The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August



Belgian troops crossing the River Dives at Cabourg

Belgian troops crossing the River Dives at Cabourg

Belgian vehicles crossing the River Dives

Belgian soldiers pass through Dives-sur-Mer

The 1st Belgian Brigade passes through Houlgate


While the main thrust of the 6th Airborne Division had been concentrated in the south, the 6th Airlanding, 1st Belgian and Princess Irene Brigades were still trying to force a crossing at Cabourg in the north. Having been repulsed on the first day of the pursuit, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles attempted to move around the flank of the town on the 18th August, but due to the strength of the enemy positions, flanked by mines and large areas of flooded ground, this was found to be impossible. An attempt was then made to break through with tanks, but this again failed.


Sensing that the route through Cabourg would not be opened so easily, the Battalion received orders to harass the enemy but not to become seriously engaged. For the next two days the Ulsters were subjected to light and largely ineffective bursts of shell fire. On the 20th August, Major-General Gale effectively decided to abandon Cabourg by withdrawing the 6th Airlanding and the Princess Irene Brigades to the southern route, leaving the 1st Belgian Brigade to trouble the Cabourg garrison as well as they could. Gale doubted that they would be able to make any headway, and it was with some delight, therefore, that he heard on the following day that the Belgians had not only taken the town, but had also bridged the River Dives using their own limited resources. With the coastal road now open, the Brigade pushed eastwards.


Along the main southerly route, Dozulé lay in the path of the Division but it was too strongly held for an attack to be considered desirable. Instead, Gale decided to pass his forces around the village and proceed eastwards, but on the night of the 21st August, however, the Germans in Dozulé withdrew, having burned the village to the ground.


Early in the morning of the 21st August, the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, with the equivalent units of the 1st Belgian and Princess Irene Brigades under their command, drove eastwards towards Pont L'Eveque, to pursue the enemy and uncover their strong points. Behind them, at 07:30, the 3rd Parachute Brigade led the main advance. The Reconnaissance Regiment had discovered, unsurprisingly, that the Germans had set up a defence along the ridge in the area of Annebault, which lay across the path of the advance.


The 8th Battalion attempted a frontal attack upon the village whilst the 9th Battalion edged around their left flank and took the high ground. Both units met with well-prepared positions and so the fighting was a hard and prolonged affair. Nevertheless, the 9th Battalion succeeded in exploiting gaps in the defences whilst the 8th Battalion gradually cleared their way through Annebault. Although the fighting continued until the evening, casualties had been comparatively low. One of the biggest losses was suffered by the 8th Battalion when a Nebelwerfer, "Moaning Minnie", rocket hit Battalion HQ and killed several men.