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    War Diary: 7 Bn Duke of Wellington

    Month and year: June 1944

    The June 1944, war diary for the 7th Battalion Duke of Wellington covers there time in England before departing Southampton for JIG Green beach to the east of Asnelles and follows them to fighting around Fontenay.

    National Archive Reference: WO 171/1288

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    Page 1 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    Thur 1 JuneThe snipers of the Bn took park in Phase 1 of their competition. Phase 1
    consisted of fd craft and observation in the FRITTON WARREN area.
    Fri 2 JunPhase 2 of the Snipers Competition took place in the built-up YARMOUTH
    street fighting area.
    Pl competitions began. In these each Pl in the Bn has to provide teams
    for association football, a cross country run, basket ball, drill,
    miniature range shooting and mines test. The winning pl is to receive a
    free day and the runners up a free afternoon.
    Sat 3 JunGT YARMOUTH'S "Salut the Soldier" Week began and the Bn provided an
    Officer and 20 men to form part of the guard of honour for Field Marshall
    Lord Ironside, GCB CMG DSO.
    The Bn's advance party, consisting of Major BV Thomlinson, CSM Wootton and
    two ORs, left camp at 1800 hrs to0day.
    Sun 4 JunPersonnel from the PAI took part in an impressive all-Services Church Parade
    held in the ruins of St. Nicholas Church, in connection with "Salut the
    Soldiers" week.
    Bn warned to stand by and all ranks confined to camp from 1200 hrs. This
    order was later cancelled as events had been put back 24 hours.
    Page 2 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    Mon 5 JunAll ranks confined to camp today and final packing and cleaning up was done.
    Veh party, under Capt TW Hibbert, left camp for their marshalling area, T 5
    Tue 6 JunMarching personnel left SOUTHTOWN Station about 0900 hrs and heard of the
    Allied landings in NORMANDY before they left the station. The train arrived
    at SNARESBROOK at 1300 hrs and the tps marched and cycled up to the marshalling
    area T7, at WANSTEAD FLATS and settled in in the tented camp there.
    Excitement ran high and everyone was keenly interested in any scrap of
    information regarding the landings.
    The veh party, on its way down, was informed of the big event by a CMP en
    route and the news was soon confirmed by civilians who crowded the streets
    to cheer the column on its way. They arrived at 1155 hrs and in the
    afternoon all motor cycles were loaded on trucks and carriers and final stages
    of waterproofing were completed.
    A fine programme of music was provided for them at 1800 hrs by the band of
    HM Coldstream Guards, whilst at T7, Gereldo and his Orchestra regaled the
    marching party with a concert of dance music.
    Wed 7 JunA quite day at T7 with all ranks settling in and cleaning up. 50% of the
    party were allowed out of camp from 1600 hrs to 2200 hrs.
    In T5, the first convoy of vehs, consisting of all 15 cwt trucks, Universal
    carriers and the majority of 4 ton lorries, left at 1445 hrs. Only the
    drivers of vehs went, the remainder of the party stayed behind.
    Thu 8 JunAn ENSA party put on a show for the tps in T7 and remaining 50% were
    allowed out of the camp during the same hours as yesterday.
    In T5, the remaining personnel left at 1500 hrs and at 1800 hrs the loading
    of vehs on to the ship was completed and the personnel embarked on SS EMPIRE
    Fri 9 JunThe CO briefed all Officers and WOs in T7 in the morning on the forthcoming
    operation. Throughout the day, coys briefed their own tps. The camp was
    "sealed" from 1200 hrs and the cycles of the Bn were loaded on to a train at
    London Bridge Station in the afternoon.
    During the night 8/9 June, the veh party left Victoria Docks and sailed down
    the R. Thames to SOUTHEND, anchoring there for the remainder of the day.
    Sat 10 JunMarching party were due to leave T7 in tpt for London Bridge Station at 1100 hrs
    and proceed by train from there to NEWHAVEN, where they were to embark on 3
    LCI(L). At 0300 hrs, however, the camp was awakened with orders to be
    prepared to leave at 0600 hrs for Waterloo Station and thenoe by train to
    SOUTHAMPTON. The men packed in the dark, drew rations, etc and were ready
    to move by the time stated, but the party did not not leave camp until 0800 hrs
    in TCLs. During the wait period, the OC gave a talk to all ranks on what he
    expected of them in the future.
    On the journey through the streets the civilians waved and wished God Speed
    to the tps and the party left Waterloo Station at 1000 hrs and reached
    SOUTHAMPTON at noon. Instead of finding LCI(L) waiting, as was originally
    intended, all three bns of the Bde boarded HMT CHESTER. A hot meal was
    served and boat drill was held during the evening whilst the ship was moving
    out to the SOLENT. The convoy we joined eventually sailed about midnight.
    Sun 11 JunThe veh party set sail for FRANCE at 0600 hrs today, 11th June. The marching
    party was due to disembark at 0700 hrs but the coast of FRANCE was not sighted
    until about 0730 hrs. 7 DWER were first off the ship with A and B coys,
    the CO, Adjt, IO and others leaving first in one craft at 1035 hrs. The craft
    was unable to beach at JIG GREEN immediately owing to the enemy shelling the
    beach and laid off shore for 1 1/2 hours, eventually landing at 1345 hrs. The
    remainder of the Bn beached at once. We were met at the concentration area
    by the advance party and the Bn dug in in the area of FRESNAY LE CROTTEUR 8978.
    The first tpt of the veh party came ashore at 1800 hrs, the ship having dropped
    anchor at 0800 hrs. Unloading of vehs on to LCTs began at 1300 hrs.
    On the way over they had an air raid at 0335 hrs, when an enemy plane attacked
    the convoy and dropped four glider bombs. One hit the ship in front and the
    other 3 were near misses.
    The CO attended BDE 'O' Gp and held Bn 'O' Gp on his return at 2100 hrs,
    putting the Officers in the picture with regard to the situation, which is
    extremely favourable. The Bn had an undisturbed night.
    Page 3 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    Mon 12 JunThroughout the day tpt arrived by the boatloads and the Bn were busy
    improving slit trenches and generally cleaning up. The day was very warm.
    Noises of battle were heard from up front and two batches of prisoners who
    passed through seemed very young and weary.

    The CO attended 'O' Gp at Bde and on his return again put Officers
    "in the picture" about developments.

    The Prime Minister, the C.I.G.S. and Field Marshal Smuts landed
    this afternoon and were met by General Montgomery on the beach.
    Tue 13 JuneDuring the night 12/13 Jun, air raids seemed continuous but no bombs fell
    in the Bn area. The flak was tremendous and the sky was alight with red
    tracer and flares.
    Another quite day with hundreds and planes overhead.
    Bn ordered to be prepared to take over A tk defence of COULOMBES from 146 Inf
    Bde, who are relieving 69 InfBde of 59 Div tonight area AUDRIEU. CO did
    necessary recce and told Bde he would like to move whole Bn to COULOMBES.
    We did not move, however.
    Heavy air raids by RAF on enemy late evening afforded the Bn a grandstand
    view. We saw two of out planes brought down, one of which, a Thunderbolt
    fighter limped over out lines before crashing.
    First Bn news sheet was produced today.
    Wed 14 Jun6 DWR placed under comd 146 InfBde at 1100 hrs and Bde warned us to be
    prepared to move at short notice.

    CO visited Bde 1430 hrs and ordered to do recce of ST CROIX GRANDE TONNE
    with a view to moving there tomorrow.

    11 RSF also moved to area alongside us.

    'O' Gp did recce in afternoon.

    Heavy air raids over beachead at night.
    Thu 15 JunReveille 0500 hrs and crossed SP at 0700 hrs. In posn centered on ST CROIX
    by 0900 hrs with Bn Hq at 892745. Posn now is that 146 InfBde
    hold AUDRIEU with HALLAMS, Pt 103 with 4 LINCS and wood NORTH of BRONAY with
    1/4 KOYLI. Enemy reported at BRONAY and CRISTOT and woods between. Said to
    be from Pz Lehr Div. 147 InfBde (less 6 DWR as stated, 11 RSF immediately on
    our left preparing to take over wood NORTH of BRONAY from 1/4 KOYLI.
    11 RSF took over 1100 hrs. Information about enemy came in steadily all
    afternoon and by nightfall a comprehensive picture pf the enemy locations had
    been built up. Bde 'O' Gp at night resulted in 7 DWR having a counter
    attack role against either 11 RSF or 6 DWR positions. 1/4 KOYLI to attack
    one of the enemy's main bases at CRISTOT from WEST tomorrow with heavy support
    from arty and air. 11 RSF to stage "demonstration" to give enemy
    impression attack coming from NORTH through BRONAY. For this purpose our
    mortar pl goes under comd 11 RSF.
    Fri 16 JunHeavy firing from area 11 RSF caused "stand to" of the Bn in early hrs
    and little sleep was had. Firing turned out to be fore plan for extricating
    a KOYLI patrol still in BRONAY.

    'O' Gp recce for counter attack role in morning. Before this
    enemy fighters attacked D Coy - no casualties.

    11 RSF advanced and occupied BRONAY and woods SOUTH and 1/4 KOYLI
    attack on CRISTOT was successful.

    Bde 'O' Gp at night revealed Bde plan for tomorrow as follows:
    6 DWR to capture LE PARC DE BOISLONDE 8768 with set piece attack at 1400 hrs
    if occupied (patrols from KOYLI at CRISCOT and 6 DWR themselves to find this
    out); 11 RSF to form firm base in their area 8871; 7 DWR to move tomorrow
    through 11 RSF and assemble in rear of KOYLI posn prior to a Div attack (two
    bnsfwd) on FONTENAY LE PESSEL.

    Bn 'O' Gp 2200 hrs and CO gave orders for this move and previous

    Bn Int Summary No4 and Bn News sheet issued.
    Stand To from 2200 to 2300 hrs.
    Page 4 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    Sat 17 Jun100% Stand to from 0430 to 0530 hrs.
    CO and IO recced route for today's move to assembly area behind KOYLI at
    CRISTOT. Bn left ST CROIX GRAND TONNE at 1150 hrs and arrived in
    assembly area 8771 about half an hr later.
    LE PARC DE BOISLONDE was occupied in some strength by enemy and 6 DWR were
    successful after some confused fighting.
    CO arrived back from Bde 'O' Gp at 1400 hrs with orders for impending attack
    on FONTENAY LE PESNEL, together with a Bn of 146 InfBde this evening.
    Bn left assembly area to assemble for attack on line of road CRISTOT - LE HAUTS
    , leaving majority of tpt. 'F' Echelon tpt could not get to area by
    same route as marching personnel owing to two knocked-out SHERMAN tanks on
    the road and a detour had to be made.
    Whilst doing this the CO linked up with the Hallamshire Bn of 146 InfBde
    who were formed up for the joint attack area 8670. Bde called for a
    representative to go for orders at this stage - 1800 hrs - and the IO was sent.
    Bn went ahead with original plan. IO returned 1930 hrs with orders to take
    over posns of 1/4 KOYLI at CRISTOT as operation was postponed for this evening.
    Bn did so and suffered its first taste of enemy mortaring, which resulted in
    our first casualties in action this was. No.5049825 Cpl. Hearson E was
    killed at 2200 hrs and during the night the Bn had 4 casualties.
    Sun 18 JunCO proceeded to BdeHQ at 0600 hrs and rang up Bn at 0900 hrs with
    warning order to be prepared to attack Pt 102 with two coys as it dominated
    LE PARC DE BOISLONDE feature on which 6 DWR were sitting. The CO returned
    about noon with orders to attack Pt 102 with two coys at 1400 hrs.
    At 1300 hrs a counter attack by the enemy drove 6 DWR off LE PARC DE
    feature with heavy casualties. The enemy mortared our area
    steadily from 1330 hrs onwards and the CO rang Bde asking for postponement of
    the attack. The request was granted.
    At 1430 hours the QM of 6 DWR arrived with about 100 men, some with arms
    and equipment and others without. These were hastily allotted to coys and
    some went into the attack with us. Our attack was in two waves, the first
    being A and B Coys, followed by C and D Coys, which meant in actual fact that
    a Bn attack was mounted in a very short time, the original plan being an attack
    on Pt 102 with A and B Coys.
    We crossed the SL - track leading SE from 879699 - at 1545 hrs supported
    by a Sqn of Sherwood Rangers and the DivArty plus two Medium Regts. Heavy
    casualties were sustained from enemy mortaring on the way to the objective,
    which was captured at 1700 hrs. 12 enemy, presumed to be from the 12 SS Pz
    Div "HITLER JUGEND" were accounted for. Our casualties were 1 Officer and
    4 ORs killed, Four Officers and 61 ORs wounded, and 18 ORs missing.
    Capt FC Scholes, OC 'A' Coy, was killed in this our first action. The four
    officers wounded were Lts Rogers, Bennett, Duncan and Delaney. Lt Bennett
    sustained his injury from MG fire from enemy aircraft just before crossing the SL.
    The Bn re-organised in the area immediately NORTH of LE PARC DE BOISLONDE and
    dug in for the night. An enemy counter attack formed up cornfield 400 yds
    EAST of LE PARC was spotted by the CO on re-organisation recce and was
    broken up by the arty fire at once. The counter attack force consisted of infantry
    and two tanks.
    Spasmodic shelling and mortaring caused a few more casualties.
    Mon 19 Jun"Stand To" 0430 hrs. Heavy rain the whole day caused slit trenches
    and "walks" within the area to become very muddy. Men stood up to the weather
    very well. Spasmodic shelling and mortaring at intervals during the day.
    Daylight patrols reported the PARC wood clear of enemy. Standing
    recce and fighting patrols were found by the Bn in the wood at night.
    Tue 20 JunStanding patrols continued in wood throughout the day. News received
    from patrols that about 40 French civilians and 5 6 DWR soldiers were in
    Chateau in centre of PARC and had approached us with a note to get them out.
    This report was treated with suspicion at first but was later found to be
    correct and we sent back the soldiers and three civilians for interrogation
    and eventful evacuation by Civil Affairs. Various reports of enemy from
    patrols during the day.
    The CO went to Bde and returned with news of 11 DLI taking over from
    us in this posn and of the future Div attack on FONTENAY and the high ground
    beyond. Recce parties from 11 DLI arrived and recced their areas.
    Page 5 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    GOC 49 Div visited us in the evening, toured the forward posns
    and looked at the country beyond FONTENAY from Intelligence OP.
    Received first line reinforcements consisting of 2 Officers and
    111 ORs. The Officers are Lt Wg Wood and Lt L Merrill. Lt Wood
    is one of our own first line reinforcement officers. Lt Merrill
    comes from 10 DWR.
    During 'Stand to' reports of enemy seen SOUTH of Pt 102, of enemy
    AFV movement and of smoke screen on left flank, caused 'Stand Down'
    to be delayed until 0210 hrs.
    Wed 21 JunCivilians in Chateau evacuated by Civil Affairs Officers.
    Brigadier Mahoney visited posns as a result of which the coy lay
    out was altered slightly.
    C Coy Standing Patrol at SOUTH of wood mortared out, the Officer IC,
    Lt Wood, received slight shrapnel wound in the arm.
    Recce parties from 11 DLI who are to relieve us so as to allow
    us to assemble for the forthcoming attack, visited their opposite
    numbers to view locations.
    Thu 22 JunThe quietest day since our arrival on the BOISLONDE feature and
    at long last the sun came out. Advantage taken to finally dry our
    A heavy 'stonk' by four medium Regts in the afternoon on suspected
    enemy pl seen digging in on reverse slope area 885685. Other shoots
    by arty as reports of enemy movements seen from various OPs.
    Appx 570 Allied bombers flew across Bn front at 2130 hrs through
    very heavy enemy flak. BnOP at Pt 102 states they dropped bombs
    on a place bearing 163° magnetic - ? GRANVILLE SUR ODON. One
    was shot down in flames.
    The CO had 'O' Gp regarding the forthcoming big attack.
    Fri 23 JunRelieved on PARC DE BOISLONDE feature by 11 DLI, starting
    0800 hrs and finishing about mid day. Moved back to new area -
    orchard 880706 - and Bn, after digging in, rested and cleaned up.
    CO received orders for our attack on feature NORTH of RAURAY 8865
    at Bde 'O' Gp in afternoon. Traces of enemy posns and arty support
    also received.
    Sat 24 JunCO briefed all Coy Comds and Comds of supporting arms in afternoon
    for the forthcoming attack on FONTENAY LE PESNEL and RAURAY by 146
    and 147 InfBdes.
    CO attended Bde 'O' Gp at 1400 hrs and later held his own 'O'
    Gp at BnHQ to tie up final details for tomorrows big push.
    No other important events took place. (See Appx 'A').
    (See Appx 'A')
    Sun 25 JunHeavy barrage put down on Div front by 8 FdRegts, 5 Medium Regts
    and 3 4.2 in Mortar Coys, commencing at 0300 hrs. Zero hr for Phase I,
    the attack by two bns of 146 InfBde and 11 RSF on to FONTENAY was set
    for 0430 hrs. Owing to the mist and smoke put down by our arty, the
    situation became confused on 11 RSF front. Coys were out of touch
    with BnHQ. At 0733 hrs the CO (11RSF) reported that he was
    beginning to make shape of things, the trouble being that the men
    had not known where they were. At 0947 hrs visibility become quite
    good and fighting was reported to be going on in FONTENAY.
    146 InfBde captured their objective at 1140 hrs.
    The Brigadier sent for out CO at 1245 hrs and gave orders for a
    probable attack by 7 DWR on FONTENAY. Leading coys moved forward
    to assembly area at 1500 hrs and the CO met the Brigadier again at
    1630 hrs. Bn arrives at FUP(876706) at 1700 hrs.
    CO retuned from his conference with the Brigadier and held
    Bn 'O' Gp at 2000 hours. Orders were given for a Bn attack on
    FONTENAY and zero was to be 2100 hrs.
    The plan of operations was of interest. The Bn had under
    Sec 160 FdAmb
    In spTp 49 Div Recce Regt
    C Sqn Sherwood Rangers. RAC
    Tp A.V.R.E.
    Two Pls MMG, 2 Kens.
    Two Fd and one MedRegt
    Page 6 of 6
    PlaceDateHourSummary of Events and InformationReferences to Appendices
    A, B, D Coys with a tp Sherwood Rangers and in turn Tp Avre
    in sp were given sectors to clear in turn after the 30 mins artyconc
    on the whole sector was lifted. (See sketch). C Coy and
    if necessary, Sqn Sherwood Rangers were to exploit ST NICHOLAS
    Fm. MMGs protected East flank throughout the daylight by fire
    from area Pt 102.
    In general the operation went as planned B & D Coys
    took their objectives in the gathering dusk, in noisy and
    confused fighting. Houses were burning snipers were
    legion and the confusion the 'blitzed' village at night produced
    all the difficulties of re-organisation and control.
    A Coy passed through when D 'peeled off'. It was now
    dark. C Sqn Sherwood Rangers against all principles
    'nosed' A Coy to the East end of the village and gave them
    magnificent sp in total darkness until released after
    midnight to laager at BnHQ. A Coy was short of their
    objective which was a nest of spandous. It was not
    possible to push C Coy on, and the Bn stayed "put", but
    not resting, since digging had to be done. Touch had
    now been gained with remnants 11 RSF and with Hallams.
    26 JunAt 0300 hrs a patrol from "D" Coy reported tanks and inf
    at ST NICHOLAS Fm. Our A Tk guns were already up in spite of
    intense difficulties of finding their way, danger of mines roads
    and obstructions.
    A plan was made with H hr at 0600 hrs for C & D to get
    ST NICHOLAS Fm, sp by Sherwood Rangers Sqn and two Fd and 1 Med
    Regt. Most unfortunately at 0545 hrs we were informed that
    no artysp was available due to requirements on breakthrough of
    15 (S) Div through CHEUX. This was a serious blow as the attack
    had to be called off and done much later under much more
    unfavourable conditions.
    A Coy was therefore, put into its objective and killed and
    captures 20-25 Boche of 12 SS Pz Div 'HITLER JUGEND'.
    This got us south and behind the mysterious 102 reverse slope
    posn we had pondered about ever since 17 June.
    At 0930 hrs C & D attacked with one FdRegt and Sqn Tk and
    were met immediately by some 4 or 5 PANTHERS and Mk IV in the
    corn. C Coy suffered fairly heavily in open grass fields, but
    managed to hold on and engage a MK IV successfully with PIAT.
    Our Shermans could not manoeuvre out from the village and so
    both C & D were recalled behind the start line.
    Mortaring, shelling and general enemy activity increased from
    then on. 8 ArmdBde tried to force its way through on our right,
    but wer halted by lone Panthers and 88s.
    At 1530 hrs the Sherwood Rangers (whole Regt) sp by us and
    three Fd and One MedRegt re-attacked ST NICHOLAS Fm, B Right
    A left and C & D as form base. Very stiff battle. Tremendous fire
    fight for 30 mins between tanks, then opposition gave and SR and
    we went in. Great difficulty in getting vehicles, anti-tk guns,
    MGs up through village bottlenecks due to intense mortaring.
    Posn won by 1900 hrs. Re-organised and 11 DLI passed through
    with 24 Lancers at about 2100 hrs. Objective RAURAY.

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