War Diary: 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment

Month and year: June 1944

The June 1944 War Diary for 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment covers their embarking LCIs, Landing at Le Hamel and their fighting inland to Villers Bocage.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/1295

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Page 1 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
BEAULIEU 1 - 2 During the last few days all ranks of the Bn., have been briefed most thoroughly for the forthcoming invasion of Normandy. A briefing tent, complete with large scale models, are photographs, maps and a complete picture of the enemy order of battle, has been placed at the disposal of coys. to date only Coy comds li9 the exact area of operations; maps with code names have been used to brief all other officers and men.
Essex Operation Order No: 1 has now been issued to Coy comds
Coys have given final attention to the administrative problems and every effort has been made to ensure that all ranks are fighting fit and fit to fight. Early morning PT And route marches have been included in the keep fit programme.
3 1700 Battalion left Pennerley camp, B3 , in TCVs for LYMINGTON where it embarked in LCIs (L) for
SOUTHAMPTON. The incredible number of craft of all sorts and sizes seen in the SOUTHAMPTON water, together with the large flights of aircraft, was a most inspiring spectacle.
4 The day was spent in the Docks, the operation having been delayed 24-hours.
4 1700 There were recreational facilities on the quay side, and an aerial circus of English and German machines likely to be seen in operations, overhead during the afternoon.
5 1900 Bn sailed from SOUTHAMPTON for operations in NORMANDY. The evening was dull and overcast and a heavy swell was running. Itw as t be a quite crossing
FRANCE 6 1230 D DAY. The Bn landed without any casualties EAST of Le HAMEL (8786)
During the approach march to the assembly area at BU HOT 8584 by the "Yellow! route the Bn
came under mortar fire. Information received that RYES (8483) was still held by enemy.
6 1800 The forward body moved off to secure Bn objective at X rds St SULPICE (8181) and at 2130 hrs
the Bn had occupied this area. Civilian sources said that the enemy had left several hours
earlier and had also probably left BAYEUX. (7878) 4 ORs wounded.
7 1030 After a quite night during which our patrols felt towards BAYEUX and the A Tk ditch to N W
the forward body supported by tanks of the "Sherwood Rangers" and the Bn moved on to BAYEUX
from the S.E.
1300 At 1300 hrs we had entered the town without opposition. The local inhabitants
showered flowerS on out troops and many bottles of wine were brought out.
The Tricolour was soon to be ??seen hanging?? from many houses. The town was quickly searched
and the Railway station ???????? ??????? ????ail of ?????German Garrison was secured intact. The
Bn moved on t??se ??e its ????????? ???UNIR????? ????? 1900 hrs
Transcription note: Bottom of document damaged, some text missing
Page 2 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
FRANCE 8 During the day and night our patrols were active, and from information and civilian reports received it
appeared we were in contact with 1 Bn 916 GR - 352 Inf Div. Tiger tanks were reported.
9 1120 7 Naval PW were captured by 'B' Coy. They had been fighting with the Army after their boat
had been sunk at ARROMANCHES.
1800 LE BAIN. Pta ROSIER was awarded certificate of Good Service by C in C 21 Army Gp.
Bn were relieved by 1 Hamps and moved back to an area South of BAYEUX during the
late evening. 1 OR killed 2 wounded.
10 0800 From 0800 hrs 10 June 44, 56 Inf Bde came under command of 7 Armd Div. Task of 7 Armd was to
hold line of river at JUVIGNY 849669 to HOTTOT 8266 axis of adv. Left main road Bayeux -
to Tilly-Sur-Seulles Right-East of R. Aure-Start Line level crossing Bayeux 0830 hrs (code
word White Bait) bounds X Rds Jerusalem 8372 (TROUT) X Rds Tilly 8468 (Salmon) Objective Perch.
This Bn on right ????.
1800 2 Essex attacked Pt 112 BUTTE du Gros Orme) (7971) and area of Monastry Juaye Mondaye 7972 with view
to taking up posn Berniers Bocage 7970. 'D' Coy attacked under a fierce concentration of Arty were
followed by 'A' Coy.
1930 Leading troops were constantly harrassed by snipers and Spandoos. By
this hour the area of the Monastry was cleared although fighting forward was still confused.
2200 Bn HQ secured at 795781. Lt Whitter (A Coy) wounded 33 ORs posted a reinforcements from 39 RHU.
11 0800 Bn were still in posn area of Pt 112 (7971).
0900 'C' Coy were sent to occupy and hold Berniers Bocage
1200 The Bn were ordered to secure Wood at Verrieres 8069 and accordingly Bn were concentrated
area 7970. The wood was subjected to terrific concentration of Arty and at 1800 hrs on a
two Coy front (A & C Coys) the Bn moved on to its objective under a lifting barrage.
1915 By 1915 A & C Coys were through the Wood and were in posn. The Wood was found to by on a
forward slope and it was not thick enough to keep out tanks. 2 Mk V Tanks were repeatedly
engaged by A Coy. The enemy quickly counter attacked and our casualties mounted.
12 0030 The Bn was heavily counter attached by mortar - D.F. followed by Inf and S.P. flame thrower.
Casualties were heavy, but the Bn held firm and the enemy withdrew. There were many
examples of outstanding bravery and leadership. Major Petre, Lt Cannon and CSM Lane of D
Coy were among the killed. Maj Watson wounded. Lt Smith Bell of B Coy
were reported missing. Also ???? 60 ORs of B Coy were reported ???missing???
Page 3 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
FRANCE 12 0700 At 0100 hrs the 2 IC was ordered to report to Bde HQ and report seriousness of the Bns posn.
He was able to reach HQ 56 Inf Bde and tank support was allocated.
1030 Major G.G. Elliott was ordered to assume command of the Bn. During the day the Bn were
constantly subjected to heavy mortar fire.
2030 The Bn were ordered to withdraw from the Wood to form part of a firm base area of Folliet
8171
, 56 Inf Bde having reverted to comd 50 (Northumbrian) Division. This was done tactically
leaving the light screen of Bren Gps, 6 Pdrs to cover withdrawal. The operation was
successfully completed and by 0030 hrs 13 June 44, the Bn were in Folliot.
13 A quite day at Folliot. LT LEAVEY - 13 OR posted from 39 RHO.
14 Bn HQ remained at Folliot with D Coy, A, B & C Coys moved east of Berniers Bocage to relieve
D.L.I., who were required to move forward for a drive towards Verrieres wood. Coy localities
were A Coy 801703, B Coy were in the village itself with C Coy left forward Coy area 811705.
S Coy held area 802709 which had been used as D.L.I. HQ. The night passed without
incidence. Orders were given for 'O' Gp to be at Bn HQ 1100 hrs the following day.
15 0900 56 Inf Bde reverted to 50 (N) Div with the exception of this Bn., which came under 151 Inf Bde
and took over from 2 SWB at BUCEELS 8270.
BUCEELS 1530 Bn HQ was established at Buceels. A few enemy were reported at Pont-de-la-Guillette. (Op Order attach
Bn snipers kept a careful watch and covered approaches. Vigourous patrolling was carried
out on our front. 14 ORs posted to the unit from 205 rft.lp???
2000 Patrol comds were briefed for recce patrols into TILLY-SUR-SEULLES. (8468)
16 0445 Contacted the enemy at TILLY-SUR-SEULLES. Lt. M.N. Murphy was wounded in the leg, and made
way back to our lines. Pte. Giles of C Coy was reported missing from this patrol.
0945 Bn mortars gave support to D.L.I. attack on road west of TILLY-SUR-SEULLES.
(122 8) Brigadier of 70 h Bde visited the CO and informed him of the positions to be taken up by
10 D.L.I. who had moved in between us and the LINCOLNS.
1230 Visited by the Brigadier of 151 Bde.
1315 Bn HQ area shelled for 2 mins. 6 HE dropped. Resulted of this was killed, Lt FRADING
Sig Offr Essex Regt and 2 att sigs from 151 Bde. Brig 151 Bde was wounded
1600 Enemy were troublesome.
1700 Bn area shelled. 1 wounded.
Page 4 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
Buceels 16 1955 Bn area again shelled, B Coy suffered 3 casualties wounded.
2000 Patrols were sent into TILLY-SUR-SEULLES and PONT-DE-LA-GUILLETTE to find out enemy dispositions.
2230 B Coy patrol reported no enemy movement south of bridge nor on slopes SOUTH of 829693.
2257 Enemy endeavoured to join the FOO wireless set.
17 1230 2 shells fell in A Coy area. CSM and 1 signaller wounded.
1435 CO ordered the Bn attack on TILLY-SUR-SEULLES at 1600 hrs
1616 C Coy passed 1st line for attack on TILLY.
1640 A & D Coy reached line for attack on TILLY
1650 C Coy reached second line for attack on TILLY
1700 Arty support called for to help coys on to objective.
1913 A & D Coys temporarily delayed by snipers.
1948 A Coy meeting opposition - difficult to deal with.
2018 D Coy temporarily held up by SPANDAU fire.
2045 D Coy report 2 left hand objective taken.
2200 D Coy report objective reached.
2227 All coys ordered by CO to reorganise where they are.
1 Killed 22 ORs ???Gr Ward??? A Coy
1 Ofr, 6 ORs posted from 39 RHU
PONT-DE-LA-GUILLETTE 18 0400 10 DLI making attack on orchard SOUTH of ST PIERRE. This will no doubt assist in our
capturing TILLY-SUR-SEULLES.
0930 A Coy reported that church at TILLY-SUR-SEULLES is being used by enemy as an OP for their arty
and mortar fire.
1315 IO DLI dealing with enemy mortars at 857673
1437 D Coy report mortars falling in their area. CO ordered smoke to be laid.
1445 TILLY-SUR-SEULLES church spire will be dealt with by out arty support between 1445 and 1500 hrs.
1555 C Coy in TILLY-SUR-SEULLES. Now house clearing.
1642 10 PANTHER or TIGER tanks reported by 10 DLI at ST PIERRE (8568)
1710 Small arms fire from several houses in TILLY.
2010 Several local engagements going on all day, between Essex and enemy posts in TILLY. Coys are
fairly well established now.
2011 9 enemy shells fell in Bn HQ area. No casualties.
2042 B Coy report everything quite and satisfactory.
Lt Whitely 'C' Coy was also 27 ORs injured
Page 5 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
PONT-DU-GUILLETTE 19 0040 Carriers reports that the carrier comdr, Capt N.F. Harrison has been shot. Died wound fatal.
0100 All coys have nothing to report
0315 C Coy patrol bumped into enemy truck, it disappeared south along road.
0345 A Coy patrols bumped into enemy patrol of 7 ORs, one of our patrol wounded.
0800 The Bn were ordered to attack again by the right flank. Enemy shelling was then reported to
be falling on TILLY. Accordingly the CO decided to push on to the village as it appeared
enemy might have pulled out. This was done. Bn was able to secure the village.
1325 B Coy reported that TILLY-SUR-SEULLES roads and houses are mined with TELLERMINES. All tps
warned to keep a sharp watch out for booby traps etc.
1600 Enemy reported in woods (with tanks) at MONTILLY 8467.
2355 All quite. D Coy ordered to withdraw to bridge to give depth. 8 ORs wounded during the days fighting.
20 0405 All coys report situation normal.
1230 Representative from 9 DLI arrived to recce all positions of coys, and supporting arms, also.
1400 A Coy and Bn HQ moved from TILLY-SUR-SEULLES for a rest period at ELLON 8073
1500 Move out of coys going on smoothly.
1620 CO visited B Coy to explain to all ORs of that coy the delay of relieving by B Coy 10 DLI,
owing to the road which has to be used is being mortared and shelled by the enemy. The change
over must wait until dark.
The Commanding Officer went to TILLY-SUR-SEULLES to withdraw B coy from the chateaux after being
relieved by B Coy 10 DLI.
21 Day was spent quietly with coys attending administrative requirements. All ranks
visited BAYEUX for baths.
Brig E.C. Pepper CBE visited the Bn and complimented all ranks on their splendid achievements
since D Day with special mention of our first entry into BAYEUX and the capture of TILLY-SUR-SEULLES.
Lts HILL, BAHNIUK, BANNAN, CAIRNCROSS ORR & HARDING & 131 ORs posted from 33 RUH
22 A quiet restful day.
23 The received outline orders for next operation. Coys zeroed bren guns in
nearby quarry. 2 IC Major Lance DSO arrived.
Page 6 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
ELLON Orders have now been issued for the Operation. 'O' Gp have completed their recces. Special
trg for the Bn snipers, who are to form a team, was given by 2 IC. Instructions were received
during the evening that the operation would now probably take place at such a time as 7 Armd
Div could successfully exploit a weakening enemy through the attack of 8 Corps.
ELLON 25 Holly Communion - a morning service was held. A glorious summers day.
ELLON 26 Still at ELLON. Coys had various trg parades. Sniper training continued.
ELLON 27 Good new of attack of 49 Div, 8 Corps.
1400 Bde (O) Gp - Bn move to relieve 7 Green Howards routine on 28th area Les Brailles 7666
28 0800 C.O. met Brig. 56 Inf Bde - arrangements were made to relieve 7 Green Howards.
Order to take over present Coy localities, but to endeavour to improve our defensive posn by
moving forward and eventually securing the start line for operation "OCEAN SWELL"
The Bn had an early reveille and by 0715 hrs was on the move and at 0840 hrs HQ was est
and by 1430 hrs the Bn had taken up the following dispositions - Bn HQ 762666, 'A' 758668 -
'B' 764660, 'C' 755658, 'D' Coy 761663. At 2000 hrs Bn 'O' Gp met at HQ and final orders
were given to improve our defensive positions as follows:-

'A' Coy 763657 ; 'B' Coy 767663 ; 'C' Coy 755659 ; 'D' Coy 763665

Two recce patrols were sent out during the night, and reported enemy activity in GRANVILLE 7664.
8 Hussars came under command of 56 Inf Bde and standing patrol was established by 'C' Coy
with 8 Hussars at La BUTTE 756653. It had nothing to report during the night.
29 All Coys were able to take up posns as ordered. Slight shelling of 'A' Coy. Little
enemy activity. A comparatively quite day.
Page 7 of 7
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information
30 Coy localities unchanged. Snipers were sent to 76946497 and located enemy LMG post 76986484
with two men in it, but did not fire - snipers still to be "blooded" A 3" Mortar (Task
Table attached) harrassing shoot was arranged and took place 1730 to 1751 hrs. It was
part of a Div Crump on known enemy localities. Patrol operation to find whether the
Orchard 768646 was occupied was arranged. Report is attached.
2005 Large flights of Lancasters passed over head. Later it was learnt that
Villers Bocage had been bombed with some 1,300 tons.
2130 'O' Group concerning Halifaxes proposed relief of A Coy by D Coy.
It is hoped that offrs ?rnco? of A Coy will be able to liaise
with 1 RTR for ?tank Trg?