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Training for 'D' Day

Once again 50 (Northumbrian) Division had been selected to take part in an assault landing; once again the famous TT sign would be seen leading the advance; once again 231 Infantry Brigade would be in the van,

The 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, whose previous assault landings had been admirably described in Lt Col Valentine's book 'We landed in Sicily and Italy', would take part in a third landing which was destined to be the most famous in history.

This account opens on March 12th 1944 when the greater part of the battalion arrived at Inverary, together with 1st Hampshires and 1st Dorsets, the other two battalions of the brigade. Here we underwent a Combined Operations Course, under the efficient instructors of the Combined Operations School. There were some who wondered why all this training should be necessary as the battalion had already plenty of experience in this particular type of warfare. After a very short time, however, we realised there was still much to learn; new weapons, new types of landing craft, new technique had been developed and perfected since the Italy days. We found Gunners supporting assault landings by shooting their 25 pounders out of LCTs from far out to sea, with FOOs well forward in special support landing craft. This procedure appeared, to the mere infantry soldier, to be highly dangerous, but no untoward incident ever occured, We heard of the amphibious DD tanks, highly secret and only spoken of with bated breath.

Soon after our arrival at Inverary, the Commanding Officer, Lt Col. A.W. Valentine, DSO., OBE., said farewell to the battalion, and his departure was greatly regretted by all ranks. His place was taken by Lt Col C.A.R. Nevill, OBE, of the Royal Fusiliers.

As far as the future operations were concerned, we were told that the brigade would assault a defended beach with two battalions forward: on the right 1st Hampshires, and on the left, 1st Dorsets. These battalions would clear the beaches and capture one or two coastal villages. The 2nd Devons would land behind 1st Hampshires, move rapidly inland and seize a defended village 9 miles away. All training was based on this plan, and during the last two days in Scotland a brigade exercise was carried out fulfilling these requirements. The Brigade Commander, Sir Alexander Stanier, Bart., DSO., MC., and the Divisional Commander, Major-General D.A.H. Graham, CB., CBE., DSO., OBE., were present and expressed approval of all that they saw.

Throughout the Course, emphasis was laid on the importance of close co-operation between all services and especially with the Royal Navy. In this we were particularly fortunate. H.M. S. GLENROY, newly converted as an assault ship, and under the command of Captain Stephen Barry, RN., had just arrived in Loch Fyne for preliminary training. It was whispered that the GLENROY would probably carry the battalion on D Day.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: Story of 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, 1944 Mar - June

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