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and even one tank would have been invaluable the next day. Properly handled as S.P. guns with a close infantry escort a few tanks would have smashed up every enemy attack with case and would have relieved the two battalions of considerable anxiety about the enemy's aggressive use of S.P. guns in that country, The battalion was at fault, perhaps, in not warning the tanks of the danger involved in moving up the drive, since enemy infantry and S.P. guns could always get to within 300 yards of it, even when both ends of the drive were firmly held by us. But the tanks were too intent on the shibboleths of "open warfare" and "use of armour in mass” and nobody had yet realised their value, in close country, when used singly or in pairs with infantry in front and all round them.

The evening went by quietly, the only incident being the evacuation of the intelligence officer, Lieutenant Worth. During the night enemy patrols were active, trying to locate the defences of both battalions and the noise of tracks coming up towards Breville from the East promised more excitement next day. Soon after midnight Captain Robinson and Serjeant Woodcock took a patrol through the woods and reached the road running East out of Breville. Here they hoped to ambush some of the vehicles hoard moving up earlier in the night. None came by and after blowing a large crater in the read, they returned to the battalion. This was a good patrol, involving, penetration of over 1000 yards into the enemy's area at a time when many German patrols were out and there was much activity behind the German positions.

"Stand to” at first light went by quietly and the morning of June 12th was a period of comparative peace. At noon enemy shelling and mortaring began and continued at a steady rate, until suddenly at about 5 p.m. it developed into the heaviest concentration yet experienced by the battalion. For 45 minutes it went on but the men sat quietly in the bottom of their slit trenches, most of which were by now well roofed, and remarkably few casualties were suffered. At one point the whole of B Company burst into a spontaneous chorus of "Six old maids in the lavatory", Serjeant Jenkins' voice being clearly audible in the general discord.

As the rain of bombs and shells eased a little, a strong attack by at least a battalion supported by six tanks and S.F. guns developed against both British battalions. Coming from the direction of Breville the main weight of the attack fell initially on the Black Watch and several platoons were overrun. All their anti-tank guns were knocked out, many of the crews being killed at their guns, while others, including the men at the two guns in the 9th Battalion area, were unable to face the enemy's fire and ran. Nine carrier were hit and three of them could be seen blazing in front of the Chateau. In the Chateau itself, by now the centre of a furious fire fight, the Black Watch held out most gallantly and beat off every German effort to capture it, but from their other positions round the building men began to give ground, some of them coming back through Bois de Mont.

At this moment the M.O. of the Black Watch was brought in wounded to the 9th Battalion aid post. He told Captain Watts that he did not think his battalion would hold on much longer and asked him to take over the aid posts of both battalions. At about the same time the Black Watch platoon in the drive ditch near A Company began to show signs of leaving their positions. All their officers had been hit and the drive and ditch were under heavy fire. Seeing the situation, Captain Smyth jumped out of his slit trench by the main road, walked up the drive and jumping down into the ditch, moved along the position reassuring the men, indicating targets and restoring control. The

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

Page: Page 29