104 Beach Sub Area Operation 'Overlord' 'Gold Beach' - Report

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by MSGrover1, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Units Under Command C.R.E. 104 Beach Sub-Area for operation D Day to D+7


    8 GHQ Troops Engineers
    89 Field Company Royal Engineers :
    90 Field Company Royal Engineers
    69 A Field Company Royal Engineers
    183 A Field Company Royal Engineers
    73 A Field Company Royal Engineers
    280 Field Company Royal Engineers (12 Corps Tps)
    623 Field Park Company Royal Engineers (incl 55 E & M Sec)
    75 Field Pioneer Company working with 89 Fd Coy
    173 Pioneer Company working with 90 Fd Coy
    280 Pioneer Company working with 69 A Fd Coy
    121 Pioneer Compnay working with 183 A Fd Coy
    51 Mechanical Equipment Section RE
    6 Mechanical Equipment Section RE
    Detachment from 23 Mechanical Equipment Section
    Detachment’s of 81 & 82 Assault Squadrons Royal Engineers
    26 BD Section Royal Engineers
    21 Store Section (under 23) Command 89 & 90 Field Company
    1 & 2 Advance Park Section (180 w/shop & Park Company Royal Engoneers
    44 Pioneer Company working with 2 & 2 Adv Prk Sec
    659 A W Company Royal Engineers
    108 Pioneer Company working with 659 AW Coy
    LCCCU (under Command 73 & 280 Field Company Royal Engineers
    ‘A’ & ‘B’ Platoons 486 Tipper Company RASC
    583 A Field Company Royal Engineers under Admin
    584 A Field Company Royal Engineers Command only

    On D+7 number of Troops under command were :-
    Sappers – 2,500; Pinoeers 2,100; Tippers Pls RASC 150: Total 4,750

    more from report to follow........................
     
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  2. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Control of RE work in B.M.A
    The organisation and control of Sapper work in the B.M.A for the operation was as follows:-

    (a) All Sappers were fully briefed so that they could carry straight on with their allotted tasks on landing.
    (b) The CRE landed on KING beach and Major White on JIG beach – so that in the very early stages they were able to co-ordinate any unpredictable demands on RE labour.
    (c) As Coy Comds landed they set up their own report centres and control passed from the hands of the Platoon Officer to the Coy Comds.
    (d) In the very early stages the CRE established his report centre on the beach on KING sector but by H + 10 hours this was moved to a more central point at MEUVAINES, with a subsidiary report centre being kept open on KING beach. Thus by evening of D Day all Coys were working under the direct control of the CRE.
    (e) A Conference of all detachments and Coy Comdrs was held on the morning of D + 2 (HQRE having landed on the afternoon of D + 1 after which time all Coys where controlled by HQRE 104 Beach Sub-Area in the normal manner.

    General – A certain amount of confusion arose at times due to the fact that officers of other arms gave orders to Sapper working parties; it must be clearly understood by all arms that all RE works can only be controlled through RE channels if maximum efficiency is to be maintained. It is also emphasised that all Sapper units must come under direct control of the CRE inorder that – in an emergency – the whole resource can be brought to bear at the earliest possible time.


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  3. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Obstacles on the Beaches
    The general layout of the obstacles on the beaches on both sectors was as follows:-
    The beaches consisted of a slight convex slope to seaward with many soft patches, some peaty, some clay and others of a mixture of mud and sand. There were several yards at the top of the beaches where the slope was fairly steep and composed in some places of shingle but mostly of soft sand.

    (a) The first obstacles were about 400 yards from the top of the beach an consisted of 12 in diameter wooden stakes of 8 ft clear height with either a Tellermine or two 25 lb shells fixed facing seaward at the top of each stake. The shells were fitted with DZ 35 pressure igniters and were held firmly in position by metal strips and wire.
    (b) Further towards shore were timber obstacles consisting of 30 ft spar set at about 20 degrees and supported by two vertical posts. At the seaward end of these spars were fitted two 25 lb shells. These obstacles were interspersed with element C (amore frail type than that used for training in England). Spacing was about 30 feet.
    (c) Behind the spars were found in places two rows of reinforced concrete tetraheda with the base completely embedded in the sand. On top of each was fitted a Tellermine facing seaward.
    (d) Behind the tetraheda were found three rows of ordinary Hedgehogs at 20 feet spacing, each fitted with a 25 pdr shell on the upper off shore leg. The gusset plate on these obstacles were longer than those used in training and in most cases a 6lb charge was used to destroy them.


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  4. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Obstacles Clearance by 73 & 280 Field Company Royal Engineers

    (a) 280 Fd Coy. RE on King and Love Beaches
    At H hour the tide had already risen well up the obstacles so that only partial clearance was possible – this was partially due to a heavey sea and a strong offshore wind. In addition heavy fire was directed along the beach at this period which also delayed the clearance of these obstacles. So that by full tide on the first tide, two 200 yard gaps had only been partially cleared.

    Work was recommenced at 1300hrs (as soon as the tide had receded far enough) and by full tide on the second tide 1200 yds of beach had been completely cleared of obstacles. The company received very little help from the AVRE during the first tide, but armoured bulldozers from 51 Mech Eqpt Sec RE gave very great assistance in smashing obstacles between the first and second tide and on D + 1.

    By the end of D + 1 nearly two miles of beach had been completely cleared of obstacles – during which 2000 obstacles had been demolished. For the next 6 days the entire company was employed in constructing a large concrete ramp for beaching LCTs ITEM beach.

    (b) 73 Field Company Royal Engineers on ITEM and JIG beaches.
    At H Hour the water level had already risen up the vertical stakes, had crept round the sandbank and was washing the concrete tetraheda. First parties on landing tackled the timber and concrete obstacles over a length of 250 yards. The tide with a following wind had covered the obstacle area by H + 60 and attention was directed to the destruction of hedgehogs, these being the only obstacles remaining above water. The LCOCU’s under command carried on under water with charges on the timber stakes. Demolition continued until the tide rose above the last obstacle, at about H + 2 hrs, 3 AVRE’s arrived to assist. One was bogged in soft sand and the other two did stirling work pushing hedgehogs under water. A partial land of varying dimensions was made through “JIG GREEN EAST” by H + 60 mins but a large number of stakes and element C remained until 1300 hrs on D + 1.

    The total length of beach cleared on D and D + 1 days was approximately 2500 yards.
    The approximate number and type of obstacles destroyed were as follows:-
    Timber stakes, vertical - 250
    Timber Ramps - 100
    Element C - 100 Sections.
    Tetraheda (Reinforced concrete)- 200
    Hedgehogs - 1000

    No mines were found in the beach but mines and shells were found as follows:-
    None of first row of stakes
    Two shells on second row of stakes - 240
    Two shells on each ramp - 200
    One Tellermine on each element C - 100
    One Tellermine on 50% Tetreheda - 100
    One shell on 50% Hedgehogs - 500
    Total 200 tellermines, 940 Shells.

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  5. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    RE Work in B.M.A – Alottment of Tasks

    (a) ITEM and JIG Beaches (10 Beach Group)

    90 Field Company RE + 173 Pioneer Coy
    Beach laterals and roadways.
    Beach tracked and wheeled exits.
    Clearing of mines in – Personnel transit area, W.V.T.A, T.V.T.A and REME area (all close to beaches)
    Construct Water Point in 10 Beach Gp area

    69 Field Company RE + 280 Pioneer Company
    Repair and develop all road and tracks inland of the ITEM and JIG beaches within the BMA – making new roads where necessary.
    Recce and clear the following area of mines – petrol dump, Medical area, D.I.D, - amn dump – making sure routes are clear of mines etc…

    (b) KING and LOVE Beaches (9 Beach Group)

    89 Field Company RE + 75 Pioneer Company
    As for 90 Fd Coy RE above

    183 A Field Company RE + 121 Pioneer Company
    As for 69 A Fd Coy RE above


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  6. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    D Day (6th June 1944)
    Wheeled and tracked exits off the beaches were first priority jobs for Beach Fd Coys – all exits on both Jig and King beaches were completed by H + 8 hours. Remainder of the day was spent in maintaining these exits and in starting further exits on ITEM Beach main routes.
    The Army Fd Coys concentrated on the forward from the Beach exits and the roads leading to the various dumps, Med Areas etc, also recce and mine cleared these areas. Work was started on the DOVER ROAD (this was a new road to be constructed running from ASNELLES to MARUMME).

    D + 1 (7th June 44)
    The Beach Fd Coys were employed on improving existing and making further beach exits. Other work included establishing a water point in each Beach Group area, commencing to widen the coast road and to lay beach laterals.
    The Army Fd Coys concentrated on the roads in the B.M.A – the highest priorities being the continued work on the DOVER ROAD, constructing a by pass for tanks around LES ROCQUETTESS and the widening of the roads and construction emergency by pass in and around MEUVAINES. In fact the DOVER ROAD was passable to wheeled traffic by 0600hrs D + 1 day as was planned.

    D + 2 (8th June 44)
    The Beach Fd Coys were employed on – manning of water points – start of ramp for an exit to the causeway on JIG GREEN – laying of further beach laterals – clearance of beaches – maintenance and improvement of beach exits.
    The Army Fd Coys again concentrated on roads in the BMA particularly – widening the road at MEUVAINES – doubling the coastal road from LE HAMEL to LES ROCQUETTES – the completion of track on the DOVER ROAD – making a detour for DUKWS at MARUMME.

    D + 3 (9th June 44)
    The Beach Fd Coys carried out the following works:-
    Continued of widening coast road and laying beach laterals – maintenance of beaches and construction of further beach exits – clearance of mines from roads on to DUKW beach – and work on ramps.
    The Army Fd Coys made further roads for wheeled and tracked vehicles round MEUVAINES – opened up amo dump – continued work on the DOVER ROAD – and doubling of the coast road from LES ROCQUETTES to KING Beach.

    D + 4 (10th June 44)
    The Beach Fd Coys continued construction of ramps on Jig and ITEM beaches – doubling of the coast road – clearance of mines in BMA – maintenance of beaches and improvements to Beach laterals.
    Army Fd Coys drained on DOVER ROAD – patched roads in BMA – completed 2 way track at MEUVAINES – started wok at diversions through CREPON.

    D + 5 (11th June 44)
    Beach Fd Coys constructed 2 way road at the top of the beach – continued work on ramps on JIG and ITEM beaches – improved roads in LE HAMEL – general beach maintenance and clearance of mines in BMA.
    The Army Fd Coys continued work on the diversions at CREPON – worked on the coast road and DOVER ROAD.

    D + 6 (12th June 44)
    The Beach Fd Coys continued general maintenance of beaches and beach exits, clearance of mines – concreting the ramps on JIG and ITEM beaches – and work on roads in BMA.
    The Army Fd Coys completed the by-pass at CREPON and LES ROCQUETTES.

    D + 7 (13th June 44)
    The work of the Beach Fd Coys consisted of drainage operations carried out to prevent flooding of marshy areas – completion of ramps on ITEM and JIG beaches – maintenance of roads and tracks in the initial dump areas – clearance of minefields and general maintenance of beaches and beach exits.
    The Army Field Coy continued work to double up the entrance to LES ROCQUETTES and making a tank exit to the Portsmouth Road direct, cutting out all villages – work was continued on doubling up the DOVER ROAD.

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  7. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    51 Mechanical Equipment Section

    This unit was split up into two detachments, one working on each of the two sectors (JIG and KING). Each detachment had 8 Bulldozers and various other equipment (i.e. Pullgraders, dumpers, auto-patrols, 10 and 19 RE)

    Both detachments were working at full pressure using all their equipment from the moment it touched the beach and it is impossible to over estimate the value of the work carried out during the operation.

    Much time was spent in recovering and repairing drowned Mech Equipment left scattered around the beaches by other units and in collecting together captured German and French mechanical equipment, all of which was on the road within a few day.

    An MS park was established in each sector into which were collected all the a/m salvaged and abandoned Mech Eqpt – this was all reported to CN 30 Corps and eventually a pool of all unused Mech Eqpt was formed in the main RE dump.

    (a) The amount of recovery work of drowned vehicles etc.. on the beaches in the early stages of the operation was unnecessarily high.
    (b) The presence of Mechanical Equipment tends to cause units to forget what can be done with shovels or even hands.
    (c) SKETCHY MINE CLEARANCE CAUSED TOO MANY ACCIDENTS TO BULLDOZERS IN SO CALLED CLEARED AREAS.
    (d) Bulldozers are a very useful and rapid means of demolishing houses (using S.W.R.) especially for widening streets or cutting off corners in built up areas.
    (e) Armoured Bulldozers only should be used in the early stages during an operation – up to H + 90 mins.
    (f) Three operators are required for each Bulldozer as they are continuously at work.
    (g) There was work for heavy rollers (6 ton) very early – 6 heavy rollers should be landed no later that D + 1 for each Beach Sub-Area.

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  8. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    26 Bomb Disposal Section RE

    The work carried out by the Bomb Dispersal Section was as follows:-
    (a) Neutralising UXB – only two were reported and these were dealt with.
    (b) Representatives of all types of units reported (mostly verbally) various mysterious objects which where hampering movement etc – all these were examined action taken where necessary and the areas reported clear.
    (c) A German 8” Rocket Shell was found, dismantled and handed over to RAF intelligence.
    (d) Two ground rocket batteries which were covering the beaches were dismantled (as one was still capable of being fired) and the contents of the rockets examined; some contained HE and the remainder, which at first where thought to contain gas, contained an oil incendiary mixture on analysis by OC Section.
    (e) A number of enemy missiles of the “BAZOOKA” type were found, examined and reported on. These have already been described in MI 10 Summary before D Day.
    (f) A large number of UK Naval and AA shells were found and removed by the Section.

    General
    (a) During any spare moments the B.D Section assisted in clearing minefields and other normal Sapper work as required.
    (b) There was insufficient reporting of UXB etc to the Section chiefly because units did not know the channels to get the information through to the correct place.
    (c) All “I” reports on new equipment were forwarded to 30 Corps, Second Army or both.
    N.B. Some BEETLE TANKS were found. 280 Fd Coy experimented with these. A copy of the report on these is included appendix “a”

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  9. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Terrain
    (a) Type of Roads
    The roads in the Beach maintenance are were very difficult for an operation of this kind. They were very narrow and no where passible to two way traffic – serious traffic blocks were caused during the first few days – chiefly due to insufficient control of road traffic circuits. Thus it can be seen that the highest priority Sapper work consisted of improvements and additions to the existing road systems – i.e. widening and repairing roads, demolishing walls and houses in villages, constructing diversions round villages and laying new roads. The heavy flow of traffic over narrow roads added greatly to the difficulties of the Sappers and Pioneers who were engaged on road widening.

    Owing to the rather marshy type of country and the heavy flow of traffic – weather is a very important factor to be taken into consideration when dealing with the route in this area; after even a comparatively small amount of rain there is a very heavy demand on Sapper labour for maintaining all roads and tracks.

    (b) Minefields
    There was a continuous mined area from end to end of the beach along either side of the coast road LE HAMEL – LA RIVIERE; mines found were Te 35,42,43 Sohu mines, S mines, French mines and Holtz mines.

    There were also a few real minefields inland and several signed with white notice boards which proved sometimes to be dumy fields. Real minefields were marked with yellow boards – in several instances in the dummy fields Schumines were scattered around the white notice boards and shells set off by trapboards also exist in these areas. A few casualties were caused while lifting mines when the prodder landed on top of the Schumine. Difficulty was experienced in lifting Schumines in deep grass and the prongs could not be found even after the mine had been detected.

    When lifting Scumines it was found that a gas mask face piece prevent manage to the eyes. This is a most important point as most serious casualties caused while prodding for these mines to eyesight to man bending over in the process of prodding.

    By D + 17 german charts of the fields were found in large numbers. These showed that the area was divided into fields numbered serially, each field being divided into belts given the names of flowers. All mines in one belt were of the same type, and belts were laid by the equilateral triangle template method. The sides of the triangle being 12 metres for A/Tk mines and 4.4 metres for A/P mines/

    (c) Beaches (Use of Roly – Poly)
    It was expected that owing to the nature of the beach. Roly –Poly fitted onto LCTs would be very useful. In actual fact the sea was far too rough to give it a fair chance – and it was of doubtful value. Later the stores incorporating in constructing Roly-Polys were found to be most useful.


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  10. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    Conclusions
    In general these are that the planning was adequate and was based on accurate information. All Sapper Units engaged were well trained and at no time was the Sapper situation anything but well in hand. The periods for rest were few and sleep was not in question for the first 48 hrs. Briefing was good and the remark made by CRE 1 Airborne Division about landings in RETM No 9 were fully borne out. In brief they are – “Tell a Sapper what to do and he will never let you down”. The more I see of Sappers at work the more I admire them. Given good Officers and good NCOs they can will accomplish the impossible.

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  11. MSGrover1

    MSGrover1 Member

    For those like me that are trying to follow the movements of a unit, I now have the following that gives the date a unit left the command of 104 Beach Group, other than 8th GHQ 89&90 RE, I do not know what they did from the given date:-

    8th GHQ; 89 & 90 Fd Coy RE Left Command 14/7/44
    69 A Fd Coy - After D + 7
    183 A Fd Coy - 13-6-44
    73 A Fd Coy - 8-6-44
    280 Fd Coy - 13-6-44
    6 Mech Eqpt Sec RE - After D + 7
    Dets of 81 & 82 Assault Sqdns RE - 7-6-44
    26 BD Sec RE - After D + 7
    1 & 2 Adv Pk Secs - After D + 7
    LCOCU (under comd 73 & 280 Fd Coys RE) - 7-6-44
    A & B Pls 486 Tipper Coy RASC - After D + 7


    Cheers
    Malcolm
     
  12. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Cheers for posting that report Malcolm, very interesting reading.
    Good luck with your research.
     
  13. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    This is excellent stuff. It sheds considerable light on operations on GOLD, with obvious implications for the subsequent exploitation inland.
     
  14. englishchick

    englishchick New Member

    I've been researching my grandad, part of 209 Coy Pioneers, and visited the museum at Ver Sur Mer. Attatched is a photo of a funeral service. Names I have identified on the crosses are Leslie Arthur Wallis of 280Coy Royal Engineers and Denis Hughes of 47 Commando. DSCF0085.JPG DSCF0085.JPG
     
  15. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    *
    Welcome to the forum englishchick...

    I thought I remembered the name Denis Hughes from some research I and a few other forum members did about the 'Rothwell War Memorial' approximately 18 months ago; link:

    http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/34865-remembering-todayrothwell-war-memorial/?hl=rothwell

    -Messages # 17 and 39 refer. I will bump the 'Rothwell War Memorial' thread and cross reference your post due to its connection...

    An interesting first post - many thanks!

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  16. The Grocer

    The Grocer New Member

    Greetings all.
    I have attached a copy of my fathers "appreciation card".
    If any member can elaborate on this I would
    be most grateful........ Edward Ebbs (appreciation card).jpg
     
  17. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Welcome to the forum, The Grocer - enjoy!

    It appears that your father was Driver E Ebbs, 305 Company, RASC (Royal Army Service Corps), with 305 Coy being attached to 104 Beach Sub-Area on 'Gold Beach', in Normandy, for the purposes of transporting something, for example, men, equipment, etc. His unit was attached to 104 Beach Sub-Area from 16 April to 21 Juy 1944 and he would have been serving in the Normandy Beach-Head from sometime from/after 6 June to 21 July 1944.

    It is likely that 305 Coy would then been put under the command of another unit...

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    104 Beach Sub Area was responsible for the organisation of the area behind the Gold Beaches. 305 General Transport Company RASC was part of that organisation. The first 14 3ton 4 X 4 lorries landed from LCTs and H plus 3 hours on Day and carried ammunition to a temporary dump just behind the beaches. Twelve more 3ton lorries arrived at H plus 6 hours and more followed on LSTs. All were ashore and working on D plus one. The major task of the company was to carry stores from the beach to dumps and depots a couple of miles inland.

    Mike.
     
  19. The Grocer

    The Grocer New Member

    Many thanks guys
     

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