10th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry, War Diary August 1944

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1st August 1944 A quiet day, with only slight enemy shelling and mortaring. Between 05:00 and 06:00 hours our Standing Patrol reported several enemy seen, and the body of a dead Boche was found, who had belonged to a Reconnaissance Unit.

2nd August 1944

Slight shelling up to 02:00 hours. Our patrols, returning at 05:00 hours, reported enemy seen digging in a certain wood, also a few further enemy positions located. Conditions remained quiet by day, but at 23:15 hours two enemy guns fired a 20 shell stonk on the Battalion area. This was followed 20 minutes later by several salvos from Panzerwerfers, and there was one fatal Officer casualty – Lt. F.C. Livesey – Pioneer Officer.

3rd August 1944

A fighting patrol during the night raided an enemy position but had to leave one man behind – believed to be a prisoner. Another wounded man was brought back safely. Two snipers went out during the morning but found no trace of the man left behind. There was periodical mortaring and shelling of our positions up to midday with a heavy and sharp attack on Battalion HQ at 12:15 hours. In the late evening A Company reported two enemy having been seen in some houses near their position. At night, a party left from the Battalion for the newly formed Rest Camp close to A2 Echelon while others were selected to visit the Corps Rest Camp.

4th August 1944

Shortly after midnight an enemy plane dropped four bombs in the Battalion area causing one casualty. (This may have been Lance-Corporal Ronald SCOTT, aged 19, who was one of the replacements who had only joined the Battalion on 1st July from the South Wales Borderers). At 01:45 hours C and D Companies reported heavy Spandau fire across their front, to which D Company replied with L.M.G. fire from their Standing Patrol. There was only very slight enemy shelling during the 24 hours. Between late afternoon and midnight an inter-Company change-over took place, B Company relieving A Company and D Company relieving C Company.

Our reconnaissance patrols came back with nothing fresh to report. The day passed without incident apart from occasional shelling, and a Polish deserter being brought in by C Company Standing Patrol at 21:00 hours, from the 711th Division, 731st Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

6th August 1944

After a fairly quiet spell the enemy resumed his shelling of our Battalion area in the early hours, and in the afternoon and evening it was frequently heavy but no casualties were reported.

7th August 1944

Periodical shelling of our positions.

Our fighting patrols encountered no enemy on a near objective but they were fired on by Spandau and later, enemy shell and mortar fire was brought down on them after Verey light signals – believed to be enemy D.F. (Defensive Fire) firing. At 02:00 hours C Company reported that their right forward Section had been attacked by 12 or more enemy.

The Section withdrew to the area of houses at 137655 (Iain Ogilvie has indicated that this map figure reference is in error and should be 837655), claiming to have killed two Boche after the enemy had thrown grenades and opened up with Spandau from either flank. The enemy were reported still in possession of the post at 05:00 hours but during the day Battalion snipers went out on patrol and reported no movement or sounds.

Accordingly C Company prepared to retake the post at 22:30 hours and did so without opposition, the enemy having withdrawn. Just before midnight an enemy plane came over the Battalion area for a few minutes and dropped two bombs.

8th August 1944

Further shelling and mortaring but no casualties reported. Our patrols reported enemy rifle and Spandau fire and heard digging. By day, both Battalion and C Company snipers were out forward, contacting no enemy but finding signs of recent occupation in some houses. Late at night an enemy plane flew over our positions but no bombs were dropped.

9th August 1944

Intermittent shelling throughout the night. No damage or casualties.

Our patrols brought in no fresh information in the early morning, but in the afternoon patrols were out forward of B and C Companies to gain contact with the enemy. The B Company patrol under Lt Christenson went deep into the woods opposite their position without locating the enemy, but encountered a number of mines. Unfortunately, before the patrol could withdraw, Pte Kemp stepped on a mine and was fatally injured, while Lt Christenson received a wound in the arm.

The C Company patrol under Lt J.D. Johnston came under fire shortly after leaving the Company area and withdrew under cover of smoke, with two casualties, neither serious. The activity of the patrols caused considerable shelling and mortaring in the Battalion area.

10th August 1944

During the night, a patrol under Lt Seggie located four enemy spadaus as well as reporting on a large area of the front being clear. Some shelling and mortaring of the Battalion area throughout the day but no damage or casualties. By day, sniper patrols went forward of our F.D.L.’s (Forward Defence Lines) but they came under fire from the enemy before they had gone very far. Before returning, however, several mines were lifted and brought back and many others rendered harmless. At 12:30 hours C Company reported that they had fired at, and believed killed, an enemy sniper. Later a patrol went forward but failed to find the body.

11th August 1944

Heavy shelling of Battalion area during the night but no casualties or damage reported. Night patrols gave locations of several Spandaus and a patrol sent out by B Company by day captured two Prisoners of War from 7th Company, 857th Grenadier Regiment, 346th Infantry Division. Enemy opposition was ten strong and we had one man wounded, who had, unfortunately, to be left behind. At 18:40 hours B Company reported a “silent” mortar bomb falling in their area which gave no sound in flight. There was intermittent shelling and mortaring by day.

12th August 1944

At 03:30 hours a Polish deserter came over to our lines and gave himself up to our forward Section of Carriers. He belonged to 7th Company, 857th Regiment. There was only slight shelling and mortaring during the night.

At 08:30 hours a Company change-over commenced, C Company relieving A Company and D Company changing with B Company. Our snipers were active by day and one patrol shot one Boche, believed killed, and collected some valuable German equipment. There was a notable decrease in enemy shelling and mortaring.

13th August 1944

Slight mortaring and shelling during the night. A Standing Patrol from A Company brought in a fresh Spandau location. Increased enemy shelling was reported throughout the day by our forward positions, but very few shells fell in the Battalion area. In the afternoon, B Company sent out a Fighting Patrol of one Sgt and five Other Ranks with a Section as Support Group to attack an enemy post under cover of smoke. The post was wiped out, a Spandau destroyed and two Prisoners of War taken. The remaining four Boche were killed by Sten and Bren Gun fire. Our troops suffered no casualties. The Prisoners were from 7th Company, 857th Grenadier Regiment.

Earlier, three Boche were driven out of an outpost by some of our snipers and one was believed wounded.

14th August 1944

A reconnaissance patrol from C Company at night was followed by a Boche patrol and heavily shelled. There was some shelling and mortaring during the day.

In the morning, a sniper patrol saw four enemy, believed to be a working party, and fired at them but could not observe results.

15th August 1944

A comparatively quiet day with nothing to report of importance. Our usual patrols were out during the night and also sniper patrols by day, but they saw no sign of any enemy. Also there was only very slight mortaring and shelling. The last prisoners that we had taken had stated that their units were preparing to pull out from the front and it now seemed as if that report was correct.

16th August 1944

A very quiet night with no enemy mortaring or shelling and everything seemed to indicate that the enemy had withdrawn. At 16:00 hours the Battalion moved out of the positions we had been occupying for three weeks and proceeded by transport to BRAY-LA-CAMPAGNE, where we dug in for the night.

17th August 1944

The Battalion left at 09:00 hours and marched some three or four miles to pick up transport and then continued as far as BRAY-LA-CAMPAGNE. During the day several French civilians were brought into Battalion HQ as suspected enemy agents but were all allowed to proceed after interrogation.

Towards dusk, two enemy planes flew over, apparently on a reconnaissance, but nothing resulted during the night.

18th August 1944

We were on the move again at 08:00 hours, leaving by march route and advanced as far as Mezidon-Canon, which had recently been cleared of the enemy. After a short rest we pushed on further Eastwards until we suddenly bumped into opposition near the village of LE-MESNIL-MAUGER when the enemy began mortaring the main road. A Company, shortly supported by B Company advanced into the village and contacted the enemy, a battle developing for the high ground – MT LA VIGNE – to the North East.

At 20:30 hours C and D Companies put in an attack supported by artillery and smoke and we gained a foothold on the forward slopes, finally securing the objective after heavy fighting. Throughout the action enemy mortar and shell fire was heavy and concentrated and we suffered a good many casualties. B Company under the Battalion 2i/c were ordered on to MT LA VIGNE to help hold it.

19th August 1944

In the early hours the enemy brought up reinforcements and put in a strong counter-attack at 04:30 hours. A fierce action took place, many casualties occurring on both sides. Eventually the Battalion 2i/c was forced to withdraw the remnants of B, C and D Companies which he did successfully against heavy odds. Shelling and mortaring of the Battalion HQ area took place at intervals throughout the night. In addition, enemy aircraft were active and dropped bombs.

We suffered heavy casualties and at one time A Company were completely cut off and had to fight their way out. At 10:00 hours the Battalion withdrew to positions about a mile in the rear, while units of 146th Brigade moved up to relieve 70th Brigade.

Later in the day, the Battalion moved in transport to a Rest Area near ARGENCES.

20th August 1944

We remained in the Rest Area and made the most of the quiet conditions and excellent weather.

21st August 1944

Continuous rain all day.

In the late afternoon the Battalion moved in Brigade Column to another Rest Area near Thury-Harcourt and got settled in billets in the village of LA METAIRIE.

During the day a search party went out over the area of our recent battle and buried several bodies.

22nd August 1944

With an improvement in the weather there was an opportunity to wash and dry clothes etc and a party also went to an ENSA Concert.

23rd August 1944

The weather still kept good and boating was much enjoyed in a nearby river.

24th August 1944

The Battalion spent most of the day clearing up. A Concert by the Band of the East Lancashire Regiment was much enjoyed.

25th August 1944

Weather still very warm. More swimming parties, also ENSA and cinema shows. A bath and change of clothing was had by much of the Battalion.

26th August 1944

Today the disbandment of the Battalion commenced.

2 Officers and 116 Other Ranks were posted to 6th Bn DLI.

2 Officers and 113 Other Ranks were posted to 8th Bn DLI.

2 Officers and 121 Other Ranks were posted to 5th Bn East Yorkshire Regiment.

3 Officers and 118 Other Ranks were posted to 9th Bn DLI.

(It is interesting that the 10th Battalion War Diary neither makes any more specific mention of the disbanding of the Brigade, nor includes any valedictory notes within the War Diary, especially after the fierce fighting and many casualties of the latter part of August.

As one Veteran put it to me – Mezidon-Canon - that’s where the 10th was finished!”

The transfer of one group of men to 5th East Yorkshire’s did, however, help to identify those who were members of the 10th Battalion, as this was specifically listed in the Enlistment Book entries for those men.)

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