1st Tyneside Scottish July 1944
1st July 1944 – at Rauray
04:50 hours. A small reconnaissance patrol, consisting of Mr Allan and 3 Other Ranks returned from BRETTEVILLETTE. They reported none of our wounded still in the farm and little enemy interference. Tank noises had been heard.
05:30 hours. C Company reported “hotting up” by Machine-Guns and mortars from QUEDEVILLE (889642).
06:40 hours. C Company reported being attacked by infantry and tanks and five minutes later B Company also reported infantry and tank attacks. The rest of this great day’s action is contained in the attached appendices. These consist of the day’s intelligence log, a trace of the Battalion layout, and a general description of the action (See Appendix B below).
(As many readers will know, the book “Breaking the Panzers” by Kevin Baverstock provides a uniquely detailed account of the events of this crucial period. For a graphic description of this vital action I can do no better than refer the interested reader to that volume. It is certainly not my wish to try and compete with that work and I have therefore confined myself to the material provided within the War Diary and the Appendices already referred to. The manuscript account of the action during 1st July has therefore been reproduced as originally written and added, as was the original, to the end of the month’s War Diary as Appendices.)
(The weekly strength state returns were completed as at 1st July and were attached to the War Diary at Appendix A. Unfortunately the copy of this Appendix currently available to the author is so faint as to be unreadable. Efforts will be made to secure a better copy, so that the effects on the Battalion’s personnel strength of these vital actions can be displayed. The same sadly applies to the other weekly strength returns so the same efforts will be applied in respect of those.)
22:00 hours. Battalion HQ and the remaining two Companies of the 11th DLI moved into our position at Rauray.
Our Battalion HQ, Anti-Tank Platoon and Carrier Platoon moved back to A 2 Echelon at Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. B Company and the platoon of D Company that was on the ring contour 110, came out of their positions at midnight.
2nd July 1944
12:00 hours. Preparation was made for withdrawing the Battalion to the area of Le HAUT D’ADRIEU. In the morning, several war correspondents visited the Battalion and went up to the position at Rauray.
14:00 hours. The Battalion began to move back to Le HAUT D’ADRIEU. By 18:00 hours the Battalion was withdrawn completely from the line and reorganisation of the Battalion and the making up of deficiencies of manpower began.
Our reinforcements were already waiting for us at Audrieu. They consisted of South Wales Borderers and Herefordshire men. Their numbers were 200 and 100 respectively.
It was decided to have two Companies made up with the remainder of the old Tyneside Scottish rifle Companies and then a South Wales Borderer Company and a Herefordshire Company.
A certain number of the reinforcements were specialists and these were sent to S and HQ Companies.
The new Companies were as follows:-
A Company – commanded by Major Merrielees – consisting of the South Wales Borderers.
B Company – commanded by Major Calderwood – an amalgamation of the old A and B Companies.
C Company – commanded by Major Angus – consisting of the old C and D Companies.
D Company – commanded by Major Alexander – consisting of the Herefordshire men.
By this means it was intended that the individual corporate spirit of each group should be retained and that Officers and Men who knew each other should continue to work together.
3rd July 1944 at Ducy-St-Marguerite.
12:00 hours. As the Brigade was taken out of the line altogether on this date, the Battalion moved back and arrived at our old spot at Ducy-St-Marguerite. The weather continues to be poor but wigwams and shelters were improvised so that all the men should sleep and rest under cover. We were to remain here for a few days to rest and make up our deficiencies.
13:00 hours. A message of congratulations from the Divisional Commander to the Colonel and the Battalion arrived. A copy was attached to the War Diary as Appendix F.
4th July 1944
12:00 hours. More reinforcements of 50 men arrived from the Regimental Holding Unit – these men belonged to the Gloucestershire Regiment.
5th July 1944
A message from the Corps to the Divisional Commander was passed on to the units of the Brigade – a copy being attached to the War Diary at Appendix G.
20:00 hours. A small party was held in “Le Moulin” – our HQ at Ducy-St-Marguerite. The Divisional Commander attended this, together with various Officers from 70th Brigade and also from 8th Armoured Brigade. The object of the party was a mild celebration of the victory!
6th July 1944
A Brigade “O” Group was held. This covered the first arrangements for our occupation of the new position NORTH of Le PONT JUVIGNY. The take over was to be made from the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers of 147th Brigade. Later the Colonel made a reconnaissance of the position.
7th July 1944
A Battalion “O” Group was held. We were to make the change over to the new position by night on the night of 7th/8th July.
21:00 hours. The Tactical HQ moved into the new position NORTH of Le PONT JUVIGNY.
8th July 1944 – Le PONT JUVIGNY.
The Battalion was reported as being in its new position.
The day was spent making some changes to the positions held by the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers and in preparation for more wiring and mining by night. Preparations were also made for two reconnaissance patrols, to be made by night.
The Mortar Platoon carried out three harassing shoots at 12:00 hours, 15:00 hours and 19:30 hours. These shoots were directed on the positions shown on Appendix H to the War Diary as mortar targets.
Both patrols for the night were reconnaissance, consisting of one Officer and two Other Ranks each. The patrol reports were attached to the War Diary at Appendix I. The patrols departed at 23:59 hours.
9th July 1944
01:55 hours. The A Company patrol returned.
02:09 hours. Pte Winyard returned alone from the C Company patrol. Reports from these two Patrols were attached to the War Diary as Appendix I.
In the early part of the morning the enemy put down mortar fire on C and D Company areas. There was one casualty as a result of this. There was also a considerable amount of Spandau fire from the hedge on the opposite side of the road in front of our forward Company localities, and from the wood at 852665. The enemy appeared to send out Spandau teams to occupy positions by night and fire in a spraying method over our Forward Defence Lines. No harm was done by that fire but a plan was made to deal with it on a future occasion.
In the night the Pioneers laid 6 rows of a new minefield between 848672 and 852571 in order to link up the defences of the two forward Companies.
09:30 hours. An Orders Group was held at Battalion HQ to tie up the daylight patrols which were to be laid on.
One, a Standing Patrol, was to go out at 15:00 hours to the building at 849667 to take Prisoners of War if the house was occupied, and if not, to deny the house to the enemy and maintain a watch until 23:59 hours.
Under cover of this, two snipers were to go out at 15:15 hours on the route of the C Company Patrol of the night before, to see if any trace of the missing Officer and man could be established. The Report of this Patrol was attached to the War Diary as Appendix J.
15:00 hours. Lieutenant Murray and his Patrol reached the house, and stayed there. There were no incidents on this Patrol and it withdrew at 23:59 hours as ordered.
20:00 hours. C Company put one Section in position at the road junction 845668, taking over from men of 10th DLI.
20:10 hours. One sniper, Pte Bell, reported back with the information contained in Appendix I to the War Diary.
10th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
Enemy Spandaus opened up on our positions in the same manner as on the night of 8th/9th July. A counter-fire had been made in readiness for that. Brens of the Carrier Platoon and 2” mortars from A Company opened up on the enemy Spandaus. This proved an effective means of subduing the enemy – particularly the 2” mortars.
07:45 hours. The 3” mortars were ordered to do harassing shoots on the usual targets at 09:00 hours, 11:30 hours, 15:30 hours and 20:30 hours.
09:30 hours. A Battalion Orders Group was held. A plan was made for a cover-fire plan which we were to make on the 11th to deceive the enemy as to the direction of an attack by the 10th DLI. This attack was to be made in conjunction with a larger attack on our right by 231 Brigade of 50th Division.
The Fire Plan (which was attached to the War Diary as Appendix K) was made for 3” mortars, Brens, 2” mortars, smoke and High Explosive to be laid down in the CHATEAU-WOOD area immediately to our front to give the enemy the impression of being attacked from our direction. H-Hour was to be notified later by Brigade, and this would be in accordance with the success of 231 Brigade’s attack.
15:00 hours. Two snipers went out to the position in the house at 849667, taking with them a 38 Radio Set. It was decided that soon we should establish this position as a permanent Standing Patrol – held by day by two snipers and at night by a Section from B Company.
23:00 hours. The snipers returned with nothing to report.
11th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
00:30 hours. A Fighting Patrol went out to the wood and returned at 03:30 hours with nothing to report.
The main feature of the day’s operations as far as the Battalion was concerned was the Battalion Cover Plan. We expected this to come into effect early, at about 09:00 hours, and were ready to begin and to receive the probable enemy reply. As with nearly all the previous operations, however, the operation of 231 Brigade on our right took much longer than expected. Therefore the 10th DLI attack was put off again and again until it finally took place at 16:30 hours.
From 07:30 hours onwards we remained in our slit trenches waiting for enemy reprisals and being deafened by the Kensington’s Vickers Guns which fired over our heads all day, expending in all some 500,000 rounds!
12:50 hours. Two men were seen crawling along the hedge from SQUARE WOOD 8566 in the direction of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry position with something white in their helmets. A Company was informed and the progress of the men was watched. Later we heard that two deserters had gone in to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Apart from this we merely followed the progress of the battle on our right for the rest of the day and carried out our Cover Fire-Plan when the 10th DLI attack went in at 16:30 hours.
The 10th DLI gained their objective but 231 Brigade just failed to capture Hottot-Les-Bagues. There was a certain amount of mortaring on our own positions but no casualties.
From this time on two permanent Standing Patrols were established. One was provided by C Company at road junction 846668 and the other at farm buildings 849668 held by snipers by day and a Section of A Company by night.
13th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
00:05 hours. The Standing Patrol in the farm reported enemy tracked vehicle noises in front. This rather confirmed a report from a Prisoner of War that the enemy was fed at about this time.
05:50 hours. Two deserters came into the C Company Standing Patrol. These were brought to Battalion HQ and sent back to Brigade quickly. They were both Poles, belonging to 6 Company, II Battalion of the 896 Grenadier Regiment. This was already an identification on our front.
These two men, a Lance-Corporal and a Private, volunteered the information that the CHATEAU was the Company HQ, with a Platoon HQ at the building WEST of SQUARE WOOD. The Prisoners also said that the Company was depleted to a strength of about 60 – 70 men with, as we already knew, a fairly high proportion of Poles. In fact, most of the deserters coming in on the Corps sector recently were of Polish origin.
The Prisoners were very dirty, hungry, and not very happy. Our artillery and mortar fire had been a great trial to the German troops. Most of the day they spend in their weapon pits and were amazed at the manner in which our troops walked about while under observation from the enemy. This information was passed on to all Companies as a warning.
The normal mortar harassing fire went down at 12:30 hours, 18:45 hours and 23:30 hours.
14th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
Patrols again had nothing to report. The situation had greatly changed since our first two nights. We have obviously got the upper hand in no-man’s land and the Bosche has not shown himself beyond his Forward Defence Lines by day or night since our Brens, 2” mortars and Standing Patrols were brought into action against him.
19:00 hours. An artillery shoot was put down with the objective of drawing the enemy Defensive Fire and locating his gun positions.
15th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
02:55 hours. A very successful reconnaissance patrol led by Lt Terry of D Company returned with good information. We are now able to meet the enemy on his own doorstep without interference. The Patrol Report was attached to the War Diary as Appendix L.
11:00 hours. Another artillery stonk to draw enemy Defensive Fire was put on. During and after the shoot a number of sitreps and mortar reports were recorded by the Battalion and passed on to the gunner and the counter-mortar Officer at Brigade. This was part of a determined effort to break enemy gun and, more especially, mortar positions which give us trouble.
(The latest Field Return of Battalion strength was submitted and attached to the War Diary as Appendix M, but as mentioned earlier, a better copy of these pages will need to be acquired before any useful information can be drawn from them.)
13:55 hours. The Chateau again on fire.
17:00 hours. The Battalion was warned that an attack was going to come off probably on Monday, and the Colonel told of the likely objective for the Battalion. 16th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
The reconnaissance patrol of the night returned with little information of value. The Pioneer Platoon, in preparation for the attack due to come off on the 17th, cleared a gap in our minefield and blew down a tree to enable a 17-pounder gun take up a good position for a clear shoot at the Chateau.
09:30 hours. An Orders Group was held at Battalion HQ at which the Colonel gave out his orders for the attack on JUVIGNY WOOD. The attack was to be on a Divisional level and our timings were co-ordinated with those of the 11th DLI and King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry plans of attack. The Operation was given the name MANGO.
The detailed Operation Order for the attack was attached to the War Diary as Appendix N.
Later in the evening the Operation was postponed for 24 hours.
17th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
09:30 hours. A further Orders Group was held to tie up more completely the plan MANGO. During the day, Companies again had an opportunity to use the model, which the Intelligence Section had constructed and everyone down to Section Commanders was fully briefed.
17:00 hours. The Brigade Commander visited the Commanding Officer and told him that it was probable that the Operation would be cancelled. If it was definitely proved that the enemy was still in possession of the area of JUVIGNY WOODS, the Divisional Commander had decided that an operation of this nature, which was only of secondary importance, would not be worth the expenditure of lives which it would naturally entail. It was considered that the enemy would be forced to straighten out his line and that the operation could then be carried out without loss. We had already learned that a contested operation like this could mean a lot of casualties. The Brigade Commander told the C.O. that he would know by 01:00 hours 18th July if the show was to be on or off.
23:00 hours. Operation MANGO cancelled. This message came through at about the same time as a bombing raid took place in our area.
Several enemy bombers came over and dropped flares over the Fontenay-Le-Pesnel – St Pierre road. Soon after, a number of bombs were dropped. At least half a dozen landed in the Battalion area. One very large bomb landed directly on the Signal Exchange and destroyed it completely. Both the signallers on duty were killed.
There were, in all, four killed and fourteen wounded. Colonel De Winton was standing at the entrance to the Command Post when the bombs began to fall. He dived quickly for the doorway, but in doing so, was either hit in the leg, or ripped it on the stones.
His injury made it necessary for him to be evacuated and we were later told that he would be away for three to four weeks. Major Nicol at once came down from B Echelon to take command of the Battalion.
18th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
02:30 hours. The very heavy artillery concentration which had been arranged as part of MANGO was put down. It lasted for 45 minutes and was directed on specific targets in the JUVIGNY WOOD area.
04:00 hours. Lt Murray took out a Fighting Patrol of Platoon strength to see if any of the wood was still held by the enemy.
06:30 hours. It was light when the Patrol returned and reported that it had been all round SQUARE WOOD and the CHATEAU. Lt Murray had even gone as far as LA PETITE FERME. He reported that the enemy had left the area.
Brigade was immediately informed of this and an Orders Group was called for 08:00 hours.
09:00 hours. A body of nine deserters from 986 Grenadier Regiment came in. They tols us that the enemy had withdrawn, this confirming Lt Murray’s Patrol’s information.
It was decided to carry out, in effect, Operation MANGO but without the immediate fire operation. Precautions were taken and the necessary arrangements for calling down artillery fire were made. H Hour was set for 10:00 hours. The trace of the locality was attached to the War Diary as Appendix O.
By mid-day the Companies advanced on to their objectives unopposed. The Germans left many mines in the area, thirty-seven on the road up to the CHATEAU alone. In all, a little more than 100 Teller Mines were picked up by the Sappers and Pioneers in our area.
The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the 11th DLI conformed on our left and right and by night the divisional objective was attained without opposition.
Two reconnaissance patrols of one Officer and two men each were sent out to see if the enemy were in possession of the next road line.
The day’s total of Prisoners of War was fourteen – all deserters – including Germans, Poles and one Czech.
19th July 1944 Le PONT DE JUVIGNY
01:05 hours. A warning order was received that the Battalion was to prepare to move forward to line of the road, which is the patrol line for the night, at 09:00 hours.
04:00 hours. The reconnaissance patrols came in. Both reported “no enemy in the area”. Brigade were informed. Their reports were attached to the War Diary at Appendix P.
09:30 hours. The Battalion moved forward and by 10:15 hours was in the new position, digging in. The move forward was unopposed although two men in B Company were wounded by a Spandau sniping team. The Germans withdrew when fire was returned.
Battalion HQ was established in the many and heavily reinforced cellars of the CHATEAU – not long since vacated by the Company HQ of the 6thCompany of the 986th Grenadier Regiment. Even the constant and heavy shelling of our artillery had not penetrated to the cellars of the CHATEAU, so the Colonel felt justified in taking over this place as Battalion HQ.
A private in the Intelligence Section found the bodies of Lt Green and the two men who had been missing since 8th/9th July. They had obviously been shot.
20th July 1944 LE CHATEAU DE JUVIGNY
In the night there was a certain amount of shelling of the wood, especially near the CHATEAU. As usual, quick shelreps with bearings were passed on to the gunners and a quick reply was given. This was, in time, the means of quietening the enemy fire.
During the day, everything was very quiet.
21st July 1944 LE CHATEAU DE JUVIGNY
Lt Terry, the reconnaissance patrol commander for the night, reported back with information about the location of the enemy. This was the first contact we had made since moving forward and, for that reason, important, as it gave us an idea of where the new enemy defensive position was being sited. The patrol had moved out at 24:00 hours and had suddenly bumped into the enemy digging in at 845633. It appeared that the position was of about one Platoon strength. This proved that the enemy had fallen back on the rough line NOYERS – MONTS in order to straighten out the dangerous (to him) bulge in the JUVIGNY area. It also confirmed Prisoner statements of a withdrawal to a new position three to four kilometres back.
Just before first light it began to rain very heavily. The rain continued for the most of the day, reducing visibility and causing the tracks to become very muddy and difficult for transport.
09:30 hours. The first reconnaissance of the area by the C.O. and Officers of the 1/7th Royal Warwicks of the 59th Division took place. The Brigade was to be relieved by 18:00 hours and to be pulled out into a concentration area.
14:00 hours. The relief commenced and went without incident. At 17:00 hours the Colonel reported that the Battalion area and command had been handed over and by 18:00 hours the Battalion was back at FOLLIOT 823718. Troop Carrying Vehicles transported the marching personnel to this area from JUVIGNY.
The withdrawal of 70th Brigade from the line meant that by now the whole of 49th Division was completely out and assembled. We now learned that the reason for this was that the Division was to be transferred from 30 Corps to 1 Corps, and that we were to move to the CAEN area. It had originally been intended that the move should take place beginning at 05:00 hours on 22nd July. This was later postponed for 24 hours.
22nd July 1944 FOLLIOT
The Colonel went to Brigade for a conference on the move to the CAEN sector. The Battalion Assembly Area was given, but no further information could be found.
10:30 hours. At Division, the Brigade Reconnaissance Group heard that the move was to be postponed for another 24 hours. Commanding Officers were given permission to reconnoitre the Battalion Assembly Areas, but no further.
Colonel Nicol and the Intelligence Officer spent the rest of the day reconnoitring this area at Demouville – reference 1067, a small village SOUTH EAST of CAEN. The roads were in a very bad state as a result of the rain of two days before and hopelessly congested by the vehicles of 11th Armoured Division, which was moving out of the line. The day was not wasted, as the reconnaissance party enjoyed a visit to the 5th Battalion, Black Watch, at RANVILLE! 23rd July 1944 FOLLIOT
10:00 hours. The Advance Party moved to Demouville to lay out the Assembly Area. The Colonel also revisited the new area, this time making a reconnaissance of the new tactical position.
18:15 hours. A Battalion Orders Group was held to receive orders about the move.
24th July 1944 FOLLIOT
06:30 hours. The Battalion column moved off. The troops were carried in Troop Carrying Vehicles.
12:00 hours. The Battalion was now in the Assembly Area. Strangely enough, the move had gone through without stoppage. This had not been expected as the roads were usually so congested.
The rest of the day was spent in reconnaissance by sub-unit commanders of the new Battalion area.
25th July 1944 Demouville
The Battalion moved into the new position SOUTH EAST of Demouville in the role of reserve Battalion of a forward Brigade. The Brigade relieved a Brigade of the 3rd British Infantry Division. As the Brigade we took over from had not had a Battalion in our position we were able to move in much more quickly than usual, but had all the digging to do from the start.
Battalion HQ had already begun to be dug by the Pioneer Platoon the day before. Now the Command Post, Signals Exchange, Intelligence Office etc were inter-linked by an elaborate scheme of trenches. The position had something of the look of a last-war trench system, complete with strong overhead cover on the dugouts.
In the evening, the enemy began shelling and mortaring. This was much more severe than we had so far experienced and in addition, for the first time, long range guns – probably 10.5 cm – were used. The Carrier Platoon had unfortunate casualties, including one Sergeant killed, and two Sergeants wounded. Two other men were also wounded.
26th July 1944 Demouville
As reserve Battalion we had no contact with the enemy and therefore our position for the next few days was quiet, apart from the enemy mortar and shell-fire which was at times very active indeed. We began to have nightly visits by enemy bombers – usually just after dusk. Owing to the great care taken in the building of slit trenches with over head cover our casualties were not heavy and the few we had were mainly due to men being caught walking about outside their trenches. The Brigade Commander therefore ordered the minimum of movement by day , and breakfasts were served at 04:30 hours daily, before stand-to.
It was noticeable that the enemy shell-fire was mainly concentrated on the main road and on obvious targets, such as woods. Dust from vehicles seemed to bring down fire quickly. Shelreps and bomreps were quickly passed on to the gunners and Brigade.
When enemy bombers flew over, the enemy put up green and white flares to show their Forward Defence Lines.
27th July 1944 Demouville
Bombs dropped seemed to be small anti-personnel type bombs. A number landed in the Battalion area. One landed on the very edge of a slit trench but was stopped by the cover. The two occupants of the trench were only wounded – one very slightly.
28th – 31st July 1944 Demouville
During the remaining days of the month, activity of enemy aircraft continued much as before, but there was no more bombing of the Battalion area. Mortaring and shelling continued. The enemy regularly began mortaring during the early hours of the morning, rising to a maximum at about 04:00 hours. The mornings in daylight and early afternoon were invariably quiet.
Our own artillery had, since arriving in this sector, worked hard to dominate the artillery and mortar fire which was so aggressive when we took up position. They succeeded in this and we noticed a distinct drop in the amount of fire put down on us.
1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish War Diary July 1944
The Battle at Rauray
The action at Rauray was the fourth in which the Battalion was engaged within a week. As a result of the first three, the Battalion was under strength, and had already lost nine Officers. We had received a few reinforcements, including four Officers, but these had hardly time to settle down.
On Friday morning, 30th June 1944, we moved from our position in the line at Tessel-Bretteville to a concentration area behind the 11th Durham Light Infantry just SOUTH of Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. For a few hours, rest and a wash were possible, but at 14:00 hours the first Orders Group was held in preparation for the take-over from the 10th Durham Light Infantry of their position at Rauray. The take-over began at 19:30 hours and, in the hours of daylight, the Battalion was able to begin moving, with the exception of B Company. The forward exposed nature of this position made its relief, of necessity, an operation in the dark. The artillery and mortar Defensive Fire tasks were arranged before dusk, and feeding was completed shortly after midnight.
B Company had been ordered to provide a small Reconnaissance Patrol of an Officer and three Other Ranks to go into BRETTEVILLETTE at 24:00 hours, returning at 03:00 hours. The object of this Patrol was to investigate report of some of our wounded still left in the village as a result of Thursday’s action. The Patrol returned late at about 04:15 hours with the information that no wounded had been found and that little enemy opposition had been encountered. Lt. Allan, the commander, did say he had heard tank noises on the other side of the village.
Stand-to was at 04:30 hours and feeding took place just before that. Everything was quite still at that time.
At 05:30 hours C Company reported intensified enemy machine-gun and mortar fire from QUEDEVILLE. No movement was reported before 06:40 hours when suddenly and almost simultaneously C and B Companies reported that they were being attacked by tanks and infantry. At once the 24th Lancers and our artillery were warned and the information was passed on to the other Companies.
Five minutes later, Battalion HQ was mortared. Fortunately we had moved our HQ two hundred yards to the left of the position held previously by the 10th Durham Light Infantry. The enemy obviously had the wood in front well and truly ranged.
Just before 07:00 hours B Company reported that the enemy was about one Company and five tanks strong. Three of these tanks were knocked out by 3 Section of the Anti-Tank Platoon before their gun was damaged. In the next forty-five minutes this Company had destroyed the other two tanks and had broken up the infantry attack, inflicting many casualties.
Meanwhile, on the right, C Company was heavily engaged by enemy infantry, who were doing their best to infiltrate round Platoon positions in the close country. At 07:11 hours, C Company asked for ammunition. From that time on the Carrier Platoon spent most of its day rushing ammunition to the Companies. At times the Carriers were held up, but no Company ran short of ammunition throughout the action.
By 07:30 hours the Company Commander of C Company was not in touch with any of his Platoons, as they were all boxed off by the infiltrating enemy. This gave him the impression that they had been overrun.
At 08:32 hours he was given permission to link up with the Durham Light Infantry Company, which was behind him, with all the men he could gather round him. Later on in the day it became clear that his forward Platoons had managed to sit tight and he later gathered together about thirty men.
It was from this Company that a report originated of enemy in British uniform. The truth of this has not been confirmed yet. It is possible that British Prisoners of War were used by the enemy. As yet, no authoritative statement can be made.
The news of A Company was not clear the whole day. The first message came in at 07:35 hours, stating that a Tiger tank was in, and firing on, the position. Two tanks (or possibly troops – writing unclear) of the LANCERS moved over to give support at once. It is obvious that the attack hit A Company a little later than the other two Companies. The Company Commander was ordered to link up with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who were on the left, and to protect the flank. This he did. It seems however that the enemy did penetrate with tanks and infantry through the King’s Own Scottish Borderers locality and this Company, and out own A Company, were cut off.
The last message from A Company came in at 12:30 hours. This said that Tiger tanks had encircled their position and were in and among the Company. However, a later message from Brigade reported that some of the Company were still holding on in the position, helped by our armour.
By 10:00 hours the first phase of the battle seemed to be over. The situation on the right looked promising. On the left, A Company’s position was not clear. B Company had withstood the first attack but was asking for more ammunition and tank support. D Company had not been engaged, except for the occasional sniper, and a certain amount of mortar fire. An Artillery Forward Observation Officer reported that fifteen enemy tanks had been knocked out, ten by our Anti-Tank Platoon (since then we have claimed nine). At half past ten, a Platoon of D Company under Lt Murray started to make its way to B Company’s position to reinforce it.
An enemy tank was reported in Rauray itself and some enemy infantry remained in sniping positions in our Battalion area. Four Prisoners of War were brought in at 08:00 hours. They belonged to No 1 Company of the Der Fuhrer Regiment of the 2nd Panzer SS Division. These were pretty miserable specimens of Hitler’s picked troops.
The second attack started at about 11:15 hours and this was well underway by 11:45. Again, tanks and infantry. From now on the whole attention of the enemy in our area was concentrated on B Company. Captain Calderwood remained on the set all the time and gave the situation. His quickness in reporting enabled the Defensive Fire to be brought down with great effect at the beginning of each attack.
There were two more attacks on the B Company position at ring contour 110. The third was just before one o’clock. It was preceded by a heavy smoke screen. By this time the D Company Platoon had arrived in B Company’s position. This strengthened the Company greatly in firepower and morale. Both this attack, and another at two o’clock. Were met by the Company and the 24th Lancers, and beaten off.
In their final effort, the enemy made a fifth attempt but their attack failed before it started. Twelve tanks were seen at four o’clock forming up at QUEDEVILLE. Soon after, enemy infantry were observed debussing from Troop Carrying Vehicles outside the village. At once, artillery and mortar Defensive Fire was brought down on them. Captain Calderwood reported with great satisfaction that it seemed to be doing great execution. At any rate, the attack never materialised.
At last, the enemy seemed to have exhausted his strength. But it was necessary to re-establish the position in strength and Colonel De Winton made immediate preparations for a counter-attack on B Company position and A Company position at 18:00 hours.
At 18:00 hours a hasty counter-attack with artillery support went in. D Company was on the right, commanded by Captain Alexander and C Company 11th Durham Light Infantry on the left.
A Company of 11th Durham Light Infantry moved into the position left by our D Company as firm base. Tanks of the Lancers and three flame-throwing Churchills were in support and shot the Companies into position. Smoke was laid by the artillery to cover the advance. Within two hours the relieving Companies had dug in and were firmly entrenched. Mortar and machine-gun fire continued to fall on the position but the situation was assured.
That night, the small band of B Company and the Platoon from D Company were pulled out into concentration area for a rest. Battalion HQ had already handed over to the 11th Durham Light Infantry. The position came under the command of Colonel Hanmer at 21:00 hours. The remains of C Company and D Company stayed on the position until relieved the following day. That night, Colonel De Winton was ordered to go back to B Echelon to rest.
It has been difficult to get any cohesion into this account owing to the speed of the battle and the confusion. Each little party has a story of its own. The Anti-Tank Platoon fought until its guns were put out of action. Nine Panthers and Tigers are definitely claimed by it. One gun alone destroyed five. Both Officers were wounded and most of the detachments.
The Mortar Platoon fired three thousand bombs that day. Each mortar fired six hundred bombs. Both observation and Prisoner of War statements make clear the devastation caused by this tremendous shoot.
The Carriers ran all day with ammunition and carrying stretchers to the Regimental Aid Post.
Signal communication was of first-class order. Without the fine working of this, much of the task could not have been carried out.
The artillery operation of Major Lucas was seen by B Company to do great damage to the enemy. On each occasion when an attack was beginning the artillery Defensive Fire came down with constant accuracy.
But especially praiseworthy was the small party of B and D Company which sat all day on the greatly exposed Company locality on contour 110. Without the determination to hold on shown by Captain Calderwood and his party, the position could not have been held.
The final reports of casualties show that the enemy lost twelve tanks to the Anti-Tank Platoon alone. In all about thirty were destroyed. It is estimated that a Battalion attack was broken up with heavy casualties to the enemy.
In personnel we lost two Officers killed, five wounded and two missing. Thirty-one Other Ranks were killed, seventy-nine wounded and thirteen are missing.
55th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery.
C Troop of 217 Battery of this Regiment was in support of the infantry at Rauray and set out below is the account of that day written by the Troop Commander and included within that Regiment's War Diary. It was thought appropriate to add it hear to complement the Battalion's own records.
Rauray – 1st JULY 1944
Appendix D to the War Diary of the 55th (Suffolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery – July 1944.
The following is a story told by “C” Troop Commander of an action involving his Troop in recent operations.
1 July 1944
My Troop had gone into a position East of Rauray and just West of Point 110 during the night to relieve “B” Troop. The Troop spent the time up to stand-to digging. At about 06:00 hours information was obtained that an attack was imminent from the South. This was preceded by a very heavy mortar barrage, closely followed by their infantry, supported by tanks sitting behind, to shoot them in. Fierce fighting developed between the enemy and our forward troops. The Infantry Anti-Tank guns prevented the tanks from advancing on to our left flank and so they deployed rather hesitatingly to the right. At about 06:30 hours the forward Company of the 1st Tyneside Scottish withdrew past our positions.
Sgt W Hall was informed that tanks were creeping down behind him on the other side of a high bank behind which Sgts Hall and Haines guns were defiladed and subjected them to fire, putting Sgt Haines’s gun out of action. Sgt Hall rallied both gun teams and during a period of mortaring man-handled his own gun a distance of 350 yards to a fresh position where he could get a limited arc of fire at a range of 450 yards.
No sooner was he in position than a Tiger showed up hull down in front, creeping from behind a tank which was already burning. Bombardier L Sparrow laid and fired two rounds. The second one causing the tank to brew up. Both rounds were through the turret.
A few minutes pause and then another Tiger repeated the tactics of our first, creeping from behind both burning tanks. One round this time was sufficient to cause brewing up and my own impression is that the shot entered just above the track.
Except for mortaring and machine-gun fire things were quiet for a time. Then a Mark IV moved across the front from some trees on the right and fired at the gun, killing one infantryman and wounding several. Sgt Hall, who had observed the enemy from the Forward Observation Officer’s position, came down to his gun and engaged. After a few rounds the tank withdrew and soon after was observed by me in flames.
Later there was a concentrated effort by about four tanks in our gun area, but the team had been warned by the Forward Observation Officer and were ready. The remaining infantry, seeing the tanks, then retired, leaving only myself and the gun team on the field. Sgt Hall engaged the targets as they appeared and was fired back on, and during a quiet spell I went to the Forward Observation Officer’s post and observed two new tanks in our area; one was blazing furiously and the other was smoking. She was out of view of our gun but was still there at the end of the day.
I don’t know what happened to the remaining tanks, but later one fired and destroyed a British tank on our right. During this phase a machine-gun was being particularly awkward on our right and Gunner Savage, after a careful study, decided he knew where this enemy lay. He crawled from his slit trench to one on the flank, and raked the position with Bren fire. No more fire came from that enemy position. The time was now about 11:00 hours.
At about midday it was reported that tanks were moving across the front from our right to left out of sight of Sgt Hall’s gun. The only gun on the left sector was Sgt Sturgeon’s – the infantry guns all being out of action. At length, Sgt Sturgeon got a panther under observation about 900 yards away, head on. At 700 yards our guns loosed off – the round entering the gun mantlet. It stopped and began to back away, still head on, and 4 more rounds were fired without effect. At last it turned slightly, and the layer, Gunner Moss, had a narrow view of the side. One round through this and the tank brewed up. The rest of the day was confined to infantry fighting, tanks being stopped from coming close by the co-operation of the Forward Observation Officer.
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