Bn HQ, Normandy.
Remaining party, less Intelligence Officer, Quartermaster, Transport Officer and Padre with small party of Battalion HQ personnel, landed. Six FW190s flew low over the anchorage and dropped a stick of six bombs which straddled FORT POPLAR, the nearest bomb to the ship being approximately 50 yards away. There was no damage and no casualties. 13 June 1944 – Bn HQ, Normandy.
Remaining personnel landed. Battalion HQ and HQ Company new location St GABRIEL.
14 June 1944 – Bn HQ, St GABRIEL.
Plans made for move forward.
15 June 1944 – Bn HQ, St GABRIEL.
Battalion HQ and HQ Company moved with Divisional Headquarters to Carcagny. Machine Gun Companies going to forward areas with their respective Brigades.
16 June 1944 – Bn HQ, Carcagny.
146 Brigade capture Cristot supported by two Platoons of A Company. One Platoon of A Company took up positions on the Eastern edge of the village in a consolidation role. Divisional HQ attacked by low-flying ME109s, which were engaged by Small Arms fire and caused no casualties.
17 June 1944 – Bn HQ, Carcagny.
11 Platoon C Company took up position at St PEIRRE in support of 10 DLI, 853689. Cpl Wilcox wounded by enemy mortar fire.
Locations – Company HQ 863724, 3 Platoon 847700, 4 Platoon 863705, 5 Platoon 846706.
12:30 hours – heavy mortar fire on PARC DE BOISLANDE. 3 and 5 Platoons stood to in their localities with the right forward Battalion. 4 Platoon were mortared intermittently. 3 and 5 Platoons stodd down later in the afternoon when it was seen that German effort was only directed against PARC DE BOISLANDE. Company HQ stood to and dug further alternative positions for local protection. All Platoons intermittently shelled throughout the afternoon.
Locations – Company HQ 887747, 7 Platoon under command 11 RSF area 8871, 6 Platoon under command 7 DWR area 8769. 8 Platoon under command 6 DWR PARC DE BOISLANDE 8768.
During 17 June 6 DWR with 8 Platoon had taken up positions on the outer perimeter of the wood. During night 17/18 June positions were mortared and machine-gunned and 8 Platoon suffered one casualty, Cpl Clark, hit by shrapnel in the knee. Germans launched counter-attack on 18 Jun, full account of which is attached as an Appendix (sadly this document does not appear to have survived to be included in the Kew file) with the amendment that it was Cpl Clark and not Cpl Calland who was wounded by shrapnel. This Cpl carried on and was actively engaged in the action, disposing of a sniper in a nearby tree with hand grenade. Casualties were one Officer, one Other Rank, killed, one Other Rank missing, 7 wounded, one of whom returned.
Company HQ and 9 and 10 Platoons situated at St LEGER 858749. 11 Platoon in support of 10 DLI at St Pierre 853689.
One Section Commander wounded by shell fragment – evacuated.
D Company now split into two, with 12 and 13 Platoons under command Major Bare and 14 and 15 Platoons under command Captain Fulcher.
Two Advance Company HQs set up and attached to respective Brigades – Major Bare with 146 Brigade and Captain Fulcher with 147 Brigade. Administrative portion of Company HQ remains at rear. 14 and 15 Platoons moved to area Cristot Church. 12 and 13 Platoons remain in area 853706. No firing took place.
19 June 1944
German patrol of 80 reported to have infiltrated rear Battalion localities 00:30 hours. All Platoons and HQ stood to. Standing Patrol from Company HQ put out for local protection during rest of night.
Company HQ, 6 and 7 Platoons same locations. Remnants of 8 Platoon moved to HQ Company for rest and to be reinforced.
Reinforcements arrived Saturday 24 June 1944 consisting Lieutenant Brake and 12 Other Ranks. Lt Brake and 10 Other Ranks arrived from Reinforcement Holding Unit, one Cpl transferred from A Company and Pte Pharoah rejoined from Casualty Clearing Station. From Monday to Saturday 1 Platoon had occupied positions in Forward Defence Line at 877697 under command 7 DWR and 10 DLI respectively. Platoons were relieved every 24 hours and came back to Company harbouring area. During this period, Platoons in the Forward Defence Line were subkect to mortar fire and MG fire at spasmodic intervals from enemy positions some 400 yards away – no casualties.
Enemy air activity slight throughout day at Company HQ. 10 Platoon in defence position at Le PONT ROC 842703.
All Platoons static. No firing took place.
20 June 1944
3 Platoon relieved by 5 Platoon location otherwise same. Mortars ranged with airburst bombs HQ area. 17:00 hours – sporadic mortar fire rest of day and night. Weapon used reported to be 6lb rocket projectile.
During the day the CQMS 3-tonner was machine-gunned by enemy planes – three in number – while at Supply Point drawing rations. No damage or casualties to B Company vehicle. Other units suffered Casualties in dead, injured and to vehicles.
11 Platoon carrying out harassing tasks South of St Pierre.
All Platoons static, no firing took place. 12 and 13 Platoons dug new positions at 852695 for occupation later.
Casualty No. 6107517 Pte Child R. became casualty through lighting fire with charges from 25pdr gun. Evacuated to Casualty Clearing Station via Regimental Aid Post of LINCOLNS. Inquiries – burnt hand and face (12 Platoon). No. 14431737 Pte Conway J. battle casualty (15 Platoon).
21 June 1944
Notification received of amendment to War Establishment. II/240/1 authorising Mortar Platoon Commanders to be Captains with effect from 16 May 1944. A Company
Fire from rocket projectile along whole front during morning. Enemy aircraft flew low over HQ 19:00 hours. Chased by Spitfire. Spitfire shot down by gunners.
Company HQ moved to area 879715 with 147 Brigade HQ. Enemy mortar fire put down on wood on left of position. No mortar bombs fell in Company HQ area.
11 Platoon continued harassing tasks South of St Pierre. 10 Platoon return to Company HQ. D Company
All Platoons static. No firing took place. Spasmodic and dispersed shelling by enemy. Counter artillery fire at regular intervals. 12 and 13 Platoons reported LINCOLNS under fire from multi-barrel rocket mortar. Direction of enemy mortar Fontenay-Le-Pesnel location obtained by counter-mortar theory and engaged by 121 Medium Regiment Royal Artillery at range of 8600 yards. No firing since. All vehicles dug in for protection.
22 June 1944 A Company
Sporadic shelling morning and night.
On orders from 147 Brigade HQ a Standing Patrol of 2 NCOs and 7 men was provided from 11:00 hours to 05:00 hours 22 June 1944. Object of patrol to prevent enemy patrols from entering area. NIL report.
11 Platoon continued harassing fire by night on targets in area CAUDEUE 8567 and 8667.
No firing took place. Examination of craters and positions of mortar bombs which had fallen on 865713 causing casualties to 185 Field Regiment Royal Artillery. Diameter of bomb 210mm thought to be rocket propelled. Heavy gunfire heard from direction of CAEN.
23 June 1944
Sporadic shelling of forward positions.
Baths were provided for Company at BRONAY. No. 6 Platoon on returning to Company HQ area encountered mines. Reports of this occurrence rendered. Casualties – 3 Other Ranks wounded, one carrier MMG out of action.
9 and 10 Platoons prepare and dig positions at 867708 and 860704 to be occupied if 70 Brigade obtain firm base.
All Platoons static.
No firing took place. Formation of Medium bombers returning from South-East direction engaged by heavy Anti-Aircraft. One seen to be hit. Fast enemy fighter-bombers travelling South and South-West made attacks at various intervals and were engaged by Anti-Aircraft and Small Arms. Low cloud made visibility poor.
24 June 1944
No change – quiet day.
6 and 8 Platoons do indirect shoot on St NICHOLAS 8867 and orchard 875678 in support of attack by 11 RSF on Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. No reports to date.
Platoons static – no change.
12 and 13 Platoons moved to new location 852695 under command 146 Brigade. 14 and 15 Platoons move to new location 873697 under command 147 Brigade. Both to support respective Brigades on Tessel WOOD and Rauray. Major Bare moved to Tactical Brigade HQ. Rear link remained in old location with 146 Brigade. Preliminary artillery fire opened in late evening and various targets observed to be dive-bombed by Spitfires.
25 June 1944
02:50 hours Artillery opened up in Comopany HQ area and was continuous till 06:30 hours. Various larger explosions became identified at 13:30 hours as enemy shelling. Pte Wasley (Driver/Operator) wounded in both elbows by 88mm shell fragment and evacuated to Advanced Dressing Station. All Platoons occupied indirect fire positions area North East of St Pierre and engaged known enemy positions West of Tessel wood at H Hour 04:15 as infantry crossed Start Line. 5 Platoon gave close support to LINCOLNS by engaging targets immediately South of Stream running from Fontenay-Le-Pesnel to JUVIGNY. All guns fired about 18 belts in these positions with no casualties except one feed block explosion in 3 Platoon. Rendering the gun Z casualty. This gun replaced within three hours. On reaching 1st objective road (Fontenay-Le-Pesnel - JUVIGNY) 5 Platoon (Lt Attrill) came under command KOYLI for consolidation of the 2nd objective North end of Tessel WOOD whilst 3 and 4 Platoons continued to engage targets by observation from direct fire positions. Pte Cowlard (gun number and reserve Despatch Rider) was wounded by a small mortar fragment near his eye (4 Platoon). At about 12:00 hours 4 Platoon (Lieut Douet) came under command of the HALLAMS for the consolidation of the 3rd objective South end of Tessel WOOD whilst 3 Platoon (Lt Banyard) remained in same position ready to engage targets by observation West of Tessel WOOD. During the move forward of KOYLI, 5 Platoon came under fire from Mortar and snipers in the gully rising from the stream running East and West between Fontenay-Le-Pesnel – JUVIGNY. Pte Cohne shot one sniper – first kill of the Company. Pte Woodworth attempted to render assistance to the wounded German and was sniped, bullet hitting his steel helmet. Pte Long (5 Platoon) also killed a sniper. Pte Woodworth stepping back to his carrier was hit in the foot by a shell fragment and the loss of his foot seemed certain. He was Platoon Despatch Rider. Later in this phase of the Operation Cpl Murphy (Gun Cpl) and Pte Thomas G (Gun number) were wounded, the formerby mortar fragment in left arm requiring application of tourniquet and the latter by mortar fragment in thigh. Both evacuated to KOYLI Regimental Aid Post. 5 Platoon completed consolidation with no further losses. \In the course of moving up soon after Pte Woodworth was wounded the explosion of a shell blew the tracks off one carrier and this carrier was put on the roads again under fire. During the morning 3 Platoon were forced to change their positions twice owing to mortar fire but did so successfully and escaped any casualties. About six belts per gun were fired during the morning by this Platoon from their direct positions. On reaching 2nd objective KOYLI found it possible to push patrols into Tessel WOOD and for some time it was contemplated that KOYLI should consolidate at the South of the Wood leaving the HAALLAMS to move up to secure position at the North end. On account of this plan 4 Platoon reported to KOYLI and when the plan was altered KOYLI remained where they were 4 Platoon found themselves dug in beside 5 Platoon. Platoons were shelled and mortared during the night.
Same locations. No change.
Company moved to Audrieu 874712 from Carcagny 857747 after a Church Service had been held by Padre. 11 Platoon in action St Pierre 853689 one Gun Cpl slightly wounded in hand by splinter from air-burst shell – evacuated.
15:00 hours. 12 and 13 Platoons at 852695 under command 146 Brigade and 14 and 15 Platoons at 873697 under command 147 Brigade all having fired in support of attack on Tessel WOOD. 1/4 KOYLI had reached Northern end ofTessel – CAEN – Fontenay-Le-Pesnel road reached by LINCOLNS and HALLAMS. Mopping up of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel by RSF and 7 DWR proceeded with a view to further push to Rauray. Artillery fire concentrated at regular intervals in support. Air activity slight. Mustangs were dive bombing in direction of Tessel.
26 June 1944 – Battalion HQ
Congratulatory message from Major General E H Barker, commanding 49 Division. (This was indicated as being included within the War Diary file but does not appear to have survived).
HALLAMS moved through Tessel WOOD with 4 Platoon under command for consolidation and occupied without casualties to exposed Section positions firing South West and West at short ranges. One Section withdrawn and kept mobile later in the day. All other locations same. Platoons were shelled and mortared spasmodically on Tessel WOOD.
Lieuts Bursey and Halstead posted to Unit. Lieut Bursey a CANLOAN Officer and Lt Halstead as Reinforcement Officer. Posted to B and A Companies respectively. Lt Halstead subsequently took over command of a C Company Platoon.
Assault on FONTEANY LE PESNEL and Rauray continues. Locations – Company HQ 878708, 6 Platoon 854668, 7 Platoon 867675, 8 Platoon 880676. A small counter-attack was put in by the enemy Fontenay-Le-Pesnel during afternoon. 7 Platoon in action in street fighting. Sgt Gee, Sgt Dyett, Ptes Roseand Carter W wounded by shrapnel during this action. One carrier in contact with Tiger in streets of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel and gun was hit, causing it to be put out of action. The Gun Col, Cpl Pharoah was leter evacuated suffering from shell shock. 7 Platoon 877676 6 Platoon saw enemy running across open fields and fired. Good results were reported. Wireless Set on Platoon Commander’s carrier (7) put out of action by shrapnel. 7 Platoon put in reserve at Company HQ during evening. A few enemy aircraft were in the vicinity of Company HQ area during the day – no damage or casualties.
Attack by HALLAMS from South end of Tessel WOOD, supported by artillery and 15 Platoon. Attack successful. 11 DLI entered Rauray and mopping up was in progress. All Platoons under command 146 Brigade. Later 12 and 13 Platoons came under command 70 Brigade with 14 and 15 Platoons under 146 Brigade.
12 and 13 Platoons moved to 869674, 14 Platoon to 866675, 15 Platoon remains at 864677 both Advance Company HQs move to 852695.
Two ME 109s gunned from low level. One seen shot down while going in Westerly direction. Two shells in area 852695 – no casualties. Heavy enemy mortar fire from direction of St Pierre – multi-barrel mortars also heard late evening.
27 June 1944
L/Cpl Redfern 4 Platoon MT NCO and Pte Lealand 5 Platoon Driver/Operator evacuated suffering from “Bomb Happiness” – a form of shell shock, during day. Some tank fighting developed in open ground South of of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel in which our Platoons were not actively engaged. These battles culminated in capture of Rauray by 8th Armoured Brigade. 15 Division were also reported to have reached River ODON South of GRAINVILLE and 11 Armoured were reported to be across river and to have captured a small bridgehead. 23:30 hours rum issued in Platoons as result of persistent rain which fell during the afternoon. A shell landed immediately under front of Pte Pritchard’s carrier and he was killed instantly as he dived for the slit trench. Same shell wounded Pte Barter (Gun No.) in the side. During afternoon HQ moved to St Pierre and dug in in pouring rain till early Wednesday morning.
Same locations. Attacks continue and positions consolidated. One Canloan Officer attached to 6 Platoon to understudy Platoon Commander.
Company moved from Audrieu 874712 and 11 Platoon vacated position St Pierre 853689. Complete Company harboured Fontenay-Le-Pesnel 876678. Slight enemy air activity. No 10 Platoon moved out about 21:00 hours and took up positions 883673. Task defensive fire in front of 11 DLI. Desultory shelling by air burst at Company about 870675.
28 June 1944
Pte Ford arrived early at Company HQ to put wireless set right and on return to 5 Platoon in carrier driven by Cpl Rayworth was hit by mortar fragment in the back and killed. Cpl Rayworth brought body to Company HQ and later buried by Padre nearby. Padre also buried Pte Pritchard in Tessel WOOD. Midnight, 3 Platoon relieved 4 Platoon and took over same positions. 4 Platoon returned and took up 3 Platoon positions.
Same location – nothing of interest to report.
Company HQ and 11 Platoon at same locations. 9 Platoon move to Rauray 891655. 10 Platoon in action in support of 11 DLI – one Section 889655 and the other at 883753. 9 Platoon make contact with a Tiger tank at 884648 at about midday. Two MMG carriers destroyed, one gun brought out. Four casualties suffered. One Gun Cpl and his two Gun Numbers killed. Section Commander woulded by shell fragment in arm – evacuated. Driver Mechanic thrown by shell blast clear of carrier. Other carrier crew withdrawn from area. Company HQ informed. O.C. goes to spot to investigate. A Section of 11 Platoon sent for to reinforce 9 Platoon. Company HQ stand-to. 10 Platoon suffered a casualty during tank battle between Tigers which had infiltrated through to area of gun positions and Shermans. A Gun Number seriously wounded, died same night. Tigers driven off by Artillery.
07:00 hours attack on BRETTEVILLETTE by 70 Brigade preceded by artillery fire. One Tyneside Scottish carried out assault on Tessel Bretteville 12 and 13 Platoons fired on LE MANOIRE Tessel BR BRETTEVILLETTE LE MARIE QUEUIEVILLE, I TS after entering Tessel BRETTEVILLE were counter-attacked and had to withdraw. Enemy mortar bombs fell in area St Pierre at intervals throughout day. A rocket Typhoon fighter crash landed 853695 Pilot unhurt. Advance HQ attached 70 Brigade move to 872679 (with Brigade HQ). Mortar fire area Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Heavy concentration of shrapnel shells seen to burst over high ground over Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. German prisoners to Brigade HQ aged 18. Large force Spitfires over in late evening.
29 June 1944
Spasmodic shelling and mortaring all day of forward Platoons. At 19:30 approximately 18 bombs fired from 6-barrel mortar landed South end of Tessel WOOD followed by similar group in middle of wood in and around 3 Platoon HQ. Mobile Section was situated at Platoon HQ all escaped actual injury except Cpl Dunan who did not succeed in reaching trench in time. He was next to carrier which received a direct hit from one bomb and a fragment removed both his feet as well as injuring him elsewhere with splinters. Owing to action of Sgts Carter and Brooker he was evacuated almost immediately and very quick steps were taken to get all available fire extinguishers on the burning carrier. 75 Grenades and all explosives and ammunition on the carrier were exploding continuously but no one else was injured. Cpl Packham, Gun Cpl , Ptes Mellon and Carver Driver Mechanics and Pte Smith Company HQ Stretcher-Bearer attached were suffering from shock as a result. Pte Palmer Gun Number 5 Platoon also evacuated sick 19:00 hours.
Company HQ move to 070700 6 Platoon in reserve position 862694 7 Platoon same location. 8 Platoon 855678 – Platoons took up new positions and dug for defence.
10 Platoon in action. One Section Commander wounded, evacuated. Gun Number seriously wounded by shell splinters in thigh. Died from his wounds. Stretcher-Bearer suffering from exhaustion – evacuated.
03:30 hours. Heavy barrage by artillery continuing till 05:00 hours. Laid down on new Regiment of Panzer Grenadiers which arrived in front yesterday. Prisoners captured yesterday – our mortar fire had landed in a wood amongst 80 of them and only 20 remained. Such a concentration never before seen by them, 3 deserters brought in by DLI, enemy infantry advance from BRETTEVILLETTE at 09:30 hours in North-East direction. 10:00 hours 12 Platoon fired in BRETTEVILLETTE against this counter-attack. 10 DLI engaged with infantry and retained positions. Enemy mortar fire observed South of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel and also to East and West. No casualties. Artillery concentrations at intervals during day. No change in locations.
30 June 1944
Locations remain same and quiet day except for spasmodic mortaring and shelling of forward Platoons. Company HQ area shelled for ½ hour at midnight. No casualties.
7 Platoon moved to 883670. One reinforcement arrives to 6 Platoon as range-taker. 8 Platoon opens fire on wood 851659 12:00 hours. Enemy movement observed. Mortar fire on their positions and Platoon withdrawn to indirect fire positions 856681 later they moved to 865687 and opened fire at 20:00 hours. 7 Platoon fired indirect during day – one casualty – Whitlock from exhaustion. Two men returned from hospital and rejoined Platoons.
New draft 5 Privates allotted to Platoons right away. 10 Platoon out of action and harboured with Company HQ.
Weather conditions still bad. Heavy rain. Heavy Artillery concentration laid down 05:00 hours. Enemy multi-barrel fire direction South West of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Specimen of enemy mortar at 887659 and forwarded to CMO. Casing had not split into fragments and no casualties sustained by 11 DLI. Large number of Sherman tanks moved to direction West of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Three enemy aircraft at high speed in Southern direction engaged by Anti-Aircraft and Small Arms. One seen to crash in the area of Cristot. Spasmodic enemy mortar fire during day and low bursting shrapnel shells in rough line grid 87 South of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. 05:45 hours 12 and 13 Platoons fired on 4 targets South of BRETTEVILLETTE. 12 and 13 Platoons returned to rear Company HQ for rest. Mortars manned by remaining Platoons. 08:10 hours formations of Lancasters estimated at 250 planes and covered by fighters approached from North West out of the sun and bombed tagets in the direction of VILLERS BOCAGE. Huge pall of smoke observed to rise to great heights – one plane crashed in flames South West of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel.
Attached is a list of casualties suffered in the Battalion during the month of June together with a separate list giving locations of graves of those killed.
After all the preparation and care which had been taken over waterproofing, nearly all vehicles landed in a few inches of water. There were two vehicle casualties through landing in submerged shell holes. The Battalion landed on the beaches at VAUX SUR MER. All Companies have now seen plenty of action and are rapidly becoming battle trained. It is no longer necessary to order the digging of slit trenches. The country in which Operations have taken place is very close and the Machine-Gun Companies have had few chances to fire direct at visible Huns, but when they have the enemy reaction has been quite normal. Casualties have not been too heavy though they have mostly occurred to NCOs and key tradesmen, particularly Driver/Operators. The reinforcement situation is most unsatisfactory. Reinforcements are few, the machinery for sending them up seems not to work and only personal visits by the Adjutant to Reinforcement Holding Units seem to bear any fruit. What will happen when we get further from base it is difficult to image.
Appendices attached to the June 1944 War Diary of 2nd Kensingtons,
Unfortunately all the Appendices noted in the body of the War Diary have not apparently survived to be included in the file. Notes regarding casualties have been extracted from the Diary and included on the individual Memorial pages.
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