Artillery FOOs embedded with the Infantry on D-Day

Discussion in 'Royal Artillery' started by IanTurnbull, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. This is yet another interesting example of discrepancies between accounts by different sources.

    The anti-tank gun in the R.677 bunker was probably no longer active (thanks to Sgt Palmer!) when AVRE "Loch Leven" completed its destruction by firing a Dustbin through its entrance at the rear. See the original report by L sjt Scaife, who makes no mention of any activity from this bunker, nor of any enemy personnel in (or out of) it:

    Was unable to maintain contact with other AVREs by wireless so
    moved off West in company of four Sherman DDs. Turned South and passed
    through ASNELLES SUR MER and stopped in field where I reported to the offr
    IC Shermans (Sherwood Rangers). He could give me no information regarding
    rest of my formation so told me to stick with them for time being. I
    followed them for half a mile West until they started to look for an A tk
    gun that was causing trouble. Not having suitable guns to assist I
    returned to ASNELLES SUR MER and found HQ of Hampshire Regt. I was asked
    to assist them in some clearing operations and did so.

    The time was approx 1500 hrs when I first went into action against
    large building on sea front (Ithink it was a hospital being used as a
    German HQ). After firing two rounds from Petard at emplacements and
    building the infantry cleared it without further opposition, taking about
    20 prisoners.

    A large pillbox containing an A tk gun and MGs was next objective
    and I attacked from rear. The first Petard round entered through opening
    and shattered the inside and set it on fire. More Germans then came out
    of surrounding small buildings and were taken prisoner.

    I then fired on emplacements slightly to the East and again the
    enemy surrendered.

    I then followed the infantry to the West and assisted them to
    clear emplacements along the sea front. Had just cleared last in
    vicinity when we were joined by more AVREs under command of Lt Ellis.

    The Hampshire Infantry body I worked with appeared to consist
    of 2 Majors, 1 Captain and 2 Subalterns and approx 2 WOs, 50 NCOs and
    men.


    However, his Recommendation for Award adds several statements (highlighted in bold) which are not supported by his own account of the events:

    L/Sgt.Scaife was comd of an AVRE which landed on LE HAMEL
    beach at H hour on 6 Jun 44. His AVRE was one of a half-
    troop of three. The plan for this half-troop was to pro-
    ceed, under comd of the Tp Officer as soon as they had got
    through the beach minefield to LE HAMEL and ASNELLES in
    close support of the assaulting infantry.
    In the event, L/Sgt.Scaife’s AVRE was the only one to get
    clear of the beach minefield in the early stages of the
    assault. Observing this, L/Sgt. Scaife, without waiting
    for further orders, proceeded at once to the scene of the
    fighting in ASNELLES and LE HAMEL where the assaulting
    infantry was being held up by fire from the buildings at
    the top of the beach, particularly the Sanatorium build-
    ings. On the way he noted that a gun in a thick concrete

    emplacement at the Eastern end of the Sanatorium which en-
    filaded the beach was still firing.
    L/Sgt. Scaife brought his AVRE close in to the Sanatorium
    from the rear and fired a Dustbin from his Petard at 50yds
    range. This destroyed a MG post and induced large numbers
    of the German defenders to surrender, beside allowing the
    infantry to get in and mop up. L/Sgt.Scaife then
    attacked the gun emplacement, scoring a direct hit through the rear opening
    with his first shot, completely wrecking the gun and killing the crew.
    He then proceeded through LE HAMEL with a party of 1 HAMPS destroying MG
    nests which were holding up the mopping-up party with close range fire.
    L/Sgt. Scaife displayed great initiative and personal courage, in addition
    to the most soldierly qualities, in thus tackling single-handed and without
    hesitation a task which had been allotted to three AVRE under command of an
    Officer. He did so, moreover, knowing that his only offensive weapon was
    the Petard, only recently issued and fitted to the AVRE, whose potentialities
    he did not know since he had had no previous opportunity of firing it at a
    substantial target.

    I suspect that L sjt Scaife and the survivors party from A & C Coys 1 HAMPS whom he supported did not know that this anti-tank gun had already been taken care of by Sgt Palmer. In any case this bunker had already inflicted so much damage, and must still have looked formidable and menacing enough, even from the rear, that it was only sensible to make sure it was definitively out of action.


    Michel
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
    Juha likes this.
  2. Arty

    Arty Member

    Chaps,

    This particular 7.5cm gun inflicted a lot of damage on Jig that morning. From what I've gleaned thus far Sgt Palmer managed to knock out this gun (variously descibed as a 75mm, 77mm, or, of course "88") roughly about 1130 hrs. It was roughly about 3 hours later that Sgt Scaife put his petard through the rear entrance.

    In reading various accounts and or listening to interviews it often appears that these events unfolded very quickly, whereas the process of eliminating this 7.5cm (and WN37) was painfully slow.

    And a reminder of what the physical examination of this position revealed soon after the events, via Special Observer Party Beach Report DEFE 2/433 :

    “Asnelles 7 –

    Large gun emplacement for French 75 mm wheel gun with wheels removed and
    fitted on to a swivel mounting. The gun fired eastward along the beach
    with an arc of fire of about 60° centre on bearing 050. (The position was
    like that at East Courseulles 1). There was slight damage on the top south
    side of the embrasure causing by shell fire from the sea or tank fire from
    the beach. It was reported that this gun was very damaging to tanks on

    the beach and was finally put out of action by a tank which came round the
    back and detonated the ammunition in the emplacement by firing a petard
    through the back door. Inside the emplacement showed signs of fire and
    explosions. Two of the crew were said to have survived and continued sniping
    until the afternoon of D-day.”

    If I was intending to annoy a lot of people I would add that this German gun crew did a bloody good job. So I best not, that sort of comment would definitely be misconstrued.

    Regards
    Arty
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2019
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  3. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    In my research on the 147th Field Regiment I have come across a partial document, "Fireplan Normandy". The pages seem to be mid-drafting as their are annotations, and there are older versions of some of the pages. Does anybody know of this document? Chapters attached
    Ian
     

    Attached Files:

  4. Arty

    Arty Member

    Ian,

    I'm not familiar with the "Fireplan Normandy" doc. What's the source?

    Arty
     
  5. Arty

    Arty Member

    Chaps,

    I’ve had a chance to revisit Major Richard Goslings interview on the IWM website.

    Gosling, Richard Bennett (Oral history)

    This time I spent some time in creating a transcription of sorts. So what follows is not copied from a written document - these are parts of verbal interview. The material below is particularly relevant to communications (or lack thereof), landing times, types of landing craft etc - though I do recommend listening to the story about the English matron he encountered when he was evacuated back to England! (Reel 1 at the 26:15 minute mark)

    The text in brackets ie. (?) are questions asked by the interviewer. The ‘story’ commences from when Maj Gosling was hit by mortar fire as he crossed Jig Green…

    From REEL 1:

    17:15 “I could just hobble, one leg was alright…being Essex Yeoman and having Essex people with me, you were so lucky, I had Sergeant Brace… Sergeant Hall…Brown…Clark…I had five Essex Yeoman with me, two Acks and two signals, and we had wireless sets. I had a wireless set onto the Hampshires so I could talk to them, I had a wireless set back to my own guns battery who were just coming in behind us, and one to the RHQ. So we were in full communication with everyone, in theory. In practice, in practice because it was bloody wet, of course, and there was so much interference of aeroplanes and naval ships, and Germans - these wireless sets were useless. So I couldn’t get any messages through at all… Sergeant Brace took my arm and pulled me ashore…

    21:16 By that time the rest of the battalion of the Hampshires had started to come in, there was only a leading company, an assault company, they were in already, and we were headquarters troop just coming in behind, but more of them were coming in. And you could see some of the Essex Yeomanry behind us, some of the guns had started to land. Tony Richardson who was a subaltern, 2nd Leftenant [sic] and he was further down…I landed at H. H+6 we were supposed to land, but the Colonel was terribly enthusiastic, we got in much nearer H Hour I think, and Tony landed at H+60. He was a long way down, downwind, downstream, down there….

    21:54 He shouldn’t have been there but the tides were very difficult. And eventually they came up and they started to come past us.

    22:26 And at that stage we became quite safe as it were, because we were still laying in our holes, and the guns had come past and the second line of the infantry had come through and the whole battle had gone further back.

    22:42 And so by then it was what, an hour, two hours after that. But we still couldn’t communicate with anyone at all. And so there we were...

    24:45 [being evacuated]…they put us on what’s called an LCA, which was used as a landing craft used to bring us in, now it was taking us out…”

    From REEL 2 :

    02:50 (What personal equipment?) “I was not expected to fight on my feet…but very soon one of our carriers, tracked carriers, would come up, that’s where my little team of people, Sergeant Brace, Sergeant Hall, one of them would drive the carrier, another one of them would man the signals and one of them would be an OP Ack to look after me. And then I’d be in a carrier and then you could take rather more things...

    03:37 (Going to Normandy, what sort of craft was it?) I can see it exactly, because there were two, two sorts. We went over in a, what’s called an LCH, Landing Craft Headquarters, which had Nelson-Smith and myself and about twenty of us. But we had these little, small LCA, Landing Craft Assault, which would take about ten or twelve people and they weren’t carried with that, but somehow appeared alongside the boat at the critical stage….When we disembarked out of the LCH we got into these little, small landing craft and they took us nearer and nearer and nearer to the shore and there was a naval skipper who was steering that and he kept on saying ‘I think we’ve gone far enough, you can get out and swim now’ We said bloody hell your supposed to take us right into the beach. ‘No, I’ve got to go back and get some more people’. So LCA, LCA was the little landing craft that took about ten of us I suppose.

    07:55 (Who were you holding hands with? [when he stepped first stepped ashore]) Sergeant Hall, Cecil Hall. In front of me must have been Nelson-Smith, he must have been the Colonel in front. He was leading the whole thing. I was a Battery Commander so I had to be with him all the time, and so I was immediately behind him, and behind me I had my Ack, Sergeant Hall, and then there were several more of us…

    11:15 (On the beach you gave orders for someone else to take over the battery?) Yes I did, my great old friend Max Beale, who was a marvellous old friend of mine, he was my Battery Captain, my No.2, second in command. And he was back with the guns, but we knew, we had rehearsed it as it were. If someone was wounded who would take over… It was quite easy for me to send a message back and I sent back Sergeant Brace I think, or Brown, might have been Brown, or one of the others. I said send a message back, find Captain Beale, tell him I’m wounded, tell him he’s to take command of the battery, and, to pass the message to the adjutant, Patrick Gee. And so, that was done verbally. And it worked very well…

    12:00 (Had you had a chance to use your wireless sets?) Oh we tried and we tried all the time. We spent all the time trying on three wireless sets. We were shouting, calling, calling away. Trying to get through to the guns direct with our battery wireless set. Trying to get through to the Hampshires, but that was not necessary because they were alongside us anyway. And trying to get through to our Regimental Headquarters. And they were three different sets, on three different frequencies. One was an 18 set, one was a 38 set and those were two and the other ones were drowned. Yes, we tried all the time. And we were listening and we had these retched headphones on and you could hear nothing but sort of high-pitched whistling coming in. A lot of it was from the naval ships of course, a lot of it was from tanks which were there, a lot of it was German wireless sets, a lot of it was aeroplanes buzzing around, a lot of it were naval craft…We were never sort of rehearsed to expect that. We always said you had a wireless set, it’d be marvellous, and you could give your orders and talk to everyone, but you couldn’t at all.”

    Regards
    Arty
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
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  6. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    Ian

    I know quite a bit about that page and indeed "Fireplan Normandy"

    Where did you get that draft?

    The copyright rests with Will's widow Helen and should not be reproduced without permission.

    The late Lt Col Will Townend started a project to write about the artillery in North West Europe based on his interest, publications and extensive work on . I have been completing the work for the RAI which will be published this autumn by the History Press. You can pre order a copy from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NRF556W/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
    The denizens of this board get a mention in the acknowledgments.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    Michael,
    Not sure what is misleading about the cover painting by David Rowland commissioned in 1986 by 24 (Irish) Battery with detail supplied by Derek Findley. (See posts #34 and #35 in 2013 on Run-In Shoot by RA in Overlord Assault.) David Rowland's history painting is a masterly interpretation by a great military artist. It is a good piece of artwork and far more accurate than many adorning book covers.
     
  8. Frank,

    I am not disputing David Rowlands' talent at all. It is indeed a nice artwork, and as you say, probably more accurate than many others. This does not mean that it does not include a few inaccuracies:

    - The first and major error (in my view) is that the LCT serial number (331) has been mistakenly interpreted as her hull number, which was actually 859 (see my posts as linked in my previous message).

    - Other inaccuracies include, in decreasing order of importance (still in my own view):
    The M7 SP guns do not have any wading gear fitted
    There were other vehicles (apart from the Sherman tank) in front of the foremost SP guns.
    Representation of the LCT is partially incorrect (the stowage boxes on the bows and the Mulock ramp extensions are absent, for example). The general shape is there though.​

    David Rowlands obviously did his homework and conducted some in-depth research for his painting (see his page David Rowlands Military Artist). I fully appreciate that in 1986 information was not as readily available as it is today, so the above mistakes are entirely understandable. But since we do now have the info, I think it is only normal to point out the discrepancies, without any judgment whatsoever.

    Michel
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
  9. Arty,

    Great transcription of Maj Dick Gosling's interview! So now we know that it was not so much having too few radios in working order that prevented calling for fire support, as having too many of them working at the same time and causing network congestion and/or interferences.

    Regarding the type of ship/craft he boarded, I would take of course take Maj Gosling's testimony with a mountain of salt, since he mentions an LCH then an LCA, rather than an LSI(L) (G63 Empire Arquebus) then an LCM (LTIN 2087), as specified in the 431 Bty Loading Table. Regretfully, in his IWM interview fellow passenger Lt Col Nelson Smith says nothing about the ship he was in nor the craft he landed from, and their supposed landing from LCM 2087 is nowhere as well documented as that of LCM 2129.

    Michel
     
  10. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    The source of the document was General Tony Richardson's papers being archived by the EY Association at the moment. His version is incomplete in that only Chapters 7,8 & 9 are present and even these have pages either missing or being redrafted. I am trying to piece it all together now. In the post above by Sheldrake the author has been identified, so I suspect it was with TAR for checking as there are annotations on this copy. Ian
     
  11. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    With respect to the wonderful painting by David Rowlands, I have the attached schematic diagram for "D" Troop's LCT (of 431 Battery, 147th Field) which shows how the vehicles were loaded. Not sure that this would apply to the 7th Field of course.

    "RD" & "TLD" Sherman Tanks
    Ian
     
  12. IanTurnbull

    IanTurnbull Active Member

    MIchel
    Thanks to the researchers at Kingston History Centre I have found the Surrey Comet article that refers to Dick Offer of LCT708. The article also includes other accounts of local navy men incl. on LCT519. The article is attached. Lots more detail and his account differs slightly in that he says it was a mine that wounded "the officer" (Tony Gregson?), and the shells hit moments later. Ian
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Excellent hunting Ian!

    So it appears there was a mine and two shells wrecking havoc on LCT 708. The sequence of events is less clear but so far the most detailed account is Tony Gregson's, so I'll stick with it until proven wrong...

    The other accounts by LCT commanders are also of interest. The LCT which Lieut. W. E. Fairley, R.N.V.R. commanded was LCT(4) 641 of 40 LCT Flotilla, "I" Squadron, Assault Group "S" 2. She was part of Group 12 (LTIN 320-330) which carried the STAFFS YEO and was planned to touch down at H+185 (1030 hrs) on QUEEN WHITE. Here is LCT 641 in a delicate situation at Port-en-Bessin after the Big Storm of 19-22 June:
    641 LCT(4) Port en Bessin - LCTPipePort.jpg

    More relevant to this thread, LCT(4) 519 was part of 34 LCT FLotilla, "L" LCT Squadron, Assault Group "G" 2. Here she is on KING GREEN some time after 1130 hrs 6 Jun, about 530 yards to the left (east) of the JIG-KING boundary:
    519 LCT(4) L34 KING GREEN after 1130 6 Jun 44.jpg

    I do not know which troops she carried nor when she was planned to land, but I now know who her CO was! :D

    Michel
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Gunner Tours

    That makes sense. If you wait a few months you will be able to access all the papers from the RA Archives when I return them.
     

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