Maps

The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August

 

Just as daylight was breaking, the 1st Special Service Brigade reached the top of the hill where the main German defences were located. With No.6 Commando on the left flank and No.3 on the right, the Brigade charged forward and attacked the enemy positions, having taken them completely by surprise. Resistance in all areas was sharp but brief, and before long the Brigade was in control of both hills.

 

Their position, however, was still precarious because they were now cut off from friendly forces and the Germans would certainly make every effort to recapture this critical defensive position. At this time, however, the Germans had no idea that a force of Brigade strength was on top of the hill. It went against every notion of common sense to imagine that anything other than a strong patrol could have worked its way through the forward defences and attacked the hill. Brigadier Mills-Roberts intended to capitalise upon this logic and play for time by giving instructions that everything should be done to disguise the presence of the Brigade for as long as possible.

 

The Germans indeed believed that the force on top of the hill was a mere patrol, and so their immediate concern was not to counterattack but to tighten their defences to prevent these troops from escaping. Little did they imagine that they were there to stay. Eventually, an enemy patrol of twenty men was sent forward to investigate and, quite unaware of their presence, they approached a Troop of No.6 Commando. In order that as little information as possible should return to their superiors, the British held their fire until the patrol was extremely close to them, and only two men got away. Following this, however, No.6 Commando were heavily shelled and casualties were suffered. A little later, a self-propelled gun opened fire upon them but was persuaded to withdraw when observers relayed its position to the Royal Artillery.

 

No.4 Commando were alone on the smaller hill, but there was a road that connected the two positions and a patrol from No.45 Commando attempted to link-up with them. Unfortunately they were spotted and hit with accurate artillery fire, killing three men and prompting the remainder to return to their lines.

 

The Germans were beginning to realise that there was a stronger force on the hill than they had supposed, but still they did not believe that it could be an entire Brigade. This suspicion must have been reinforced, however, when some two hundred and fifty infantry attacked No.6 Commando and had to fall back after a fierce exchange of small arms fire. Both of the hills were heavily bombarded with artillery and mortars, prompting the British guns to counter. The shelling caused many casualties, but as the Commandos were surrounded it was impossible to evacuate the wounded so that they could receive proper medical care.

 

Following yet another period of heavy shelling, a much stronger force moved against No.6 Commando. The Royal Artillery did what they could to bombard and break-up this formation as it assembled for the attack, thereafter the defence was left entirely in the hands of the rifles and machine-guns of the Commandos. The attack was repulsed and, as it was now too late in the day for the Germans to consider mounting another, the 1st Special Service Brigade knew that the hills were undeniably theirs. During the night, pockets of German resistance to the rear of the hills were cleared to allow the position to be consolidated with the delivery of supplies and ammunition as well as the removal of the wounded.