Merville-Franceville in 1944 – Calvados – Battle of Normandy

Merville-Franceville (Calvados)

The cities of Normandy during the 1944 battles

Liberation: August 17-18 1944

Deployed units:

Drapeau anglais 9 Para Regiment, 3 Para Battalion, 6th Airborne Division

Drapeau anglais N°45 Royal Marine Commando, 1st Special Service Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division

Drapeau belge 1er groupement indépendant belge “Brigade Piron”, 6th Airborne Division

Drapeau nazi 346. Infanterie-Division

Drapeau nazi Grenadier-Regiment 736, 716. Infanterie-Division

Drapeau nazi 1716 Artillerie-Regiment, 716. Infanterie-Division


In 1944, the municipalities of Merville and Franceville were independent.

Merville comprises a coastal battery armed by four 100 mm howitzers leFH 14/19 of Czech origin.

Throughout the spring of 1944, the Allies bombarded Merville’s battery in hopes of avoiding a ground attack, but the bombs had no effect on the German two-meter-thick bunkers covered with earth. However, on May 19, 1944, Hauptmann (captain) Wolter, commander of the battery, was killed during a raid by the Royal Air Force: he was replaced by Oberleutnant (lieutenant) Raimund Steiner. The German garrison of the Merville battery is strong of 160 soldiers (80 artillerymen belonging to the first battery of 1716. Artillery Regiment and 50 sappers).

The Allies decided to destroy the battery before the amphibious operations began in Operation Tonga. To this end, 700 English paratroopers from the 9th Battalion (3 Para Brigade) under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Terence Otway gathered at the rendezvous point after their parachuting which took place around 03:00: only 150 of the planned paratroopers Without the necessary heavy equipment. The others are lost in the marshes, the wind pushing them farther west when the jump. Otway, 90 minutes behind the scheduled schedule, launched the assault of the Merville battery at 04:30. Fifteen minutes later, after a particularly violent battle, the mission was a success. At 05:00, the guns (of 100 mm and not of 150 mm as initially envisaged by the Allied command) are neutralized. 70 of his men are unable to fight after the assault: Otway breaks contact and settles in defensive around the castle of Amfreville (which no longer exists), having suffered many losses.

From the 6th to the 8th of June, the Englishmen of the No. 45 Royal Marine Commando of the 1st Special Service Brigade made a reconnaissance from Sallenelles to Merville through Franceville. They engage in fierce fighting against the Germans of the 716. Infantry Division but are pushed back and must retreat to the height of Le Plein.

Between June 8 and August 1944, despite these multiple British interventions, Merville and Franceville remained under the control of the Germans, which were gradually reinforced by the 346. Infanterie-Division.

On 17 August 1944, more than two months after D-Day, the British launched Operation Paddle in the direction of the Seine. The Belgian and Luxembourg soldiers of the “Piron Brigade” (1st Belgian independent group attached to the 6th Airborne Division) released Sallenelles and then progressed to the outskirts of Franceville despite the large number of obstacles, mines and traps installed by the Germans.

Despite many losses, the Piron brigade managed to capture Franceville around 8 pm. On the following morning, the Belgians and Luxemburgers of the 3rd company seized Merville and then progressed towards the Hôme.


Merville-Franceville maps:

Image : carte du secteur de Merville-Franceville - Bataille de Normandie en 1944


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