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
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Thur 1 June The 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 Jun Phase 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 Jun GT 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 Jun Personnel 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
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Mon 5 Jun All 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
EAST HAM.
Tue 6 Jun Marching 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 Jun A 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 Jun An 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
NEWTON.
Fri 9 Jun The 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 Jun Marching 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 Jun The 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
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Mon 12 Jun Throughout 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 June During 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 Inf Bde 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 Jun 6 DWR placed under comd 146 Inf Bde 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
8874
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 Jun Reveille 0500 hrs and crossed SP at 0700 hrs. In posn centered on ST CROIX
GRANDE TONNE
by 0900 hrs with Bn Hq at 892745. Posn now is that 146 Inf Bde
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 Inf Bde (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 Jun Heavy 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
bns fwd) on FONTENAY LE PESSEL.

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

Bn Int Summary No4 and Bn News sheet issued.
Stand To from 2200 to 2300 hrs.
Page 4 of 6
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References to Appendices
Sat 17 Jun 100% 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 Inf Bde this evening.
Bn left assembly area to assemble for attack on line of road CRISTOT - LE HAUTS
VENTS
, 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 Inf Bde
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 Jun CO proceeded to Bde HQ 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
BOISLONDE
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 Div Arty 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 Jun Standing 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
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References 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 Jun Civilians 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 Jun The quietest day since our arrival on the BOISLONDE feature and
at long last the sun came out. Advantage taken to finally dry our
kits.
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. Bn OP 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 Jun Relieved 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 Jun CO 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 Inf Bdes.
CO attended Bde 'O' Gp at 1400 hrs and later held his own 'O'
Gp at Bn HQ to tie up final details for tomorrows big push.
No other important events took place. (See Appx 'A').
(See Appx 'A')
Sun 25 Jun Heavy barrage put down on Div front by 8 Fd Regts, 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 Inf Bde 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 Bn HQ. 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 Inf Bde 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
comd:-
Sec 160 Fd Amb
In sp Tp 49 Div Recce Regt
C Sqn Sherwood Rangers. RAC
Tp A.V.R.E.
Two Pls MMG, 2 Kens.
Two Fd and one Med Regt
Page 6 of 6
Place Date Hour Summary of Events and Information References 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 arty conc
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 Bn HQ. 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 Jun At 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 arty sp 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 Fd Regt 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 Armd Bde 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 Med Regt 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.