National Archives catalogue number WO 218/59. For an alternative and more detailed account of the 1st Special Service Brigade's activities in Normandy, see Operation Overlord: An Account of the Part taken by No.1 Special Service Brigade.
C in C
Brigade Transport Officer
Commander Royal Artillery
Division / Divisional
Forward Defended Locality
General Officer Commanding
General Staff Officer
Landing Craft Infantry
Prisoners of War
Staff Officer Royal Engineers ?
Month and year : June 1944
Commanding Officer : Brig the Lord Lovat DSO MC
1st June 1944
The Bde remained in Concentration Area Camp C 18. Briefing of tps continued.
5th June 1944
The Brigade left Camp C 18 and embarked for operation OVERLORD at WARSASH in LCI(S) of the 200th and 201st LCI(S) Flotilla. (Senior Naval Officer Lieut Commander L.R. Curtis RNVR).
6th June 1944 - D Day
4 Cdo with Adv Bde HQ landed at LA BRECHE at H + 30. They were 500 strong and their objective was the coastal bty at OUISTREHAM. 4 Cdo suffered 40 casualties while landing including the CO. C Tp of the Cdo engaged the defences and gained the main coast rd, followed by the rest of the Cdo. Fighting French Tps led the Cdo towards OUISTREHAM, coming under hy fire. They over ran the casino area and the assault on the bty commenced. After severe fighting the posn was taken. Casualties on both sides were heavy. R/T contact by Bde HQ was made with 6 Airborne Div and it was learnt that the brs which the Bde intended to use were intact. Bde HQ and 6 Cdo landed at 0840 hrs under hy gun and mortar fire. 6 Cdo took the lead when the rd was gained and the adv to the brs commenced. Progress was slow because of the marshy ground and enemy mortar fire. The forming up pt was reached in 1 hr, by which time 3 and 45 RM Cdos had landed and they caught up with 6 Cdo. They had suffered few casualties. The brs were reached at 1230 hrs and contact made with 6 Airborne Div. 6 Cdo crossed the brs and sent their cycle Tp fwd to capture LE PLEIN. Bde HQ halted E of the river br. 45 RM Cdo passed over the brs towards their objectives at MERVILLE and FRANCEVILLE PLAGE. 3 Cdo who had been held up, crossed the brs at 1530 and were diverted to protect Div HQ. Thus the original plan was abandoned and the Bde Comd decided to hold the high ground from MERVILLE to BREVILLE. 45 RM Cdo were ordered to remain at MERVILLE for the night. Bde HQ moved to ECARDE and 6 Cdo consolidated in LE PLEIN. 4 Cdo rejoined the Bde at 2000 hrs, and dug in at HAUGER they had suffered hy casualties in fighting during the day. At the end of the day, 3 Cdo were still detached.
7th June 1944
At 0300 hrs 3 Cdo rejoined the Bde. At 1200 hrs Maj Gen Gale Comd 6 Airborne Div visited Bde HQ and ordered 45 RM Cdo to take FRANCEVILLE PLAGE. The Cdo suffered hy casualties in the assault, and after bitter fighting withdrew to MERVILLE. Two Tps of 3 Cdo on loan to 45 RM Cdo joined them, after suffering casualties while silencing a gun bty. 45 RM Cdo were out of touch with Bde. The enemy attempted to penetrated the Div area but was repelled. 6 Cdo were being mortared and a patrol was sent to clear BREVILLE, prisoners and weapons being captured. At 1900 hrs 3 Cdo moved to LE PLEIN to join up 4 & 6 Cdos. Enemy attempts to infiltrate were reported at 2130 hrs. This was prevented.
8th June 1944
In the early hours, runners arrived at Bde HQ from 45 RM Cdo, who were still cut off. Before assistance could be sent to 45 RM Cdo, an enemy attack in force developed during which a Tp of 4 Cdo were forced to withdraw. Eventually a counter attack by 3 Cdo restored the posn. A patrol from 6 Cdo broke up an attack, and attempts to infiltrate were prevented. 45 RM Cdo suffered heavily during the day and they were withdrawn inside the Bde posns. It was decided to hold the ridge of ground from HAUGER to BREVILLE at all costs. A large scale attack was expected. Bde HQ moved from ECARDE to LE PLEIN.
9th June 1944
Infiltration attempts were made throughout the day. 45 RM Cdo moved into posns at AMFREVILLE to complete a defensive ring round the high ground. The Bde was still isolated from 6 Airborne Div. GONNEVILLE and LE BAS DE BREVILLE were heavily shelled during the day, being likely enemy forming up points. FRANCEVILLE PLAGE was bombarded by rocket ships. Further infiltration attempts by the enemy were sealed off. Enemy mortars were active during the night.
10th June 1944
6 Cdo were heavily mortared at 0800 hrs, and the whole Bde front was ranged. 4 Cdo suffered hy cas. An enemy attack was launched at 0815 against 6 Cdo, probing of 3 and 4 Cdos posns also occurred. The enemy was driven back with hy losses. Minor thrusts supported by an SP gun against 3 & 4 Cdos repulsed, but a further attack, of 2 Bn strength developed on 4 Cdo. Some infiltration occurred, and by 1145 hrs 4 Cdo HQ was in danger, being shelled and mortared. Bitter fighting resulted in hy cas to both sides. At 1400 hrs, the enemy withdrew, badly mauled. A further attack was made in the afternoon, against 4 Cdo, and though infiltration occurred, the posns were not over run. 45 RM Cdos posns were mortared, but the lines everywhere held firm, although seriously depleted in strength. Prisoners taken were eager to talk, and it was clear that the battle was won. 346 Div (consisting of 875 and 858 Inf Regts) and 857 Inf Regt were identified. 4 Cdo who had suffered heavily were withdrawn. Their place was taken by 12 Para Bn. Two SP guns arrived in the Bde area and were used by 3 Cdo for offensive patrols towards SALLENELLES and BREVILLE.
11th June 1944
After a quiet night, shelling began at first light, units and Bde HQ suffered casualties. A fighting patrol from 45 RM Cdo entered SALLENELLES and found it clear. 3 Cdo supported an attack by the Black Watch on BREVILLE. A further patrol by 45 RM Cdo entered AMFREVILLE and found it empty; evidence was discovered of 21 Pz Recce Regt in the area. Brig Durnford Slater Dep Comd SS Gp visited Bde HQ. 4 SS Bde took over 12 Para Bn posns. Shelling recommenced at 2200 hrs, 3 & 6 Cdos suffering more casualties. After dark patrols were sent to BREVILLE and SALLENELLES. The Bde Major was injured and evacuated. First line reinforcements arrived and carried out a successful raid without loss.
12th June 1944
Patrols during the night made contact with the enemy. 6 Cdo were shelled before dawn, and an attack was expected. Arty and counter bty fire were directed against the bty believed responsible for the shelling. No attack developed. 4 Cdo returned to their posns at midday. A strong patrol to the area of LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON to support movements of 4 SS Bde, by 3 Cdo was unopposed. More heavy shelling of 6 & 45 RM Cdos occurred from 1400 to 1800. Several casualties resulted. At 2100, 12 Para Bn supported by tanks formed up in the Bde area for an attack on BREVILLE. A hy artillery barrage was laid down at 2145, shells falling short in 6 Cdo area and causing casualties to 12 Para Bn and 6 Cdo. Enemy fire was also falling in the same area. During this melee, the Bde Comd was severely wounded. BREVILLE was in the hands of 12 Para Bn by midnight. No opposition was encountered by a patrol probing towards GONNEVILLE. A sleeping prisoner was taken with his weapon. Lt Col D Mills Roberts DSO MC assumed comd of 1 SS Bde.
13th June 1944
Apart from spasmodic shelling during the morning, the enemy remained quiet throughout the day. CCRA 6 Airborne Div and CCRA 1 Corps visited Bde HQ during the day to discuss counter bty action to stop the enemy shelling. A message to the Bde was received from Brig The Lord Lovat DSO MC.
14th June 1944
There was no enemy activity during the day. Patrolling was continued, one patrol from 10 Cdo passing agents through the enemy lines during the night and guided them to pre-selected points.
15th June 1944
Patrolling and sniping continued. The patrolling policy was confirmed at a Div conference attended by Brig D Mills Roberts DSO MC. The Div front was divided up into patrol areas. Likely enemy harbouring areas were subjected to fire from arty and Naval guns. PsW confirmed the enemy dislike for the latter.
16th June 1944
Early in the morning the Bde area was again mortared and shelled, and another enemy attack was expected. At first light Naval support was called for to nullify likely forming up points. No contact was made with the enemy, and the threat developed elsewhere.
17th June 1944
Patrolling continued. The enemy were observed to be digging in, and penetration by own tps was difficult, except in small numbers.
18th June 1944
Alternate recce and fighting patrols were sent out. When sufficient infm was in hand a carefully planned raid was mounted with arty and Naval support.
19th June 1944
Increased mortar fire and shelling occurred in the Bde area, causing casualties. The enemy showed no inclination to come out in daylight. By night it was impossible to approach their lines without drawing fire. A patrol was sent out with the idea of destroying enemy supply points.
21st June 1944
After a quiet day a patrol of 6 Cdo broke into a defended locality bordering the GONNEVILLE rd. Satisfactory results were reported. Some cas were caused by inaccurate arty support.
22nd June 1944
Lt Gen MC Dempsey DSO Comd 2 Army visited Bde HQ and expressed his admiration for the Bde. A deception patrol was sent out by 3 Cdo. The Germans however, refused to leave their lines.
23rd June 1944
The enemy still showed reluctance to leave his lines. A patrol making a close recce failed to draw any fire.
24th June 1944
An extensive sniping programme was decided upon. The enemy no longer held the initiative, and were content to mortar only the more obvious patrol approach and withdrawal routes.
26th June 1944
A sortie by 3 Cdo penetrated the enemy posns undetected and a prisoner was taken.
28th June 1944
After a careful recce patrol, a large scale raid was launched by 45 RM Cdo on the LONGUEMARE area. Everything went according to plan, and objectives were attained. Damage and cas were caused to the enemy. Gen Gale GOC 6 Airborne Div praised this patrol, commending No 1 SS Bde and 45 RM Cdo.
29th June 1944
Maj Gen Sturges GOC SS Gp visited the Bde.
Month and year : July 1944
Commanding Officer : Brig D. Mills-Roberts DSO MC
1st July 1944
Staff as at July 1st (Incl att offrs) :-
: Major H.H. Blissett
: Capt T.A. Donnelly
: Capt L.M. Harper Gow
: Capt ADC Smith
: Capt J.A. Lawrence
: Capt REW Holmes
: Lt J.A. Tulloch (Att from 10 IA Cdo)
: Lt J.E.D. Watkins
: Capt Viscount de Jonghe (Att from 10 IA Cdo)
: Capt G.R. Franks (Att from 10 (IA) Cdo since returned UK 26 Jul 44)
: Rev C. Britchard
: Rev DJR Thomas
2nd July 1944
It was noticed that slackening of naval bombardment on centres of enemy resistance owing to needs of other priority targets resulted in the enemy becoming a little more adventurous. A patrol of 6 Cdo encountered an enemy patrol in front of enemy FDLs for the first time for some days.
4th July 1944
A Propaganda Broadcast was made in conjunction with a raid on enemy FDLs by 6 Cdo. 6 Cdo inflicted damage and casualties on enemy posns and captured a prisoner, though he was killed in the withdrawal.
6th July 1944
4 Cdo carried out a raid at the Northern end of the Bde front and confirmed the fact that the enemy were digging in and rapidly strengthening their posns by wiring and booby traps.
7th July 1944
4 Cdo moved from HAUGER to BREVILLE taking over from 6 Airlanding Bde. 4 SS Bde took over 4 Cdos posns in HAUGER.
12th July 1944
Maj Gen RN Gale GOC 6 Airborne Div visited Bde HQ.
14th July 1944
Detachments from Bde HQ and all units took part in the 'JULY 14' celebrations in the village of LE PLEIN which included the consecration of a Memorial set up on the village green in memory of those members of the First Special Service Brigade who lost their lives fighting in Normandy. The Service was followed by a March Past of the detachments and a party of Les Anciens Combattants of the village at which Brig J Durnford Slater DSO Deputy Comd SS Group took the salute.
15th July 1944
General Sir Miles Dempsey KCB DSO Commander 2nd Army visited Bde HQ.
16th July 1944
Brig D. Mills-Roberts DSO MC attended a memorial service held by 6 Cdo. General Sir Bernard Montgomery C in C 21 Army Group held an investiture at HQ 6 Airborne Div which was attended by the Bde Comd. Several members of the Bde were decorated. General Montgomery visited BREVILLE during his tour of the area. Deputy Comd SS Gp held a conference which was attended by the Bde Comd and all Staff Offrs.
18th July 1944
A sharp bombing attack occurred on the area during the hours of darkness. An attempt no doubt to interfere with the flow of reinforcements and supplies which were passing through the village towards the front SE of CAEN where operation GOODWOOD was in progress. Casualties and damage were slight.
20th July 1944
A further bombing attack occurred during the night.
21st July 1944
A Propaganda Broadcast was given from the area of LONGUEMARE.
23rd July 1944
A deserter from 857 Regt came in through 4 Cdo posns and confirmed the suspicion that 346 Fus Bn had been relieved in the enemy line opposite about a week before.
24th July 1944
Another deserter from same Regt came in through 4 Cdo.
25th July 1944
BREVILLE was shelled and bombed during the night. 4 Cdo suffering 7 cas (incl 1 killed). A Bde Comd's conference was held at HQ 6 Airborne Div which was attended by Brig D. Mills-Roberts DSO MC.
27th July 1944
One of the buildings in LE PLEIN used as Bde PW Cage was hit during the nights air attack, but no casualties occurred.
29th July 1944
General F.A.N. Browning DSO Commander Airborne Forces visited Bde HQ. Lt General Crocker GOC 1 Corps visited Bde HQ.
30th July 1944
Maj General R. Sturges GOC SS Gp visited Bde HQ.
31st July 1944
4 & 6 Cdos were relieved by units of 6 Airlanding Bde and moved SOUTH into posns WEST of LE BOIS DE BAVENT having been in the line without relief and without changing their posns for 56 days. Bde HQ moved into new posn behind 4 Cdo. 3 & 45 RM Cdos remained in LE PLEIN under comd 6 Airlanding Bde until they should be relieved the following day by 4 SS Bde and move SOUTH to rejoin the Bde.
Month and year : August 1944
Commanding Officer : Brig D. Mills-Roberts DSO MC
1st August 1944
3 & 45 (RM) Cdos were relieved by units of 4 SS Bde and joined the rest of the Bde holding the part of the line facing LE MESNIL and the BOIS de BAVENT.
4th August 1944
Major General R. Sturges, GOC SS Group visited the Bde and inspected the posns.
9th August 1944
Heavier shelling of the Bde area was noted. Along the whole front there were signs that a withdrawal by the enemy was being prepared, if not imminent, and detailed plans were drawn up for immediate pursuit if a withdrawal should take place. Major General R.E. Laycock, DSO, Chief of Combined Operations visited the Bde.
17th August 1944
The enemy started to withdraw and the pre-arranged pursuit was put into operation. On arrival at BAVENT the Bde took up new posns in accordance with the new line, the formations on the left and right having also advanced after the treating enemy. A tactical Bde HQ moved into BAVENT, leaving the main HQ WEST of the BOIS de BAVENT. Patrols were sent out to the EAST to keep touch with the enemy, who had halted on the line of the DIVES and were holding the high ground EAST of the river.
19th August 1944
The Bde was ordered to attack the high ground EAST of the DIVES, and take a height overlooking the main TROARN - DOZULE road from the NORTH to cover a further advance on DOZULE by other formations of 6 Airborne Div. The enemy posn was of quite exceptional natural strength, any approach having to be made across 2500 yds of open marshy country, deeply flooded and completely dominated by the high ground to the EAST of the river.
20th August 1944
The attack started at 0045 hrs, the whole Brigade marching in single file following a route across the marshes marked with white tape by the point section. By 0615 hrs the whole column had succeeded in infiltrating right through the enemy defences and was disposed on the high ground near ANGOVILLE, the first indication of the attack being the assault of the enemy's Company HQ where complete surprise was obtained. In spite of determined efforts on the part of the enemy to dislodge the Bde, the posns were held all day, though the posns were completely surrounded and the question of supplies and the evacuation of casualties and prisoners became acute. After dark, however, a relief column got through with supplies and during the night the enemy withdrew to the EAST.
22nd August 1944
The Bde moved off towards the River TOUCQUES, following 6 Airlanding Bde, who were in pursuit of the enemy near DEAUVILLE.
23rd August 1944
Still in reserve, the Bde moved to DRUBEC, 4 miles WEST of PONT L'EVEQUE.
24th August 1944
Recce showed that the enemy had withdrawn from the line of the TOUCQUES during the night and the Bde advanced over the river to posns in the vicinity of ST BENOIT D'HERBERTOT, where enemy rearguards were holding out. A further advance was made during darkness and by the morning the Bde was disposed on high ground south west of BEUZEVILLE, with the enemy still holding the town, but cleared from the area to the WEST.
26th August 1944
A further advance of about 4 miles was made during the night, bringing the Bde into posns near ST MACLOU on the main HONFLEUR - PONT AUDEMER roads and encircling BEUZEVILLE, though the town was abandoned by the enemy before the escape route could be cut. The enemy withdrew over the SEINE and after 83 days without being rested the Bde received orders to dispose the troops without tactical considerations and with a view to maximum rest.
Month and year : September 1944
Commanding Officer : Brig D. Mills-Roberts DSO MC
6th September 1944
The Brigade left the area of St Maclou and proceeded to Arromanches, where it entered Transit Camp 60 to await embarkation.
7th September 1944
The Brigade embarked and sailed for U.K.
8th September 1944
The Brigade disembarked at Southampton and Gosport, and went into Camp at PETWORTH, Bde HQ at Cowdray House, Midhurst.
11th September 1944
Bde HQ proceeded on leave.