6 June 1944 - The Men of 48 Commando

Discussion in 'Commandos & Royal Marines' started by Jonathan Ball, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    The 48 RM Commando landed at 08.43 on the eastern edge of Nan Red (Juno Beach) on the boundary with Oboe Beach and the approaches to Saint-Aubin, under threat from the 50mm gun positioned there. The landing took place at high tide over the beach obstacles. The unit's losses for the day totalled 50%, three quarters of them on the beach...(George Bernage)


    The following men are at the cemetery in Bayeux and are to be found in one row, at rest together. It isn't the only row of men from 48 Commando there either..

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    :poppy:Rest in Peace:poppy:
     
  2. englandphil

    englandphil Very Senior Member

    With training complete, 48 Commando spent the last two weeks of May 1944 at a sealed camp in Swaythling, near Southampton where they were stationed until the first few days of June 1944 when they moved to their Marshalling area at Warsash near Southampton where they remained until 13:30 hours in the 5th June, when the order came to move. Making the short journey to Southampton docks the Commando's where met by the sight of the Landing Ships Infantry of 202 Royal Naval Flotilla onto which they where soon embarked. The LSI’s remained in the harbour until 1900 that evening when the flotilla sailed for its rendezvous point with the convoy, during which time the men were informed that the operation was on and maps were distributed and troops told their objective.

    The detailed Objective for 48 Commando led by Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton was to land at Saint Aubin-Sur-Mer before swinging east to attack and capture the strongpoint at Langrune-Sur-Mer; while 41 Commando who were to land at Lion-Sur-Mer on Sword beach had a similar strongpoint to capture, would proceed west. After completion of their appointed tasks the two Commando units were to meet, and the gap between Juno and Sword beaches would be closed. "Juno" beach was the codename given to the 10 kilometre (6 mile) stretch of Normandy invasion coastline on which 48 Commando were to land. The beach was divided into two designated assault sectors by Allied command -"Mike" between Graye-Sur-Mer and Courseulles to the west, and "Nan" between Courseulles and Saint Aubin in the east. The landing beach at Saint Aubin was designated "Nan Red".

    After a rough but incident free crossing which resulted in high levels of seasickness, the breaking dawn say the flotilla reach the French coast where they circled the HQ ship, HMS Hilary awaiting the time to land. H hours was postponed 15 minutes, so at about 07:30 hours 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 enemy Machine Guns opened up from the Strongpoint at St. Aubin, and the craft were subjected to mortar and shell fire with the 'Z' Troop craft receiving a direct hit amidships. The incoming fire was responded to Oerlikon 20mm cannon fire and smoke shells put down on the beeches by the 2 inch mortars aboard the inbound landing crafts.

    Landing on Nan Red at St Aubin at 0843, the shore bound troops found that the beach obstacles had not been cleared and were still situated well below the water line. Two crafts, one each from ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ Troops struck the submerged obstacles and were unable to beach and the HQ craft struck an obstacle but being fairly close inshore was able to disembark its men. 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 Troops were able to wade ashore in about 3 feet of water, but Y and Z Troops could only get ashore by swimming. Many officers and men who attempted to swim ashore with all of their equipment from these craft were lost through drowning owing to a strong current. Some men managed to get ashore, including Major de Stacpoole who just made the beach despite being wounded before he left the craft but Captain Lennard, a strong swimmer was drowned and Troop Sergeant Major 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 where on arrival they found a confused situation. With the cliff and sea wall gave some protection from enemy fire, any movement away from them resulted in fierce enemy machine gun fire whilst the whole area was under heavy mortar and shellfire.

    The area under the sea wall was a jumble of men from other units including many wounded and dead, the beach was congested with tanks, Self Propelled guns and other vehicles, some out of action, others attempting to move away from the beach in the very confused space between the waters edge and the sea wall. Landing Craft Tank'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 enemy 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 Troop led followed by A, HQ, and X, but in the conditions prevailing, it was largely a question of telling individual men the way to move. The Assembly area was much quieter and Troop RV's were quickly established and Commando HQ set up. The CO returned to the beach to contact Y and Z Troops where he found a considerable number of men of mixed Troops still under the cliff and these were moved off to the right. He found Y Troop attempting to get ashore from an LCT to which they had transferred from their Landing Craft Infantry. Y troop Section commander, Lieutenant 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 whilst his orderly was killed. However, the landing of Y Troop was very slow and few men managed to get ashore before the LCT shoved off, taking with her about 50 men of 48 Commando back to England despite their energetic protests.

    Z Troop was more fortunate and about 40 men were eventually collected in the assembly area. It was found on calling for reports that A, B and X Troops each had about 50-55 men available, with Captain Reynolds the A Troop commander returning to duty despite being wounded. 'S' Troop had one 3" mortar and one Bren detachment. HQ troop had had about 20 casualties but was working satisfactorily. The 5 men of Y Troop present were joined with the 40 or so men from Z Troop under the command of Major Freeman. Major de Stacpoole although wounded and exhausted by his swim, pressed for employment but was ordered to remain in the Assembly Area and bring on the remnants of Y Troop when they arrived. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton now issued a warning order for the advance and made his way to the pre-arranged RV with Lieutenant Colonel Buell, who was the Commanding Officer of the Canadian North Shore Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Bluell informed him that the road on the inland side of St Aubin was clear but that the Strongpoint was still holding out against his B Company men, whilst his men from 'D' Company had reached the Railway Station where it was in contact with enemy detachments. On his return to the assembly area at 10:30 Hours Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton ordered the Commando brigade to move off according to the original plan. 'B' Troop was to move straight to the beach defences immediately East of St Aubin while the remainder of 'A' Troop where to act as the advance guard in the move on Langrune, with both troops supported from 12:00 hours by the fire from the Landing craft Guns of the Royal Naval 331 Flotilla under Lieutenant Commander York. The advance passed without incident; and on arrival in the vicinity of Langrune, the Church was found unoccupied. Prior to A and B troop moving off, X Troop was detached to tackle the next sector of the beach defence, with 'A' and 'Z' Troops facing South to prevent any enemy counter attacks. 'A' Troop sent a patrol to the Bridge on the outskirts of Lu-Sur-Mur. Finding it unoccupied, their orders where to guard the bridge and make contact with 41 Royal marine Commando, who badly held up at Lion-Sur-Mer never reached the bridge. With the Beach defences east of St Aubin reported as unoccupied and now secure, B Troop with the wounded Section Commander Lieutenant Jeff Curtis reported back to Commando HQ located in the centre of Langrune-Sur-Mer. It wasn't long afterwards that X Troop reported the beach sections designated Dogfish One clear, and with Y Troop still absent, they were ordered to continue clearing beach section Dogfish Two. Here almost at once, they came under LMG fire from the area of the Cross Roads, and the Troop Commander was unable to make progress down the Street and began to work round the right. On reaching his objective he attempted to attack towards the sea but was unable to gain ground down through this route either and reported in person to Commando HQ. On receiving this report, the Commanding Officer decided to probe towards the seafront on a Two Troop front, with X Troop and B Troop forming the attack down separate routes, with the cross roads being the objective of both troops with A troop held in reserve ready to exploit any success by 'B' Troop whilst Z Troop remained in the area of the church to guard against counter attacks from the South.

    The attack started at 14:45 hours with a Bombardment from the Naval Guns situated off the beach, which when it lifted at 15:30 hours signalled the start of the advance for both Troops, and they started to work through the streets using the cover of houses and gardens. The line of the Railway was quickly gained by both Troops, but after that, both met Light Machine Gun fire down the Street, and sniping and mortar fire from the gardens. 'B' Troop continued to make ground although progress was slowed by the substantial and frequent walls and fences that required to be breached. However by 1800 hours, the CO found the Commanding Officer of B troop Captain Perry in the houses about 50 yards from the cross roads. From an attic light, Captain Perry reported that he could see the German defensive positions and that they appeared to be in a bad way and that he would be ready to assault shortly. With the CO unable to climb into the attic due to being wounded earlier in the forearm, he returned to A Troops reserve positions to order them to move on to exploit 'B' Troops success. Captain Perry was killed by a sniper shortly after Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton left and although the Troop continued to slowly make their way forward, no proper assault was made. Lieutenant Antony Rubenstein assumed command of the troop and reported back to Commando HQ that he and the Troop where held up on the edge of the cleared area 20 yards short of the Cross Roads. Arriving back at his Farm house HQ, at 1820 hours Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton ordered the two Centaur Tanks of the 2nd Royal Marine Armoured Support Group that had been sent forward to assist to attack down each of the roads held by ‘X’ and ‘B’ troops. The presence of these Armoured Fighting Vehicle's helped the infantry of ‘B’ troop forward a little with them finally reaching their cross roads allowing fire to be directed in support of ’X’ Troop.

    With the normal role of the Royal Marine Armoured Support Group being that of Self Propelled Artillery the tank crews where unaccustomed as working in an close quarter Infantry Support Role and the directing of the fire of the Centaurs was painfully slow, but most of the houses around the cross roads were soon knocked about, although the High Explosive shells, which was all the tanks could fire, had no effect on the anti-tank wall and reinforced house immediately to the East of it. 'B' Troop was now ordered to gain the houses around the Cross Roads and Lieutenant Rubinstein led the assault and was able to gain the more badly damaged houses on the North West corner, but could not get into the reinforced house or across the Anti Tank wall, over which came a steady flow of stick grenades. Unable to get beyond the first two houses in this sector ‘B’ troop eventually withdrew to the South West corner from where they requested further assistance, as the Centaur tank withdrew when it ran out of ammunition being replaced by a second tank from the supporting troops. Which unfortunately immediately set off a mine which broke the track blocking the road. Meanwhile 'X' Troop during their advance had run into mines and lost a number of men as a result of these and from Light Machine Gun fire. At 21:00 hours the 4th Special Service Brigade Commander Brigadier B. W. Leicester called in at the 48 Commando HQ, informing Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton that a counter attack might be expected at dawn and ordered the Commando Brigade to consolidate in Langrune-Sur-Mer against attack. With Daylight now fading the CO decided that as his Commando Brigade suffering 44 casualties killed in action as well numerous wounded and missing that he would see out the end of D-Day by holding the ground gained with the smallest possible force and concentrate the remainder of his men around the Commando HQ to cover any enemy approaches from the South and East.
     
  3. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    Well done Gentlemen.

    Thanks to the 48 for being on the left of our North Shore Regiment on that longest day.
     
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Phil

    I'm really apologetic of this very late reply as I thought the thread had slipped away at the time without much interest or a reply. Thanks for the information. What would the source be please?
     
  5. Gavin A

    Gavin A New Member

    Hi
    Hi, not sure if your still active on the forum but my grandfather was part of 48 commando on D day and I’m trying to find more about his history. Any help would be appreciated.
     
  6. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly Member

    My friends father was with 48 Commando on D Day, he is still alive living in Cheshire and his past memories of his time in the Marines are available on the 'Fighting through from Dunkirk to Hamburg' podcast (episode 27). Because of Roy's time on Juno I elected to spend this D Day 75th anniversary at St Aubin and Langrune-Sur-Mer retracing the steps of 48 that day 75 years earlier. Sadly Roy's memory has faded an he remembers little about his time during the war, I did try to establish what Troop he was in on D Day but he couldn't remember.
     

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  7. Hillbilly

    Hillbilly Member

    'Then' photo of Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Moulton directing the battle on the Langrune strongpoint from the IWM archive, in the distance you can see a Centaur tank which had set off a mine blocking the road and in the foreground a Canadian M10 getting stuck in. The 'Now' photo is one in the same location taken on D Day 75.
     

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