June 6th - D Day

The first signs of any action where the distance flashes of Shore batteries replying to the heavy bombardment by a naval force including the battleships Ramillies and Warspite, monitor Roberts, three cruisers, and a host of destroyers and support craft.

RSA security became more and more evident. Lightenings which were acting as bottom cover due to the ease of their identification could be seen circling above the Flotilla, and the sky was full of our bombers returning from their objectives in Normandy. as we neared the beaches we could see the explosions of bombs inland, whilst puffs of A.A. fire indicated the presence of enemy aircraft waiting fruitlessly beyond the circumference of our ever circling Fighters.

One mile offshore shells began to form around the long column of craft. Blasing LCTs and LCAs be seen in all directions. Despite a slight swell, the run-in to the beach was fairly smooth and the landmines so often studied on air photographs and models were now easily identified. As our flotilla drew near to the beach it was fired at by anti-tank guns from a flank. Most of the craft were hit and many casualties were sustained.

Scraping over underwater obstacles and dodging wrecked craft we touched down with four or five feet of water forward. The time was now 0910 hours. Many of the craft had received such punishment that it became necessary to jump for it and wade ashore. This in itself was extremely difficult, for each man was carrying a load varying between 60 and 80 lbs.

The Beech proved to be mined in addition to this we came under fire from flanking pill-boxes, whilst enemy mortars and MGs were also very active.

With great dash, the beaches and exits were rapidly cleared and infantry of the initial assault battalion were passed about one hundred yards inshore on our way to the check point.

Once off the beaches there was considerable congestion owing to the deep, swampy nature of the ground over which the Brigade had to pass. The going, bad enough for ordinary troops, was even worse for those of us carrying mortars, cycles and bangalore torpedoes.

6 Commando, together with Brigade HQ moved inshore to the check point - a small wood about 1100 yards from the beach, where they quickly reorganised. They were followed by 3 Commando and ourselves. It was at this stage that the Adjutant, Captain B.G. White, RM was doing his best (with the little breath he could muster) to blow “Gone Away” on his hunting horn - the HQ rally signal. Eventually everyone arrived except those who had already become casualties.

A delay followed while 6 Commando silenced a strong point which was holding up the advance, and the enemy became intensely active with their mortars. However, thanks to the soft ground very little damage was done.

The advance now continued, still under intermittent mortar and shell fire. First Commando Brigade now came under command 6 Airborne Division and news was received to the effect that the bridges over the Caen canal and the River Orne had been captured intact by 5 Para Brigade who had landed seven hours previously. The Brigade Commander, Lord Lovat, decided that it would be better to pass the entire Brigade over the bridges rather than risk delay by using rubber dinghies.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 45 (R.M.) Commando - Extracts from Unit History covering campaign Normandy to the Baltic

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