|NORMANDY 1st Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment (an extract from "Three Assault Landings")
In his personal message, sent out just before D-day to all ranks of the 21st Army Group, the Commander-in-Chief began with the words: "The time has come to deal the enemy a terrific blow in Western Europe,” The hour was at hand, and we, as representatives of one of the most distinguished regiments in the British Army, were privileged to be among the first to strike that "terrific blow." Let us examine for a moment what the invasion of the hostile coast of North-West Europe meant in terms of enemy opposition.
Up to the beginning of 1944 the Germans were so obsessed by the idea of an attack on the Pas de Calais that they had greatly neglected the defences of Calvados and the Normandy coast generally. Early in February, however, that coast became the scene of feverish activity, with Rommel himself taking a personal interest. It is said that the German commander's impatience could not be satisfied everywhere, and on one of his last visits fences were hastily erected and danger signs posted in areas where some of the minefields should have been. Rommel expressed himself well pleased! The German defences consisted of mutually supporting strong points, many containing concrete emplacements and either including or protecting batteries and single infantry and anti-tank guns, Many of these strong points were protected by minefields, and there were anti-tank ditches here and there.
The beach obstacles consisted of several rows of "hodge-hogs," thickened up with "Element C" and with poles to which were attached shells and mines which were detonated at the slightest pressure. The beaches themselves were known from intelligence sources and air photographs, to be difficult going for transport, and in actual fact they proved to be an even greater obstacle than had been expected. This gives some idea of what the 231st Brigade had to face on the sector between Arromanches and Le Hamel and to the east of the latter place.
The Brigade was the right-hand assault brigade of the British Second Army. It was given the task of assisting in the establishment of the 50th (Northumbrian) Division bridge-head, through which other formations were to pass, and of linking up with the 1st U.S. Division landing on our right. Supporting 231st Brigade, and coming under command for the initial operation, were two regiments of S.P. artillery (the 90th and 147th Field Regiments),the Sherwood Rangers (Sherman tanks),a squadron of Centaurs mounting 95 mm. guns and manned by the Royal Marines, a squadron of assault vehicles R. E. (some of the "monstrosities" we had seen and worked with during our exercises),a squadron of "flails" (of the Westminster Dragoons),and finally, the 47th Royal Marine Commando.
The Royal Navy's contribution was fire from a cruiser, several destroyers, landing craft mounting 95 mm. guns (L.C.Gs.),rocket craft and support landing craft, while forward bombardment officers accompanied each battalion until the troops were out of range of the naval guns. Among the larger warships which supported the 231st Brigade landing on the "Jig Green" sector, were the cruiser EMERALD and the destroyers COTTESMORE, GRENVILLE, UNDINE, JERVIS, URANIA and ULYSSES, also the Polish destroyer KRAKOWIAK. The Royal Navy called their part of the operation "Neptune," whereas we know the whole exercise as "Overlord." Tho R.A.F. had the task of "softening-up" the beach defences, and four fighter bomber squadrons were to be on call after the landing. In the pre-arranged
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)