7th Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers – August 1944
53rd Infantry Division – Battle of Normandy
After Action Reports
7th Bn: The Royal Welch Fusiliers
From 1st August 1944 to 30th August 1944
Appendices Nos 1 to 17
1st August – 0500 – Lt I McIdgulham (A Company), and two Fusiliers returned from Recce patrol on which they set out at 2400 hours. Object of this patrol was to locate any enemy in area of irrigation ditches 9762. Two MG posts were located.
0730 – Lt Richards (B Coy) and recce patrol of Sergeant and Fusilier returned having set out at 2300 hours. Object of this patrol was to locate enemy in orchard 980623 and to the West. Results confirmed those of Lt McIqulham’s patrol.
0800 – Lt Williams (A Company) and two Fusiliers returned from Recce Patrol on which they set out at 2330 hours. Object of this patrol was to locate enemy positions covering Northern approaches to Feuguerolles-sur-Orne 9917614. Lt Williams was slightly wounded before reaching the start point. The Patrol observed for a considerable time and confirmed the position of MG post at 986616. The moon hampered the activities of all patrols during the night. During the afternoon A Company took over from a Company of the 4th Bn in order that Company might take part in a raid on the triangle at 970624 during the night 1st/2nd.
2nd August – Last nights raid by the 4th Battalion was a complete success. One section of our carrier took part in the raid having fitted up as flame throwers (Wasps). The mortar platoon also was in action. 1830 hours to 1940 hours, mortar platoon again in action carrying out on area 976623, they fired 720 HE and 30 smoke rounds.
3rd August – 0425 – Lt Hunes (A Company) and 8 Fusiliers returned from fighting patrol on which they left at 0240 hours. Object was to destroy MG42 at 986614. The post was not destroyed owing to the enemy being in to great strength in the position. This became known during the day that the Royal Welch Brigade is being split up in order to simplify the reinforce of V Battalions. This Battalion is remaining in 158 Infantry Brigade, and is being joined by 1/5 Welch (ex-160 Brigade). 4 RWF is going to 71st Brigade, and 6 RWF to 160 Brigade. Battalion is prepared to move.
4th August – 0515 – Major JEM Dugdale and one Lance Corporal returned from recce patrol, the object of which was to see if any enemy were in the area 987615 and also to see if there was any sign of withdrawal. Answer to first question was ‘Yes’ and the second, ‘No.’
0500 – Companies began to leave Eterville area and took over positions of 6 RWF at Maltot.
1030 – B and C Companies sent out recce patrols in the direction of Feuguerolles-sur-Orne since it was believed that the enemy was withdrawing. By 1300 hours both patrols were overlooking the village and had met no opposition. They were then reinforced to the strength of on platoon. Battalion ordered to occupy Feuguerolles-sur-Orne and did so by 1800 hours. Sent out recce patrol and found Bully 9959 unoccupied. Battalion HQ at 000611, A Company at 996606, B Company at 002609, C Company at 998605.
5th August –During the darkness recce patrols under Captain Morris (C Company) and Lieutenant Jenkins (A Company) examined the banks and other detail of the rivers Guigne and Orne respectively in area south of Bully. Both patrols reported enemy activity on the far banks. Preparations were made and orders given for the occupation of the area South of the Orne and South of Bully (about 9958) should patrols be able to get across and find it to be unoccupied. This however did not take place.
6th August – 0335 – Lt I McIlquham and two Fusiliers with a Royal Engineers officer returned from examining the banks of the River Orne with a view to possible crossing places, none were found. The CO and IO recced the banks during the morning and a possible crossing place was found. After dark, Lt. Howes and Lt Walsh both took out patrols to gain further details. At 2330 ours however the Battalion was at notice for move from 0630 hours 7th August. Adjutant went to Brigade for orders.
7th August – 0530 – All transport concentrated in A Echelon area to move under Brigade control. 0800 hours marching troops left for new position – a bivouac area – at 813556 (SW of St Honorine-du-Fay). The position is that a Brigade of 59 Division has around the river Orne and in due course this Brigade will take over from them. En route for the new area the Battalion passed along the road Le Bon Repos – Evrecy – scene of our battle there three weeks ago today. Battalion strength on 5th August, 29 Officers, 703 ORs. The Battalion has with the recent alterations in the Brigade become the senior Battalion, our Serial Number is now 60 instead of 62.
8th August – Morning spend washing clothes, clothing etc, 1600 hours CO and IO left to recce new position. The Battalion placed under command of 176 Brigade of 59 Division, this Brigade formed the bridgehead over the Orne River. 2000 hours Company Commanders carried out recces.
9th August – 0300 – Companies left concentration area at La Bijude 9352 to which they had moved to before the Battalion crossed the River Orne by the Royal Engineer bridge at 951520 and commenced take over from Norfolk’s C and B Companies, each had orchards to clear and did so without casualties. Takeover was completed by 0700 hours. The day was occupied by resiting positions and digging in. Slight mortaring and shelling. PW stated 12 SS Panzer Grenadier Division withdrawing to Forêt de Grimbosq. Brigadier SO Jones, OBE, MC relinquished command of Brigade yesterday. Brigadier Sugden has assumed command of the Brigade. Battalion HQ at 958525, A Company at 959524, B Company at 961525, C Company at 963526.
10th August – The Bosch seemed to have moved out of the Forest of Grimbosq – several patrols sent out both in daylight and after dark by the Battalion confirmed this. It was expected that a big push towards the direction of Falaise would start during the day. The Brigade after having been under command of 59 Division returned under command of 53rd Division. Battalion at three hours notice to move during the day
11th August – Battalion at two hours notice to move during the morning. 1300 hours the CO received orders for a Battalion attack on Fresney-le-Vieux at 0048. Meanwhile the Battalion moved up to a concentration area North of Les Moutiers-en-Cinglis 9851. The CO gave out his orders at 1500 hours. The plan was as follows:– A Company right, objective half of village on SW side of main road, B Company left – objective Northern half of village. C Company to pass through the other two Companies and capture hill 182 (0747). Start line track and its continuation across the road from 997494 to 004495. A full gunner supporting program was laid on special attention being paid to fhe village during the time the Companies were advancing towards it. H Hour was arranged by 1700 hours. At about 1655 hours information received that elements of the Armoured Car Regiment and other unknown troops were already in the village and that as a consequence of this information the Artillery program had been cancelled. The CO, however, decided to send in the Companies as arranged at 1700 hours. When the leading Companies reached the line of the road Espins to Barbery they came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire and it was quite apparent that the only troops in the village were German. Major HPM Lewis commanding A Company was wounded and evacuated. Both Companies crossed the road and considerable confused fighting took place in the orchards and buildings in the North and North West of the Village. At this stage the CO left the Command Post and visited both A and B Companies, the Commander of the latter, Major Black, having also been wounded shortly before the CO’s arrival. After reorganisation and sorting out both Companies continued to press on into the village and a portion of B Company reached the area of the church. The time was no about 1930 hours, and the CO decided to send in C Company to make good the cross roads and to pull back A and B Companies who were now rather divided up into the orchard at 004488. Command post moved up to C Company HQ at 002493 at dusk and the Companies dug themselves in. C Company being to the East of the cross roads. The CO visited Brigade during the night and gave Brigade Command full details of the situation. The Brigade Command decided that the enemy was in greater strength than had been anticipated and that it would require another battalion to finish off the task. The CO was then ordered to form a firm base on our original start line from which the 1/5 Welch could operate. This was done before first light.
12th August – At 1100 hours, the 1/5 Welch launched in their attack and succeeded in capturing the village but not the Hill 182 (0747). This Battalion however was destined to play a part after all in the final capture of the area. A Section of flame throwing carriers (Wasps) from the Carrier Platoon under Sergeant Tilderley at 1430 hours supported by the troop of Churchill tanks attacked Hill 182 from which 1/5 Welch had been considerably worried by LMG fire. The attack was a great success and the enemy was left [with only] blazing resistance on Hill 182 ceased and numerous PW were taken. So ended the battle for Fresney-Le-Vieux a battle which might have been won solely by this Battalion had it not been for the unfortunate cancelling of the artillery programmes. As it was prisoners taken by 1/5 Welch stated that a full Company held the village itself with the others on Hill 182 and the other features and that the Battalion so badly mauled this original Company, that it was relieved during the night and a second company received the attacks of 1/5 Welch. The Battalion spend the remainder of the day in the Start Line area. At 1800 hours C Company was loaned to 1/5 Welch to occupy the 182 feature. The approx casualties were as follows: 3 Officers wounded (including Lt Juilins), 8 ORs killed, 25 ORs wounded and 12 ORs missing. Battalion strength of 23 Officers and 631 Other Ranks.
13th August – During the morning, Brigade Command held Order Groups. The Battalion was ordered to stand by to relieve 1st Ox and Bucks of 71 Infantry Brigade who were attacking the crossroads at La Bijude 994444. Recce Group stood by all afternoon. During the day, the Battalion rested and carried out Admin. At 1815 hours the orders came for the Recce Group to move and the Battalion followed. The Ox and Bucks had only been established for ¾ hour before the arrival of the Recce Group and whilst the Company commands and CO were liaising a small enemy counter attacked developed that was broken up by our artillery. At 2100 hours the change over was well in hand and completed shortly afterwards. The Battalion spent the night digging in and resiting positions. The following reorganisation of Battalion came into effect today – Major Dugdale took command of A Company, Captain RCH Barber promoted to Major and command of B Company, Captain J Davies – the commander of HQ Company was promoted to Major. Lieutenants DM Evans, FA Creswell, CP Dryland, I McIlqulton, AH Pang and W Havard were also promoted to Captains since 18th July. Lt Howes was wounded by mortar bomb during the day and evacuated.
14th August – Several plans produced by Division and Brigade during the day, none of which came into operation. The Germans are fast being caught in a trap, the Americans are now at Argentan and the object of the Canadians and ourselves is to get to Falaise and so South to close the gap. Things are moving at such as a speed that the Battalion area became almost a back area during the day and by nightfall medium artillery was in action just in rear of Battalion position. Told at dusk that the Battalion was to remain in position under the command of another Brigade whilst the remainder of the 158 Brigade pushed towards Falaise.
15th August – 0600 – Orders of last night are cancelled. The CO went to Brigade. Battalion ordered to be ready to move with the rest of the Brigade following up advance of 160 Brigade and 4 Armoured Brigade, down the road Bois-Halbout (0144), Martainville (0342), Leffard (0638), Noron L’Abbaye (1035), St Martain de Mieux (1133). Objective of Battalion – St Pierre-du-Bu (1232). The Brigade object is that area to block the road leading North to Falaise. At 1100 this Battalion handed over our positions to 5 South Staffordshire Regiment of 59 Division and concentrated in orchards at the Bois Halbout road. 1700 hours, Battalion moved down axis given, in troop carrying transport and went into further concentration area at 033415. The Battalion is at one hours notice to move most of night.
16th August – CO to Brigade several times, numerous plans produced. Battalion eventually moved to further concentration area in troop carrying vehicles at 096374. After being ordered to take over defence of Noron l’Abbaye, 1034 this was cancelled and we were ordered to defend the crossroads 104368. Recces for this were completed and Companies in position when at 2215 hours the CO was given orders for a night attack on the village of Miette 1134. The situation was that 1 East Lancashire Regiment had fought their way through the village of Noron-l’Abbaye 1035 and had reached Mette with two Companies when they met considerable opposition and were unable to clear the place up. At 2300 hours the CO gave out his orders for the attack. C Company right forward Company and A Company left forward Company. B Company had earlier been placed under command of 1 East Lancashire Regiment for the defence of Noron L’Abbaye and it was ordered to be prepared to move to Miette for the consolidation. At 2300 hours the taking of the Start line (hedge row 106355) was commenced by the IO and a guide for the Platoon 0105, Companies crossed start point en route for start line and were in position by 0145 hours. At 0155 the concentrations by the artillery on the actual objective began, the guns had been firing on other targets since 0130 hours, before switching to the actual objective. At 0200 hours the Companies crossed the Start Line, under cover of the artillery which went on until 0215 and supported by MMGs of 1st Manchester’s both Companies advanced well. On reaching the objective with very little opposition was met the enemy it seemed having evacuated owing to the artillery fire. A Company took one prisoner. At 0330 hours the Company was firmly stationed on their objectives and B Company was also in position. The Command Post moved up at daylight. Hving spent the night close to the Start Line. Battalion HQ followed. During the day, Companies improved positions and sent out more recce patrols. At 1600 hours 71 Brigade attacked across our front from direction of Falaise, the Battalion was ordered to stand by to be ready to take over a position from one of the other Battalions of Brigade, when it reached its objective. At 2100 hours Recce Group left for the HQ of 1 HLI and arrived shortly after that Battalion had reached its objectives just South East of St Martin de Mieux 1133. Company and Platoon Commands went round Company positions with their opposite numbers whilst the Battalion at Miette waited Brigade’s order to move.
18th August – Battalion actually arrived about 0900 hours and Companies took over position. The day was spent patrolling, observing and improving positions. One patrol of B Company consisted of Corporal Pandleburg and 6 men went out to the hedge junction at 098318 and captured four enemy – one German, one Pole, one Yugoslav, and an Austrian a typical collection of the type of representatives of the ‘master race’ against which we are fighting at the moment. Corporal Pandelburg indicated over the hedge to one of the enemy party that he wished them to accompany him – they came. Warned to be prepared to move again during the evening. Battalion HQ at 109330, A Company at 106326, B Company at 100327, C Company at 104333.
19th August – Representatives from 9th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of 15th Scottish Division arrived to take over position. By 1100 hours the take over was completed and the Battalion concentrated in the area 109336. At 14030 hours the Battalion moved the Recce Group having gone ahead with the CO. The Battalion finally took up a position in the village of St Andre 1732. Having taken up position, the Battalion in conjunction with the rest of the Brigade was ordered to make itself comfortable as possible and rest for 48 hours. The location was on the NW side of the famous Falaise pocket which was then closed completely and being cleaned up. Congratulations note received from Brigade Command on “the magnificent work during the last 10 days which has resulted in the complete defeat of the VIII German Army” Battalion strength, 23 Officers and 618 ORs. Battalion HQ at 176324, A Company at 177323, B Company at 177325, C Company at 172328.
20th August – Day spent in maintenance, bathing and resting. The CO visited Companies and talked to the men in the afternoon. At 1730 there was a well attended church service conducted by the Padres (the Rev R Wylie, OD).
21st August – The Brigade Command visited each Company in turn during the morning. Rest and maintenance continued. In the afternoon a mobile cinema gave a show, it was held in one of the buildings at Battalion HQ, the room appeared to have been from a Crypt of an old religious foundation – the film was ‘A Yank at Eton’. 460 Field Battery now supporting Battery commanded by Major Saunders entertained the CO, Adjutant and Company Commanders to dinner at Battery HQ at night.
22nd August – Another day of rest and re-fitting. The war is continuing on at a tremendous pace. The Americans have two beachheads over the River Seine, and there have been landings in the South of France. There is considerable rain during the day.
23rd August – Paris fell to the French forces of the interior today, Companies carried out Route Marches and further training.
24th August – More route marches and further cinema shows. Extract from “Border Counties Advertizer” showing role of the Division in this theatre of operations.
25th August – 1300 – CO to Brigade, orders received for move. The Division is to move up close to the River Seine prior to taking part in operations North East of the river with rest of 12th Corps. At 1515 hours the marching troops and B Company on cycles set off. They arrived at bivouac area at Bailleul 2825 at 1845 hours shortly after the transport. En route the Battalion passed scores of destroyed enemy tanks, vehicles, guns, equipment, horses etc. Battalion spent night in very close concentration area Battalion HQ being in a field at 285253.
26th August – Expected move during day did not take place. Battalion strength 23 Officers 634 Ors.
27th August – 0545 – Battalion HQ, B and C Companies moved off by march route again. A Company moved off on cycles, B Company having traveled on cycles on the 25th. Battalion route passed through Bon Mesnil 3123 and Chambois 4151, all along this road from Bailleu as far as Chambois a distance of about 6 miles, the litter of destroyed enemy equipment, together with dead Germans and horses was so tremendous and the smell so great, that each man previously had been issued with strong smelling anti-mosquito ointment which was then rubbed into their handkerchief, this was then tied over the nose or mouth. After a march of 17 miles at 1145 hours Battalion arrive and bivouac area centered on an orchard at 538507 north of Gacé.
28th August – 0545 – Battalion embussed in troop carrying vehicles and crossed Brigade Start Point proceeded via La Ferté Fresnel 7152 to further concentration area East of Glos-La-Ferrière, centre of area 792544.
29th August – 1100 – CO attended Brigade O Groups and received further movement order. AT 1630 hours Battalion crossed Brigade Start Point embussed in troop carrying vehicles and arrived in Divisional Concentration Area at 1935 hours. A, B Companies and Bn HQ spent night in the Chateau at Houelteville 172798, C Company in a farm close by. Distance covered 39 miles today, with 19 miles yesterday.
30th August – 0900 – Adjutant received orders at Brigade for further move. At 1800 hours Battalion crossed Start Pont embussed in troop carrying vehicles. Proceeded via Les Planches 2282, La Croix St Leufrey 2777 and Gaillon 3382 to the Royal Engineer Class 9 Bridges over the River Seine at 313388 (build at (?) site). There was a considerable hold up owing to the great amount of traffic waiting to cross the bridge and the Battalion did not cross until after dark at about 2300 hours. After crossing, the further delay was caused as the road to Les Andelys 4091 by two Royal Engineers vehicles which had driven into the ditch.
31st August –Eventually arrived in bivouac area (recced as usual by Major Davis and the Recce party.) Battalion HQ located at 449988 at 0445 hours. At 0700 hours the CO revieced orders to clear portions of the large Forêt Domaniale de Lyons. At 0900 hours Rifle Companies with sections from Carrier and Mortar Platoons commenced march to the Start Line – the road from road junction 509117 to Fleury-la-Forêt 5209. Area given to Battalion to clear its boundaries ranged from the South by the Start Line, on the West roughly by the 51 grid is as far as the 16 lateral grid line running NE to the orchard 529189, on the North from last reference to Beauvoir en Lyons 5518 then on the East by the road from this village to Fleury-La-Forêt. On our right the 1/5 Welch carried out a similar operation and 160 Brigade on the left was also clearing Reached farm at 516092 at 1200 hours at 1415 hours B Company on the right and C Company on the left crossed the Start Line Each Company having a section of carriers, a section of mortars, and a Royal Engineer recce party Command Post and A Company followed up B Company. The Companies searched the forest systematically sending off platoons and carrier sections down various roads. No enemy was encountered. At 1830 hours the Battalion arrived in the bivouac area for the night having moved forward a further 17 miles. On the night of 30/31st Battalion covered almost 20 miles. Battalion HQ located at 548188 (Beauvoir-en-Lyons).
So ends the Battalion’s second month in France. It has been no less eventful than the month of July the main difference being that in July the unit was for the most part static but during this month it has been very mobile indeed – since 25th August up to today 31st we have advanced some 120 miles.
Field 1st September CP Dryland, Captain, IO
7th Battalion the Royal Welch Fusiliers
Summary of Patrol Reports Night 31st July/1st August 1944
A 4 RWF patrol moving along irrigation ditch to ditch junction at 974624 were fired on from about 100 yards away from 975624. Patrol moved back to next ditch running SE and were fired on from ditch junction at 975623 by machine gun. Patrol withdrew and was followed up by men from MG post who proceeded to clear the ditch. Patrol was followed up by the enemy to road at 972626. Another MG post was located by patrol at 970623. As a result of this skirmish the enemy became alert and other patrols failed to achieve the object in this area. Firing was heard from triangle and 970625 and a light mortar opened up from the same area. It was found that road from 972626 to road junction 970624 cannot be crossed by carriers on account of steep banks, Patrols of 7 RWF located five Spandaus, two in approx area trees 987617 one at 989617, one at 974627 and one at bend in track 975623. Patrols of 6 RWF found no enemy at Lone Ho 997616 and no evidence of suspected minefield 300 yards in front of Le Hamel but found tank in hull-down position 002614 with infantry section dug in around it. Enemy was digging in woods in Le Hamel area.
HJ Davies Capt
158 (RW) Infantry Brigade
Report on Fighting Patrol
Unit 7 RWF
Type of Patrol: Fighting SP: Cross tracks 989622
Patrol Command: Lt Hinds Time Out: 0240
Strength: 1 Officer and 8 ORs Time In: 0425
Object: To destroy Spandau post at 986616
Answer to Object: Post not destroyed
Route SP SW to about 987617 and back by same route.
Visibility & Weather: Bright moon and fine
Patrol moved up forward slope to get to a position that (?). The spandau fired NW from area of Maze 9361) Voices were heard from the trees. Voices and a dog were also heard from track about 989615, something was heard being wheeled down the avenue. Another dog was then heard at cross tracks 986617. Patrol commander conducted that of apposition owning the spandau post too strong and withdrew his patrol. On return the patrol saw two men standing behind the track down from the trees with what appeared to be a machine gun on a tripod.
Signed Lt Hinds, Patrol Comd.
JEM Dugdale, Maj, Unit Patrol Master.
Appendix No. 3
Report on Recce Patrol
Type of Patrol: Recce SP: Cross track 989622
Patrol Command: Major Dugdale Time Out: 0215
Strength: 1 Officer and 2 ORs Time In: 0515
[Return to at Later Date – Faint Writing]
Appendix No. 6
Report on Recce Patrol
Unit 7 RWF
Type of Patrol: Recce SP: Crossroads 000608
Patrol Command: Captain Morris Time Out: 2220
Strength: 1 Officer and 2 ORs Time In: 0300
Object: Are the enemy on 100’ ring contour 9957(?)
Answer to Object: Enemy Heard in buildings 996588.
Route: SP – track junction 998606 – track to orchard 995594 – track to wood at 993591 – right to first bend – Wood and then left to River.
Visibility & Weather: Full moon and fine
Patrol reached River at 2350 without incident. Patrol listened for some time and at first heard nothing. At about 0030 two Germans were heard near buildings 996588 they talked for about five minutes. Patrol could not find a way across river. They remained on the bank until 0220 during that time nothing else was heard south of the area.
This report conflicts with the results of another recce with the details that follow:
Special Points of Interest
Information about with 2 banks, River is approx 40’ wide, fairly deepm and very little current. Banks on North side 3-4’ high with frequent watering places. Bend on south made appeared less steep.
Date: 5/8/44 Signed, Captain Morris, Patrol Comd.
Time: 0515 JEM Dugdale, Maj, Unit Patrol Master
Patrol Report on Recce Patrol
5/6th August 1944
Unit 7 RWF
Type of Patrol: Recce SP: Track junction 997597
Patrol Command: Captain Mc Ilquham Time Out: 0015
Strength: 1 Officer & 2 OR’s + 1 RE Officer Time In: 0335
Object: 1. To examine North bank of river with a view to possible crossing places for assault boats
2. To find out if there are any quantity of S Mines in thick country just south of R.
Answer to Object: 1. Bank too steep for assault boats
2. Patrol did not cross River
Visibility & Weather:
Patrol reached bend in wood 993590 without incident. At this point a patrol form 1/5 Welch was met coming up from the river through the Orchard after discussion it was decided that the best approach to river bank was down to second hedge at 990588.
1/5 Welch patrol moved ahead and took up a position on bank at approx 992587.
7 RWF patrol then moved through and followed the bank to a point opposite the Weir. Patrol then returned through 1/5 Welch patrol and went as far as 991586. Patrol then returned by same route without incident. Four enemy were seen standing at end of Weir and digging was heard on the river bank on the South side. Noises were heard in strip of wood between river and railway. Patrol did not cross river.
Points of interest:
The bank on this stretch is continuous with no watering places. Bank varies in height from 5’ opposite Weir to 7-8’ at right boundary. There are 5 gaps in trees on this stretch. 1. Opposite Weir – width for one boat – marshy approach. 2 & 3 on each side of hedge at 983588, width each for 1 boat, 3 is blocked by branch in river. 4 & 5 separated by small bush, 10 yards right at 991586. Width gap for 2 boats and Gap 5 for 3.
Approaches to river, road from bend 993590 to hedge and road junction 990588 has a thick hedge on South side with no gaps. There is no hedge on North side of road but there is a steep bank with a drop of about 6 ft. A track enters the South side at about 993589 on the North side.
Signed, Captain Mc Ilquham, Patrol Comd
JEM Dugdale, Maj, Patrol Master
Appendix No. 12
I would like to congratulate all ranks on their magnificent work during the last 10 days which has, with others, resulted in the complete defeat of VII German Army.
19 August 1944 158 Inf Bde
The following is an extract taken from “The Border Counties Advertiser” showing the role of the 53 (W) Div in recent operations
With Our Forces Overseas
Important role of 53rd Welsh Division
(by a military observer)
It is now possible to disclose the important role, played with fortitude and courage, by troops of the 53rd (Welsh) Division in the recent fighting in Normandy. Army and Corps Commanders are fill of admiration for the work done. In their opinion, the Division succeeded in its prime function, and by its successive attacks on Evrecy, helped to lure enemy armour from the sector East of Caen, and made possible the seven miles thrust of our own armour to Troarn. Thus in its first commitments, this Territorial Division – most of its personnel who have served since the outbreak of war – has put to fine use the experience gained while waiting, patiently, to get to grips with the enemy. In addition to taking 350 prisoners and inflicting heavy casualties in active patrols and the attacks on Evrecy, the Division was very successful in hand-to-hand mopping up operations. The Divisional Artillery dealt shattering blows by immense barrages, one of which helped to disperse 100 German tanks, massed for counter-attack.
The Value of hard training
Relatives of the men from the hills and mountains of North and South Wales from Scotland and from the Midlands, can be proud of the success of its predominately Welsh Infantry Division, the discipline of which in a long and testing first experience of action has proved the value of hard training. It should be added that the Division has many friends in Northern Ireland, where it was stationed for many months. In action within a few days of arriving, the Division went straight to the positions vacated by troops who had suffered heavily in hard fighting. Their function was to hold the ground won. Active patrolling by night was one of their chief tasks, but mainly they were concerned in the early days, with the type of passive defence, avoiding disclosing their positions by not returning fire. The inaction of long days and nights dug in positions and in the face of heavy mortar and machine gun fire was a particular hardship. Nebelwerfers (multi barreled mortars) were always active when there was any sign of movement, and movement at meal times was unavoidable. A sergeant told me that sitting down under such a barrage of mortar fire was worse than going into an attack; minded it was a disappointment to all that they were so early employed defensively, unable to repay the enemy in the only coin he understands.
First Time in the Line
A platoon officer told me that everyone was marvelous considering that it was their first time in the line. He stressed the men’s steadiness and coolness n not returning fire when fired on. “We would have lost many more lives if we had yielded to the natural temptation to retaliate” he said. “There was never any real rest” he added. “At night spandaus and small arms fire came at us from all directions Jerry was always trying to find out where we were He tried to draw our fire. He didn’t get it.” The Royal Welch Fusiliers, which held the line from Rauray to Baron as a bulwark against possible counter attack, had the privilege of sending out a patrol in strength for the purpose of obtaining identifications. Though they had casualties, the number of enemy killed were far greater. Though enemy fire precluded the possibility of a wounded sergeant being carried back, he turned up, 24 hours later, in the lines of a Scottish Battalion having crawled 1500 yards through cornfields. Sniped at and Mortared whenever he showed himself, he got back – a magnificent effort of sheer ‘guts’.
It was the Royal Welch Fusiliers who were switched over to help in the attacks on Evrecy. On the first occasion they got through quickly to the high ground. Unfortunately a mist descended and became so impenetrable that cohesion was lost and units lost touch with each other. When morning came and the veil lifted they had to fight their way back into a consolidated whole again. The following night they went in a second time on the same mission, but the enemy had realised quickly that Evrecy was an objective and were there in such strength – standing corn bristled with machine guns and armour that had been brought forward – that a withdrawal was ordered after extremely hard fighting. The attacks justified themselves in more ways than one. Besides inflicting heavy enemy casualties, armour was lured from points where General Montgomery made his break through East of Caen.
Mopping up Operations
A famous light infantry regiment came out of their first action with every reason to feel proud of themselves. After the advance of the 15th Scottish Division to a point along the southern bank of the River Odon they were set to mop up pockets of resistance in a wood and village. Two companies found themselves outnumbered and heavily engaged. The commander of the third company, hearing of the difficulties promptly ordered his men to fix bayonets and led them in a charge. The position was retrieved and terrible hand-to-hand fighting went on practically all day. These men showed great fighting qualities. They suffered fewer casualties than had been anticipated from the fierceness of the engagement. As to artillerysupport, this was magnificent. Batteries of a Field Regiment teamed so well the German prisoners could hardly be dissuaded from thinking that our guns were fed electrically. They spoke of the unceasing hail of splinters, which destroyed moral and permitted them to move from their trenches only at peril of their lives.