Lieutenant E. L. Knyvet A. Carr

 

Unit : "B" Troop, No.4 Commando

 

Lieutenant Carr, jokingly known as "Muscles" due to his very slight physique, was the commander of "B" Troop, No.4 Commando's Heavy Weapons Troop. The following are his recollections of D-Day.

 

My landing craft gently grounded on the sand, the ramp went down, and we advanced up the beach as fast as our loaded 70lb Bergen rucksacks would allow us. In addition to the rations, weapons and ammunition we were carrying we each had to carry a 10lb mortar bomb for the 3 inch mortars. Shell and mortar bombs threw up great spurts of sand. Ahead of me was a strong point with gun barrels sticking out, and I made for this. As I moved across the beach I was hit three times, twice on my hand and wrist by small splinters and once on my rucksack, but not seriously. As I came up to the strong point a German soldier behind it threw two stick grenades into the air which exploded harmlessly behind me. He was immediately shot, and the strong point was captured. We advanced to the road and reached the assembly area where we dumped our rucksacks and I set up the two mortars ready to give supporting fire to the assault troops as they went through the town. There were no German soldiers in the main part of the town as, apart from the beach defences, they were concentrated in the coastal gun battery position at the eastern end near the mouth of the River Orne.

 

No 4 Commando captured and cleared the German coastal gun battery and the assaulting troops made their way to our original assembly area. Here I found a two wheeled horse-drawn cart, unfortunately without the horse! We loaded all the three inch mortar bombs and the two mortars onto it and with relays of six men pulling it we set off across country on the road leading to the only road bridge over the Caen Canal and the River Orne just east of the village of Bénouville. The rest of No 1 SS Brigade, consisting of Nos 3, 6 and 45 Commandos had landed to the west of Ouistreham and pressed inland to join up with the units of 6th Airborne Division. Parachutists of the Division had been dropped over a wide area immediately to the East of the River Orne with the aim of securing the high ground overlooking the whole of the landing area.

 

Our route to the bridges in bright sunshine through cornfields and orchards went past the villages of Colleville-sur-Orne, St. Aubin d'Arquenay and Bénouville which had already been cleared of any German patrols or snipers. At Bénouville we arrived at the bridge over the Caen Canal and to our relief we were greeted by Paratroops. The bridge was under intermittent sniper fire so I arranged for a quick smoke screen from one of my mortars to be put down on the bridge and we managed to get our cart and ourselves across without any casualties. We then crossed the bridge over the River Orne without any opposition and finally arrived in the evening at the little village of Hauger after a journey of about eight miles. It was a beautiful evening and except for the distant sound of gunfire and occasional sniper fire there was little enemy opposition. The last part of our advance from the bridge had been across a flat open plain and it was here that the gliders of the Air Landing Brigade of 6th Airborne Division had landed their soldiers to secure the bridgehead over the river as a prelude to the Allied advance eastwards and south through Germany. It was an incredible sight. Scores of now empty gliders lay all over the flat ground, many with smashed noses and some with one wing tilted aloft.

 

At Hauger we were quickly allotted our areas of defence because we knew that a German Infantry Division was in the area and would soon attack us. Using our little individual methylated spirit stoves we had a quick 'brew up' of tea and ate some of our 24 rations in their little cardboard boxes. Looking out to sea we could see the whole of the landing area, a vast array of ships of all types and sizes, the blue sea criss-crossed with white as the small assault landing craft ferried troops ashore not only in the British sector but further West to Omaha Beach where the Americans were having a hard time fighting to get up the cliffs and inland.

 

At Hauger I chose a small open meadow with part of a shallow dry ditch across it and we at once started to dig pits for the mortars and slit trenches for ourselves. Of necessity, to allow clearance for the flight of our mortar bombs, there were only trees round the edges. The majority of the Commando troops had to be in the wooded areas. Initially they suffered casualties from shell and mortar bombs bursting when they hit the branches of the trees and throwing their splinters like shrapnel downwards. As quickly as we could we built overhead cover for our slit trenches. In the late evening we "stood to", a standard practice for troops in defence, for often the enemy would launch an attack just before dark, but that night, a beautiful warm night, no serious attack came. About midnight all of us not on watch collapsed into our slit trenches and fell asleep after twenty hours of continuous intense activity and danger.

 

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