The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August



The 1st Belgium Brigade passes through Honfleur

The residents of Honfleur give their Belgian liberators an enthusiastic reception

Belgian troops mix with the locals in Honfleur

Belgian troops pass through Honfleur

Belgians Jeeps parked in Honfleur


The German defence had been confined to delaying the advance rather than making a truly determined stand against it, and they had done their job very effectively by destroying many of the bridges and causing the 6th Airborne Division a lot of problems. Luckily, none of the rivers were particularly wide, and if the infantry could not climb over the wrecked remains of a bridge, then they were quick to improvise crossings elsewhere. Heavy equipment, however, could not follow by these means, indeed it was once necessary for some anti-tank guns to make a considerable detour and cross the River Touques further south in the 49th Division's sector, who had much wider access to bridging material than the 6th Airborne Division. Eventually, Bailey Bridges were constructed to enable the crossing of light loads, such as soldiers and Jeeps, and these were soon followed by more substantial bridges which could support artillery and tanks.


After the 5th Parachute Brigade had secured Pont L'Eveque and moved on to Bourg, the 1st Special Service Brigade took over the lead and pushed on towards Beuzeville, where it was halted by determined resistance. Supported by "A" Squadron of the Reconnaissance Regiment, the 3rd Parachute and 4th Special Service Brigades were ordered to pass through their positions and take Beuzeville. The paratroopers were ordered to secure Beuzeville itself, whilst the Commandos pushed around the southern flank of the town to make the position of the garrison untenable.


It was on this flanking manoeuvre that the Commandos suffered many losses when they became stuck upon a sunken road and were subjected to a bout of particularly severe mortaring. Despite this initial setback, they were able to push on and worked their way around the village. The 3rd Parachute Brigade had an equally tough time in Beuzeville against a determined enemy. The 8th Battalion were leading the way and they suffered more than most, however, very ably supported by the four Cromwell tanks of "A" Squadrons No.1 Troop, the Battalion succeeded in edging their way forward and had the town in their grasp by the end of the night.



During the evening of the 25th August, Major-General Gale received orders from Lieutenant-General Crocker, the commander of I Corps, to halt his advance and leave the ground to his front, particularly the town of Pont Audemer on the eastern bank of the River Risle, to the 49th Division. Gale knew that the 6th Airborne were much closer to the town than they, and he realised that it was possible that his men could seize the bridge over the Risle before the Germans, retreating from the advance of the 49th Division, could reach and destroy it.


In view of this, Gale overlooked his orders and told the 5th Parachute Brigade to proceed to Pont Audemer with all speed. Preceding them, racing ahead in their vehicles, were the Princess Irene Brigade and "A" Squadron of the Reconnaissance Regiment. In spite of their dash, they arrived twenty minutes after the last Germans had crossed the bridge and destroyed it. Shortly after, the 7th Battalion arrived on foot and occupied Pont Audemer and the land approaching the bridge.


On the same day, with news that Berville-sur-Mer had been abandoned by the enemy, the 6th Airlanding Brigade raced the 1st Belgian Brigade for the possession of the village, and the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles won. Leaving the Belgians to occupy the village, the 6th Airlanding Brigade then pushed on to secure the left flank of the Pont Audemer position by moving the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry into Foulbec and positioning the Ulsters on their left in La Judee. All ground to the west of the River Risle was now in the hands of the 6th Airborne Division, and here their advance came to an end.


On the 27th August, Major-General Gale received orders to concentrate his strength in the area between Pont Audemer and Honfleur. Although the 1st Belgian, Princess Irene and 4th Special Service Brigades would stay behind, the 6th Airborne Division and the 1st Special Service Brigade were withdrawn to England in the first days of September.