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

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1st July 1944

The Battalion was at rest in PARC DU BOISLONDE. In the early hours that rest was disturbed by enemy shelling, possibly intended to quiet our mortars in the area. More shelling took place during the day.

News of a counter-attack on 1st Tyneside Scottish in the Bretteville area necessitated the moving of the Battalion into defensive positions North of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. These were positions to give depth to the defence on the St Pierre-BrettevilleRauray front. When this was done a necessary administrative programme of baths and washing clothes was carried out as far as practicable.

In the evening, Battalion H.Q. moved further forward so that they might avoid shelling in PARC DU BOISLONDE and so obtain full advantage of the rest period.

(Attached to the War Diary at Appendix 1 are the Field Returns of manpower.)

2nd July 1944

A quiet night. Administration continued but was interrupted by a pending move back to the Rauray area. Shelling continued slightly.

At 16:00 hours the Battalion left by march route and relieved 11th DLI and 1st Tyneside Scottish at Rauray. D Company occupied the old A Company positions and B and C Companies reoccupied their own previous positions. A Company, with tank support, went forward through their own old position to establish themselves temporarily at QUEUDEVILLE and then push patrols further forward. At the outset, tanks brought enemy fire down and our Company sustained some 6 – 8 casualties.

Before advancing any distance, Spandau fire from a wood on the right of the advance North of BRETTEVILLETTE pinned A Company down. Lt Ellis, with 9 Platoon, who were on the right, decided to silence the opposition and, leaving one covering Section, attacked into the wood vigorously. Reports say that most of the Platoon were casualties before getting into the wood. Tanks and our artillery meanwhile put down a dense smoke screen and A Company withdrew under its cover.

Some of 9 Platoon’s covering Section returned, but no others. Had they been able to return they would have done so as the smoke was thick enough to cover their withdrawal. Two men, returning in the evening, verified the deaths of Lt Ellis and his Sergeant.

3rd July 1944

Rain. Intermittent shelling. At 16:00 hours the Battalion was relieved by 6th Royal Welch Fusiliers. One stray enemy shell killed one man and wounded three of D Company whilst they were returning, on relief, to Battalion H.Q. The Battalion then returned by transport to the rest area at Ducy-St-Marguerite.

4th – 7th July 1944

The Battalion rested under good conditions – good weather occurred in spasms. Necessary administration was carried out and there were visits to ENSA shows in BAYEUX. During the past few days several reinforcements had joined the Battalion as follows:-

South Wales Borderers – 80 men.

Royal Berkshire Regiment – 31 men.

King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – 40 men.

At 20:00 hours on the 7th July the Battalion moved to the area South-West of Tilly-Sur-Seulles to relieve 8th DLI and one Company of 9th DLI. The relief was completed at 02:00 hours on 8th July.

(It was around this period that five Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry [6th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th] – plus one former DLI Battalion [12th] in the form of 1st Tyneside Scottish - found themselves in adjacent positions on the line as 70th and 151st Brigades of 49th and 50th Divisions respectively, were juxtaposed. It is thought that this was a unique occurrence in Normandy and, possibly in other campaigns throughout the War.)

8th July 1944

A quiet night with no activity during the morning. There was slight mortaring of Battalion H.Q. and A Company early in the evening causing one or two casualties.

(The Field Returns of manpower were attached to the War Diary at this point as Appendix 2.)

9th July 1944

During the night reconnaissance patrols were sent out from A, B and C Companies (under the command of Lts Morson, McDougall and Suffron respectively) to ascertain if the enemy occupied certain wooded areas. The patrols suffered no casualties and returned with information about enemy positions and movements. The day passed quietly.

10th July 1944

At night, two more reconnaissance patrols went out (Lts Ferrin and Johnston) to investigate the presence of the enemy in neighbouring areas and the patrols were successful with no casualties. At midday, Battalion H.Q. was attacked by machine-gun fire from four enemy fighters – believed to be Me 109F’s – no damage or casualties were suffered.

During the morning, two of our snipers went out on patrol from D Company and a grenade was thrown at them, also a Spandau fired one burst. One of the snipers was wounded, but both returned safely. Two other snipers also went out from A Company and observed and listened for movement and sounds of the enemy. During the day there was also some slight mortaring of Company positions.

11th July 1944

At night two reconnaissance patrols went out, one by snipers, and one by C Company, (Captain Bax and Sgt Welford). Their objects were to enquire into the presence of the enemy in wood 835666 and in orchard 839665, and in particular to obtain information concerning the house in the South West corner of the wood. Both patrols returned safely with valuable information.

50th Division began a three-phase attack on to the Hottot-Les-Bagues area at approximately 07:00 hours and our role in this attack was to come in on phase three and secure a line 200 yards South of the main JUVIGNY – Hottot-Les-Bagues road.

Accordingly at 06:45 hours a forward Command Post was established which was manned from 07:15 onwards. Reports were received that phase 1 was successful and our B and C Companies moved up to their Forming-Up Points.

There was delay, and we heard that a Battalion of 50th Division had bumped considerable opposition. It was not until 16:30 hours that phase 3 commenced and our attacks went in. C Company’s attack was supported by a troop of flame-throwing tanks. At 16:52 hours word was received of C Company success in phase 1 and later we heard that B Company had made their objective with only slight opposition.

B Company dug in and sent a patrol forward to 840663 which returned some 2 ½ hours later with information regarding the enemy positions. C Company reached their second objective except for a small orchard and house on their right at 833666. This house was strongly held by the enemy and the Company had already suffered heavy casualties from enemy shelling, mortaring and small arms fire.

Throughout these attacks, enemy mortaring and shelling was considerable and most of our casualties (three killed and fifty wounded) were sustained by C Company and originated from this cause. It seems probable that some of the casualties were indirectly caused by the action of the flame-throwing tanks. The flame caused a huge cloud of smoke which the enemy fired into with everything he could.

A Company sent a Platoon to thicken up C Company who had become rather thin on the ground and who, because 50th Division had not reached their objective, had had to occupy an additional position to cover their right flank. About 18:00 hours as a result of a message intercepted by Brigade it was learnt that our Forward Command Post had been located by the enemy, due, we were told, to two attached Commanders discussing our location over the air in clear. The Signals Officer thought it was due to Radio-Direction Finding.

Anyway, whenever our radio set opened up mortar fire resulted, and a direct hit was sustained upon a nearby supporting tank and the CO decided to move the Command Post back to our original HQ. In our two attacks B Company was supported by a squadron of SRY as was also C Company who in addition had some “Crocodiles” in support.

Twelve Prisoners of War were taken from 2nd Battalion, 986th Regiment and others killed. 231st Brigade on our right reached the line 814659 – 828664 after severe fighting since 07:00 hours. The day ended with intermittent mortaring and shelling and our two forward Companies were holding firm as follows – C Company in area 836665 and B Company in area 843668.

12th July 1944

The position remained the same with periodical mortaring on both sides. At approximately 06:00 hours an enemy patrol was ambushed in a small wood and two were killed. One Polish deserter came over from 976th regiment in the afternoon.

13th July 1944

The front remained relatively quiet apart from occasional mortaring. Another Polish deserter gave himself up to B Company at 06:30 hours. In the evening and during the night a change-over took place between ourselves and 11th DLI and we occupied positions in the LE PONT ROC area. At 15:00 hours the enemy threw grenades into C Company area, wounding one Platoon Commander.

14th July 1944

A quiet restful day. Companies settled in new positions and baths and cinema parties were organised.

15th July 1944

Similar conditions prevailed with some slight enemy shelling but not in our own immediate area.

(The manpower returns for this week were included in the War Diary at Appendix 3.)

16th July 1944

Preparations were made for a seemingly long stay in our present positions, with the start of P.T. parades, PIAT firing and route marches to be organised during the week. However, late in the day, word was received for us to stand-to as from 06:30 hours 17th July to be ready, if necessary, to support an intended attack by 11th DLI and 1st Tyneside Scottish.

The day was noteworthy for one of our very heavy artillery barrages. The enemy reacted periodically with shelling, and especially during the night, when some shells fell in the Battalion HQ area.

The arrival and distribution of our first N.A.A.F.I. supplies was very welcome, including one bottle of beer per man.

17th July 1944

We remained in the LE PONT ROC area, as the attack did not go through. Various administrative parades were held. Late at night, enemy planes dropped bombs and propaganda leaflets in the Battalion area, but no damage or casualties were sustained.

18th July 1944

Nothing fresh to report and conditions generally quiet. Owing to the enemy withdrawing on part of the front, 1st Tyneside Scottish advanced without opposition and 11th DLI after being held up by mines and booby traps.

19th July 1944

At midday we left to relieve 4th Lincolns in the area of VENDES and the change-over was completed by 19:00 hours. There was a fair amount of enemy shelling during the night, which caused a few casualties in S and B Companies. At night we sent out a patrol to obtain information about the enemy on our front, which returned safely.

20th July 1944

We maintained a defensive role in the same positions. Apart from occasional shelling there was nothing to report on our front. During the day our snipers went right forward of A and D Companies and at night a fighting patrol left from the D Company area to see if the enemy occupied certain buildings, and if so, to obtain a prisoner, but nothing was seen or heard.

21st July 1944

Very wet and muddy. During the day we were relieved by 5th East Lancashire Regiment and went back to the area of JERUSALEM. The change-over was completed by evening.

22nd July 1944

A day of administration – baths, washing of clothes etc. Our second supply of bottled beer and N.A.A.F.I. goods arrived. The CO and IO made a reconnaissance of our future positions in the CAEN Sector.

(The field manpower returns were attached to the War Diary at Appendix 4.)

23rd July 1944

Some preparations were made for our move to the CAEN Sector of the front. The remnants of our Battalion Band gave a short musical programme at each Company in the evening. (This statement implies that there had been significant casualties among the men of the Band. The War Diary is not specific on this, nor is it yet clear as to the role which the Band normally carried out when in action. This remains to be investigated.)

24th July 1944

The Battalion left at 05:00 hours in Troop-Carrying Lorries for a concentration area just East of Demouville 1067. We arrived at 09:00 hours and dug in. During the night our positions were bombed by enemy planes and one or two vehicles were slightly damaged.

25th July 1944

At 09:00 hours the Battalion commenced to move out of the concentration area by Companies in order to relieve 2nd Warwicks in positions North West of EMIEVILLE. The change-over was complete by 11:00 hours.

(The arrangements for the move were set out in Battalion Operational Order No 2, attached to the War Diary as Appendix 8.)

During the day we were subjected to heavy and concentrated shelling and mortaring which continued at night. Casualties were one killed and ten injured.

Late at night too an enemy plane came over our area dropping flares. At midday, two of our snipers in A Company reported some enemy digging in along the edge of a wood and observed an 88mm gun protruding at the corner of the wood. During the night we sent out three patrols from A, B and C Companies to enquire into the presence of the enemy in certain areas and to maintain contact with B Company, 1st Suffolks, all of which gained their objectives and suffered no casualties.

26th July 1944

Intermittent enemy shelling during the night. From 10:15 to 10:30 hours the Battalion HQ area was heavily shelled and mortared, and again from 13:25 to 13:35 hours, when B Company Carriers were also hit and set on fire, and three casualties resulted. Between 13:45 and 15:30 hours the shellfire around Battalion HQ was heavy and almost continuous, with Nebelwerfers active as well, but in the evening conditions quietened down considerably. Total casualties for the day were 15.

27th July 1944

The enemy shelling was resumed from 01:15 to 01:20 and was followed by an enemy plane bombing Battalion HQ and D Company areas at 01:30. Houses in front of D Company were hit and a fighting patrol of ours suffered casualties – one Officer and 4 Other Ranks. Our two patrols which were out during the night encountered no enemy.

During the day there was intermittent shelling of our positions, heavy at times, but no damage or casualties were reported.

A patrol of three of our snipers was out from 09:30 to 16:30 hours and observed three enemy and dug-outs in the area of the Race-track 141663.

28th July 1944

In the early hours enemy aircraft were again active over the Battalion area strafing and dropping some bombs, also periodic shelling continued. A fighting and reconnaissance patrol went out during the night but had nothing to report. Enemy shelling was agin frequent by day. A sniper patrol of two Other Ranks was out from 09:30 to 22:00 hours and brought in some useful information about enemy activity and the siting of enemy gun positions. At 23:00 hours two or three enemy planes dropped bombs in the Battalion area.

(The field manpower returns for this week were added to the War Diary as Appendix 5.)

29th July 1944

Our fighting patrol returned at 03:45 hours without a prisoner or identification. Enemy shelling persisted at roughly hourly intervals during the night, and periodically by day. About 23:00 hours a few enemy aircraft came over our positions and three or four bombs were dropped but none in the immediate vicinity.

30th July 1944

Our night patrols once more returned with negative reports. Around 25 shells landed in the Battalion HQ area between midnight and 05:00 hours, and at 05:30 another enemy place flew over from the direction of the enemy lines, strafing and dropping one bomb. Enemy shelling and mortaring decreased considerably during the day.

Two sniper patrols were out between 10:00 hours and 16:00 hours to try and contact the enemy in front of our forward Companies and one patrol fired at three enemy, the leading man of which was seen to drop, probably killed or wounded.

31st July 1944

There was renewed slight enemy shelling during the night. One fighting patrol was sent out to try to obtain a prisoner and for identification, but was unsuccessful, and further sniper patrols by day failed to make contact, but in the late evening our patience and vigilance was rewarded when three deserters (Poles) came over to A Company and were found to belong to 980th Regiment, 272nd Division.

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