War Diary: 6th Battalion Durham Light Infantry

Month and year: July 1944

The July 1944, war diary for the 6th Durham Light Infantry follows the fighting from just south of Tilly sur Seulles to Sermentot

National Archive Reference: WO 171/1290

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Page 1 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Ref: Map FRANCE 1/50,000 Sht 7F/1 CAEN 1 Quite day on the front. "A" Company which had just been reformed under
Captain R.J.Bennet took up positions on the Battalion right flank, area
832676.
Captain (Q.M.)J.W.Runcimen left the Battalion for 205 Corps Reception Camp.
2 Commanding Officer informed that the Battalion would be relieved by 8/DLI
during night 2/3 July.
p.m. Second in Command Companies receed 8th Battalion area and arranged guides.
1700 Relief commenced. Anti-tank gun crews pulled out by 1800 hrs. 8th
Battalion took over 6-pounder gun, and vica versa.
2000 Carrier sections changed over
2100 Mortars changed over complete
2330 Relief of rifle Companies begun and was completed by 0230 hours without any
interferences from the enemy. Coys moved back to area vacated by 8/DLI
and took up positions as follows:
Bn HQ 828694 MARCEL
"A" Coy: 822685 "B" Coy: 826690 "C" Coy: 825685. "D" Coy: 632686
3 0330 Battalion position in new area
Battalion took up Counter Attack Role in support of 2nd Hamps or 8/DLI
1500 Commanding Officer to HQ 2 Hamps to recce area for counter attack. Area
recced - LE PARC DE LA MARE 8157
1530 Party from the Battalion proceeded to the Cinema at CONDE
4 The Policy in the Battalion while in the rear was to rest the men for
two days and carry out a thorough check of all arms, equipment, clothing
and necessaries. After this period Companies would start training in own
Company areas.
1500 Party to Cinema show in CONDES
Page 2 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
4 Battalion tailor visited each Company in turn to fix up all reinforcements
with "TT" and Battalion Flashes on battledress
5 Company training commenced. Chief subjects were (1) Weapon training with
particular attention to PIAT and 2" Mortar, and (2) Fieldcraft and use of
ground. It has been brought out during operations of the past month
that these subjects need punching up generally.
A Tank Hunting Squad was formed in each Company. Best methods of tank
hunting to be found out by trial and error and to be carried out as a
drill.
Training carried out from 0830 - 1230 and men allowed to rest in
the afternoon.
This training period also gave officers a chance to get to know their men.
All reinforcement Officers had gone straight out to platoons in the Battalion
area had had no real chance while in the line to get to know their
platoons.
The Commanding Officer also stressed the importance of finding men to become
N.C.Os as the need for good N.C.Os within the Battalion was most urgent.
Bulldozers at work in the Battalion area - cleared two tank tracks as South
as road TILLY - LINGEVRES.
6 Battalion ordered to relieve 2nd Dorsets in area SOUTH of LINGEVRES (square
8067) on 7 July
1500 Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer contacted 2nd Dorsets and
arranged relief.
Rev.C.J.Hawksworth, Church of England Padre, had a serious accident whilst
riding a motor cycle. He was taken to the 149 Field Ambulance but later
died of his injuries. His loss within the Battalion was felt most deeply
by all ranks. He had been with the Battalion since the end of the Sicilian
Campaign and was popular within the whole Brigade.
Company training continued during the morning.
Page 3 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
7 14000 Company and Specialist Platoon Commanders recced 2nd Dorsets area.
1700 Funeral of Rev C.J.Hawksworth at TT Cemetery
1800 Relief of 2nd Dorsets commenced and was organised on same line as relief
carried out by 8/DLI. Carriers and Mortars were relieved in daylight.
2330 Rifle Companies started moving at half-hourly intervals and the relief was
completed by 0200 hours. During the relief "A" Company advance party was
mortared and had two casualties - one killed.
Company areas were as follows:-
Bn HQ LIEU MESLIER 804680
"A" Coy - 797667. "B" Coy - 801669. "C" Coy - 797668. "D" Coy - 804674.
See Sketch "A"
8 The Commanding Officer was not satisfied with the layout of the Battalion
and the following changes made:
"D" Company moved forward to area 806672.
"C" Company moved to PARC DE LA MARE 8167 and took over from
"B" Company 2nd Hamps
These changes straightened out the Battalion line - Three companies forward
and one in reserve.
Standing Patrols each of one section, established at "BOMB HOUSE" 801667;
"OP HOUSE" 804667; "TWIN HOUSES" 806667.
See Sketch "B"
1130 4 Prisoners taken "D" Company Standing Patrol at "TWIN HOUSES". They were
Poles belonging to 4 Company, 276 Fusilier Regiment. These were Division
Troops of 276 Infantry Division and had been in the line five of six days.
They were all about twenty years of age; had been enlisted in Poland ten
months before, had been stationed in BAYEUX on the Franco-Spanish frontier.
Their journey to the Division front had been interrupted by R.A.F.Bombing
and straffing and they had been in the area of VILLERS BOCAGE during the big
R.A.F. raid on the 29th June. The last 100 kilometers of their journey had
been made mostly by night and on foot.
Page 4 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
8 (cont) Information supplied confirmed that CHATEAU DE CORDILLION and grounds, 8066,
had been heavily mined and booby trapped. Companies of 276 Fusilier Battalion
had been reduced to 50% of normal strength. Tanks of Panzer Lehr Division
had been drawn out to area ORBOIS 8063 and there were none now on out immediate
front.
These Prisoners were very talkative and obviously very glad to be out of the
war.
9 "D" Company moved forward and occupied "OP HOUSE" 804667.
"A" Company moved along line of track to EAST and occupied "BOMB HOUSE"
801667
.
"A" Company, the right forward company, area mortared heavily during the
morning but caused no casualties. Mortared again during the evening and
one Corporal was wounded.
After occupying "BOMB HOUSE" left hand section of "A" Company went off to
contact forward platoon of "D" Company in area of "OP HOUSE">. Gap between
farm buildings at "OP HOUSE" was covered by a sniper in a hedgerow 100 to
200 yards away to SOUTH. One man of "A" Company section was hit as he
was crossing the gap and was taken into the house just before last light
and one man was hit and killed as he crossed this gap to bring out the
wounded men. The movement of stretcher bearers to the house had been covered
by fire from "A" Company and the whole of the hedgerow had been engaged.
The enemy was thought to be very thin on the ground in the hedges in front
of both "A" and "D" Companies, but the few enemy left has succeeded in
making a great nuisance of themselves. The enemy must be given credit for
his determination in holding a line thinly with snipers and machine gun posts
and holding up the advance of a whole battalion with very few men.
Page 5 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
9 (cont) Enemy line at the time appeared to run about 100 to 200 yards on front of
F.D.Ls. of ourselves and 8th Battalion on right.
10 Brigade Commander ordered policy of deeper probing, fighting patrols and
listening posts. Task was to locate enemy in woods SOUTH of CHATEAU DE
CORDILION
.
11 0300 Patrol from "A" Company attacked line of hedges in front of Company positions
called 'OAK'. This was to establish a base for deeper probing later in the
day. Enemy still on 'OAK' and our patrol attacked with hand grenades.
Patrol returned fire with Stens and 36 Grenades but had to withdraw.
Lieutenant McKelvis and three other ranks wounded.
0700 Mortar shoot for one house in support of 231 Brigade attacking to HOTTOT
0730 Two fighting patrol sent out to cause diversion. Had no sooner left our
lines then they were shot up by the enemy in the hedge. Lieutenant Gardner
of "A" Company had got almost as far as OAK when he was killed by machine
gun fire.
Enemy retaliated by putting down heavy mortar and artillery fire on forward
company areas. Casualties were quite heavy and no success at all had been
achieved.
Information from 8/DLI on right that G.A.F. Units were no in the line as
infantry.
12 Recce and Standing Patrols out during the morning.
1600 Commanding Officer to Brigade 'O' Group. Plan to attack enemy on "OAK"
with Crocodiles and two companies. 8/DLI on right doing same.
1900 Company Commanders conference at Battalion Headquarters to arrange relief of
"B" and "D" Companies, who would carry out attack. "A" and "C" Companies
to extend left and right respectively across front and whole of Carrier
Platoon into the line to protect the gaps. "B" and "D" Companies to move
out of line to area in rear to rehearse attack with crocodiles.
Page 6 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
12 (cont) 2200 "B" Company passed Battalion Control Point and moved into an area near LES
LE GALLOIS Cross Roads 814684.
2300 Message from Brigade Commander to stop move as plan for attack had been
cancelled. "B" Company to stay in reserve. "D" Company to stay in line.
13 1500 Representatives of "A" Squadron, 61 Recce Regt to Battalion Headquarters to
arrange for relief of Battalion on the 14th.
Policy of harassing enemy as much as possible by fire was carried out and
enemy was engaged by 2" Mortar and PIAT fired high angle as well as with
small arms. This policy was adopted in preference to sending out fighting
patrols, which had had no success in this close country and casualties on fighting
patrols had been heavy.
1930 Company Commanders Conference at Battalion Headquarters. Orders for relief
of Battalion by "A" Squadron, 61st Recce Regt.
14 0900 The divisional Commander, Major General D.A.H.Graham, C.B.E, D.S.O., M.C.,
visited the Battalion area.
"C" Company relieved by 1430 hours. "B" Company already out.
Carriers and Anti-tank Platoons out by 1800 hours.
"A" Company relief commenced at 2300 hours and completed by 0100 hours.
Battalion disposition now:-
Battalion HQ: 814688. "A" Company: 811686. "B" Company: 814684.
"C" Company: 816686. "D" Company: 804669.
"D" Company left in line with 61st Recce Regt.
15 1000 Commanding Officer carried out a recce of area for Battalion role, of counter
attack; Task "A" - Height 7867. Task "B" - High ground 8267.
Battalion now in reserve. P.R.I. issued company libraries and sports kit.
Battalion had more than its fair allotment of cinema seats in the afternoon
and evening.
Page 7 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
15 1500 Brigade 'O' Group. Battalion to move back into same area we left on 14th
with some adjustments. 61st Recce Regt to go on Division right flank to
release U.S.Forces.
"A" Company back to old area. "B" Company took over from "D" Company in
area "OP" HOUSE. Carrier Platoon took over "C" Company area PARC DE LA MARE.
"D" Company into rest area at 814687. "C" Company with two anti-tank guns
to come under command 8/DLI and to occupy positions in area LONGRAYE 7966.
16 1000 Commanding Officer and Officer Commanding "C" Company recced area on right
of 8/DLI front.
The following immediate awards were announced:-
Major G.L.Wood MC & Bar - Second in Command - D.S.O.
Captain I.A.Daw Carriers M.C.
Captain T.M.Kirk 2 i/c "C" Company M.C.
Captain D.Rome 2 i/c "B" Company M.C.
Major R.G.Arkinson M.C. O.C. "B" Company BAR TO M.C.
C.S.M. Howson "D" Company D.C.M.
Sgt.Montgomery Stretcher Bearers M.M.
Sgt.Botterman "A" Company M.M.
L/Cpl. Wear Signals M.M.
Sgt. Fradley "B" Company M.M.

Relief of "A" Squadron, 61st Recce Regt carried out as planned and completed
by 2330 hours.
Captain J.C.Browne, Officer Commanding "D" Company, appointed Acting Major
with effect from 16th June 1944.
Page 8 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
17 1100 "C" Company in position on 8/DLI right.
Battalion dispositions now:-
Bn HQ: 803679. "A" Coy - 799667. "B" Coy - 804669. "C" Coy - 788668.
"D" Coy - in reserve 814687.
1700 General B.L.Montgomery, K.C.B., D.S.O., Commander in Chief, 21st Army Group,
carried out an investiture at Divisional Headquarters. This investiture
was attended by Major G.L.Wood and Major R.G.Atkinson, Captain Daw, Sgt
Montgomery, Sgt Fradley and L/Cpl Wear. The other four men who had received
decorations had been wounded in action and evacuated.
Sniper action finished one weeks training under Captain Evans at "A" Echelon
and came under control of the Second in Command at Battalion Headquarters,
to be allotted to Companies as required. The value of the sniper section was
fully realised in the operations of the past month and after losing six of
the original section, the section was reformed at the earliest opportunity.
First class sniper suits were made with denums and scrim and face veils.
18 0800 Intercept message gave information that Prisoner captured by 231 Brigade
said enemy had withdrawn from the Division front.
0915 "A" and "B" Companies started to move forward, section by section, and by
1200 hours had reached line of track running EAST and WEST across edges of
CHATEAU DE CORDILLION. This was an advance of 400 yards and carried out
without opposition.
Diggings across the Battalion front indicated that the sector opposite the
Battalion had been held most likely by a company. Large quality of
ammunition and hand grenades left behind.
Sapper Platoon cleared roads and tracks of mines and obstacles, but found
no booby traps in hedges.
2000 Recce Patrol from "B" Company reported having been fired on from three
different areas.
Page 9 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
18 (cont) Track on WEST side of Chateau made unusable by a sniper located in a position
to fire directly up the track. "B" Company had casualties along this tracks:
1 Sgt and 1 Pte Killed and 1 Sgt wounded.
8/DLI on right conformed with our move and joined up with "A" Company on
right.
9/DLI on left not so far forward. "B" Company sent out a standing patrol to
811659 to secure left flank. Patrol fired on several times from left.
2200 Machine gun positions located by "B" Company patrol and engage by 2" mortar
fire.
19 Recce Patrols during the night reached main HOTTOT Road and reported having met no enemy.
1000 Casualties in "B" Company area from enemy "S" Mines.
Advance on both flanks continued and by 1700 hours 8/DLI on right and 9/DLI
on the left had occupied positions well SOUTH of main HOTTOT road.
Battalion into Brigade Reserve.
"C" Company left command of 8/DLI and rejoined Battalion. Took up positions
in area 806667.
20 Lieutenant (Quartermaster) T.J.F.Jones (General List) joined the Battalion.
21 History of Battalion up to the end of June sent off to Brigade for inclusion
in Division History.
22 1400 Commanding Officer to Brigade 'O' Group. Readjustment of Line - 231 Brigade
coming out: "C" Company to move into area 826657 Carrier Platoon to LA
MARMONNIER 825665 on left of 9/DLI and under command of 9/DLI.
1900 Carriers occupied new positions. They had great difficulty in moving across
country as heavy rain in last few days had made ground very muddy.
"C" Company moved from area CHATEAU DE CORDILION at 2300 hours and were in
position by 0200 hours.
Page 10 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
22 (Cont) 1800 Demonstration by "D" Company of Lifebouy Portable Flamethrower was attended
by the G.C.C., Brigade Commander and representatives of other Battalions.
Forward platoon held up by enemy post in next hedgerow 150 yards away.
Two sections gave covering fire and laid smoke screen with 2" mortar. One
assault section made right flanking movement to within ten yards of enemy
post, threw phosphorous bombs and squirted hedge with flamethrower.
During the demonstration flamethrower worked perfectly, but had been most
unreliable during practice. Immediate after the demonstration during
question period flamethrower would not work. This is a devastating piece
of equipment but unreliable and its weight and bulkiness makes an approach
difficult.
23 1100 Church of England Parade at Battalion Headquarters
1000 Roman Catholic Parade at Regimental Aid Post
1130 "D" Company moved from reserve positions to take over area near CHATEAU
CORDILLON
vacated by "C" Company.
Battalion dispositions now:-
Bn HQ - 807672. "A" Coy - 860663. "B" Coy - 807662. "C" Coy - 828655
"D" Coy - 864668. Carriers - 625665. "A" Echelon - 814692.
"B" Echelon - 822705.
One platoon of "A" Company was withdrawn from the line to an area in reserve
for a period of training, supervision by the Second in Command, Training
consisted only of Fieldcraft, Weapon training and platoon and section
exercises.
24 1000 Brigade Commander visited "A", "B" and "D" Companies.
1500 "A" Company platoon in training visited 450 Battery, 74th Field Regiment,
R.A., and were shewn over the guns and met the men who had supported the
Battalion so well in the past operations.
Training also being carried out in Company areas.
All enemy equipment, arms and ammunition from Battalion front gathered into
one central dump.
Page 11 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
24 (Cont) Commanding Officer ordered to take over from 9/DLI on the 25th july
25 0900 Company Commanders recced 9/DLI area.
2300 Relief commenced and complete by 0300 hours.
Battalion disposition now:-
Bn HQ:- 815658. "A" Coy - 823656. "B" Coy - 815655
"C" Coy - 827657. "D" Coy - 824653.
"C" company 9/DLI came under command 6/DLI and located at 815650
"D" Company established a platoon at Sand Pit 824646 which had been occupied
only by a standing patrol of 9/DLI.
26 0800 Heavy enemy shelling of area to right of Battalion
1100 Brigade Commander visited forward companies . Plan to push forward platoons
to hold a Brigade outpost line. 8/DLI already had platoons at 811642 and
815642. 6/DLI had platoon at 817643. One platoon from "C" Coy 9/DLI to
go forward to sand pit at 825645 to complete outpost line.
1600 Recce patrol from "C" Company, 9/DLI reported houses at 817643 clear of
enemy.
Captain J.H.Murphy, R.A.M.C, posted to 48 F.D.S. Captain W.Ferguson posted
to Battalion as Regimental Medical Officer.
"C" Company, 9/DLI, pushed forward one platoon and occupied area of sandpit
825645
27 Quite day on the Battalion front.
Snipers patrolled area NORTH of stream and claimed one kill in orchard at
826643.
"C" Company 9/DLI relieved by "B" Company 9/DLI.
Page 12 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
28 0700 "B" Company 9/DLI reported being fired on by rifle grenades from area of
houses at 819642.
Observation Posts on Battalion front reported no movement of enemy on ridge
directly in front. 8/DLI on our right reported same. It appears that
enemy may have pulled back beyond SERMENTOT, leaving as usual small groups
of snipers or machine gun posts as rearguard.
In p.m. sniper patrol returning to "D" Company lines was mortared by small
mortar from area 826643. This post was engaged by 3" Mortars.
29 "A" Company relieved "B" Company 9/DLI and took over sand pit area 825645.
1800 Commanding Officer at Brigade 'O' Group. Brigade to probe forward to secure
left flank of attack being made in GAUMENT sector. Limit of advance ridge
SERMENTOT - BELTOT. Advance to be made by two companies of 8/DLI and 9/DLI
Battalion to remain in Situ and be prepared to relieve 8/DLI once they had
secured area SERMENTOT 8162.
30 0800 Heavy Bombers passed over Battalion Headquarters to bomb objective and to
support attack being made on right GAUMONT area.
1000 "A" Company moved forward platoon across track and was fire upon by a
machine gun from farmhouse at 819643. Rifle grenades also fired into area
of sand pit. "A" Company engaged house by fire "2" mortars, E.Y. rifles
and PIATS at intervals during the day. By 1800 hours the enemy was driven
out of this house and ot was occupied by a section of "A" Company's forward
platoon. During this small action "A" Company had three men wounded.
1800 Mobile Light A/A Gun blown up on Tellermine in field at 814658, the next
field to Battalion Headquarters.
31 Sapper Platoon picked up 65 Tellermines in Field at 814658
"A" Company platoons moved forward to area of sandpits.
Page 13 of 13
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
31 (Cont) "D" Company moved two platoons forward to close gap between the Battalion and
2/5 Lane Fusiliers on left.
"B" Company moved platoons forward to occupy "A" Company's positions.
"C" Company now squeezed out of front by advance of "D" Company and 2/5
Lanc Fusiliers.

Total Casualties incurred by the Battalion from "D" Day 31st July 1944:-

OFFICERS:
Killed 1.
Missing 1.
Wounded 22. (Of whom 3 later died from wounds)

OTHER RANKS:
Killed 77.
Missing 19.
Wounded 306 (Of whom 10 later died from wounds)

In the Field
11 Aug 1944

A.E. Green Lieut-Colonel
Commanding 6th Bn The Durham Light Infantry