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D-Day Documents

4th Special Service Brigade - No.41 (Royal Marine) Commando - War Diaries

 

5th June 1944

Place: Warsash

1515 - Unit embarks in 5 L.C.I.(S) at Warsash.

2130 - Craft sail in convoy.

6th June 1944

Place: At Sea

0745 - Until 0745 hrs. when coast became dimly visible and our naval craft could be seen firing on the land targets the sea passage had been uneventful.

0750 - Message received by H.Q.L.C.I.(S) that the beaches were not under fire.

0825 - Coastline now perfectly visible and Troop Commanders were able to identify their beach from previous study of low obliques during the briefing.  The beach appeared a bit of a shambles.  It was littered with dead and wounded and burnt out tanks and with Flails flailing through wire and mines, Bulldozers clearing gaps etc.  The beach was quite obviously still under fire as mortar bombs and shells were crashing down fairly plentifully.  It appeared however that Red Beach was getting a better share of this fire than White.

0830 - Shells started falling around the craft and several near hits were reaching ships damaging ramps etc. on some craft but caused no casualties to personnel.

0840 - Due to land.

0845 - Touch down about 200 yards out to sea on Red Beach with our proper Beach, White, 300 yds. away on our left.  Whilst still coming in, Lieut. Colonel Gray had foreseen this and did his best to get the craft to slew right on to the proper beach which was in fact drawing less fire than Red.  In the general confusion, however, his efforts were unsuccessful.  'P' Troop commanded by Captain B.J.B Sloley with a nucleus Advance H.Q. moved swiftly across to White Beach and within about 5 minutes were off the beach almost complete.  Within another 5 minutes a section of A. Troop with Captain C.N.P. Powell, DSO, Troop Commander had followed.  Lieut.Colonel Gray then decided to move this body up to the first lateral and to find a more suitable spot for assembly.

0920 - P. and A. Troops halted at road junction 080809 and waited there for the remainder of the Commando.

0940 - By this time a dozen men of 'X' Troop had joined up and reported that their Troop Commander Captain H.E. Stratford, M.C. had been wounded on landing and that they had also lost about 25 men killed and wounded, on the beach.  'Y' Troop reported that the 2 i/c Major D.L. Barclay had been killed and that the Signal Officer Lieut. A.G. Aldis M.M. was a casualty.  Lieut. Colonel Gray then decided to push on with the troops he had collected and P. Troop followed by Y. Troop and A. started to move into LION.  Civilians contacted and gave information that the Germans had left at about 0700 hrs. that morning and the French seemed quite pleased to see us.  P. Troop were then ordered to push on and occupy the strongpoint, Y. following them in.

1020 - B. Troop were contacted and reported that Captain H. F. Morris Troop Commander was a casualty on the beach.  Lieut. Colonel Gray then decided that since Force II had lost its commander, Major D.L. Barclay and both troop commanders he would take both forces under his own command and employ them as far as possible in their original role.  P. Troop then reported held up by L.M.G. fire and snipers from houses on each side of strong point.  At the same time the S. Lancs contacted us and reported that they were held up by opposition from the strongpoint at Cross Roads 068816.  B. Troop under Lieut. Sturgis were ordered to move up road to Chateau as far as 065814 there to contact laterally the S. Lancs, A. Troop were to follow.  This was with a view to ultimately outflanking the strongpoint.  Wireless contact by this time had been established with 8 Br. Inf. Bde.  The codeword "TROUT" (contact S. Lancs) was passed.  The F.O.B's signalmen were all wounded on the beach and their sets destroyed, the F.O.B's own set was damaged hence no contact with naval support.  F.O.O. Lieut. Miller R.A. and party wounded on beach but R.A. Rep. Capt. J.C. Clough was up with HQ unable however to assist since the Centaurs attached had apparently been knocked out.

1040 - P. Troop still held down.  S. Lancs at this time were drawing mortar and M.G. fire and were having casualties.

1050 - Lieut. Colonel Gray ordered Y. Troop to prepare to back up the S. Lancs and if possible to assault through them.  Just at this time 3 Avre tanks contacted us and informed us that Br. Inf. Bde. had put them under command to assist where required.  They were immediately put in support of Y.

1100 - Accordingly, firing their Besas the tanks moved up the road Y. Troop following.  Within 100 yards of the strongpoint, unidentified gun, which later proved to be a 50mm PAK, opened fire at very short range and knocked out the first tank.  Within 5 minutes all 3 tanks were put out of action and enemy mortars had ranged on Y. Troop.  Y. Troop suffered casualties including Captain P.T.H. Dufton killed.  The remainder of the Troop occupied the houses on each side of the road.

1140 - B. Troop reported that they had pushed ahead as far as Cross Roads 062814 and that they had suffered casualties from mortar fire and from some unidentified mobile gun operating in area 059813 and that (temporarily) without some support on the Chateau area they could not push on.  The S. Lancs had not been contacted.  Since no support was available our own 3" Mortars having expended all their ammunition on the strongpoint, B. Troop were told to remain where they were.

1300 - Up to 1300 hrs. the position remained virtually unchanged with both sides sitting where they were engaging any targets that presented themselves.  No Arty or other support was available.  The L.O. (Lieut. Kay) was sent to 8 Br. Inf. Bde. to report this fact.

1310 - A. Troop report that they had got as far as houses in area 065814 where they had been mortared and fired upon from the left flank.  Capt. C.N.P. Powell D.S.O. was a casualty.  B. Troop at almost the same time reported that the enemy were counter attacking about 60 strong on the left flank with mortars and an infantry gun in support.  Lieut. Colonel Gray then appreciated that a counter attack on the commando might become general and decided to withdraw all Troops to the line of the lateral road running from the sea to the beach 070813 thence to road junction 067812 which was an easier line to defend.

1330 - By this time B. Troop and a section of A. Troop had withdrawn to the line, 1 Section of A. Troop was missing.  P. and Y. Troops conformed.  X. Troop, the smallest in numbers was attached to Y. Troop.  The general appreciation was that there was about 80 enemy in the strongpoint and 100 in the Chateau.  By this time the majority of casualties had been evacuated to the Beach by the 6 Jeeps which had landed at about 1000 hrs.  The FOB's Jeep with the Bombardier and wireless set also arrived and contact was made with the destroyers.  H.Q. moved from the Church to Orchard about 074813.

1500 - Contact 9 Inf. Bde. who had landed at H + 6 hrs. and had detached two Battalions to assist in coastal sector.  41 Cdo. came under command the 9 Inf. Bde. and the Brigadier ordered the 5 Lincolns and a battalion of the R.U.R. to complete the perimeter partly formed by 41's present positions to the sea; with the Lincs directly on 41's left.

1600 - By 1600 hrs. the Lincs were in position with a dividing line inclusive to 41 road Lion-Luc Sur Mer.  German aircraft dropped 1 bomb which fell on a small track about 50 yards from the H.Q. cratering it and rendering it unusable.

1800 - Between 1600 and 1800 hrs. there was intermittent mortar and shell fire from the enemy.  The navy had carried out a shoot on the strongpoint and the Chateau between 1700 - 1800 hrs.

1930 - Lieut. Stevens reported to H.Q. that he and the missing section of A. Troop had returned having been cut off in area 065814.  He himself on the way back knocked out a german armoured car (presumably the mobile gun referred to) with a grenade.  Except for sniping and L.M.G. fire from the houses where Germans had been left behind, all was quiet during the rest of the light.  Casualties for the day were approximately 140 killed, wounded and missing.  Officers killed - Major D.L. Barclay, Captain P.T.H. Dufton.  Missing - Lieut. J.C. Pearson and Lieut. A.G. Aldis, M.M.  Wounded - Captain H.F. Morris, Captain H.E. Stratford, M.C. and Capt. C.N.P. Powell, D.S.O.

7th June 1944

Place: Lion Sur Mer

1105 - All quiet except for snipers and occasional shell fire up to 1105 hrs.  At that time 3 Heinkels with Spitfires on their tails suddenly swooped out of the clouds and dropped 3 sticks of anti personnel bombs one of which straddled H.Q. orchard killing the FOB Capt. P.C. Dixon R.A. and 2 men, and wounding the Commanding Officer, Lieut. Colonel T.M. Gray, R.M., the Chaplain, Rev. Caradoc Hughes, R.N. and 9 others.  Major J.A. Taplin, R.M. then took over command.

1330 - Commanding Officer 5th LINCS visited H.Q. and informed us that 9 Bde. had put 41 under his command whilst the battle continued in and around LION.

1415 - Brigadier 9 Bde. ordered attack on Chateau by Lincs.  41 moved up behind in reserve.  The attack went in at 1536 hrs from the S.E. and was successful.  There was one casualty in the Lincs. and 1 or 2 prisoners were taken; the remaining Germans having made good their escape previously.  41 Cdo. was then ordered to occupy the houses at the N.E. end of the Chateau while the Lincs prepared a further assault upon the Strongpoint in LION.

1730 - At 1730 hrs. however, Brigadier 9th Bde. changed his intention and ordered 41 to push on to LUC SUR MER.  Accordingly, the unit moved on and at 1820 hrs. contacted 46 R.M. Commando in LUC SUR MER who informed us that PETIT ENFER had been cleared by them that morning.  Major J.A. Taplin then reported to H.Q. 4 S.S. Bde. and was ordered to occupy LUC SUR MER for the night.

8th June 1944

Place: Lion Sur Mer

46 moves to LA DELIVERANDE and 41 takes up positions for local defence of LUC SUR MER and PETIT ENFER.  Throughout the day and night parties were out searching for snipers and French 5th Columnists.