Maps

The positions of the 6th Airborne Division, on the 7th June

 

Pictures

Soldiers of the 6th Airlanding Brigade attaching a trailer to their Jeep

Men of the Royal Ulster Rifles leaving LZ-N in a Jeep

Traffic moving across Bénouville Bridge

Horsa gliders on a Landing Zone

Horsa gliders on a Landing Zone

Horsas on an unidentified Landing Zone on the 7th June

An Airborne soldier greets a horse on LZ-N

An aerial reconnaissance photo looking towards DZ-N at Ranville

Gliders on DZ-N

An aerial view of DZ-N

 

At 04:30 on the 7th June, the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry left Ranville for the village of Herouvillette, two miles to the south-east. They arrived to find that the enemy had recently withdrawn, and so the area was taken without a struggle. "C" Company were left behind to establish a defensive position in the village whilst, at 08:30, the remainder of the Battalion pushed on towards Escoville, a mile to the south. The Germans were unwilling to so easily surrender this position and the road between the two villages was shelled as the Ox & Bucks advanced along it, and the closer they came to Escoville the more resistance they encountered. In spite of this, by 11:00 they had taken it and proceeded to set up a defence, centred around Major Howard's "D" Company in the southern sector of the village.

 

Meanwhile, at 09:00, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles had left their starting line at Le Bas de Ranville and advanced on Longueval, two and a half miles to the south-west. Determined resistance was expected and so all of the Battalion's supporting arms were in place to provide covering fire, as were the guns of HMS Arethusa, standing-by offshore. In the event no resistance was met and so Longueval was quickly seized and consolidated. Their commander, Lt-Colonel Carson, then ordered "A" and "B" Companies on to their next objective, Sainte Honorine, just over a mile to the south-east.

 

The Ulsters then fell victim to a series of misfortunes. Both "C" and Support Companies were situated on an area of high ground known as the Ring Contour, and it was here they came under untimely heavy fire from the self-propelled guns of the 200th Assault Gun Battalion. Responding to this attack, both the Machine Gun and Mortar Platoons, who should have been readying themselves to support the advance on Sainte Honorine, were running low on ammunition. To provide time for their stocks to be replenished, the assault on Sainte Honorine was delayed, however news of this did not filter through to "A" and "B" Companies, who proceeded to move on time. To make matters worse, the communications link with HMS Arethusa had broken down, and observers on the Ring Contour reported that self-propelled guns were moving into Sainte Honorine, however due to communication difficulties, news of this failed to reach Battalion HQ.

 

"A" and "B" Companies advanced under cover of smoke but were met with dense fire from armoured vehicles and machine-guns. Despite this they were able to gain some ground and edged their way forward, but once it became clear that there was little prospect in this they fell back to Longueval. The dead of these two companies amounted to just six men, however seventy had been wounded and a further sixty-seven were missing, though a third of these later rejoined the Battalion.

 

 

From the moment that they had arrived in Escoville, the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry were subjected to heavy shellfire, and at 15:00, in typical German fashion, this was followed up by a concentrated armour and infantry attack. The road between Herouvillette and Escoville was still being shelled, and this prevented any of the Battalion's anti-tank guns coming forward. With little reply to the German armour, "A", "B" and "D" Companies were somewhat exposed and took many casualties as they struggled to hold on to the village. The fighting proceeded from house to house and frequently took place hand-to-hand. Lt-Colonel Roberts realised that the Battalion could not hold Escoville without its anti-tank guns, and so the order was given to withdraw to Herouvillette. This was not so simple a matter as parts of "A" and "D" Companies had become cut off, however a counterattack led by Major Edmunds of "B" Company allowed these units to pull back.

 

The attack on Escoville had cost the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry some eighty casualties and also their commander. Roberts had sustained an injury during the landing, but although he had insisted upon carrying on he could now no longer do so and so command was handed to his deputy, Major Darrell-Brown. The Battalion, expecting the Germans to follow up their withdrawal with a further attack, began to dig in around Herouvillette, however this did not materialise.

 

 

The moves of the 6th Airlanding Brigade on the 7th June were completed in the evening with the arrival of the remainder of 12th Devonshires, who relieved the 12th Parachute Battalion along the ridge at Le Bas de Ranville. During the night, the Devons were attacked by enemy aircraft which dropped anti-personnel ordnance amongst them, causing some casualties.

 

Major-General Gale had noticed that the manner in which units had been scattered about the bridgehead had left several battalions out of reach of their respective Brigade HQ's, therefore the 6th Airborne Division was reorganised. The 3rd Parachute Brigade was left intact, however the 5th Parachute Brigade traded its 12th Battalion with the 6th Airlanding Brigade in return for the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry.