6th Airborne Division - 6th Airlanding Brigade - 2nd Battalion - War Diaries
6th June 1944
The Regt less Bridge Assault Party of Letter "D" Coy and 2 Plns of "B" Coy, took off from Harwell and Keevil Airfields at 1840 hrs and 1910 hrs respectively. The trip was rather bumpy over land but all became very calm over the sea. At approx 2055 hrs we approached the French coast and could see a large fleet of ships standing off shore and occasional bursts of fire coming from their guns. It was very easy to pick out the River and Canal below and ahead of us and we knew that there had been no mistake in navigation. All gliders except four landed on or somewhere near the L.Z. although in most cases crash landings occurred and many collisions took place. A certain amount of flak as gliders ran in added to the many difficulties of the Glider Pilots who in the majority of cases did magnificently. There was a certain amount of firing on the LZ and some snipers still seemed to be holding out in the area of the bridges at BENOUVILLE. After some delay, due to the fact that some gliders landed rather along way south and also some were very badly smashed which made unloading difficult, the Regt formed up in the area of Rd Junc 098754 at Le Port.
2215 - The Regt began to move forward to cross the bridges to the pre-arranged concentration area at 108744. At this time four glider loads had failed to land, comprising Bn HQ. No.5, 1 Rifle Platoon 'B' Coy, ½ 'B' Coy HQ, 1 Mortar Pl glider. A few people had been hurt in crash landings including the Comd Offr who managed to carry on and the Loading Offr who had to be evacuated. Major Howard commanding the Bridge Assault Force reported to the Comd Offr and said that the route to the concentration area was clear. Despite the darkness of the night the Regt moved quickly into the concentration area and a temporary HQ was set up at 109744.
2300 - The Comd Offr met the Brigade Comd 6 Airldg Bde on the bridge at BENOUVILLE and was taken forward to the area of the Church at RANVILLE 116734. The Comd Offr received orders to move forward into the area of the 13 Parachute Bn at RANVILLE with intention of occupying HEROUVILLETTE 122724 as soon as possible and then to move on to occupy ESCOVILLE as was originally intended.
7th June 1944
0130 - Regt passed S.P. 110739 moving forward to the Chateau in RANVILLE a temporary H.Q. was set up there. The remainder of the Regt moved into the area of the Chateau grounds and took up a position of all round defence. Elements of the Bridge Assault Party joined us there including Capt B.C.E. Priday and the load from his glider, who having landed in the area of VARAVILLE Bridge, fought their way back to join the Regt.
0230 - 13 Para Bn had been in contact with the enemy up to dark and reported that he was occupying HEROUVILLETTE. On arrival at the Chateau it was arranged that the Regt should take over the patrolling in front of 13 Para Bn and 'C' Coy was ordered to send out fighting patrols to discover whether the enemy were still in HEROUVILLETTE. These patrols reported by 0430 hrs that there was no sign of the enemy in the village though they had not entered it. 'C' Coy was therefore ordered to move forward and seize the Western portion of HEROUVILLETTE and send patrols to discover whether the enemy were holding the Eastern portion. 'A' and 'B' Coys were then to move forward and seize the Eastern portion. Meanwhile the remainder of the Regt were to move fwd to the area of the farm at 119728. This move was completed without opposition by 0830 hrs.
0830 - The Comd Offr then decided to make a similar advance by bounds to seize and occupy ESCOVILLE the task allotted to the Regiment in the original plan before leaving ENGLAND. 'A' and 'B' Coys patrols moved forward to the village which they reported clear except for a few snipers.
1000 - At 1000 hrs 'A' and 'B' Coys were ordered to move up and occupy the posns already allotted to them and they were followed by 'D' Coy and Regtl H.Q. 'C' Coy was to remain at HEROUVILLETTE as a firm base until the remainder of the Regt was established in ESCOVILLE. At 1030 hrs the leading Coys reached ESCOVILLE and started to dig in.
1100 - Regtl H.Q. attempted to establish itself in CHATEAU 124714 as arranged but came under accurate fire from an enemy SP gun firing from a hull-down posn about 250 yds South of the CHATEAU. Attempts were made to dislodge this enemy gun with 6-pdr guns and PIAT parties but these proved unsuccessful. The SP gun appeared to be well protected by snipers. Meanwhile 'D' Coy moved round into its allotted posn.
1200 - Coys were in posn but experiencing difficulty owing to fire from armoured cars and other SP guns and snipers who appeared to be on a reverse slope posn just South of the village and which were continually moving about. We were visited about this time by the Bde Comd. Bn. HQ had still failed to get into the CHATEAU and HQ had been set up in a line of trees about 100 yds North of the CHATEAU itself. Shortly after this the enemy started accurate mortar fire in area of Regtl HQ and some casualties were suffered. Owing to very accurate fire from enemy armoured vehicles 'A' and 'D' Coys had been unable to get well forward into good posns of observation and in particular the A/Tk guns were unable to get into their allotted posns or even into posns from which they could engaged the enemy SP guns.
1400 - Mortar fire and gun fire continued to be experienced by all Coys and an appreciable number of casualties were incurred. The enemy were very well concealed and although 3" Mortars were brought to bear on any SP guns that showed themselves fire was rather ineffective due to lack of observation.
1500 - The enemy began to become more bold and succeeded in shooting up the right forward Coy rather badly. At about this time fire from mortars and SP guns became intensified and enemy infantry began to infiltrate forward supported by tanks and one or two armoured cars. Owing to the fact that the Regt had never managed to get into an organised co-ordinated defensive posn and there was considerable danger of becoming outflanked in a posn not suitable for defence in view of the fact that ST. HONORINE had not been captured the Comd Offr asked for permission from Bde to withdraw to a posn on the highest ground in the village of HEROUVILLETTE. This permission was granted.
1600 - The Regt withdrew to HEROUVILLETTE with 'C' Coy acting as rearguard protection. A portion of 'D' Coy the left forward Coy and 'A' Coy the right forward Coy who were heavily engaged at the time became cut off and had a spirited battle with enemy AFV's. The Vickers MG's with 'A' Coy did some very good work before they withdrew. 'B' Coy reformed about 400 yds North of ESCOVILLE and were sent in as a counter attack to extricate the fwd Coys. This was successfully accomplished with some casualties.
1700 - The Regt took up a def posn in the area of HEROUVILLETTE and commenced to dig in. Recce Patrols were sent fwd to discover the enemy's further intentions. The remainder of the day and night was spent digging in. During the day the Regt had suffered about 60 casualties. The Comd Offr who had been injured on landing and was unable to get about on foot was evacuated by Med Authy at about 2100 hrs and comd of the Regt was taken over by Major M. Darrell-Brown 2 i/comd.
8th June 1944
HEROUVILLETTE. A quiet day preparing defences and some shelling in the area of 'A' Coy.