Highland Light Infantry, sword Beach, D+1 - any more info please?

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by D Boy, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. D Boy

    D Boy Member

    Hello all,

    I've recently been transcribing interviews I conducted with Normandy Veterans. The first one I conducted in 2012 with little interview experience, so unfortunately I didn't ask some key questions and am trying to piece together some information, maybe you can help? (My interview technique improved rapidly since, thankfully!)

    Basically I am writing up the account of a gentleman who landed at Sword Beach on D+1; he was previously in the desert with the Rifle Brigade. He also states that he was at Hill 112 later in the Normandy campaign. The problem I have is that I can't figure out which actual division he would have landed with.

    The Highland Light Infantry wiki states that the 1st Battalion was in Normandy, landing as part of 53rd Welsh Div, but they landed on 28th June, (unsure which beach) well after D+1. So he can't have been with them.

    The only other Highland Light Infantry Battalion in Normandy appears to be the 10th, which was part of 15th Scottish Div and did fight at Hill 112 - so far so good - but then I see in their ward diary they landed on the 18th June at Juno beach (Courselles-sur-mer.) So that appears to rule them out too.

    Can anyone help to solve this puzzle please? :)

    Thanks in advance
  2. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    What other info do you have?

    Lots of vets state landing dates waaay out of kilter with their actual service, was often short hand for 'I was in Normandy' etc.

    Never trust wiki. Lots of horseshit. Most of 1 HLI arrived early 26 June as part of ETM 16 on SS Samnoza, unloading from 1400, some arrived the day before.
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    We could do more to help if you could share, name and rank. I assume he was in the HLI in 1944.
  4. D Boy

    D Boy Member

    Hey thanks for the responses, I've just been able to get back to this.

    The name is Charlie Jeffries, he told me he "finished up" as a Company Sergeant-Major aged 21, apparently the one of the youngest of that rank at the time. (I presume he means 1945, though he also said he was on the Z-list and was called up for the Suez campaign later.)

    I have found a short online interview with him here:

    Charles Jeffries | Soldier
  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    What rank was he etc?

    To complicate matters... no HLI unit (that I can recall) landed on 6 June and was involved in the battle for Hill 112.
  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Is it possible that he was still with the Rifle Brigade in June 44. The 1st Battalion landed with 7th Armoured Division 0n D+2/ D+3. 7th Armoured had been in N Africa. In the clip mentioned above he is wearing both Rifle Brigade and HLI badges.

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  7. D Boy

    D Boy Member

    Swiper - Yes this is what's confusing me, I can't find any HLI that could have landed on D-Day or D+1 and been at Hill 112.
    All I know re rank is as stated, he was finally a Company Sgt Major.

    Mike - That's well spotted that he wears the Rifle Brigade badge, I wouldn't have caught that, maybe there's an explanation there. Though when I asked him home come he ended up in what I presume is A Scots unit (HLI) being a Londoner, he said that the whole county regiment system went askew after Dunkirk and so people found themselves as replacements in all different geographical units.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    Hmm Listening to the clip from 2014 he says he landed on Sword beach with the bullets whistling around him. But we know neither the the HLI nor Rifle Brigade landed on Sword beach on D Day.

    Time can play tricks on the memory. It isn't unknown for veterans tho convince themselves that they were the subject of anecdote they have heard, nor for them start replay what subconsciously they think their audience is expecting to hear. Nor to repeat a tale once told. It isn't for nothing that the words "Old Soldiers" or "Old Wives" tales are synonyms for tales of uncertain reliability. Richard Holmes commented on this in Tommies. I heard a veteran taken prisoner by the Germans at Anzio in Feburary 1944 give a vivid first hand account of seeing the Polish flag flying from the ruins of the abbey at Cassino 75 km away two months later. Her believed he saw it: and no one was going to challenge a distinguished veteran.

    FWIW Here are some possibolities:-

    The Hill 112 part and Rifle Brigade parts are true. He could have served in Rifle Brigade in Normandy in 1944 8th RB - originally a battalion of the London Rifle Brigade was the motor battalion for 29 Armoured Brigade of 11th Armoured Divislon. This formation fought on hill 112 at the end of June 1944.

    The HLI Part is true. Jeffries might have served in the Highland :Light Infantry in Normandy. 10th HLI were part of 227 Brigade of 15th Scottish Division. The fought close to but not on Hill 112.

    The landing on Sword Beach on D Day part is true. Jeffries could have served in one of the multi service units. Or as an individual serving with another unit. Later in the campaign drafts of replacements may have come from a variety of cap badges. But D Day was the start and units should have been at full strength with men of their own cap-badge. The commandos and some airborne forces also included a mixture of cap badges. But he didn't,mention anything green or red beret

    Are you in contact with Mr Jeffries? (Is he still alive?) Has he obtained his service record from the Veterans Agency? That woul shpow some light on what happened. Youy could check the War Diarys to see if there is a legible nominal roll of ORs.
  9. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    4 Armoured Brigade intermittently popped around Hill 112 as well (passing visits really), so opens up 2 KRRC.

    His description of D-Day to me sounded like so many others, deliberately vague - with a few honest details of other experiences mashed in there, after many years reciting tamer accounts to relatives etc. Somewhat cookie cutter response.

    Also to each landing in France was their own personal 'D-Day'.

    [2 KRRC, damn typo]
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
  10. D Boy

    D Boy Member

    To be fair to him, I don't think there is a real discrepancy here about when he landed.. okay so he told me in interview it was D+1, and in this interview he's talking about it being on D-Day - but if say, he landed very early before light on 7th June, then there's not much in it being D-Day or D+1. Also it was the interviewer who first asked him about landing "on D-Day" so my guess is Charlie wasn't about to correct the interviewer by saying "actually it was D+1". As for him talking about being under fire on the beach, that could either mean the Allied Naval fire overhead or from distant German artillery maybe.

    Basically, I don't think there's anything disingenuous going on at all - bear in mind this man was twice wounded, was captured and escaped, etc - he doesn't need to exaggerate his experiences.

    Sheldrake's analysis of the possibilities is very good (thanks v much) - my guess is he was definitely at or near Hill 112 since he mentioned it numerous times in several interviews including mine. I still can't figure with whom that would have been though. And when you add in the possibility of landing with a multi-service unit, it makes the whole thing more complicated (but opens up more possible explanations for the apparent discrepancies.

    I haven't seen Mr Jeffries for some years, not since the 69th anniversary in Arromanches. he was still about during the 70th, that's all I know. To be honest I don't really want to hassle him again for details.. one thing I've learned from interviewing Normandy veterans is that they have different degrees of enthusiasm for verbal engagement - some of them will give short responses (often 'cookie cutter' as Swiper notes) - whilst some of them will keep talking until you stop them! The general vibe I got from Charlie was that he was happy to speak to me but not always overly keen on recalling events in detail. It was generally condensed into a short narrative of locations and events. The one thing he did speak in detail about was when he went out on patrol and ended up accidentally opening fire on one of their own Welsh NCOs. He said he has always wondered if the unfortunate man survived, i think this incident really stuck with him.

    As things stand, I'm not even sure if Mr Jeffries is still alive, though I do have his contact details. I was hoping we would be able to deduce the unit information from what we have, but it seems an complicated process (and thanks again to everyone for offering help - I'm doing this book project alone and don't really know anyone else with in depth knowledge on the subject so it is reassuring to have people on this forum willing to help!)
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I donlt think he can have been in Armd Bde He was wearing a Rifle Brigade cap badge not a KRRC one.

    He referred to being wounded at Hill 112 and recovering to join his unit in the Ardennes, where he was wounded a second time. Few British troops served in the Ardennes and saw action there. That would put him in either 11th Armd Div or 53rd Division. Neither 6th airborne Div nor 51 (H) Div had units of either of his cap badges.

    I don't understand how he came back from the Western desert. The majority of the desert veterans in Normandy were in 50th 51st infantry and 7th Armd Divs, 4th and 8th Armd Bdes arriving in winter 1943-44 - all eligible for the 8th army clasp. But he did not serve in these formations in the HLI.

    There was a policy of transferring some individuals, with desert experience but these were mostly officers. Charlie was wearing a North Africa star, but not one of the three clasps awarded for service for operations with 8th or 1st army Oct 1942-May 43. So whatever he did in North Africa was before El Alamein. Maybe evacuated to the UK sick or wounded - but was a long way back around the Cape.

    Reconciling his story needs a peek at his service record.
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    We could ask someone like harkness to look him up on the casualty lists ?

    Bit of Googling.
    This from 2009
    The Hackney band of brothers

    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
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  13. D Boy

    D Boy Member

    That 'Hackney Band of Brothers' article was the starting point for my interview project - with some research I found that they gathered for business at the M.O.T.H. club (Memorable Order of Tin Hats!) and ventured into one of their meetings one day, crikey that was an experience in itself - the barman showed me the way to the oak panelled function room at the back, I entered nervously as an amateur researcher, completely out of my depth, suddenly stood amongst seven nonagenarians of the remaining members of Hackney Normandy Veterans Association. It felt a bit like entering one of those wild west saloons where everyone immediately goes silent, peering at the stranger. The secretary said "Please state your business", which I managed to do despite feeling overawed by the silent collective living history around me.

    Once they understood I was there to offer a financial donation in return for interviews, the atmosphere lightened up and they all started talking at once, giving tales of woundings, skirmishes with SS and so on, I was just trying to take it all in but thinking stop please let me record this! - Eventually I had the honour of attending the residences of four who were most competent and willing to give audio interviews, and retrieved some great material for transcription. Charlie Jeffries happened to be the first, I was unprepared really but after listening back to it my interview technique improved and I learned how to get better results with all those I've done since. I've never felt so humbled, enlightened and intrigued listening to these people open up.

    I did subscribe to the forces war records archive in an attempt to retrieve documents and data for the interviewees, but curiously none of them showed up. I can only presume that archive is incomplete. If anyone does have access to any other archives or provide any help i would be much obliged.

    Thanks again for all your responses :)
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Reply from harkness.
    ''Nothing in the Casualty Lists''

    Mr Jeffries said he was wounded twice.
    He should show up.

    Things don't add up do they.

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