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231 Brigade's plan was to land on a 900 yard beach immediately east of Le Hamel, and to establish itself on high ground to the south and dominating Arromanches, the biggest town in the divisional sector and site of the Mulberry port which was to play such an important part in sustaining the British Armies in Normandy. The brigade was then to capture Ryes, Arromanches and Longues (where the enemy had an important heavy battery),and 47 Royal Marine Commando, which was under command for the operation, was to capture Port-en-Bessin.

Two outstanding features of the brigade's operation were the Commando's march on Port-en-Bessin and the Hampshire's stern battle for Le Hamel.

The 1 Hamps were on the right of the brigade front. after taking Le Hamel, they were to work along the coast, seizing in turn Asnelles- sur-Mer, Arromanches and defences at Tracy-sur-Mer and Manvieux.

Infantry and tanks stormed ashore at H hour, but, instead of being able to penetrate swiftly into the heart of the enemy's position, were held up at the head of the beach under withering fire from machine- guns in pillboxes and 88 mm guns sited farther inland. This heavy opposition was due in part to the fact that, owing to the uncertain light, R.A.F. bombers which were to have attacked Le Hamel missed their mark, and the strong, points in the area therefore missed much of the "softening up" dealt out to the enemy along the rest of the Norman coast.

The Hampshire, gathering on the beach under a hurricane of fire, did not of course know this; but they realised that theirs was to be no ordinary battle. Minefields fronting the defences were too deep and too well covered by enemy fire to be gapped, and a my was therefore sought round a flank. At 0900 hours two companies made a gap to the east of La Hamel and attacked Asnelles from the rear. The position was captured by 1200 hours, after great work had been done by AVREs. While the fighting was in progress civilians continued to walk about the street as if they were watching an exercise.

Hot until 1700 hours was Le Hamel firmly in the hands of the Hampshires, and Arromanches was captured at 1830 hours. This very fine operation, in the face of most determined resistance, cost the battalion dear. The commanding officer was wounded and his second-in-command killed, and all companies had heavy losses.

The 1 Dorsets landed on the left of the Hampshires. Their principle task was to seize the high ground dominating Arromanches and later to take over the defence of Ryes. By the end of the day they had captured all their objectives almost exactly according to plan and were established in the area of Ryes. This was not achieved, however, without heavy fighting and casualties. The battalion fought its way ashore quickly, but found that opposition on the high ground was stronger than had been expected. Two strong-points north and west of the feature were also overwhelmed. The final assault of the day was made on the westerly one by C and A Companies, supported by the tanks of C squadron of the Sherwood Rangers and artillery support from 90 Field Regiment. This was too much for the enemy. He pulled out, abandoning his heavy guns and much of his equipment.

Meanwhile, 2 Devons, who had landed behind 1 Dorset, had gone through to capture Ryes, over two miles inland, by 2100 hours. 2 Devons then swung right towards Longues, on the other side of Arromanches, and its battery of four 155 mm guns.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 50 (NORTHUMBRIAN) DIVISION, An extract from the divisional history

Page: Page 16