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Chapter 5. The final battle at
the Chateau St. Come

During the night of June 10th to 11th the Black Watch moved into an assembly area just South West of the battalion and their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel C.N. Thomson, D.S.O, came up to 9th Battalion headquarters to plan the attack. The main effort would attack Breville from the South West after a preliminary bombardment of the village by the artillery of 51st Division and the mortars of both battalions. One company of Black Watch took over the Chateau from C Company in the early morning, and before dawn Captain Smyth took a patrol along the road towards Breville to reconnoitre the ground over which the attack was to go.

The attack started, but as the leading company began to cross the open fields 250 yards from the village, the Germans opened an intense fire from machine-guns and mortars, cutting down the Jocks in numbers. At the same time their mortars put down concentrations of bombs on the orchards further to the South West, where the reserve companies were following up. Here too heavy casualties were caused. Soon afterwards the attack stopped and men began to come back through the 9th Battalion positions. Eventually the Black Watch reorganised in the Bois de Mont area and took up a defensive position round the Chateau. The two commanding officers coordinated the defence of the whole area and arranged a close link up between their battalions half Way down the Chateau drive.

It was a tragic affair. In the fields and orchards below Breville lay the bodies of at least 50 men, many of those nearer the Village lying in the open order, in which the Hun automatics had caught them. To be wise after tragedy is easy, but here once more it was the old problem of fire support over that last 200 yards, when the barrage has lifted from the front edge of the enemy's position. Whether it could have been solved by using the more thickly covered approach to Breville East of the road with Brens and 2-inch mortars moving well up by short bounds is open to question. The Block Watch were reluctant to move in the Woods and many officers and men remarked on the difficulty of getting used to ranges of 50 yards after the 1500 yards of the desert.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomson had unselfishly lent two 6-pounder antitank guns and their crews to the 9th Battalion and these were sited in the North East corner of the position covering the road to Breville and the small open space East of the main road and North of the drive. The defence was further strengthened in the afternoon by the arrival of three troops of Sherman tanks of the 13th/18th Hussars.

One troop of these tanks moved straight through Bois de Mont, across the road and up the drive on their way to join the Black Watch in the Chateau. When they were one hundred yards from the drive gates, an enemy S.P. gun 300 yards away in the woods North of the Chateau opened fire and blew the turret off the loading Sherman. As the turrets of the other two tanks swung round, two more shells from the enemy gun hit both tanks one after the other and in less than a minute all three tanks were flaming. Their burnt out hulks stayed there for weeks, adding to the air of death and destruction which hung over the whole place.

Soon afterwards the other two troops were withdrawn as the thick woods were thought to be unsuitable for tanks. This was a sad loss

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 9th Bn The Parachute Regiment North West Europe 1944 - 45

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