War Diary: 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles

Month and year: June 1944

The 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles June 1944 War diary covers their arrival at Lion-sur-Mer and their advance inland to Cambes area.

National Archive Reference: WO 171/1384

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Page 1 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
Waterlooville.1st.Bright sunny day devoted to preparation for impending operations.
Organised Inter-Company Football matches in afternoon, remainder of day
devoted to rest.
GOSPORT3rd.Loading of LCTs took place in the evening at GOSPORT. The weather was
again bright and sunny. LCTs sailed and moored off Southsea.
4th.LCI parties proceeded from WATERLOOVILLE for loading at SOUTHSEA but
returned to Camp A7 at WATERLOOVILLE, leading having been postponed for
24 hrs owing to bad weather conditions.
SOUTHSEA.5thLCI parties embarked during the morning at SOUTHSEA and moored off SOUTHSEA.
Instead of the expected high tension in face of such a mighty undertaking
the feelings appeared to be calm, as if yet another of the many exercises
on similar lines was about to take place. Food on board was very satisfactory,
fresh vegetables and bread being supplied to augment the "Compo"
rations.
1730LCTs slipped their moorings and headed for the open sea,
followed later by the LCIs(L).
6th.The journey across was uneventful, the sea being comparatively calm until
approximately two hours before the landing, when it became rather choppy
and made a number of people seasick, though tablets to prevent this had
been issued which proved a great help to some. The huge convoy of which the
Battalion was part, and the enormous number of Allied Aircraft seen making
for the Continant kept spirits bouyant. Just before the convey turned
inwards to the shore, Germen coastal batteries opened fire and shells fell
in the convoy; this delayed the landing slightly whilst the assault brigade
put them out of action.
1200At 1200 hrs the Landing Crafts Infantry containing the Battalion touched
down on the beach of NORMANDY at LION SUR MER, slightly West of OUISTREHAM,
(to Sheet Two)
Page 2 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
LION-SUR-MER(France)6th. (Contd)a wide sandy beach fringed with sand dunes. Here the Battalion caught
sight of the enemy as batches of snipers with hands over their heads were
being rounded up from the houses and sand dunes lining the beach. By this
time the sea had developed a considerable swell. The Battalion was well
used to wet landings when carrying out exercises, but this was without
doubt the wettest on record, most people landing in at least four feet of
water and many in as much as five and a half feet. The majority became
soaking wet from the top of their heads. Although the beaches had been
almost cleared of the enemy, hostile shells and mortar bombs were falling
in fair quantities. Consequently, even though the Battalion formed part
of the reserve brigade in the Assault Division, the landing was made very
difficult and uncomfortable. Many of the Rifleman being small in size
were finding it difficult to get ashore, particularly in view of the fact
that over and above their normal kit - heavy enough - they were each
carrying a bicycle! Few casualties only were experienced on the beach,
those there were, being from shell and mortar fire.
The Battalion quickly made its way to the Assembly Area, the small village
of LION-SUR-MER about half a mile inland, where they were met by Captain
M.D.G.C. RYAN, OC "HQ" Coy, and his party of guides who had landed an hour
previously with one of the assault brigades to make a reconnaissance of
the Assembly Area. Shell and mortar fire was still coming down resulting
in a further few casualties. The Brigade Commander, Brigadier J.C.
CUNNINGHAM, M.C., was wounded and evacuated, our Commanding Officer,
/ first Ia to
1645Lieut Colonel I.C. HARRIS, assuming temporary Command of the Brigade.
Major B.J. FitzG. DONLEA, M.C. assuming temporary Command of the Bn.
Whilst in the Assembly Area Capt A.G. SEELERS, the Mortar Platoon Commander,
was wounded in the legs by small arms fire, probably from a sniper, and
evacuated.
Having assembled and sorted itself out from the inevitable tangle which such
(To Sheet Three)
Page 3 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
Periers sur le Dan(France)6th. (Contd)a landing makes, the Battalion was ordered to occupy the high ground at a
point slightly North East of PERIERS sur le DAN, where it dug in for the
night in readiness for a quick move forward.
Lieut Colonel I.C. HARRIS returned to the Battalion, the Brigade having been
taken over by Colonel A.D.G. ORR, DSO, who had acted as the Brigade
Second in Command for a few menths prior to D Day.
Seven German Shipers and ten others were captured with a fair quantity of
weapons and equipment.
7th.The Battalion was ordered to move in a South Westerly direction to capture
CAMBES, a small village thickly wooded, approximately six miles inland
from the coast. The Bn moved via Le Mesnil with "D" Company, Commanded
by Captain J.R.StL. ALDWORTH, as vanguard. It was believed that CAMBES
was lightly held, but as the two woods surrounding it were themselves
surrounded by walls some ten feet high, it was not pessible to observe
the enemy's actual dispositions. "D" Company was ordered to proceed
forward and capture CAMBES with the rest of the Battalion closely following
in reserve.
1700"D" Company moved forward supported by one Squadron of tanks (East Riding
Yeomanry); the rest of the Battalion remained halted at the side of the
wood. Four enemy fighters suddenly appeared and machine gunned the rear
companies, causing no casualties. During the battle "D" Company Commander,
Captain J.R.StL ALDWORTH, was killed; Captain H.M. Gaffikin - OC
Carrier Platoon - wounded, remaining with the Battalion, and Lieut H. GREENE
wounded and evacuated. The attack had cost "D" Company one Officer and
fourteen Other Ranks Killed, one Officer and elevan Other Ranks Wounded and
four Other Ranks Missing, with two Stretcher Bearers from the Medical Section
Killed whilst tending the wounded.
(to Sheet Four)......
See Appendix I
Page 4 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
Le Mesnil (France)8th.The Commanding Officer, together with Commanding Officers of 33 Field Regt
Royal Artillery and East Riding Yeomanry, and protected by the Battalion
snipers under Command of Sjt F. PANCOTT, made a reconnaissance for a
Battalien attack on CAMBES.
Time1630The Commanding offieer gave the plan for the attack to Company Commanders
at ANISY, after which Company Commanders made their reconnaissance. The
ground from ANISY to CAMBES was very open, rising slightly from ANISY for
some 400 yards, the remaining 1100 yards to CAMBES being quite flat and
open. Consequently the Company Commanders recconnaissance was not carried
out under very satisfactery conditions.
Captain W.H. BAUDANIS, M.M., whilst making a reconnaissance of a route for a
night patrol, together with the Platoon Commander and three Section Commanders
of No. 11 Platoon, met an enemy patrol of one Officer and ten men,
of which five were killed and six taken prisoner without injury to our
party of two Officers and three NCOs.
See Appendix II & III
An enemy fighting patrol of about thirty men attacked "C" Company at LE MESNIL,
but were driven off, the attack costing us one Killed and five Wounded.
9th"C" Company carried out a nuisance raid on enemy positions at CAMBES during
the night (8/9 Jun 44). The Germans again attacked "C" Company at Le Mesnil.
Both these actions caused no further loss to the Battalion. Sparadic
Mortar and machine Gun fire experienced.
1515Attack on CAMBES began. The two leading companies, A & B, passing start line
at 1515 hrs. The attack was supported by one 6" Cruiser, Royal Navy, the
whole of the Divisional Artillary, two troops 101 Bty 45 Anti-Tank Regt, RA
- one ordinary and one self propelled. One Company 4.2" Mortars, One
company Medium Machine Guns from 2 Mx Regt; one Regiment of Sherman Tanks
(East Riding Yeemanry); and, finally, Royal Engineers in the shape of assault
(to Sheet Five)
Page 5 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
9th. (Contd)demolition and mine clearance teams, with five Armoured Vehicles Royal
Engineers The advance having commenced the first objective was reached
at 1630 hrs. The men advanced in good order and were well spaced out,
direction being steadied by the Commanding Officer from the left. On
reaching the ridge some 1100 yards from the objective, whence they could
be permanently observed by the enemy, they came under a heavy barrage of
mortar and shell fire accompanied by machine gun fire. In spite of this,
the Battalion continued the advance in open order keeping perfect distance
with the same unconcern as that shown on a Company Field firing Exerciae.
In passing through A Company on the 1st objective, C Company, who by this
time had the AVREs under command, lost these to the German 88 mm guns
firing from La Bijude. With great vigour and dash C Company fought their
way through the wood to their final objective.
D Company, although sadly depleted in numbers, went through B Company and
secured its objective.
Immediately the leading companies had reached their 1st objectives, the
Anti-Tank Platoon under Command of Captain C.R. GRAY were ordered to move
forward to assist in consolidation. All gun detachments moved forward
in the face of accurate 88 mm and mortar fire, and succeeded in being
manhandled into position with the exception of one detachment, which had
received a direct hit from an 88 mm shell. The gun was later recovered
and manhandled into position.
CAMBES (France)During the consolidation the enemy subjected the position to a vicious attack
of mortar and shell fire which lasted for five hours, so that the digiging
in was carried out under the greatest difficulties.
At the end of the day, the Battalions casualties were three Officers and
forty-one Other Ranks Killed, seven Officer and one hundred and thirty one
Other Ranks Wounded and Evacuated, three Officers and three Other Ranks
Wounded but not Evacuated, one Officar and Ten Other Renks Missing, making
(to Sheet Six)
Page 6 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
a total away from the Battalion of elevan Officers and one hundred and
eighty two other Ranks.
Many of the wounded had been amazingly cheerful, joking in the face of the
most frightful wounds. The Medical Officer, Captain C.R. WRIGHT, RAMC,
and his staff of Medical Orderlies and Stretcher Bearers had been a pillar
of strength, dealing with the patients with the same calmness and a good
deal more humour than was nermally shown on the non operational sick parade.
CAMBES(France)10th.Battalion sector quiet during the early part of the day. Plenty of Air
activity. Work on Battalion positions cantinued.
1615Very heavy Artillery fire from our side, the enemy retaliating with some
mortar fire. There were no casualties in the Battalion area.
11th.0900The Commanding Officer held a cenference.
This was another quiet day in our sector, though there were artillery
exchenges during the day.
Patrols penetrated into enemy lines and brought back some useful information.
The Battalion are now settled down after the excitement of D Day.
12th.0900Commanding Officer's conference.
Another quiet day, interupted by the noise of our artillery fire and
explosions from the enemy lines.
Patrols went out after dark.
13th.Commanding Officer's conference.
Another quiet day. Air activity wes slight owing to low clouds, but later
in the day weather conditions improved and our aircraft was out in great
strength.
2100A large fire was observed in the enemy lines and was reported to be in the
(to Sheet Seven)
Page 7 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
13th. (Contd)LA BIJUDE area. Later reported to have been an ammunition dump.
Patrols sent out again during the night.
A Battalion News Sheet, "The MAR" was introduced.
CAMBES(France)14th.0900Commanding Officer's conference was held.
Notification was received that Captain (QM) C.H.D. HENNIKER had been awarded
the MBE on the occasion of the celebration of His Majesty the King's
Birthday, publication having been made in the Supplement to The Londen
Gazette dated 8th June, 1944.
Plenty of air activity today.
1315.Large clouds of black smoke and a number of explosions from the LA BIJUDE
area.
23001st line Reinforcements arrived consisting of one Captain, 6 Subalterns and
one hundred and twenty nine Other Ranks.
CAMBES(France)15th.Quiet day until the enemy shelled C Company at 2000 hrs with H.E. and smoke,
also sparodic Mortar fire onto the whole Battalion area.
2130.Mortar fire from the enemy brought down on Battalion Headquarters.
2345.Lieut. C. LYNDOM ADAMS posted from Reinforcement Holding Unit as 3 Mortar
Platoon,
LE MESNIL (France)16th.0400Move of Battalion from CAMBES to LE MESNIL area completed. Slight bombing
attack en route and mortaring experienced in both areas. Remainder of
day quiet,
2330Company Quartermaster Serjeants arrived. Lieut K. BRADSHAW posted from
Reinforcement Holding Unit.
LE MESNIL. (France)17th.0900The Commanding Officer held a conference at Battalion Headquarters, this
being followed by Patrol Cadre for Officers and NCOs,
-1200A Memerial Service for our Fallen Comrades was held at Battalion Headquarters
for two Companies, the service being conducted by the Rev Wilson from 1 KOSB.
(to Sheet Eight.)
Page 8 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
17th.2100.Mortar fire brought down on Battalion area.
2300.Mortar fire brought down on C Company area resulting in one Killed and two
Wounded.
LE MESNIL (France)18th.1100Service for all denominations conducted by our Chaplain, The Rev Fr J.P.
O'NEILL, was held at Battalion Headquareters and followed by a Memorial
Service for our Fallen Comrades.
A quiet day.
19th.1130.Roman Catholic Mass was celebrated at Battalion Headquarters followed by a
Memorial Service, both conducted by our Chaplain.
1930.Commander 9th British Infantry Brigade visited the Battalion, accompanied by
GSO I, AA & and SC from 3 British Infantry Division.
2030.Slight mortaring of Battalion position.
CAMBES (France)20th.0400.Battalion move from Le Mesnil to Cambes completed, position having been taken
over from 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers.
0900Commanding officer's conference held at Battalion Headquarters.
1730.Short heavy and concentrated shell attack, resulting in casualties - two
Killed and five Wounded.
21 st.Sparadic shell and mortar fire experienced.
Lieut C. LYNDON ADAMS was Killed whilst being conveyed to Field Dressing
Station as a result of shell fire. The second Mortar Officer had lost since
the beginning of operations
22nd.0900Commanding Officer's conference
Standing patrol on forward outskirts of Battalion area reported sounds of
South Lancashire Regt's attack on CHATEAU DE LA LONDE on our left flank.
(to Sheet Nine)
Page 9 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
CAMBES (France)23rd.0900.Commanding Officer's conference held at Bn HQ.
1230.Heavy shelling in A Company area resulting in one man killed and one man
wounded.
24th.0900.Commanding Officer's conference held at Bn HQ.
A quiet day disturbed only once by slight shelling of B Company area.
The Commanding Officer made his first reconnaissance for the impending
attack on St CONTEST,
2300.Standing patrol reported sounds of digging and wiring.
25th.Enemy artillery and mortars very active today, several vicious attacks were
made on the Bn area.
The Commanding Officer accempanied by Company Commanders made a reconnaissance
of the ground between VILLON LES BUISSONS and St CONTEST.
Major General L.G. WHISTLER, our new Divisional Commander visited
the Battalion.
26th.0900.Commanding Officer's conference. Slight shelling of Bn area during today.
27thThe Commanding Officer attended at Brigade Headquarters and received orders
for the attack en St CONTEST.
1145.Lieut S.E. FROST, B Company, was killed by a mine outside his Plateon area.
28th.0400.The Battalion attack planned as part of a Brigade attack was based on the
assumption that 8 Br Inf Bde should first capture the village of LA BIJUDE
and EPRON, They were, however, held up at an early objective - CHATEAU
DE LA LONDE. In consequence our own attack, zeroed for the early morning,
was indefinately postponed, At 1200 hrs the plan was changed after a hurried
conference between the Brigade Commander and the Commanding Officer.
(to Sheet Ten)
Page 10 of 10
PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
CAMBES(France)28th. (Contd)it was decided that B Company and a Squadron of the East Riding Yeomanry
would launch an attack on LA BIJUDE. This attack can be described as a
feeler with the hope that the enemy, hard pressed at CHATEAU DE LA LONDE
would be unable to resist a thrust on his left flank directed towards
LA BIJUDE
The Squadron of riding Yeomanry advanced to a ridge in front of our
position and came under intense fire from M.Gs. and Anti-Tank guns firing
from LA BIJUDE, MALON and CHATEAU itself. Against this punishing attack
they could make no headway, though on three separate occasions they tried,
with great gallantry, to push forward beyond the ridge. in consequence,
B Company were pinned down on their start line, unable to advance.
Eventually the attack was called off. Casualties for the ERY were heavy,
having two tanks destroyed and four out of action. Our own casualties
were two men wounded by shrapnel.
In the evening, the Brigade Commander said that the enemy had been in greater
tank and infantry strength than had been anticipated, hence the operation
planned the previeus day was cancelled,
29th.Some shelling throughout the day without the Battalion suffering casualties.
30th.Shelling today was on a larger scale. On several occasions the Battalion
suffered sustained periods, during one of which Captain N.R.V. WATSON
was Killed,