|Title||45 (R.M.) Commando - Extracts from Unit History covering campaign Normandy to the Baltic|
Own MMGs opening up on the enemy strong point was heard amongst the noise of exploding shells and mortars. MG fire undoubtedly kept the enemy’s heads down and enabled up to get through with comparatively few casualties. The greatest misfortune was the loss of our 3” mortar barrels and the men carrying them; also a jeep carrying ammunition which received a direct hit and exploded. This loss of support weapons proved later to be a very serious handicap. Although signals were sent to the Brigade asking for replacements the unit could not wait for them and it was later impossible to get through.
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At about 1600 hours the Commando came under MG and mortar fire from Merville Battery. One troop engaged the Battery while the rest of the Commando by-passed it and went on to Merville village, where little or no resistance was met. Final orders for the attack on Franceville were given here, and while the Commando was busily forming up our objective was given a heavy bombardment by two cruisers and two destroyers. These were in call to the FOB. At 1705 the attack started. The distance between Merville and the forward positions of Franceville was some 500 yards, across a stretch of open country, and ‘C’ and ‘E’ Troops advance simultaneously, with ‘A’ Troop providing covering fire. The edge of the town was reached and cleared without any fore being drawn from the enemy. ‘C’ Troop, swinging left, cleared the wood to the east of the town and took up a position on the left flank with the object of providing protection to the main assault party, and containing the enemy strong point at the mouth of the river. The wood was full of slit trenches, dug-outs and defensive works, which were cleared by the use of grenades. ‘B’ Troop quickly followed and started to clear the town with ‘E’ Troop on the left of the main street, which we had called Piccadilly at briefing. HQ and ‘D’ Troop moved to the near edge of the wood, to be followed shortly afterwards by ‘A’ Troop. During these moves Capt. Goodall RA (FOB attached to the unit) was engaging the enemy positions immediately to the east of the town. He himself was in a German OP up a tree, behind Sallenelles, for it was the only place from which he could get a good view. During this period we could occasionally hear sounds of a battle, which indicated that the two Troops of 3 Commando who had followed us up to the Merville Battery were in action. We had no communication with them, owing to casualties to sets and personnel, and at this stage the Brigade Signal Set also became a casualty, so that we were now virtually out of touch with Brigade. Capt. Hodgkin, FOB attached to 3 Commando turned up from nowhere, having become detached from 3 Commando Troops and was ordered to stay with 45 RM Commando in view of the somewhat involved situation. Meanwhile the infantry attack was proceeding. ‘E’ Troop and ‘B’ Troops forced their way towards the main strong-point on either side of Piccadilly whilst ‘A’ Troop was ordered to follow the general line of ‘B’ Troop and provide assistance as required. Capt I.N.N. Beadle RM, Mne Lee and two other men went forward to fire their PIAT at the pill-box. They were mortared and fired on by MGs. The L/Cpl was killed and the second man became a casualty, (since reported PW) Before long a battle commenced, with enemy fire coming in from the direction of the beaches. The CO, who had been following up the advance, now decided to go forward and find out what was happening. Before he had moved 50 yards beyond ‘A’ Troop an enemy anti-tank gun, firing down the length of Piccadilly scored a direct hot on the HQ personnel who were with him at the time, killing RSM Crimaby and Cpl Watson (Pay Cpl). ‘D’ Troop followed the line of ‘E’ Troop, HQ and the RAP were meanwhile established in the wood, with the heavy weapons troop, less MMGs, which had reverted to Brigade, providing local protection. After advancing still further down Piccadilly ‘A’ Troop came under intense MG fire from a strongpoint dominating the area. They immediately fanned out into the houses flanking the street and leap-frogged from one house to the other until they came up to the German dug-outs on the edge of the beaches. They engaged them with fire from this point while an attack was put in by another troop. This attack was beaten off by the enemy, who was
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)