TitleNormandy 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment
DescriptionReport on the actions of 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment in Normandy during June 1944.
SourceUK_National_ArchiveReferenceWO 223/28



On 3 June 1944 the Battalion embarked at Lymington on to Landing Craft Infantry (Large). These craft are capable of taking just short of 200 men and so we had approximately one and a half companies on each vessel. The L.C.Is were Canadian, and the food 14 man pack Compo - rations which we were going to endure for a long time. Anxiously we watched the sky as the wind came up and hurriedly we made quickly available our bags vomiting and enquired for anti- sea sickness pills. That night we tied up in Southampton Docks and learned that the operation was postponed for 24 hours. However we were on the ships and on the ships we were forced to stay, though subsequently we were allowed on to the quay-side for games, exercise and the eternal "Char and Wads" at the canteens which had been set up for us.

In the late evening of 5 June we cast off and slowly moved down Southampton Water to take up our positions in the greatest mass of shipping ever known to this world. To us on board, it seemed that had the opposition been able to bomb they would have had almost a dry land target - so closely packed was the invasion fleet. Darkness fell before we reached the open sea and below decks jammed like sardines in a tin, we drank our tins of self-heating soup and cocoa and played a little pontoon or housy-housy before trying to get a few hours sleep before the Great day dawned.

We slept well that night without a worry; but the morning light of 6 June 1944 found us very shaken by the rolling and pitching of our ship. Many of us were violently sea-sick, but those that were able went on dock and, as the light begun to improve, we could make out the coast of FRANCE. It all seemed strangely quiet. The bombers had finished their missions on the beach defences, the Airborne troops were in NORMANDY and the assault Battalions of 50 Div were ashore and either still fighting on the beaches or smashing their way inland. The sea was very rough and, in the miserable and cloudy sky, Lightnings and Spitfires patrolled over our convoy which crawled and circled towards the shore. clouds of smoke could be seen billowing upwards from the land and Battleships and Cruisers, Destroyers and rocket—firing Craft were still pouring fire into the defences and lines of approach. Occasionally a sea mine would float by and as the morning progressed we began to struggle into our equipment as best we could in the crowded decks. We put on waterproof over-trousers and discarded them immediately, for we should never have got ashore in such cumbersome garments laden as we were. The odd tin of selfheating soup was tucked away in battle-dress blouses and the M.O. helped us to waterproof our watches.

As midday approached the craft nosed their way into the land and we could see plainly the coast line. Something akin to consternation was caused when we found that we could not reconcile the appearance of the land with the models we had memorised in Camp B3. LE HAMEL, where we were due to land, was still not free and it was thus necessary to go ashore some mile and a quarter to the East. The sea held much evidence of tragedies already enacted, wrecked landing craft and vehicles, disabled tanks, floating compo boxes and items of equipment. At 1225 hours the leading craft grounded the ramps went down and the men streamed ashore. Some into water only knee deep, others up to their necks but all made dry land, crossed the short stretch of shingle and clambered over the low sea wall. A quarter of a mile to

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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