Beach Reconnaissance

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by tmac, Nov 18, 2011.

  1. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

  2. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    You beat me to it! incredible story, though.
     
  3. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    This is a similar exploit to the two frogmen who crawled up the invasion beaches at dead of night to test the quality and firmness of the sand in the months before D-Day. I forget the details, but I saw one of the men interviewed a few years back and he was an incredible old chap, very self-effacing. I seem to remember that as they swam back out again after successfully completing their mission, his comrade stopped him in the water to wish him Happy New Year! Does anyone have any details of this operation?
     
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    The interview you saw was probably on D-Day: Turning the Tide presented by Charles Wheeler. The Gentleman in question was Major Logan Scott-Bowden R.E.

    The following is from a piece in the Daily Mail:

    Spirits were high in the early hours of 1 January, 1944, as the scores of German soldiers guarding the beaches of Normandy raised toasts to their families back home. Singing familiar German folk songs, their drunken voices carried across the dark beaches and crashing waves.
    But lying just feet away from the occupying army were two young British officers, charged with one of the most important missions of World War II. Their fate was uncertain, but their orders were clear – to swim onto the beaches of Normandy, and collect and label samples of sand and peat to help British scientists and military experts plan how to land their tanks in a D-Day invasion.

    Winston Churchill and the US president Franklin Roosevelt had long been planning an invasion of Normandy, but aerial shots of the five landing beaches showed that large sections consisted of peat, which would be too soft to bear the weight of military vehicles. If they sank into the sand, the soldiers would be gunned down by the enemy.
    Loss of life would be devastating, and could well have swung the fortunes of war back in favour of the Germans. British military experts had to know for sure what lay under the sand on those heavily mined and guarded beaches.'
    The two men chosen for the mission were Sergeant Bruce Ogden-Smith and 23-year-old Major Logan Scott-Bowden, who is now 89. He recalls, 'We knew the mission was dangerous, but there was no time for fear.

    I remember being offered cyanide tablets, in case we were caught and tortured to reveal our mission. But Ogden-Smith told our superiors that he thought he'd cope with the torture, so I turned down the suicide pills too. We set off in a small boat, and there wasn't time to talk.
    We knew what we had to do, and we were more concerned about the sea conditions, because a gale was blowing. Two miles from shore, we jumped in and swam to shore.'
    The men carried with them a special instrument that looked like a pogo stick, designed by racing hero Sir Malcolm Campbell, who adapted it for the mission. 'Campbell used it to test the sand at Daytona Beach in Florida, before winning the land speed record in 1931,' says Scott-Bowden.

    It had a spring, and you could shoot it into the sand, where it would pick up a 14in layer. He redesigned it so it made no noise when fired into the ground. We then sealed and labelled the samples.'But, on that freezing New Year's Eve, the young soldiers found that the fierce winds had blown them a mile off their target beach. 'We had to creep past the searchlights to make our way to the correct beach, dropping down on our stomachs every few minutes when the sea rchl ight came back round,' says Scott-Bowden.

    'When we reached our destination, we started gathering samples. Once, a guard came close, standing about 20 yards away from where we lay, frozen in the darkness. We both had our pistols in our hands, and I really thought I was going to have to shoot him. But after a few minutes he moved on, and we just continued our work.'
    Weighed down by their samples, the two men had to swim back to their boat, some two miles out at sea. But crashing waves flung them back onto the shore. 'We were thrown back again and again,' says Scott- Bowden, 'and, of course, we needed to be quick. So we sat in the water and studied the sea until we worked out the pattern of the waves. We saw that our best chance was to leap in just after the main breaker had gone, so we tried again and swam through.
    'We had been going a few minutes when I heard Bruce shouting. I thought he was in trouble, and I swam towards him. I then realised he was shouting, "Happy New Year". I cursed him and said, "Swim, you bugger, or we'll be thrown back on that beach."'
    Once the men were back on British soil, the samples were analysed by the Army's scientific team, confirming that large areas of the landing beaches were made up of peat and soft clay. Within weeks, British engineers came up with a solution to stop heavy tanks sinking in the mire: 'Bobbin' tanks, designed to unroll reinforced canvas carpet over soft ground. This would give extra strength to support the landing vehicles following behind.


    Who dares swims | Mail Online
     
  5. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    That's the one, Major Scott-Bowden - thanks very much. What amazingly brave men.
     
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    John Stone
    John Stone, who has died aged 89, was awarded the MC in 1944 for a daring reconnaissance mission which had a direct bearing on the final plans for D-Day.

    Being awarded his MC by Montgomery
    1:06PM GMT 19 Nov 2011Comment
    In April 1944 a bombing raid on coastal defences near Deauville was reported to have set off a series of flashes on the beach. It was feared this might indicate that the Germans had developed a new type of mine, and fixed it to the top of the many anti-invasion obstacles strewn along the foreshore.
    The implications for the Overlord landings, planned for just a few weeks later, were clear. While techniques had been developed to counter the threat posed by pressure mines, the new mines might be detonated acoustically or electrically. Devising a strategy to overcome this fresh threat risked further delaying an invasion which had already been years in the planning.
    A series of reconnaissance operations, code-named Tarbrush, was therefore mounted at short notice to examine the mines in the region, though not on the D-Day beaches themselves for fear of directing attention to them.
    The recces were made in six small areas between Ostend and Le Tréport; three east of Calais and three south of Boulogne, to be surveyed between May 13 and 19. The teams consisted of a dozen men from 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando and an accompanying Sapper officer who was to examine the mine itself. The mission was unusually dangerous, as the Germans were alert and expecting an invasion and sentries were deployed along the coast. Senior British officers privately believed that few of those engaged in these missions would return. All the soldiers who participated were volunteers.
    Stone was a lieutenant serving with 274 Field Company Royal Engineers. On the moonless night of May 15 he crossed the Channel in a Motor Torpedo Boat and, about three miles off the coast, transferred to a powered 18ft dory. He then transferred into a dinghy which capsized in five feet of water; he and two NCOs had to wade ashore near Quend Plage. There they found a forest of stakes about six yards apart, eight to nine inches in diameter and seven to eight feet high. As reported, a mine sat on top of each.
    After photographing the device with a special infra-red camera, Stone carried out tests to see if it was magnetic; it was not. He then looked for booby-traps, using a stepladder to climb up and fully examine one of the mines. Once up, however, he lost his balance; the ladder toppled over and he found himself clinging to the mine with his full weight on it. When it did not explode he concluded that it was not booby trapped.
    Stone and his party were held in the beam of a searchlight for 15 seconds but succeeded in getting off the beach without being detected. Their work resulted in the “new” mine being identified as an ordinary Teller 42 anti-tank device. Stone’s courage, coolness and skill were recognised by the award of a Military Cross.
    John Thomas Stone was born at Weymouth on September 14 1922 and educated at Weymouth Grammar School. He went up to Queen’s College, Cambridge, returning there after the war to finish his studies.
    He was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers and served in the North African Campaign, in Sicily and Italy before returning to England. After Operation Tarbrush, he saw action in Normandy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
    Stone was demobilised in 1946. After working in local government for a spell, he joined a firm of consulting engineers where he was made a partner. After retiring in 1987, he settled in Weymouth. He enjoyed attending meetings of his rotary club and was an active member of his local branch of the Royal Engineers’ Association.
    John Stone married, in 1946, Nora Collins, who survives him with their three daughters.
    John Stone, born September 14 1922, died November 10 2011

    John Stone - Telegraph
     
  7. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Reference: WO 373/95/796
    Name Stone, John Thomas
    Rank: Lieutenant
    Service No: 251040
    Regiment: 274 Field Company Royal Engineers
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: The London Omnibus List For Gallant and Distinguished Services in the Field
    Award: Military Cross
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 03 August 1944
    Screenshot 2019-03-17 at 23.40.37.png

    From Daily Mail link D-Day hero John Stone won Military Cross for spotting mines | Daily Mail Online
    article-2062925-0ED623AF00000578-702_306x800.jpg
    Stone crept up the beach and got to within 40 yards of German soldiers while he examined deadly obstacles the Germans had laid

    article-2062925-0ED621E100000578-368_634x415.jpg
    Stone was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery as he helped save thousands of lives

     
    Guy Hudson and canuck like this.
  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Reference: WO 373/95/50
    Name Scott-Bowden, Logan
    Rank: Captain
    Service No: 95182
    Regiment: Corps of Royal Engineers
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: The London Omnibus List For Gallant and Distinguished Services in the Field
    Award: Distinguished Service Order
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 15 June 1944
    Screenshot 2019-03-17 at 23.51.21.png
     
  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Reference: WO 373/95/52
    Name Ogden-Smith, Bruce W
    Rank: Serjeant
    Service No: 6826651
    Regiment: East Surrey Regiment
    Theatre of Combat or Operation: The London Omnibus List For Gallant and Distinguished Services in the Field
    Award: Distinguished Conduct Medal
    Date of announcement in London Gazette: 15 June 1944
    Screenshot 2019-03-17 at 23.59.45.png
     
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