National Archives catalogue number DEFE 2/40.
C in C
6 Kompanie, 857th Grenadier Regiment
Assistant Director Medical Services
Beach Dressing Station
Commander in Chief
Forward Defended Locality
Forward Observation Bombardment
Forward Observation Officer
German Air Force
General Officer Commanding
Landing Craft Assault
Medium Machine Gun
Motor Transport Officer
Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Prisoner of War
Regimental Aid Post
Month and year : May 1944
Commanding Officer : Lt. Col. R.W.P. Dawson DSO
25th May 1944
The Cdo left Boxhill and went into concentration area in Camp C18 in Southampton.
26th May 1944
The camp was sealed and briefing for operation 'OVERLORD' began. Major General R.N. Gale, GOC 6 Airborne Div visited the camp and addressed all officers and NCOs.
6th June 1944
Place: La Beche
A fiercely opposed beach landing during which No.4 Commando took over the role previously allotted to an earlier wave of Infantry which had been pinned down by enemy fire; the storming of heavy fortifications at OUISTREHAM; street fighting through areas infested with snipers; a forced fighting march with men carrying up to one-hundred and forty pounds and finally, after a further eight hours the taking of a defensive position which was to withstand heavy mortaring, repeated enemy attacks, shelling and dive bombing - these were the highlights of the first days of No.4 Commando after their D Day landing in FRANCE.
The Commando, five hundred strong, landed in two waves from HMS Princess Astrid and the SS Maid of Orleans and touched down on RED QUEEN Beach, a mile to the WEST of OUISTREHAM, at LA BECHE. The original intention of the British landings had been for 8 Bde, which consisted of the Suffolks, East Yorks and South Lancs to take the beach and form a beach head through which No.4 Commando was to pass and take the Gun Batteries at OUISTREHAM. The County Regiments, landing at 0750 hrs, found intense opposition from the strongpoint on RED QUEEN Beach and were pinned down by concentrated machine gun and mortar fire at the water's edge, some being in 2 ft of water when No.4 Commando's first wave of LCAs went in at 0820 hrs.
Mortar bombs were falling in and around the LCAs and as the Commando landed there were 40 casualties, including the Commanding Officer, Lt.Col. R.W.P. Dawson, who was wounded in the leg. Rapidly forming up under concentrated fire, No.4 Commando fought their way from the beach to the forming up area, putting out of action several of the enemy strong positions and enabling Units of 8 Bde to pass through.
'C' Tp, under command of Capt. D.C.W. Style MC, (later seriously wounded), pushed past the East Yorks, who were lying at the water's edge, and successfully engaged about a dozen of the enemy in slit trenches and a few more in pillboxes, afterwards moving up in orderly fashion to the Assembly Area.
Lt.Col. R.W.P. Dawson pushed forward to contact 2nd. Bn East Yorks Regt and was wounded in the head. He was, however, sufficiently able to order the Commando to move off from the Assembly Area, relinquishing command of the Commando when the Second in Command passed him, saying that he intended, if it was possible to follow on behind. The Second in Command ordered the medical orderlies to give him some morphine. Col. Dawson was again seen on the road after the Battery had been taken, he was then sent by the Medical Officer to the BDS. On the evening of D plus 1 (7 Jun 44) Col. Dawson arrived in a Jeep at Commando defence positions at HAUGER, and stayed there until D plus 3 when he was ordered to be evacuated by the ADMS.
'C' Tp waited for the remainder of the Commando to position itself, and then moved on behind 1 and 8 (Fighting French) Tps along the OUISTREHAM road to the Check Pt, being harassed by snipers and machine gunners in houses. Tanks greatly helped in clearing this opposition. From the Check Pt, 'C' Tp again took the lead and established a route to the Battery - the Commandos main task. Invaluable assistance was given to the leading Tp by a French Gendarme member of the Underground Movement, who helped the Commando to by pass other enemy strongpoints and reach their objective without unnecessary delay. Great help was also afforded the Unit by 4 Centaurs which gave cover from snipers. On arrival at major tank obstacles covering the inland side of the Battery strongpoint, and still under enemy fire, a search was made and two suitable bridges made. Here, a machine gun post and mortar position were silenced by PIAT fire.
Together with 'A' Tp, under command of Capt A.M. Thorburn, 'C' Tp then gave covering fire to enable 'D' Tp, (commanded by Major P.A. Porteous VC) to pass through 'E' Tp, (commanded by Capt. H. Burt) and 'F' Tp (commanded by Capt. L.N. Coulson), were then covered across. Continued sniping and mortar fire inflicted further casualties.
The heavy ruck-sacks carried by the Commando had been dumped under HQ and the Mortar Section.
Under orders by Unit wireless, mortar fire was brought to bear on the Flak Tower at the EAST of the Gun Battery and covering the whole area. The French Detachment, commanded by Capt. P. Kieffer, who was later evacuated severely wounded, over-ran the Cassino area on the WEST of the strongpoint.
Then the assault went in on the Battery, all Tps moving according to plan. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy who put up a very stiff resistance from their strong fortifications and cunningly camouflaged block houses commanding excellent field's of fire. The concrete emplacements had withstood severe Naval bombardment exceedingly well, and although out numbered, the Germans were in excellent defensive positions and had advantages of emplacements which had successfully withstood a terrific pounding from the sea and air. Several prisoners were taken when the Germans surrendered after their position had become untenable. Casualties on both sides had been high and after the engagement medical orderlies from opposing sides worked side by side succoring the wounded.
One of the outstanding features of the defence of the Battery by the enemy was the careful sighting of their positions, and from the Commando's view point, the difficulty of finding points of enemy fire power during the mopping up stages, so well had the emplacements been prepared. But at least one point of Hitler's Western Wall had proved vulnerable under determined enough attack.
No.4 Commando then withdrew to the area where the ruck-sacks had been left and prepared for a strenuous and back breaking 9 miles march under constant sniping and mortar fire at HAUGER across the CAEN Canal and the River Orne. A stick of bombs dropped by a German plane caused no casualties, but mortar fire and sniping occurred at the bridges after the majority of the Unit had safely crossed them. It was here that Lieut. P.M. Mercer Wilson - the only casualty of the crossing of the bridges - was killed during a minor action against the enemy.
Continuing unmolested the Unit reached the CROSS ROADS (121755) on the RANVILLE - SALLENELLES RD, where Brigadier The Lord Lovat DSO, MC, Commanding No.1 Special Service Brigade was contacted. The Brigadier ordered the Unit to move forward and take up defensive positions in and around the village of HAUGER on the extreme left of the Allied landings and in direct contact with the enemy. Headquarters was established at a small farm in the village at 2130 hrs and troops were allotted their defensive areas and carried out digging slit trenches and weapon pits, a task which took until the early hours of D + 1 (7 Jun 44), the area having been reconnoitred by Major P.A. Porteous VC. It was to be four days and nights before the Unit had opportunity to rest.
7th June 1944
Proved to be fairly quiet, but the Unit continued digging in and the camouflage of weapon pits. The digging in operations, tiresome and wearying as they were in the hard ground of many Tp areas, were however to prove of inestimable value. Lt.Col. R.W.P. Dawson had remained behind at the assembly area to have his wounds attended to and he rejoined the Commando remaining in command until 9th June 44 when Major R.P. Menday assumed command of the unit.
Two sections of 'D' Tp, under Lieut. J.S. Hunter Gray, moved off to patrol in the SALLENELLES direction and made contact with a cycle patrol of No.6 Commando. The patrol met with intermittent sniping during the afternoon, further patrols went out at night, but no contact was made with the enemy, who, it later appeared, must have been regrouping to launch counter attacks.
At 2130 hrs 'A' Tp reported enemy moving in the fields about 300 yds from their position and trying to infiltrate through the open fields into the Woods in their rear. The enemy were engaged until darkness and after dark, a very thick hedge where the enemy were thought to be digging in for a mortar or infantry gun position, was sprayed with K gun fire. MG and mortar fire were directed at 'A' Tp from behind a strip of woodland in front of their positions for an hour.
8th June 1944
At 0630 hrs all was quiet except for apparently small scale infiltration around the perimeter defences. This was replied to by small arms fire from our troops. 'A' Tp, whose position was isolated and likely to be over-run should a large attack develop, were ordered to withdraw inside the Commando perimeter, and while the Commando runner was going forward with this order, heavy mortar fire was concentrated on the Tp positions and an enemy patrol of platoon strength began an attack on the position, which became untenable. The Tp withdrew in good order and the attack was beaten off.
The position from then onwards resolved itself into continuous enemy attempts at penetration and infiltration of all Commando defence areas. At 1100 hrs 'B' Tps forward MMG positions were attacked with elements of one or two coys. One enemy section was incautious enough to move across in view of the MMGs and sustained heavy casualties. The attack was finally smashed by a counter attack by No.3 Commando who were on the Commando's right.
This attack and counter attack had occupied until the early evening and 'B' Tps mortar section later ranged on likely forming up places in woodlands in enemy territory. The enemy had continued probing during the day and 'E' and 'F' Tps and a section of 'A' Tp were again attacked in the early evening. Several prisoners were rounded up after the engagements - most of them young troops, including a few Poles and White Russians.
It was evident that an attack on some scale was developing, and the Commando stood ready to meet any eventuality during the night. Intermittent small arms and mortar fire from enemy positions continued throughout the night without any major development.
9th June 1944
At 0300 hrs a fighting patrol of 20 men was sent out through the Woods to the EAST of SALLENELLES. This patrol encountered no enemy and returned at 0530 hrs. At 0400 hrs No.1 Section of 'D' Tp engaged a patrol as it came through the road block on the HAUGER - SALLENELLES RD and inflicted several casualties. Fire was immediately returned by several MGs from the area of the large grey house in the enemy strongpoint on the opposite side of the road. Shortly afterwards, the enemy opened up with a 2" mortar and the first shot wounded five men who were standing behind the house. Ten rounds were returned with the PIAT which resulted in screams being heard from the enemy position. Our casualties consisted of one Sgt and five other ranks, all being severely wounded. They were immediately evacuated to the RAP. At approximately 0800 hrs, twenty enemy were seen getting into the house on the other side of the road, these were engaged and several casualties were inflicted.
At 0900 hrs, No.1 Section of 'D' Tp was ordered to withdraw to Commando HQ as the house it was occupying was about to be shelled. The section was withdrawn taking up their old positions along the SALLENELLES - HAUGER RD on the EAST side, in order that No.45 (RM) Cdo could take over.
1700 hrs due to an FOO task, which was supposed to be carried out at 1900 hrs, No.45 (RM) Cdo moved out at 1845 hrs. This task was delayed for some time and No.45 (RM) Cdo were also late in moving back to their positions. In the meantime the enemy had taken over the house and also made a surprise attack on the Cycle Tp of No.6 Cdo, inflicting a number of casualties on them, including the Tp Ldr and one other Officer. On hearing the sound of small arms fire, Major P.A. Porteous VC went forward to investigate, to find No.45 (RM) Cdo making no attempt to regain the lost ground and that the Cycle Tp of No.6 Cdo was pinned down further down the valley. Lieut. W.T.B. James of No.4 Cdo tried to organise a counter attack but was handicapped by having insufficient men. Major P.A. Porteous VC sent back an urgent message for more men and K guns and when they arrived he led them down the valley almost on the road. He then sent Lieut. J.S. Hunter Gray with about a dozen men to the high ground on the left to cover their flank. Having got the wounded of the Cycle Tp of No.6 Cdo back, Major Porteous then ordered his men to withdraw as the enemy was working around to their right flank. When the enemy followed up they were subjected to intense cross fire from both parties. The unit maintained a state of preparedness for impending attack during the night and the dawn of 10 Jun 44 found all members of the unit weary and badly needing rest and sleep.
10th June 1944
After an uneasy lull, during which the Cdo continued to stand to, the enemy decided to attack reinforced up to Bn strength of fresh and rested troops. A tremendous barrage of shelling and mortar fire was put down by the enemy during which Commando HQ, Commando RAP, amn and general stores were ranged within a matter of moments, this caused heavy casualties. HQ received a direct hit and moved up to the Chateau HAUGER, which had also been hit during the barrage. 'B' Tp mortar section fired 60 rds in reply in front of 'E' and 'F' Tp positions. All Tp areas received their share of mortar and shell fire and a large scale attack developed about 1100 hrs. During the heavy fire the medical section worked magnificently and untiringly bringing in wounded and rushing them to RAP after treatment. Several direct hits were registered on the Chateau while the wounded were being tended and innumerable near misses caused casualties, some of them fatal, to HQ personnel in defensive positions around the Chateau.
Meanwhile out with the Tps the morning had been full of incident. 'E' Tp who were heavily mortared and shelled for some 3½ hrs, sustained 10 casualties and Capt. H. Burt, who was wounded in three places, was evacuated to base, leaving the senior Sgt. in charge of the Tp. The Tp had by now become so depleted that they were relieved by a Tp of No.3 Cdo and taken back to HAUGER to new positions and placed under command of Lt. W.T.B. James. MTO. 'D' Tp had reoccupied their posns at a Farmhouse (131763) on the HAUGER - SALLENELLES RD and alongside a hedge leading to the Woods in front of the Chateau. They came under mortar fire and Major P.A. Porteous VC decided to withdraw to a position affording a better field of fire and linking up with No.45 (RM) Cdo. The enemy attacked up the valley but was held and swung right towards 'C' Tps position and 'D' Tp further moved to afford support to 'C' Tp if needed. They were heavily mortared as they reached the top of the hill and sustained a number of casualties. 'C' Tp had already dealt with the enemy and 'D' Tp dug in.
Meanwhile 'F' Tp 2" mortar and MG fire routed the enemy troops opposing them on the start line, and despite 8 hours mortar and shell fire the Tp had only one casualty - a mortarman in action being hit by shrapnel.
Further shelling broke out during the afternoon and was followed by a heavy attack on 'C' Tp, who were defending the road leading to the Commando's new HQ. This attack was held and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. 'C' Tp sustained a number of casualties, including 3 killed and the Tp Ldr, Capt. D.C.W. Style MC being wounded in the forehead, chest and foot.
After all enemy attacks had been neutralised, reinforcements from rested Airborne Troops took over No.4 Cdo's positions and the Commando, less 'D' and 'E' Tps went down the line to rest. 'D' and 'E' Tps were able to hand over their positions in the early morning.
11th June 1944
The Commando, although having arrived at the rest area on the EAST side of the famous HEROUVILLE Bridges crossing the River Orne and the Caen Canal, were subjected to heavy shelling throughout the day.
12th June 1944
After nearly 36 hrs rest the Cdo moved back to the Chateau at HAUGER and again resumed a defensive role, being heavily shelled in the evening, the Chateau receiving a direct hit above a shelter in which civilians from the village were taking cover. Despite the severity of this shelling which followed shortly after the British barrage on BREVILLE, there were no casualties.
13th to 14th June 1944
Devoted mainly to patrols and deepening and strengthening of trenches and gun posns, the Germans had yet another attempt to smash the Cdo position at the Chateau when a flight of five dive bombers made a concentrated low level attack. Despite several near misses which shook the HQ building, and the dropping of anti personnel bombs in the unit's defence lines only three casualties were caused - non serious.
Throughout the whole of the night our area was subjected to straffing and our forward positions were under intermittent MG and mortar fire. Illuminating flares were used by the enemy at regular intervals throughout the night, which passed without any major clashes on our part of the front. At approximately 0400 hrs a man was detected creeping towards our forward posns and failing to give the pass word when challenged, was shot and killed. He was found to be a civilian with a No 38 set and is believed to have been one of the special personnel that had been working for us behind the enemy lines.
Our patrols were out during the day in the area LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON, but returned without having made contact with the enemy. The hours of daylight passed reasonably quiet until 1635 hrs when the enemy opened up with MGs from the Wood SOUTH EAST of 'F' Tps positions.
14th to 15th June 1944
The enemy showed signs of uneasiness throughout the night again with the continued firing of illuminating flares, but the night passed without incident. Our recce patrols were out during the day, and apart from a slight exchange of shell and mortar fire, our front was again quiet until the evening. At about 2100 hrs, when our neighbours, No.47 (RM) Cdo, on our left flank, came under fire from the enemy. This action was bitterly contested, and resulted in heavy casualties being inflicted upon the enemy and several PWs being taken. Immediately after this battle had eased down, a strong fighting patrol combined with a party from No.3 Cdo moved off under Major P.A. Porteous VC, (No.4 Cdo) to our favourite piece of battle ground, LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON, with a view to probing the enemy lines in the nature of a nuisance raid.
15th to 16th June 1944
This was carried out without casualties to our force which was unable to secure a prisoner due to the heavy concentrated enemy MG fire. This was followed by heavy shelling and mortaring of positions which continued for two very unhealthy hours, but no further contact was made with the enemy. At 0600 hrs our FOs B shelled the areas of GONNEVILLE and BAS BREVILLE very heavily, in order to harass any enemy force forming up there for attack, but information received later showed that the main threat was from the direction of ESCOVILLE though spasmodic mortaring and shelling of our positions continued and small arms fire was reported from the direction of BREVILLE.
The following message from General Montgomery was passed round to all ranks:- "Congratulations to Officers and men of 6 Airborne Division and Nos 1 and 4 Special Service Brigades on their splendid conduct in the recent battle".
Throughout the day the enemy continued with slight shelling and mortaring of our positions. At midnight warning was received that attacks on our front might be expected about 0400 hrs. Punctually at 0430 hrs a barrage started and continued for some 60 minutes with increasing intensity. Between 0500 hrs and 0515 hrs attacks were reported as forming up on our front, but they were broken up by our defensive fire. For the rest of the day, activity was only slight.
16th to 17th and 17th to 18th June 1944
Nothing to report, apart from usual spasmodic shelling and mortaring.
18th to 19th June 1944
The principle item of interest during the last 24 hours has been the attacks on the enemy strongpoint in the area of SALLENELLES and LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON. Patrol reports confirm that the enemy appear to be digging-in well forward, presumably in an effort to hold ground until a more favourable time for offensive operations. The enemy policy seems to be to hold the perimeter as strongly as possible against patrolling and infiltration, while he brings up all available mortars and artillery to harass our positions. The shelling and mortaring of the last two days has been fairly wide-spread. A small recce party consisting of one NCO and 2 other ranks under Lieut. Littlejohn started out with the intention of penetrating the enemy lines at GONNEVILLE and getting through to VARAVILLE to obtain information of enemy strength and dispositions in that area.
19th to 20th June 1944
Slight enemy mortaring and shelling continued throughout the day - with our recce patrols out in the area of LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON. Midnight saw one of our fighting patrols assembling under Captain AW Thorburn, with the intention of probing the enemy lines and to capture a prisoner. Assisted with FOB tasks and mortar support. Nothing more than slight enemy activity on our front was experienced during the day, but our FOB and FOO tasks pounded the enemy lines throughout the day with the RAF straffing enemy concentration areas and strongpoints.
21st June 1944
A surprise visit to the Commando was paid by Lt. Col. CE Vaughan, MBE, the Commandant of the Commando Basic Training Centre, who was at one time second-in-command of No.4 Commando.
Lieut. Littlejohn after several attempts decided that it was impossible to get through at night, and laid up immediately in front of the enemy FDLs until the evening of 20 Jun when he made a further attempt to get through. On reaching the GONNEVILLE ROAD he came face to face with a small patrol. Depositing a 36 grenade amongst them and making for cover, he was shot and wounded. In spite of this he managed to get back to our lines to relate his story before being evacuated.
Delay of mail. The weather having made a change for the worse gave cause for the mail to be held up, due to the rough sea hampering unloading, but after 48 hours deliveries were back to normal in the forward lines once more.
22nd to 24th June 1944
Enemy activity on our front has been confined to shelling and mortaring for the past two days. Our patrols continue to worry and harass the enemy - our sniping especially. Our snipers having been accounting for a few fine specimens of late, particularly when the forward positions are being relieved.
24th to 25th June 1944
Apart from shelling and mortaring this part of the front has once again been quiet. Our recce patrols during the day reported enemy digging in on the WEST side of GONNEVILLE.
A strong fighting patrol went out under Capt DJ Gilchrist to capture and bring back enemy prisoners for the purpose of identification, but unfortunately, because of activity on the right and left flanks, the enemy was on the alert and enemy DF tasks were put down before the raiding party reached firm base. Heavy MG and mortar fire ensued, surprise being completely lost, it was decided to withdraw the force which by this time was being subjected to very severe mortar fire. The force returned to our lines with only one casualty.
26th to 27th June 1944
Apart from the exchange of fire by the night fighting patrols and the periodical spasms of shelling and mortar fire, things were generally quiet throughout the night. During the day our batteries were busy, which brought to bear enemy counter shelling on our positions. Reinforcements arrived from the Holding Operational Commando consisting of 6 Officers and 49 other ranks.
27th to 28th June 1944
Throughout the night FDLs were very quiet, but a thunderous roar rent the air until first light with exchange of artillery pieces, including our FOB tasks, exaggerated by a terrific barrage being put down in the heavy CAEN battles.
The Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. R.P. Menday, was summoned to Bde HQ at AMFREVILLE to receive warning order of our possible move to BREVILLE. With this, the CO proceeded to the area and recced our new positions.
28th to 30th June 1944
Nothing to report apart from the usual spasmodic shelling and mortaring.
1st to 2nd July 1944
The first of the month came in with the enemy art and mortars more active than has been experienced in the past week, especially during the night when at 0035 hrs an exceptionally heavy concentration was put down, combing the whole of our sectors. This unit's previous HQ buildings, at present occupied by 'D' Tp were badly hit again. 'B' Troop mortars were just about to move off to Bde RV to work in conjunction with 6 Air Landing bde attack but luckily the Jeeps and personnel suffered no casualties and continued to carry out their move. By 0200 hours, the enemy arty fire had eased down considerably, when at 0500 hours again the enemy put down a further concentration in our area, lasting 40 minutes, and in spite of its severity, the unit only suffered 2 casualties, due to a direct hit on a slit trench.
3rd to 4th July 1944
Apart from spasmodic shelling, this being a quiet and uneventful period our snipers keeping the enemy on their toes, having at least eight victims added to their credit.
5th July 1944
One of our patrols under Lieut. Willars, working in the area of LONGUEMARE CROSS ROADS, contacted a small enemy patrol, all of whom appeared to be wearing British denim suits, and one wearing a British steel helmet. Our patrol moved towards them thinking they were British, when one of the Boche shouted in German "They are English". The enemy immediately opened fire on our patrol which returned the fire inflicting casualties on the enemy. The patrol then disengaged without suffering any casualties themselves.
5th to 6th July 1944
Apart from the enemy's general routine mortaring and shelling, the night was uneventful. A patrol under Lieut. Elms proceeded to recce the BOIS DU BOISSON - GONNEVILLE ROAD for the purpose of observing enemy movements and locating any possible new dispositions for the intended fighting patrol that was to put in an attack in that area at night. Lieut. Elms had the misfortune to be hit and severely wounded when approaching the FDLs and later died.
6th to 7th July 1944
A strong raiding party went out under Major PA Porteous, VC with the intention of destroying enemy in FDLs on EAST side of road in the GONNEVILLE area, leaving our lines at 2345 hours. On reaching the enemy FDLs, the attacking force encountered severe MG fire at about point blank range. Fortunately enemy weapons were on fixed lines of fire and swept over the heads of the raiding party. Grenades were used but this even failed to dislodge the enemy. By this time fire became so concentrated necessitating withdrawal. During the withdrawal of the patrol enemy mortars intervened inflicting a few casualties.
7th July 1944
The day started quietly, when at approximately 1100 hours, the lull was broken by the roar of four Messerschmidts 109 as they came in at tree top height straffing our lines. The Commanding Officer accompanied by the AO and the IO were just moving off by Jeep to make a final recce of the BREVILLE positions when one of the Messerschmidts made a deliberate attack on the party with all guns blazing, but luckily the occupants of the car escaped, feeling little or none the worse for the experience. The Commando left HAUGER at 1330 hours after handing over to No.41 (RM) Commando and moved off on foot to BREVILLE where they took over from the 2 OBLI (6 Airborne Div). With little interference from the enemy, the Commando settled in wasting no time in acquainting itself with the new territory.
8th to 13th July 1944
Enemy activity for the past week on this sector has been confined to mortaring and shelling with occasional straffing of our posns by the German Air Force. As a result of information from our patrols, there are indications that a more aggressive enemy is now on this part of the front, hence the ever-growing intensity this last few days of his shelling and mortaring. New enemy positions have been confirmed and that the enemy have dug-in fairly thoroughly along the present line and to be now busily engaged wiring generally.
Our snipers having found a more precautious enemy in this area and the scope enjoyed daily in LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON had therefore been curtailed.
Other items of interest over this period:- Visit to this area by the Bde. Comdr. Brigadier D. Mills Roberts, DSO, MC, who displayed great interest in the Troop dispositions, complimenting the unit on its skillfully concealed weapon pits and dugouts. An unexpected visit was paid by Admiral Thierry d'Argenlieu, Commander in Chief of French Naval Forces in Great Britain. Captain Lofi and a small party of six men of our French Troops were granted permission to attend the celebrations of the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille held at BAYEAUX. This being the first time that a French unit fighting on their own soil had been able to meet their compatriots in a peaceful period.
15th July 1944
Throughout the day and night the enemy were exceptionally quiet particularly with his artillery and mortars.
16th July 1944
After a quiet and uneventful night, the day was started with a bright spot - the return from England of the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. RWP Dawson who having completely recovered from his wounds, resumed command of this unit. During the afternoon Col Dawson attended an investiture at AMFREVILLE and was presented with the D.S.O. by General Montgomery, C in C 21 Army Group. Other officers decorated were:-
Capt WTB James - MC
Capt H. Burt - MC
Capt P. Kieffer - MC
Captain Burt was not present, being still in hospital in England. The following other ranks, both of whom have since been killed in action, were awarded the Military Medal:-
1108398 Gnr. Smith, F. (RA Field)
405825 L/Sjt. Fraser, G. (The Lovat Scots)
Enemy activity for the past two days has been of little consequence excepting a more extensive use of flares at night.
17th July 1944
A heavy ground mist hung over this part of the front throughout the night causing poor visibility down to a few yards, which called for extra alertness on the part of the forward troops and hampering our patrols. The night passed without incident. Apart from slight activity on behalf of enemy mortars and artillery the day also passed quietly.
18th July 1944
After an unusually quiet night in this area our patrols returned with nothing to report. The day opened at 0540 hours in fantastic style when the first of the heavy bombers of the RAF roared overhead, the first of a force of some 3,300 heavy bombers and 600 mediums to unload some 8,000 tons of HE and incendiaries in the area of COLOMBELLES the FANBOURG DE VANCELLES, the big suburb of CAEN SOUTH of the RIVER ORNE and TROARN. This was supported by a terrific barrage put down by 660 guns of our heavy, medium and field regts. From Commando HQ a grandstand view was obtained of the battle from which one could observe the waves of armour going forward which together with other activity was an inspiring sight.
During the day no enemy counter arty or mortar fire was experienced, and not a single enemy aircraft appeared on this particular part of the front. This being due presumably to the straffing and bombing by our rocket carrying typhoons.
At approximately 2315 hours the GAF disturbed the peace and quiet of this part of the front. Illuminating the area with flares and scattering incendiaries and A/P bombs on our positions and HEs in the vicinity doing little damage and causing few casualties. The attack faded out after 35 minutes.
19th July 1944
Our own front was quieter than usual last night. Apart from a patrol which was heard combing the orchard immediately SOUTH of the LONGUEMARE CROSS ROADS the enemy refused to be drawn into contact despite our provocation. There being no further change during the day apart from the enemies intermittent mortaring of our FDLs.
20th July 1944
A propaganda broadcast with the intention of inducing desertion from the enemy lines was carried out during the hours of darkness. This being preceded by a mortar shoot and followed up by laying 3" mortar smoke to assist those that wished to make good their getaway.
21st July 1944
The weather this past two days has been typical monsoon weather & torrential rains and no doubt this accounted for the enemy's lack of enthusiasm on this part of the front.
22nd July 1944
Our patrols returned after a further uneventful night - our own front being extremely quiet. Breakfast being disturbed by the visit of the customary three or four enemy fight-bombers hedge hopping - these were received with the usual warm welcome - one of them being shot down just SOUTH of our lines at HEROUVILLETTE.
23rd July 1944
Apart from a raid which was carried out by a strong patrol of No.47 (RM) Commando on our left flank in the region of LA GRANDE FERME DU BUISSON the enemy was again most inactive throughout the night.
At 0530 hours a deserter came in from the 6/857 Gren Regt which he stated to be in the area of ORCHARD SOUTH EAST of the LONGUEMARE CROSS ROADS. On being interrogated he volunteered some very useful information.
24th July 1944
The night passed quietly without any activity on this part of the front. A further deserter came through our lines from 6 Coy 11 Bn 857 Gren Regt. On being interrogated the POW confirmed the date on hand of the enemy dispositions and defences on our immediate front.
One of the recce patrols consisting of 1 NCO and 3 ORs made contact with the enemy at LES BAS DE BREVILLE when almost through the enemy FDLs - during the withdrawal of the patrol - an enemy mortar covered their route back causing 2 casualties with 1 NCO missing.
25th July 1944
Captain BWS Boucher Myers (East Lancs) joined this unit from the UK on being posted from the Holding Operational Commando.
Enemy SP guns put down a concentration in our area with shells falling in the vicinity of the unit HQ. FDLs of 'C' and 'D' Troops were also subjected to heavy shelling - our casualties were 7 wounded and 1 killed. The following hours of darkness passed without any further activity until our breakfast time visitors of the GAF came in hedgehopping receiving a warm welcome from our A/A batteries.
26th July 1944
In the small hours of the morning a short but sharp air attack developed, flares were dropped and A/P bombs and a few HE put down. One 250 lb was deposited within 20 yards of our command post without causing a single casualty. The bombs being jettisoned by an enemy bomber prior to crashing in their own lines. The main object of this attack appeared to be troops harbouring in the area. The rest of this day being again exceptionally quiet.
27th to 29th July 1944
Over this period enemy mortaring and shelling of our positions has been heavier and more concentrated than of late. Major R.P. Menday struck off strength of this unit on being evacuated to UK on medical grounds, relinquishing appointment of second-in-command of this unit. Captain BWS Boucher Myers (East Lancs) appointed second-in-command of this unit vice Major R.P. Menday.
30th July 1944
During the night a lone enemy fighter straffed our lines choosing the unit HQ as a target for his cannon shells, resulting in the pots and pans in the cookhouse being shot up. The rest of the day passed quietly again.
31st July 1944
An unusually quiet and uneventful night was passed. The unit marched out from BREVILLE to take over this new positions in the BOIS DE BAVENT area together with the remainder of No.1 SS Bde - taking over from 3 Para Bde.
Place: Bois de Bavent
The enemy showed disapproval of our arrival in this area by putting down a few mortar bombs on our FDLs causing 7 casualties.
1st August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
GOC. SS. Group Major General Sturgess CB. DSO., and Brigadier D. Mills-Roberts, DSO. MC., visited the Unit lines.
1st to 6th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
The Unit area was subjected to intermittent mortar and SP. Gun fire daily during this period and a few casualties were caused.
7th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
Reinforcements mainly consisting of members of the Commando who had been wounded in the first days of the invasion, joined the Commando. (Three officers - Lt. Wright, Lt. Kelly and 2/Lt. Cross) and twenty-five other ranks.
8th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
Uneventful apart from the normal enemy harassing fire.
9th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
It was decided to begin gradual infiltration forward deeper into the Bois de Bavent and accordingly patrol activity was increased to ascertain enemy habits and disposition. On night patrol 9/10 Aug. one man was wounded and another lost missing after enemy MG. fire opened up on the patrol.
10th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
Patrol activity was maintained and 'A' Tp. began to prepare a new defensive position at 147716 well ahead of the positions so far occupied by the Commando. This area was occupied at night by an ambush party.
11th to 16th August 1944
Place: Bois de Bavent
Nothing to report beyond the usual enemy harassing fire and uneventful patrol activity and digging in by 'A' Tp. in the forward positions. On 16 Aug. it was suspected that the enemy might be withdrawing from his positions in the Bois de Bavent and full preparations were therefore made for an advance in pursuit.
17th August 1944
0700 hrs. Operation 'PADDLE', the pursuit of the enemy through the Bois de Bavent was begun. No.4 Commando led the advance through the wood by No.1 SS. Bde., finding a route and clearing such booby traps as the enemy had left. There was no opposition, and the enemy positions were found to have been completely abandoned. The village of BAVENT was entered at 0945 hrs, and the Commando then occupied area 1572 and took up defensive positions. The remainder of the day passed uneventfully. A message was received from Brigadier Mills-Roberts, DSO. MC., congratulating the Commando on the way in which the route forward had been cleared and marked. Capt GGH. Webb, MC., appointed Adjt Vice Capt DJ. Gilchrist. posted to C TC. Lt D. Rewcastle. promoted Capt and became O.C. 'C' Tp.
18th August 1944
The Commando remained in the new area while patrols from 3 and 6 Cdos reconnoitred the line of River DIVES.
19th August 1944
1230 hrs the Commando moved forward to BRICQUEVILLE 1872 and concentrated there in preparation for an advance across River DIVES, forming up for the attack along line of rly at 2372.
20th August 1944
The attack went in on the area L'EPINE 2472 at 0415 hrs, the remainder of No.1. SS. Bde attacking the high ground to the north of this area. A number of enemy positions were found in the Commando area, manned by scratch parties of clerks, supply column personnel etc, from various units and after a brisk engagement the area was rapidly cleared. A total of 43 POW were taken by the Commando during these operations, including the officer in command of the area, who was severely wounded. A number of the enemy were killed. Among the booty captured was a 75mm Anti Tank gun, the crew of which had abandoned their position without firing a shot. The gun was added to the armament of the Heavy Weapons Troop together with two 81mm Mortars captured in one of the enemy strongpoints. During the afternoon the Commando area was fairly heavily mortared and shelled. Our casualties in this encounter were 1 killed and 5 wounded in the morning, and 14 wounded during the afternoon and evening by mortar fire.
21st August 1944
The Commando remained in the area 2472. Lieut. A.J. Burke and 14 other ranks rejoined the Commando all having been previously wounded in the early days.
22nd August 1944
No.1 Special Service Brigade moved by march and tpt to area 2978 and remained there concentrated overnight. We had now entered a part of Normandy which had not been a battlefield and for the first time were among undamaged houses in an inhabited area. The French people everywhere accorded us an enthusiastic welcome, complete with flowers and cries of VIVE L'ANGLETERRE
23rd August 1944
Place: La Haie Tondue
The Commando moved by tpt to the area SOUTH of LA HAIE TONDUE (4501) and prepared for an assault crossing by night of the R. TOUQUES above PONE L'EVEQUE. This operation was, however, cancelled at the last moment and the Commando remained in its concentration area overnight.
24th August 1944
The Commando moved by march route through PONT L'EVEQUE and during the night No.1 SS Bde advanced against the enemy FDLs in the area of ST. BENOIT D'HEBERTOT. The enemy withdrew before contact was made and No.4 Commando at the tail of the Bde column arrived in the area of LA HAUQUERIE about 0800 hours 25 Aug 44. after a long and tiring night march across country.
25th August 1944
The Commando rested during the day and prepared defensive positions in the new area. A strong patrol consisting of 'C' Troop and part of 'B' Troop under Capt ELKA Carr went forward during the night to area BOULEVILLE (6610) but made no contact with the enemy who had again withdrawn during the early hours of darkness. The Cdo marched to BOULEVILLE a.m. 26th.
26th to 31st August 1944
Cdo remained in this area resting and re-equipping.
1st to 5th September 1944
The Cdo was resting in area BOULEVILLE. The Cdo left BOULEVILLE area by transport and proceeded to Transit Camp near ARROMANCHES preparatory to embarking for UK.
7th September 1944
The Cdo embarked on HMS ULSTER MONARCH in ARROMANCHES harbour.
8th September 1944
The Cdo dis-embarked at SOUTHAMPTON and proceeded by rail to SS Gp Reception Camp at PETWORTH.
9th to 10th September 1944
Rekitting at PETWORTH Camp.
11th to 26th September 1944
The unit proceeded on privilege leave.