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During the morning of 8 June enemy activity against RANVILLE consisted chiefly of mortaring and shelling. The troops had been quick to learn the lesson of deep digging in and the need for overhead cover, consequently casualties were not heavy, although movement on the roads between positions was unhealthy.

At about 1900 hours on the 9th, very heavy artillery concentrations were brought down by the enemy on HEROUVILLETTE and the SE part of RANVILLE. This was followed by a determined attack, supported by tanks, on HEROUVILLETTE from the direction of ESCOVILLE. 2 Oxf & Bucks and 13 Parachute Battalion held this attack with great determination and no enemy penetration was achieved. By 2100 hours the attack had failed and the enemy withdrew leaving behind 6 Mk IV tanks and 2 Light Armoured Cars in front of the Oxf & Bucks. The defensive fire of 150 Field Regiment had been very successfully directed from Observation Posts in HEROUVILLETTE. There is no doubt that the Oxf & Bucks had thwarted a strong attack by the enemy. Local civilians reported that 30 tanks had been waiting in ESCOVILLE and only withdrew when the leading echelon of tanks fell back.

In a wide front such as the Division was holding it was inevitable that there should be gaps. The plan recognised these gaps. One was between the left flank of 5 Parachute Brigade and the 3 Parachute Brigade and the other was between the 1 SS Brigade at AMFREVILLE and the 3 Parachute Brigade at St COME. In the case of the former this involved a refused left flank by 5 Parachute Brigade which flank was protected by a minefield sown by the 13 Battalion. In the case of the BREVILLE gap it was considered that by holding the high ground at St COME and Le PLEIN - AMFREVILLE no serious infiltration through BREVILLE would be possible, and the open ground to the NORTH of RANVILLE would afford excellent killing ground for the RANVILLE garrison.

On the early morning of 10 June, 13 Parachute Battalion patrols reported enemy forming up for an attack from the direction of BREVILLE. From German operation orders which were captured later it was discovered that these preparations were for part of an attack by 346 Division with the object of recapturing the bridges at RANVILLE and BENOUVILLE. The enemy plans involved an attack against 1 SS Brigade in their positions at Le PLEIN, at the some time as an advance was made from BREVILLE towards Le MARIQUET 1173.

At about 0900 hours German infantry began infiltrating across the DZ towards the 13 Parachute Battalion position. A striking feature of this manoeuvre was the almost complete absence of artillery support - very different to the previous evening at HEROUVILLETTE. This movement was carefully watched by 13 Battalion, but fire was held until the enemy were about 50 yards from the locality held by Capt R.M.T. KERR, with part of 'B‘ Company. Then fire was opened with withering effect, any enemy who did not become casualties sought cover in the woods to the East of Le MARIQUET.

At this stage one sqn 13/18 Hussars was placed under command 5 Parachute Brigade and orders were issued for a counter-attack by 7 Parachute Battalion with the Squadron 13/18 Hussars in support to destroy the enemy in Le MARIQUET woods and to join up with 3 Parachute Brigade at road junction 133726. Zero hour was fixed as 1600 hours. Lt Col Pine-Coffin‘s plan was for the tanks to support from the left flank, firing into each of the two groups of woods before the infantry entered them, the final objective was to be wood at 133727. The tanks were to remain in support on this objective until the anti-tank guns could get forward. 'A' and 'B' Companies were to pass through one another in each successive wood.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 5 Parachute Brigade: operations in Normandy 1944 June - Sept

Page: Page 14