4th Special Service Brigade - No.48 (Royal Marine) Commando - War Diaries
5th June 1944
1330 - The Commando left the Marshalling area in TCV's for WARSASH where after a brief wait in a field, [at 1400 hrs] it embarked from the Jetty on LCI(S) of 202 Flotilla.
1900 - That evening, after lying alongside during the afternoon, the flotilla sailed for its RV with the convoy. The Cdo was informed that the operation was on, maps were distributed and troops told their objective.
5th to 6th June 1944
Place: At Sea
The crossing was rough since there was a stiff NW breeze and a high proportion of the troops were seasick. The [?] issued had little effect as a sedative. The night passed without incident.
0500 - The next morning we reached our RV off the French coast and circled the HQ ship, HMS HILARY awaiting the time to land. H was postponed 15 minutes. About 0730 the Flotilla moved in towards the shore, men put on their equipment and camouflaged their faces and hands. At first it appeared that the landing would be unopposed and most craft dismounted the 2" mortars which were prepared to cover the landings with smoke. Then MG's opened up from the Strongpoint at ST AUBIN, which was almost opposite the Easternmost landing craft and perhaps 2000 yds from the Westernmost, and the craft were subjected to mortar and shell fire; the 'Z' Tp craft received a direct hit amidships. The Oerlikons replied and the craft put down smoke on the beach, with 2 in mortars.
Place: St Aubin, Nan Red (010853)
0843 - Beach obstacles had not been cleared and were well below the water when the Cdo landed. Two craft (Y and Z Tps) struck obstacles and were unable to beach. HQ craft struck an obstacle but was fairly close inshore. The majority of landing ramps failed, either because their inshore ends floated or because the movement of the craft on the obstacles shook them off the craft. A, B, X and HQ Tps were able to wade ashore in about 3 feet of water, but Y and Z Tps could only get ashore by swimming. Many offrs and men attempted to swim ashore from these craft and a high proportion of these were lost through drowning owing to a strong [?]. Some got ashore (Major de Stacpoole just made the beach although wounded before he left the craft, Capt Lennard, a strong swimmer was drowned: TSM Trewers was carried far to the East and landed under the guns of the strongpoint at LANGRUNE. On reaching the shore, troops made for the cover of the earth cliff and sea wall. Here they found a confused situation. The cliff and sea wall gave some protection from SA fire, but any movement away from them was under MG fire. The whole area meanwhile was under heavy mortar and shellfire. Under the sea wall was a jumble of men from other units including many wounded and dead; the beach was congested with tanks, SP guns and other vehicles, some out of action, others attempting to move from the beach in the very confused space between the waters edge and the sea wall. LCT's were arriving all the time and attempted to land their loads, adding to the general confusion. A quick recce showed that the beach exit to the right of the isolated houses was free from aimed SA fire except for occasional shots and that a gap had been cleared through the mines. As this was the quickest way to the assembly area, orders were immediately passed for troops to move up to the assembly area by this route. B Tp led followed by A, HQ, and X, but in the conditions prevailing, it was largely a question of telling subsec comds and individual men the way to move. The Assembly area was much quieter and Tp RV's were quickly established and Cdo HQ set up. The CO returned to the beach to contact Y and Z Tps. A considerable number of men of mixed Tps were found still under the cliff and these were moved off to the right. He found Y Tp attempting to get ashore from an LCT to which they had transferred from their LCI. Lieut Fouche was already ashore and he was ordered to pass men along to the right as they came ashore, but he was hit almost immediately by mortar fragments and seriously wounded; his orderly was killed. However, the landing of Y Tp was very slow and few men managed to get ashore before the LCT (as was later discovered) shoved off, taking with her about 50 men of the Cdo to England despite their energetic protests. Z Tp was more fortunate and about 40 men were eventually collected in the assembly area; these had got ashore xxxxx it was found on calling for reports that A, B and X Tps each had about 50-55 men available (Capt Reynolds A Tp returned to duty although wounded). 'S' Tp had one 3" mortar and one Bren det (MMG's were to come later in Tpt). HQ had had about 20 casualties but was working satisfactorily. The 5 men of Y Tp present were joined with Z Tp (about 40) under comd Maj Freeman (attached from SAUDF seconded RM). Maj de Stacpoole although wounded and exhausted by his swim, pressed for employment but was ordered to remain in the Ass Area and bring on the remnants of Y Tp. The CO now issued a warning order for the advance and made his way to the pre-arranged RV with Lt Col Buell (CO N. Shore Regt). The latter informed him that the Rd on the inland side of St Aubin was clear but that the Strongpoint was still holding out against B Coy, N Shore Regt (it held out until nearly dark). 'D' Coy had reached the Rly Sta where it was in contact with enemy dets. C Coy was about to start for TAILLEVILLE.
1030 - On returning to the assembly area, the CO ordered the Cdo to move off according to plan. 'B' Tp was to move straight to the beach defences immediately East of St Aubin ('Deathshead Section') while the remainder with 'A' Tp as advance guard moved on LANGRUNE. Supporting LCG's (331 Flotilla Lt Com York) were asked over the RT link to lift fire from Deathshead Section at 1200 hrs. The advance was without incident; the vicinity of LANGRUNE Church was found unoccupied.
1150 - X Tp was now detached to tackle the next sector of beach defence (Dogfish One). 'A' and 'Z' Tps faced South to prevent an enemy counter attack. 'A' Tp sent a patrol to the Bridge at 037828 which was found unoccupied with orders to guard the bridge and make contact with 41 (RM) Cdo. 41 Cdo, however, were badly held up at Lion-sur-Mer and never reached this bridge.
1300 - 'B' Tp now reported 'Deathshead' clear; they had found it unoccupied and suffered only one casualty (Lt Curtis) wounded by own naval support fire. 'B' Tp was ordered to report to Cdo HQ established at 030836.
1327 - A little later X Tp reported Dogfish One clear, and as Y Tp was absent, were ordered to continue clearing Dogfish Two. Here almost at once, they came under LMG fire from the area of the Cross Rds. The Tp Comd was unable to make progress down the Street and began to work round the right (inland flank). On reaching Rd 'A', he attempted to attack towards the sea but was unable to gain ground down this street either and Wentwall reported in person to Cdo HQ.
1430 - On receiving this report, the CO decided to probe towards the seafront on a Two Tp front, X Tp down Street 'A', and 'B' Tp Street 'B'. The Cross Rds AA - BB were the respective objectives of the Tps. 'A' Tp was held in reserve, ready to exploit any success by 'B' Tp. Z Tp was to remain in the area of the church to guard against counter attacks from the South.
1445 - 'X' Tp was moved back some 300 yds inland of the Rly and Naval Support requested. The bombardment from the LCG's lifted at 1530 hrs and both Tps started to work down the street using the cover of houses and gardens. The line of the Rly was quickly gained by both Tps, but after that, both met LMG fire down the Street, and sniping and mortar fire from the gardens. 'B' Tp continued to make ground although progress was slow owing to the substantial and frequent walls and fences that required to be breached.
1800 - However about 1800 hrs, its CO found Capt Perry (OC 'B' Tp) in the houses about 50 yds from the cross rds 'BB'. From an attic light, Capt Perry could see the Germans and said that they appeared to be in a bad way and that he would be ready to assault shortly. The CO, who had been wounded earlier in the forearm, did not climb up to the attic, but return to move 'A' Tp down to exploit 'B' Tps success.
1815 - Shortly after this, however, Capt Perry was killed by a sniper and although the Tp continued slowly to make their way forward, no proper assault was made. Eventually 2/Lt Rubinstein (now OC 'B' Tp) reported that he was held up on the edge of the cleared area some 20 yds short of the Cross Rds.
1820 - On returning to Cdo HQ which had now been established in a Farm at 033836, the CO found two CENTAUR tanks of the 2nd RMAS Regt which had been sent to assist. After some delay, one was sent down each Rd with improvised means of comns with the infantry. The presence of these AFV's helped the infantry forward a little on 'B' Tps front and soon their Centaur reached the Cross Rds, BB, and was able to fire down the lateral street. The direction of the Centaurs fire was painfully slow for the crews were quite unaccustomed to cooperate with infantry, indeed to work as tanks - their role was that of SP Arty -. However most of the houses around BB were soon knocked about, although the HE shell, which was all the tanks could fire, had no effect on the anti-tank wall and reinforced house immediately East of it. 'B' Tp was now ordered to gain the houses around the Cross Rd, BB. 2/Lt Rubinstein led the assault and was able to gain the more badly damaged houses on the NW corner, but could not get into the reinforced house or across the A Tk wall. Over the top of this came a steady flow of stick grenades which did suspiciously little harm. But 'B' Tp was unable to get beyond the first two houses in this sector and eventually withdrew to the SW corner to ask for further assistance. By this time 'B' Tps Centaur had run out of Amn and was withdrawn. Another (from a further Troop which had arrived) came up, but immediately set off a mine which broke the track. This blocked the road. Meanwhile 'X' Tp had run into mines in Street 'A' and lost a number of men from these and from LMG fire.
2100 - At this time, Brig BW Leicester (comd 4 SS Bde) called in at Cdo HQ. He said that a counter attack might be expected at dawn and ordered the Cdo to consolidate LANGRUNE against attack. Light was now failing, and the CO decided that as the Cdo was much reduced in numbers, he would hold the ground gained with the smallest possible force and concentrate the remainder around Cdo HQ to cover the approaches from the South and East.
6th to 7th June 1944
0830 - The night passed quietly and the morning brought no signs of a counter attack. So the CO sent an LO to inform Bde that the Cdo was now to weak simultaneously to hold the Southern part of LANGRUNE and to attack the Strongpoint. Meanwhile the one 3" mortar was brought into action to keep the enemy strongpoint occupied and harassed - it was later learnt that it was most effective. From Bde came the welcome reply that an enemy counter attack was no longer likely and that two M10 SP ATR guns would be sent to assist with the concrete. As Road 'A' was mined and explosives owing to losses on the beach the previous day were short, the CO decided to attack down Street B, using the M10's to knock down the concrete wall and reinforced house. To do this it was necessary to clear a way through the minefield on which the Centaur had been blown up. This was to be done by Bangalore Torpedoes of which just enough were available. 'A' Tp was to make the attack, while 'X' Tp were to contain the enemy down Street 'B' with fire.
1130 - The attack started at 1130; the Bangalore was laid and blown and the first M10 got round the Centaur. For the next 90 minutes the M10 hammered at the wall. By about 1230 all its amn had gone and the top half of the wall had been destroyed. The Sherman which led the Centaur Tp now had a go, but the wall remained a total tank obstacle. So 'A' Tp was ordered to advance across the Cross Rds and secure the two houses on either side of the wall. Meanwhile 'B' and 'Z' Tps under Maj Freeman were ordered up with picks, shovels and explosives, and Lt Lee of the 4 A Tk Regt RCA, who was in charge of the M10's and had directed their fire throughout, went forward as Tank adviser. He found that the remnants of the wall with trenches on the enemy (seaward) side still made an A Tk obstacle.
1430 - B and Z Tps were therefore set to work filling them in. 'A' Tp meanwhile were making good progress through the houses on the seaward side of the street from crossrds BB towards crossrds AA and by the time the first tank (the Sherman) crossed the obstacle had penetrated half way down. The Sherman reached the terrace between the sea and the houses and promptly put one track in a comn trench, filled to an uncomfortable angle and become immobilised. However the turret MG opened up and raked the terrace in a frightening although inaccurate manner.
1518 - Either on account of this or because 'A' Tp was making rapid progress through the houses which formed the main strongpoint and overlooked the beach defences, the German garrison shortly surrendered. We took 31 prisoners identified as belonging to 736 GR and had killed some 8 or 10. In the strongpoint we captured a 5cm A Tk gun, 3 MG 34's, a Bazooka type gun, several 5cm mortars and an A Tk rifle together with much amn. Meanwhile 46 RM Cdo who had landed early on D + 1 advanced through Southern Langrune and found the last houses of 48 Cdo's objective (DORIS Section) unoccupied as they passed on their way to tackle PETIT ENFER. This we had suspected but lacked the troops to investigate. The effective strength of the Commando was thus reduced to 223 all ranks by the evening of D + 1, the total casualties being 217 all ranks (of these 60 were to reappear in about 3 time having been taken back to England in the LCT).
1800 - That evening 48 RM Cdo was ordered to send a security patrol to St Aubin where there were numerous reports of snipers. Our patrol found nothing. Reports received from civilians indicated that the enemy had withdrawn from Douvres and La Deliverande.
7th to 8th June 1944
During the night, patrols were maintained along the coastal sector, but no enemy were encountered. Loose shooting from our own Tps caused occasional alarms.
8th June 1944
48 Cdo was now give the task of maintaining security in St Aubin and Langrune and systematic search was made of all houses without finding any Germans. Z Tp now installed themselves in St Aubin with X Tp who were given the task of clearing Nan Red Beach and burying our dead. B Tp took over Langrune. Liaison was established with the Mayors of Langrune and St Aubin to control the civil population, a curfew was imposed. The population was friendly and gave all help. Two suspects at Langrune were arrested and handed over to FSP for investigation. The Cdo was reorganised into 4 fighting troops each with 3 subsections. Offrs were divided as follows. 'A' Tp Lts Mackenzie and Ford, 'B' Tp 2/Lt Rubinstein, 'X' Tp Lt Goodlitt 'Z' Tp Lt Square 'S' Tp Capt Linnell, Lt Aldworth.