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Preparations for 'D' Day

Three large scale exercises took place between the beginning of April and the middle of May, each lasting about a week. They were dress rehearsals for D Day. In the first two (Smash II and Smash IV) the brigade, complete with its supporting arms, landed at Studland Bay, and in the third (Fabius) the Division landed on Hayling Island. These exercises were of the utmost value from the point of view of co-ordination and co-operation between all arms. Many mistakes were made and many lessons were learnt

The adjutant, Captain Tyrell Holdsworth, and the acting second-in-command, Major John Parlby, produced landing tables with the utmost regularity to which amendments were seldom needed. Major Frank Sadleir and Major Bubbles Duke, commanding A and C Companies respectively, carried out numerous loading trials of the vehicles which would accompany us in the assault. Frequent conferences were held to discuss what each man should carry; as each battalion in the assault had a different task to perform, we were allowed considerable latitude in this respect. The all important factor was not to carry too much, especially as we had to cover 9 miles rapidly after landing, and fight at the end of it.

Captain 'Tich' Lebbet, the QM, at this moment left us to join Colonel Valentine's staff at a Reinforcement Unit. He had borne the burden of the two previous assault landings and had laid the foundations very soundly for the third. He deserved a well-earned rest. His successor, Lieut Harry Shinn took over at a very difficult period; and it was due to his enthusiasm, patience, and close co-operation with the Staff Captain, Capt. Johnnie Johnson, Royal Tank Regiment, and with B.R.A.S.C.O. Capt. Baker, RASC., that the battalion sailed complete in every detail. His task necessitated much patience and a considerable amount of ingenuity. New devices were constantly being offered to assault battalions which had to be tested before being either accepted or discarded

On May 10th the three COs attended a secret conference in the brigade briefing room. The brigade commander described the plan for D Day and gave the outline plan for the brigade. These preliminary instructions were given well in advance to allow time for COs to study maps, air photos, and the mass of information which was constantly coming in. The battalion outline plan was approved before the final orders were given out by the Brigadier; this is an important factor in the planning of a major operation because all difficulties and problems were dealt with before and not after the orders had become firm,

Conference followed conference; the CO and the battalion intelligence officer were to be seen daily, coming and going, tightly clasping weighty brief cases as if their lives depended on their security, which in fact they did,

During our stay at Beaulieu, two events took place which gave great pleasure to the battalion. Lord Fortescue, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, paid us a farewell visit. He saw the battalion carry out a mock landing, and he took the salute as the battalion marched back to camp. He visited both the officers and sergeants' messes. His visit demonstrated once again the whole-hearted support which the county of Devon has always given to the Regiment.

(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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