The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August

A map of the 6th Airborne Division's area



The shattered remains of Bavent

An Observation Post in Bavent

A 3" mortar team in action

Belgian sappers removing mines on the road to Cabourg

Belgian sappers removing mines on the road to Cabourg

The first prisoners captured by the Brigade's troops

Belgian motorcyclists and armoured cars pass through a ruined French village


On the night of the 16th/17th August, patrols reported that the Germans were in the process of withdrawing across the River Dives, and right away the follow-up began. The 3rd Parachute Brigade was already moving at 03:00, and by dawn the remainder of the Division followed in their wake. The Brigade soon reached at Bures, however the bridge, which they had themselves destroyed on D-Day, was found to be impassable to infantry and so the advance along the southern front came to an abrupt halt whilst the 3rd Parachute Squadron built a Bailey Bridge over the Dives.



Meanwhile, the 1st Special Service Brigade had begun their march at dawn, and by 10:00 No.4 Commando had taken Bavent. No.3 Commando were then ordered on to Varaville, which they took after a brief struggle, whilst No.6 Commando headed for Robehomme. Their forward patrols were fired on as they neared the village, but the subsequent attack, carried out under cover of an artillery barrage, mixed in with smoke, was soon successfully completed. The Brigade pushed on towards the Dives, and although the intervening terrain was found to be free of the enemy, as they neared the remains of the bridge they were fired on from the opposite bank and had to withdraw. Unable to make any headway, the Commandos came to a halt.


Towards the end of the afternoon, the Bailey Bridge had been completed at Bures and the 3rd Parachute Brigade were finally able to cross the River Dives. The 1st Canadian Battalion took the lead, making excellent progress across the Island, and at dusk the 8th Battalion had taken Goustranville after much fighting. Here, however, the Brigade had to halt because they had advanced beyond the range of all but the heaviest of the Division's artillery.



In the north, at dawn on the same day, the advance proceeded along two routes, with the 1st Belgian Brigade taking the coastal road to Cabourg, via Franceville Plage, whilst the 6th Airlanding Brigade, led by the 12th Devonshires, moved up on their right flank. The progress of the Devons was not checked until mid-morning when they reached Gonneville, near Merville, and were fired on with machine-guns and mortars, the resulting skirmish quickly being brought to an end with the assistance of the Light Regiment's guns and a troop of Belgian armoured cars.


Beyond Gonneville, the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles took over the lead and reached the village of Le Petit Homme, where "B" Company were left behind to trap any enemy retreating from the Belgians in Franceville Plage. The rest of the Battalion pushed on towards Cabourg but suffered a number of casualties when they ran into mines lining the verges of the road. Actual enemy interference was not in evidence, and so the Ulsters stuck to the road and made excellent progress. This continued until they reached the outskirts of Cabourg, where the Germans made a determined stand from well-prepared positions, clearly not wishing to surrender the River Dives without a struggle. With very little room in which to manoeuvre, the Ulsters were unable to make any headway and so retired to Le Homme for the night.