- 8 -

47 Royal Marine Commando landed behind 231 Brigade at about 1000 hours. In order to understand the nature of the distinguished action they fought, it is necessary to know something about Port-en-Bessin, its situation; and its importance to the Allied operations as a whole.

This wall fishing port formed the right-hand boundary of 50 Div, and its capture as early as possible was considered vital to the security of 30 Corps right flank and to an effective link-up with 1 U.S. Div, which was our right-hand neighbour.

The town is in a hollow between cliffs approximately 200 feet high. It is fronted by a promenade and backed by closely packed houses with narrow streets. Towards the south-east and southern part of the town the houses are less closely packed and are interspersed with gardens and small fields. Approaches to the town are very open and exposed, particularly the south-east approaches.

Like other ports on the Normandy coast, Port-en-Bessin was well defended by a system of strong-points on the cliffs overlooking the town and included emplaced guns sited to fire seawards, guns and machine- guns in open embrasures capable of firing both to sea and inland, trench systems surrounded by minefields and wire at the various strong-points and fortified house and pillboxes on the mole and in the town itself.

The garrison was thought to be approximately one company with some 50 naval personnel in the town and port defences,

In view of the distance from the nearest landing beach at Le Hamel and the already heavy commitments of 231 Brigade landing there, it was appreciated that a separate force would be required; a force which would be capable of force-marching a distance of approximately eight miles through enemy-held territory carrying all weapons, with the prospect of a stiff fight at the end of it. A practical knowledge of the technique of combined operations also was required. The plan was divided into four phases:-

Phase I: To land behind 231 Brigade in the area of Le Hamel.

Phase II: To proceed by forced march and seize point 72, a feature approximately one and a half miles south of Port-en-Bessin; at about 1300 hours, by-passing any enemy localities discovered en route.

Phase III: The capture of the high ground east of the basin at Port-en-Bessin. The timing of this assault would not be before 1400 hours, and would be governed by the time which would elapse between re- quest for air support and the arrival of the aircraft.

Phase IV: The capture of the town itself.

47 Royal Marine Commando was given call on one cruiser, and also on another for the bombardment of Port-en-Bessin.

Artillery support was to be given by one battery (431) 147 Field Regiment (Self-propelled) R.A. Air support was entirely smoke.

The Commando landed at tho correct time, but unfortunately three L.C.A.s were sunk in the run-in and 70 men were missing before assembly. Quite a number; however, tuned up in time. They equipped them- selves with weapons taken from prisoners. Owing to the enemy resistance at Le Hamel where the Hampshires were fighting there was some delay in collecting the Commando together, but eventually it was able to fight its way to the pre-arranged assembly area; which was firmly held by approximately one company of enemy infantry. The Commando

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

Found an error?

Found an error with this archive item? report it here!

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

Page: Page 18