The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August



The 1st Belgian Brigade in the vicinity of Villers-sur-Mer


At 11:30 on the 22nd August, the 6th Airlanding Brigade began its advance along the road leading from the Putot-en-Auge area towards Deauville, at the mouth of the River Touques, where their route collided with the coastal road, along which the 1st Belgian Brigade was racing. The general plan for the Brigade was to secure the middle ground that lay in between the Belgians and the 6th Airborne Division.


With no enemy interference to hinder them, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles advanced at a pace until they reached Vauville. The 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry then took over responsibility for the final leg of the Brigade's journey to Deauville. As they approached the village, several members of the French Resistance arrived and reported that the Germans had abandoned Deauville but a defence had been established on the far bank of the River Touques. The Battalion's Reconnaissance Platoon went forward in its Jeeps and confirmed that this was the case, adding that all the bridges across the river had been blown.


When the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles entered Deauville, they found that the vanguard of the 1st Belgian Brigade was already in the village. The two proceeded to reorganise their positions accordingly, but their movements attracted shellfire from the Germans situated in Trouville, on the eastern bank. Amongst those hit was "C" Company HQ, and Major Hynds, their commander, was killed.



At first light on the 23rd August, the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry attempted to cross the Touques, four miles to the south of Deauville. "D" Company first secured the western high ground, the subsequent shelling of which cost them some casualties, and then proceeded to swim the River Touques and establish a small bridgehead on the opposite bank. Reinforcing them proved to be something of a problem as no means could be found to transfer vehicles across. Fortunately, "D" Company managed to find a boat which the Pioneer Platoon, assisted by local civilians, then converted into a raft that could support vehicles.


Meanwhile, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles were still in Deauville and contemplating a crossing of their own. A patrol was sent across the river in an assault boat to determine the strength of the enemy position and, having found that it was considerable, the Battalion left Deauville to examine the prospects upstream. They came to a halt opposite Bonneville-sur-Touques, and in the afternoon another patrol was sent across the river to report on the state of enemy on the far side. The expedition was spotted and forced to withdraw under fire, however they had been able to discover that a force of at least one thousand men was dug in along the railway line which ran parallel to the Touques. A crossing was clearly impossible and so the Ulsters settled down for the evening, although during the night, four fighting patrols were put across the river to harass the enemy.



On the next day, the 24th August, the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry were over the River and had captured the village of Touques. Learning about this crossing, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles quickly followed them over and by late afternoon they were in possession of Bonneville-sur-Touques and St Philibert. Meanwhile at Deauville, the 1st Belgian Brigade crossed the remains of the wrecked bridge in the morning and, after hard fighting, succeeded in gaining Trouville.


On the following day, the 6th Airlanding Brigade resumed their advance and passed through a number of undefended villages. The 1st Belgian Brigade pushed very quickly along the coastal road and overcame the defenders of Honfleur after a brief struggle. However their reconnaissance unit, scouting ahead of the 6th Airlanding Brigade, was brought to a halt by enemy fire as they attempted to cross the river at Malhortie. The 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry were ordered to the scene, and by 13:00, "B" Company had managed to capture the bridge intact.


Resistance on the other side of the bridge proved to be much stronger. "C" Company was ordered to carry out a right flanking manoeuvre, however they experienced great difficulty with the terrain and did not link-up with "B" Company until late afternoon.


Proceeding towards Manneville La Raoult, "C" Company were briefly held up by enemy fire as they drew near to it, but after dealing with this they managed to gain a foothold inside the village. Unfortunately they were unable to inform Battalion HQ of this due to a communications failure, and as gunfire had been heard the worst was assumed, and so "A" and "D" Companies were ordered to attack. "D" Company entered the village first and, after heavy fighting, succeeded in driving the Germans out. Whilst in the process of doing this, the Germans shelled the village and caused casualties amongst both attacker and defender.